Tuesday, December 17, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Railways stops carrying coal to PSEB plants
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 16
The Railways has stopped the placement of wagons at the disposal of Coal India Limited for carrying coal to the Punjab State Electricity Board’s thermal plants on the plea that the board had not followed the promised payment schedule and a controversy over the payment due to the Railways.

High-level sources said though the placement of wagons was stopped since December 12, some wagons were still coming to the state as these were loaded earlier. Fall in the supply of coal has been felt the most at Bathinda thermal plant which has only four days supply of coal left in stock. The board was forced to shut down one unit at Bathinda yesterday evening.

The Board’s Member, Generation, confirmed the development. He said the board might have to shut down more units at Bathinda and functioning of the Ropar thermal plant would also be affected if the supply of coal to the state was not resumed in the days to come. He said he had informed the chairman of the PSEB of the situation and that a DO letter was also being written to the government today on the issue.

Board sources disclosed that the PSEB management had decided to approach the government on the issue because there was no likelihood of the board making any payment to the Railways this week due to heavy debt servicing schedule. The board is hoping the government will help come out of the crisis.

According to the official position, the sources said, the PSEB had made a schedule of payments to be made to the Railways every month when the Railways had stopped supply of coal for a few days. According to the schedule the board had promised to pay Rs 80 crore in September, Rs 200 crore in October Rs 104 crore in November and Rs 155 crore in December. But the board paid only Rs 70 crore in September, Rs 57 crore in October, Rs 104 crore in November and only Rs 47 crore this month, in the board said December payment was also likely to be defaulted.

Sources said there was also controversy over the payment to be made by the Board to the Railways. While the Railways claims that the PSEB owes it Rs 660 crore, the Board has claimed only a fraction of the amount was to be paid. sources said there was controversy over this amount because the Railways had levied surcharge on the board since more than the last six months for failing to keep a fixed amount of money in advance with the institution as agreed to by it.

The Board Member, Generation said he would not like to comment on the exact amount owed to the Railways as the matter was sub-judice in a court. He said correct position on coal supply was that the Board received 79 rakes against the requirement of 156 rakes in the past 15 days. He said the supply had been very erratic for the past four days with the Bathinda plant not receiving a single rake on December 14 and Lehra facing similar situation on December 13. On other days also the plants have been receiving between one to two rakes daily. The Board normally gets supply of 10 rakes for thermal plants daily.

Meanwhile sources disclosed that the position was most critical at the Bathinda thermal station which had coal stock of only 31,300 metric tonnes sufficient for four days of production. 


Sarpanches brief CM on problems, needs
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 16
Capt Amarinder Singh today got a direct feed-back from sarpanches on the problems they encountered and the performance of his 10-month-old government. These sarpanches were assured by the Chief Minister that their problems would be mitigated.

The occasion was a one-day conference for education, training and empowerment of elected representatives of panchayati raj institutions (PRIs), sponsored by UNICEF and organised by the Chandigarh-based Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development.

Over 400 sarpanches, mostly from Ropar district, who attended the conference today had undergone an extensive training programme to help them govern better. This training programme under CRRID’s senior research fellow Kesar Singh and his team was started in 1994. Till today, over 10,000 sarpanches/panches have been trained and made aware of the 73rd constitutional amendment that gives panchayats control of 29 departments, at least in theory.

Dr Kesar Singh said during the state-wide training programmes and workshops, sarpanches/panches focused on poor health services, absenteeism of doctors/staff and teachers, absence of information technology that needs to be institutionalised, gender bias that has led to female foeticide and drug addiction among youth.

Sarpanches maintained that officers seldom listened to them and it was a rare opportunity for them to directly air their sentiments as elected representatives before the Chief Minister, who spent over two hours with them.

Capt Amarinder Singh was visibly quite surprised to hear that the supply of electricity to villages — domestic as well as for operating tubewells — was ‘’erratic with frequent breakdowns and low voltage”, something quite contrary to the reports given to him by the PSEB. Sarpanches also drew the Chief Minister’s attention to widespread encroachments on village ‘shamlat’ lands by influential people and cumbersome procedures to get these vacated. The sarpanches pleaded for simpler laws to get such lands freed. Another grievance was unnecessary posting and imposing on panchayats of ‘’panchayat secretaries”, who were more of an impediment than catalyst for smooth flow of development grants to panchayats. The grants, however, had not been coming for the past 10 months.

Several sarpanches submitted representations listing their views, problems and needs. The participants were very appreciative of the government’s anti-corruption campaign and wanted that such an operation should have started from the bottom, where the problems are more acute.

The non-payment of dues for sugarcane supplied to the mills last season was yet another major issue the sarpanches raised. They also drew the Chief Minister’s attention to the need for strengthening educational and health facilities, besides tackling the grave problem of drug-addiction among the youth, who were jobless and frustrated. Some sarpanches warned of the widening rural and urban divide and wanted the government to bridge this gap with equitable socio-economic development.

Some sarpanches like Mr Manjit Singh, President of the Association of Sarpanches; Mr K.S. Rana, who came from remote, interior of Ropar, Mr Surmukh Singh and Ms Gurdev Kaur, appreciated Capt Amarinder Singh for stepping out of the ‘’royal legacy’’ to share his views directly with them and lend them an ear.

Capt Amarinder Singh, who lauded the efforts of CRRID in creating awareness in sarpanches and panches through education and training announced that he would shortly hold similar face-to-face meetings with their colleagues in other districts. Also, district planning boards would be constituted involving sarpanches. To begin with, the state would ask CRRID to prepare district development plans for Nawanshahr, Ropar and Mansa on the pattern of the state development plan-2002.

The Chief Minister talked of the NDA government’s ‘’lack of vision’’ and ‘’indifferent’’ attitude, as it had failed to address the problems related to agriculture and rural development at the grassroots. He cited the example of uplifted sugar stock worth Rs 243 crore lying in Punjab.

He expressed concern over the school dropout rate, girls not being sent to schools, problems of drinking water, sanitation, roads, electricity and assured that the government’s endeavour will be to empower the panchayati raj institution.

Earlier, CRRID Director, Rashpal Malhotra introduced the theme of the conference and the role played by the institute in creating an awareness about powers and functions of the PRIs. The Deputy Commissioner of Ropar, Ms Seema Jain, also spoke and gave a brief account of what the administration had done to help panchayats.

Capt Amarinder Singh also released a training module for the PRIs brought out jointly by CRRID and the Department of Rural Development and Panchayats.


Hanspal to probe ministers’ ‘shady’ activities
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 16
Even as PPCC President H.S. Hanspal said yesterday that he would enquire into the alleged shady activities committed by a section of ministers during the Gujarat Assembly elections as reported in a vernacular daily being published from Chandigarh on December 13, a section of the workers opined that the party image had suffered badly due to it.

This section of party men, which were contemplating taking up the matter with the party high command, expressed disappointment over the fact that the state leadership was silent over the news item which had appeared in a daily. They felt that maintaining of silence by the state party leadership and others, who were in the government, would send a wrong signal to the people.

The news, which appeared on the front page of the vernacular daily, alleged that a section of ministers of the Punjab Government had indulged in sexual activities while they were in Gujarat.

Mr Narinder Mittal, a senior BJP leader, while talking to TNS pointed out that he would urge the state BJP leadership to take up the matter with the Gujarat Government for legal action against the Congress ministers who had indulged in such activities.

Reliable sources said the Punjab Chief Minister had been made aware of the contents of the news item but his reaction was not known immediately.

Mr Hanspal, when contacted in Delhi, said if there was any truth in the news then why had the reporter concerned not mentioned the names of the ministers.


Sack guilty ministers, says Birmi
Tribune News Service

Srihargobindpur, December 16
Senior leaders of the Congress, who had assembled here to felicitate Mr M.M. Singh Cheema on his nomination as vice-president of the PPCC, here yesterday, got a surprise when Mr Malkit Singh Birmi, Whip of the Congress Legislature Party, publicly sought a high-level probe into the allegations that some Congress ministers from Punjab had indulged in certain objectionable activities during the election campaign in Gujarat.

Mr Birmi said they (ministers) should be thrown out of the Cabinet if found guilty after the probe. He said he was shocked to read the news in this connection. He said this in the presence of senior Congress leaders, including Mr R.L. Bhatia, veteran Congress MP, Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, convener, Congress Parliamentary Party, Punjab, Mr Kamaljit Singh Lali, MLA, Adampur, Mr Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa, MLA, Qadian, and Mr Ashwani Sekhri, Minister of State for Tourism and Industry.

Mr Birmi urged Mr Bhatia and Mr Brar to take up the matter with the Congress high command. He said such news could harm the future prospects of the party.

However, Mr H.S. Hanspal, President, PPCC, said he had inquired into the matter and found that no state minister had indulged in any sort of objectionable activities. He claimed that the allegations were incorrect, baseless, misleading and malicious, which were aimed at tarnishing the image of the party. When asked as to how a senior leader like Mr Birmi had sought probe into the allegations he said he (Mr Birmi) should not have gone public.

While congratulating Mr Cheema on his nomination as vice-president, PPCC, Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, said he was happy that proper representation had been given to the border belt areas in the PPCC. It may be mentioned here that Mr Cheema’s name was withheld by the PPCC at the eleventh hour but was included at the behest of the AICC chief, Ms Sonia Gandhi.

However, factionalism came to the fore as some of the senior leaders, including certain ministers, were conspicuous by their absence at the function.


Punjab Lokpal D.V. Sehgal dies
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 16
Punjab Lokpal and former Punjab and Haryana High Court Judge D.V. Sehgal (69) died here last night following a brief illness. He is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.

Justice Sehgal was appointed Lokpal by the previous Parkash Singh Badal Government in December last year.

The Punjab Government declared a half holiday in its offices as a mark of respect and flew the National Flag as at half-mast at the Punjab and Haryana Civil Secretariat, Vidhan Sabha complexes and government offices in the city and Punjab as part of the mourning.

He was cremated with full state honours at the Sector 25 crematorium here. His funeral was largely attended. Wreaths were placed on the body of Justice Sehgal on behalf of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh by Finance Minister Lal Singh, senior officers of the UT Administration and the Lokpal office.

Punjab Governor Lt-Gen JFR Jacob (retd), Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala expressed profound grief at the passing away of Justice Sehgal. They also conveyed their heart -felt condolences to the bereaved family.


Vijay Divas celebrated
War veterans unhappy lot
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, December 16
Mr Kehar Singh, a former jawan who fought during the Burma war in 1947, is a sad man today. Two of his four sons have died and he receives no pension. One of his sons works as an electrician and the family is facing economic hardships. A resident of Bibiwala village, Kehar Singh, said they were not respected in the government offices.

He was not alone to express his grievances at the Vijay Divas celebrations here today. Mr Bachhitar Singh, a former jawan who fought during the 1962 war and is physically disabled, said he was not even invited for the function. He said he came to attend the function after he read a news item in this connection and faced a lot of harassment in getting the entry pass for the function.

Hawildar Sher Singh (retd), resident of Mansa village, alleged that employees in the government departments were ‘thoroughly’ corrupt and the ex-servicemen did not get any credit for their sacrifices. He alleged that a section of the revenue officials demanded bribe to execute the registration deed of a plot in his name and his pleas to ‘spare’ an ex-serviceman fell on deaf ears.

The ex-servicemen said they had been facing problems in getting their pensions and their wards were not given any government jobs.

The former Army men said they had sacrificed better parts of their lives for the service of the nation and now was the time the country should pay back, at least by giving them the respect they deserved. Most of them demanded jobs for their kin.

Lieut-Gen Mohinder Puri, General Officer Commanding, 10 Corps, Brig Jatinder Singh, Station Commander, Bathinda Military Station, and civil dignitaries laid wreaths at Shahid Nand Singh Chowk to mark the victory of the army and liberation of erstwhile East Pakistan.

Keeping the tradition alive, a “bara-khana” was organised in the honour of all decorated soldiers of the 1971 war at the local Chetak Sainik Institute. Many senior and decorated soldiers, both serving and retired, attended the function.

Maj-Gen J.S. Herr listened to the problems of the war veterans. The occasion was utilised by the authorities concerned to alleviate the problems being faced by war heroes after retirement. The army officials assured the ex-servicemen of all medical and other facilities.


‘Implement’ one rank, one pension scheme
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, December 16
Col (retd) H. J. Singh, Vice-President, District Sainik Board, has appealed to the Centre and to all state governments to implement post-retirement schemes like relaxation in academic qualifications particularly in case of junior category of ex-servicemen who can serve the civil administration in a better way.

Mr H.S. Singh, who was working as a staff officer and was also present during the surrender ceremony of 93000 Pakistani Army men, underlined the need for giving due recognition to the servicemen besides other facilities like one rank one pension and concessional education to members of their families.

He said over 14 lakh ex-servicemen were living in Punjab alone who needed proper care. Presiding over the function, Mr A. Venu Prasad, Deputy Commissioner, laid stress on fighting country’s internal problems like population, illiteracy and other social evils. He disclosed that a suitable memorial at Sadiq Chowk here in memory of those district Armymen of the district who laid down their lives in different wars will be constructed shortly.

Brig. Narendra Nath Commander 33 arty Brigade, Mr Daljit Singh Brar and Mr S.K. Gupta, Deputy Director and member of the District Sainik Board, respectively, also spoke on the occasion. A large number of retired Army soldiers and widows participated in the function.


Bride seeks action against in-laws
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 16
Amandeep Kaur, a local girl who was married to Harjinder Singh of Amritsar, on September 16, 2002, has been allegedly thrown out from her in-laws’ house as she could not arrange for a motor cycle. Her husband and parents-in-law have been arrested in the case registered in this connection.

On the complaint of Ms Amandeep Kaur, who was subjected to cruelty by her husband and his kin, a case under Sections 498-A and 406 of IPC was registered in the city police station on December 13 against five persons, including her husband, father-in-law Tarsem Singh and mother-in-law Baljeet Kaur. The two others named in the FIR were those who had arranged her matrimonial alliance. They are Ram Pal Singh and his wife Amarjit Kaur, both residents of Bathinda.

Police sources said the accused were arrested yesterday and produced before the Judicial Magistrate today who remanded them in police custody.

In her complaint, Ms Amandeep Kaur alleged that a few days after her marriage, her husband and others started harassing her for bringing more dowry. Once her father even gave her husband Rs 20,000. She added that Ram Pal Singh and Amarjit Kaur, who arranged her matrimonial alliance, also started demanding a ring and bracelet from her. They also held out a threat that if their demand was not met, they would not allow her to settle down in her in-laws’ house.

She alleged that once her husband and in-laws tried to put kerosene on her body and her mouth was shut, but she managed to escape to Bathinda the same day by bus.

However, her husband and other kin sought her forgiveness in the panchayat and agreed to take her back on December 8. But later they said they would take her to Amritsar only if her parents gave them a motor cycle.

In the application, she has demanded stern action against the accused.


Boycott marks council chief’s takeover
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, December 16
While the Opposition put up a show of unity by staying away from the takeover ceremony of Mr Malkiat Singh Raghbotra who assumed the charge of president of the local Nagar Council today, factionalism continued to plague the ruling party as the anti-Mann faction also boycotted the function even though a large number of citizens attended it in Town Hall.

All nine councillors belonging to the SAD, the BJP the BSP and seven-Congress councillors opposed to local MLA Joginder Singh Mann also did not attend the first special meeting presided over by Mr Raghbotra immediately after he took over the charge. Only 12 councillors were present in the meeting and it had to be adjourned by Mr Raghbotra due to lack of quorum which is 50 per cent of the total 28-member House.

The next meeting had been convened on December 26, Mr Raghbotra said after the meeting. Those councillors who attended the meeting included Mr Manmohan Sharma, Mr Sunil Maini, Mr Sanjiv Bugga, Ms Kusam Sharma, Mr Hardip Singh Bhamra, Mr Devinder Sapra, Mrs Hardip Anand (Senior Vice-President) Mrs Paramjit Kaur Pahwa, Mr Shinderpal, Ms Jyoti Ghai besides Mr Raghbotra and Mr Mann. The participants either belong to the Mann group or are independents supporting the Mann group.

Those who stayed away from the meeting included Mrs Sita Devi, Vice-President, Padam Dev Sudhir, Brij Bhushan Parbhakar, Pawan Pappi, Ramesh Kumar Jordan, Mrs Tripta Dhir and Miss Anita Kaura — all belonging to the faction opposed to Mr Mann; Mr Iqbal Singh Kundi, Inderjit Sonkar, Mrs Sarabjit Kaur all of the SAD, Mr Surinder Singh, Mr Arun Khosla, Mr Vira Ram Waljot — all of the BJP; Mr Ramesh Kaul and Mrs Surinder Kaur of the BSP and Mr Rakesh Duggal, an Independent in the Opposition alliance of councillors. One of the Congress councillors Ms Anita Kaura, came at the fag end of meeting but by that time it was quiet late and her presence was not recorded on the proceeding register.

A veteran Congress councillor, Mr Manmohan Sharma, told reporters after the meeting that he had raised the issue of the municipal car which is used by Executive Officer but should now be at the disposal of the President. He also demanded that the log book of the official car should have daily entries. The Executive Officer, Mrs Randhawa when pressed to comment on the official car being the bone of contention between her and Mr Raghbotra, refused to comment. All that she would officially say was that she had informed the Director that Mr Raghbotra had formally taken over.

Two factions of the Congress headed by MLA Joginder Singh Mann and PPCC member Balbir Raja Sodhi are at the loggerheads in the council politics. The Sodhi group had accused Mr Mann of backtracking from the December 1 agreement effected by PPCC chief H.S. Hanspal at Chandigarh that while Mr Raghbotra will be President, the post of Senior Vice-President will go to Mrs Sita Devi of the Sodhi faction in the election to the offices on December 5.


Salary scam: MC employee faces action

Jalandhar, December 16
Jalandhar Municipal Corporation has decided to initiate legal proceedings against its employee who allegedly committed a fraud of Rs 34 lakh in the corporation in the last two and-a-half years.

“I have instructed Additional Commissioner Harjit Singh to get an FIR registered against the accused Nirved Singh, an accounts clerk, who allegedly been withdrawing the salary of 11 police constables, who were not on the corporation rolls for the past two and a-half years by forging salary documents’’ MC Commissioner Jagjit Singh told reporters here today.

Earlier, Principal Secretary Sarvesh Kaushal had written a letter to the MC Commissioner on December 2 to direct him to take legal action against the accused with in seven days. The Commissioner has acted on the letter today by instructing his junior to initiate legal proceedings against the accused.

The Commissioner was evading legal action by saying that it was up to the department to take action against the accused, who had already assured in writing that he would deposit the entire amount which he defrauded to the corporation.

Meanwhile, corporation sources said the exact amount of the fraud might be to the tune of over Rs 65 crore as the accused withdrew the salaries of 11 constables for the last more than four years. PTI


One gets police remand in Langah case
Our Correspondent

Kharar, December 16
Mr Roshan Lal Chouhan, Judicial Magistrate today remanded Sudarshan Kaura in police custody till December 18 in connection with a case involving Sucha Singh Langah, former PWD Minister, Punjab.

Mr Jatinderjit Singh Punn, public prosecutor, and Mr Jaspal Singh Jassal, DSP (Vigilance) appeared in the court and pleaded for a 10 day police remand of the accused.

They pleaded that the accused, during police remand, had disclosed that he had made “benami” properties, and information was yet to be obtained about properties from him. It is worth mentioning that the court, on December 13, had remanded the accused in police custody till today.

The Vigilance Bureau has already registered a FIR against Sucha Singh Langah under the Prevention of Corruption Act and other Sections of the IPC at SAS Nagar. The accused in this case has already been declared a proclaimed offender by the court. He surrendered before the court at Ropar on December 5 and was brought to the Kharar court by the Vigilance Bureau on December 13.


Absenteeism among doctors regretted
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, December 16
An air-conditioned intensive care unit (ICU) was inaugurated at Civil Hospital here yesterday. It is the first civil hospital in the state to have an air-conditioned ICU. Mr Ashwani Kumar, Rajya Sabha MP, contributed Rs 5 lakh from his MP lad fund.

Addressing the gathering, Mr Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, MLA from Dera Baba Nanak, lamented that medical officers normally remain absent in health dispensaries located in the border in the Dera Baba Nanak sector. He said he visited Primary Health Centre, Fatehgarh Churian, last month during night but found that the doctor on duty was absent.

Four months ago, Mr K.A.P. Sinha, Deputy Commissioner, visited Civil Hospital, Dera Baba Nanak, on a complaint that medicines were not available in the hospital. On checking he found large stocks of medicines were stocked in an almirah, but most of these had expired. The Deputy Commissioner recommended strict action against the pharmacist posted there at that time.

Mr Khushal Bahl, who was the chief guest on the occasion, said health services were a core sector and appealed to the doctors to work with dedication. He regretted that health services were deteriorating in Civil Hospitals with every passing day due to private practices started by doctors. He related absenteeism among doctors to their personal engagements.

Mr Ashwani Kumar who promised to upgrade Prabodh Chandra Eye Hospital for indoor services and eye operations said money would be no constraint in this direction. He said doctors who were in government service and were being paid by the government handsomely should not be allowed private practice.


PRTC workers organise rally
Our Correspondent

Patiala, December 16
On a call given by the Pepsu Roadways Transport Corporation (PRTC) workers union (AITUC), employees of the PRTC organised a rally to protest against the alleged transfers of several of the corporation employees and the cut in over-time remuneration. Alleging indifferent attitude of the PRTC management towards the genuine demands of the employees, several union leaders stated that the PRTC management had failed to take any decisive steps to improve the financial condition of the corporation.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Nirmal Singh Dhaliwal, general secretary of the union, alleged that the PRTC management was overlooking the “rampant corruption” in the corporation and had failed to punish the guilty. He further said that the management was issuing transfer orders to several employees, thereby subjecting them to harassment.

Calling for a closure of PRTC Chairman’s Chandigarh office, Mr Dhaliwal stated that the office was causing unnecessary financial burden on the corporation. He also said that the PRTC employees would organise a dharna at all PRTC depots here on December 24 and another dharna at PRTC headquarters here on December 30.



Pay scales
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 16
Taking up a petition filed by retired teachers seeking directions to the state of Punjab and other respondents to give them the benefit of higher pay scale from the date of passing FA examinations, a Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court has directed that the “petitioners’ claim for the grant of higher pay scale shall be considered and decided by Punjab’s Education Secretary within four months of receiving the order’s copy”.

Delivering the verdict, the Bench, comprising Mr Justice G.S. Singhvi and Mr Justice S.S. Grewal, ruled: “Each of the petitioners is given liberty to file representations within a month, along with the documents which may support their claim for the grant of higher pay scale. The Secretary concerned shall consider the same, along with the judgements, if any, procured by them and pass appropriate orders giving reasons for accepting or rejecting the claim of all or any one of them”.

Bail plea

The anticipatory bail plea of a Punjab police constable, accused of being involved in a fake currency racket, was on Monday dismissed by Ms Justice Kiran Anand Lall of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Constable Rajbir Singh and other accused in the case were apprehending arrest in a case registered by the police on November 13. According to the prosecution, the police had received secret information that the accused were cheating innocents by issuing fake currency in lieu of genuine. After hearing the arguments in the case, Ms Justice Lall concluded that no case for the grant of anticipatory bail was made out.


The High Court has dismissed an anticipatory bail petition filed by an Abohar resident, Balkar Singh, accused of manhandling a police constable, along with a peon.

Pronouncing the order, Ms Justice Kiran Anand Lall observed: “The high-handed manner in which the petitioner, and the other co-accused, behaved with public servants on duty and caused obstruction to them in the discharge of their duties, disentitles him to claim the relief of anticipatory bail. The petition stands dismissed”.


Four shops in RTP market got vacated
Tribune News Service

Ropar, December 16
The Ropar Thermal Plant (RTP) authorities today got vacated four booths (shops), located in the RTP market in Nuhon Colony, about 10 km from here, from their tenants.

The RTP authorities also took these into their possession. These booths are the property of the PSEB.

The sources said on September 3, the RTP authorities had got vacated these booths from the tenants, but later these were handed over to them following a decision of the Punjab and Haryana High Court which had given two months’ time to the tenants for the vacation.

These booths were got vacated today after the lapse of two months, the sources added.


Protest against ‘police inaction’
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, December 16
The residents of Alera and its surrounding villages in Dasuya subdivision staged a massive dharna in front of the police station, Talwara, about 80 km from here, yesterday in protest against the failure of the police to arrest those accused for raping a minor on the Amroh-Dharampur road on November 6. They demanded immediate arrest of the accused who were still large and were yet to be identified. They alleged that the police had become a silent spectator in this case due to political pressure on it. They warned the police that if it failed in arresting the accused within a week, they would intensify their agitation.

Mrs Gupreet Deo, SSP, said that there was no political pressure on the police to hush up the case. 


For them, winter is no time to rejoice
Sukant Deepak

Patiala, December 16
For them even heavenly bodies do not shed a tear. Deserted and left to their fate, winter for them is not a season for rejoice, as it may be for the affluent, but a time when the sun, deep in in its hibernation leaves their skin prone to the mercy of harsh chill and hardly anyone cares to offer any help.

This particular ‘sect’ of homeless, with thighs enveloped in a white rag, heavy with miserable and natural dirt and faces as dead as the night ,who live their lives on the edges of big hotels and take the night refuge at places like the railway station and the bus stand, which by day are the centre of neurotic activity, are unique in the way that they do not blame anyone for their condition, expect nothing from the ‘welfare state’ or the NGOs — the messiahs of the downtrodden. Called ‘scavengers’ by some, they do not beg and are not psychotic. Patiala Railway station and the bus stand have been their home for years, their celebration of winter is not by the way of warm clothing, but arranging enough money to either by medicine for their sick or arrange a cremation for their dead. “We generally lose one or two members of our group every winter” one of them says. Extremes — life has always been like that for them for years, especially in winters. Talking to them is tough, as their inexpressive eyes half covered by a piece of cloth seldom respond to any query.

Their leader, whom they call ‘sarab’ , in a strange surrealistic diction tries to explain that, for them begging is a sin, stealing is out and surviving on people’s left overs- their destiny. Seeing the city lights glowing mercilessly, he says “winter is a curse, how can anybody like this season?” Ask him about any help from the NGOs, he insists that there was no reason for the government to help them. “Our names are not in the voting list, why should the politicians be bothered about us?”, he laughs a toothless smile into his beard and says although once a social service group came up to them and clicked some pictures, which were later flashed in a vernacular daily, they (social workers) were never seen again. The others of his group now join and tell their tale of woes, allegations of not getting any medical facilities.



Lakhowal asks farmers to repay loans
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, December 16
In a U-turn, the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Lakhowal) today issued an appeal to the farmers of the state to repay their loans. The union also asked the farmers not to sell their landholdings for the repayment.

In a press statement issued here today, the president of the union, Mr Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, said the union would not allow banks and other lending agencies to auction the landholdings of the farmers to recover the loans.

He criticised the Punjab Government for its failure to announce the MSP for sugarcane even as most of the co-operative and private sugar mills were paying Rs 30 per quintal less than the MSP announced last year, thus, causing disillusionment among the farming community.

“The sugar mills which owe Rs 80 crore as sugarcane arrears to the farmers have failed to release the sum despite repeated assurances by the state government in this regard,” Mr Lakhowal alleged.


MC Executive Officer suspended
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 16
The Director, Local Bodies, Punjab, Mr B.R. Banga, has placed the Executive Officer, Municipal Council, Maur Mandi, Mr Bhupinder Singh, under suspension.

Mr T.R. Sharma, Deputy Director, Local Bodies, while confirming the fact that Mr Bhupinder Singh has been suspended as per the order received by his office today, said no reason for the suspension had been mentioned in the order. He said it was also written in the order that a charge sheet would be issued to Mr Bhupinder Singh.


MC gets Rs 95 lakh aid
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 16
The state government has given a special grant of Rs 95 lakh to the local Municipal Council for the maintenance for water supply, sewerage and solid waste management.

Official sources said the money given as grant-in-aid to urban local bodies for the maintenance of civic services recommended by the 11 Finance Commissioner, could not be used for making payments of the salaries, wages and for purposes other than those mentioned in the allocation letter.

The Municipal Council authorities are also bound to submit the utilisation certificate and progress report to the Managing Director, Punjab Water Supply Sewerage Board, within 60 days.


New voters’ listing till Dec 18
Our Correspondent

Batala, December 16
Mr Parneet Bhardwaj, returning officer for the Batala Municipal Council election-cum-Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Batala, said here today that new votes for the municipal council elections, to be held in January, 2003, would be made till December 18 at the respective places.


Life term for 5 in murder case
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, December 16
Mr Surjit Singh, Additional District Judge of a local fast track court, sentenced five persons to life imprisonment in a murder case today. He acquitted four other accused persons and ordered to refer the case of a teenaged accused to juvenile court.

According to an FIR the accused assaulted Harjeet Singh, resident of the local Guru Nanak Avenue on the Fatehgarh road, seriously injuring him. Harjeet was admitted to the local Civil Hospital where the accused attacked him again and killed him. The Judge sentenced Surinder Sharma, his brother Jatinder Sharma of the local Mohalla Hari Nagar, Harinder Sharma of Pur Hiran, Deepak Thakur of Krishan Nagar and Gautam Kalia of Arora Colony to rigorous imprisonment.

He referred the case of accused Deepak Arora, who is 16-year-old, to a juvenile court. He acquitted Parmod Kumar, Vinod Kumar, Jupinder Singh of Tagore Nagar and Kulwinder Singh.


3 booked for gangrape
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, December 16
The police has registered a case against three persons for allegedly raping a girl on the outskirts of Divali village near here late last night.

Sonia (name changed) in her complaint to the Nakodar police, alleged that three unidentified persons, posing as policemen, forcibly took her from the local bus stand in a three-wheeler on Saturday. Sonia, who belongs to Bihar, was presently working as a maid at the residence of a local businessman in the Basti Bawa Khel locality for the past one and a half year. She further said the accused hired a three-wheeler for Jandiala village and the vehicle developed some fault near Divali village. She was then taken to Chak village on a motor cycle where she was allegedly gangraped. When contacted, the SSP, Mr Paramjit Singh Gill, said they had identified the accused and raids were being conducted to arrest them. 


Minor scuffle ends in murder
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 16
Tension prevails in the Dhab Khatika area following the murder of Jatinder Singh (24) of the area after a clash among some boys over a minor dispute here late last evening.

Jatinder Singh was attacked when he tried to stop armed persons from attacking Rohit, one of the boys collecting donations for jagran in the market place.

The accused fled the spot after the incident. Jatinder was taken to a nearby hospital where he was declared dead. The injured boy, Rohit, said the boys who attacked him lived in the Safed Katra area but did not know their names. 


2 held for killing ex-serviceman
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, December 16
An ex-serviceman has been allegedly murdered over a land dispute and his body thrown into the Sutlej by the accused to remove evidence. The police yesterday arrested two persons in this connection and took out the body of the victim from the river.

Mr Paramjit Singh Gill, SSP, in a press statement issued here today said Gurcharan Singh of Nawin Colony in Goindwal Sahib, in his complaint submitted to the police yesterday, alleged that his brother Maninder Singh, a resident of Pipli village in Shahkot, was murdered by Sawran Singh and his sons over some land dispute on November 26.

Subsequently, a case was registered and Jagjit Singh and Bhupinder Singh of the same village were arrested from their residences. During the preliminary interrogation, they revealed that Jagjit Singh, his father Sawran Singh and his brothers Heera Singh and Baldev Singh had hatched a conspiracy to murder Maninder Singh to grab the land in dispute.

They further confessed that they reached at his “dera” on the outskirts of the village on the night of November 25 and beat him to death. The body of the victim was thrown into the Sutlej.

Mr Gill further said the body of Maninder Singh was taken out of the river and handed over to his family members after a postmortem examination. 


130 kg of poppy husk seized
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, December 16
Two persons have been arrested for being in possession of nearby 130 kg of poppy husk.

The SSP in a press note issued here today, said Bobby Singh, a resident of Rampura, had been arrested for possessing 15 kg of poppy husk. Similarly, Amrik Singh, a resident of Alike village, had been arrested for possessing 120 kg of poppy husk. Separate cases under Section 15 of the NDPS Act had been registered.


Morcha supports students’ stir
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, December 16
The district unit of the Punjab Lok Morcha has supported the agitation of students demanding the continuation of the facility of concession in bus passes.

Mr Jagmail Singh, district secretary of the morcha, said in a press note issued here today that the police authorities had been harassing students to end their agitation for the facility that the students had been enjoying since 1974.

He said students alleged police excesses against them which included torture of a handicapped student leader.

He alleged that the student leaders who had been remanded in a two-day police custody were tortured by the police and made to drink water from a can used in toilets.

He alleged that Rajwinder Singh, a handicapped student leader, was given electric shocks.


Large-scale evasion of ST detected
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 16
Evasion of Sales Tax on goods coming into Punjab from Delhi and other parts of the country by trains and inter-state deluxe and tourist buses has come to light. The state has been losing lakhs daily due to this and the authorities concerned have started hiring informers to check this activity.

Official sources said that last night, the enforcement wing of the Excise and Sales Tax Department here seized medicines worth Rs 6 lakh brought to the town without the payment of Sale Tax by a train from Delhi. Penalty on this consignment would be Rs 2 lakh.

A few days ago the enforcement wing also seized electronic goods, which were transported to this town by a bus. A gold trader was also caught while transporting the gold and jewellery items in a car. Penalty of more than Rs 3 lakh was imposed on the the trader by the authorities concerned.

Mr Jaspal Garg, Assistant Excise and Taxation Commissioner (AETC), Muktsar, said electronic goods worth lakhs of rupees, which were being brought to Muktsar, Malout, Jalalabad and other towns of this area by an inter-state tourist bus were seized.

Official sources said after the Information Collection Centres (ICC) were set up at 27 entry points of Punjab border from other states, new ways have been devised to evade tax on goods meant for sale in Punjab.

Shopkeepers play cat and mouse with MC
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 16
Even though the Municipal Corporation has started a drive since nearly two weeks against temporary encroachments, including ‘rehris’ and shopkeepers putting counters outside their shops, the drive seems to have fallen flat on its face with the ‘rehri’ owners and shopkeepers playing a cat and mouse game with the corporation.

Shopkeepers and even ‘rehri’ operators have devised a system whereby they come to know when the corporation staff sets out on its drive and the route it is following from one market to the other. With shopkeepers coordinating between themselves on land lines as well as mobiles, they quickly lift counters and other material into their shop premises whenever the corporation authorities come visiting their market. This means ‘meagre’ collections for the corporation which gets less material to confiscate and ‘normalisation’ of events as soon as the corporation truck leaves the market area.

This phenomenon has been occurring since more than one week when the corporation authorities decided to start a regular drive against encroachers when there was criticism that random checking after a month or even later did not curb this menace. This has resulted in corporation going in for checking encroachments in various markets as much as thrice a week. But this too has failed to get the required results due to the ingenuity of the shopkeepers.

Shitiz Aggarwal, who runs a chemist shop in the Railway Crossing Number-22 market, said there were temporary encroachments on one side of his shop with ‘rehris’ selling fried fish and tikkas besides few other stalls. He said these stall owners and others in their vicinity were coordinating with each other to ensure they were able to move quickly to save their counters and other material from being confiscated.

Other shopkeepers gave the example of an earlier drive when the corporation authorities had confiscated a ‘tandoor’ and other material of the “khansama” takeaway joint in the area. They said even though the material was confiscated and released on a fine, the shopkeeper continued to encroach upon land in front of his shop even now. When The Tribune team visited the area today it found two heavy tandoors and other material outside the shop. Other takeaway joints in the area as well as the Gopal Sweets situation on the Lower Mall besides ‘dhabas’ on the Lower Mall continue to put their counters and even chairs and tables outside their shops.

The sources said a similar situation existed as far as ‘rehris’ were concerned. They said though corporation staff had raided the ‘Sheranwala Gate’ area to check ‘rehris’ standing there which severely restricted movement of traffic, the situation had not improved even now. They said similarly the corporation had not been able to decongest the area surrounding the bus stand.

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