Wednesday, December 25, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Shaheedi Jor Mela — last political battle of 2002
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 24
Though the postponement of municipal elections in Punjab may deprive political conferences, to be held during Shaheedi Jor Mela at Fatehgarh Sahib from tomorrow, of some of their sheen still it would be the last opportunity for both the ruling Congress and its main rival Shiromani Akali Dal to showcase their strength before the close of the year.

The political conferences, as usual, will be held on the second day of the three-day mela. In fact, it will be the first major occasion for the leadership all major political parties of the state, including the Congress, Shiromani Akali Dal, Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal and Lok Bhalai Party, for a direct interface with people after the much-hyped Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) elections in November this year.

It is all the more important as Fatehgarh Sahib happens to be the full home turf for the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) chief, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, and partially for both the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and the Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal chief, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra.

The absence of Mr Tohra will be felt this time as he is convalescing at Batra Hospital in New Delhi where he recently underwent bypass surgery. Last time, it was the Shiromani Akali Dal chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, who missed the mela on health grounds.

The postponement of the municipal elections, political experts maintain, are linked to the coming state Assembly elections in the neighbouring Himachal Pradesh. The performance of the Congress government in Punjab, the experts claim, will have a direct bearing on the outcome of the Himachal elections, more so after BJP's mammoth win in Gujarat.

While the Congress will showcase its full strength at Fatehgarh Sahib with Capt Amarinder Singh and the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief, Mr H.S. Hanspal, expected to be the main speakers at the December 26 conference, equally important will be the show of the Shiromani Akali Dal where Mr Parkash Singh Badal is expected to be the main crowd-puller. Also expected to address the SAD gathering will be the Union Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, and the re-elected Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee chief, Prof Kirpal Singh Badungar, who also happens to be from Patiala of which Fatehgarh Sahib was once a part.

While the main plank for the ruling party will expectedly be corruption of the previous SAD-BJP government in the state, the Akalis are expected to turn tables on the Congress by accusing it not only of “non-performance”, but also of not keeping its pre-poll promises. Issues like the withdrawal of free power to farmers may also figure prominently at the conferences to be organised by the Bharti Kisan Union on the occasion.

The district administration expects a million people to participate in the mela.

Meanwhile, all police arrangements for the smooth conduct of the mela have been completed.


Amritsar in limelight again
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 24
This holy city which was “forgotten” by the Shiromani Akali Dal during its regime in Punjab, again became hub of their political activities this year. Leaders and activists of the rival Akali factions started thronging Akal Takht to lodge complaints against each other.

After Akal Takht, another Sikh institution, which was moved by the Akali factions again and again, was the Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission. A number of cases were filed to settle “political scores” on the pretext that Sikh “maryada” was being violated. Many of the cases pertained to abuse of power by SGPC members. So much so, a member of the judicial commission, Mr Dara Singh was picked up by the police at behest of state government as he had reportedly refused to favour a particular Akali faction. Later, Mr Dara Singh was placed under suspension on the charge that he had entered a “brawl” with someone under the influence of liquor, which he vehemently denied.

The crucial annual elections to the SGPC held last month had virtually exposed the “direct intervention” of the state government.

Allegations of police entry into the SGPC complex on the eve of annual election further complicated the situation. With the re-election of Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar as SGPC chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal emerged tallest among the Akali stalwarts. After Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, a former SGPC chief, Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi became the second veteran Akali leader who was unceremoniously expelled from the primary membership of the party for six years.

The city again hit the headlines when control of ancient Durgiana temple here was forcibly taken from the pro-BJP management, allegedly at the behest of the Congress government. Though the state government denied intervention in “religious affairs”, yet senior Congress leaders were accommodated in the management.

Local trade was badly affected after the snapping of rail and road links with Pakistan from January this year. Importers and exporters suffered loss worth crores during the year.

Border residents suffered the most after the deployment of the Army and laying of mines in the area in the aftermath of attack on Parliament on December 13 last year. While some residents and Army personnel were killed in accidental explosion of mines, many residents of the border belt had to migrate to safer places even as the war of clouds spread. The Army build-up had also caused immense damage to the economy of the region.

Another development, which was keenly witnessed by all concerned, was serious allegations levelled against the Sikh clergy.

The “dera” culture hit the headlines after violent clashes between members of the Shiromani Khalsa Panchayat and the Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan, headed by controversial godman, Ashutosh Maharaj. Baba Bhaniara, who was excommunicated from the Sikh Panth was arrested in the mid of this year. Many incidents of clashes between Sikh leaders and followers of Baba Bhaniara were witnessed throughout the year.

The two controversial books, “Operation Black Thunder: an Eyewitness Account of Terrorism in Punjab”, authored by Mr Sarbjeet Singh, a former Deputy Commissioner and another book on SGPC by Mr Kulwant Singh, a former secretary of the SGPC virtually created a storm in the Sikh circles.


Punjab MPs’ funds remain unutilised
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 24
The Punjab Government and its official machinery, which often complaints about shortage of funds, has not been able to spend the funds provided by the Union Government to each member of Parliament under the Local Area Development Scheme. The Union Government gives Rs 2 crore to each MP every year under the scheme.

Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh at a meeting of top officials including administrative secretaries, Deputy Commissioners and district police chiefs, held here today said Rs 33 crore from MPs’ funds were lying unspent in the state. Giving details in this connection he said Rs 7.99 crore had been released by MPs but lying spent, besides Rs 26 crore that had been sanctioned by MPs.

There were Rs 26 crore more which were yet to be released by the Central Government under the scheme and this totalled Rs 60 crore that the state could spend for its development. Giving fresh instructions with regard to the spending of funds available under the scheme, the Chief Minister directed Deputy Commissioners that the cheques under the scheme should be issued to the MPs irrespective of their party affiliations.

He said it was the prerogative of the MP concerned to directly receive the grant and spend it accordingly for the overall development of his constituency. He asked the Deputy Commissioners to be in touch with the MPs concerned to get more projects sanctioned so that the amount pending with the Centre could also be utilised for development. Showing concern over drug addiction among youth he called upon the civil and police administration to chalk out a multi-pronged strategy to curb the menace.

He directed the Chief Secretary to immediately finalise the modalities to fill 27 vacant posts of drug inspector.

Capt Amarinder Singh also reviewed the situation arising out of female foeticide and widening gap between the male and female sex ratio.


Centre partially waived loan’
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 24
The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, said here today that the Centre had not waived the entire loan taken by Punjab to fight militancy during terrorism and accused former Prime Minister, I.K. Gujral and former Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal of giving false information.

Talking to mediapersons, Capt Amarinder Singh referred to the claim reportedly made by Mr Gujral that during his stint as the Prime Minister, he had waived the entire loan incurred by Punjab in its fight against militancy. “The fact is that Mr Gujral waived only Rs 2114 crore. The total amount due from the state government is Rs 5,800 crore”, the Chief Minister said, adding that “successive Prime Ministers had also failed to live up to their commitment with regard to the waiving of the loan.

“When I took up the issue with Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee in Delhi, he was surprised and had a talk with Mr Advani, the Finance Minister and others. Punjab tackled a national problem...why should we suffer”, Capt Amarinder Singh said.

The loan was to be repaid to the Centre over 15 to 20 years, he said, adding that there was a moratorium on the repayment of the principal amount and the interest up to 1992-93. An amount of Rs 2694.67 crore consisting of Rs 771.24 crore and an interest amounting to Rs 1923.43 crore was paid to the Centre.

The Chief Minister said his government had finalised a curative petition and two civil suits would be filed in the Supreme Court on the issue of the completion of SYL canal.


Hawala racket unearthed
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, December 24
The Enforcement Department (ED) today unearthed a hawala racket involving a sum of about Rs 1 crore and seized Rs 7 lakh from the residence of a hawala money distributor at the Niwan Saraj Ganj locality here.

Talking to this correspondent here, the Assistant Director of the ED, Mr B.C. Mahay, said that on a tip-off, an eight- member ED team today raided the residence of Bhushan Kumar at the local Niwan Saraj Ganj locality and seized Rs seven lakh from the place. The ED team also recovered documents pertaining to the distribution of hawala money to the tune of Rs 1 crore to 19 persons in different parts of the state during the past two days by the suspect.

The raid continued for about two hours, even as Bhushan, who got wind of the raid, fled the place. Elaborating on the illegal activities of the suspect, Mr Mahay said during preliminary investigation it was found that Bhushan was distributing hawala money to the tune of Rs 50 lakh daily and the seizure of documents involving a sum of Rs 1 crore was just the tip of the iceberg.

“We have decided to issue notices under Section 37 of the Foreign Exchange Management Act to the 19 persons, who received hawala money through illegal channels from Bhushan, to join investigations”, Mr Mahay added.

Bhushan, according to the ED, was receiving hawala money from international hawala mafia based in the USA, the UK and Dubai.

“A large sum of the money has been transferred to India through illegal channels in Dubai. It has been found that a majority of the Punjabis from the Doaba region of the state, who had immigrated to western countries, particularly, the USA, through illegal channels in the past, used to send huge money through hawala, which is being probed thoroughly,” he said.

“We are also preparing a case for detention of Bhushan for one year under the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act. The case will be sent to the higher authorities in Delhi for approval,” Mr Mahay said.


Daylight robbery in cooperative bank
Our Correspondent

Surewal (Ropar), December 24
In a daylight robbery, three persons travelling in a Maruti car looted a roadside branch of the Ropar Central Cooperative Bank Surewal, about 60 km from Ropar. As per the information collected, the robbers came to bank located on the main road of the Surewal village at about 2 pm in a red Maruti car and took away Rs 94,390. At the time of the robbery only the peon of the bank and two customers were present in the branch. The manager of the bank, Mr Dharam Singh, and another employee posted there were away to Nangal to collect cash from the central chest of the bank.

One of the robbers, who as described by the peon Kartar Singh, was a short-statured turbaned Sikh, called him out of the bank. As soon as the peon came out, he took out a revolver and pointing it at his chest ordered him to move inside the bank.

Once inside the bank, the other two accomplices also took out their revolvers and ordered the customers to lie down on the floor. They also disconnected the phone of the bank. Thereafter, the robbers forced the peon to open the chest of the bank and took away the cash. Before fleeing, they down the shutter of the bank leaving the peon and the two customers inside.

After the robbers had left the peon set off the burglar alarm of the bank on hearing the same the people of the surrounding areas gathered there and called the police. Though the police reached the spot within 15 minutes the robbers could not be traced.

The SP (detective), Mr S.S. Grewal, reached the sight of robbery at about 4 pm and recorded the statements of the bank employees and the customers present in the bank at the time of the robbery.


KERPL: engineers write to Orissa CM
Our Correspondent

Ropar, December 24
In a new twist to the KERPL controversy dogging the PSEB, the Northern India Power Engineers’ Federation, has written an open latter to the Orissa Chief Minister, alleging bungling in the sale of Gridco power to the PSEB through the KERPL.

The Secretary-General of the federation, Mr Padamjit Singh, has alleged that at a time when Orissa was already facing power shortage, a private company, KERPL was trying to sell 100 mw Gridco power to the PSEB.

The sale proposal will have a double loss to Orissa as the power shortage in the state would increase and the Gridco would face a financial loss as the organisation will be buying at a higher rate from the NTPC and selling at lower rate to Punjab through the KERPL.

The letter further states that Gridco is facing 330 mw power shortage which amounts to 17 per cent overall shortage vis-a-vis demand. The water reservoirs in Orissa are also at depleted level and there is little or no margin for Gridco to step up hydro-power generation to sell additional 100 mw.

The letter has alleged that recently an objection was raised in the Orissa Electricity Regulatory Commission (OERC) that Gridco was buying power at a high cost and selling it cheaper. In reply Gridco maintained that it purchased power from the TSTPS and the FSTPS at an average rate of 191.73 paise a unit.

If the assertion was believed to be true then the Gridco was certainly selling power to the KERPL at a rate lesser than it was purchased. The KERPL has offered to sell Gridco power to Punjab at a rate 206 paise a unit at Sasaram point in Bihar, which translates to just 184 paise a unit ex-bus Gridco.

The proposed agreement of Gridco with the KERPL was also causing loss to Punjab.


Poll deferment flayed
Tribune Reporters

Hoshiarpur, December 24
Mr Des Raj Dhugga, SAD MLA from Garhdiwala, gave his reaction on the decision of the Punjab Government to postpone the municipal council elections scheduled to be held on January 23, 2003 in the state while talking to this correspondent on the telephone today. He alleged that keeping in view the recent landslide victory of the BJP, the Congress had admitted its defeat even before contesting the municipal elections.

In a press note Mr Bhagwant Kishore Gupta, general secretary district unit of the BJP, Mr Sat Pal Sareen, President, Municipal Council, Hoshiarpur and many other local BJP leaders strongly criticised the Punjab Government for postponing the elections.

PHILLAUR: Former Punjab BJP President Madan Mohan Mittal has described the state government's decision to postpone these elections as a frustration on the part of Congress after its defeat in the Gujarat Assembly elections. Talking with mediapersons on Tuesday Mr Mittal said that the Congress-led state government was not keen to hold the poll since it was afraid of facing a defeat.


Battle for dera: 5 hurt, 76 held
Our Correspondent and PTI

Amritsar, December 24
Five persons were injured in an exchange of fire between two groups over the possession of a property at Gharinda village in the district, the police said. The police has arrested 76 persons in this connection.

The incident occurred last evening when several Nihangs allegedly armed with lethal weapons stormed a “dera” for forcibly taking the possession of Dera Guru Sat-Satlani and its property.

Several Nihangs, led by Baba Bhola Singh attacked the dera with an alleged intention to dispose of the sitting dera chief, Baba Gurpinder Singh.

In a bid to counter Baba Bhola Singh, followers of Baba Gurpinder Singh also retaliated by the exchange of gunfire, police said.

The exchange of fire, which lasted for two hours, forced the followers of Baba Gurpinder Singh to relent, who slipped out of the dera.

Police personnel, on reaching the site today, arrested 70 assailants, but Baba Bhola Singh managed to escape.

Talking to the media here, Mr S.K. Kalia, SP said even as the dera had been freed, it would not be restored to its present chief, Baba Gurpinder Singh, in the absence of the specific orders to the effect from the District Magistrate.

SDM Manpreet Singh last evening pronounced his verdict in favour of Baba Bhola Singh holding him as a legitimate trustee and chief of the dera. However, Baba Bhola Singh, without following the set procedure of law to gain the possession of the dera, stormed it and tried to dethrone Baba Gurpinder Singh, the police said.

The dera’s property having worth crores and includes a senior secondary school, 300 acres of land in the city, besides hundreds of head of cattle.

All accused have been booked under Sections 163, 452, 448, 336, 427, 148, 149 of the IPC and 25/54/59 of the Arms Act. Two canters, a Gypsy, a .12 bore rifle and eight kirpans were seized, in the operation to flush out persons from the dera.


52,000 enlisted for Fazilka MC poll
Our Correspondent

Fazilka, December 24
Over 52,000 persons have been enlisted as voters for elections to the 21 wards of the Fazilka Municipal Council.

According to details furnished by officials of the Council, an increase of more than 10,000 voters has been recorded during the past 5 years after the civil poll of 1998. This is in proportion to the figures of the 2001 census when about 75 per cent of the town population had been enrolled as voters. Interestingly, according to the census reports the rise in population of the town during past 10 years has been around 10,000. The figures have baffled some of the prospective contenders for the civic poll.

As per the report sent to the electoral office, there has been minimum registration of 1995 votes in Ward no 20, while there has been the maximum enrollment of 3,225 voters in Ward no 4 reserved for female candidates. In other wards 2240 voters has been registered in Ward no 1, 3,057 in Ward no 2, 2,160 in Ward no 3, 2,984 in Ward no 5, 2,190 in Ward no 6, 2,779 in Ward no 7, 2,460 in Ward no 8, 2,470 in Ward no 9, 2,334 in Ward no 10, 2,119 in Ward no 11, 2,300 in ward no 12, 2161 in Ward no 13, 2,277 in Ward no 14, 2,507 in Ward no 15, 2,782 in Ward no 16, 2,358 in Ward no 17, 2,775 in Ward no 18, 2,235 in Ward no 19, and 3,107 in Ward no 21. These figures limply that in all 52,310 voters got themselves registered against a number of 42,400 during the previous civic body polls.

Enrollment of voters left out of the lists and objections made are to be considered up to December 26. Thereafter, the list shall be tabled in the municipal council office and all amendments shall be made by January 3, 2003. The lists shall be published on January 5, 2003.

Candidates of the two major rival parties Congress and BJP are expected to keenly contest the municipal council poll here.


Dogra to withdraw remarks: IMA
Tribune Reporters

Phagwara, December 24
A deputation of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), Punjab, comprising Dr Kuldip Singh, Dr Raman Aggarwal, Dr Rajinder Sharma and Dr Ahuja met Mr Romesh Dogra, Minister of Health and Family Welfare, to apprise him of the association’s reaction to his statement given to a private TV channel that ayurvedic doctors should be allowed to prescribed allopathic medicines.

According to a press note issued today by Dr Raman Aggarwal, Vice-President, IMA after being convinced of facts, the minister decided to withdraw his statement and agreed that the ayurvedic practitioners can’t practice allopathy. He admitted that his statement to the channel was the outcome of a piecemeal briefing given by a deputation of ayurvedic doctors, the press note claimed.

The minister also promised to constitute the Punjab Medical Council at the earliest so that such professional issues can be settled amicably, added Dr Aggarwal.

BARNALA: Taking a serious view of the statement of Mr Ramesh Chander Dogra, Punjab Health and Family Welfare Minister, pertaining to giving a free hand to ayurvedic doctors to use allopathic drugs in their practice given to a TV channel, the Punjab Indian Medical Association (IMA) has termed it as a contempt of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

In a press statement issued here on Monday Dr R.C. Garg, Punjab unit IMA President regretted that it was quite unfortunate that the Health and Family Welfare Minister was not refraining from issuing such statements even though Mr Justice G.S. Singhvi and Ms Justice Kiran Anand Lall of the Punjab and Haryana High Court observed in their judgement in Dr Tarsem Singh and others versus State of Punjab that a person who was not enrolled on the State Medical Register within the meaning of the 1956 Act, could not practice modern system of medicines in the wake of a careful reading of the judgement of the apex court in famous Mukhtiar Chand Case. Dr Garg said his statements were against the spirit of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and Supreme Court verdicts. The Punjab and Haryana High Court had passed its judgement in the Dr Tarsem Singh and others versus State of Punjab Case on October 24, this year. Dr Garg urged the Punjab Government to effectively implement this judgement in letter and spirit by instructing all Civil Surgeons in the state to ensure that unauthorised practice of modern system of medicine by ayurvedic, unani or homoeopathic practitioners was not carried on in Punjab.


PRTC workers stage dharna
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, December 24
Workers of the PRTC today staged a dharna near the local bus stand in protest against the alleged victimisation of their leaders.

The members of the PRTC Workers Union raised slogans against the authorities concerned. They alleged that more than 200 workers were transferred when some of the depots of the PRTC were dismantled.

They further alleged that dismantling of depots was a step towards privatisation of the PRTC. They threatened to launch a massive agitation if the decision regarding disinvestment in the PRTC was taken.

It was alleged that the PRTC was in loss due to the inefficiency and corrupt working style of some of the senior officials.

Mr Pritam Singh, deputy general secretary of the state unit of the union pointed out that under political pressure the General Secretary of the union was transferred to a place far off from his home. Mr Darshan Singh, President of the local depot unit, said they were not being paid for the overtime as per the rules.


Where have historical gates gone?
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 24
Mystery shrouds the “disappearance” of two historical “darwazas” (gates) named after two Sikh warriors — Jassa Singh Ramgarhia and Jassa Singh Ahluwalia. Nobody is willing to tell when and why the rich heritage belonging to the period of the legendary Maharaja Ranjit Singh was demolished.

A map of the Municipal Committee, Amritsar, published before the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh depicts 12 historical gates, including “Darwaja Ramgarhia” and “Darwaja Ahluwalia”.

Mr Onkar Singh Sandhu, a patron of Jassa Singh Ramgarhia presented proof to the Mayor that the gates were in good condition before Partition.

Moreover, history books point out that the Chattiwind and Ghee Mandi gates were named after Jassa Singh Ramgarhia and Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, respectively.

He urged to re-name these gates after the names of great Sikh warriors with a view to keeping the rich heritage alive.

The book, “Amritsar, a study in urban history” by Anand Guaba and “Sri Amritsar”, a book by Giani Gyan Singh Tehrik clearly point out that the Chattiwind and Ghee Mandi gates were called “Ramgarhia and Ahluwalia darwajas”.

The Ramgarhia Federation said its demand to re-name the two gates was genuine as it was based on research. The federation also demanded to rename Katra Ramgarhia, which was developed in 1760 and was located between Gilwlali Gate and Doburji Gate (Sultanwind Gate) and was surrounded by Katra Dal Singh, Katra Mit Singh and Katra Garbha Singh which is based on record.

Expressing concern over the indifferent attitude of all concerned, Mr Onkar Singh Sandhu said Sikh institutions should immediately come forward to preserve the rich Sikh heritage.


CM’s application dismissed
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, December 24
A local court today dismissed an application moved by the Chief Minister of Punjab, Capt Amarinder Singh, through his counsel for quashing a defamation complaint filed against the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC).

The complainant, Mr N.S Minhas, has argued that the application moved by Capt Amarinder Singh could not be maintainable at this stage since the court had not issued a summons to the opposite party in the case. The case was adjourned for March 5.

Mr Minhas has filed a complaint against the PPCC alleging that the Congress had defamed the Akali Dal by publishing advertisement in various national and regional newspapers against party President, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, during the assembly elections.


Sidhu’s plea rejected
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 24
A local court today rejected the application filed by former PPSC Chairman Ravinderpal Singh Sidhu demanding a copy of the order sanctioning his removal from the post by the President.

The court declined to grant the request of Sidhu’s counsel in this regard and fixed the next date of hearing for the framing of charges against the former PPSC Chairman for January 8.


Sikh women take out rally on helmet issue
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 24
Sikh women today took out a protest rally in the city under the banner of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) to protest against the Supreme Court ruling, making it mandatory for women two-wheeler drivers as well as pillion riders to wear helmets.

The protest rally, which started from Gurdwara Dukhniwaran, culminated at the Deputy Commissioner’s office where a memorandum was submitted to the Deputy Commissioner.

It was mentioned that double standards were being adopted by the district administration in the implementation of orders passed by the Supreme Court. He said while the administration was not imposing the ban on smoking in public places effectively, it was forcing Punjabi women to wear helmets, even though their religious and cultural beliefs did not allow it.


Centres set up to rehabilitate unemployed youth
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, December 24
The Punjab Government has set up a centre, Punjab Youth training and employment (C-Pyte), to impart educative, physical and other types of training particularly to the Punjabi youth in order to rehabilitate them.

Stating here today Col. (retd) Bikkar Singh Bath, Principal of the institution said the youth in the age group between 18-21 years, who have a minimum qualification of matriculation with 45 per cent marks were being enrolled and imparted two months training in the institution Board and lodging facilities were also being provided free of cost to the trainees during the stipulated period. He pointed out that the institution which was established in the year 1995 and caters to the five districts of Bhatinda, Ferozepur, Muktsar, Moga and Faridkot had already helped more than 4,000 youth of the area in their recruitment with the Army and paramilitary forces.


Anti-pollution masks for cops
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, December 24
The traffic police personnel here have been provided with anti-pollution masks for protecting them from smoke, dust and other pollutants and improving their performance.

DSP Harmanbir Singh Gill said in press note issued here today that these masks had been provided with the cooperation of the local Environment Association. He said about 40,000 vehicles passed daily through the GT Road stretch in the town and the constables on duty from 8 am to 8 pm virtually breath in dusty and polluted air, due to which a few of them used to fall ill every month.


Municipal corporation status for Bathinda soon
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 24
The long-pending demand of the local residents regarding granting Municipal Corporation status to the local Municipal Council is going to be fulfilled soon.

Talking to TNS over phone this evening, Mr Surinder Singla, local MLA, stated that the Punjab Chief Minister had recently promised that Bathinda would soon have a Municipal Corporation in place of the municipal council.

Mr Singla said a notification to this effect was still awaited. He expressed the hope that the same would be issued as early as possible.

The source said the Municipal Corporation would have 50 wards whereas the municipal council had 35 wards at present.

Meanwhile, Mr Kewal Krishan Aggarwal, a senior leader of the District Congress Committee, while hailing the decision of the Chief Minister in this regard, said the formation of the Municipal Corporation would prove a milestone in the development of the township. This would also help in resolving the problems of the local residents in a big way, he added.


PTU former VC gets police remand
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, December 24
The Chief Judicial Magistrate, Mr A.S. Grewal, today remanded former Vice-Chancellor of Punjab Technical University (PTU) H.S. Gurm, who was the prime accused in the multi-crore PTU scam, in police custody for two days.

Earlier, he was produced in the court, where the Vigilance Bureau asked for the police custody of the accused. The CJM, after listening to the arguments of both the public prosecutor and the defence counsel allowed police remand for two days and asked the VB to produce the former in the court on December 26.


Consumer Day observed
Tribune Reporters

Amritsar, December 24
Consumers attended an open house session on the occasion of the National Consumer Day, organised under the chairmanship of Mr G.S. Daria, General Manager, Telecom, at Majitha House here today. Stating this in a press note, Mr Daria said consumers presented suggestions to improve telecom services.

He said a supplementary telephone directory of the BSNL (issued -2002) with connections from September 1, 2000, to March 31, 2002, was also released and would be available for distribution to the public from December 30.

BATHINDA: Mrs Kamal Preet Brar, Additional Deputy Commissioner, Bathinda, on Tuesday stressed the need for educating the masses regarding their rights mentioned in the Consumers Protection Act.

She was addressing a function in connection with the National Consumer Day here.


Bandh against temple incident
Our Correspondent

Jalalabad, December 24
A bandh was observed here yesterday to press the police to take action against the accused, who allegedly attempted to take the forcible possession of the Shiv Mandir and Ek Jot Serve Vyapak temples’ premises located at local Gandhi Nagar. A protest march was also taken out in the town.

According to reports Baldev Singh along with his accomplice allegedly attempted to take the possession of Shiv Mandir and Ek Jot Serve Vypak temples by demolishing a part of the boundry wall of both the premises on Saturday night. When a devotee, Mr Satpal Sharma, challenged them, he was beaten up.

A case has been registered. The police has arrested four persons allegedly involved in the incident. Meanwhile, representatives of various religious organisations have demanded action against the culprits.

They have described the incident as heinous crime, which might disturb the communal harmony in the town.


Minister bereaved
Our Correspondent

Patiala, December 24
A former Assistant Registrar of the Co-operatives Department, Rikhi Dev Kumar, a cousin of the Punjab Finance Minister, Mr Lal Singh, died at his native village near here early today, following a massive heart attack. The cremation was held at his native village, Asarpur.


Farmers advised to market produce
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, December 24
Nearly 350 farmers, including women, were briefed about the latest developments by horticulture, agriculture and dairy farming experts at the local Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) a convention, commemorating the birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Chaudary Charan Singh, here yesterday.

Dr Surinder Kumar Sharma, in charge of the KVK, said the farmers were told about the latest techniques regarding wheat sowing, artificial insemination in dairy animals and the importance of farming and allied activities in improving their economic status.

Dr Jaswinder Singh, an expert in the field, gave tips on horticulture and Dr Inderjit Singh, district Deputy Director, Dairy Development, shared his experiences with the farmers.

Dr Sham Singh Dhillon, former director, PAU Regional Research Centre, who was also the chief guest on the occasion, said the farmers should venture into self-marketing of their produce and not depend on government help for the same.

Ten leading farmers were honoured at the function and exhibitions by the KVK and the Horticulture Department were also held. The farmers were also briefed about various courses and training programmes undertaken at the KVK.


Inquiry into voter list ordered
Our Correspondent

Kharar, December 24
The State Election Commissioner, Punjab, Mr C.L. Bains, has ordered an inquiry into the allegation of irregularities in the preparation of voter lists especially in ward no 15 and 8 and has asked the Deputy Commissioner, Ropar, to get the two complaints verified through the ADC and send the report to the commission within 10 days.

These orders were passed by the commission today when Mr Jai Bhagwan Singla and Mr Preet Kanwal Singh both prospective candidate send complaints to the commission. Mr Singla has said there were a large number of bogus voters in word no 15 and many eligible voters had been left out.

Similarly, Mr Kanwal has said that the number of new voters in ward no 8 was much higher than the actual population of the ward.


2 gangsters held
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 24
“Sonu Pistol” alias Sunil Kumar, a notorious gangster and Sanjeev Kumar, alias Babba head of the Cobra gang, were arrested following a tip-off by the police from the Loharka bypass late last night.

The two travelling in a Tata Sumo were stopped at the naka. The police seized one .32 bore pistol, five live cartridges, one .30 mouser pistol, two magazines and 15 more cartridges of .30 bore. Case under the Arms Act were registered against them here today. Dr S.K. Kalia SP, (HQ), said the police was on the look-out for these two persons in several cases.

“Sonu Pistol” reportedly enjoy significant clout and political patronage and is allegedly notorious for land grabbing. In the Assembly elections, his gang popularly known as Pistol Gang had allegedly tried to capture booths. They were wanted in which criminal several cases include attempt to murder, under the Narcotics Act, under the Arms Act, for cheating and land grabbing cases. A total of 11 cases are registered against Babba while eight cases are registered against Sonu Pistol.

Meanwhile, in separate incidents the police arrested four persons of a gang indulging in looting on gun-point. Gang members are Balbir Singh, Jatinder Pal, Singh and Satnam Singh, all of Tarn Taran and Joginder Singh of Amritsar. One .30 mouser and two live magazines and 16 live cartridges were recovered.


Smuggler held
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, December 24
The police authorities, sadar, here yesterday arrested a person allegedly belonging to a gang of smugglers.

He has been identified as Didar Singh, alias Dara of Lakhanpur, Jammu and Kashmir. He was arrested from near Madhopur Guest House, near here following a tip-off.

The police said Didar Singh along with four others had been smuggling gold, charas, and had links with Pakistan-based smugglers. The police has registered a case.

The accused was produced before Mr Ranjit Singh, Judicial Magistrate First Class, here, who remanded him in police custody for two days.


8 booked for cheating
Our Correspondent

Mansa, December 24
The Sardulgarh police has booked eight persons, including Angrej Kaur, alias Gurdev Kaur, Harjinder Singh, patwari of Ullak, and Gurwinder Singh, registry clerk, of Sardulgarh tehsil in the district under Sections 420, 465, 467, 468, 471 and 120-B of the IPC on the basis of a letter sent by the Deputy Commissioner to the SSP.

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