Wednesday, January 8, 2003, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Punjab initiative on reforms applauded
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 7
Faced with tidings of discomfort for the past several months, Punjab could not have asked for more when Planning Commission Member, N.K. Singh today endorsed the reforms initiated by the state government to put its economy back on the rails and improve its fiscal housekeeping. As a “role model”, these economic/fiscal reforms were worth replicating by other states.

The echo of this applaud for Punjab reverberated at the first-ever one-day conference on “Economic policy reform issues: agenda for the state governments” organised by the Department of Information and Technology in collaboration with Stanford University and The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) of the USA. The Stanford team of academicians was headed by Prof. Roger Noll, Director, Centre for Research on Economic Development and Policy Reform at Stanford University. In his keynote address, Mr N.K. Singh referred to the need for a paradigm shift in the economic reforms initiated in 1991 to the states, which should focus on preparing their agenda for balanced socio-economic development and equitable justice. In that respect Capt. Amarinder Singh deserves praise for having taken bold initiatives. The other priority areas he mentioned are the agricultural sector faced as it is with a host of problems/ challenges and infrastructure development, including power reforms, which are the nucleus of all economic development, reforms in the loss-making transport sector and public sector undertakings, besides the social and urban sectors. If education and health management are under the scanner for poor services, so is urban development, where de-regulation is needed. The key reform, however, is ensuring good governance, he added.

Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh listed problems/challenges before Punjab. If he summed up the problems that beset his government, he also revealed the roadmap drawn up to “revive” Punjab. He repeated the ills that afflict the state conceding that priority had to be given to — quality education/ health services, rural water supply/sanitation, urban infrastructure, roads/bridges, biotechnology/information technology, agri-industry/infrastructure and diversification and irrigation. “With proper policy initiatives Punjab can build a comparative cost advantage in textiles/ hosiery, light engineering, pharmaceuticals, agro-processing and knowledge-based segments”, he claimed.

He was confident that deliberations of the conference would go beyond and result in concrete recommendations for economic fiscal reforms, which can be pursued through an institutionalised mechanism between Stanford University and Punjab. He sought the opening of a Punjab chapter of the TiE.

Professor Noll said most of the problems faced by the states in India were by and large similar in nature and differed only in scale. Regional co-operation was one way to deal with these through net-working among administrators, academicians and the corporate sector.

In fact, much of what was deliberated at the conference is already known in terms of problems and remedies. The moot point is from where and how to make a beginning. This common refrain was summed up by the Chief Minister’s Agriculture Adviser, Dr S.S. Johl, when he remarked: “The paradox is that the Centre acts and states react. The politics of vote-bank plays a significant role in stalling most of the reforms initiatives to set the things right despite thinking/policy planning being in the right direction and having been conceived in the right perspective”. Some participants said there were not many input nuggets for Punjab to pick up for its reforms programme at the conference.

There were special sessions on different aspects of the economic policy reforms: 1) infrastructure and regulatory reforms; 2) China’s development experiences; 3) Financial sector reforms and economic development; federalism in a globalising environment: India and developing countries; and 4) effective education policies.

Eminent economists, bureaucrats, academicians, Vice-Chancellors and industrialists participated in the conference. Among those who shared their experiences included Prof. Ronald McKinnon, Nicholas C. Hope, Anjini Kochar, Ashok Lahiri, M. Govinda Rao, Dr S.S. Johl, S.K. Bijlani, Raj Jaswa, K.R. Lakhanpal, A.S. Chatha and Surinder Singla. Chief Secretary Y.S. Ratra proposed a vote of thanks and hoped there would be a follow-up beyond today’s conference and inputs, if any, would prove useful to make corrections in the reforms.


Economic reforms: India can learn from China
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 7
The Communist Party of China has opened its membership to capitalists, obviously, with a view to providing space to the forces of growth (entrepreneurs) in the government’s decision-making process. This shows China’s commitment to becoming a world economic super power.

These were among the views that came across at one of the sessions on “Aspects of Chinese economic reforms: Lessons for India?” at a conference on “Economic policy reforms’ hosted by the Punjab Information Technology Department here today in collaboration with the Centre for Research on Economic Development on Policy Reforms (CREDPR), Stanford University, and the Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE), USA.

China is placing great reliance on the private sector to speed up growth. Compared to China, India, which placed its trust in a semi-socialist economy after Independence, is slowly responding to reforms required to put the economy on a higher pedestal of growth and convert it into a market economy.

In fact, divergent ideological positions of political parties and pressure groups have created roadblocks for various successive Indian Governments since 1991 in picking up a definite path to change the economic face of the country. The successive governments have blown hot and cold while responding to the new economic order across the globe with the emergence of bodies like the WTO. Dr Nicholas Hope, who has served as Country Director of the World Bank in China and is now working as Deputy Director of CREDPR at Stanford University, comparing India and China in his keynote address said that the share of the non-state sector in China’s gross domestic product (GDP) had exceeded two thirds by the end of last month. In China foreign investors had been given more rights and privileges than domestic ones. China had sequenced the reforms. In the first phase that started in 1978 and continued till 1993, China improved incentives and in the second phase it built a macroeconomic system and in the third phase it joined the WTO in 2001 and further improved incentives, changed laws and restructured institutions to make these conducive for achieving a higher growth rate and attracting foreign investment.

China continues to grow at an average rate ranging between 9.4 and 9.6 per cent since 1980 while India’s growth rate has ranged between 5.7 to 6 per cent. China’s GDP shot up to $ 1080 billion in year 2000 from $ 202 billion in 1980 while India’s GDP rose from $ 183 billion to $ 457 billion. China’s exports jumped from $ 15 billion in 1980 to $ 280 billion in 2000 while those in India went up from $ 11 billion to $ 64 billion.

In 1997, China’s population below the poverty line come down to 24 per cent from 44.7 per cent in 1985 while India’s figure that was 54.01 per cent in 1985 has been put at 50.9 per cent in 1997 by the world development indicators released by the World Bank. China’s illiteracy rate came down to 15.9 per cent in 2000 from 34.9 per cent in 1980 while India’s came down to 42.8 per cent from 59 per cent during the same period. Life expectancy in China at present is 70.3 years compared to 62.8 years in India and the infant mortality rate (per 1000 births) in China is at present only 32 while in India it is 69.2.

Mr Hope says that a lot more remains to be done in China as foreign investors are not yet happy with certain rules and regulations there. He said India should promote competition without favouring established ventures, promulgate the rule of law, enforce contracts, safeguard property rights, disseminate information freely, train managers and technicians and educate the workforce to compete with China.

Taking part in the discussions, Mr S.K. Bijlani, Chairman of the CII (northern region) said bold decisions were required to be taken. The sequencing of reforms in India was a must. While external liberalisation was going on there was very slow internal liberalisation. Sadly, even reforms in India were being opposed by the domestic private sector which was demanding protection from the government against external competition. The Bombay Club, he maintained, was formed with only this objective in view. Value addition in wheat and paddy would solve Punjab’s agricultural problem. 


Manmohan wants Punjab on top
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 7
The former Union Finance Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, today asked all right-thinking people to support the government in its endeavour to again place Punjab at the top in the Indian polity.

Admitting it was a difficult task but not that could not be accomplished, Dr Manmohan Singh said the Centre had to restructure and reschedule the debt recovery from all states to help them shift to fast-track development. The combined Centre-states deficit was 10 per cent of the GDP and states contribution was 45 per cent.

Addressing the concluding session of the conference on “Economic Policy Reform Issues: agenda for the state governments”, late tonight he complimented Capt Amarinder Singh on his ‘’vision, desire and commitment’’ to reinvent Punjab but cautioned this would happen only if he got the right support and the government business process was re-engineered by freeing it from the shackles of the mind-set.

Capt Amarinder Singh had an unenviable task at hand given the difficult financial situation Punjab was facing, but to be the number one state in per capita income, it had to focus on building a strong infrastructure and attract entrepreneurs by developing an investor-friendly climate. Punjab must promote power sector reforms, expand generation of electricity, cut transmission/distribution losses and provide quality service. The state had to improve its transport and road network system, free cooperatives from the stranglehold of bureaucracy and revitalise the credit system, strengthen PAU to do research through bio-technology and give agriculture a new push, restructure state financial corporations and provide transparent and accountable governance.

Dr Manmohan Singh said providing physical infrastructure was not enough. Care must be taken of the social infrastructure through quality education and healthcare. And for all this to happen, Punjabis would have to give up the ‘’chalta hai’’ attitude. He said like the Chinese, the WTO should afford an opportunity to Punjab to upgrade its administrative skills, technology, production processes and ensure, it emerged as an economic ‘’power house’’. 


Drug smugglers get supplies from MP
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 7
Even as the smuggling of narcotics from across the Indo-Pak border became negligible due to deployment of the Army after the terrorist attack on Parliament on December 13, 2001, fresh evidence of smuggling by innovative methods has put the authorities concerned in a bind.

What is worrying the authorities concerned is the fact that the smugglers have started using parcels and unregistered letters to send the consignment of narcotics abroad after the land route from Afghanistan to Pakistan to India as a transit point and then to other countries was effectively sealed by the state and central agencies. The smugglers now have been getting the supplies from Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan where the opium, which was being cultivated officially, was being converted into heroin, smack and cocaine.

Official sources said the Narcotic & Control Bureau (NCB) authorities had come across a number of instances in the year 2002 where in a significant number of letters and parcels containing a significant quantity of heroin had been sent abroad. In certain cases, the smugglers had carried out this task with the connivance of officials of the Posts Department.

Sources added what the smugglers of Punjab had been doing was that they had been getting heroin and other finer quality narcotics from Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. From Punjab, they had been sending it directly to the consumers or their contacts settled in foreign countries through parcels and unregistered letters.

Mr Rakesh Goyal, Zonal Director, NCB, Chandigarh, when contacted on the phone, while confirming the fact that such a new trend had emerged prominently in the smuggling, refused to divulge the details by saying that it would hamper the investigations. He added that so far neither the sender nor the receiver of narcotics through parcels and unregistered letters had been identified. He added that a number of parcels and unregistered letters seized by the NCB and the name of the countries to which they were sent could not be disclosed at this juncture. He said that such parcels and unregistered letters were being sent from all pockets of Punjab.

He pointed out that the NCB authorities had made controlled deliveries in certain countries at suspected places to identify the receivers. Apart from it information was being developed to identify the sender in Punjab.

Mr Goyal further pointed out that another trend, which had been catching up fast and spreading its tentacles in all parts of country, was the smuggling of cannabis from Himachal Pradesh to Nepal and other countries apart from Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Goa. The cannabis was being grown in the far-flung areas of Himachal Pardesh. For the past many years, the number of foreign tourists to that state had witnessed an unprecedented increase as most of them used to come for taking the deliveries of their consignments.

He added that in year 2002, NCB personnel destroyed cannabis in 1400 bighas at one go with the help of the local police authorities. The cultivation of cannabis was still increasing. The trend of allopathic drug addiction was also increasing in Punjab, he pointed out.


Engineered chicks soon
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 7
The Punjab Animal Husbandry Department is all set to revolutionise the concept of poultry farming by providing low cost, disease-resistant and genetically engineered chickens which can be kept in backyards and fed on kitchen waste to farmers of at least 100 “adarsh grams” under a Centre-assisted exhaustive breeding programme.

Under the programme, at least 140 villages have already been selected by the department, where veterinary services will be provided to farmers to gradually improve the health of their livestock, particularly of cows and buffaloes, apart from enabling them to improve its quality with the help of imported semen and artificial insemination. The objective of the programme was to create an atmosphere where per animal income doubled from the existing Rs 2500-3000 with in next three years.

The department was planning to introduce low cost chicks, which were resistant to diseases and which could generally be fed on kitchen waste, particularly, in areas which were devoid of poultry products for one or the other reasons. “Our basic motive is to provide a nourishing food to villagers without putting any burden on their pockets. The new variety of birds, which has been genetically engineered, could be kept in backyard of a home and its half of food would be other than poultry feed, due to which it would be very economical and is likely to develop its own local market,” said Dr G.S. Chahal, Director, Animal Husbandry, Punjab, adding that the new variety would be given at nominal cost to farmers of at least 100 of 140 villages selected for the programme from the next year.

Dr Chahal, said the veterinary centres in all these 140 villages, one in each block of the state, would provide all ultra-modern facilities at “optimum level” to farmers at nominal cost to improve the quality of livestock. Since most of the farmers were not aware about the importance of quality of livestock, they used artificial insemination in case of just 5 per cent of buffaloes and 45 per cent of cows. “The objective of the programme is to increase the coverage of artificial insemination to 45 and 70 per cent in case of buffaloes and cows, respectively, during the next three years. We have already imported 1.25 lakh doses of bull semen from New Zealand for this purpose apart from creating buffer stock of liquid nitrogen at two of our four semen banks at Patiala and Kapurthala,” said Dr Chahal adding that fishery, piggery and sheep rearing were also being encouraged under the integrated programme.

“Not only this, we are planning to double the production of fodder and milk in the state during next three years,” said Dr Chahal, in an exclusive chat with The Tribune.


Staff shortage hits judicial work
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, January 7
Judicial work at the district courts here has been suffering a lot due to shortage of senior staff for the past many months. According to reports, only four judges against the posts of eight judicial officer of different categories have been looking after the entire work. They include Mr A.N. Jindal, District and Sessions Judge, Mr Baldev Singh Sodhi, and Mr Fatehdeep Singh, both Additional District and Sessions Judge, and Mrs Sunita Kumari, CJM.

Three of the other four posts also had been lying vacant following the transfer of judicial officers like Mr S.K. Arora, Mr Baljinder Singh and Mr Mohammed Gulzar or due to other reasons for the past six months to over a year.

Due to inadequate staff, over 5000 files relating to different cases like TADA, the Prevention of Corruption Act, land references, motor accidental and others had to be dealt by a single judge, causing delay. Similarly, conditions in the civil administration was also not normal for the past few years. A post of the additional deputy commissioner (revenue) has been lying vacant for the past eight years. It was looked after by Dr Harkesh Singh Sidhu ADC (Development). Moreover, no steps have been taken to fill the vacancies of executive magistrate, public grievances officer and general assistant commissioner for the past over a year. Mr Devinder Singh, SDM, Faridkot, has been holding the charge for all three posts. Besides, he has also to take up the work as a chairman of three market committees like Faridkot, Kotkapura and Sadiq. Regretting the indifferent attitude of the government in filling vacant posts a large number of advocates, including Mr Surinder Iqbal Singh Brar, Mr Bikramjit Singh Brar, Mr Kulwinder Singh Sekhon, Mr Satish Jain, Mr Atul Gupta besides Mr Parveen Kala, a noted state awardee social worker and Mr S.K. Gupta, a veteran Congress leader, said the failure of the government to fill vacant post of a senior professor in the Ophthalmology Department at the local Guru Gobind Singh Medical College and Hospital for the past two years compelled the Medical Council of India to stop the admission of students to the postgraduate classes of ophthalmology from the next academic year in the institution. 


Army recruitment still under cloud
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 7
The arrest of two persons while accepting bribes from aspirants at an Army recruitment rally in Gurdaspur yesterday has brought into focus the alleged irregularities in the recruitment process. The complaints received in this regard have become a cause of concern for the Army authorities.

Information gathered by TNS revealed that during 2002, over 80 complaints were received by the authorities regarding irregularities by officials at Zonal Recruiting Offices and Branch Recruiting Offices and punishments were awarded to seven persons.

While the figures for 2002 are provisional, the numbers for the preceding three years are higher. As many as 100 cases of irregularities were reported in 2001 while 102 cases were reported in 2000. In 1991, the figure had been lower at 82 while it had been 92 cases in 1998.

As far as corrective measures go, punishments were awarded to eight in 1998, four in 1999 and five in 2000. After touching a low of two convictions in 2001, the figure rose to seven last year.

According to Army sources, a large number of complaints are either anonymous or under pseudonyms, but a preliminary inquiry is conducted in all cases to verify the authenticity of the complaint. The sources said there had been instances where specific complaints had been made against particular officers or functionaries.

One of the two arrested in Gurdaspur yesterday was a contractor with the Military Engineer Service at Amritsar while the other was his agent. The sources said despite a change in the recruitment process to bring in transparency, the influence of touts on aspirants could not be ruled out.

Irregularities in recruitment during the nineties had become an issue of serious concern and the Army had to revamp the process in 1998. The system of inviting applications and shortlisting candidates and calling them over for tests was done away with, instead, a system of open rallies, where the aspirants could be tested on the spot by teams called in from centres other than the station where the rally was being organised, was introduced. 


Army recruitment rallies from Jan 18
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 7
Special Army recruitment rallies are being organised for Sikh (Mazbhi and Ramdasia) candidates all over Punjab from January 18 to February 14.

Disclosing this here yesterday, an Army release said the rallies were being organised by the Recruitment Office, Jalandhar cantonment and BRO, Ferozepore. According to the programme recruitment rallies would be conducted in Faridkot on January 18-19, at Muktsar on January 22-23, at Bathinda on January 27-28, at Gurdaspur on January 27, at Kapurthala and Mansa on January 30-31, at Sangrur on February 3-4, at Hoshiarpur on February 3-4, at Malout on February 5, at Nawanshahr on February 7-8, at Ropar on February 10-11, at Morinda on February 12-13 and at Samrala on February 13-14.


Punjab seeks time to file reply
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 7
Taking up a bunch of petitions filed by panchayat secretaries sought to be terminated by the Punjab government, a Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court today fixed January 15 as the next date of hearing in the case after the state of Punjab sought time to file reply.

The secretaries, in their petition, had earlier alleged that action was being initiated against them in a mala fide manner due to political vendetta. Claiming to have been appointed by the previous government in October 2001, Raminder Singh of Ferozepore and six others, in one such petition, had added that the government had proceeded against them by issuing a blanket order without giving them an opportunity of hearing.

Seeking the quashing of an order dated December 10 vide which the services of a total of 909 secretaries were sought to be terminated, the petitioners had added that the same was illegal and arbitrary.

Giving details, counsel had further added on the petitioners’ behalf that the secretaries were appointed in the department concerned by a duly constituted Departmental Selection Committee.

Date fixed

A Full Bench of the Punjab and Harayana High Court on Tuesday fixed February 3 as the next date of hearing on a bunch of writ petitions filed by PCS officers, including executive and judicial, besides those of the allied services.

The officers were recruited in the state of Punjab during the tenure of Punjab Public Service Commission’s former Chairman Ravinder Pal Singh Sidhu. Challenging the orders passed against them, the petitioners had claimed that they were not related to the alleged scam in any manner.


Rs 5.76 crore drought relief released
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 7
“Rs 5.76 crore will soon be distributed among drought-hit farmers of the district. The compensation will be Rs 20 per quintal of the crop damaged, for paddy purchased in the last season,” said Mr Vikas Partap, Deputy Commissioner of Fatehgarh Sahib. He was discussing distribution of the amount with district officials here today.

He said the amount had been released to the district and it would be distributed among various procurement agencies as follows: Rs 1.8 crore to PUNSUP, Rs 1.44 crore to Markfed, Rs 1.25 crore to Warehousing Corporation and Rs 1.27 crore to the Department of Food Supplies. This was according to the quantity purchased by the respective agencies.

The DC told all SDMs and officials concerned to ensure that the amount was distributed properly. Farmers would be required to furnish proofs of identity for receiving the relief. “The payments should be made only through cheques, as per the government’s instructions,” said the DC.

The officials were told to form purchase-centre-level payment-distribution committees. The payment would have to be made on a fixed day, in each purchase centre, and the events would have to be widely publicised before the payment is made. This will ensure that no farmer suffers any problem regarding payment.

The process will have to be completed by January 20. All officials concerned and representatives of the procurement agencies were present at the meeting.


Health officials visit jaundice-hit areas
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 7
As many as 6,750 houses have been checked and a total of 30,000 patients examined till today in the jaundice-affected areas. About 70,000 chlorine tablets have been distributed and 94 patients referred for further investigation.

Dr K.K. Sharma, Civil Surgeon here today refuted the allegations that the Health Department had been charging for diagnostic tests and medicines. However, he claimed that a medical camp was continuing at a gurdwara in the Kot Mit Singh area. He said patients referred from this area were not being charged at Civil Hospital.

Health Department officials yesterday visited the jaundice-affected areas and examined 172 patients. Out of those, tests of 18 patients were done free of cost. He said awareness regarding the disease and its prevention was being spread through loudspeakers, posters and pamphlets.


Pug marks of cat leave villagers in panic
Bipin Bhardwaj

Dappar (Patiala),  January 7
Residents of Dappar and surrounding areas have been under the grip of panic for the past couple of days after sighting a panther-like carnivore.

The presence of a ‘big cat’ was today confirmed when a team of wildlife employees visited the area within the Dappar ammunition depot premises and surrounding villages and identified the pug marks.

Sources in the depot said the animal was spotted one evening within the premises of the ammunition dump a week ago. Scared residents of the area were keeping indoors at odd hours.

Sources said the scared villages had stopped sending their children from going out in the evening.

The depot authorities have approached Mr Tejvir Singh, Deputy Commissioner, Patiala, and demanded the animal be caged. It is learnt that the depot in charge, Col Sehgal, approached the DC on the issue.

Colonel Sehgal told to the DC that all security guards at the depot feared attack by the animal. Being a sensitive installation, they could not resort to bonfire to keep the animal away.

When contacted, Mr Tejvir Singh, DC, claimed that directions had been given to wildlife officials and officials of the district Forest Department to cage the animal as soon as possible.

He said the officials concerned had been asked to cage the cat with care and shift it to Mahindra Chaudhary Zoological Park in Chhat Bir or release it in the forest area. The Divisional Forest Officer, Patiala, has been asked to send well-equipped teams to the area to carry out the “caging operation” successfully.

He said the cat might have strayed into the inhabited area from the Shivalik Hills because of bitter cold. Mr AS Dogra, Principal, Chief Conservator of Forest, Punjab, when contacted, said teams have been sent to Dappar to take pug marks and chalk out plans to cage the cat.



Mirza Sahiban fails to impress
Sukant Deepak

Patiala, January 7
“Mirza Sahiban”, which was presented by the Theatre and Television Department, Punjabi University, at the campus today was a disappointment as the play failed to bring forth the tragedy of the folktale. Stress was merely on technicalities involving lighting and movement.

Directed by Dr Yogesh Gambhir and Dr Sunita Dhir, under whose direction several good productions have been staged recently, “Mirza Sahiban” suffered from several setbacks. Despite the direction itself being not bad, the body language of actors, who seemed to be striking poses rather than acting, showed that not much rehearsals had been conducted.

The music at times lifted the tempo of the production. But its imperfect synchronisation with the storyline had a jassing effect. Verses from Peelu’s Kissa and other folk songs were presented well by Shamim Iqbal, but these overpowered the accompanying visuals.

Unfocused lighting and poor coordination between those on stage took a toll on the overall pace of the play.

Elements of humour were included in the play, in fact, disturbed the ‘build-up’ to the tragedy. It seemed the effort was to bring forth the tragedy of “Mirza Sahiban” through humour. The lead actors tried to do justice to the script, but the overall design of the production marred their efforts. Although improvisations included in the folk tale by the directors were visually appealing, these failed to go along with the tempo of the folktale.

Much more was expected from talented directors like Yogesh Gambhir and Sunita Dhir. There was almost nothing in the production worth remembering. Perhaps, the Theatre and Television Department, instead of rolling out plays at such a pace, should pay more attention to quality.



Woman, daughter found dead
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, January 7
A minor girl and her mother were found dead in their house this morning by their neighbours.

Sources said the neighbours got suspicious when the doors of the victims’ house remained closed till late morning. When the doors were opened by force, the woman and her daughter were found dead in their beds. An “angithi” was also found and it was suspected that both had died due to inhalation of gases emitted by the burning of coal.

The husband of the woman, Ganesh, could not be contacted. The sources alleged that he was not having cordial relations with her. The deceased were identified as Geeta Rani (26) and Pooja (6).


2 killed in mishap

Moga, January 7
Two persons died on the spot and three others were seriously injured when their car skidded off the road after being hit by another speeding vehicle on the Moga-Ludhiana road, 10 km from here, last night.

The police has identified the deceased as Deepak Kumar and Manish, while the seriously injured included Soni, Parmod and Varun. All were residents of Kotkapura. UNI


Newsagent dead

Tarn Taran, January 7
Shayam Sundar Shashtri, a veteran newsagent of the town, died here on Tuesday after a long illness. Shashtri, who was over 90 years old, started his career before Partition and had a long association with The Tribune group of newspapers. The funeral procession was attended by representatives of various political, social, religious and commercial organisations. OC


Cane growers hold dharnas
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, January 7
On a call given by the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of six farmers’ organisations of the state hundreds of sugarcane growers yesterday staged dharnas outside sugar mills in the state to protest against the failure of the government to release Rs 100 crore as payment for the produce sold to the mills last year.

Mr Kulwant Singh, general secretary of the Jamhoori Kisan Sabha, said the JAC comprising the Bhakti Kisan Union (Ekta), Kirti Kisan Union, Jamhoori Kisan Sabha, All-India Kirti Kisan Sabha and Agriculture and Farmers Development Front, had further decided to intensify the stir against the government for its failure to release the dues of the sugarcane growers.

“Even as the farming community owes Rs 80 crore to government-owned co-operative sugar mills, Rs 20 crore is yet to be released by private sugar mill owners for their produce sold last year. Instead of announcing a hike in the minimum support price of the sugarcane which was Rs 100 per quintal last season, the government had taken an anti-farmer stance by not announcing the MSP during the season, thus, forcing the farmers to sell the crop in distress,” he alleged.

Meanwhile, the farmers, according to reports available here, staged dharnas outside sugar mills at Nalidar, Tarn Taran, Phagwara, Gurdaspur, Nawanshahr, Bhogpur and Faridkot. The JAC has convened a meeting on January 15 to chalk out further action.

The JAC has demanded that the state government should immediately release the dues of the farmers along with 15 per cent per annum interest as per the norms. Besies, the government should fix the MSP of the sugarcane at Rs 130 per quintal as against Rs 100 per quintal last year.


Relief for paddy growers

Moga, January 7
The special drought relief will be disbursed among paddy growers in the district from January 20. This was announced by the Deputy Commissioner, Mr G. Ramesh Kumar, here today while presiding over a meeting of heads of procurement agencies and district officials.

Mr Ramesh Kumar said the special drought relief would be disbursed among those paddy growers who had sold their paddy in October and November last year. The meeting also finalised the relief disbursement arrangements, he said, adding that drought relief of Rs 17.16 crore would be disbursed in the district. He said subdivisional-level committees, would be set up to ensure transparency in the relief disbursement process. UNI


MC withdraws hike in water, sewer charges
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 7
The local municipal corporation which had hiked water and sewer charges by about 20 per cent to meet its financial crisis, today decided to withdraw the same after a hue and cry raised by consumers.

However, the corporation is likely to revise the charges on the Jalandhar pattern to mobilise more than Rs 4 crore in its ensuing meeting, scheduled to be held next week.

When contacted, Mr Jasbir Singh Bir, Commissioner of the local municipal corporation, told The Tribune that the income of the corporation would be increased from Rs 8 crore to Rs 12 crore if the general house adopted the Jalandhar pattern. While the Jalandhar and Ludhiana Municipal Corporations had already hiked the water and sewer charges in 1999, the Amritsar Municipal Corporation had kept the same pending, he said.

As per Jalandhar pattern, the local municipal corporation would be charging Rs 50 per month for water and sewer for five marla houses while Rs 75 would be charged for up to 10 marla houses. The corporation would charge Rs 100 per month from the houses constructed on more than 10 marla area. However, commercial charges would be Rs 200 per month.

Mr Sunil Dutti, Mayor, said the charges were withdrawn on the demand of general public. He said the corporation would ensure uninterrupted water supply before hiking the charges.

Sources said the corporation found it extremely difficult to supply safe drinking water and provide sewer facilities to about 11 lakh, people of the city due to financial crisis being faced by the corporation.

Giving details of the financial crunch of the corporation, Mr Bir said that HUDCO which had released first instalment of Rs 8.5 crore out of Rs 50 crore loan did not release the second instalment as the state government and the municipal corporation could not give its due share so far. While the state government which was required to give its share of Rs 4.86 crore had released Rs 2 crore only, the municipal corporation had contributed only Rs 2.11 crore against its share of Rs 3.25 crore. He said for getting the next instalment of HUDCO loan released, the state government and municipal corporation would have to give its full share as per agreement.

Mr Bir said 35 per cent of the city’s area was yet to be covered with water supply while sewer lines were yet to be laid in 65 per cent area.

Replying to a question, Mr Bir admitted that lakhs of unauthorised ‘tulu pumps’ installed by consumers were responsible for the supply of contaminated water. He said the contaminated water supply had resulted in water-borne diseases. He said a drive was being launched to remove such unauthorised pumps.

Mr Bir said most of the water supply pipes had outlived their usefulness and needed to be replaced at the earliest. He said the corporation would cancel the licences of those registered plumbers who had been laying water pipes against the recommendations of the corporation. Such pipes were getting direct water supply from the manhole chambers which could lead to the contamination of water.


Rly bridge: DC writes to Secy
Our Correspondent

Mansa, January 7
Mr S.K. Ahluwalia, Deputy Commissioner here has written to Mr Sarvesh Kaushal, Secretary, Local Government Punjab, to sign the undertaking for the construction of railway underbridge at level crossing No. 206 at Mansa station on the Delhi-Bathinda section which will involve an expenditure of Rs 2,60,44,108.

Closure of offices
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 7
Offices of the Punjab Government and its various boards and corporations will remain closed tomorrow for the post-lunch session in the state, excluding Chandigarh where these remained closed today, according to a state government press note. This has been done to enable employees to participate in the nagar kirtan processions to be taken out in connection with the birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Gobind Singh.


Woman held for swapping babies

Amritsar, January 7
The Punjab police today claimed to have unearthed a racket involving the sale of male babies with the arrest of Ramesh Rani, the owner of a private nursing home.

The police said the racket came to light with the arrest of Ramesh Rani who was running her nursing home inside the walled city for allegedly swapping the male child with a female one, of a woman Parveen Kumari admitted to her hospital for delivery last month.

The deal was said to have been struck by Ramesh Rani for Rs 3.5 lakh with the proposed buyer, the police said. PTI


One held for preparing fake RCs
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, January 7
The police has arrested Jaspal Singh, alias Pappi, resident of Mohalla Sangalpura here and employed at the Simran Photostat shop in court complex, for preparing fake registration certificates (RCs) of vehicles.

Mr Varinder Kumar, SSP, said today that a fake stamp of DTO in Punjabi, forged Pollution certificate, birth certificate, two Punjab police travelling tickets, two blank forms of tax clearance certificate with the DTO stamp, fake RCs and 25 driving licences allegedly signed by the DTO in Punjabi.


Patwari held for graft

Ferozepore, January 7
The Punjab Vigilance Bureau today claimed to have nabbed a revenue official based at Mamdot block while allegedly taking a bribe from a person in lieu of executing mutation of a piece of land in his name.

Ms Anita Punj, SP, Vigilance Bureau, said Mahenga Singh had approached the bureau with a complaint that patwari Satpal was intentionally dilly-dallying his work and was asking for a bribe.

She said acting on his complaint, a Vigilance team conducted a raid and nabbed the partwari while taking the bribe. PTI


Trust employee held taking bribe
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 7
The local Vigilance Bureau today arrested Improvement Trust Head Draftsman Balbir Singh on the charge of accepting a bribe of Rs 50,000 to release payment to a person whose land had been acquired by the Trust.

Vigilance sleuths caught the Head Draftsman red-handed when he was taking the money from one Ram Kishen.

According to the department sources, Balbir Singh had demanded a bribe of Rs 50,000 from Ram Kishen for ensuring speedy payment of Rs 65 lakh due to be given to him by the Trust for his land. Further investigations are on.



PTU order on textbooks
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 7
The task force constituted by the Punjab Technical University has recommended further refinement of the text books and course materials for the distance education programme courses before being delivered to the students.

A press release from the PTU said here today that the list of reference books should be forwarded to the students who should be free to exercise the option of referring to books of his choice as per prescribed syllabus. “The university stands by its financial commitments to the students towards the cost of the course materials”, the press release said.


Badal man is college secy 
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 7
Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar, president of the SGPC, has removed Mr Randhir Singh Cheema, a former minister and close relative of Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi, from the post of additional secretary of the managing committee of Mata Gujri College, Fatehgarh Sahib, and has appointed Mr Didar Singh Bhatti, a senior SAD leader of the area, in his place.

Mr Bhatti accompanied by hundreds of his supporters today took the charge of new assignment. He was given a warm welcome by the principal, staff and students of the college.

This post is considered as the most important in political circles as the district has only one college where thousands of students come to get admission and the secretary plays an important role in it. Earlier Mr Kirpal Singh Libra, a close confidant of Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, was the secretary and after the Tohra-Badal feud he was replaced by Mr Cheema. Later Mr Cheema also joined hands with Tohra and he was removed.

Addressing an impressive gathering on the occasion, Dr Gurmohan Singh Walia, principal of the college, highlighted the achievements of the college and also the projects to be initiated.

Mr Bhatti urged the staff and the students to work for the betterment of the college.

Mr Rajesh Pal Singh Lalli, a senior Akali leader, Mr Gurpreet Singh Bhatti, president, Youth Akali Dal, Mr Amarjit Singh Kohli, Mr Ashok Sood, former president of the MC, Sirhind, Mr Rakesh Mitter, industrialist, and Prof Balraj Sood also addressed the function.


New school timings
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 7
In view of the inclement weather, Mr Vikas Partap, District Magistrate of Fatehgarh Sahib, has announced new timings for all government and private schools in the district.

The new timings will be as follows: primary schools — 10 am to 2 pm; middle, high and senior secondary schools — 10 am to 3 pm.

The orders will remain in force from January 7 to 20.


MCI recognises institute
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 7
The Sri Guru Ram Das Institute of Medical Sciences and Research here, run by the SGPC has been accorded permanent recognition by the Medical Council of India (MCI).

Dr U.S. Dhaliwal, Director and Principal of the institute, said it was a proud moment for the institute to be recognised after six periodical inspections done by the MCI, the last of which was done on December 10 and 11, 2001.


SLIET Director gets award
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, January 7
Dr R.C. Chauhan, Director, Sant Longowal Institute of Engineering and Technology (SLIET) Longowal village, Sangrur, has been given Bhartiya Vidhya Bhavan National Award for the best engineering college principal for the year 2002.

In a press note issued here today SLIET said Dr Chauhan was presented the award for his contribution to the field of engineering by the Indian Society of Technical Education.

The press note added that Dr Chauhan who had earlier served as the Chief Engineer in the Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board, had been playing instrumental role in policy formulation at the state and regional levels for developing technical education.

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