Monday, January 13, 2003, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



PSEB privatisation will hike tariff
Our Correspondent

Ropar, January 12
If the PSEB is privatised or corporatised, as proposed by the Haldia committee, there will be a steep rise in power tariff in the state. This was stated by the PSEB Engineers Association, which held an executive meeting here today.

The president of the association, Mr M.S. Bajwa, said the government was proposing structural changes in the PSEB. It proposed to divide the board into PUNGCO, which would control generation, and PUNTRANSCO, which would control transmission, both under government control.

It added that the government proposed to privatise the distribution of power by making five companies — district central, district south, district west, district north and district border. If the proposals were implemented, the power, which was now being directly supplied by the PSEB, would have to pass through three organisations.

All three — PUNGCO, PUNTRANSCO and the distributor — would be entitled to charge a profit of 16 per cent for the service rendered. The consumers would be able to get electricity only after paying a profit of 48 per cent to the three.

The patron of the association said if the model was accepted, the cost of power would rise to at least Rs 5 per unit in the state. The government should first bring out a White Paper on the privatisation of the power sector in the state. Public opinion should first be sought on the privatisation of the power sector, he said.

He further said the privatisation of the board would lead to functional problems in the control of grid. At present, since the PSEB was one unit, the grid was being controlled from a single point. If it was split into three or more units, the coordination for the control of the grid would become difficult.

The engineers decided to launch an intellectual agitation against the government move to privatise the board. They said they had met 11 MLAs and had apprised them of the situation. They also decided to meet all MLAs and MPs of the state to build opinion against the privatisation of the board.

The reason, being given for privatising the PSEB was financial losses. It was the government which was the main culprit for the financial health of the board. As per the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission tariff order, power consumption by tubewells during 1997-2000 was 26,657 units, which amounted to electricity worth Rs 8,000 crore at an average tariff of Rs 3 per unit. If this subsidy was adjusted against the outstanding government loan of Rs 4,652.52 crore and interest on loans paid to government amounting to Rs 2,560 crore, the financial position of the PSEB would be good again, the engineers added.


Urgent steps needed to cut fiscal deficit
P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 12
A Finance Department document mirrors the past and reflects the future agenda on the economic/fiscal front in Punjab.

It indicates that in future users will have to pay ‘’full’’ cost of socio-economic services provided by the state, recovery of merely ‘’operation and maintenance cost’’, as at present, will not do. The present recovery cost is about 2 per cent of social and 10 per cent that of economic services.

It also says that the strength of employees will be reduced by at least 20 per cent as employees/pensioners consume 84 per cent of the total revenue receipts.

The document amply hints at 50 per cent reduction in the grants-in-aid to schools and colleges and proposes to provide one- time capital grant, instead of deficit grant to run these schools and colleges. A 10 per cent cut in grants-in-aid has been operational since 1998-99. This grant consumed Rs 185 crore in 2001-02. There is also a proposal to review pension and retirement benefits to employees of these aided institutions to save the exchequer from unnecessary burden.

The document perceives of a long-drawn battle to manage public debt, Rs 32,496 crore, and contingent liabilities, Rs 7,280 crore, as on March 31, 2002, due to issue of guarantees for loans by public sector undertakings (PSU).

It is proposed to totally eliminate budgetary support to PSUs and to bring about a parity between their employees’ pay/allowances and that of the government. Though the process of disinvestment/ restructuring of PSUs has begun, it is expected to unlock more problems than assets, if the past employee-induced agitations are any indication, say sources.

Even transport sector is unlikely to get any budgetary support. This sector is also under the scanner because the Roadways losses were Rs 60 crore and cumulative losses of the PRTC Rs 377 crore in 2001-02, it is yet to pay Rs 131 crore, as tax.

The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) alone transmits a host of problems. It logged Rs 1,941 crore cumulative losses in 2001-02. Come to think of it, there are 17 employees, per 1,000 customers!

The proposed reforms or unbundling of the PSEB will transmit more political shocks, once the Gajnedra Haldia report is implemented. Rationalisation of cross-subsidisation among various categories of power consumers is also on the cards.

A presentation of this document was made to a team of academics from Stanford University, USA, here for a conference on the ‘Economic policy reform issues: agenda for the state governments’ on January 6-7.

The team was told during discussion that to place Punjab in a new trajectory, Capt Amarinder Singh had chosen a difficult but unavoidable path. The future agenda could be implemented, if finances were put on the suggested sound economic foundation.

A combination of factors in the past 11 months has further compounded the economic/fiscal problems that have besieged Punjab since mid-’80s. This, despite the Chief Minister taking a conscious decision to introduce reforms, consolidates existing assets and eliminates liabilities to the extent possible through a mid-term fiscal programme that envisages three-year rolling targets.

The reforms are financial and include ones on privatisation, infrastructure, regulations/de-regulations, Centre-state transfer of taxes, decentralisation — empowering Panchayati Raj institutions — and possible depoliticisation.

The Stanford team, sources say, found such presentations ‘’impressive’’. There was, however, skepticism because of dismal fiscal situation that made performance seem ‘’illusionary’’.

More steps are required for improving tax administration or introducing higher user charges or implementing decisions already taken at the highest level or bridling of the police.

The document reveals that the Punjab Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Bill, 2002, now before the select committee of the Vidhan Sabha, is likely to be tabled in the next session.

In this backdrop, unless all ‘’right thinking’’ people introspect, Punjab will end up tying itself in knots with its own nimble fingers that will not open later even with teeth.


Cong ‘misleading’ people on SYL
Our Correspondent

Nawanshahr, January 12
Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers, while talking to mediapersons here at the residence of Mr Harprabh Mahil Singh, general secretary, All-India Youth Akali Dal (Badal), accused the Congress government in the state of misleading the people on the SYL issue by enacting a drama of organising an all-party meeting to deviate the attention of the public from the fact that it could not even file a review petition in the Supreme Court during the past 10 months. Mr Dhindsa added that SAD would launch a stir in this regard.

He further said the Congress government in the past 10 years had done nothing except fabricating false corruption cases against SAD leaders. The Congress government failed to present its case before the Central Government in this regard. He ridiculed the anti-graft drive by saying that the Chief Minister had inducted a number of “tainted” Congress leaders who had been indicted by the Lok Pal in corruption cases during the Beant Singh government.


CPM non-committal on SYL
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, January 12
Choosing in the middle path in the ongoing water-sharing dispute between Punjab and Haryana, the General Secretary of the CPM, Mr Harkishan Singh Surjeet, has stated that the quantum of river waters presently shared by both states should not be changed.

Addressing a press conference here yesterday Mr Surjeet said the states should hold bilateral talks to resolve the long-pending river waters dispute instead of approaching courts for the purpose.

Evading a direct reply on the construction of the SYL canal as per directions of Supreme Court, the veteran Communist leader asserted that Punjab should not be asked to change the present level of water used for irrigation purposes. Alleging that the issue of construction of the canal was being politicised, Mr Surjeet chose not to reveal the stand of his party.


Zee resumes broadcast in Amritsar
Rashmi Talwar

Amritsar, January 12
Even as Zee TV inserted advertisements in popular national and regional dailies for three consecutive days since the past few days, drawing attention ostensibly to its Rs 100 crore ‘maha’ lottery, it was actually a bid to woo back nearly 13 lakh viewers in Amritsar, Batala, Dinanagar and the rural hinterland here, after it pulled its plug a month ago to press for increased tariff for its package channels. Despite the channel resuming its broadcast temporarily today, its adamancy to charge more has served to split the local TV cable operators serving the target viewership controlled by the channel through the local Citi Cable network.

Mr Subhash Goel, Vice-Chairman, Zee networks, yesterday pressed for the channel’s demands of approximately Rs 18 lakh as collection input and another similar amount as enhanced charges for its service.

The Vice-Chairman of Zee networks was here following reports of embezzlement to the tune of crores allegedly by the Amritsar Cable Operators Association (ACOA), the governing body of the local City Cable.

The ACOA had allegedly been understating its subscribers, which run into lakhs to forward payment only for 25 per cent of the connections. The association’s chairman and president, respectively, Mr Sarabjit Singh Raju and Mr Pravin Chadda, however, refuted the charges.

The allegations were levelled by cable operators many of whom had formed a breakaway group under the new banner of Cable TV Welfare Association with its chairman Gurmukh Singh Khalsa.

The breakaway group had reportedly acceded to the demands of Mr Goel to endear itself to the channel and thereby to City Cable network with its managing director, Mr Hari Om Dhanuka, who is a kin of chairman of Zee TV network.

However, this new association soon changed its stand when cable operators expressed ire at a meeting held here today. The meeting unanimously resolved to take up the matter with Zee and other paid channels on January 15 to either provide them discount or lessen the connectivity numbers of subscribers, failing which they would be forced to telecast Zee’s channels only in parts, said Mr Ram Singh, spokesperson for the new association.

Mr Sarabjit, a former chairman of the Congress business cell and sole distributor of Sony TV, asserted that operators could not possibly meet the astronomical demands of Zee to the sufferance of other prime channels.

Mr Hari Om Dhanuka has now been left in a piquant situation. The scenario threatens to turn murkier with the ACOA threatening to set up a parallel cable network, blacking out Zee TV, in direct confrontation with the parent network of Zee i.e. the local City Cable. Top functionaries of the ACOA revealed that the announcement in this regard was likely to come with subsidised charges. With the option of watching Zee to the exclusion of other channels or vice-versa, the optical-fibre-cable-connectivity had emerged as a key player with both parties wooing it to establish supremacy.


Cong govt anti-people: Left
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, January 12
Four Left parties — the MCPI, CPM, CPI (ML) Liberation and All-India Forward Block — on Friday asked like-minded parties to start a movement against the anti-policies of the state government.

State-level leaders of these parties said that the economic burden of farmers, labourers and employees had increased since the formation of the Congress government in the state. They said that there was a need to bring all Left parties on one platform and create awareness among the people to launch a mass movement.

At a conference organised here on Friday, the leaders said the true face of the Congress was exposed when it withdrew various schemes giving benefits to weaker sections of society.

These parties are holding ‘Save agriculture, jobs and democracy’ conferences throughout the state and yesterday’s conference was a part of the series.

Mr Mangat Ram Pasla, secretary of the CPM, Punjab State Committee, as the Congress had not fulfilled the promises made during the Assembly elections held last year, the Left parties had felt a need to “awaken” the people against its policies.

He said the ban imposed on the appointment of Class-III and Class-IV posts should be lifted. Mr Rajwinder Singh Rana secretary of the CPI (ML) Liberation, said health and education facilities had become out of reach of the people due to the wrong policies of the government. He criticised the policy of privatising health and education departments.

Mr Kiranjit Singh Sekhon of the MCPI said the government should prepare a policy so that agriculture became profitable.


Bathinda water supply to be augmented
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, January 12
The construction of the District Administrative Complex (DAC), plan on three-fold increase in drinking water supply, completion of transport and dairy nagar, repair of all major roads and ongoing sanitation drive were some of the developmental activities listed by the local MLA and High-Powered Finance Committee Chairman, Mr Surinder Singla, at a press conference organised here today.

“With Bathinda getting Municipal Corporation status, a new chapter in the development of the city has been opened and it will be the model city of the Malwa belt,” he said.

Mr Singla asserted that the poll promises in connection with the development of the city would be fulfilled. Pointing out that Bathinda would be the third city in the state to have a modern transport nagar and a dairy nagar, Mr Singla added that the entire infrastructure in this regard would be set up by May and the Punjab Chief Minister would lay the foundation stone of the 100-acre project. He said the sites for both projects had been acquired on the National Highway No 15 and plots for 54 booking agencies and workshops, besides 183 business establishments, had been earmarked.

Mr Singla said the transport nagar would have parking space for 2,000 trucks and offices for truck unions and canteens for truck drivers and other staff members. He said a residential colony, where 234 residential plots had been earmarked, would also be set up.

Claiming that moving out the dairies out of the city would provide a clear atmosphere to the residents, Mr Singla said a survey of the dairies had been conducted by the Deputy Director, Animal Husbandry, with the help of municipal authorities and the dairy owners would be given plots at concessional rates, which could be used for residential purpose on the first and second floors. Provisions for a fodder market, a veterinary hospital have also been made and the dairy owners could run biogas plants and 182 plots for dairies and 32 for business establishments have been earmarked.

He said that the city Improvement Trust would spend more than Rs 20 crore to provide drinking water, sewerage, parking lots, footpaths, green belts and streelights. He added that Punjab National Bank and Oriental Bank of Commerce had agreed to in principle to finance the development projects of the city.

Mr Singla said that the problem of drinking water would be solved to a large extent this summer as the supply was being increased to 70 million gallons per day, as compared to the present 20 million gallons. He assured that those who had encroached upon the land and flats of PUDA would be lawfully dislodged.

The Deputy Commissioner, Mr Anurag Verma, said local residents were being involved in development work. He said they were provided with copies of estimates and other details so that they could check the quality of the work being carried out.

Mr Verma said work on the Bathinda-Goniana road would be started shortly and a stretch near Ganesha Basti would be built with concrete. He said the DAC was near completion and all the district offices of the state government would be shifted to the complex. He said 64 mohalla committees for getting the help of the residents in the cleanliness drive had been set up.

Mr G.K. Singh, Administrator, Improvement Trust, Mr Upjit Singh Brar, SDM, and Congress leader Kewal Krishan Aggarwal attended the press conference.


Gastroenteritis cases: water samples taken
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, January 12
The district health authorities today took three samples of potable water from Gandhi Nagar and adjoining localities to ascertain the exact cause of spread of gastroenteritis in the area even as 29 fresh cases were reported here since yesterday.

The health authorities set up a rapid response team of doctors and paramedical staff, which conducted door-to-door survey at Gandi Camp, BSF Colony and Satnam Nagar to distribute chlorine tablets among the affected residents. Residents complained that the supply of contaminated water through municipal taps was the main reason for the spread of the disease, which had seriously affected children.

The residents alleged that though they had been regularly submitting complaints about supply of contaminated water to civic body officials during the past one month, the latter had failed to redress their grievance, resulting in spread of disease. “It is for the third time in the past one year that gastroenteritis has spread as the Municipal Corporation has failed to solve the problem. Since most residents belong to poor families, the MC has never paid heed to our complaints,” alleged Ms Kaushalyawanti of Gandi Camp.

When contacted, the Civil Surgeon, Dr O.P. Chabra, said health officials were providing chlorine tablets to the patients and the residents were being asked to use only boiled water for human consumption. “We have taken three samples of potable water from Gandi Camp, BSF Colony and overhead water reservoir in the area to ascertain the exact cause of the spread of the disease in the area. Preliminary reports suggest that mixing of sludge with drinking water from some leaking underground pipes is the reason for the same,” he said, adding that 29 cases had been reported so far.

According to MC sources, some residents had taken illegal water connections by puncturing the main supply lines. In some cases, drinking water pipelines got rusty and damaged from various points, which had resulted in contamination of water. “We are going to disconnect illegal water supply connections to avoid such problems in the future,” a senior MC official said.


Fresh bids to be invited for NFL
Our Correspondent

Ropar, January 12
The government will invite fresh bids for selling 51 per cent equity in the National Fertilisers Limited (NFL), scrapping the earlier bids. Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers, said this while talking to mediapersons here today.

Mr Dhindsa said the government would introduce safeguards to protect the interests of NFL workers. Any company which took over the NFL would have to run all its plants for at least five years. Two cooperatives — KRIBCO and IFFCO — would be allowed to bid for the NFL, he said.

A team of IFFCO officials today visited the NFL plant at Nangal and assessed the property of the company. The sources said the team had earlier visited the Panipat plant of the NFL. It would also visit the Bathinda and Vijaypur plants of the NFL. The IFFCO team, during its visit to the Nangal plant, met officials of the company. It also visited colony sites. The team also held discussions with representatives of the worker union of the company.

The sources said the purpose of the team was to assess the worth of the NFL. It was trying to assess the worth of the NFL to bid for the 51 per cent equity if the Disinvestment Ministry invited fresh bids.

The government had earlier invited global tenders for the 51 per cent equity in the NFL, the second largest producer of nitrogenous fertilisers in the country. In response to the advertisements, four companies — Indo Gulf Fertilisers, Tata Chemicals, Chambal Fertilisers and Oswal Fertilisers — had bid for the equity.

The selloff process had been delayed due to various reasons. Mr Dhindsa had resisted the attempts to selloff the NFL to private bidders. He had instead proposed that KRIBHCO, which had financial reserves worth about Rs 1,500 crore, should also be allowed to bid for the NFL.

Since, the KRIBHCO had not expressed interest, its bid could not be considered. The heavy water plant of the Department of stomic Energy, at the NFL plant at Nangal was another hurdle in the privatisation of the company as the government could not hand over its control to a private company. Under pressure for the Disinvestment Ministry, the Department of Atomic Energy had decided to dismantle its Rs 200-crore heavy water plant, clearing the path for disinvestment.


Mann backs library in Jinnah’s memory
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, January 12
Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, President, Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) and Lok Sabha Member, today justified the decision of setting up a library in Malerkotla in the name of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan, and defended his decision of giving Rs 1 lakh from his Member Parliament Area Development Fund to the Islamia Girls Senior Secondary School, Malerkotla, for the purpose. If international airport of New Delhi could be named after Indira Gandhi allegedly responsible for the massacre of Sikhs and destruction of Sikh heritage in 1984 attack on the Golden Temple, why a library couldn’t be named after Jinnah, leader of the Muslims, asked Mr Mann, according to a statement issued here today by party General Secretary Dr Harjinder Jakhu.

Mr Mann described critics of his decision as forces of Hindutva represented by the RSS and the BJP. He lauded Jinnah for saving crores of Muslims from the repression of protagonists of Hindutva by demanding Pakistan. Minorities in India, Sikhs and Muslims, felt persecuted by the majority and the promises made by Mahatma Gandhi to Sikhs in 1929 and 1934 while persuading them to opt for remaining in India at time of the bifurcation of country had been forgotten, he alleged.

He also criticised Mr Parkash Singh Badal SAD (B) President, for boycotting the January 8 all-party meeting convened by Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to discuss the issue of the SYL Canal. All parties, including the SAD (B), should rise above petty politics and make a common cause of the water issue as Punjab did not have water to spare for Haryana or Rajasthan, asserted Mr Mann.

He alleged that he had information that the Centre was planning to assign the work of the SYL canal to a private agency and might get it done under the supervision of the Army. If it was done, Punjab would become a desert, he warned.


Super-performance road for Ropar
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 12
Mr Pratap Singh Bajwa, Public Works Minister, Punjab, today inaugurated the first ever super-performance model high volume fly ash (HVFA) concrete road in the country at Ropar. It has been built by Gujarat Ambuja Cements.

This road is constructed with 50 per cent flyash replacing cement. This makes the road stronger and longer lasting than the ordinary bitumen or regular concrete roads. And HVFA concrete road costs just marginally more than ordinary road and requires next-to-zero maintenance.

The first model road, designed inhouse by Ambuja Cement using US and Canadian technology is adapted to Indian conditions.

The road is two laned, 0.75 km long. It is made with 50 per cent Ambuja cement and 50 per cent dry fly ash from the Ropar thermal plant of the PSEB. Extensive research and laboratory tests were done at Ropar before starting the construction.

The HVFA concrete has given high compressive strength of 44.63 MPa against the requirement of 40.0 MPa and the flexural strength of 7.6 MPa against the requirement of 4.5 MPa.


Prescription must for medicines
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 12
To check the menace of narcotics and drugs in Sangrur district, Mr Sarvjit Singh, District Magistrate, has ordered that no chemist/medical store in the district will sell such medicines without prescription from a qualified doctor.

The District Magistrate has directed all chemists/medical stores and drug stores to maintain complete record of their stocks, sales, purchases and date of expiry of products. He directed that the record should be made available for inspection to all Executive Magistrates, gazetted police officers and any other person authorised in this regard by the District Magistrate. The order will remain in force till March 6.


Seminar on road safety measures
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, January 12
To create awareness among the people, particularly the students about traffic rules, the district transport authorities organised a state-level seminar on road safety measures at the Red Cross Bhavan here today.

The Additional State Transport Commissioner, Mr K. S. Sara, in his address, said there was a need to impart special training to the students about traffic rules to ensure the smooth flow of vehicular traffic and to cut down the deaths due to accidents in the state. “We, in collaboration with the police, have launched a special drive to educate the people about safe driving,” he said.

The Deputy Commissioner, Mr K. Siva Prasad, advocated the introduction of traffic rules and safety norms as a subject in the syllabus from primary level to educate the younger generation.

Elaborating on the steps taken by the Transport Department, the DTO, Mr Vinay Bablani, said during the Road Safety Week, which concluded today, they had conducted eye check-up camps in different parts of the city to examine the visibility of drivers.


Bhai Kanhaiya fest from today
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, January 12
Religious functions and a medical camp will be organised on January 13, 14 and 15 at Goniana in the district to start the year-long celebrations of the 300th anniversary of the occasion of giving of medicines by Guru Gobind Singh to one of his disciples Bhai Kanhaiya so that he should look after the soldiers of both the Sikh as well as the Muslim army during the war.

This was stated here on Friday by Bhai Tirath Singh, president of Seva Panthi Addan Shahi Sabha, at a press conference. He said on this day, about 300 years ago, Guru Gobind Singh had asked Bhai Kanhaiya to apply ointment and give medicines to those wounded in the war between the Sikhs and the Muslims, irrespective of the army they belonged to. He said the Guru had praised Bhai Kanhaiya for giving drinking water to Sikh as well as Muslim soldiers alike during the war.

Bhai Tirath Singh said the celebrations were aimed at spreading the message of universal brotherhood. Similar functions would also be organised at other cities, including Yamunanagar, New Delhi, Amritsar, Hoshiarpur and Anandpur Sahib, he added.


Concern over schism among Sikhs
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 12
The World Sikh Foundation has expressed concern with regard to the increasing schism among Sikh thinkers over the relgio-political issues relating to Akal Takht, the SGPC and other Sikh institutions.

Mr Jaswant Singh Mann, president of the foundation, said yesterday that rather than indulging in squabbles over issues of academic nature, they must concentrate to provide a lead to Sikhs in pursuit of excellence in social reforms, improvement of education system, health environment and economic and industrial growth and removal of poverty.

He said there was no dispute or variance in the basic Sikh principles and that their practices in the Sikh religion over the past 500 years. However, it was true that certain distortions had crept in from time to time, but these have not been able to shake the foundations of this well grounded religion. The leadership failed to lead Sikhs to their destined goals and objectives.


Prof Mehboob releases book
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 12
Prof Harinder Singh Mehboob, an eminent Sikh scholar and poet, yesterday released the book entitled, “Vihvi Sadi Di Sikh Rajniti — from one slavery to other slavery”. It is written by Ajmer Singh. A brief function in this connection was organised at Gurdwara Kandhala.

Prof Gurtaran Singh gave a brief introduction of the book. Professor Mehboob, speaking on the occasion, said he had read the book and liked its contents. He said several attempts had been made in the past to finish Sikh religion by using various means and tactics. Lack of visionary Sikh leadership had always remained a problem for the Sikh community. Sikh leaders failed to live up to the expectations of the community, he added.

Dr Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon and Prof Gurtej Singh had a critical look on the contents of the book and pointed out certain historical and political issues pertaining to Sikhs and their politics that required to be looked into depth. Major-Gen Narinder Singh (retd), who contributed to the publication of the book, said he was hopeful that this book would become a source material for those interested in the recent history of the Sikhs.


Ardas for gold plating of gurdwara
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 12
The five Sikh high priests yesterday performed ardas for starting gold plating and extension of Gurdwara Ram Sar, where recitation of Guru Granth Sahib was started in 1604.

Kar Seva for constructing two underground storeys of the historical gurdwara has been started as part of 400th anniversary of “parkash utsav” of Guru Granth Sahib, which falls in 2004.


Fazilka-Delhi train flagged off
Our Correspondent

Fazilka, January 12
Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, Member of Parliament, Faridkot, flagged off the Fazilka-Delhi train here today at 3.05 a.m. The train comprising four coaches will be coupled with the Janta Express at Bathinda reaching Delhi at 12.55 p.m. via Muktsar, Kot Kapura and Bathinda. Despite severe cold and fog, many people including former Forest Minister Surjit Kumar Jyani, Mahinder Pratap Dhingrs, president Municipal Council, Fazilka, Mr Satish Kumar Dhingra, Secretary Punjab Beopar Mandal, Ashok Gulbadhar, president Beopar Mandal Fazilka, Harmeet Singh and Dr Amar Lal Baghla, president and chairman respectively were at the railway station as Brar flagged off the decorated train.

Addressing the gathering, Mr Brar said that it was possible due to the demand of the people of Fazilka and Muktsar had been met as these areas were unconnected with Delhi by rail. He said he would strive for computerised booking at Fazilka, getting air-conditioned coach in the train and two coaches for Hardwar attached with this train.

There were 40 passengers on board the train. These included passengers for Delhi, Kot Kapura, Bathinda, Narwana and Saharanpur. Booking of Rs 3000 was recorded.


Bathinda gets power supply hotline
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, January 12
Residents can now hope that the drinking water supply in the city will not be disrupted whenever there is a power cut as an 11 kv hotline power supply for the waterworks was inaugurated today.

Mr Surinder Singla, local MLA and Chairman of the High Power Finance Committee, while switching on the hotline power supply near the local Rose Garden, said many residents had complained that whenever there was a power cut in the city the water supply also stopped.

He said the drinking water supply in many parts of the city would also improve with this hotline. It has been laid at a cost of Rs 11 lakh.

Mr Anurag Verma, Deputy Commissioner, said the drinking water problem of the city would be solved to a large extent when the water treatment plant being constructed in the city would become functional.


Book on Punjabi politics released
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 12
“Punjabi Politics in the Twentieth Century”, a book by Ajmer Singh, was released here yesterday. Written in Punjabi, the book traces the growth and genesis of Punjabi politics through the century. Releasing the book, Harinder Singh Mehboob, a renowned Punjabi poet, said the writer, hailing from Bathinda, had taken great pains to highlight the Sikh leadership and to project the agony faced by the Sikhs.


Truck carrying cows set afire
Our Correspondent

Mansa, January 12
Some miscreants of Moosa village in the district set afire carrying stray cows however the cows were saved by villagers. The cows were allegedly being transported from far-off villages of Sardulgarh tehsil by the villagers of that area for abandoning these into the area of Moosa village. According to a villager, the stray cows eat the standing wheat crops and damage the same by crushing it under their feet. So villagers catch these cows, and abandon them into far-off places to save their crops. He further said the number of stray cows had increased manifold due to such abandoning by farmers of nearby villagers.

Villagers have requested Deputy Commissioner, Mansa, to help to check this menace. No case has, however, been registered.


Handicapped identified at camp
Our Correspondent

Rampura Phul, January 12
The local chapter of the Bharat Vikas Parishad today organised a camp to identify the physically challenged who would be provided with calipers and other artificial limbs.

Mr Ashok Kamra, president of the unit, said panel of doctors, which included an ENT and an orthopaedic surgeon, examined the patients.

He said of the more than 100 patients examined, 71 were identified as those who needed artificial limbs. He said the Ludhiana chapter of the parishad had sent their team on the spot and the limbs required by the patients were measured. He added that the parishad would give the registered patients aids free of the cost.


Intelligentsia has ‘no religious labels’
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 12
The Forum for Educational Action and Reform (FEAR) today decried the trend of using religious labels like Sikh, Hindu or Muslim with the word ‘’intelligentsia”.

In a statement issued here, forum president Amarjit Singh Dhillon said the intellectuals were above religious fanaticism. He said a meeting of the organisation made these observations in reaction to the use of religious labels by some teachers’ organisations of Punjabi University.

Claiming that such elements were trying to exploit religious sentiments by giving their organisations such titles, Dr Dhillon said there could not be fragmentation of intelligentsia in any society.


Chairs in names of singers soon
Our Correspondent

Malout (Muktsar), January 12
Mr Ashwani Shekhri, Minister for Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Punjab, has said the state will be divided into zones and chairs in the name of Shiv Kumar Batalvi, Baba Farid, Yamla Jatt and others will be set up to promote Punjabi culture.

Mr Shekhri, while talking to mediapersons here yesterday, said the state would be divided into five zones, comprising a few districts and the coordination centres would be set up at the district level. College and school students would be involved in the projects.


Adamant farmers reject govt offer
Our Correspondent

Kharar, January 12
Adamant farmers of the Bharti Kisan Union have rejected the Punjab Government’s offer to release Rs 10 crore as immediate relief to them and an assurance of another 20 crore within a few days.

Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang, Cabinet Minister, Punjab, and Mr Bir Devinder Singh, MLA, Kharar, had a detailed discussion with the BKU leaders at the Civil Rest House but it failed as the farmers were determined to get the full payment of Rs 80 crore.

While addressing mediapersons, both leaders said they had informed the BKU leaders about the poor financial position of the state government. They said they would meet the Chief Minister tomorrow. They alleged that the Union Government and former Chief Minister Badal were responsible for the non-payment of sugarcane money to the farmers.

Meanwhile, Mr Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, president, BKU, said only after they get Rs 80 crore they would think of lifting the dharna. He said Lohri would be celebrated tomorrow at the dharna spot and a meeting of the executive committee would be held here.


Major police stations to be computerised
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, January 12
All police stations in big cities of the state, including Amritsar, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Patiala and Bathinda, will be fully computerised by the end of the year and a grant of Rs 5 crore from the Union Government is likely by the end of March.

This was stated by the Additional Director-General of Police, Mr D.R. Bhatti, while talking to this correspondent here today.

He said the computerisation of police stations would be done in different phases. He said the computerisation would help in the efficient working of the police. He said a state-level website of the Punjab Police had been opened.

The ADGP said the modernisation of wireless was being done in the state and digital wireless system would soon be introduced in the state. He said Rs 2 crore would be spent on the new digital wireless system.


Sirajuddin is RCF GM
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 12
Mr Mohammed Sirajuddin of the Indian Railway Service of the Mechanical Engineers has taken over as General Manager of the Rail Coach Factory (RCF) at Kapurthala.

A fellow of the institution of Engineers, Mr Sirajuddin has worked as Additional General Manager, North-Eastern Railway, Gorakhpur, Chief Mechanical Engineer, Northern Railway and Diesel Locomotive Works, Varanasi, and Divisional Railway Manager, Western Railway, Kota.


91 kg poppy husk seized
Our Correspondent

Abohar, January 12
The police yesterday seized 91 kg of poppy husk from a Maruti car coming from Rajasthan. Two youths were also arrested while bringing smack from the neighboring state.

Sources said a police party put up a naka near Bazeedpur Bhoma village and signalled a Maruti car ( DNH 7784) to stop. The driver slowed down the vehicle at a distance to enable two accomplices to escape, taking advantage of the fog. The police found two bags of poppy husk, weighing 91 kg, in the car. The driver, Sukhwinder Singh of Raniwala village in Malout subdivision, was arrested. He reportedly identified his accomplices as Hardip Singh of Raniwala and Jodha Singh of Midha village in Muktsar district. A case under Sections 15, 61and 85 of the NDPS Act was registered.

Another police party nabbed Bohar Singh, alias Raju, and Raj Kumar, residents of Arniwala village in Fazilka subdivision, while they were allegedly bringing 4g each of smack from Matili is Rajasthan.

The police said 90 bottles of illicit liquor and a working still were seized during raids conducted in different parts of the subdivision. Those booked under Excise Act included Lakhbir Singh, Gurcharan Singh and Balwinder Singh of Kattianwali, village Sohan Singh Sarawan Bodla and Sonu of Dhani Karakasingh.

Another person, Rajinder Singh of Khakhewala village was challaned under the Gambling Prevention Act and booked under Section 420 of the IPC for carrying satta business. 


10 booked for fraud
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, January 12
Taking strong exception to the transfer of 72 kanals of prime land, allegedly on fraudulent power of attorney, the District Police today registered a case against 10 persons under various Sections of the IPC.

According to information, a church was constructed in 1884 during the British regime, at Madhopur, near here.

The total land on which the church was constructed was also being used as a cremation ground, comprising 90 kanals, 16 marlas, belonging to church of North India.

The revenue record was also incorporated in the name of the church. The approximate value of the land was reportedly in crores.

The police authorities of Division No 1 here have ordered the registration of case against all members of land mafia under Sections 420, 467, 471, 468, 148 and 149 of the IPC.

According to Mr Varinder Kumar, district police chief, members of the land mafia first prepared a bogus resolution on July 20, 2001, and then, prepared a fake power of attorney on August 1, 2001.

On the basis of fake documents, allegedly in connivance with revenue officials. Sadiq Masih, Parkash Masih sold the land belonging to the church to Sandip Singh, Gurinder Kaur, Manmohan Singh, Santa Singh.

The sale deed was executed here for Rs 29,25,000 while the market price of the land was reportedly in crores.

It was against these irregularities that a protest was held at the church premises. They demanded the registration of a case.

According to the Deputy Commissioner, Gurdaspur, the mutation of land was cancelled and an enquiry had been ordered into the mater.


Sarpanch held for embezzlement
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, January 12
The police has arrested Rasbir Singh, Sarpanch of Chhatkoha village under the Dhariwal police station for misappropriating grants given to the panchayat for development work and tampering with the panchayat records. Mr Varinder Kumar SSP said today that a case under Sections 420, 465, 466, 468, 471 of the IPC was registered against the accused on January 10.

Earlier the Deputy Commissioner received a complaint from the village Panchayat that the Sarpanch had not undertaken development following the receipt of grants. The Deputy Commissioner deputed Block Development and Panchayat Officer, Dhariwal to probe the matter.

The inquiry officer found the Sarpanch guilty on two counts one, he not utilised the grants properly and had embezzled development funds. The inquiry revealed that the sarpanch had also tampered with panchayat records to conceal the misappropriation of development funds.

The Deputy Commissioner forwarded the inquiry report to the SSP for the registration of a case against the sarpanch. The case is under investigation.


Two arrested with narcotics
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, January 12
The police has busted an inter-state gang of narcotic smugglers by arresting one of its members. The police has also arrested a sweetmeat seller of Adda Shahbazpur on the charge of being involved in the sale of narcotics and drugs.

Mr Narinder Bhargav, SSP, told newspersons here today that on a tip-off the Sadar police arrested Inderjit Singh, alias Pappu, a resident on the local Mohalla Nanaksar, and seized 70 gm of smack from his possession. The police arrested a sweetmeat seller of Adda Shahbazpur and seized 15 kg of bhang and 50 capsules from his possession. 


Two die due to poisoning
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, January 12
Two persons died due to poisoning in separate incidents while cold claimed another life in the city today.

Harkaran Singh (25) of Chak Ruldu Singhwala village died today as he accidentally consumed poison. He was brought to the Civil Hospital where he was declared brought dead. The body was handed over to the family members after a post-mortem

In another incident, Khokhar Singh (26) of Bazibar Basti at Behman Diwana village was admitted to a hospital in the city today after he consumed poison accidentally. Another person died due to cold at the waiting room of local railway station today. The deceased has been identified as Jagdish Raj.


One held for duping resident
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, January 12
The police has arrested Daljit Singh of Karnal on the charge of taking Rs 50,000 from Gurmukh Singh of Kahnuwan in the district on the pretext of sending his son abroad. A case under Section 420 of the IPC was registered on December 31 last year. His accomplice Ravinder Singh is still at large.

According to the police, the accused took Rs 50,000 from Gurmukh Singh in September last. He had also taken the passport of Gurmukh Singh’s son.

When Gurmukh Singh asked for the refund of his money, Daljit Singh made excuses.


130 cr to be spent on education: Khushal
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, January 12
Mr Khushal Bahl, Education Minister, after laying the foundation stone of government elementary school at a mandi here today, said the Punjab Government would spend Rs 250 crore during the next financial year to assure that the state achieved total literacy. The money was being spent under the Sarb Sikhya Abhiyan.

Mr Bahl said during the current financial year, the state would target to spend Rs 130 crore for providing infrastructure and development of various elementary schools in the state. As much as Rs 65 crore had already been released and the remaining amount would also be released shortly, he said. As much as Rs 6.5 crore had been released for the development of elementary schools in the district.

Mr Bahl presented Rs 26 lakh to 66 schools for drinking water facility and toilets. He said this amount would be spent through education development committees. These committees would consists of two representatives of gram panchayat, two representatives of Headmaster of the school, two parent teacher association, one ex-serviceman and one retired teacher.

Mr Bahl said the next financial year would be celebrated as development year in the state. The government was hopeful of getting a loan of Rs 5,000 crore from the World Bank.


Bishop lays stone of school building
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 12
Rt. Rev. Dr Gerald John Mathias, Bishop, Diocese of Shimla-Chandigarh, and president Shimla-Chandigarh Educational Society, today laid the foundation stone of a building of Little Flower Convent School at Mangwal village, near here.

Addressing the gathering, Bishop Mathias extended his blessings to the school management. He said this was the first convent school in the town as it fulfilled the requisite requirements.

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