Monday, February 3, 2003, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Bathinda refinery: CM ridicules Badal’s claim
Tribune News Service

Kila Raipur (Ludhiana), February 2
The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today ridiculed the claims of the former Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, of trying to seek credit for the Prime Minister’s assurance on Bathinda Oil Refinery. He said Mr Badal had no locus standi to claim the credit on the issue since he had already talked to the Prime Minister and discussed the issue threadbare.

Talking to reporters here after attending the Kila Raipur Rural Olympic meet, Capt Amarinder said, “It is between the government to government and individuals have no legal status to discuss such issues.” He disclosed that he had raised the issue with the Prime Minister, during the National Development Council meeting also much before and the Prime Minister had brought his assurance on record.

Addressing the function, the Chief Minister announced a grant of Rs 10 lakh for the construction of a sports hostel at the stadium. He said it would solve the problem of accommodation for players and athletes.

The Chief Minister refused to be drawn into any controversy over the remarks of the RSS chief, Mr K. Sudarshan. He observed, “you do not expect anything better from them.” When asked about the demand for his arrest under POTA, he pointed out, “We have already clarified that we are not going to invoke or implement POTA in the state. Moreover, we don’t need it here as peace has returned to Punjab.”

He also refused to comment on the demand for pardon to Devinderpal Singh Bhullar, who has been convicted and awarded death sentence. He said since it was a legal matter he was not in a position to comment on it. The Chief Minister also disagreed that the Mukul Joshi episode had in any way tarnished the image of his government.


CM soft on Mukul, alleges Badal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh February 2
The SAD President, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, said here yesterday that by making a public display of his proximity to his “blue-eyed” officer involved in the Panchkula episode, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had reduced to nothing the probe ordered by him to fix responsibility for the unethical conduct of Mr Mukul Joshi.

“If reports appearing in a section of the Press about the Chief Minister joining late-night drink parties in the company of the officer are anything to go by, one can safely forget about the outcome of the inquiry ordered by him,” he said.

Mr Badal also came down heavily on the Chief Minister for “enacting the stunt” of releasing a grant to farmers even though the grant had been ordered by the Centre a long time back and the state government had been deliberately delaying its disbursement.

In a statement yesterday, Mr Badal said the Chief Minister’s conduct was also not satisfactory with regard to the ordering of action against Mr Joshi. Capt Amarinder Singh first hastily issued a clean chit to the officer and refused to order a probe, he said.

It was only after a section of the Press blew the lid off the episode that the Chief Minister was forced to succumb to pressure from the Opposition and his own high command to agree to send his “favourite” officer on leave, Mr Badal said. Even after this, the officer kept attending office and clearing important files, doling out favours to persons with a dubious past. It needed pressure from the Chief Secretary for the Chief Minister to reluctantly ask Mr Joshi to finally put in his leave application, Mr Badal stated.

The Akali leader also referred to news reports about the officer’s dubious decisions regarding making one-time settlement (OTS) to several parties at the expense of the public exchequer. “Why is the Chief Minister not allowing a free and fair inquiry to be conducted into the whole affair?” Mr Badal asked.


Paddy worth crores eaten up by millers
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, February 2
Even as raids by several teams of the Vigilance Bureau on the premises of about 10 rice mills of this district have been continuing for the past three days, a scam worth crores of rupees pertaining to the replacement of good paddy stock with the damaged paddy stock allegedly run by the rice mill owners with the connivance of an official of state procurement agency has come to light.

Though the detection of bungling of paddy worth more than Rs 15 crore has been made by the Vigilance Bureau teams led by Mr B.K. Uppal, DIG (Vigilance), Punjab, the official concerned did not rule out the fact that total might go up. Criminal cases have been registered against owners of six rice mills.

The raids were conducted by the Vigilance Bureau on the direction of state government, which had been finding it difficult to recover the missing paddy worth more than Rs 100 crore. Though the state government had imposed a blanket ban for giving paddy for milling to the defaulting rice mills, a considerable number of mills, a considerable number of mills in Punjab milled the paddy this year by hoodwinking the authorities concerned in connivance with the field staff of the procurement agencies, sources pointed out.

The modus operandi, which came to light for the first time in the state in these bunglings was that a section of officials of a state agency had stocked its procured paddy during 1999-2000 in three rice mills and one of its godowns. After some time, the officials of the procurement agency, namely Markfed, got the entire stock auctioned by terming the same as damaged at the rate of Rs 452 per quintal to the rice mill owners and before disposing of the same, they replaced it with damaged paddy.

Official sources said after the auction was held and Rs 17 lakh was taken from the bidder as earnest money, a condition by Markfed was laid that paddy would be released to the bidder after they made payment of the entire amount of the paddy auctioned.

While the process was on, about 2462 MT of paddy, which was of good quality and lying in the three rice mills and one of the godowns of Markfed was replaced with rice husk and wheat straw gradually by millers and the officials in their bid to mint money by carrying out this operation clandestinely.

Mr Uppal, when contacted, said rice millers in active connivance managed to eat up paddy worth more than by 1 crore.

He pointed out that the bungling came to notice when it was found that bags containing rice husk, wheat straw and damaged paddy which was lying in the godown and three rice mills after replacement bore the stamp of 2001-2002 while the original paddy was stored in the bags which bear the stamp of 1999-2000.


Corporatisation of PSEB opposed
From Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 2
Reacting to the proposed corporatisation of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), Er Padamjit Singh Chief Engineer, Enforcement, PSEB, and a known crusader against corruption in the board, today said that the splitting of one loss-making unit, the (PSEB), into a number of loss-making units was no solution to bring about reforms in the power sector.

Talking to TNS, Er Padamjit Singh said in place of corporatisation of the PSEB, the government should lay stress on internal reforms in the PSEB to improve consumer services and stoppage of power theft at all levels.

He said within the existing integrated structure of the PSEB, the government should fix responsibility and accountability at each level starting from Technical Member of the PSEB down to the junior engineer with every functionary to keep an account of electricity, units received and sold in his jurisdiction, and to ensure 180 per cent energy audit and accounting at every level starting from generation station to consumer meter.

He blamed populist policies adopted by the state government for the poor financial health of the PSEB. The PSEB had registered a cash surplus of Rs 105 crore in 1995-96 and Rs 36 crore in 1996-97. He said the financial health of the PSEB started heading towards downward trend with the announcement of free power to the agriculture sector in February 1997.


Move to split PSEB “suicidal”
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, February 2
Terming the proposed move of the state government to trifurcate the PSEB as a suicidal step for agriculture sector, the patron of the PSEB Engineers Association, Mr Padamjit Singh, yesterday advocated that the board should be given more powers to deal with those, who were found involved in power theft to improve its financial health.

Mr Padamjit Singh, who was in the city to preside over a meeting of the association, told this correspondent, that the proposed move to trifurcate the board into three companies, would certainly be a suicidal step for the agriculture sector. “You see, the PSEB had diverted 900 million units of power worth about Rs 300 crore to the agriculture sector during the last paddy season. How can a private company, which is supposed the act according to the prevailing market forces, bear such a huge loss of revenue just to discharge social responsibilities of the state government? The agriculture sector, which is the backbone of the state economy, will be severely hit if the move to go in for privatisation becomes a reality,” he argued, adding that the state government could not send its social responsibilities towards people.

Elaborating further about the failure of experiment of handing over power affairs to private companies in other states in the past five years, the Chief Engineer (Enforcement) said power tariff in Haryana, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh was hiked manifold after the formation of private companies out of state electricity boards concerned. “While powers is being sold for Rs 7 per unit for commercial establishments and Rs 5 per unit for domestic consumers in Andhra Pradesh. Power tariff is almost one and a half times higher in Haryana as compared to Punjab. The Kanugo Committee on the Orissa State Electricity Board, which was unbundled in 1995, stated that rural electrification was stopped and power supply to the rural areas was diverted to the urban areas to maintain its profitability,” he maintained. Blaming the bureaucracy for suggesting unwarranted privatisation of the board to the political leadership, Mr Padamjit Singh said the heavy withdrawal of loans from the World Bank and capital market in the name of power sector improvement would further deteriorate the financial health of the sagging power sector which was already facing accumulated losses to the tune of Rs 8,500 crore for allowing free power to the farming sector and subsidised power to the domestic sector in the past five years.

Later Mr M.S. Bajwa, president of the association, in his address, said the government should ensure financial viability of the PSEB by adjusting government loans of Rs 4500 crore against unpaid agricultural subsidy.


Bibi Kiranjot to arrange kirtan by women
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 2
For the first time after the formation of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee in 1925, Bibi Kiranjot Kaur, a former General Secretary of the SGPC, will arrange kirtan by baptised Sikh women inside the sanctum sanctorum of the Golden Temple next month, despite opposition from orthodox Sikhs.

Talking to The Tribune here today, Bibi Kiranjot Kaur said stopping women from performing seva and kirtan in the sanctum sanctorum was against the tenets of Sikhism, which did not allow gender discrimination. She claimed that jathas of baptised women “kirtanias”, well versed in “gurmat raagas”, were available and hence they should be allowed to perform kirtan inside the sanctum sanctorum. She claimed that a large number of Sikh women had asked her to take an initiative in this regard.

The Jathedar, Akal Takht, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, had stated that women were disallowed to perform seva and kirtan when the Golden Temple was under the control of “mahants” before the formation of the SGPC in 1925. He, however, had agreed in principle to persuade the orthodox Sikhs not to raise any objection to seva and kirtan by baptised women as per “gurmaryada.”

Earlier, Bibi Jagir Kaur had announced that she would get baptised Sikh women to perform seva and kirtan in the sanctum sanctorum during her tenure as the SGPC chief. However, this commitment could not be fulfilled as she was unceremoniously removed as SGPC chief.

Bibi Kiranjot Kaur said she would write to the manager, Darbar Sahib, Jathedar, Akal Takht, and the SGPC chief to give permission for arranging kirtan by baptised women inside the sanctum sanctorum shortly. She claimed that she had already mobilised public opinion in this regard.


Most expensive gurdwara to open before Baisakhi
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 2
World’s most expensive gurdwara built at Southall, a suburb of London, will be thrown open for the “sangat” before Baisakhi this year. About Rs 120 crore have been spent on the construction of Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Southall.

The construction was done under the supervision of a 21-member elected committee which, at present, is headed by Mr Himmat Singh Sohi. The construction had begun three years ago.

This shrine has many unique features. Its entire construction has been done by an English construction company. Architects of the company visited Punjab several times to study various Sikh holy places to avoid any architectural distortions in the building they had designed. The gold plating of certain parts of the gurdwara has also been done by a London-based English company. It has given a guarantee that the colour of Gold will never fade, come what may. The entire building has a central heating system.

It has a underground parking for 90 cars. Separate parking has been reserved for handicapped persons. A special lift has been installed from the parking side for the handicapped persons to enter the main hall where again separate arrangements have been made for them to listen to kirtan and the Gurbani. It is, perhaps, the first time that proper attention has been given to handicapped persons visiting a holy place. A separate hall has been constructed for holding marriages and performing other such ceremonies.

The elected body has made arrangements to teach Punjabi to Sikh youth. Kirtan classes will also be held. A library has also been set up in the gurdwara. A big langar hall has been built to accommodate 2000 persons at one time. There is also arrangement of tables in the langar hall. About $ 15 million were raised as loan from financial institutions by the elected body. The remaining $ 9 million were contributed by the sangat.

Mr Tajinder Singh Samra, an elected member of the managing committee and also secretary of the gurdwara, told The Tribune here that the “Palki Sahib” weighing about 1000 kg had been prepared by a city mason. It has already been sent over there.

Mr Samra, who had come here to attend the NRI meet in India, said that Sant Baba Mann Singh from Pehowa in Haryana had made a significant contribution in raising funds for the gurdwara. The BBC had telecast a programme about the construction of the building highlighting its unique features and the Sikh architecture.

Mr Samra said that there would be a grand opening. Final touches were being given to its building. The committee had chalked out a proposal to develop the Park Avenue in Southall as an educational and cultural centre by establishing a school and a community education centre. The authorities have promised to link Southall with the Tube Station.


Bus fare hiked in Punjab
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, February 2
The Punjab Government has increased the bus fare in the state second time, with immediate effect. According to the sources in the state Transport Department, minimum bus fare in any ordinary bus has been fixed Rs 2. According to new tarrifs, now the bus passengers will have to pay 42 paisa per km in ordinary buses, 52 paisa per km in express buses, 63 paisa in semi-delux buses, 84 paisa in delux buses and Rs 1.47 per km in air-conditioned buses with immediate effect.

Former Punjab Local Bodies Minister Balramji Dass Tandon, former Punjab BJP president Daya Singh Sodhi, former Punjab Health Minister Manoranjan Kalia, former State Excise & Taxation Minister Tikshan Sood, condemned the bus fare hike and described it as an additional burden on the bus passengers. Talking to this correspondent, here last night, BJP leaders expressed shock over the death of Ms Kalpana Chawla in space mishap.


Race hots up for top ZP posts
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 2
To grab the coveted posts of the chairman and vice- chairman of the Zila Parishad for their “men” and to stage a “show of strength”, two groups of the Jalandhar-based Congress ministers have started flexing their muscles to get the “nod” of the Punjab Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, and the Punjab Pradesh Congress chief, Mr H. S. Hanspal, in favour of their respective candidates.

Even as the elections for the two posts will be held on February 4 the two groups have failed to reach a consensus over the candidates, and left the decision on the Chief Minister and the PPCC chief. The Congress has a clear majority in the Zila Parishad as it has one of the 19 members, 15 elected members as compared to three of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) and one belonging to the CPI, who is said to be supporting the Congress.

Insiders maintained that Social Welfare Minister Chaudhary Santokh Singh and the Punjab Local Bodies Minister Chaudhary Jagjit Singh were campaigning for Chaudhary Surinder Singh, son of Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, while another strong group led by the Punjab Revenue Minister, Mr Amarjit Samra and Parliamentary Secretary Gurvinder Singh Atwal were in favour of Mr Sandip Sharma, already a Zila Parishad member. The Punjab Technical Education Minister, Mr Mohinder Singh Kaypee, is said to be supporting Mr Sukhwinder Singh Sukha, hailing from nearby Pholriwal village. While both Sharma and Chaudhary are said to be strong claimants, the only hurdle which might come in the way of the junior Chaudhary is that the chairmanship is reserved for the general category.

As a meeting attended by Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, Chaudhary Santokh Singh, Mr Amarjit Samra, Mr Gurvinder Atwal, Chaudhary Manjinder Singh, the president of the District Congress Committee (Rural) yesterday failed to evolve a “consensus” over the issue, they decided to leave the decision to the Chief Minister and the PPCC chief.


Infighting in Cong comes to fore
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 2
Even as the Punjab Congress leadership has been trying to infuse zeal among party activists and workers to perform well in the coming municipal council elections to be held in March, differences and groupism in the district Congress unit has started acquiring alarming dimensions as four members of the zila parishad did not attend meeting convened by DCC (I) president, Mr Bhagat Singh Dhaliwal, today for electing the candidate to be nominated for the election of chairman and vice-chairman of the zila parishad scheduled to be held on February 4.

Earlier, differences in the district Congress unit came to light in the recent past when Mr Harminder Singh Jassi, a senior Congress leader, alleged that a section of district Congress leaders tried to defeat the party candidates in the election of chairman and vice-chairman of panchayat samitis. He had also sought expulsion of such leaders from the party from Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh PPCC President, Mr H.S. Hanspal.

Though Mr Dhaliwal, when contacted claimed that only four members were absent at today’s meeting which he had convened on the suggestion of former Congress minister, Mr Jassi, Mr Bhupinder Singh Gora and Mr Tinku Grower senior Youth Congress leaders alleged that four members boycotted the meeting to lodge their protest against the partisan attitude and anti-Congress activities of a section of district Congress leaders during the election of chairman and vice-chairman of panchayat samitis.

Mr Dhaliwal claimed that there were no differences in the district Congress unit. He added that Mr Jassi never lodged a written complaint to him in connection with the allegations being levelled by him (Mr Jassi). He said matter pertaining to the nomination of persons to the post of chairman and vice-chairman of zila parishad of the district had been left to Capt Amarinder Singh and Mr Hanspal.


Sarpanch, panchayat secy held
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, February 2
The Punjab Vigilance Bureau has arrested Mr Pritam Singh, sarpanch, Mr Makhan Singh, officiating sarpanch and Mr Gurtej Singh, panchayat secretary of Ramsra village for the alleged misappropriation of funds.

Sources said here today that the panchayat had shown that Rs 53.54 lakh had been spent on various development works in the village during 1998-2002, but the VB had received a complaint alleging bungling in the funds and siphoning of funds by a section of panchayat members with the connivance of the panchayat secretary. The sources said the case was investigated into by two independent officers and it was found that the expenditure shown by the panchayat had been inflated.

The sources said as against the statement of the panchayat that Rs 53.54 lakh had been spent, the inquiry report submitted by the Sub Divisional Officer (SDO), Panchayati Raj had shown that only Rs 42 lakh had been spent by the panchayat. The sources said that Ramsra village had a very affluent panchayat as about 115 kanal and 4 marla of land of the village had been acquired by Guru Gobind Singh Oil Refinery. The village had received about Rs 53 lakh in instalments as compensation for the land acquired and Rs 20 lakh were still pending.

The sources said that another inquiry conducted by the Block Development and Panchayat Officer (BDPO) found that the panchayat had inflated the expenditure statement by about Rs 8.56 lakh. The sources said that after the same was pointed out the panchayat deposited Rs 1.35 lakh and in the second instalment deposited Rs 36.881 in the panchayat funds.

The investigations also revealed that the panchayat had Rs 38.22 lakh as deposits in various accounts and bank fixed deposits.

The sources said the sarpanch, the officiating sarpanch and the panchayat secretary had been found guilty of misappropriating government funds by the inquiries conducted by the VB. The sources said that the Bathinda range VB had registered a case under Sections 120-B, and 420 of the IPC and 13 (1) D and 13 (2) 88 of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Mr Baljinder Singh Grewal, SP (VB), Bathinda range when contacted said that the three accused had been arrested and Mr Baljit Singh (DSP, VB) had been deputed to further investigate the case. 


VB sleuths quiz Saini, son
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, February 2
The Punjab Vigilance Bureau has started a probe against Mr Satya Pal Saini, former BJP minister, for allegedly having assets disproportionate to his known sources of income.

According to sources following some complaints regarding purchase of property, vehicles and a crusher by Mr Saini in the names of his kin, sleuths of the bureau arrived here two days ago. The Vigilance team reportedly quizzed Mr Saini and his son.

Bureau officials said the police was collecting information from the Revenue Department, the bank authorities concerned and the registration authorities about the property he acquired during his tenure as minister in the Akali government. The sources revealed that Mr Saini has consulted his lawyers in this connection. They said Mr Saini has misused his position as minister to acquire some landed property.

Mr Taranjeet Singh, S.P. Vigilance Bureau, Amritsar, said the matter was being investigated by Mr Kashmira Singh, DSP (Vigilance) Gurdaspur.

Mr Saini refuted the allegations regarding having assets disproportionate to sources of his known income. The allegations against me and my kin were levelled at the behest of a minister of the area, he added.

Mr Saini unsuccessfully contested last Assembly election from the Sujanpur constituency.

Lashing out at the Punjab Housing and Urban Minister, Mr Raghunath Sahai Puri, his political rival, Mr Saini said the Punjab Government should conduct an inquiry to expose the moveable and immovable assets of Mr Puri’s family.


Organ transplant: IMA seeks fresh guidelines
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 2
The Punjab unit of the IMA has urged the state government to issue fresh guidelines stressing transparency on organ transplants in consultation with medical bodies and noted doctors of the country.

State secretary of the Punjab unit of the IMA, Dr Surinder Singla, said here on Friday that these guidelines should cover not only hospitals, donors and doctors, but also other bodies connected with transplant of organs, like appropriate authority and affidavit-issuing authorities for transplant purposes. He said in the recent kidney sale racket, unearthed at Amritsar, apart from other reasons, false affidavits by donors, regarding age and address etc led to error in judgement by doctors and the Authorisation Committee.

To discuss the fresh guidelines the Punjab IMA has convened a meeting of its 11-member panel on the kidney scam at the IMA House at Amritsar on February 2. The panel will discuss gaps in the Act on transplant of organs lead to its misuse.

Dr Singla said the 11-member panel would also make suggestions on guidelines to the government to end misuse of the organ transplant Act. He added the panel would also appeal to voluntary organisations to help the IMA in preventing exploitation of poor persons. The Punjab IMA secretary also urged the Punjab Government to unmask all persons involved in the kidney scam, at the earliest.

Meanwhile, the Punjab IMA has also directed its 57 branches to submit suggestions, on fresh guidelines, to the state office of the IMA for consideration of these at the Amritsar meeting of the 11-member panel.


Leaders flay Sikh ‘black list’
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 2
The Akali Dal (Mann) has convened a crucial meeting of its working committee and executive committee at Ludhiana tomorrow to discuss various issues pertaining to the Sikh Panth.

Talking to TNS here today, Mr Jagmohan Singh Tony and Mr Gurjatinder Paul Singh — both general secretaries of the party, said the meeting would ask the Central Government to get the ‘black list’ of Sikhs settled abroad scrapped. The leaders said it was shocking that Mr Bhupinder Singh, a leader of the International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF), settled in Holland since 1971, was not allowed to attend the marriage of his daughter here today. Though there was no case pending against Mr Bhupinder Singh, he was denied visa by the Indian Embassy there without assigning any reason, they claimed. The leaders alleged that though Mr Simranjit Singh Mann had raised the issue of the ‘black list’ in Parliament many times, the Central Government had avoided the issue so far.

Talking to TNS from Holland, Mr Bhupinder Singh said various Sikh forums of Europe had decided to raise the matter in the European Parliament so that the issue could be taken up with the Indian Parliament, the UK-based Sikh leader, Mr Narpal Singh Shergill, who attended the marriage function asked leaders of various Akali factions and Sikh organisations to rise above party affiliations to take up the matter with all concerned to get the ‘black list’ scrapped.

He said the persons against whom no case was pending should be allowed to visit India without any restriction. He said if Dr Jagjit Singh Chauhan, a radical Sikh leader, could be allowed to enter India, why Mr Bhupinder Singh was denied visa. Bibi Kiranjot Kaur, a former general secretary of the SGPC, said the names of those against whom no case was pending in India should be deleted from the ‘black list’.

Among those who attended the function included Mr Sardul Singh Sham, district SAD president, Mr O.P. Soni, Congress MLA, and Mr Harminder Singh Gill, president, All-India Sikh Students Federation. Mr Gill presented a ‘siropa’ to daughter and son-in-law of Mr Bhupinder Singh on behalf of Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, president, Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal.


SAD to institute award in memory of Kalpana
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 2
The Shiromani Akali Dal has decided to institute an award in memory of Kalpana Chawla. Announcing this here today, the president of the party, Mr Prakash Singh Badal, said the award would be given annually to a Punjabi or a person or Punjabi origin for his outstanding contribution in the field of space research at the national or international level.

He said the details of the award would be announced shortly.

Mourning the death of Kalpana Chawla, Mr Badal said: “Her unparalleled devotion, courage, intelligence, and above all, her ability to transcend challenges of her environment will continue to inspire Indians for all times to come.”

The Haryana Governor, Babu Parmanand, in his condolence message, described her as “an illustrious daughter of the country.”

The president of the Ambala Citizens Council, Dr N.C. Jain, said the Central Government should confer a Padma award on Kalpana.


US body to implement Nanakshahi calendar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 2
In a significant development, the American Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (ASGPC) has decided to implement the Nanakshahi calendar in all Sikh shrines in the USA.

Dr Pritpal Singh and Mr Yadwinder Singh, convener and president of the ASGPC, respectively, told TNS over the telephone that they were committed to implementing the “maryada” (Sikh traditions) in toto as finalised by Akal Takht. They said a meeting of the ASGPC would be convened shortly to discuss other Panthic issues.

Coming down heavily on the RSS chief, Mr K.S. Sudarshan, Dr Pritpal Singh and Mr Yadwinder Singh said he had no business to interfere in the internal matters of Sikhs. They said the statement of Mr Sudarshan that Sikhs were part of Hindus was uncalled for. They said the first Sikh guru had already mentioned in his holy hymns that he had introduced a “nirmal panth” (new religion). The rituals and ceremonies of Sikhs were different from those of Hindus, they said.


Health workers seek probe

Kharar, February 2
Demanding a high-level probe into the assault on Harjinder Singh, steno to Civil Surgeon (CS), a few days back, the Punjab Health Department Subordinate Offices Clerical Association (PHDSOCA) has sought stern legal action against all those involved in the incident.

Alleging that lower-rung officials were shielding the guilty, the PHDSOCA district president, Mr Amarjeet Singh, and senior vice-president, Mr Piara Singh, in a memorandum to the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) yesterday stated that a resident of Kamalpur village had attacked the Civil Surgeon’s steno on January 26 night.

Wondering as to why the investigating authorities had let off the person involved in the crime after interrogation, the health workers claimed that the sharp-edged weapons used in the crime had already been seized from the spot. UNI


Judicial remand for MLA’s son

Moga, February 2
On the expiry of day’s police remand, the police yesterday produced Kulwant Singh, son of Malkiat Singh Kittu, MLA Barnala, in the court of Judicial Magistrate Tarsem Mangla.

The court after hearing the arguments of the defence counsel refused to extend police remand of Kulwant Singh and sent him to judicial custody till February 16.

The court fixed February 10 for arguments on the bail application of the accused.

Kulwant was arrested following the recovery of 120 bottles of country-made liquor allegedly from his vehicle last evening. PTI


Heart clinics by Metro
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 2
In their endeavour to provide international standard heart care at affordable cost to the people of the region, the Metro Group of Hospitals, will organise heart clinics in major towns of Punjab.

Announcing this, the Director, Metro Group of Hospitals, Padma Vibhushan Dr Purshotam Lal, said more such heart clinics would be held in Amritsar, Jalandhar and Chandigarh. 


BKU (E) activists stage dharna
Our Correspondent

Mansa, February 2
Activists of BKU (E) sat on a dharna here yesterday near the district courts complex in protest against the registration of a criminal case against more than 100 workers of the union and arrest of five workers, including Mr Malook Singh Hirke, vice-president of the state unit of the BKU (E).

Inquiries revealed that Birbal Dass, a farmer of Karandi village of the district, was held by the PSEB officials for supplying electricity to one flour mill and four houses from his tubewell connection.

The PSEB, Sardulgarh officials, disconnected his tube-well power connection and issued him a notice for the recovery of Rs. 17,000. In this connection the BKU (E) activists started getting illegal power supply through kundi connections and the PSEB officials disconnected the same by stopping the supply of electricity and took away the transformer.

The BKU (E) activists gathered in large number s near the PSEB office at Sardulgarh and took back the transformer and restored the electricity supply illegally by reinstalling the transformer forcibly.

Facing stiff opposition of the BKU (E) workers, a criminal case was registered in police station Sardulgarh against more than 100 activists of the BKU (E) and the police took into custody the transformer resulting in stoppage of power supply to the farmer.

The police also took into custody five activists of the union including Mr Malook Singh Hirke, vice-president of the state unit of the BKU (E). On assurance given by the Additional Deputy Commissioner, Mansa, Mr Kulwant Singh to hold an inquiry into the matter, the dharna was lifted by the BKU (E) activists.


Border highways to be widened
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, February 2
State highways in the border districts of Ferozepore, Gurdaspur and Amritsar will be widened on a priority during the next financial year and will be partly financed by the World Bank.

This was stated by the PWD (B&R) Minister, Mr P.S. Bajwa, while talking to newspersons at his residence in Qadian in this district today.

Mr Bajwa said all links in the state and border districts in particular, would be completed during the next year under Prime Minister’s Sadak Yojana. As many as 30 railway overbridges in the state would be completed during the next year for which funds would be shared by the Central and state governments.

Referring to the controversy about a dental college opened by the Ujagar Singh Sekhwan Memorial Trust allegedly at the behest of Mr Sewa Singh Sekhwan, former Revenue Minister, at Sekhwan, Mr Bajwa said land of the college had been restored to the village panchayat as the land had been transferred to the college for opening an academy and not the dental college.

Mr Bajwa said the government would form a trust comprising villagers to run this dental college, and 10 per cent of the seats would be reserved for villagers whose land would be used.

Mr Bajwa said the college was raised with funds contributed by the public and various ministers. Funds were also raised by selling paid seats, he added. He asked the former Revenue Minister to reveal his sources of income to prove the genuineness of the money raised by the trust for the construction of the college.


Salaries not paid for 8 months
Our Correspondent

Batala, February 2
Resentment prevails among employees of Post-Portum Unit (Family Planning) and Revamping Schemes of the Punjab Health Department working with the Civil Hospital, Batala, as they have not been paid salaries for the past eight months.

The employees said today that it was very difficult for them to meet their domestic needs.

They urged the Punjab Government to solve their problem on a priority basis.

They were going to meet the Health Minister, Mr Ramesh Dogra, and State Industries Minister, Mr Ashwani Sekhri, they said.


Gang of cheats busted
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur , February 2
The police has busted another gang of cheats who were involved in extorting large sums of money from people on the pretext of sending them abroad and get them lucrative jobs.

Mr Varinder Kumar, SSP, in a press release today said that Charan Singh and his son Surjit Singh both residents of Fatte Nangal, had been arrested while the remaining two members of the family, including Kuldip Singh and Chhinda, son and son-in-law, respectively, of Charan Singh were still in large.

The SSP said Rajvinder Singh, Balma, and Hardip Singh, residents of Kaile Kalan complained to the police that the accused had charged Rs 40,000 each from them for sending them abroad. The complainants were taken to Delhi three or five times and were even got medically examined to assure them that they were being sent abroad but in vain.

Subsequently, the accused started avoiding the complainants. When the complainants demanded the refund of money, they were threatened of dire consequences by the accused.

A case under Section 420 of the IPC and 24-B of the Immigration Act was registered against the accused on January 31 at Dhariwal.

The SSP said during their preliminary interrogation the accused confessed to having extorted money from innocent persons with the promise of sending them abroad.


Robbers parade women naked
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, February 2
A 25-member gang, suspected to be Kale Kachhewale, struck at three villages in Pathankot and Kathua early this morning and committed robbery in four houses. Women members of the Gujjar community were forcibly paraded naked and injured.

Nine persons were reportedly injured in the robbing incidents, two of whom are in a serious condition and have been referred to a hospital in Jammu.

The remaining injured have been admitted to the Civil Hospital, Pathankot. The SDM, Pathankot, Mr Puneet Goyal, and the Punjab Housing and Urban Development Minister, Mr Raghunath Puri, visited the injured. Mr Puri gave Rs 5,000 each to the victims.

According to eyewitnesses, at about 2 a.m. the gang struck at the house of Teg Ali Gujjar at Kidhi Gandwal village and injured him and his wife.

Then the gang struck at the house of Masqin Ali and injured him and two women at Basroop village.

The robbers also injured Bhano and Teg Ali of the same village and took away valuables from them. The gang then struck at the house of Lal Chand at Mera Badran and injured him.

A joint search operation by the Pathankot and Kathua police has been launched to nab the robbers.


In-laws held in dowry case
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, February 2
The police has arrested four members of a family under the Dowry Act.

Police sources said here today that father-in-law, mother-in-law and sister-in-law of Kulbir Kaur, daughter of Mr Sardool Singh of Uppal village, under the Verowal police station, were arrested on a complaint of Kulbir Kaur (24).

She had alleged that she was married to Dilbag Singh about one-and-a-half years ago and soon after her marriage her husband, father-in-law Lachhaman Singh, mother-in-law Kashmir Kaur and sister-in-law Daljit Kaur, all residents of Khadoor Sahib village started harassing her for dowry and used to demand a car and Rs 1 lakh.


Schools forced to buy outdated books
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 2
“Purchase books for library on January 8, 2003. If the books are not purchased on the date, you will be personally responsible for departmental action taken against you. So ensure that you reach the DEO (Secondary) office on the date. This is most urgent.”

Thus reads the order of the DEO (Secondary), Bathinda, issued in black and white to all heads of government middle, higher and senior secondary schools for purchasing a set books from the Punjab State University Textbook Board, Chandigarh.

Though a large number of heads of different government schools have started following these orders to avoid departmental action, eyebrows have been raised over the “forcible” supply of a set of books for school libraries by the Punjab State University Textbook Board. They alleged that most of the books were outdated (old editions) and their rates had been manipulated by pasting stickers on their original prices. The school heads had diverted the funds of the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) for purchasing these books.

They pointed out that the set of books, which had been given to the schools, included story books, which were not relevant for the libraries of middle, high and higher secondary schools. Most of the books were in bad shape, as their pages had turned yellow.

Official sources said December 9 and 10, 2002, was fixed by the District Education authorities for purchasing their respective sets of books. But when a large number of heads of different schools did not turn up at the local DEO office for purchasing at the rate of Rs 1,690 for high and higher secondary schools) and Rs 387 (for middle schools, the district education authorities held out a threat to them. However, the education authorities on January 8, 2003, started sending special persons to different schools for delivering the books to their respective heads when they failed to reach the DEO (Secondary) office.

Information gathered by TNS revealed that a large number of books, which had been thrust upon schools were more than a decade old. Most of these books were not in the syllabus prescribed by them.

Documents in possession of The Tribune revealed that the books, which had been supplied to high and higher secondary schools included “Udmiata Lai Vatavaran” (Environment for Entrepreneurs) of 1992 edition worth Rs 30 each, Workshops, Ganana ate Science” (Measurements and Science of Workshops) of 1996 edition worth Rs 76 each and Engineering and Mechanical Drawing” of 1990 edition worth Rs 19.50. These books were originally meant for students of the Industrial Training Institutes.

Schools had also been forced to buy a book namely ‘Vanj Beopar di Paathpustak’ (A Text book of Trade and Commerce), originally written for B.Com students of Punjabi University. This book was published 1987. One more book ‘Naksha Karj ate Viharak Bhugol’ (Map Work and Practical Geography) meant for the university students and published in 1987 had also been included in the set of books.

A section of teachers alleged that over the years it had become a practice with the authorities to force schools to buy books without taking into consideration their utility.

The books the prices of which had been increased by pasting stickers included ‘Ladhora Bandar’ and ‘Bharma da Ghora’. Their prices had been increased to Rs 20 each from their original prices of Rs 6 and Rs 8.50, respectively. These books were published in 1989. The schools had also been supplied with the September 1995 issue of a quarterly magazine, ‘Sahaj Sanchar’

Mr Chander Hans Puri, District Education Officer (Secondary), when contacted said he had no role in the sale of books. He, however, admitted that the order of the higher education authorities in this regard was being complied with and heads of various schools had arranged funds for purchasing the same.

When asked about the threat held out to the heads along with the orders issued to them in black and white, he pointed out that such letters were issued to them before he joined as DEO (Secondary). He declined to comment when asked whether the books were of any use or not. 


Punjabi varsity cuts holidays
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 2
Punjabi University has decided to reduce the number of public holidays on the campus from 37 to only eight besides switching over to the semester system of examinations. A decision in this regard was taken at a high-powered committee meeting held here yesterday which was chaired by Vice-Chancellor Swaran Singh Boparai and consisted of representatives of student bodies, meritorious students of all teaching departments, Deans of faculties, heads of teaching departments and other senior functionaries of the varsity.

A university spokesman said the decision to reduce the number of public holidays was taken to make the university a centre of excellence in learning, teaching days in the institutions should be increased. It was felt that the large number of holidays coupled with other forced holidays due to various varsity functions as was the practice in the past had reduced the number of teaching days drastically.

The spokesman said similarly on the demand of the students and faculty and after detailed discussions it was decided to adopt the semester system of examinations. However, the Department of Correspondence Studies has been exempted from adopting the semester system. The department has been given the option to study different examination systems and adopt the one best suited for distance education programme.

In yet another major administrative decision to make the optimum use of classrooms, it has been decided to centralise these. Accordingly any department having insufficient number of classrooms will be at liberty to use classrooms of another department where they are in excess.

Addressing the committee which met in the Senate hall, the Vice-Chancellor said the varsity would go a step further by opting for the automation and modernisation of the university management by going in for total computerisation. He informed the committee the Internet and E-mail facilities had already been provided in the university and that these facilities would be extended to each and every student gradually in a phased manner.


Padyatra for loan recovery
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, February 2
In a unique attempt to recover loans, running into crores of rupees, from its defaulters, Uco bank today launched a special “padyatra” in the Doaba region of Punjab requesting defaulters to repay the dues or face strict action according to law.

Hundreds of Uco bank employees, riding scooters and cars, visited about 100 such defaulters in the Basti Nau, Basti Sheikh, Bhargo Camp, Model Town, Model House, Pucca Bagh and Shaheed Udham Singh Nagar localities here and advised them to comply with rules and clear the outstanding dues.

The employees carrying placards with slogans like “will you like to have a neighbourer, who is a defaulter to a bank” and “we are not able to lend further since defaulter in your area is not paying back to the bank.”

Besides, the bank employees undertook padyatra at Phagwara, Phillaur, Nawanshahr, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala, Adampur, Goraya, Nakodar and Bhogpur, Mr M.L. Bansal, Assistant General Manager, said notices under Securitisation, Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act had been issued to 13 borrowers involving a sum of Rs 43.70 lakh. “We have also issued notices to 200 defaulters in the Jalandhar region, whose outstanding dues are more than Rs 25,000.

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