Monday, February 17, 2003, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Punjab ministers in sex racket: Shah

Ahmedabad, February 16
Two Punjab ministers and a Congress MLA, who visited Gujarat for electioneering for the state Assembly poll last December, have been named in “the sex racket” busted by the police, the Gujarat Minister of State for Home, Mr Amit Shah, said here today.

At a hurriedly-called press conference here, Mr Shah said the three Congressmen namely Mr Pratap Singh Bajwa and Mr Amarjeet Singh Samra, both ministers, and Mr Arvinder Singh Lovely, MLA, during the party campaign in the city stayed in a five-star hotel and allegedly indulged in “immoral” activities.

Though their names have not figured in an FIR, interrogation of a driver and a hotel employee arrested in connection with the racket threw light on their activities, Mr Shah said.

“The car driver, who was with the three Congressmen, during interrogation revealed their names in the sex scandal.” he said.

“The names of the ministers have not been mentioned in the FIR as it was based on the statement of a witness. The police is conducting a detailed probe,” Mr Shah said. He said five persons, including an employee of the hotel identified as Ajit George Christian, allegedly the main racketeer”, were arrested in the wee hours today.

The Home Department booked four person, including a woman, arrested in the case earlier under the PASA, Mr Shah said.

It also raided 22 hotels in the city involved in flesh trade during the last fortnight, he said.

The minister said all the accused, including women from Bangalore and Mumbai, had been booked under various sections of the Suppression of Immoral Traffic Act. The minister added necessary legal action would be initiated against all those involved after a detailed probe is conducted and concrete evidence gathered.

Crime branch officials identified Neeraj Shah, who is currently in jail for financial frauds of over Rs 1.50 crore, as the person who paid hotel bills of the Congress ministers and gave them flight tickets, Mr Shah said.

The crime branch team led by Joint Commissioner P.P. Pandey and along with his deputy D.G. Vanihara conducted surprise raids at the hotels based on specific information regarding the immoral flesh trade.

Mr Shah said the crime branch was on the hunt for one more hotel employee who is reportedly the “coordinator” of the “sex racket”.

Meanwhile, when contacted, Taj Ummed General Manager Darius Merchant confirmed the stay of the Congress ministers but dismissed the allegations against the hotel and its employee as “baseless”. PTI


Cong men to sue Gujarat minister
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, February 16
Terming the registration of a case against two Punjab ministers and a Congress MLA for their alleged involvement in a sex scandal during their campaign tour in Gujarat as a political stunt, the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today declared that the ministers would soon file a defamation case against the Gujarat Home Minister, Mr Amit Shah, for his attempt to tarnish the image of the Congress ministers.

In a hurriedly convened press conference here today, Capt Amarinder Singh criticised the BJP-led Central Government for hatching a conspiracy to defame Congress ministers to counter the allegations of corruption levelled against Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal.

“I have full faith in my ministerial colleagues. The registration of case after three months is a clear indication that the Modi government has acted under pressure from its political bosses based in Delhi, who wanted to raise unnecessary controversy to divert attention of people from the misdeeds of the Dhumal government, the Chief Minister added.

Elaborating about the plan of the Modi government to unleash a false propaganda against Congress ministers, the Chief Minister, who was accompanied by the Punjab Industries Minister, Mr Avtar Henry, alleged that he had specific information that Mr Amit Shah had presided over a meeting of senior Gujarat police officials, including the ADGP (Intelligence), in Ahmedabad 15 days ago and discussed the ‘means’ to fix the Punjab ministers in a false case.

“The plan was outlined during the meeting and a case was registered today after getting clearance from the BJP high command. In fact, the BJP has stooped so low that it is trying to gain political mileage by using the state machinery. The BJP, which will virtually face a crushing defeat during the coming Assembly poll in Himachal Pradesh, is using all means to corner votes,” he added.

“I have directed the ministers to file defamation suit against the Gujarat Home Minister even as legal experts are being consulted to ensure an impartial inquiry into the whole episode. Besides, the Gujarat Police will not be allowed to enter Punjab to arrest the ministers concerned,” he asserted, adding that the state government would even go to the Supreme Court, if needed, to support the cause of ministers. “We are sure that the Congress will form the government in Himachal Pradesh with two-third majority to its credit after the elections and such politically-motivated acts will not fetch votes for the BJP,” the Punjab Chief Minister added.


Charges baseless, says Bajwa

AMRITSAR: Perturbed over figuring of his name during investigations in the infamous Gujarat sex racket, Mr Pratap Singh Bajwa, Public Works Department Minister, said that he would file a defamation case against certain senior BJP leaders and the Gujarat Police for maligning him in the ‘baseless case’.

Talking to TNS here on Sunday, Mr Bajwa alleged that his name had figured due to ‘political vendetta’ as the BJP wanted to settle scores with the senior Punjab Congress leaders who had exposed the Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister during the election campaign. He said it was an ‘afterthought’ of the Gujarat Government as the case was registered after about three months of the electioneering in Gujarat. He said the BJP wanted to nail down the Congress due to ensuing Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh. He said the management of Hotel Taj had already refuted the allegations that any of their clients had indulged in any kind of immoral activities.

Recalling his stay at Hotel Taj during electioneering in Gujarat, Mr Bajwa said that nobody could think of indulging in any immoral activity when senior Congress leaders from all over the country, including Chief Ministers, former Chief Ministers, Member Parliament and mediapersons were staying in the same hotel. He described the reports as baseless.


Ministers are being implicated’
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 16
“The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) is solidly behind its ministers. They are being implicated in the case because of a political stunt. The BJP has virtually conceded its defeat in Himachal Pradesh and resorted to hitting below the belt,” says Mr H.S. Hanspal, President, PPCC.

Talking to Tribune News Service over the telephone from Barnala, Mr Hanspal said that prima facie there was no truth in the whole case. “It does not take more than 10 weeks for the state police to investigate and register a case under the Suppression of Immoral Traffic Act. It is clearly a political stunt aimed at diverting attention of voters in Himachal,” Mr Hanspal said. He said the PPCC was convinced of the “innocence”of Punjab ministers as they were men of integrity and good character.

Mr Hanspal said that it was intriguing that former Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had amassed property in Haryana and the Himachal Chief Minister in Punjab. And when their nefarious deeds have been exposed, they had resorted to hitting below the belt, he added.


Post-poll, CPM to support Cong in HP
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sherpur (Sangrur), February 16
To keep the BJP out of power after the ensuing Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh (HP), the CPM will support the Congress in the Assembly, in case the Congress and the BJP do not win requisite number of seats to form the government.

The CPM is of the view that its candidates will certainly capture those Assembly seats, especially the Shimla seat, which are being contested by them.

In reply to a question here today, Mr Harkishen Singh Surjeet, General Secretary of the CPM said as per the reports, the BJP would not be able to form government this time in HP as people of the state were dissatisfied with its performance in the past five years. He said after the BJP, now the people had the Congress as a second option for them. The CPM was also contesting four seats in HP and hoped that its candidates would win everywhere, especially the Shimla seat, he added.

Mr Surjeet further said as the BJP had ‘ruined’ the state in its current five-year regime, so the CPM did not want the rule of the BJP again in the state. He said in these circumstances, the CPM would support the Congress to form the government in HP, if any such situation arose there.

Mr Surjeet was here in connection with a party workers’ meeting to mobilise them for their participation in the 30th convention of All-India Kisan Sabha to be held at Jalandhar from March 6 to March 9.

The CPM General Secretary favoured free power supply to those poor farmers who had only one tubewell connection to irrigate their fields. He said the CPM was of the view that the rich farmers with more than one tubewell connection should pay electricity bills.

On the issue of construction of the SYL canal, the CPM General Secretary evaded the reply to a question whether the CPM was in favour of construction of the SYL canal.

He merely said the 5 MAF water, which was being utilised by Punjab for the past 10 years, should not be snatched from it at any cost. He also said Mr Parkash Singh Badal, former Punjab Chief Minister, was ‘misleading’ Punabis by telling them that Punjab had the right to the river waters as per riparian laws.

He said the river waters, currently being used by Punjab, was an outcome of Indo-Pak agreement which had been signed at the time of dividing rivers, flowing in the undivided Punjab.

Mr Surjeet also said Mr Badal should take guarantee from the Central Government that it would not take away the 5 MAF water, already being used by Punjab for the past more than 10 years, while deciding river waters dispute. He said this was necessary as Punjab’s need and usage of river waters was more from all other states in the country.

Mr Surjeet also stated that formation of a third front in the country was essential as the Congress, which had ruled the country for about 45 years, always favoured rich persons while the BJP was promoting ‘Hindutva’ forces. He said there was a need to curb such forces which might disintegrate the country. He also said the secular and federal structure of the country should be strengthened at all costs.

Regarding All-India Kisan Sabha’s convention at Jalandhar, Mr Surjeet said more than 700 delegates from all over the country would participate in it. It would also be attended by president of Trade Unions International Agriculture and Forestry Workers.

He said the convention would discuss many issues related to farmers, including indebtedness of the farmers, low prices of crops, land reforms, and dangers of the WTO policies. He said these issues were a challenge before the farmers. So time had come to launch an effective struggle to protect the interests of the farmers, he added.


Political umbrella for ‘friendly defaulters’
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 16
The strident stand of the industry-related joint action committee against the politician-bureaucrat nexus out to oblige ‘’friendly defaulters’’, who have availed of loan or equity from the state financial institutions, will impact the government move to align pay and allowances of 1.25 lakh employees of the public sector undertakings (PSUs) or implement the Disinvestment Commission’s recommendations.

In Punjab, there are 74 PSUs and 18 subsidiaries, involving an investment of nearly Rs 15,000 crore. The Disinvestment Commission has recommended disinvestment, privatisation, merger or restructuring of 49 PSUs and apex cooperative institutions. So pathetic is the state of PSUs that most of these have not even submitted their annual audited accounts and have accumulated losses in thousands of crores of rupees.

At a recent meeting of the Members of Parliament, a demand was made for a white paper on the PSUs and fixing accountability on politicians/bureaucrats responsible for the financial mess in the PSUs

The three industry-related organisations constituting the action committee are the Punjab State Industrial Development Corporation (PSIDC), the Punjab Financial Corporation (PFC) and the Punjab Small Industries Export Corporation (PSIEC).

The friction point between the committee and the government is why the three organisations have been singled out for equalisation of pay and allowances with those of the government employees without allowing parity in entirety and also while boards and corporations with equal or more bad track-record have been left out.

The action committee opposes the waiving of crores of rupees by way of the OTS (one-time settlement scheme), giving relief to ‘’friendly-defaulters’’ who have strong connections with politicians/bureaucrats or are themselves present or past MLAs/ministers.

Smitten by in-house criticism, the PSIDC has issued notices to several defaulters, including Minister of State Ashwani Sekhri, and Rana Gurjit Singh, Congress MLA, to pay up their dues running into crores.

The Minister in Charge, Mr Avtar Henry, is examining the allegations of ‘’undue favours’’ shown in respect of the OTS to a select few. In fact, the political compulsions are an impediment in the restructuring of the PSUs as defaulters enjoy the best of equation with the ruling Congress as they did with the Akali-BJP bigwigs.

Now, it is learnt, the PFC was ‘’forced’ by the former Principal Secretary, Industries and Commerce, to follow the PSIDC in giving ‘’relief’’ or ‘’benefit’’ to influential defaulters despite strong protests by the action committee.

The benefits were more in the nature of “obliging’’ the defaulters than “economic’’ for the PFC.

In the PSIDC’s equity portfolio, joint/assisted sector, top 30 defaulters owe about Rs 395 crore out of a total realisable amount of around Rs 703 crore.

Similarly, top 30 defaulters of loan owe Rs 288 crore out of a total outstanding of approximately Rs 675 crore.

In 29 cases, involving Rs 32 crore, the OTS has been either executed or proposed. While settlement has been done for about Rs 19.14 crore, the PSIDC “sacrificed’’ nearly Rs 13 crore, according to the committee.

There are at least five ‘’dormant units’’ to which equity was released, six years to seven years ago, but the projects never materialised. As on December 31, 2002, the disinvestment value in these five units was over Rs 43 crore. In all, there are 14 ‘’dormant companies’’ which were never commissioned.

The action committee is demanding a CBI inquiry into these and also action against PSIDC high-ups who had connived with the promoters of these projects, as financial collaboration agreements with these influential persons are in their personal capacity.

As per official information procured from the PSIDC, the original investment in top 30 defaulters of equities is Rs 134.05 crore. The amount realisable from them as on January 31, 2003, is Rs 405.41 crore as per the financial collaboration agreement, out of an aggregate realisable amount of equity is Rs 703.55 crore.

At least Rs 400 crore are expected to accrue from disinvestment in Punjab Tractors Limited (PTL) and Punjab Alkalies and Chemicals Limited (PACL).

The official sources told TNS that the PSIDC has received dividend of Rs 10.02 crore under equity portfolio and recovered through partial pay-back agreement, Rs 17.50 crore, as on date. The PSIDC figures also reveal that in the loan portfolio, 13 units out of 72 taken over under Section 29 of the State Financial Corporations Act, have been sold and Rs 6.52 crore recovered from the respective bidders. Recoveries are proposed to be effected under the OTS under both short and long-term policies.

As per the PSIDC, it has effected recovery of about Rs 23 crore in loan portfolio without sacrificing principal amount and within the prescribed policy. But action committee maintains that all money is interest-bearing. There is no justification of the OTS without getting corresponding waiver of interest from the IDBI/SIDBI or bond holders, where from the PSIDC had borrowed this money at 13 to 15 per cent per annum for the past over five to seven years.

The committee also questions the conversion of loans into equity, a charge that the PSIDC denies, vehemently. But it maintains that it is the Project Approval Board, headed by the Chief Minister which at its meeting on November 6, 2002, in the case of Brahma Styer Tractors had decided to ‘’convert’’ the loan into equity — Rs 3.91crore plus interest of Rs 4.12 crore.

The action committee, however, alleges that Mr Ravi Inder Singh, former MLA, has been favoured ‘’illegally’’. The PSIDC money is sunk for ever in ‘’dormant’’ units.


MC Commissioner summoned
Charging of ‘flat rates’ for water supply, sewerage
Rashmi Talwar

Amritsar, February 16
Following a hue and cry over the charging of ‘flat rates’ for water supply and sewerage, the Commissioner, Municipal Corporation, Mr Jasbir Singh Bir, has been asked to appear before the court of Secretary, Punjab, Department of Local Government.

Although the matter of hike in consumer tariffs had come up before the last House meeting of the corporation and councillors were assured that the matter of ‘unilateral’ charges for water supply and sewerage was proposed on the pattern of Ludhiana and other corporations which had raised tariffs of these services. It was opposed by all and a resolution was thus passed to discuss it before the final implementation. The matter was reportedly left in cold storage to be taken up at the next House meeting.

However, a letter by Mr S.S. Sharma, a social worker, to the Principal Secretary, Local Government, sought tangible steps so that the said order under (flat rates) may not be implemented. Mr Bir said the matter was under consideration. He had been summoned to appear on February 25 in Chandigarh along with the copy of appeal. Mr Sharma, too, had been asked to attend on the said date by a notification the court of Secretary to the Punjab Government, Department of Local Government.

Mr Sharma had asserted that the imposition of “uniform” rates would be drastic for the low income and poorer sections of society, who would be clubbed with the high-income group to pay the same tariff.

He pointed out that a huge disparity in the usage of these services by different sections of society was evident from the ‘dissimilar’ consumption of water and the usage of sewerage by them.

He alleged that despite rules and regulations according to the Punjab Municipal Act major decisions like the above was required to be sent to the state government within a period of 72 hours.

However, the corporation had merely passed a resolution on this in the House. Also, according to the corporation’s proposal, the implementation of the rates was reportedly to be ordered in restrospect from July last year without the requisite consultations with the higher authorities, he alleged.


Jagmeet for Rs 100 increase in wheat MSP
Tribune News Service

SAS Nagar, February 16
All set to make his presence felt at the Parliamentary session beginning tomorrow is Mr Jagmeet Brar, Member Parliament from Gidderbaha, Punjab. Talking to Chandigarh Tribune today during a brief visit to the township, he refused to comment on the Gujarat episode involving two ministers and an MLA of Punjab. He said it was for the party leadership to decide on action, if any, on the matter.

Mr Brar would be demanding an increase of Rs 100 in the MSP of wheat for Punjab farmers. ‘‘The Centre also needs to be asked to release the MSP instalments of wheat and sugarcane. Some other issues that have been hanging fire with the Centre with regard to Punjab also need to be focused on by the MPs from the state. For example we need to take up the issue of waiving off the loan that Punjab has taken from the Centre. Punjab has received no grant from the Centre despite being drought- ridden.’’ he said.

He said the Congress needed to create its own B group of young politicians as had been done by the Akali Dal. 


Abohar-Fazilka rail line approved
Our Correspondent

Abohar, February 16
The district administration has issued a No Objection Certificate (NOC) to the Northern Railways to go ahead with the revised plan for linking Abohar with Fazilka by laying a new rail line, it is reliably learnt. The Executive Engineer of the Northern Railway had made the request for an NOC in October last year.

According to information available the Railways had provided a budget of Rs 32 crore almost five years ago for completing the initial formalities of this project. Four surveys were carried out. At the first stage there was a proposal to lay a rail link near the international border. The rail line was expected to cross NH-10 between Abohar and Fazilka. This would have created problems of traffic jam at the crossing. Then there were requests from the Haryana and Rajasthan Chief Ministers that Abohar should be provided a rail link with Dabwali in Sirsa district by covering Sadulshehar and Sangria on the way.

Revised plan will link the Abohar-Fazilka rail track at the outer signal in Fazilka and the Seeto Road Crossing at Abohar. The rail line was expected to touch Banwala, Rohrianwali, Heeranwali, Khuikhera, Katehra, Dangarkhera villages in Fazilka subdivision and Burjmuhar in Abohar subdivision. The surveyors had tried to keep the rail link away from constructed houses and places of worship. The total length of the line will be 42 km. No objections were received by the authorities to the notification under section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, it is learnt.

Another survey was now in progress to provide rail link between Abohar and Tohana. The towns to be covered include Bhoona, Fatehabad, Sirsa and Dabwali in Haryana and Sangria/Sadulshehar in Rajasthan. At present Abohar was not linked by rail with either of these states.

Welcoming the proposals, Mr Sunil Jakhar, MLA, said the Abohar and Fazilka areas had generally been neglected after Independence. Prior to that there was a link between Abohar and Karachi via Samarsatta, which was used for going to Delhi also. He urged the Railway Minister and Chairman of the Railways Board to use their good offices to speed up new rail line projects.


Health budget too low: Dr Trehan
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 16
Renowned cardiac surgeon Naresh Trehan feels that India requires large funds to improve its healthcare system.

Talking to newsmen after conducting the first heart surgery at the Escorts Heart and Superspeciality Institute on Friday night, he said that he alongwith the Confederation of Indian Industry had prepared a comprehensive 10-year healhcare plan, which required roughly Rs 1 lakh crore to provide people with better medical care. He said they had presented the plan to the government which had committed to provide Rs 60,000 crore during the 10 years while the private sector would have to pump in the remaining amount.

Dr Trehan lamented that the national planners had provided only 2 per cent of the gross national product (GDP) while even poor countries like Thailand have provided roughly 6-8 per cent for national healthcare. He urged the government to provide more funds for the health of the nation.

Dr Trehan said that in India there was only one doctor for 3,000 persons and had about 0.8 beds for 1,000 persons which is woefully low. He said that it should be the combined effort of the government, NGOs and private sector to provide proper health facilities. The executive director of the Escorts Hospital while answering a question, he said due to various hurdles, the insurance sector was not very keen to provide medical insurance cover to a large section of the population.

Commenting on the kidney scam involving one of the promoters of the Escorts Hospital here, Dr Parveen Kumar Sareen, he said that the hospital had decided that in case Dr Sareen is found guilty, the management would buy off his share as it would not like to be associated with a tainted doctor.


20 cops, wards booked in a year
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 16
Gurwinder Singh, alias Babbar, who was murdered on the busy Bhagu road of the town five days ago, was a son of a former Punjab Police official. One of his brothers is a Head Constable. Guru Iqbal Singh, one of the eight accused in the murder of Babbar, is also a son of a retired Sub-Inspector of the Punjab Police.

A few weeks ago, the police arrested three youths, for snatching chains in the town. Questioning revealed that two of them were sons of Assistant Sub-Inspectors (ASIs) of the police, including a woman ASI and one was brother of an ASI. In another case, two ASIs of the Punjab Police were arrested along with a Head Constable for the smuggling of narcotics. Later, one of the ASIs was rearrested for stealing vehicles. A year ago, a Punjab Police Inspector posted in the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) at Bathinda was murdered by his son. In another case, a son of a Head Constable was arrested for snatching chain. In yet another case, an ASI was arrested for snatching chain.

These instances reveal growing criminal tendencies among a section of policemen and their wards for the past two to three years. Over the past few years a trend appears to have emerged in the area in which policemen and their wards have taken to serious crimes. Sources said in the past three to four years, policemen from constable to Inspector in this neighbouring Sirsa district of Haryana and their wards were found involved in crimes like murder, abduction, corruption, smuggling of narcotics, chain-snatching and vehicle theft.

In Bathinda district, since March 2002 nearly 20 cases of immoral traffic, corruption, kidnapping and abduction, fraud, firing, eve-teasing and extortion were registered against policemen from constable to Sub-Inspector till date. The police authorities have claimed to have curbed corruption in the Police Department to a large extent, and started dealing strictly with such criminals.

“In the recent past, an ASI fired a few shots in the Police Lines. He was identified and arrested immediately. A case was registered against him and he was taken as more serious criminal than a normal criminal,” pointed out a senior functionary of the district police to The Tribune yesterday.

He added that another police official took a woman arrested for indulging in prostitution by the police, to his home. A case was registered against him and he was given the treatment given to other criminals. The authorities felt that fresh recruitment of constables had not been done in Punjab during the past 10 years and recruitment was being done from the SPOs and Home Guard jawans as per directions of the court and hence the Punjab Police authorities failed to introduce new mindset and educated people into the force. Senior police officials also felt that a sizeable number of women cops should be recruited in the Punjab Police so that they could even head a police station. This would help control crime by men in uniform.

Mr Ishwar Singh, SSP, said that none whether a policeman or a citizen, involved in crime, was being spared. He added that departmental and legal action was being taken against the policemen indulging in criminal activities.


Student’s death: Principal denies charges 
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 16
Refuting allegations levelled by a former sarpanch, Ms Surinder Kaur, that he was responsible for the death of her daughter, Amritpal Kaur, Dr Charanjit Singh Bal, Principal, Sri Guru Ram Dass Institute of Dental Sciences and Research said these allegations were baseless.

Amritpal Kaur had died on December 12 last year and as per the versions of a GRP driver and a guard of a Chhattisgarh train, Amritpal had committed suicide. He said as per information, relations between the mother and father of the deceased were strained, the proof of which was affidavits to this effect given by the mother, Ms Surinder, and father, Mr Kulwant Singh, of the deceased girl.

Domestic problems as one of the reasons behind her suicide could not be ruled out, he added. He said he was willing to face a probe into the case. He said the mother was alleging that her daughter had been murdered to facilitate a medical seat for another student, which was untrue, as any vacant seat could not be filled for four years as no rule existed on filling seats mid-session.

He said all pending security and other dues of the student had been reimbursed and the college management was disturbed by the incident. He said some vested interests were possibly misleading the parents of the deceased.


Combat RSS propaganda, say Sikh bodies
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, February 16
The ‘panthic vichar sammelan’ organised here by the Khalra Mission Committee and other radical Sikh organisations took today serious note of the alleged anti-Sikh propaganda by the RSS and other pro-Hindutva organisations and called the Sikhs to unite to face the “challenges of these organisations.”

Mr Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon, writer of the White Paper on the Operation Blue Star, Justice Ajit Singh Bains, president, Punjab Human Rights Organisation, Mr Inderjit Singh Jeji, president, Sarkari Jabbar Virodhi Lehar, Bibi Paramjit Kaur, Mr Dalbir Singh, a journalist, Mr Balwinder Singh Chabal, general secretary, Khalra Mission Committee, and other addressed the gathering. Three resolutions were passed at sammelan condemning the propaganda against Sikh principles. The sammelan condemned the government and the judiciary for its alleged anti-Sikh attitude and also condemned the death sentence awarded to Davinder Pal Singh. They demanded pardon for Davinder Pal Singh.

They called the Sikhs to raise their voice against the USA’s move to attack Iraq.


Evasion of market fee detected
Our Correspondent

Mansa, February 16
The payment of market fees and rural development fund (RDF) running into crores of rupees is being evaded by cotton factory owners on the purchase of cotton and narma in connivance with officials of market committees and a leader of the ruling party.

Investigation by this correspondent revealed that 2 per cent of the market fee and 2 per cent of the RDF is payable by the cotton factory owners to the market committees on the purchase of cotton and narma.

The field staff of the market committees conceal the actual arrivals of cotton and narma purchased by such cotton factories indulging in the evasion of the market fee and the RDF.

When the heaps of cotton and narma are auctioned, the officials concerned of the market committees do not register the actual stocks auctioned and when the stocks are lifted, they, in connivance with the cotton factory owners concerned and arhtiyas make entry in their register as desired by the factory owners.

The money thus saved is shared by the factory owners and officials of the market committees. Sources reveal that the “saved amount” is distributed among key employees of the market committee, thus the bungling continues to flourish with the connivance of district-levels officials of the market committee.


Gaiety marks Ravidas Jayanti
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, February 16
The ‘parkash utsav’ of Guru Ravidas was celebrated here today with religious fervour. Kirtans, parvachans and langars marked the celebrations. Congregations were held in gurdwaras related with Ravidas. Former AICC secretary and MP Santosh Chaudhary, local MLA and former minister Joginder Singh Mann and MLA from Sham Chaurasi Ram Lubhaya paid tributes to Guru Ravidas whose credo, they said, was egalitarian society and a casteless system. A major function was held at nearby Chak Hakim village. Devotees also illumined their housetops as part of the celebrations.

JALANDHAR: The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today claimed it was a calculated move by the Union Government to damage the economy of Punjab which was based mainly on agriculture.

Talking to mediapersons after participating in the 626 birth anniversary celebrations of Bhagat Ravidas here, he said the BJP move to do away with the minimum support price (MSP) of wheat and paddy would ruin the Punjab farmers as well as the state’s economy. He said he had demanded that the MSP of wheat for the coming season be fixed at Rs 726 per quintal but so far there had been no response from the Centre.

To a question, the Chief Minister said the dharna by the farmers in Gurdaspur, which entered the 12th day today, was justified as they had not been paid for the crop purchased by the sugar mills. However, instead of protesting here they should go to New Delhi and he and his ministers would join their protest, he said.

He said the new industrial policy of the state would be made public before March 1.

Mr Amarinder Singh said under fears of the MSP being scrapped, his government had initiated the move to educate the farmers to go in for diversification. Alternate cropping patterns by promoting agro-based industry and sowing crops other than wheat and paddy were being stressed upon by his government, he added.

Regarding the power sector, the Chief Minister said the financial position of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) had shown some improvement due to their collections. He said the board had been instructed to waive off the penalty on those farmers who had not paid their bills of the last few months and fresh instructions had been issued requesting these farmers to pay their bills in the next 15 days.

The government had earmarked a sum of Rs 20 crore under its Begampura Awas Yojana to provide free four-marla plots to Scheduled Castes in the state, the captain said.

The Chief Minister handed over a cheque for Rs 5 lakh to the Punjab Local Bodies Minister, Choudhary Jagjit Singh, for additional rooms in Guru Ravidas Bhawan.

A book on the life of Guru Ravidas was released on the occasion. Others who spoke on the occasion were Mr Avtar Henry, Mr Mohinder Singh Kaypee, Mr Amarjit Singh Samra, Mr Santokh Singh, all Punjab ministers, and DCC (Urban) president Tajinder Singh Bittu.


Paddy misappropriated by rice millers?
Our Correspondent

Mansa, February 16
Due to the failure of the district administration to conduct regular verification of stocks of paddy in the premises of rice mills, lakhs of quintals of paddy has been “misappropriated” by rice millers of the district.

In this connection, a number of criminal cases have been registered against various rice millers on the complaint of state foodgrain agencies. The state government had earlier formed committees in the state under the chairmanship of respective SDMs. All the district heads of the state procurement agencies were its members. The function of such committees was to conduct periodic verifications of foodgrain stocks so that the paddy was not misappropriated.

But during the past about six months, no such physical verification was conducted by any of the SDMs of all three subdivisions of the district. Sources reveal that similar is the situation in the whole of the state.

During the current season, paddy worth 2,92,598 quintals was procured by all state and central government agencies. Out of this procurement, rice weighing 1,41,936 quintals has been delivered to the FCI till date and the remaining paddy worth, 1,50,662 quintals is lying with the millers of the district. The last date of paddy milling throughout the state is March 31, 2003, and till date only 35 per cent of the total paddy purchased by the state agencies have been milled by the 130 rice millers of the district as compared to 73 per cent paddy of the FCI.

The millers of the district have purchased paddy equal to 4,741 quintals of rice out of which 3,318 quintals has been delivered to the FCI but paddy equal to 1,423 quintals of rice remains with the rice millers of the district. Hence, on an average, each rice miller has paddy equal to 11 quintals of rice with him.


Increments of PSWC officials stopped
Our Correspondent

Mansa, February 16
Mr Ashok Kumar Goel, Managing Director of Punjab State Warehousing Corporation (PSWC), Chandigarh, has ordered the stoppage of two annual increments of Mr Mohan Singh, former warehouse Manager, Rajpura, now posted here and Mr R.K. Verma, Godown Assistant, for causing a loss of Rs 4,65,85,440 to the PSWC.

The MD has further ordered to effect a recovery of Rs 4,65,85,440 from both these officials in the ratio of 50:50 in equal monthly instalments from their respective salaries in such a manner that they may draw 40 per cent carry home salary per month for subsistence.

He has further ordered that in case the loss is not recovered till their retirement, the balance amount be recovered from their pensionery benefits etc. The action has been taken by the MD as 57090 bags of paddy stored with M/s Karuna Exports Limited, Rajpura, during 1998-99 were misappropriated by the said company in connivance with the said officials while Mr S.K. Goyal, the then District Manager, PSWC, Patiala had not been found guilty. Earlier, the above officials along with Mr S.K. Goyal were charge-sheeted by the MD, PSWC and an inquiry was conducted by Mr D.K. Jain, a retired IAS officer.


Mentally challenged held near IAF station
Tribune News Service

Killi Bisiana, February 16
Even as the authorities have been trying to solve the mystery behind the arrest of a Pakistani woman, identified as Ramjano, from an area with close proximity to the local Air Force Station about six months ago, another mentally-challenged person was arrested today from the same area by the residents of Virk Kalan village, situated adjacent to Air Force Station here.

Police sources said a mentally challenged person, identified as Chander Singh Rawat, disclosed that he belonged to Almora district in Uttaranchal. However, when asked about his purpose of roaming in that particular area, he started talking incoherently.

Sources said after taking him into custody, the police admitted him into the local Civil Hospital as he had been feeling upset. The doctor attending on him found that his blood pressure was high. As Chander Singh Rawat had been admitted into the Civil Hospital, the police authorities or Air Force authorities could not extract any information from him. Earlier, the police and other concerned agencies failed to extract any information from Pakistani woman despite the fact that she remained in police custody for considerable time. At last the police had to take the help of medical specialists to find out the fact that whether she was sane or not.

The police would question Chander Singh Rawat after he was discharged from the hospital. One policeman had been deputed as his attendant.


Computer as tool in Gurbani study
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 16
Distinguished scholars participating in two-day international seminar on ‘Maru Solhe of Guru Nanak’ were of the opinion that this bani provides a new insight.

Detailed demonstrations by Dr K.S. Thind (USA) and Mr Baljinder Singh on the use of computer as a tool in Gurbani research impressed scholars.

The seminar, organised by Guru Nanak Dev University, concluded yesterday with 55 scholars presenting their paper.

Bhai Baldeep Singh a 13th generation ‘kirtankaar’ gave an impressive performance today. He is also disseminating knowledge of gurbani sangeet in various universities of Australia and America.


Country’s first computerised “naatshala”
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 16
The “Punjab naatshala,” a computerised theatre, the first of its kind in India, was inaugurated by noted playwright Gursharan Singh here last evening.

The theatre, which came into existence with the aim of promoting art theatre about three years ago, has now been fully computerised. According to Jagdish Sachdeva, an eminent art director, ‘naatshala’ had become the first theatre of the country with the light and sound systems controlled by digital programming.


Ex-cop held for murder of 3

Malerkotla, February 16
Three members of a family were murdered and four seriously injured by a former Head Constable of the Punjab Police with his .12 bore rifle in the Quila Rehmatgarh area here this evening. The police arrested the culprit. Des Raj, former Head Constable, shot three of his neighbours and their close relatives and injured others with his rifle over a family dispute.

On receiving information, the police immediately rushed to the spot and overpowered Des Raj. Even at that time he was firing on his victims.

Manjeet Kaur, wife of Chand Singh and Bhagwan Singh, son of Kabli Singh were killed on the spot while Lal Singh, another son of Kabli Singh, succumbed to his injuries in a hospital.

Chand Singh, another son of Kabli Singh, Tirlok Singh, son of Bhagwan Singh, Shamsher Singh, one more son of Chand Singh, and Rubina, daughter of Majid, were admitted to the local Civil Hospital in a critical condition.

The police has arrested Des Raj and has taken his rifle in its possession. A case has been registered. SP (D) Gurkirpal Singh also visited the spot.


Mann’s ultimatum to varsity on Punjabi
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 16
Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) president Simranjit Singh Mann said today that his party would hold protests at Punjabi University in case Vice-Chancellor Swaran Singh Boparai did not withdraw the anti-Punjabi language steps being taken by him.

Addressing a press conference here, Mr Mann said Punjabi University was formed to propagate the cause of Punjabi. He said despite the fact being clearly mentioned in the university Act it had recently taken steps which had diluted its Punjabi character. He said the university had allowed the recruitment of teachers who were not proficient in Punjabi, besides doing away with the teaching of Punjabi for science undergraduates.

The Akali leader said the university was also going against the tenets of Punjabi culture by establishing a hostel for the Scheduled Caste and Backward Class students. He said this was against the composite culture of Punjab and also against the teachings of the gurus who preached secularism. He said his party would be forced to organise a protest at the university if this was not checked.

The Akali leader said even the SGPC President was not giving any guidance to the community on the issue of Pakistan jathas on Baisakhi. He said Mr Badungar had failed to get an audience with the Deputy Prime Minister for months despite his party being a member of the NDA government. He said even now Mr Badungar was only writing letters to the Deputy Prime Minister. “We want results, not letters,” he added.

Mr Mann said the state government was trying to reinstate suspended police officers who were responsible for kidnappings and killings and was even trying to give them plum postings. He said this was unconstitutional and he had raised the issue at a meeting of MPs, which was attended by the Chief Minister.


Pharmacy students allege discrimination
Sukant Deepak

Patiala, February 16
Students of the Department of Pharmacy of Government Medical College, have alleged that they were being given a step-motherly treatment by the college administration in the matter of basic facilities.

Students of the two-year course in pharmacy said the laboratory in their department was ill-equipped. “Our department does not even have a water cooler and our repeated requests to the college administration in this regard have fallen on deaf ears. We have to go to other departments for drinking water. Toilets in the department are in bad shape, but the administration is least bothered to listen to our complaints,” said a student.

Mentioning that no effort has been made to provide them hostel facility despite repeated requests to the college administration, students said about 100 pharmacy students, mostly from outside Patiala, had to pay heavily for rented accommodation outside. The students said they had made several appeals to the officials concerned in that regard, but the administration was yet to take any step in that regard. Accusing the administration of favouring the medical students and “harassing” them, the pharmacy students stressed that they were not even allowed to use the college cafe facility. “We are being treated as untouchable, the college administration has so far failed to give any satisfactory reason as to why we cannot use the facility”, said one of the students.

Pleading not to name them, as they ‘feared for their 420 marks of internal assessment’, the students said even with regard to extra-curricular activities, the administration’s role was partisan. Leave alone participating, they were not even allowed to attend cultural functions organised by the college”, they said. Appealing that the college committee should listen to their complaints and undertake corrective measures, the students also alleged favoritism in selection of players for sports events and said the pharmacy students were generally “ignored” by the administration.

The Head of the Pharmacy Department of the college, Dr D.K. Sharma, said ‘he was not aware’ of the alleged problems being faced by the students. He maintained that the department was offering adequate facilities to the students and the college administration was not playing a partisan role as regards medical and pharmacy students.


Plan to give fillip to small-scale industry
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 16
Union Minister for Small-Scale Industry and Development of North East C.P. Thakur said today that a comprehensive plan had been drawn up to give a fillip to small-scale industry in the country in three phases.

Addressing a conference after taking part in a ‘murti sthapana’ programme held by the Nisswarth Pashu Sewa Society under the aegis of Mahant Atma Ram here, Mr Thakur said special emphasis would be laid on small-scale and cottage industries this year. He said a decision to this effect had been taken following an all-India survey carried out by the ministry.

As part of another move, it had been decided that 10 per cent of the revenue earned by the ministry would be spent on the industrial development in the North-East. He said this would be coupled with development schemes like the recent completion of the Indira Gandhi hospital in Meghalaya.

Mr Thakur said besides the North-Eastern states, a special industrial package had been made for Uttaranchal. Under this package small scale and cottage industries aimed at providing livelihood to the people of the State as well as ensuring a fillip to the traditional crafts of the region was also being planned.


Beopar Mandal protests tax officials’ raids
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, February 16
Members of the local Beopar Mandal and officials of the Sales Tax Department are at loggerheads on account of yesterday’s raids conducted by the sales tax authorities.

The trouble started at around 4 p.m. when the sales tax authorities, headed by Mr H.S. Punia, Excise and Taxation Officer (ETU), raided two shops, dealing in motor parts items, on the Dalhousie road.

According to Mr H.S. Punia, ETO, a mobile team on specific information raided the shops and seized objectionable documents.

When the team was carrying the documents in its official vehicle, some members of the Beopar Mandal snatched the documents and manhandled them. He said the members beat up the driver of the vehicle, Mr Ajit Khan Ghorya, and tore his clothes.

On the contrary, members of the be Beopar Mandal alleged that Mr H.S. Punia forcibly entered the shops and took the documents by force. He showed his service revolver to members of the Beopar Mandal. The members alleged that the act of the sales tax officials was totally illegal and uncalled for.

Meanwhile, news about the raids made shopkeepers of the town close their shops. The assembled on the Dalhousie road, opposite the court complex.

Mr Krishan Kumar, Additional Commissioner, Sales Tax, Mr Puneet Goyal, Sub Divisional Magistrate, Mr Manminder Singh, Superintendent of Police, and other senior officials reached the spot.

Members of the Beopar mandal blocked the road and began a dharna, raising anti-government slogans, demanding registration of criminal case against Mr H.S. Punia and others. The protesters even entered the SDM court complex, demanding the arrest of Mr Punia.

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