Wednesday, February 26, 2003, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Betrayed by own people: Manjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 25
Prof Manjit Singh former Jathedar Kesgarh Sahib today claimed that Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) President Kirpal Singh Badungar had levelled false allegations against him and even told a lie to the general house of the SGPC while removing him from the post of Jathedar of Kesgarh Sahib two days ago.

In a faxed letter addressed to the SGPC chief from Dwarka in Gujarat, which was released to The Tribune by Kanwar Manjit Singh, an associate of the former Jathedar, said he might have committed several mistakes in his life but he was satisfied that he had never committed any ill-intentioned immoral activity.

The former jathedar apparently was replying to the allegations levelled by the SGPC chief who had claimed before members of the SGPC general house that the charges against Prof. Manjit Singh were so ‘vulgar’ that these could not be disclosed in front of women members.

Prof Manjit Singh also claimed that the SGPC chief had ‘stabbed a friend’ by his actions as he had himself been involved in issues which were becoming difficult to solve. He even termed the action unjustified and unethical and said the SGPC chief might also not be able to answer it when he met his maker. He also claimed that he was surprised that the action had taken place one day after a statement in the press clarifying that he had issued a ‘hukamnama’ directing that women be allowed to do ‘sewa’ in Harmandar Sahib.

The former Jathedar said he was kept on tenterhooks earlier by the SGPC which set up a Fact-Finding Committee to look into allegations levelled against him and Akal Takth Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti. He said this Committee was yet to give its report despite having been formed four years back and even repeated requests from him that either his resignation be accepted or his name be cleared. He said the SGPC President had also taken a contradictory stand on the issue and he once issued a statement that all the allegations against him (Prof Manjit Singh) were false.

Prof Manjit Singh said he had served the ‘panth’ for the past 13 years. He said when he was assigned the responsibility, he took a vow not to succumb to threats or bullets and he had been true to the vow during his tenure. He said in this light he was feeling that his own people had betrayed him by levelling false allegations against him.

AMRITSAR: Defending the removal of Pof Manjit Singh as Jathedar of Kesgarh Sahib, Giani Bhagwan Singh, Head Granthi, Akal Takht (one of the five Sikh high priests) today disclosed that he had once told the then acting Jethedar, Akal Takht, Prof Manjit Singh, that he could not sit in meetings with him due to the serious charges levelled against him (Prof Manjit Singh).

“However, Prof Manjit Singh told me the next day that the persons who are at the helm of affairs want me (Giani Bhagwan Singh) to sit in the meetings of Sikh clergy”, he claimed.

In a written statement, here today Giani Bhagwan Singh said being an employee he ‘succumbed’ to the pressure and continued sitting in the meetings. He asked Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, the then Secretary, SGPC, why the SGPC had not taken action against Prof Manjit Singh following the charges against him at that time. Mr Calcutta had said that Giani Bhagwan Singh should be treated ‘guilty’ for sitting in the meetings with Prof Manjit Singh despite he (Giani Bhagwan Singh) having accused Prof Manjit Singh of ‘moral turpitude’.

Giani Bhagwan Singh had levelled charges of ‘moral turpitude’ against Prof Manjit Singh. These were never denied by him (Prof Manjit Singh).

Giani Bhagwan Singh said that the SGPC was competent to take action against the high priests if they were found ‘guilty’. He said there were precedents that high priests were removed by the SGPC even during the tenure of presidentship of Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, he said irrespective of the posts, the SGPC must have control over the persons appointed by it.


Marching from ‘stability to development’
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 25
If, for Capt Amarinder Singh 2002 was the “year of stabilisation”, the next year 2003 has been designated as the “year of development”.

Having inherited from the Akalis a “dismal state with empty coffers and a huge debt of Rs 32,486 crore and contingent liabilities due to issue of guarantees for loans to public sector undertakings of Rs 7,280 crore, we started from a scratch. But slowly and surely have improved the fiscal health through a series of reforms and focusing on providing a corruption-free governance”.

This is how the Chief Minister summed up the achievements of his government, which completes one year in office on Thursday. He was speaking at a “Meet-the-Press” programme at the Chandigarh Press Club here today.

Capt Amarinder Singh elaborated on his hypothesis by giving details as to how much had been the increase in revenue receipts or decrease in revenue expenditure or reduction in fiscal, revenue deficits or releases made for specific socio-economic activities. Even annual growth of the non-plan expenditure was down from 16 per cent to 2 per cent. He compared the performance of his government with that of the Akalis and listed several “bold” decisions taken in the past one year that had opened opportunities to avail of financial assistance from the international multi-lateral funding agencies like the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank.

To promote rural development, the panchayats were given Rs 95 crore during the year against Rs 57 crore by the Akalis in 2001-02. Another Rs 177 crore is committed to panchayats, which will get in all Rs 240 crore by early next financial year. Similarly, Capt Amarinder Singh said rural water supply schemes were released Rs 98 crore. A Rs 817 crore project has been submitted for sanction to the World Bank. For major and medium irrigation projects, Rs 164 crore has been released. If “Sarb sikhya abhiyhan” got Rs 130 crore and police modernisation Rs 103 crore, the state gave Rs 32 crore to medical colleges to provide adequate facilities for students whose hostels are in a deplorable condition

He said a thorough probe into the number of claimants under various pension schemes showed there were 1.40 lakh bogus beneficiaries, courtesy Akali government. After verification, pension was resumed to genuine beneficiaries and Rs 75 crore disbursed, while Rs 65 core more was in the pipeline.

The Punjab State Electricity Board was given Rs 950 crore for providing subsidised power to agriculture pump sets and free power to poor Scheduled Caste households. Farmers were paying the bills and there was no adverse reaction to the withdrawal of facility of free power given by the Akalis. “At least 95 per cent of the bills have been realised from the farmers”. The state has received the report on power reforms, which aims at providing cheap and continuous electricity to the consumers. All this became possible due to fiscal correction programmes, he added.

In the process, the employees too have been benefited. They were given additional dearness allowance to the tune of Rs 104 crore which put them at the top among all government employees in the country.

Capt Amarinder Singh said his promise of clean governance, right up to the cutting edge of the administration, aided by an anti-corruption campaign had yielded dividends. As a consequence 216 vigilance inquiries against government officials and public servants had been registered since March 1 last. Among these are nine ex-ministers, four IAS officers, six IFS officers, two Superintendents of Police and four Deputy Superintendents of Police and 123 other gazetted officers.

Talking about agriculture and farmers’ problems, the Chief Minister said that policies of the BJP government were not in favour of the farmers, particularly in respect of the minimum support price for food grains and procurement, thereof by the state. There was talk of dismantling this system. Punjab was aware of the consequences and has opposed it. It had also framed a diversification programme, which had been submitted to the Centre. The worry at present was a huge stock of sugar worth Rs 500 crore which the Centre was not permitting the state to sell. “It is an irony that sugar from Gujarat and Maharashtra is being sold in J and K, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh, while Punjab sugar is turning bitter. Yet, despite all the constraints, sugar dues of farmers have been paid. Even promised bonus on wheat is being disbursed”. He also said there would be no more “diversion” of food account funds as the Akalis did to the tune of Rs 2,700 crore. “Now a separate food procurement company has been formed”.

Capt Amarinder Singh also talked of functioning of loss-making public sector undertakings and proposals on disinvestment in at least five of them.

“The government is concerned at the menace of drug addiction among the youth. A survey has shown that in Ludhiana alone among college students, 50 per cent boys and 47 per cent girls are drug addicts. We are taking steps to open de-addiction centres”.

On introduction of English, the Chief Minister was convinced that this language must be introduced from Class 1. He reminded the mediapersons that India had to compete with China in future. “If China can import 2.40 lakh English-knowing teachers to teach its children, why should Punjab lag behind”?


Amarinder, Mufti discuss bilateral issues
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 25
A delegation led by the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, today called on the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, to discuss certain bilateral issues involving the two states, especially pertaining to Ranjit Sagar Dam and the Shahpur Kandi project.

Capt Amarinder Singh told his counterpart from J and K that the construction of the bridge upstream the Ranjit Sagar Dal linking Basoli with Punjab was to be done by the Border Roads Organisation ( BRO) with funds to be provided by the Union Government. The work on the Dhar-Udhampur road had been undertaken by the BRO and it needed to be expedited.

Regarding the release of additional 450 cusecs of water as per agreement, Capt Amarinder Singh that he had no objection to it but it could only be feasible after the completion of the Shahpur Kandi hydro electric project on which work could not be taken up for want of funds. The J and K Government was free to establish lift irrigation arrangement .

For resolving other issues such as employment of oustees from the land acquired for Ranjit Sagar Dam and for coordination on other issues such as tourism, fishing, boating, navigation etc, two separate high level committees have been set up.


US citizen ‘forced to terminate’ journey midway
Tribune News Service

Miani (Hoshiarpur), February 25
Mr Dildar Gotra, a US citizen and NRI, originally from this village left New York on Friday had to terminate his journey at Amritsar International Airport — as immigration officials there found his passport to be fake and tore it up.

Dildar Gotra’s plea to immigration officials that he was a US citizen since 1997 and had travelled to India for six times on the same passport and that the US passports of his children and wife with him were proof of his travelling on genuine one failed and the officials ‘harassed’ him for more than three hours making him terminate his journey midway.

The Immigration officials at Amritsar denied his allegations. He presented his US passport, which allegedly was “torn up” by officials, alleging he was travelling on a “fake passport”.

“Immigration officials took me aside and told that I could not travel as my passport (No. 156528053) which was valid up to July 15, 2007 — was fake”. I had already got the boarding pass and deposited my luggage. When I contested their point, officials took me to another room and told that I could travel if I offered “something” to them. As I refused and insisted that my US passport was original, an official tried to remove lamination and in the process the passport got torn up. This continued for three hours till 4.30 a.m. and my flight left at 4.50 a.m.,” rued Mr Gotra. Showing US passports of his children Satinder Pal (15), Maninder Kaur (18) Ravinder Kaur (10) and wife Kulwant Kaur, Mr Gotra all these documents, including the US driving licence, failed to satisfy the officials, who even called up his residence here where the phone number of the immigration office could be identified due to the caller ID installed the line.

“They also talked to my wife back home in this village and also to my brother Karnail Singh, who was travelling with me to USA, but their assurances that my passport was original failed to convince them. I had to return to my village early in the morning. When my brother tried to intervene, he was rebuked by the officials who ordered him to “mind his own business” and threatened him, said Mr Dildar Gotra, based at New York where he is in construction business and where he was required in two court cases.

Mr Gotra said he had come to India via Amritsar International Airport on the basis of same passport and travelled to India earlier for six times on the same passport. When contacted over phone, some Immigration official on the other side, who did not reveal name despite repeated requests, said no such passenger had come to the airport and held back on the said date. The official even refused to transfer the call to his boss.


Kidney racket probe ‘biased’
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 25
Expressing serious doubts over the functioning of SIT (special investigation team) inquiring into kidney racket, Mr Satya Pal Dang, a CPI leader, has said vital links are found missing in investigations conducted so far adding that those names which figured in the initial investigations have “mysteriously” disappeared.

Addressing a press conference here today, Mr Dang said the functioning of the SIT must be reviewed and streamlined. While no politicians, including a former Chief Minister, other ministers, MLAs, police officers and even an IG-rank officer was touched, Magistrates and members of judiciary were also being “let-off’ without any investigation despite they (Magistrates) being signatories to false affidavits.

“Why wasn’t the Chief Justice informed about the role of these legal officers against whom uncontroversial evidence is present?” he asked.

“Similarly there was contradictory statements about three Amritsar journalists. At first, it was said they had been paid Rs 5 lakh, but later on it was said that no evidence was available,” he added. A case about kidney transplantation in Tarn Taran was hushed up, he alleged.

Reports of Rs 50 lakh given to a former Chief Minister by Dr P.K. Sareen on an unscheduled visit had not been taken seriously. Contradictory statements about a hospital in Jalandhar, notorious for kidney transplants, too have been made by a senior IG-rank member of the SIT, Mr Dang alleged.

Incidentally, this is the same hospital which was referred to by Dr Bhagat Makkar, a UK-based doctor, in an interview with a journalist, as the place where kidney transplant could easily be undertaken and a donor procured for money.

The leader said while the UK Government immediately dismissed the doctor and cancelled his licence, our government’s pace and style of working was under a cloud.

Mr Dang said all ill-gotten wealth of persons involved in the racket should be confiscated, kidney transplant departments should be opened in some government hospitals, the clause of love and affection be deleted, a register should be maintained for voluntary donors and transplants might be done from braindead persons as was being practiced world over.


1 killed in explosion near cantonment
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 25
A high-grade bomb exploded here this evening close to the Asia’s biggest cantonment, killing one person and seriously injuring another.

The bomb exploded in the hutments situated on a vacant piece of land adjoining the cantonment when a person was trying to extract some metallic material from the debris lying there. A big crater was created at the site of blast while the boundary wall of nearby house was damaged.

The deceased was identified as Nanak Lal. The condition of the injured, who has been identified as Karnail Singh, was stated to be serious. He has been admitted to the local Civil Hospital.

This is the third bomb blast of its kind in the city and its surrounding areas in the past three years. Earlier, a bomb blast in the shop of a junk dealer had claimed six lives in the Chandsar Basti, while another blast that took place in the house of a junk dealer in Nathana town exactly six months ago claimed one life. On February 12, 2003, the police authorities found an anti-tank bomb’s shell from the Bathinda branch of the Sirhind canal passing from here.

Interestingly, the authorities concerned failed to find out from where the shells had been landing in the city and its surrounding areas, particularly in the hutments of slum areas and shops of junk dealers.

Eyewitness said the bomb exploded with a big bang and there was a cloud of smoke after that. The body of the victim was cut into pieces, which were scattered here and there.

Ricky, the elder son of the deceased, said small children living in hutments had been collecting scrap and junk material from nearby areas, including area close to the cantonment.

Officials of the Army intelligence wing who reached the spot denied that explosive material, suspected to be high-grade bomb, was stolen from the ammunition depot, located in the cantonment. They said it had been provided with fool-proof security.

Mr Anurag Verma, Deputy Commissioner, who along with the district police chief, Mr Ishwar Singh, reached the site of the blast after getting information about the incident said the district police authorities were investigating the matter. He added that Rs 10,000 would be given to the next kin of the deceased and Rs 5000 would be given to the injured as aid from the Red Cross funds.

Mr Ishwar Singh, SSP, while claiming that the blast was purely accidental, said the anti-sabotage team of the police had been pressed into service to find out the reasons behind the blast. He added that the district police authorities had convened a number of meetings of junk dealers to educate them about collecting such material.

He added that the anti-sabotage team of the Punjab Police would check all hutments located adjacent to the cantonment. A case in connection with explosion would be registered.


Man dies in police custody
Shashi Pal Jain

Kharar, February 25
Sadhu Singh (52), an ex-serviceman belonging to Balmiki community and a resident of Mundi Kharar village in Kharar Municipal limits, died while in custody of the Kharar police last night. The local police has registered a case against head constable Amar Singh and SPO Manjeet Singh under Sections 302 and 34 of the IPC.

According to an FIR lodged with the Kharar police on a complaint by Mr Kashmira Singh, father-in-law of the deceased, Sadhu Singh had a quarrel with his neighbour Sher Singh, following which a complaint was lodged against him with the police. He was picked up by the two policemen around 5.30 pm from his house, who later dropped him dead at his house between 7 and 8 pm. Some neighbours saw the two policemen drop the body.

Mr Rupinder Singh, DSP, reached the spot in the morning and managed to pacify the family members.

Mr Balwant Singh, secretary, CPI(M) Punjab, also visited the family. While talking to mediapersons he said it was a clear case of custodial death.

Mr Bir Devinder Singh, MLA, after visiting the spot talked to the Civil Surgeon, Ropar, and the Deputy Commissioner in this connection. He said an advocate of the Human Rights Watch, Mr Anil Kaushiq, had been engaged for the case free of cost.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Commissioner has ordered a magisterial inquiry into the custodial death and deputed Mr S S Gill, SDM Kharar, to conduct the inquiry.

Mr Charanjit Singh, former president of the municipal committee, while condemning the incident, demanded that a sum of Rs 5 lakh be given to the family of the deceased as compensation.

Many political leaders also visited the family of the deceased today.

Meanwhile, Dr S.S. Dhanoa, SMO Civil Hospital, while talking to Chandigarh Tribune said a post-mortem examination of the body had been conducted by a board of doctors and the viscera had been sent for chemical examination.

Mr G.S. Bhullar, SSP Ropar, while talking to mediapersons said those guilty would not be spared.


Cong ferries voters from Jalandhar
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 25
Keeping in view the party’s high stakes in Himachal Pradesh and making a unique effort to woo voters in the neighbouring state, the District Congress Committee (Urban) today ferried a large number of migrants from Himachal Pradesh, who were working in different parts of Jalandhar district, to their original place of residence so that they could participate in the elections tomorrow.

A large number of prospective voters, who have been working in Jalandhar and adjoining townships, were dispatched to Himachal Pradesh by the DCC (Urban), which arranged about 12 Tata Sumo vehicles for the purpose.

The vehicles, which left from different pre-determined places in Jalandhar and adjoining townships this afternoon, would drop such people at their respective homes, so that they could participate in the elections and persuade their relatives and acquaintances to vote in favour of the party.

Mr Tejinder Bittu, president of the DCC (Urban), who arranged the vehicles, said the step was taken in accordance with the directions of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief, Mr H.S. Hanspal, who wanted that the people of the hill state, who were working in different parts of the Doaba region, should have the opportunity to participate in the election process. Mr Bittu admitted that before leaving they were urged by party leaders to persuade their family members and relatives to vote in favour of the Congress.


11 file nomination papers
Our Correspondent

Kharar, February 25
The process of filing nomination papers for the forthcoming municipal elections in Kharar and Kurali has gained momentum. As many as 11 candidates filed their nomination papers for Kharar MC at the office of the Kharar SDM, Mr S.S. Gill, bringing the total number of candidates to have filed for Kharar to 13. Similarly, as many as 13 candidates filed their nomination papers for Kurali municipal committee today.

Mr Om Parkash Sharma, former president MC, Kharar, filed his nomination paper for ward number 14. Similarly, Mr Dinesh Aggarwal filed his nomination paper for ward number 15.
Campaign gains momentum: Election campaign gathered momentum today after senior leaders of the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal joined rallies in support of the candidates who are in the fray for the Zirakpur nagar panchayat elections here today.
While Capt Kanwaljit Singh, local MLA and general secretary of the SAD, addressed rallies at Lohgarh village seeking support for Mr Narinder Sharma, a former sarpanch of the village, Mr Hardyal Singh Kamboj, president of District Congress, launched election campaign of Mr Jaspal Singh, a former sarpanch of Zirakpur village.
In his speech, Capt Kanwaljit Singh criticised the Congress for putting all the development works of the 30-yr-old nagar panchayat to a halt. He also held the Congress responsible for restricting construction within a distance of 900 metres from the outer crust of the Defence installation in the area.
On the other hand, the Congress leaders, including Mr Kamboj, Mr Krishan Pal Sharma, a member of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, Mr Jaswant Singh Saini and Mr Harbhajan Singh Saini, flayed the previous Akali government for deteriorating the economy of the state.


Govt nod to panorama project
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 25
The Punjab Government has given its final nod to the prestigious Maharaja Ranjit Singh Panorama Project to be set up at the historic Ram Bagh Gardens here. The Minister of State for Tourism, Culture and Industry, Mr Ashwani Sekhri, said the project would be executed by the Kolkata-based National Council for Science Museums.

Talking to The Tribune on phone from Chandigarh, Mr Sekhri said a special meeting was held last week to give final shape to the project, which had been hanging fire for the past over one year. The Municipal Corporation here has already allotted a piece of land, measuring 10000 sq m in the Ram Bagh Gardens, where the panorama would be located. He said this would be the second such project in the country. The first one is located at Kurukshetra, depicting the Mahabharata epic.

The Department of Culture, Government of India, has earmarked Rs 5 crore for the construction of the panorama, which will depict the life and achievements of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Mr Sekhri said the government had enlisted a three-member panel of historians, comprising Dr Kirpal Singh, Dr J.S. Garewal and Dr Param Bakshish Singh, to write the script for the panorama concept, which would be incorporated by the National Conference of Science Museums, Kolkata. He said Dr Banerjee, in charge of the museum had been entrusted with the task of preparing the blue print for the project. The minister said the foundation stone for the panorama would be laid by the next month and hoped to complete the project within one year.

Mr Sekhri said the Heritage and Tourist Foundation would organise a two-day National Tourism Conclave to focus on the tourist potential of the holy city of Amritsar on March 2 and 3. The Union Minister of Civil Aviation, Mr Shah Nawaz Hussain, along with Minister of State, Mr S.Y. Naik, Secretary, Ministry of Tourism and Culture, and Director-General Civil Aviation, Mr Satindra Singh, Chairman, Airports-Authority of India, Mr S.K. Narula, and representatives from the field of tourism, airlines and hotels would be participating in the meet.


Bail plea
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 25
Taking up a petition filed by Punjab MLA Ajit Singh Kohar, seeking the grant of bail in a cheating and corruption case, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday fixed March 3 as the next date of hearing in the case.

He was earlier booked by the Vigilance Department in a case registered under Sections 420 and 120-B of the Indian Penal Code, besides under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

According to the prosecution, the petitioner, in 1999, had purchased land by way of benami transaction in Faridkot district and had also obtained five tube-well connections in the names of relatives on priority basis. Seeking the grant of bail, his counsel had contended that the petitioner had been implicated in a false case. 


Probe minister’s links with criminals: BJP
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, February 25
While accusing the Congress government in the state of patronising criminals, the Punjab BJP has decided to approach the state Governor to order a probe into the alleged links of Punjab PWD (B&R) Minister, Mr Partap Singh Bajwa, with criminals.

Addressing a press conference here today, the senior vice-president of the state BJP, Mr Vijay Sampla, alleged that a murder accused had been selected by Mr Bajwa to become witness in a criminal case filed against Gujarat Chief Minister Narindra Modi in a local court on February 18.

Mr Sampla was reacting to a news-item published in a Chandigarh-based Hindi daily about one Charanjit Singh Channi, a murder accused, who got recorded his statement as a witness against Mr Narindra Modi in a criminal complaint case in a city court here on Monday.

He further said that the then District and Sessions Judge, Mr M.M. Aggarwal, had issued non-bailable arrest warrants against Mr Charanjit Channi in the murder case of a farmer, on the premises of the Maqsoodan police station on February 1 last year.

A delegation of the state BJP would submit a memorandum to the Governor next week, demanding probe into links of Mr Bajwa with the criminals, he said.


No telecom link for a week
Raj Sadosh

Abohar, February 25
Telecom link to Khairpur village, the worst-affected by a cyclonic squall in this subdivision, remains snapped even after a week of the calamity. Telephone poles lie broken in the streets as villagers use tents provided by the local administration to shelter labourers and cattle.

Mr Vijay Pal Singh’s orchard of kinnow and citrus plants, spread over 40 acres, weans a deserted look. A heart patient, he had to supervise rescue operations of the fruit plants uprooted by the squall. His kin Jagdish Chander, Om Parkash and Udaypal — are equal sufferers. The Tribune team, during its second visit to the area today, found the lintel of Jagdish’s bungalow at a distance of 30 feet from the house. Two tractor-trailers were found overturned in a nearby field.

Mr Boota Ram, sarpanch of Khairpur, pointed at a 100-year-old tree that was among 300 trees uprooted by the squall. Students, he said had begun preparations for the annual exams at Panchayat Ghar.

None was seriously injured in the squall that hit the village for 15 seconds on Tuesday last. But this was sufficient for damaging 85 per cent houses. The mustard crop was totally damaged and the loss to the wheat crop was 50 per cent.

Residents were all praise for Abohar MLA Sunil Jakhar who visited the village yesterday. Mr Jakhar distributed wheat, pulses and ghee.

The local MLA, Mr Parkash Singh Bhatti, was hooted down when he tried to address residents four days after the disaster. He failed to justify his absence from rescue and relief work.

The SAD President, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, had visited the affected families third days after the squall.

The PSEB, too, was criticised for not making concrete efforts to restore supply of electricity to the affected villages. Only the water works and a flour mill were provided supply today. Almost all power poles were lying broken.

The Health Department held a camp at Khairpur today where Dr S.K. Juneja, SMO, and Dr Jagdish Thakkar, treated 120 patients.


VP Singh to address Kisan Sabha
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, February 25
A conference of the All-India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) will be held here from March 6 to 9, which would be attended by two former Prime Ministers and the Chief Minister of West Bengal, along with 750 delegates representing 23 states of the country.

The conference will be inaugurated on March 6 by Mr Harkishen Singh Surjeet, General Secretary, Communist Party of India (Marxist), and one of the founder members of the AIKS.

On the concluding day of the conference, a rally would be organised which would be addressed by Mr V.P. Singh and Mr H.D. Devegowda, both former Prime Ministers, Mr Buddhadev Bhattacharya, Chief Minister of West Bengal, and Mr Jyoti Basu, former CM of West Bengal, Mr S.R. Pillai, president of AIKS, said here yesterday.

The proceedings of the Kisan Sabha conference would be divided into four commissions to discuss the impact of the WTO on the agriculture sector, globalisation and liberalisation, irrigation-related issues like the impact of the proposed centralisation of water resources, credit facilities to farmers and social issues, including measures to be taken up to meet the results of natural calamities, Mr Pillai said

Apart from Indian delegates of the sabha, which has over 1.57 crore members, fraternal delegates from Trade Union International, Paris, France, China, Cuba, Vietnam and Sri Lanka would also attend the conference.

Mr Pillai expressed concern over the plight of farmers and said the peasants reeling under heavy debt by the recent natural calamities and adverse policies, allegedly on the dictates of international lending agencies of the Union Government had made their life even more tough.


Roads cleared of encroachments
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, February 25
Municipal Council Executive Officer Kamal Kant Goyal here today in an operation which lasted two hours cleared main bazaars of the city of the temporary encroachments made by shopkeepers and roadside vendors. Certain shopkeepers alleged discrimination by the authorities while removing encroachments in the Dhobi bazaar. They pointed out encroachments in the Gole Diggi market were not touched.

Sources said that the anti-encroachment drive was started from the Mall Road of the city and the surrounding areas including Dhobi Bazaar, Post Office Bazaar and the hospital Bazaar were cleared of encroachments. Three tractor-trailers were used to cart away the signboards, power generators and many signboards were taken into possession by the council. Owner of a building on the Mall Road, near the Railway Station, entered into arguments with the SP.

While high-profile shopkeepers were spared, sources said that 100 rehris were also taken into possession and some of the shopkeepers put down the shutters. Several appeals had been made to shopkeepers for removing encroachments voluntarily.

Mr Goyal, said that the drive would continue and “erring” shopkeepers would be fined. He declined to divulge the penalty to be imposed.

No official replied to a question on encroachments on the Bathinda-Goniana road near the Ganesha Basti bus stop which had considerably reduced width of the road. This traffic bottleneck has been created due to storing of construction material by some dealers on the road.


Rs 11.5 lakh for renovation of fort
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, February 25
A sum of Rs 11.5 lakh has been sanctioned for the renovation of the Gobindgarh fort in Bathinda.

The fort, which is believed to be more than 1800 years old, had served as an important military fort. With the efforts of the district administration, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has started work on a war-footing.

Stating this here today, Mr Anurag Verma, Deputy Commissioner, said the ASI would spend Rs 3.5 lakh on restoration of the historical gurdwara. The ‘Nishan Sahib’ of the gurdwara was installed by the Sikh Regiment. Another Rs 2 lakh would be spent on the beautification of lawns.


Four BKU (E) leaders get bail
Our Correspondent

Mansa, February 25
The district administration arranged for the sureties of four of the detained BKU(E) leaders, who were arrested on February 1 by the Sardulgarh police under Section 380 of the IPC.

Assistant Sub-Inspectors of Punjab police — Paritpal Singh and Tirlochan Singh — yesterday filed bail bonds for Mr Malook Singh Hirke, senior vice-president of the state unit, Mr Nirmal Singh Khokhar, general secretary of the district unit, Mr Bhola Singh, block Mansa president, and farmer Lat Singh Jhandekalan in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Mansa, Mr Harsh Mehta.


Justice Jain heads rights panel
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 25
The Punjab Government has appointed, Justice N.C. Jain, former Chief Justice of the Guwahati High Court, as Chairperson of the Punjab State Human Rights Commission.

The slot fell vacant following the retirement of Justice V.K. Khanna, a few months ago. Mr N.K. Arora, has been officiating as Chairperson of the commission. Two other slots of members are yet to be filled.


Rail section electrified

Phillaur, February 25
Electrification work on the Ludhiana-Phagwara rail section was completed last evening and a goods train with electric rail engine plied successfully between Ludhiana and Phagwara, while it proceeded to Amritsar with a replaced diesel engine from the Phagwara railway station.

Railways sources said here today that the electrification of rail track between Phagwara and Jalandhar would be completed by March 31. OC


Bar members stage walkout
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 25
Members of the District Tax Bar Association, Bathinda, today staged a walkout from the meeting convened by the Excise and Taxation Department authorities to educate them about the Value-Added Tax (VAT) system. They protested against the behaviour of a senior woman functionary of the department with them.


Half-day holiday tomorrow
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 25
Offices of the Punjab Government boards and corporations and its educational institutions and other departments will remain closed in the post-lunch session in Chandigarh and Punjab on February 27 to enable the employees to take part in the shobha yatra to be held in connection with Maha Shivratri.


Farmers stage dharna
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 25
Activists of the Bharti Kisan Union (Rajewal) yesterday staged a dharna in front of the house of the Dirba MLA, Mr Surjit Singh Dhiman, in Dirba village in support of their demands and to remind the Congress government of its promises made to farmers during the Assembly elections.

Subedar Jhanda Singh, president of the district unit of the BKU, said the Congress had made tall promises to farmers during the Assembly elections but instead of fulfilling these had withdrawn the free power facility to them. It had also not given Rs 30 per quintal as bonus on paddy. Mr Labh Singh Karrel, vice-president of the district unit of the BKU, said the government had also not paid the arrears of the dues for sugarcane to farmers in some parts of the state.


Govt adopts Bassi Pathana villages
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, Feb 25
The Punjab Government has adopted Raillon and Nadpur villages of Bassi Pathana block of total 13 villages in Fatehgarh Sahib district. Facilities like sanitation, construction of roads with mechanised pre-fabricated techniques, solar streetlights, water supply, 24-hour power supply, duckweed technique to purify village pond water will be provided under the scheme.

Dr Harbans Lal, State Minister for Food and Civil Supplies, said this here today that about four villages of each block of the state had been adopted under the scheme which would be developed as modern villages. He said the scheme would be largely extended during the next financial year. He said the completion of the scheme would be a major achievement towards the fulfilment of promises made by the Congress as the state had decided to observe the year as ‘Development Year’. He said the development of backward rural areas was the top priority of the state government. He further informed that Rs 3.5 crore would be spent on 15 villages to be developed under this scheme.

Meanwhile, the residents of the villages concerned have welcomed the decision. Mr Gurvinder Singh Dhillon, chairman, Mr Bhupinder Kaur, vice-chairperson, Block Samiti, Bassi Pathana, Block Samiti Members, besides others expressed gratitude on the implementation of the scheme. The scheme would provide a platform for the unemployed youth, they said.


Cabinet expansion on anvil
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 25
The much-awaited expansion of the Punjab Council of Ministers is likely to take place before commencement of the Budget session beginning March 14. 

This was hinted by the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, at a ‘’meet-the-Press’’ programme at the Chandigarh Press Club here today. He was answering to question if he was ‘’satisfied’’ with the quality and performance of his ministers.

The expansion was delayed partly because of the Himachal Pradesh assembly elections.

He also discounted rumour of the AICC President, Ms Sonia Gandhi distancing from him. ‘’We all had jobs assigned to us. We, of course, had coffee in the Chandigarh airport lounge, where I received her and saw her off’’.


SPO held for ‘raping’ minor
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 25
The police today arrested Jai Parkash, an SPO posted at the Sherpur police station, for allegedly raping a minor girl of the Sherpur village.

Giving this information over phone this evening, the police said, on a complaint of the father of minor girl, it had registered a case against Jai Parkash and Dr Chander Rekha of Barnala under Sections 363, 366, 376, 313 and 315 of the IPC.


Rickshaw-puller held for bid to rape girl
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, February 25
The police has arrested a rickshaw-puller while he was attempting to rape a child. With his arrest, the police has also solved a year-old rape case of a four-year-old girl.

Mr Varinder Kumar, Senior Superintendent of Police, stated in a press note here today that the parents of a seven-year-old girl living in the Santoshi Nagar locality overpowered the accused on Sunday when he tried to rape her.

The arrested person has been identified as Abdul Hamid of Bihar.

A case under Sections 363, 366, 376 and 511of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) has been registered. The child was handed over to the parents after medical examination.

During the preliminary interrogation, the accused revealed that he had committed a similar crime last year. He said on the night of May 1, 2002, he abducted a four-year-old girl from Industrial Estate, Jalandhar, and raped her in an adjoining vacant plot.


ASI held for dacoity

Phagwara, February 25
The Punjab Police today arrested Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) Sanjeev Kumar under Sections 395/452/342 of the IPC and the Arms Act. Sanjeev Kumar and four other cops have been charged with dacoity, criminal assault and wrongful confinement after being indicted in a report for booking one Sukhraj Ram Singh in a fabricated case.

Sanjeev Kumar was produced before judicial magistrate Phagwara who sent him to judicial custody till March 10.

Sanjeev Kumar reportedly went to the office of Sukhraj Singh, director, Wadhawan Forex Private Limited along with four other police personnel, at around 7.3 p.m. hrs on February 23 last year and took away Rs 20 lakh at gun point. Sukhraj Singh was arrested on allegations of involvement in “hawala” transactions and sections 411,414, besides cB/cC of the Foreign Exchange and the Regulation Act were slapped on him.

Mr Singh was kept in police custody for three days before he was released on bail on February 26. of the booty, Rs 10 lakh was reportedly distributed among the ASI and others, while the remaining Rs 10 lakh was shown as “hawala money”, it was learnt. Mr Singh approached the intelligence and police high-ups for justice and inquiries revealed that the FIR registered against him was false.

Mr Singh later knocked at the door of the CBI and other government agencies for justice, and SSP Kapurthala R.N.Dhoke later ordered to register a case against the ASI and the four cops on October 11 last year.

Meanwhile, ASI Sanjeev Kumar succeeded to get stay for his arrest from high court, but the application of the ASI was rejected by the court in December. The police is looking for the other accused. UNI 


Sarpanch booked for encroachment attempt

Ropar, February 25
The Ropar police has booked Mr Avtar Singh, sarpanch of Surtapur village, and Mr Paramjit Singh of Nunowal for trying to encroach land owned by the Agriculture Department of Punjab.

Police sources said on Sunday night the accused ploughed 150 acres land of Birla Farm and tried to take possession of the same. The accused were, however, evicted from the land due to timely action by the district administration. A case under Section 447 of the IPC was registered against them on a complaint by department officials.

The department had recently taken over control of 600 acres of the farm from Punjab Agriculture University. However, the sources said, the department had not yet provided the budget or the manpower to the local agriculture authorities to run the farm. OC


Kidnap suspect taken to Jaipur
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, February 25
The Rajasthan police took custody of Dhanjay Kumar, an engineer working with an MNC here. He was arrested by the police here for abduction.

Sources said that the engineer was taken on transit remand to Jaipur today. He was arrested for the alleged abduction of Mrs Sumedha wife of Rashmi Kant Durlabji, a jeweller. The abductors reportedly had demanded Rs 2 crore ransom. Sources said that Ms Sumedha was rescued by the police from Faridabad on Sunday and several gang members were arrested. She was recovered from a place rented by Dhanjay. He is an accomplice of Ajay Kumar, kingpin of the gang of kidnappers, the sources said.


Teachers seek CM’s help
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, February 25
The Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers Union today flayed cut in the salaries of staff of over 24 private colleges because of shrinking government grants.

Prof V.K. Tewari urged Capt Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister, to call a meeting of the Cabinet Sub-committee to which the twin issues of the grant-in-aid and pension-cum-gratuity scheme had been referred.

The sub-committee, headed by the Chief Minister should address the two issues at the earliest in view of union’s protest rally in Patiala on March 5, pleaded Mr Tewari. He also urged the Chief Minister to invite union representatives for talks.

Mr Tewari claimed that the Education Minister Khushal Behal, at a meeting with union representatives on January 16, had informed that the Education Department had submitted budget proposals of Higher Education to the Finance Department without imposing any cut in the actual grant admitted.

He claimed that he had learnt from sources that the proposed annual grant sent to the Finance Department was Rs 98 crore.


Mann appeals to minority panel
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 25
Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) President Simranjit Singh Mann today appealed to the National Minority Commission to ask Punjabi University not to dilute its special character by reducing the importance of Punjabi language in the institution.

In an appeal to Minorities Commission Chairman Tarlochan Singh, the Akali leader said Punjabi University was formed to propagate Punjabi in Gurmukhi script. He said for this an Act was legislated in the State Assembly.

He said now, however, the status of Punjabi was being diluted with the varsity recently allowing recruitment of teachers not proficient in the language as well as reducing its teaching at the undergraduate level. He said these steps had perturbed many Punjabi scholars as well as lovers of the language and that the Commission should advise the Punjab Government as well as Punjabi University not to change the basic structure of the institution.

Mr Mann said his party had, always endevoured to ensure that the scope of greater learning should not be restricted to Punjabi language.


3 varsities decide on same botany syllabus
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 25
The Boards of studies of three universities in Punjab have decided to prescribe a common syllabus for the undergraduate classes in botany from the forthcoming academic session, it is learnt.

A meeting of the conveners of the Undergraduate Board of Studies of Panjab University (PU), Chandigarh, Punjabi University, Patiala and Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU), Amritsar, in this regard was held here today.

The decision is being considered significant as this is the first step towards meeting the UGC directives to introduce a common syllabus in all universities at the undergraduate level. While the botany departments have taken a lead, other departments are expected to follow suit soon.

Sources said the meeting chaired by Prof S.P. Khullar, head of the botany Department, Panjab University, was attended by heads of department of other two universities as well as the nominees of the Vice-Chancellors (VC) of all three universities concerned.

While Prof S.S. Kumar was the PU Vice-Chancellor’s nominee, Dr A.K. Thukral and Dr T.A. Sharma were the nominees of the GNDU VC and the Punjabi University VC’s nominees respectively.

While the syllabus of B.Sc-I will be common for all three universities from 2003-04 session, the second and third year classes will begin following the new syllabus from 2004-05 and 2005-06 sessions, respectively.

Sources said there would be two papers in each subject, consisting five units each. Attempting unit-I would be compulsory, while there would be a choice of answering questions in the remaining four units. Each theory paper would be of 75 marks, with practicals accounting for 25 marks.


Varsity staff withdrawn from flying squad duty
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 25
Guru Nanak Dev University has directed its teachers to withdraw themselves from “flying squad” duty in the matriculation examination being held by the Punjab School Education Board.

The university teachers who visited various examination centre on February 22 were asked at the eleventh hour today not to visit any centre. Controller examinations Mohinderbir Singh has claimed that the teachers themselves opted out of the flying squad duty but some teachers of the university alleged that they were stopped from visiting examination centres under pressure of some private schools ‘perturbed’ at the varsity staff not allowing copying in the examinations.

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