Monday, March 3, 2003, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



MC elections record heavy polling
Tribune Reporters

Amritsar, March 2
The Jandiala Guru Municipal Committee elections recorded 84 per cent polling here today. Out of total votes of more than 16,000 votes, more than 14,000 were polled, informed Mr Gurvaryam Singh, SDM-I-cum-returning officer for the poll. In the 13 wards of this constituency there were 31 candidates in the fray. Only the Congress had fielded candidates for all wards while no other candidate belonged to any political party and were Independents. Counting will be held on March 9 and results would be declared the same day.

BATHINDA: The polling percentage in some booths of the municipal council’s elections held for Bhuchu, Sangat and Kot Fatta touched 94 per cent and the overall process ended peacefully barring a few incidents of slogan-shouting and manhandling.

Information gathered by TNS revealed that in Bhuchu town the overall polling percentage was at 89 per cent and polling was held only for 11 wards of the 13 wards, as two candidates have already been elected unopposed. Ram Kumar, Congress leader and Mr Pawan Kumar, senior BJP leader, are headed for a neck-to-neck fight in Ward Number 4 of the town. The polling in this particular ward touched 98 per cent and people had come to cast their votes from places, including Shimla, Bikaner and many other far off districts.

Candidates used every method to appease the voters. A large number of them were ferried by the candidates. There were reports that votes were purchased at Rs 20,000 a vote in a particular ward, which registered the highest polling percentage. Heavy police force was deployed to prevent any untoward incident.

In Sangat Mandi, polling was held for only five wards as the candidates of the sixth ward had withdrawn their nomination papers to register their protest against no development in their respective areas. The overall polling percentage in the other wards was 94 per cent. No incident of violence was reported.

The polling in the Kot Fatta area was also reported to be peaceful but the polling percentage could not be known immediately.

PHILLAUR: As much as 85 per cent voting was recorded in the elections to the Nagar Council here on Sunday. In all 15 wards, 13424 voters out of total 15,790 cast their votes in 15 different polling booths, including six sensitive booths. The SDM-cum-Returning Officer, here said maximum 90.80 per cent polling was recorded in Ward Number 5, where 859 voters out of total 946 cast their votes, while minimum 77.72 per cent polling was recorded in Ward Number 12, where 860 out of total 1118 voters exercised their rights.

DORAHA: About 82 per cent polling has been reported in the Payal Nagar Council Election held for 11 wards here on Sunday. According to Mr Sucha Singh Mast, local SDM, “The election process was accomplished successfully and in a peaceful manner.” However, there was resentment among the Akali leaders as they complained of booth capturing and torture at the hands of the opposite party.

Mr Jagjiwan Pal Singh Gill, an Akali activist said, “In spite of the active support of the police personnel, we were given unjust treatment by opposition candidates”.


Security arranged for 174 booths in Hoshiarpur
Tribune Reporters

Hoshiarpur, March 2
Elaborate security arrangements have been made for holding of fair and peaceful elections to 85 municipal councils and five nagar panchayats in Punjab. This was disclosed by Mr M.S. Bhullar, Director-General of Punjab Police while talking to mediapersons at the local PWD Rest House today.

He said Mr Anil Kaushik, Inspector-General of Punjab Police, Zone 1, Patiala, had been deputed as observer of the election cell. One additional company was being sent to each district for this purpose. Ten police companies sent to Tripura for the Assembly election, would also be provided as additional force to various districts in the state, in case they come back to Punjab before the municipal elections. Instructions had been issued to all SSPs in the state to form special election cells under the supervision of the police officer of the rank of the SP in their respective districts.

Replying to a question, Mr Bhullar said no security guard would be provided to any of the candidate contesting municipal election. He said instructions had been given to the district police chiefs to make special security arrangements in sensitive wards.

Mr Bhullar said more than 20,000 police employees, including SPs, DSPs, sub-inspectors, assistant sub-inspectors, head constables, constables, SPOs and Home Guards had been deputed on election duty in the state.

Mrs Gurpreet Deo, SSP here said security arrangements for 174 polling booths of 102 polling stations in 114 wards of Hoshiarpur, Garhshanker, Dasuya, Mukerian, Tanda, Garhdiwala, Hariana and Shamchaurasi Municipal Councils of the district were being done under the supervision of Mr Gurmit Singh, SP (H). As many as 19 polling station of the district had been declared sensitive. Besides; all seven DSPs, 44 police officers, 162 head constables, 333 constables and 303 SPOs and Home Guards had been assigned election duty in Hoshiarpur district.

Meanwhile, 111 candidates, including 31 of the Congress, 20 of the BJP and 11 of the SAD (Badal) remained in the fray in the municipal elections in 31 wards of the city after the withdrawal of nomination papers yesterday. There is a direct contest now in seven wards of the city. The Congress will directly face the BJP in Ward No. 2, 12 and 14 and the SAD (Badal) in Ward No. 5, 18, 19 and 23.

According to Mr Sukhwinder Singh, SDM-cum-Returning Officer for the local Municipal Council elections, each candidate could spend up to Rs 1.30 lakh in his campaign.

TARN TARAN: After the withdrawal of the nomination papers 75 candidates have been left in the fray for the elections to the local municipal council.

The group led by Mr Harmit Singh Sandhu, the local MLA (Independent) has fielded 19 members for all 19-member council.

The election will be held here on March 9. Mr Jatinder Kumar Sood, President of the council, and Mr Swaran Singh Sidhu, are contesting for the fourth time.

NABHA: A total of 54 candidates have been left in the fray for the ensuing Nagar Council elections in 22 wards here as 49 candidates withdrew their name. The Congress has fielded candidates from all wards, whereas former MLA Ramesh Singla, the SAD and the BJP formed a common front to give competition to Congress candidates on all seats. Thirteen wards will witness direct fight between the two.

SAMANA: There are 17 wards in the nagar council here. Two persons Gian Chand and Surinder Kaur Bhan have already been elected unopposed from Ward No. 6 and Ward No. 2, respectively. For the remaining 15 wards there was hecting polling and about 85 per cent of votes were polled on Sunday.

KAPURTHALA: As many as 80 candidates have been left in the fray for 21 wards in the local municipal council elections to be held on March 9.

Mr Bakshish Singh Labha a Congress candidate from Ward No. 3 has been elected unopposed as the papers of his rivals Mr Avtar Singh and Charanjit Singh have been rejected and Kulwant Kaur, the wife of Bakshish Sing Labha who filed her nomination papers as covering candidate withdrew.

In Ward No. 7, Mrs Monica Goyal, a candidate of the Akali Dal-BJP and the BSP (A) was declared elected unopposed as her rival candidates withdrew their nomination papers.


Mann seeks N-power plant for Punjab
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 2
Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, MP from Sangrur and President of the Akali Dal (Amritsar), today asked the Union Government to set up a nuclear power plant in Punjab and build railway overbridges on the state and national highways throughout the state.

Talking to mediapersons here, Mr Mann said the setting up of a nuclear power plant in the state was the need of the hour as Punjab had neither coal resources nor excess water to generate electricity to meet the increasing demand of power.

Criticising the Union Railway Budget, Mr Mann said the Central Government had not provided anything in the Budget for Punjab though it had made arrangements to invest huge amounts on railway network in other states of the country. Mr Mann said the Union Government should construct railway overbridges in the state as early as possible.

Mr Mann also asked the Union Government to allot funds to Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, to do extensive research work for the improvement in the varieties of rice and wheat as substandard quality wheat and paddy were being produced in the state. He also demanded compensation immediately for the farmers of border districts, Ferozepore, Gurdaspur and Amritsar, whose crops had been damaged due to laying of mines by military in their fields during the recent past.

Mr Mann also said he had never kept militancy approach in his mind and he was not in favour of disturbance in the state. But he reiterated his stand that he wanted change in a peaceful manner for the supermacy of the Sikhs. He said the framing of charges under Tada against him had hurt his feelings. Regarding unity with the SAD, led by Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Mr Mann said this was not possible till the SAD reversed the resolution of its Moga convention and adopt the Akali agenda. He said he and two SAD MPs in the Lok Sabha would now jointly raise their voice in favour of Punjab’s demands, including issue of Bathinda refinery and river waters’ issue.

Mr Mann said his party had been contesting municipal elections in Sangrur district. He promised that the Akali Dal (Amritsar) would provide corruption-free regime in the councils through its councillors.


Revitalise economy, government
World Bank on Punjab reforms
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 2
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh faces tough days ahead, given the severity of problems that beset Punjab.

As he sits down to review reforms initiated in the first year, he will have the benefit of the World Bank report — “some key reform challenges in Punjab” — submitted by the mission team leader, Mr Vikram K. Chand. The team visited the state in November last.

While commending the government for initiating fiscal and administrative reforms, the report confines itself to analysing three core areas — agriculture, fiscal and power reforms and administrative reforms.

Much of what the policy report says on the administrative reforms is being already implemented. The report identifies three critical issues: 1) civil service reforms to rightsize the government and curb politically motivated transfers, 2) enhance transparency through reforms in the recruitment and procurement processes as well as foster access to information; and 3) Improve service delivery through the citizen’s charter, e-governance and decentralisation.

Punjab has just completed a census of its core employees. As per the latest in-house census, Punjab has 321,811 core employees — group A — (11,189) group B (13,212), group C (210,337), group D (64,640). The contingency paid work-charged are (22,433). And their annual wage bill is Rs 4,112 crore.

The number, of 321,811 will swell if employees of the PSEB, public sector undertakings and local bodies are counted. That number will still exclude teachers of grant-in-aid schools. This grant was Rs 186 crore in 2001-02.

Analysing the economic reforms agenda, the report says Punjab is overstaffed and its civil service is unsustainable. The ballooning wage bill has been exacerbated by three factors: 1) political reasons swelled group A cadres from just 161 in 1998 to 211 in 2001, while there was a moderate increase in group B employees and a decrease in group C; 2) Under the ‘assured career progression’ programme, hefty pay packets are handed over; and 3) Punjab pay scales are very high as compared to Haryana or the Government of India.

The report admits that reforms to rightsise the government are difficult to implement but are unavoidable. In fact, Punjab is already in the process of 1) tracking all employees in terms of category, post, date of appointment, disciplinary record, transfers and salary increments. 2) identifying reduncy with the Indian Institute of Public Administration assigned the job in eight major departments and 3) Changing the mode of payment of salaries. The disbursement of salary is prone to “widespread abuse” as bulk money is released to 6,000 drawing and disbursing officers based on “unverified list of names, often having fictitious entries”. Now that the state-managed “master manpower register” is in place, it is proposed to give the salaries through banks.

To tackle frequent transfers, legislation is proposed to regulate transfers and to specify the maximum/minimum tenure of officers/officials of a given group. Some groups can even be totally exempt from transfers or more district-level cadres posts created and statutory civil service boards constituted to approve transfers.

The report takes cognizance of the government’s “anti-corruption” drive even in recruitments. It also looks at the PPSC. It suggests that the PPSC Chairman should be appointed by a five-member panel comprising the Chief Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Speaker, the Chief Secretary and a UPSC member.

On e-governance, it says, the experience of the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation and Fatehgarh Sahib district in this respect must be replicated. It also suggests development of a human resource data-bank and providing a greater functional role to panchayats.


Capt’s critics eat words at victory dinner
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 2
The Congress victory in Himachal Pradesh seems to have given a fillip to the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and silenced his critics within the party, many of which were at his New Moti Bagh Palace house late yesterday to celebrate the Himachal Pradesh victory.

A large number of ministers, MPs, legislators and senior leaders attended the dinner party, but the Agriculture Minister, Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, and the party MP, Mr Jagmeet Brar, stayed away.

This is the second dinner in a row used by the CM’s aids to win over disgruntled party leaders. The dinner was hosted during the Patiala Heritage Festival, where Adampur legislator Kanwaljit Singh Lalli was won over. Lalli, who had, earlier, said legislators and party leaders were being neglected, said at the dinner that he had been misquoted.

This time, too, many “problematic” leaders were invited. Party leaders who had said the Chief Minister should have avoided playing the corruption card in the Himachal Pradesh elections, as the issue could snowball against him in a case of a weak showing by the Congress, joined the “I told you so” pack at the party. Sources said there had also been an air of expectancy at the dinner, as most legislators who had attended it were candidates for inclusion in the State Cabinet or selection as heads of boards and corporations.

The Chief Minister also seemed very much at ease. Shortly after he arrived at his palace, there was a tea ceremony, during which, he met local party workers and leaders. There was much dancing and distribution of ‘ladoos’. After the tea, the VIP guests started arriving. The Patiala MP, Ms Preneet Kaur, played host.

The CM’s colleagues, including the AICC observer for Himachal Pradesh, Mr Sant Ram Singla, said the issue of corruption raised by Capt Amarinder Singh had played a significant role in the victory.


Match ignites fire on border
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, March 2
Things took an ugly turn during the retreat ceremony at the Zero Line on the India-Pakistan border when the crowd on both sides got engaged in a verbal duel that gave way to stone-pelting.

According to eyewitnesses, a large number of persons had gathered on both sides of the Joint Check Post at Hussainiwala to witness the ceremony.

The Indian crowd in a jubilant mood after yesterday’s victory against Pakistan in the World Cup, started raising slogans of elation, which made some disgruntled elements on the Pakistan side throw stones at it.

The Indian crowd also got furious and, thus, began a shower of stones, slippers and rotten tomatoes from both sides.

Finding the situation going out of control, the Border Security Force and the Pakistan Ranges came out of their barracks and started shouting warnings at the crowd that had gone berserk by that time.

Mr Sukhpal Singh, MLA from Ferozepore, was also at the JCP Hussainiwala along with the city municipal councillors.

Eyewitnesses said the BSF had to resort to a mild cane-charge to disperse the mob, but the Pakistan Rangers had made no effort to control their people.

This brought the BSF and the Rangers in a foul mood, which made the situation worse. The crowd panicked; and, in the melee, several persons got injured and had to be admitted to hospital.

When contacted, the BSF officials said stones had been thrown from both sides and things had indeed turned ugly, but their relations with the Pakistan Rangers were, now, back to normal.


VHP to launch ‘Jan Jagran Abhiyan’
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, March 2
At least 2,000 Ram sevak satyagrahis would be recruited in each “parkhand” (after every one lakh population) and a “Jan Jagran Abhiyan” would be launched from March 5 to 25 in villages and towns of the country for building a movement of “parchand” (livid) Hindutava as a run-up for the “satyagraha” at New Delhi from March 27 to April 1 on the issue of Ram Janamabhoomi in Ayodhya.

This was declared here yesterday by Mr Rajendra Singh Pankaj, central secretary of the Vishva Hindu Parishad and in charge of the Ram Janamabhoomi Andolan, in an informal interaction with mediapersons at the residence of Mr Chhavi Bhaskar, a senior leader of the Bajrang Dal.

He alleged that though Parliament was the supreme body of the country and was sovereign in parliamentary democracy, it was shirking from its responsibility as far as the Ayodhya issue was concerned. It was very much in the purview of Parliament to hand over the disputed land in Ayodhya for the construction of Ram Mandir there by amending law but it was evading its responsibility, remarked Mr Pankaj.

The issue of Ram Mandir concerned “astha” (faith) of Hindu Samaj and should be decided outside court, he maintained. The government had no alternative but to hand over the undisputed land to the Shri Ram Janamabhoomi Nyas and to accept its right for the construction of Ram temple at Ayodhya and bringing necessary amendment for clinching the disputed land, asserted Pankaj.

The VHP will not enter into negotiations now with anybody over the issue and if the government wanted to do so it could do, he said.

He warned the BJP against riding on two boats on the issue. The BJP had come to power due to its commitments to the temple construction and the party should fulfil its promise and not run away from it just to stay in of power, he said.

He also took the Congress to task for its doublespeak. The shilanyas of the temple took place during Congress government’s rule, he said and asked the party to clarify its position once and for all over the issue. The Delhi ‘satyagraha’will be decisively effective, added Mr Pankaj.


BKU to stage dharna near CM’s residence
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 2
The Ugrahan group of the BKU will stage a dharna near the residence of the Chief Minister of Punjab, Capt Amarinder Singh, at Patiala from March 22 to 25 to show resentment against the non-acceptance of the demands of farmers.

Mr Joginder Singh Ugrahan, state president of the union, said in a press note issued today that the dharna would be held as the government had not paid heed to their demands. He said while many farmers were facing difficulties and some of them had even committed suicide, as they were not able to repay the loans taken for agricultural purposes, the government had not framed a concrete policy to tackle the problem.

Mr Ugrahan said as the dharnas and rallies held at districts level had failed to yield the desired result, the union had decided to start an agitation near the residence of Capt Amarinder Singh. He said the government was well aware of the demands of the farmers, but it was not taking steps to solve these.

The union had also decided to participate in the rally of PSEB employees to be held at Patiala on March 21 against the formation of corporation in place of PSEB, as the union felt that after the privatisation of PSEB the farmers will have to face difficulties. Mr Ugrahan said after the privatisation of PSEB, there would be no possibility for free of cost or concessional power for the agriculture sector. He added that even the rates for domestic use of power would also increase manifold.

Mr Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, state general secretary of the union, said the government should waive off the loans taken by farmers and new loans at the rate of 4 per cent per annum should be given. He said the union also demanded that the arhtiyas should issue passbooks to the farmers while dealing with them, so that the farmers could keep an account of the produce sold and loan taken from them.


Budget anti-farmer, says Kainth
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, March 2
The Bahujan Samaj Morcha president, Mr Satnam Singh Kainth, said here today that the Union Budget was anti-farmer and the government should review it and withdraw the hike in the prices of agricultural items like fertilisers and diesel. He said the Punjab Government should protect farmers’ interest while presenting its annual general budget.

He said he wondered why the Union Government had reduced the prices of cars, air-conditioners and colour televisions, but not fertilisers. He also said disinvestment was like copying the West, but the situation in our country was different.

Regarding the election results from Himachal Pradesh, he said the people of the state had outrightly rejected communalism. For the municipal elections in Punjab, he said, his party was making adjustments with other parties and the morcha would hold five conferences from March 22 to April 6 — at Faridkot, Fatehgarh Sahib, Ludhiana, Amritsar and Phagwara to mobilise the Dalits.


Budget unkind to farmers: BKU
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 2
Terming the Budget as 'anti-farmers' and influenced by the policies of WTO, the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) has said that it would send the stagnating farm economy into deeper crises.

In their reaction to the Union Budget, the BKU president, Mr Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, Mr Manjit Singh Kadian, secretary general, and Mr Bhupinder Singh Mahesari, general secretary (press), in a joint statement here today said the Budget appeared to be a run up to the implementation of WTO policies in January 2005. While the government had made it a point to withdraw various facilities and concessions enjoyed by the farmers, it had failed to keep a check on fiscal deficit, a pre-condition of WTO.

“According to an economic survey by the Union Government, the food grain production has gone down by 13 per cent during last year, which indirectly meant that the total income of the farmers has proportionately decreased. In addition, the farmers have spent comparatively more by way of cost of inputs and a large number of them have sustained losses during the year due to drought and other natural calamities.”


Surjeet trying to improve image: Pasla
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, March 2
Mr Mangat Ram Pasla, secretary of the Communist Party Marxist, has termed holding of the proposed 30th All-India Kisan Conference here by the general secretary of CPI (M), Mr Harkishan Singh Surjeet, as an effort to put a stop to the ongoing erosion of his political credibility in the country, particularly, in his home state Punjab, where he had lost the support of party cadre.

Addressing a press conference here today, Mr Pasla said the proposed conference would be a failure as during Mr Surjeet’s recent tour to different parts of the state to garner support for the four-day-long conference he (Surjeet) had received a lukewarm response for his policies, which were against the basic principles of communism. Mr Pasla, who was expelled from the CPI(M) last year for openly challenging the leadership of Mr Surjeet, had formed the Communist Party Marxist. “In fact, Mr Surjeet is hand-in-glove with the Congress government in Punjab and that is why he had selected Jalandhar as the venue for the conference. There is the possibility of the Congress government funding the expenditure as a friendship gesture to Mr Surjeet,” he alleged.

Launching a fresh salvo Mr Pasla alleged that the proposed conference was not aimed to discuss the problems being faced by the peasantry throughout the country, instead it was an attempt on the part of Mr Surjeet to regain his eroded credibility in Punjab.

He further said Mr Surjeet had never even dared to criticise the Punjab Government for its failure to release arrears to the tune of Rs 80 crore to the sugarcane growers of the state for their crop sold during the last season and for government’s decision to withdraw the free power facility from the agriculture sector.

“How can the present CPI(M) leadership, which is virtually a tool of the Congress Government , claim to be champion of farming community, which is facing huge debt due to wrong policies of the state as well as central government in the present context of globalisation ?” Mr Pasla questioned. He also criticised the invitation extended to two former Prime Ministers — Mr H.D. Deve Gowda and Mr V.P.Singh, to attend the conference on the plea that both the Prime Ministers had failed miserably to frame pro-farmer policies during their tenure.


Rise in number of drug addicts in Malwa
Anirudh Gupta

The menace of drugs and narcotics is turning the vibrant soul of Punjab hollow as youths of this granary of India distinctively known for their hard work and patriotism are falling prey to it. This menace is not only confined to farmers and rural folks, but also urban youths, particularly, school and college students. That the use of drugs has assumed such alarming proportions can be gauged from the fact that during the period from January 1, 2002, till date, 645 cases have been registered under the NDPS Act in Moga, Ferozepore and Muktsar districts of Ferozepore Range. Apart from this, 2,465 cases were registered under the Excise Act and 2,465 persons were arrested in this connection.

Mr R.P. Meena, DIG, Ferozepore Range, while talking to The Tribune said a total of 123, 815 kg opium, 28364.96 kg poppy husk, 1196 gm smack, 2.450 kg charas, 240 gm ganja, besides 11,873 spurious injections and more than 25,000 tablets and capsules had been recovered from drug peddlers since January 1, 2002, till date.

Investigations reveal that the cases registered under the IDPS Act in the year 2001 were 369 as against 584 registered during 2002. Maximum number of cases under the NDPS Act have been registered in Ferozepore district, which stands at a staggering 246.

Ferozepore, being a border district, has of late become of the biggest transit point as well as consumer of narcotics, drugs and controlled psychotropic substances. Keeping in view this upsurge in the abuse of drugs, the police has evolved a multi-pronged strategy which is a community-based effort, reveals Mr Meena. Under this drive, drug deaddiction camp, follow-up of de-addicted persons and a massive awareness campaign have been initiated under the banner of SAANS (Society Against Abuse of Narcotic Substances) launched by the police.

Although the police, alarmed by this abnormal rise in the abuse of durgs, has launched a “war against drugs,” a lot needs to be done. As many as 419 persons have been de-addicted during various drug de-addiction camps held by the police. Not only this, to improve the investigative skills of the policemen and enhance their awareness regarding various provisions of the NDPS Act, a workshop was organised in collaboration with the IDC in which 17 SHOs, 29 in charges of various police posts and 100 policemen of the NGO rank underwent training.

Mr Bhajan Singh, Superintendent of Central Jail, said during the past four months, 229 drug addicts had been discharged from the jail hospital after de-addiction, still the de-addiction centre was overflowing with such cases, some of which being of really critical nature. Some of the drug addicts had been sent to the Civil Hospital, Ferozepore, and a few to guru Gobind Singh Medical College, Faridkot, for treatment. The police had also established several de-addiction centres at Ferozepore, Abohar, Gidderbaha and some other places, he added.

As undertrial lodged in the Central Jail, Ferozepore, Fauja Singh, son of Mohinder Singh tried to commit suicide at the de-addiction centre in the jail. Mr Bhajan singh said the jail authorities had to be vigilant 24 hours to prevent these types of cases. There had been many instances in the past, when drug-addicted youths had ended their lives in disgust and desperation, he added.

Even women in rural segments have reportedly started taking drugs. One such case is of Harbans Kaur of Moga, who was arrested recently for the possession of 10 kg poppy husk. She confessed that she used to get her monthly quota from Sangaria in Rajasthan.

Before the dark days of insurgency in Punjab, drugs used to be smuggled through the porous Indo-Pakistan border. There were lots of drugs carriers called ‘snakes’ operating in the border belt. But after the border was fenced with cobra wires, cross-border smuggling of drugs was reduced considerably. At this point of time, the strategy was shifted to Rajasthan border by the bootleggers, where they found a safe haven and thus, drug peddling shifted to the Punjab-Rajasthan border. The Ferozepore police, to put brakes on inter-state smuggling, organised an inter-state coordination meeting at Ferozepore in which top brass police officials from Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan exchanged information regarding wanted criminals and recent trends, modus operandi of cross-border crimes and drug peddling.

According to Mr Praveen Sinha, SSP, students normally start taking drugs to ward off depression and the enormous strain of studies, and are so deeply in it that it is difficult rather impossible to reform them. This menace will spread its tentacles beyond limit if not checked now.


VRS: PTDC union alleges injustice
Lalit Mohan

Ropar, March 2
Employees of Punjab Tourism Development Cooperation (PTDC) are getting into a panic over the recent decision of the government of not offering VRS to all employees in case of disinvestment of the board.

At a meeting held on January 27 under the chairmanship of the Chief Secretary, Punjab, to discuss the disinvestment of the PTDC, it was decided that all employees of the corporation were not entitled for the VRS under the Punjab state public sector undertaking voluntary retirement scheme, 2002.

The sources said in the VRS scheme announced by the Punjab Government, employees who have less than five years of service or have just five years of service left would not be given the VRS. Also daily wage employees, irrespective of their length of service would not be offered the VRS. In the said criteria 340 out of more than 500 employees would be able to avail the VRS.

It was proposed in the meeting that the PTDC employees who were not covered under the VRS should be shifted to the companies which buy the tourist complexes of the corporation with a condition that they would not be retrenched for at least one year except on disciplinary grounds.

In case if they seek to retrench the employee after one year an obligation to pay VRS be imposed on them.

The other proposal, which has been made, is that the employees who are not eligible for the VRS announced by the Punjab Government should be given an alternative package by the PTDC.

The president of the PTDC Employees Union, Mr Surjit Singh Saini alleged that PTDC employees were getting unfair treatment at the hands of the Punjab Government. The government was trying to shift the liability of the PTDC employees to private buyers.

If the proposals of the government materialise, more than 150 employees of the PTDC won’t get anything in VRS and would be left at the mercy of the private buyers.

He also alleged that the PTDC Employees Union had also demanded that in case the corporation was disinvested its employees should also be shifted to the surplus pool and adjusted in other government departments rather than being given the VRS.

He said the Employees Union of the PTDC was also planning to challenge the decision of the government of not offering VRS to all employees in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Meanwhile, the government has fixed April 2 as the last date for the eligible employees of the PTDC to opt for VRS.


5.67 lakh for victims of thresher mishaps
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 2
Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Minister for Agriculture, Rural Development and Panchayats, Punjab, yesterday gave away cheques, worth Rs 5.67 lakh, to the victims of thresher mishaps at Khandebad village near Lehragaga. The amount of the cheques was provided by the market committee, Lehragaga.

Mrs Bhattal disclosed that the Punjab Government had earmarked a huge amount for the repair and construction of roads of the Lehragaga Assembly constituency.

She also assured the gathering that problem of drinking water in the area would be solved at the earliest.

Later, Mrs Bhattal, addressing a prize distribution function of a kabaddi tournament at the Khandebad village, also urged the youths to give up drugs and intoxicants to have good health and divert their attention towards sports.

Mrs Bhattal also announced a grant of Rs 1 lakh for the Youth Services Sports Club, Khandebad, the organiser of the kabaddi tournament.

The village panchayat also briefed the demands of the village to Mrs Bhattal. She assured the panchayat that the demands would be met soon.


CM inaugurates Escorts hospital
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 2
The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today inaugurated Escorts, a super-specialty 165-bedded heart hospital built at the cost of Rs 45 crore here today.

He said it was a milestone in the field of health care and hoped that Escorts could open yet another hospital in Patiala which boasted of one of the best medical colleges in the country at one time.

In a lighter vein, he said, in case he fell ill he would prefer to get his treatment here than to fly off abroad as the hospital was equipped with latest state-of-art infrastructure and facilities. He assured the people that budget provisions would have substantial lay-out for health and education.

Mr Rajan Nanda, Chairman of the Escorts group, said this was the third hospital of its kind by the Escorts group and they planned to open 15 hospitals in the country with satellite linkage and video conferencing network in the next three years.


PSSF to hold rallies against Budget
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, March 2
The Punjab Subordinate Services Federation (PSSF) will hold district-level rallies in Punjab in protest against the anti-people, particularly government employees, Budget recently presented by the Union Finance Minister, Mr Jaswant Singh, in Parliament. The first rally in this connection will be held at Ropar tomorrow. During the rally the protesters will also burn the effigy of the Union Finance Minister.

This was stated by Mr Ranbir Singh Dhillon, state general secretary, PSSF, here today. Mr Dhillon who had arrived here to mobilise the employees while criticising the BJP-led NDA government for failing to protect the interests of employees, farmers and the poor termed the Budget as broad day pocket cut of the middle class section. He alleged that the proposal regarding 1 per cent reduction in the rate of interest on the provident fund and small savings of the employees would cause them a minimum loss of Rs 1000 against the annual salary of Rs 1 lakh. Moreover, the introduction of pension fund for the new entrants which will be returned in the shape of pension after retirement would cause another heavy financial loss to the employees. Moreover, hike in the prices of edible oils, diesel, urea, DAP, fertilisers and pesticides will not only increase inflation but also hit the farmers who were already under stress, said Mr Dhillon. He said the PSSF will also garner the support of other employees’ associations in different parts of the country to raise the issue at the national level. He accused the Union Government for safeguarding the interests of the trading community through the Budget. Mr Nachhattar Singh Mahla, President, PSSF, district unit, Faridkot, was also present.


Garbage collection on the doorstep
Sukant Deepak

Patiala, March 2
The inner part of Patiala city, infamous for its pathetic garbage-disposal system, may witness a change with the local Municipal Corporation (MC) initiating door-to-door garbage collection in some areas. MC vans equipped with sirens will now come to the houses of residents, allowing them to throw their garbage in attached trolleys.

This system is likely to discourage people from throwing their garbage into drains or on roads.

The system has been successfully tried in the congested Sarhindi Bazaar area, where heaps of garbage could be seen lying on the road. Residents of the area said thanks to the new system, the residents themselves took care to throw garbage directly in the trolleys meant for the purpose.

Mr Varun Malhotra, a resident of the area, who had written to the Municipal Commissioner for this facility, said there was a visible change in sanitary condition of the area.

Residents of other areas of the city are also demanding a similar system. Those staying near Arna-Barna Chowk expressed resentment at the dumping of garbage in the two parks of the locality.

Mr Nanak Chand, a resident of the area, asserted that the usual measures of the corporation to remove garbage had failed in the interior parts of the city.

Residents of the Chhoti Sabzi Mandi area, however, stressed that the MC needed to do more than initiating a door to door garbage collection to ensure cleanliness.


NTAS honours NRIs
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 2
A series of programmes on “I Love my Patiala,” which commenced on February 13 on Patiala heritage and culture, concluded with a light music concert recently.

Prominent surgeon-litterateur, Dr Sawraj Singh and his wife Mrs Gurinderjit Kaur (from the USA), Mr S.S. Bindra, a well-known music composer-singer and his wife Mrs Amrit Kaur (also from the USA) and Mr Pritpal Singh, musician and tabla player were honoured on the occasion.

The NTAS Director, Mr Pran Sabharwal, who was the convener of the programme and his wife Mrs Sunita Sabharwal, presented mementoes to NRIs. Mr Bindra and his students Ms Kanchan and Ms Amarpreet presented Punjabi songs. Prof Manjit Kaur sang ghazals of “Daagh”. Mr Sabharwal enthralled the audience with his humorous presentations.


Five injured in accident
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 2
As many as five persons, were injured one of them seriously, when the car in which they were travelling collided head on with a Canter near the cantonment police station, this evening.

Sources said the live occupants of the car were coming from a marriage party and the driver of the car failed to steer the car properly and collided with the Canter. The car bore no registration number.

Ramandeep Singh, one of the injured was rushed to the local Civil Hospital and his condition is said to be stable.

The police has registered a case.


Kidnapped” girl returns with groom
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 2
The complaint of Mrs Jagdish Kaur, mother of Ramandeep Kaur, regarding her daughter’s kidnapping turned out to be false when her daughter returned with a boy Baljit Singh with whom she had eloped.

The mother had lodged a complaint of her daughter’s abduction at ‘c’ division police station last evening. Ramandeep who was recovered by the police admitted that she had fled with the boy with whom she was having an affair and the two had got married in a gurdwara, informed Mr S.K. Kalia, SP, City.

Mr Kalia said the police was contemplating action against complainant Jagdish Kaur.


New flights for Amritsar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 2
Mr Sunil Arora, Chairman, Indian Airlines, announced that more flights would be introduced to connect the city with Chandigarh, New Delhi with a view to attracting more tourists.

Addressing ‘tourism conclave-2003’ here today Mr Arora said this would help to tap tourism potential even as the Golden Temple was likely to be declared world heritage by UNESCO by 2005.


4 booked for smuggling poppy husk
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 2
The police has booked four persons for their alleged involvement in smuggling of poppy husk.

Mr Ishwar Singh SSP today said in a press note that a case was registered against Pritam Singh and Rajwinder Singh of Dayalpura village, as 70.5 kg of poppy husk was recovered from them. The police also impounded a car used by them.

Another case was registered against Sira Singh and Jeet Singh residents of Lulbhai village for possessing 52 kg of poppy husk. The cases against all of them were registered under Sections 15, 61, 85 the NDPS Act at different police stations.


Gang of poppy husk smugglers busted
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, March 2
The police claims to have busted a three-member gang of poppy husk smugglers with the arrest of its two members and recovery of 420 kg of the contraband.

Mr Varinder Kumar, SSP, in a press statement today said that following a tip-off, a special police party raided an old brick kiln in Ganna Pind village in Phillaur and arrested two persons, who were carrying poppy husk even as one of their accomplices escaped.

The arrested has been identified as Jamail Singh and Kulwinder Kaur and 12 gunnysacks containing a total of 420 kg of poppy husk recovered from them.

The third accused who escaped has been identified as Jinder.

Meanwhile, the Phillaur police has arrested Suraj Bhan, a resident of Gonda village in UP and recovered 10 kg of poppy husk. A case under NDPS Act has been registered.


Polytechnics wins youth fest trophy
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, March 2
The Government Polytechnic for Women, Jalandhar, and Mehr Chand Polytechnic, Jalandhar, bagged the overall trophy in women and men categories, respectively, of the Inter-Polytechnic youth festival, which concluded here today.

As many as 33 teams from different technical institutes of the state participated in the two-day Inter-Polytechnic Youth Festival. The Punjab Technical Education and Industrial Training Minister, Mr Mohinder Singh Kaypee, gave away the prizes to the students for their outstanding performance during the festival.

In solo dance competition of women section, Sonia, Government Polytechnic for Women, Jalandhar, was declared first, while Pallavi, GPW, Patiala and Sharuti Bedi of Adesh Polytechnic, Mukatsar, bagged the second and third positions, respectively. Results: (women section): Skit — G.I.G.T. Amritsar (first); GPW, Amritsar (second); and GPW Jalandhar and GPW, Patiala (third).

Choreography — GPW, Ludhiana (first); P.I.T.T., Amritsar (second); and GPW, Jalandhar and GPW Patiala (third). Mono acting: Deepti of GPW, Jalandhar and Pardeep Rani of P.I.T.T., Amritsar (first); Amit Dhillon of GPW, Patiala (second); and Rabia of GPW; Amritsar (third).

Folk song — Reena of GPW, Jalandhar and Ramita of GPW, Patiala (first); Amarjyoti of GPW, Amritsar (second). Giddha — GPW, Ludhiana and GPW Patiala (first) and GPW, Jalandhar (second).

Men Section: Folk song: Navtej Singh, Government Polytechnic, Amritsar (first); Vipan, S.B. Plytechnic, Patti and Sukhwinder, Mehr Chand Polytechnic, Jalandhar (second); and Gurmeet Singh, G.I.G.T., Amritsar and Vevek Kumar, P.I.T.T. Amritsar (third).

Choreography: Mehr Chand Polytechnic, Jalandhar and S.K. Polytechnic, Fazlika (first), P.I.T.T., Amritsar (second). Mono acting — Pritpal Singh, P.I.T.T., Amritsar (first); and Deepak Kalia of Mehr Chand Polytechnic, Jalandhar (second). Fancy dress — Varun Sharma of P.I.T.T., Amritsar (first); and Sandeep Singh, Mehr Chand Polytechnic, Jalandhar (second). Skit — G.I.G.T. Amritsar (first); and Mehr Chand Polytechnic, Jalandhar (second).


Largest employers, ‘still pauper’
Our Correspondent

Talwandi Sabo (Bathinda), March 2
The two-day national seminar on the management of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) ended here today. Experts said in the wake of the WTO regime these, enterprises would have to be more innovative and the government policy on these issues should produce a conducive atmosphere for growth.

On day-one of the seminar yesterday, 20 papers on topics like ‘Strategy and Entrepreneurship’ and ‘Customers and Marketing’ were held in the first session. Talks on ‘Financial Resources and Human Resource Strategies’ were held today, in the concluding session.

The experts said the SMEs were growing by millions in India, to become the largest employers of labour. These contributed 40 per cent to the national GDP and 50 per cent to exports, in spite of a lack of financial resources and loan advances. Finance has to be outsourced at exorbitant interest rates.

Dr Zahir, Reader in Punjab Agricultural University, said in his keynote address yesterday that the government should create infrastructure and encourage exports to make small entrepreneurs become more competitive.

Dr Guljit Arora of the GGS Institute in Delhi said high standards of child labour, environment protection etc. were being imposed by the developed countries on the developing nations.

Dr S.K. Singla of the PAU Ludhiana and Dr Vikram Jit Singh talked about supply-chain management for the SMEs, while some other experts like Dr M.K. Sehgal, Dr Narinder Singh, Dr Dalbir Singh and Dr Balram Dogra talked about increasing investment in the SMEs.

Ms Upasana Sethi, who talked about ‘the Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat (SWOT) Analysis of the SME said the SMEs were suffering due to non-conducive policies and poor technology. While Mr N.K. Bishnoi of Guru Jambheshwar University at Hisar stressed the need for adopting a venture-funding model. Dr Ran Singh presented a detailed study on frustration among owners of the SMEs.

While Col D.S. Randhawa talked about improving efficiency and developing leadership qualities, Dr B.S. Bhatia, a former Registrar of Punjabi University, said that India being a land of diverse cultures, no single solution could be prescribed for all problems of the SMEs.

Dr Prem Kumar, head of the University School of Management and organiser of the seminar, said the proceedings of this seminar would be printed in the form of a book and sent to policy makers and entrepreneurs.

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