Friday, March 7, 2003, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Nod to PCS (Judicial) recruitment
Tribune News Service

Cabinet expansion

Capt Amarinder Singh will induct nine to 10 MLAs as ministers before the start of the Budget session. He has also prepared the list of boards and corporations for appointment of political persons as Chairmen.

It is reliably learnt that no minister is to be dropped though the Chief Minister is not much satisfied with the performance of some of them. Therefore, the move is to marginalise them by changing their portfolios on the pretext that they are ‘’over worked’’.

The Chief Minister leaves for Delhi tomorrow for discussions with the party high command.

Chandigarh, March 6
The Punjab Cabinet here today approved that the Punjab and Haryana High Court could proceed to recruit PCS (Judicial) officials. The Cabinet also approved computerisation of all ‘’first information reports’’ registered in the state police stations. Punjab is lagging in this respect and a memorandum was presented for greater efficiency and transparency in registering FIRs.

The Cabinet decided to constitute a three-member subcommittee to approve the Governor’s Address to be delivered on the opening day of the Budget session of the Vidhan Sabha, on March 14.

The committee comprises the Chief Minister, the Finance Minister and the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs.

The Chief Secretary, who has received reports from the Administrative Secretaries concerned, will prepare the draft speech and edit it for the Cabinet sub-committee.

Though no press note was issued after the meeting, it is reliably learnt that the Cabinet has constituted two more subcommittees to go into the draft anti-theft legislation on electricity as well as on the new tourism policy. While the Chief Minister and the Finance Minister will go into the anti-theft legislation, the Minister for Cultural Affairs and Tourism will also be associated with the sub-committee on the tourism policy, which will have the Chief Minister and the Finance Minister.

The Cabinet also approved some annual administrative reports to be placed in the House during the Budget session.


Haldea panel submits report
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 6
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, said today that he wanted to open up the power sector so that more power could be produced and supplied for meeting the growing demand from the agricultural, industrial and domestic sectors.

Following the presentation of the Haldea Committee’s report on power reforms in his office late this afternoon, Capt Amarinder Singh said, in a statement that keeping in view the national consensus on the need for reforms in the power sector, the state government had recognised the need for restructuring the power sector with a sense of urgency and vigour. An empowered committee to achieve this objective had been set up for the purpose.

Outlining the present status of the power sector in Punjab, Capt Amarinder Singh said this sector had shackled enterprise and growth in the state. Three lakh farmers were in the queue for power connections, eight lakh farmers who had connections did not get power supply for more than eight hours a day, industrial consumers paid high tariffs and yet suffered power cuts, for every 100 units sold 38 were lost in transmission and distribution and for large-scale power theft honest consumers had to pay an extra rupee per unit.

The PSEB losses exceeded Rs 1000 crore a year despite repeated tariff increases. No private investment had been forthcoming and there was complete lack of consumer choice and complaints of corruption and lack of responsiveness were common. The government had assigned high priority to the power sector in view of its importance to socio-economic growth of the state.

Enumerating the recommendations of the committee, Mr Gajendra Haldea said it had recommended the unbundling and corporatisation of the PSEB along with introduction of competition with a view to improving power supplies and for lowering the cost of operations, particularly the transmission and distribution losses. Unbundling should not be seen as the end in itself, it was only the means to improve the power sector.

The committee had also recommended complete depoliticisation of the functioning of the utilities, rationalising tariffs and protection of consumer interests. The supply to rural areas should be increased at least by 15 per cent and a provision of Rs 1000 crore should be made over a period of five years for this purpose as it would require incremental supply of 7,500 million units of power during that period.

The committee believes that power reforms would require large resources both by way of investment financing as well as for meeting the adjustment costs. Investment totalling Rs 16,000 crore may be required during the next five years and a substantial part of it could be mobilised from the private sector provided an appropriate framework is created. It has recommended the allocation of Rs 2,000 crore over five years for bridging the revenue gap and Rs 1000 crore for supporting training and redeployment of personnel.

The committee has noted that the mere adherence to the mantra of reform by setting up regulatory commissions, unbundling and corporatisation of the state electricity boards and privatisation of distribution does not ensure success. In Orissa, for example, all these elements, including privatisation of distribution, have been accomplished but the power sector continues to be unviable. It has emphasised the need for participation of all stake-holders such as panchayats, rural cooperatives, consumer associations with a view to encouraging public participation in the reform process. The report would be put on the PSEB website for public debate and comments.


SAD wields power despite ouster
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 6
Even as the SAD (B) was ousted from power in the state about more than a year ago, a section of its leadership seems to have been ruling Bathinda ever since the Congress formed its government in Punjab.

This became evident yesterday when the General Secretary of the SAD, Mr Sukhbir Badal, inaugurated a block of Government High School at Malooka village of this district and openly criticised the Punjab Government and Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, while addressing gathering at a function organised on this occasion.

During his hard-hitting speech, Mr Badal made personal attacks on the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and went to the extent of saying that 17 Congress candidates out of a total of 22 candidates for whom Capt Amarinder Singh had campaigned in Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh, had been defeated and the Congress government in Punjab had proved itself most unpopular.

Mr Badal made personal remarks against the Chief Minister despite the fact that Capt Amarinder Singh was himself attending various functions in this city yesterday. The function was organised at a government school despite the annual examinations of the Punjab School Education Board having begun.

Mr Anurag Verma, Deputy Commissioner, has ordered the Subdivisional Magistrate concerned to conduct a probe into the incident. He added that suitable action would be taken in this regard after an inquiry report was submitted.

Earlier, the then, District Education Officer (DEO) issued a circular on July 19, 2002, directing heads of various schools of this district to implement the decisions taken by Mr Tota Singh, Education Minister in the previous SAD-BJP government. The DEO also instructed the schools to submit a report in connection with the compliance of orders issued by Mr Tota Singh within 15 days.

In the recent past, the Bathinda Improvement Trust authorities gave “huge importance to a senior Akali leader during the function organised in connection with the inauguration of its new office complex, which was done by chairman of the high powered committee on finance, Mr Surinder Singh.

Mr Chand Hanspuri, District Education Officer (DEO), Bathinda, on being contacted, said he was not aware if any function was organised in connection with the inauguration of a block of the school at Malooka village as no permission had been taken from him for the same.

A section of Congress workers pointed out that such incidents had been making the people feel that the Congress government was yet to come into existence. They added that though the Congress had formed its government in Punjab about a year ago, the SAD-BJP leaders had been wielding power.


Oust capitalist forces: CPM
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, March 6
Dubbing the recent Budget proposals as explicitly pro-rich and anti-farmer, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Mr Harkisan Singh Surjeet, today gave a call to the peasantry of the country to be united for waging a war to oust imperialist and capitalist forces, presently ruling the nation.

Mr Surjeet was addressing delegates during the inaugural session of the 30th All-India Kisan Conference (AIKC) which started at Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Hall here.

The veteran Communist leader alleged that the role of foreign agencies had increased manifold in enacting new policies which was evident from the fact that that Budget provided major fiscal concessions to big business houses and the rich, while on the contrary, the prices of fertilisers and diesel had been increased causing disillusionment to the farmers.

“In fact, the Finance Minister has nothing to offer to the peasantry reeling under the impact of price crash. The Budget talks of making agricultural credit available at 2 per cent above the prime lending rate but since the amount of credit for agriculture has itself declined to much below the stipulated “norm” with private, especially foreign banks, being the worst culprits, the rate reduction means little in the present context,” Mr Surjeet added.

Blaming the Central Government for widening the rich-poor divide, Mr Surjeet said the farmers were virtually at the mercy of private traders as the government was planning to discard the procurement of foodgrains and distribution through the FCI. The steep fall in the prices of agricultural commodities due to the removal of quantitative restrictions on the import of a number of agricultural items is forcing the farmers to resort to distress sale,” Mr Surjeet maintained adding that import of agro-products had gone up fourtold during the period 1995-2000.

Mr Ramachandran Pillai, president of the All-India Kisan Sabha, in his address said disregarding world public opinion, the US imperialism was making preparations to launch a war on Iraq.


Illegal CTU operations in Punjab?
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 6
Have CTU and Haryana Roadways bus been plying a number of buses illegally in Punjab. Yes, if one is to believe private bus operators, who have taken up this issue with the Punjab Government asking it to intervene to stop this.

Private bus operators are up in arms for various reasons. They have also urged the government to increase bus fares, decrease the special road tax (SRT) and revise the time table to save private bus operators from becoming bankrupt.

Sources said private bus operators had informed the Punjab Transport Department authorities that the CTU had only seven legal permits for plying buses on the Ludhiana-Chandigarh route, but it had been plying 50 to 60 buses daily on this route. Likewise, Haryana Roadways was also plying 50 per cent extra buses in Punjab. These illegal operations, according to sources, not only cause losses to private bus operators but also the state.

Seeking higher bus fares, private bus operators had argued that at present bus fare was 42 paise per km in the state while in 1999 it was 39 paise. During the past three years, the bus fare had been increased by only 3 paise per kilometre though the running cost per bus since 1999 had doubled because of a heavy increase in the prices of diesel, bus chasses, spare parts and bus stand fee etc. In 1999, the rate of diesel per litre was Rs 9.81 while it was Rs 20.76 now and the cost of a bus chasses in 1999 was Rs 5.20 lakh and its prevailing rate was Rs 6.70 lakh. At present, the running cost of one bus was Rs 15 per kilometre while the average income was Rs 13.

Sources said as a large number of private bus companies were in the red their owners were unable to pay even the SRT. Because of the non-payment of the SRT, the police had impounded their buses at various places on the direction of the transport authorities. Even a number of permits had been cancelled due to the non-payment of SRT. As the middle and lower middle class had started using cars and other own sources of transport, the seat occupancy in buses had gone down tremendously. However, the SRT was charged in lump sum at Rs 2.69 paise per seat per kilometre. There was a demand for decreasing it by Re 1.

A government official said the demands raised by private bus operators were being examined. He admitted there were reports of a fall in the seat occupancy because of illegal operations of private small vehicles such as cars, jeeps etc. However, the government had increased bus fare by 1 paise per kilometre on January 31.

Private bus operators have also urged the government to stop the free travel facility to students, policeman and aged women in private buses. It should be allowed only in government-owned buses. The time table of buses operating from various destinations should be revised and it should be prepared by the regional transport authorities and not by officials of the PRTC or Punjab Roadways. The authorities concerned should also check government buses as the same rules apply to these also. Only private buses are checked at present.


Summon Badungar to Takht: Manjit Singh 
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 6
Prof Manjit Singh, the sacked Jathedar of Takht Kesgarh Sahib, today offered to accept any directive or religious punishment as per the Sikh traditions if proved guilty by the Sikh clergy.

In a communication sent to Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar, Akal Takht, Prof Manjit Singh said Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar, SGPC chief, should be summoned at Akal Takht to established charges levelled against him. He said such an action on the part of Akal Takht would help in ending ‘confusion’ created among the Sikh masses. He said though he had accepted his ‘wrongful’ sacking aimed at lowering the status of high priests with an open mind yet it was the need of the hour to present true facts before the Sikh Sangat.

Regarding the allegations of moral turpitude levelled by Giani Bhagwan Singh, Head Granthi, Akal Takht, Prof Manjit Singh said Takht should probe the charges by summoning him (Giani) Bhagwan Singh) at Akal Takht. He said Giani Bhagwan Singh should be asked to substantiate the charges.

The sacked Jathedar alleged that Mr Badungar had misbehaved with him on telephone on February 21 as he was perturbed over the statement given to a section of the press on the issue of permitting Sikh women to perform seva. He asked Jathedar Vedanti whether the SGPC could be allowed to misbehave with a Sikh high priest? He claimed that the next day he was sacked without any ‘concrete proof’.


Dharna by witness SPO
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 6
The main witness in the Jaswant Singh Khalra murder case, Special Police Officer Kuldeep Singh, today sat in a dharna in front of the court complex demanding that the Punjab DGP be hauled up in court for stopping his pay and not giving a serviceable vehicle to him to ensure his protection.

The SPO first sat in dharna in front of the court of Mr S.P. Bangar but was later asked to shift near the main gate of the court complex. The SPO said he would hold a dharna in the court complex on April 2, the next date of appearance in the case.

He said his salary had been stopped since April last year. He said although he had been given a CRPF protection of 20 men, he could not house them in his village nor use the vehicle given to him by the Punjab police. He said an obsolete Allwyn Nissan had been given to him which he was using to tie his cattle. He said he had to give money to house his security guards in a rented accommodation at Bachede village.

Mr Kuldeep Singh said he had repeatedly written to the police department in this regard but no action had been taken. He said the court had also directed the police to provide him proper facilities but the police force was not forthcoming. He said if the police force failed to comply with the court orders he would request that this statement be submitted to the Supreme Court as he feared his life might be at risk.

The SPO had in his statement in court claimed that he was present at the Jhabbal police station in Tarn Taran when Jaswant Singh Khalra was tortured and killed. He claimed that five police officials led by DSP Jaspal Singh had tortured Khalra. He said he had been asked to get some lukewarm water. Even as he was getting the water, he heard two gunshots. Rushing to the site, he found Khalra dead.

The SPO said the police officials wrapped a blanket around the body and threw it in a river near Harike. He said the officials, including himself, came back to the Harike guest house where they had liquor.

He claimed that Khalra had been picked up from his residence by former Tarn Taran SSP A.S. Sandhu and others in September 1995. He said Khalra had been taken to a house at Manawal village in Amritsar where the then Punjab DGP, Mr K.P.S. Gill, had also met him. Other police officers who have been named by him in his statement include DSP Ashok Kumar, SHOs Jasbir Singh, Surinderpal Singh, Satnam Singh and Rachpal Singh and Head Constables Prithipal Singh and Balwinder Singh.


4 Cong candidates elected unopposed
Our Correspondents

Nawanshahr, March 6
Four Congress candidates Mr Sita Ram from Ward No. 9, Mr Lalit Mohan Ballu from Ward No. 3, Mr Vinod Pinka from Ward No. 6 and Ms Prem Lata Markanda from Ward No. 8 — have been elected — unopposed to local Municipal Council. The election for the remaining 11 seats will be held on March 9.

In Banga, 47 candidates are in the fray for the elections for 13 Wards. A former SAD MLA, Mr Mohan Lal has formed Banga Vikas Manch against the Congress nominees fielded by Mr Tarlochan Singh Soond, MLA. The Bahujan Samaj Morcha and the BSP have also fielded their candidates. In Rahon, 34 candidates are in the fray for 13 seats. In most of the wards, there are triangular contests among Congress, BSP and other candidates.

HOSHIARPUR: To hold free and municipal elections of eight Municipal Councils, including Hoshiarpur, Hariana, Garhdiwala, Dasuya, Mukerian, Tanda, Shamchaurasi and Garhdiwala in the district on March 9, all arrangements have been completed. This was stated by Mr Kirandeep Singh Bhullar, Deputy Commissioner-cum-District Election Officer, in a press note issued here. As many as 180 polling stations have been set up in the district and 1,086 presiding polling officers have been deputed for the work. He said 1,64,854 voters would cast their votes in these elections in the district.

GURDASPUR: Mr R.S. Brar, SSP, talking to newsmen at his office here on Thursday, said all security arrangements to have free and fair polling in the municipal elections slated for March 9 had been finalised in the district. As many as 31 polling booths, including 17 at Pathankot six at Sujanpur, four at Dinanagar, three at Dhariwal and one at Gurdaspur, had been declared sensitive.

TARN TARAN: All arrangements have been made for the local Municipal Council elections to be held on Marcy 9. Mr Bhupinder Singh, SDM-cum-Returning Officer, said 44 polling booths had been formed and a presiding officer and four polling officers appointed at each polling stations.


Warrant officer recovers man
Our Correspondent

Ropar, March 6
In a new development in the otherwise peaceful election scene of the forthcoming municipal council elections here on March 9, a warrant officer appointed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court recovered Ashok Ahuja, a resident of the town, from the shop of Mr Ashok Wahi, the only candidate of the Congress who has been declared elected unopposed from ward no 12 yesterday evening.

The sources available here said Mr Ashok Ahuja was recovered on a habeas corpus petition filed by his wife Seema Ahuja in the high court. Seema Ahuja, in her plea before the court had alleged that Mr Ashok Wahi, a candidate of the Congress who was elected unopposed from ward no 12, had abducted her husband on February 26 to get elected unopposed in the municipal council elections.

On her petition, the court appointed a warrant officer who last evening raided the shop of Mr Ashok Wahi and recovered Mr Ashok Ahuja sitting among the customers.

Mr Ashok Wahi, on being contacted, said the move was a conspiracy against him. He said Mr Ashok Ahuja had come to his shop a few minutes before the raid of the warrant officer and sat with the customers.

Later, his wife, along with the warrant officer, came and alleged that he had abducted him. Had I abducted him, would not I have kept him secretly and not alongwith other customers at the shop, Mr Wahi said.


Sangrur ZP poll put off
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 6
Elections to the posts of Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson of the Sangrur district Zila Parishad (ZP), scheduled for today, have been postponed again. Earlier, the poll was put off on February 4 and February 11.

Sources in the Congress claimed that this time too the elections were postponed due to claims to the post of Chairperson by various groups in the party. Besides, the party high command had failed to nominate a consensus candidate for the post.

Mr Balwinder Singh, ADC-cum-Returning Officer, said the poll had been postponed due to a law and order problem. Besides Mr Sarbjit Singh, Mr Darshan Singh Majhi, Mr Bhagwant Singh Lakhmirwala and Mr Sham Singh are also reportedly candidates for the post of Chairperson.

Meanwhile, the Special Secretary, Rural Development and Panchayats, Punjab, has extended the date till April 30 for the holding of elections to the posts of Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson of the Sangrur, Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Mansa, Gurdaspur, Amritsar and Patiala Zila Parishads.


BJP, SAD candidates denied security
Our Correspondent

Abohar, March 6
Mr P.S. Aujla, PSIDC, MD and Observer for the municipal elections in Ferozepore district, today turned down requests from some BJP and SAD candidates to provide them personal security in the sensitive wards but asked the SDM, Mr Jaskiran Singh, to tighten the security measures to prevent any untoward incident on the day of polling. Mr Aujla reached here during his tour of the district to take stock of the situation.

Surprisingly, the Observer took no notice of the violation of the prohibitory orders issued by the District Magistrate on the use of loudspeakers in the town. Scores of rickshaws fitted with high-power amplifiers were roaming in the town even while the Observer was holding meetings with political leaders. Streets were marked with banners and mini-flags in favour of various candidates in violation of the guidelines issued by the Election Commission.


BJP men booked for ‘purchasing’ votes
Our Correspondent

Abohar, March 6
Some BJP workers were booked for allegedly distributing money among voters at Jalalabad West, 60 km from here on the Abohar-Ferozepore road, today.

Mr Inderjit Singh of Gobind Nagri had lodged a complaint with the police at Jalalabad, alleging that some BJP workers were distributing money to influence the voters for municipal elections in the Lalla Basti area. It was reported that the people had caught two workers red-handed.

The Jalalabad West police station was mobbed by hundreds of workers when the BJP candidate from Ward No. 16, Mr Rakesh Grover, was brought to the police station in connection with a complaint alleging “purchase” of votes. However, the situation diffused later as the police registered a case against party workers only. They have been identified as Gurcharan Singh, Tara Singh and Ashok Kumar. All have been booked under Sections 506, 452, 294, 271, 34 of the IPC.


Badal: govt harassing SAD workers
Our Correspondent

Nabha, March 6
“I can bring down the Amarinder Singh’s government in just 72 hours but I am not doing so because I am a supporter of democracy and I do not believe in supporting turncoats”. Mr Parkash Singh Badal said this while addressing his party workers at New Grain Market. He was here in connection with municipal elections campaign. He claimed that the Congress would be defeated in the coming municipal and panchayat elections.

Mr Badal said many MLAs and ministers in the Capt Amarinder’s government were planning to revolt and it would fall itself in few months. He alleged that the government was harassing his party workers by arresting and filing false cases against them as the vigilance bureau and the police had become agencies in the hand of the Congress government.


2 Akali leaders arrested
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 6
The local police has arrested Jaswinder Singh Akoi, district general secretary of the SHSAD, and Avtar Singh Tari, a leader of the SAD(A), for allegedly making preparation to commit dacoity while their three accomplices, including Rajinder Singh, alias Kala, have fled.

The local police said today it had registered a case against the five accused under Sections 399 and 402 of the IPC. The police said a tip-off, Jaswinder Singh Akoi and Avtar Singh Tari were arrested from near the Kairon factory, near here, when they, along with their accomplices, had been making preparation to commit dacoity in a local bank and an audit office of the cooperative societies here.


Dal(A) to mobilise support for rally
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 6
Mr Barinder Singh Mann, district president of the SAD(A), today said that the party would hold meetings in the district to motivate workers to participate in a rally in front of Parliament House on March 25 in protest against the registration of a case under TADA against party President Simranjit Singh Mann.

Mr Barinder Singh, addressing a meeting of the district unit of the party, alleged that the case was registered under pressure. He said while Mr Mann was working for protecting the interests of minority communities, the registration of a case under the Act, which no longer existed, was unjustified.

Mr Sukhdev Singh, office secretary of the union, said the claims of the SAD that it was farmer-friendly party had been exposed as it had failed to put pressure on the Union Government for presenting a farmer-friendly Budget. He said while industrialists were given concessions, the prices of agricultural inputs had been increased.


Police ‘harassing’ SAD-BJP men
Our Correspondent

Jalalabad, March 6
Mr Zora Singh Mann, SAD MP, today started a dharna in front of the local police station to protest against the alleged police excesses on the SAD-BJP-supported candidates in the elections to the local bodies.

Mr Mann alleged that the police had become a tool in the hands of the ruling party and the SAD-BJP activists were being terrorised. He alleged that these steps indicated that the Congress candidates were fearing defeat.


20 held for attack on waste disposal plant
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, March 6
The district police has arrested 20 persons in connection with the alleged attack on the bio-medical waste disposal plant at Saipur last night and for involvement in the acts of damaging property, arsoning and sabotaging.

Mr Varinder Kumar, SSP, in a press statement issued here today, said Mr Nand Kishore Sehgal of New Delhi, in a complaint, alleged that as many as 100 persons armed with iron rods and brickbats attacked the plant last night and damaged property, machinery and set ablaze the furniture. He alleged that the mob was led by one Inderjit, Gurnam Singh, Rajinder Pal Kharbanda and his two sons. The residents of Saipur were opposed to the functioning of the plant in the area and when a chimney was being installed at the plant the former attacked it.

A case under Sections 452, 436, 427, 148, 149 and 120-B of the IPC was registered and 20 persons arrested in this connection. The arrested persons were identified as Tarsem Singh, Som Nath, Bitta, Rakesh Kumar, Som Nath, Kuldip, Rajesh Kumar, Phiri Ram Kala, Lashkar Ram, Babu, Deba, Malkiat Chand, Amar Nath, Om Parkash, Raj Kumar, Sham Bisheshwar Prasad, Chotte Lal and Jatta Shankar Prasad. 


Pre-arrest bail plea of 7 rejected
Our Correspondent

Ropar, March 6
The special judge, Ropar, Mr A.S. Kathuria, today rejected the anticipatory bail applications of seven residents of Haryana — Kulbir Singh, Amir Singh, Manjeet Singh, Balwinder Singh, Pardeep Singh, Sandeep Singh and Kanwarjeet Singh — against whom cases were registered in benami land deal in Nanglian and Khairpur villages of Ropar.

Earlier, these persons were granted interim bail by the same court till today. The accused were also directed by the court to join the investigation. The police sources said though the accused joined investigation but did not reveal anything that could help in proceedings of the case.

When the accused filed application in the court of special judge here today for anticipatory bail, the public prosecutor pleaded against it on the plea that the police needed custodial interrogation of the accused to verify the sources of the amount through which they bought 350 acres in the said villages of Ropar.

Accepting the plea of the public prosecutor, the judge rejected the two separate bail applications filed by the accused.

As reported earlier in these columns, the accused had been booked on the suspicion of buying 350 acres in Nanglian and Khairpur villages of Ropar on the behalf of Mr Parkash Singh Badal, former Chief Minister, Punjab, and Haryana Chief Minister, Mr Om Prakash Chautala. A few of the accused are also known to be close friends of the Chautala family.


Anti-encroachment drive biased, allege traders
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 6
While the district authorities continued with the third phase of the anti-encroachment drive till this evening, a large number of affected shopkeepers and traders alleged that the policy was not being implemented uniformly.

The Executive Officer of the municipal council, Mr Kamal Kant, and city Superintendent of Police, Mr Nilabh Kishore, today led a team of police officials and municipal employees and got many business places cleared of the encroachments which had been constructed by shopkeepers, traders, rehri wallas and roadside vendors. The railway road, dhobi bazar, post office bazar were cleared of the permanent and temporary encroachments but interestingly the Gole Diggi market, Bathinda-Goniana road and Bibi Wala road were not touched.

An affected shopkeeper, whose encroachment was demolished, alleged that the drive was partial towards some people. The affected shopkeepers alleged that some business establishments had made encroachments but these were not even touched by the authorities.

The SP refuting the allegations said there was not bias in this drive. He refuted the charges of corruption levelled against the employees. 


Women allege discrimination

Amritsar, March 6
Two women, Ms Tarsem Kaur from the UK and Dr Harjit Kaur from Canada, were allegedly not allowed to participate in a “sukhasan” ceremony three days after the incident of gender discrimination at the Golden Temple on February 13. Voices of Freedom stated that on February 16, they were allegedly pushed by two women sevadars from queue while they were waiting for the “palki sahib”. OC

Meanwhile, seminar on ways to check gender discrimination will be held here on March 9. A simultaneous “paath” of Sukhmani Sahib would be held at Akal Takht by members of Sukhmani societies and the Sikh Nari Manch.


Tehsildar gets bail
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, March 6
Mr K.K. Garg, Additional Sessions Judge-cum-Special Judge, Gurdaspur, today accepted the bail pleas of Tehsildar Subhash Padam and two others allegedly involved in a case pertaining to the sale of church property near Madhopur.

According to orders, the Tehsildar is protected under the Judge (Protection) Act, 1985.

The Judge also ordered the release of Bhagmal Lambardar and Sanjeev Kumar, who were also allegedly involved in the case.

Accepting the bail pleas of the accused, the Judge directed them to furnish a perosnal bond in the sum of Rs 25,000 with a surety in the like amount to the satisfaction of the Ilaqa Magistrate.


BKU(E) men stage dharna
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 6
The BKU(E) today held a march in the city and sat on dharna near the office of the Deputy Commissioner as part of their ongoing agitation for freeing the defaulting farmers lodged at the local Central Jail.

The members of the union threatened that they would gherao the bank officials who would visit the villages for asking the defaulting farmers to repay the loans. They said the farmers were not able to repay the loans as their economic condition had weakened due to the wrong polices of the government.

Mr Jhanda Singh Jethuke, district president of the union, while addressing the activists said although the authorities had released a defaulting farmer lodged at the jail due to the pressure of the union, but they would continue their agitation till all farmers were released. He alleged that the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, who visited the city yesterday did not make any announcement for the benefit for farmers. He alleged that the authorities did not keep their promises made with farmers regarding their demands.


IT raids on Maruti showrooms
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 6
Officials of the Income Tax Department today conducted raids on two leading showrooms dealing in Maruti cars. While the IT officials remained tight-lipped about the raids, it was learnt that they have detected tax evasion by both dealers.

The raids followed a survey conducted by the officials of the Revenue Department. Besides, there were complaints against the two dealers that they were manipulating their accounts and sales. Moreover, there were certain discrepancies in the accounts relating to the insurance offered by the company.

The raids started at around 5 p.m. and were continuing till filing of this report. It could not be confirmed whether the IT officials had simultaneously raided the houses of the two leading dealers or not.

Ludhiana records maximum sale in vehicles in the entire northern region with thousands of vehicles sold here every year.


Kohar released on bail
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, March 6
Former Akali minister and sitting MLA Ajit Singh Kohar, who was arrested by Vigilance Bureau officials on August 9 last year for allegedly amassing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income, was released from the local Central Jail on bail today.

Kohar was granted bail by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Members of his family were present at the time of his release.


Dairy conference begins today
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 6
More than 1,500 delegates and over 100 organisations from different parts of the country are expected to participate in the three-day 32nd Dairy Industry Conference which will open here tomorrow.

The Chief Minister of Punjab, Capt Amarinder Singh, will inaugurate the conference while Mr G. S. Atwal, Parliamentary Secretary (Cooperatives) will preside.


Missing gold case
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 6
The mystery of the missing quintal of gold from the “Haveli” of the former chief of armed forces of erstwhile Patiala state took a new turn on Thursday as the High Court directed the trial court at Patiala not to frame charges in the case scheduled to be taken up now on March 20. Mr Justice K.S. Garewal ordered this on a petition preferred by Ms Manjit Kaur, the daughter-in-law of late Lieut Gen Gurdial Singh Harika seeking directions to hand over the investigation to the CBI.


DC gives new moong variety to farmers
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, March 6
The Deputy Commissioner, Mr Vikas Pratap, today distributed the new improved variety of moong seed, SML 668, free of cost to farmers of Chunni Kalan, Chunni Khurad, Bassian, Mehdudan and Patton villages under the Seed Village Programme at Chunni Kalan village, 20 km from here today.

He said the new seed variety had been imported from Taiwan under the international development scheme. It has been prepared by Asian Vegetable Research and Development Corporation, Taiwan.

Mr Pratap said it would ensure at least six quintals of production per acre and the yield within 65 days of the sowing. He further pointed out that one bag of 15-kg moong seed cost Rs 540 to the government.

He said as per a programme of the Punjab Government, when at least eight to 10 farmers of a village would adopt crop diversification, then according to the land of the village new variety of seeds would be supplied to them. He said experts from the Agriculture Department would also visit those villages to ensure that these new crops should not suffer from any disease.

Dr H.S.Sekhon, in charge, pulses, Dr T.S. Bains Plant Breeder, and Dr Gurdial Singh, an agronomist, said SML 668 moong could be produced with in 60 to 65 days only and this variety would give two crops, one in the basant season, and the other would be called Sathi Moongi.

Mr Kesar Singh Panag, Chief Agricultural Officer, Mr J.S.Cheema, DDPO, and Giani Mohinder Singh, a renowned farmer of Punjab, were also present on the occasion.


Additional Civil Judge suspended
Our Correspondent

Phagwara March 6
Ms Ramesh Kumari, Additional Civil Judge, Senior Division, Phagwara, has been placed under suspension. She was, earlier, divested of power on February 20 on the orders of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.


Poppy husk seized, 6 arrested
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 6
The police has seized 195 bags of poppy husk from different parts of the district. Six persons, including a woman, have been arrested in this connection.

Mr Ishwar Singh, SSP, said in a press note issued here today that four persons were arrested near Malooka village in the district while they were carrying 175 kg of poppy husk. The accused have been identified as Satnam Singh of Kothaguru village and Satish Kumar, Darshan Singh and Mithu Singh of Malooka village. A case under sections 15, 61, 85 of the NDPS Act has been registered against them at Dayalpura police station.

The police also arrested Bhan Singh of Neur village and Pal Kaur, alias Palo, of Kothaguru village, who were allegedly carrying 20 kg of poppy husk near Bhucho Kalan village. A case has been registered in this regard.

The police has also arrested Davinder Singh, alias Shinda, for allegedly cheating people by claiming to be a doctor. He allegedly used to sell intoxicating drugs and syrups to youths. A case under Section 420 of the IPC and Section 15 of the Indian Medical Act, 1956, has been registered against him.


Schools may resort to fake admissions
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 6
If the Punjab Education Policy-2002 is implemented, there will be fake admissions, inflated results and a significant drop in the quality of passouts. This was stated by highly placed sources in the Education Department, who added that as per the new education policy, the schools having less than 20 students in VIII, X and XII classes would be downgraded. Thus, only those schools in which there were more than 20 students in XI class would be upgraded.

Sources said that details regarding the admissions to all schools in the state had been sought by the state authorities and 100 Middle, 45 High and 55 Senior Secondary Schools were expected to be closed from the next session as they did not fulfil the criterion. To counter this, the sources said, the school authorities would resort to fake admissions so that their schools were not closed down or downgraded.

The sources said that besides fake admissions, the pass percentage would also be increased to increase the student intake as a large number of students leave their school when they fail.

No senior official of the state Education Department could be contacted. Mr Basant Kumar, district secretary, Democratic Teachers Front, said instead of imposing quantitative restrictions on schools, the fees, funds and other charges being imposed on the students should be reduced to increase the number of students. He said a large number of students were leaving schools due to poor economic condition in rural areas.


Chahal for English at primary level
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 6
Adviser to Punjab Chief Minister B.I.S. Chahal said today that there was a need to introduce English from the primary level to cope with rapid advacements in Information Technology.

In his message at the 58th annual prize distribution function of the Government Bikram College of Commerce here, Mr Chahal said the state government had initiated steps to create a new education policy with a view to bridging the gap between rural and urban education.

The Patiala Inspector-General of Police, Mr Anil Kaushik, and the Punjab School Education Board Chairman, Dr Kehar Singh, spoke on the need for creating specialist courses at the college level.

The principal of the college, Prof Narinder Narula, while reading the annual report said college students had stood first in the B.Com II, B.Com III and M.Com II examinations.

Mr Anil Gupta gave away prizes to meritorious students. A former principal of the college, Prof K.K. Saxena, was honoured by presenting a memento for his contributions in the field of commerce on the occasion. A cultural programme was also held.


5 pvt candidates face loss of academic year
Tribune News Service

SAS Nagar, March 6
Five private candidates from Rajpura face loss of an academic year for not having received roll numbers from the Punjab School Education Board to appear in the ongoing class X and class XII examinations. The first two examinations of the session are already over today.

While the students are alleging that they had filled and deposited the examination forms in September last year at the board’s Patiala depot through a book shop owner, the board authorities state that no forms have been received by them as a result of which roll numbers have not been issued to them.

According to information provided by the in charge of the school where these students were receiving guidance at Rajpura, she had given six examination forms to a shopkeeper in Rajpura to submit these along with the required fee at the board’s Patiala counter. ‘‘But since the roll numbers did not arrive, we started worrying and visited the board on March 3 and were told that the roll numbers would be given after Patiala employees are called and asked about the situation.’’ They went back again the next day only to be told that they would have to wait till a decision regarding them was taken. ‘‘And today we were finally told that no roll numbers would be issued to these students till we pay Rs 6,000 as late fee to the board,’’ she said.

According to Mr Sanjay Kumar, the book shop owner at Rajpura, he had submitted the forms at the counter along with the fee and was given acknowledgement slips as proof of submission of the forms. ‘‘The receipts were not stamped, but I did not bother. Now they are saying that these receipts are not valid without a stamp.’’

Board officials state that the shopkeeper did not submit the forms at all. ‘‘Instead, he simply paid the fee and did not give the forms. He got a receipt for the fee he submitted and not for the forms,’’ says Mr Kehar Singh, Chairman of the board. ‘‘We have told them that they have a chance if they pay late fee, but no special chance will be given to them.’’he said.

The Secretary and Controller of Examinations of the board, Mrs Narinder Kaur, reiterated that such cases of shopowners not submitting forms or being careless were fairly common and generally put private candidates into a lot of trouble. ‘‘This tendency to get forms submitted through a second or third party should be done away with,’’ she added.

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