Thursday, March 13, 2003, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Arrest cops, say farmers
Our Correspondent

Sheron (Tarn Taran), March 12
Hundreds of agitated villagers, including farmers, women and children, staged a dharna throughout the night on the Amritsar-Ferozepore road following the police firing on farmers here yesterday. This led to the diversion of traffic while the dharna continued till the filing of this report today.

The situation continued to be tense after yesterday’s incident in which 15 persons, including five police personnel, were injured. Members of the Kisan Sangarsh Committee, led by its convener Kanwalpreet Singh Pannu, raised slogans against the police and the administration.

Mr Baljit Singh, Additional Deputy Commissioner along with Mr Bhupinder Singh, SDM, reached the spot around, 2.30 p.m. today to pacify the farmers on orders of the Amritsar Deputy Commissioner, Mr Iqbal Singh Sidhu.

The ADC admitted that the incident was unfortunate and assured that the medical expenses of the injured farmers would be borne by the administration.

However, this failed to cool the tempers as the farmers continued the dharna and demanded that a case be registered against the DSP and other police personnel responsible for the incident. They should be arrested immediately and judicial inquiry be initiated against them, they added.

The police cordoned off the area and diverted traffic on the highway. The farmers are also agitated over the registration of a case against 12 farmers under Sections 307, 353 and 186 of the IPC. These include Mr Kanwalpreet Singh Pannu, Mr Pargat Singh Jamarai, Mr Baldev Singh, Mr Satnam Singh Pannu, Mr Satwinder Singh, Mr Kartar Singh, Mr Baldev Singh Bhattal, Mr Tirlok Singh, Mr Gurdeep Singh, Mr Amarjit Singh, Mr Harbans Singh and Mr Opinder Singh.

The SSP, Mr Narinder Bhargav, when contacted, denied having received any demand regarding the registration of a case against the police personnel. He refused to disclose steps to diffuse the situation but said Section 144 CrPC had been invoked in the area.

Meanwhile, Mr Mangat Ram Pasla, a CPM leader, has demanded the withdrawal of the case against these farmers to normalise the situation. Several organisations, including the CPM, the Jambhoori Kisan Sabha, the Shaheed Bhagat Singh Naujawan Sabha, the Technical Services Union and the Government Teachers Union, have extended support to the agitation by the farmers in a written statement.


Badal: lathi charge on farmers brutal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 12
SAD President Parkash Singh Badal today condemned the “brutal” firing and lathi charge by the Police on farmers at Tarn Taran yesterday. He held the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, responsible for the incident and said no police officer could have dared to take the step without the approval of the head of the government.

“ Why has there been such a sudden spurt in such incidents of police brutality since the Congress took over the government in Punjab?”, he asked. At least three farmers were hit by bullets and several others were injured in the unprovoked police action in the presence of the Irrigation Minister, Mr Gurchet Singh Bhullar.

Mr Badal described the incident as “shocking beyond words” and alleged that the atrocities being committed against the farmers were a part of an ongoing vendetta at the behest of the Chief Minister, for what he perceived to be the farmers’ refusal to support the Congress at the hustings.

He said it was unbelievable that farmers who were merely protesting peacefully and demanding the payment of their dues for sugarcane were given such a treatment. “Capt Amarinder Singh has systematically targeted the farming community and has pursued anti-farmer policies right from the day one, he added.


Genesis of farmers’ agitation
P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 12
Why have thousands of farmers taken to the streets in Patiala and Chandigarh? What are their problems and concerns? What is common between the two parallel agitations? How much blame should be apportioned to the BKU, which has split several times over? Are the agitations solely economic-based or is there a political touch or instigation?

At both places, the agitation is being spearheaded by breakaway factions of the BKU; one wing owing allegiance to Mr Baldev Singh Mianpur and the other to Mr Pashaura Singh, who heads the BKU (Ekta), which comprises of five other kisan organisations — the Khetibari Kisan Vikas Front, the Kirti Kisan Union, the Jamhoori Kisan Sabha, the Punjab Kisan Sabha and the Kul-Hind Kirti Kisan Union.

Before deciding to intervene in the Patiala-based agitation, BKU President, Bhupinder Singh Mann — is still juggling with ideas and views. His writ does not run in the BKU (Ekta). It is, however, apparent that there are contradictions within the Punjab BKU over the current agitation in Patiala which, insiders say, has been started contrary to certain broad agreements arrived at by the Punjab BKU executive committee some time back, particularly in respect of billing of power and water. The executive’s decision was not to oppose the withdrawal of “free” facilities as per record. Yet the Punjab unit decided to launch an agitation in Patiala.

There has been no “official” government intervention in the two agitations. The Patiala agitation started on March 5 and the one at Chandigarh on March 10. However, Minister of Agriculture Rajinder Kaur Bhattal took the initiative today. She asked the Financial Commissioner (Development), Mr P.K. Verma, and the Director of Agriculture, Dr R.K. Rampal, to get in touch BKU leaders in Patiala and Chandigarh, examine their demands and put up a “status paper” to her at the earliest.

All Chief Agricultural Officers have been asked to contact the leaders of farmers in case they were holding any agitation in their respective districts and update the government on their demands. Ms Bhattal told TNS that from the preliminary briefing received by her it transpired that while some demands of farmers pertained to the Centre, some concerned the state and its different departments like the PSEB and Excise and Taxation. “The government has all sympathy for the farmers. We will examine and categorise the demands and get back to BKU leadership on the government stand”, she added.

The demands raised by the farmers, irrespective of their factions, relate to remunerative minimum support prices (MSP), payment of bonus on paddy, restoration of “free” power and water, introducing “reforms” in the PSEB so that its own in-built “corruption, lethargy, inefficiency and overstaffing administrative cost is not passed on to the consumers”. The farmers are also demanding payment of dues to sugarcane growers, waiving of cooperative loans, rollback of input prices of diesel, plant protection chemicals, fertilisers and also 4 per cent state sales tax on fertiliser, special concessions to border and kandi area farmers.


Lok Bhalai Party out to rein in fraud NRI bridegrooms
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service


MR Ramoowalia has urged the Punjab Government to enforce the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) in the state as the existing laws are not enough to deal with such cases. Such marriages were organised crime in which the parents of the bridegroom, middleman and relatives collectively play fraud on the girl concerned by not revealing any detail on the first marriage. 

Chandigarh, March 12
When Gurdev Singh (name changed) took a flight for India from England recently, he cherished a desire to have a new bride. On arrival at his village near Jalandhar, he got engaged to a 20-year-old girl, who was 27 years younger to him, without revealing anything about his family. The date of marriage was fixed. A banquet hall was booked in Kapurthala. Everything went smoothly till the marriage party reached the banquet hall.

All of a sudden, a police party accompanied by activists of the Lok Bhalai Party (LBP) from Kapurthala district reached the hall. Before the beginning of “milani”, the bridegroom and his other relatives were asked to come to a police station. Stunned by the development, the parents of the girl sought to know the reason.

The police took no time in exposing the past of the bridegroom. They told the girl’s parents that the bridegroom was a fraud as he was already married and had three children, the eldest being 20-year-old, The girl’s parents profusely thanked the LBP for saving their daughter. And the bridegroom had to cool his heels in the police station for the whole day.

There are several such cases exposed by Mr Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, President of the LBP, which has taken this task as a mission in the state. “We have got arrested at least four NRI bridegrooms, who were trying either to get married again after abandoning their earlier wives”, said Mr Ramoowalia in an interview. The marriage plans of such bridegrooms were shattered by LBP activists at Nakodar, Mehatpur, Desian and Khusropur.

Mr Ramoowalia says his party has exposed several such cases of fraud with girls by NRI bridegrooms. My party was alone doing work on this front whereas it was the responsibility of leaders like Mr Parkash Singh Badal, who headed the state thrice as Chief Minister, to enact law to stop such marriages and protect the girls concerned”, he added.

“All this was being done out of sheer greed by NRI bridegrooms. They take dowry worth Rs 15 lakh to Rs 20 lakh. They stay with new brides for a few months and then go back to their adopted countries never to return”, says Mr Ramoowalia. “Since July, 2002, I have got a compensation varying between Rs 3 lakh and Rs 12 lakh each for 42 girls who met such a fate at the hands of NRI bridegrooms”, he adds.

As many as 168 FIRs have been got registered against such bridegrooms. He was hopeful that in another 35 such cases, the girls concerned would be given adequate compensation. “In eight cases, the main accused (bridegrooms) have been stopped from absconding by taking flights” he further revealed.

For helping such girls to wage a legal battle against “thug bridegrooms”, panels of advocates, who provide legal service without charging any penny, have been set up in almost all districts. Three advocates — Mr Sanjiv Pandey, Ms Daljit Kaur and Mr Paramjit Singh Brar — take up such cases free of cost in the Punjab and Haryana High Court at the request of the LBP, he says.

“Following a meeting with Mrs Sonia Gandhi, she has written to the Punjab Government to extend full police help. And the ADGP (Crime) has written a letter to all officers in the field in this connection”, he said.

NRI bridegrooms used several ways to cheat girls. They got ex-parte divorces in their adopted countries by preparing fake documents and kept their wives, back in Punjab, in dark. “In certain cases, they take their brides along abroad and bring them back within a year and then never take them back”, the LBP leader said.


Nishan Sahibs reinstalled
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 12
Hundreds of devotees witnessed the re-installation of Nishan Sahibs at a ceremony held at Akal Takht here today.

Kar seva of Nishan Sahibs was undertaken from October 1, 2002.

Prof Kirpal Singh Badungar, SGPC chief, said these symbols were primary to the Sikh religion.

Both Nishan Sahibs costing Rs 1 crore have been made of stainless steel pipes and covered with 15 kg of gold. While one Nishan Sahib is 100 ft in height, the other is 101 ft.


Amnesty moved in case of mistaken identity
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 12
The 21-member committee supporting clemency for death row prisoner Sarabjit Singh sentenced by the Lahore High Court has written to Amnesty International for his release.

The support committee representing members from different political parties and organisations alleges a case of mistaken identity of Sarabjit who has been pronounced the sentence as Manjit Singh, son of Mehenga Singh, resident of Pakistan.

Sarabjit’s latest letter to his sister Dalbir Kaur, copies of which were shown to the press, says, “Dear DK (Dalbir Kaur), Aslam-a-iliquom, khuda ki marzi se mein theekh hu, but I have been unable to prove my identity as Sarabjit”.

His sister claimed in a press conference here today that Sarabjit is the son of Sulakhan Singh of Bhikhiwind, who has been named accused in a bomb blast case of 1991 in Pakistan. His daughter Poonam was merely 23 days old when he went missing. She is now about 12 years old and was present at the conference.

Ms Dalbir Kaur said her brother was working as a labourer in the house of Sarpanch Chanan Singh when the bomb blast in Pakistan took place, for which he has been accused. Sarabjit is lodged at Kot Liquat Ali Jail in Lahore since October 1991.

The support committee comprises Mr Kirpal Singh Randhawa of the PHRC and members of the Khalra Mission Committee, Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle, CPM, SAD, Congress and BJP.

On March 25 the committee would approach the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi with relevant documents regarding Sarabjit’s identity and press for his release by approaching the United Nations Organisation. They appealed to government to plead his case on foreign level. The support committee has also requested all political and non-political organisations to come forward and support the cause of Sarabjit as he is being unduly punished.


Vigilance probe against IAS officer, 4 SHOs
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 12
The Punjab Vigilance Bureau has ordered a probe against an IAS officer, Mr Vivek Aggarwal, and Chief Engineer, PWD (B&R) M.S. Gurm, besides four SHOs, Mr AP Pandey, Chief Director-cum-ADGP, Vigilance Bureau, said presiding over a state-level meeting of Vigilance Officers today.

Mr Pandey asked the officials to probe all pending vigilance inquiries within two weeks.

The vigilance chief disclosed that the Director, Quality Control, had conducted an inquiry at the behest of the Secretary, PWD (B&R), and found that Mr Gurm had allegedly caused a Rs 6 crore loss to the state exchequer by awarding lump-sum contracts for different types of bridges in the south wing in the state.

Referring to Mr Vivek Aggarwal, he said while posted as ADC, Muktsar, he allegedly had illegally constructed a market on the village panchayat land at Mandi Killianwali (Gidderbaha). On the basis of a complaint, an inquiry was already in progress.

The drive against corruption was confined not only to corrupt politicians and four corrupt SHOs were also facing inquiries.


CM to seek industrial package for Punjab
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 12
Punjab Finance Minister Lal Singh today said special industrial packages to Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir had damaged the industrial prospects of Punjab and that a delegation of state leaders led by the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, would meet the Prime Minister soon to demand a similar package for Punjab.

Addressing a press conference here after inaugurating an ATM facility of Canara Bank in the Leela Bhavan market, the Finance Minister said Punjab merited a special package to attract industry as it was a border state which had suffered due to more than 10 years of terrorism.

The Finance Minister said Punjab depended on small-scale industry as well as agriculture to sustain its economy, adding the state was being discriminated against in both fields. He said the policy of freezing the MSPs of both wheat and paddy would also severely affect the farmers of the state.

Mr Lal Singh said Punjab presently had as much as 50 lakh quintals of levy sugar stocked in its mills valued at Rs 430 crore. He said the government had already released dues to the farmers through its resources. However, instead of giving permission to Punjab to sell its sugar stock, the Central Government was dispatching sugar stocks of Gujarat and Maharashtra to Punjab as well as neighbouring states, he said.


Vinod blamed for poor poll results
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, March 12
Master Mohan Lal Former Punjab minister and BJP leader, is up in arms against Union Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Vinod Khanna, blaming him for the party’s poor performance in the municipal poll an account of “wrong” distribution of the BJP ticket, without consulting local leaders.

Talking to mediapersons, he said: “Had we fought unitedly, the results would have been different.” The BJP won in 13 of the total 33 wards.

Sources said the candidates’ list supplied by the local unit of the BJP was not approved by the high command and four loyalist of Mr Khanna were “adjusted”, against the wishes of local leaders.

Dr Suminder Sharma, political secretary to Mr Khanna, denied the charges and said the final list was prepared by the BJP high command and he (Mr Khanna) had played no role in the distribution of ticket.


CLP meeting convened
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 12
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has convened a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party for March 14 at Punjab Bhavan to discuss the issues to be taken up in the Budget session of the state assembly, Mr Joginder Singh Mann, general secretary of the party, said here today.


2 ‘vaids’ booked under PNDT Act
Tribune News Service

Banur (Patiala), March 12
“Vaids” and “hakims” advocating treatment for women wanting a male issue are likely to be in trouble, with the district Health Department registering cases against two “vaids” who were trapped selling such cures after decoys had been sent to their “clinics”.

A team of doctors and non-government organisations’ (NGOs) representatives, including the Civil Surgeon, Dr Inderjit Kaur Walia, and Rajpura Senior Medical Officer (SMO), Mr Amar Singh Azad, today conducted raids on the shops of two “vaids” in the town following which cases were registered against them under the PNDT Act.

According to the Civil Surgeon, decoys were sent to the shops of Pandit Ram Murti Jyotish and Vaid Mahesh Kumar Sharma. The two women requested for medicines to ensure that they delivered a male child. Vaid Mahesh Kumar assured the woman that he had just the medicine for her. The “patient” was shown a register in which names of other women who had delivered male children were recorded and her name was also entered in it.

The Civil Surgeon said the “vaid” was photographed while giving the medicine to the decoy following which the Health Department team seized his register as well as the medicine handed over by him to the patient. Dr Walia said the register of the “vaid” listed the fee received from many women as “parivartan” (sex change) cases. She said the department would get the medicine examined.

In the other case, the “vaid” first took Rs 100 as fee from the decoy and entered her name and address in his register as well as the reason for her visit. However, the “vaid” was cautioned by his son about the raid. Consequently he denied the decoy of having the medicine she wanted. A case was, however, registered against him under the PNDT Act and his statement of agreeing to give medicine was recorded.

The department has constituted a committee to conduct checks against violation of the PNDT Act. Social workers as well as representatives of the NGOs have been associated with these committees. Dr Walia said people were being asked to provide information on sex determination tests and other violations of the Act.


Mumbai expert to rationalise traffic
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 12
To overcome the problem of traffic bottlenecks in this city, the district police and the Bathinda Municipal Council have sought the services of a Mumbai-based traffic expert, Mr Vishva Nathan.

The authorities will use his services to develop parking lots in the city, apart from identifying alternative routes for traffic diversion. A strategy to deal with slow traffic on the busy roads of the town will also be worked out.

Information gathered by TNS reveals that over the past few years, vehicular movement in this city has gone haphazard, creating problems in the smooth flow of traffic. The problem has become more severe with the number of all types of vehicles plying on roads having increased manifold. Rampant plying of heavy Army vehicles has added to the traffic volume.

In the past few years, the city has witnessed a number of road accidents. Several residents, including school and college students, have been casualties.

The civic authorities, with the help of the police, has already removed road squatters and “rerhiwalas.” Challaning of vehicles for wrong parking has been started to inculcate traffic sense among residents. Parking lines had been drawn on main city roads.

Mr Kamal Kant Goyal, Executive Officer, Municipal Council, when contacted, said the traffic expert would reach the city day after tomorrow.

Former minister Chiranji Lal Garg, while hailing the efforts by the Municipal Council to regulate traffic, said it should not be at the cost of the poor. He demanded alternative sites for those uprooted in the beautification drive.


Minister asks for user certificates
Constituency funds unaccounted for
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 12
The Punjab Rural Development Department has spent crores in Banur, the constituency of former Finance Minister Kanwaljit Singh, and Rajpura, the constituency of former Local Bodies Minister Balramji Das Tandon, for which it has yet the submit user certificates.

Department officers were pulled up for laxity on this account at a meeting of the District Planning Board which was held after nearly three years. Punjab Excise and Taxation Minister Sardul Singh, who is the Chairman of the District Planning Board, expressing surprise at the delay in the submission of the user certificates, ordered that they should be submitted within a month.

According to sources, it was revealed during the meeting that the maximum amount was released for the development of the Banur and Rajpura constituencies during the Akali-BJP rule. Officers who briefed the board said user certificates could not be issued because a large part of the money could not be used. A part of the money had been embezzled, they said.

Deputy Commissioner Tejveer Singh said as Capt Kanwaljit Singh represented Banur a lot of funds had been earmarked for the constituency. He said Rs 1.29 crore were still unaccounted for. When he had been informed that some of the money had not been utilised properly, he had said action should be taken against the officials concerned.

It was not only the user certificates which invited the minister’s ire but also the utilisation of money for constructing houses for Scheduled Caste families in villages. The government had decided to buy land where shamlat land was not available. Money received for buying the land has not been utilised and could lapse on March 31 if no action is taken.

Mr Sardul Singh directed SDMs concerned to submit a proposal for buying land where shamlat land was not available within a week.

Meanwhile, the board has given ex post facto approval for the regularisation of an expenditure of Rs 18.71 crore. While as much as Rs 12.8 crore is for 2000-2001, Rs 9.9 crore is for 2001-2002 and Rs 6.9 crore for 2002-2003. 


Sukhnain all set to return with a bang
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 12
After doing a round of the western part of the world and giving some lively performances there, noted Punjabi pop star Dr Sukhnain is all set to hit back in a new “avtaar” with the help of a new foot tapping number, which is in the pipeline and is likely to reshape the Punjabi music scenario.

Sukhnain, who had earned a rich applause from the urbane audience after his “Gora Chitta Mukh,” an HMV number released last year, had donned studied silence all of a sudden as he had turned towards the Western part of the world to explore new vistas there, particularly, in the field of live performances of “Ghazal” singing, for which he was widely acclaimed. He has been a performing “ghazal” singer with All India Radio for over 18 years. The response to his endeavour by the Punjabi population of the USA and Canada was so overwhelming that apart from the elite, the quality of his voice was appreciated by none other than film actor Dharmendra, who was on a trip to the USA and who “promised to do something worthwhile” for Sukhnain. He subsequently asked the latter to send the demo of his live and other performances.

Unlike most of the other singers who were going in for just Punjabi pop, the latest effort of Dr Sukhnain would be a blend of everything which has been popular for ages and which depicted the Punjabi culture and different shades of personality of an ordinary Punjabi person in a sober yet very realistic manner by using Punjabi folk, Punjabi pop, foot tapping Bhangra and even melancholy. The latest number, which according to Sukhnain is being recorded with Lucky Star and which is likely to be released within a month or so along with at least two videos, is being produced with an objective of catering to every segment of Punjabi audience — ranging from pop loving youngsters to culture savvy middle-aged ruralities. “Actually, one of the songs will be an effort to showcase the state of mind of an enthusiastic drunkard lover, the other one would be depicting the mood of a naughty Punjabi girl and her amorous but teasing encounters with varied young prospective lovers. Every effort is being made to produce a never before quality work whether it comes to recording or composing. We are making no compromise on this,” said Dr Sukhnain adding that the music of the forthcoming number has been composed by noted Punjabi musician Mr H.M. Singh. It is being recorded under the supervision of Mr Jarnail Ghumaan.

Dr Sukhnain, who was considered to be a multi-faceted personality in the field of music for his being a veterinary doctor on the one hand and an accomplished artiste on the other, had earned rich applause earlier for his voice carrying an in-built velvet effect which was aptly projected through his earlier cassettes — “Pyala Ishq Daa” (an MVI number) and another cassette on the green revolution released by Punjab Agricultural University (PAU). Recipient of the first 1985-86 “Shahid-e-Azam Bhagat Singh” state youth Award, given by the state government in recognition of his services in the field of music, Dr Sukhnain, a disciple of noted classical music doyens like Mohan Malsiyani, Ranjit Rana and Master Om Parkash Ji, also participated in the 18th Japanese Youth Goodwill Cruise (JYGC-1985) on an invitation of the Japanese government and had visited Japan, South Korea and Singapore, to promote international understanding and friendship. He was also honoured with the “Sur Shahzada” award by the Prof Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation in year 2001.

He has been an approved and performed radio and TV artiste for more than 18 years and his number, “Chak Dun Chak Dun Karda Ne Lachhie Bugtu Vajda Ni,” which was part of the Jalandhar Doordarshan’s popular new year programme (2001) was an instant hit with rural as well as urban audience for which he has been giving due credit to the Doordarshan Director, Mr Ashok Jailkhani, and his team.


NCM chief concerned over conversions
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 12
Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities Tarlochan Singh is concerned at the conversion of border-area residents to Christianity and has asked the SGPC to inquire into this sensitive issue and initiate steps to prevent this practice at the earliest. He was also optimistic of the outcome of the unity moves among the Akalis but asserted that he was not in any way involved in the parleys. Mr Tarlochan Singh was in the city today to preside over the convocation of two local colleges.

Talking to The Tribune at the railway station, he said minorities should not fight among themselves and resort to conversions, especially, keeping in mind the sensitivity of the border states like Punjab. “I had been apprised of the conversions in the border areas sometime back and had convened a meeting of Christian leaders and religious heads — both Catholics and Protestants — in Delhi. They assured me that no conversions would be carried out in Punjab and there have been no reports on this matter, till a few days back,” he pointed out.

He said he had written to SGPC chief Kirpal Singh Badungar asking him to get the matter thoroughly investigated. “It has to be established whether the conversions are carried out by luring the people or are voluntary,” he said.

Regarding the maintenance of Sikh shrines in Pakistan, he said he had written to the United Nations Educational Social and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), which has assured that it would make arrangements for the proper maintenance of Sikh gurdwaras in Pakistan.

AMRITSAR (OC): Accusing the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) of misuse of funds of the Dharam Prachar Committee, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) alleged this misuse was the cause of large-scale conversions to Christianity by Sikhs, especially Dalits. SAD (A) spokesman Ram Singh while speaking on the behalf of the party president, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, at a press conference said, a six-member fact-finding committee has been constituted by SAD (A) to look into the matter. He said this activity of proselytisation was on an alarming scale in Nagoke, Goindwal, Mugalian, Gharat, Pakoke and many other border villages. Mr Ram Singh said Mr Mann would take up the issue of conversions and a bill to ban the same in Parliament.


Kidney scam: order on bail plea reserved
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 12
In less than two months after the great kidney conspiracy was unearthed, the Punjab and Haryana High Court today reserved orders on bail pleas moved by advocate Pardeep Saini and another accused in the case. The case will now come up for orders on March 14.

Ms Justice Kiran Anand Lall of the High Court also fixed March 27 as the next date of hearing on petitions filed by Dr Bhupinder Singh and Parveen Kumar Sareen in the case.

They were apprehending arrest in a first information report registered on September 21 last year under the provisions of the Transplantation of Human Organ Act, besides under Sections 420, 467, 468, 471, 371 and 120-B of the Indian Penal Code.

Seeking the grant of bail, counsel for the advocate had contended that the police was trying to falsely implicate him. He was not named in the first information report. Moreover, he had no role in the preparation of any document or identifying any person before any Magistrate regarding the sale or purchase of kidney.

Bail plea

A petition seeking the grant of bail filed by former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s officer on special duty Hardeep Singh was referred to another Bench by Mr Justice Amar Dutt of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Details of the orders were not yet available.

It may be recalled that Hardeep Singh had earlier accused the Congress government of adopting a revengeful attitude towards political opponents. He had asserted that the Chief Minister had openly declared that Badal and his men would be taught a lesson and as such he was being targeted. His counsel had added that a false and a baseless case had been registered against the petitioner by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau and his house was raided even though nothing incriminating was recovered.


BJP candidate declared elected
Our Correspondent

Fazilka, March 12
On the directive of Mr C.L. Bains, Election Commissioner, Punjab, Mr Bhupinder Singh Saharan, SDM-cum-Returning Officer, Fazilka, declared BJP candidate Ramesh Verma elected from Ward No. 6 here by 22 votes today. Mr Verma, Mr Dharam Pal Gandhi of the Congress and Mr Ashok Kumar, an independent candidate, had contested the election. During the counting process, the presiding officer lodged a complaint that an unidentified person had fled away with a packet containing 433 ballot papers. Due to this, the result of this ward had been withheld. Mr Saharan had reported the matter to the Election Commissioner, seeking instructions.

On the other hand, Mr Verma complained to the Election Commissioner that he had been declared victorious but the result was being withheld to favour the ruling party. The Election Commission sought a report from Mr Darbara Singh Guru, Observer, in this regard.

In the report it was found that the three presiding officers for separate booths for this ward had — in result Farm No. 35 — mentioned that Mr Ramesh Verma of the BJP, secured 787 votes, while Mr Dharam Pal Gandhi of the Congress had polled 765 votes and Ashok Kumar, an independent candidate had polled 166 votes. 61 votes were declared invalid. On the basis of this report and evidence submitted by Mr Verma, the Election Commissioner last evening directed the Deputy Commissioner, Ferozepore, that the Returning Officer should have no doubt in declaring the result. Hence, Mr Verma be declared elected by 22 votes.

Independent wins MC poll
Our Correspondent

Rampura Phul, March 12
Mr Swaran Kuku, Independent, has won from Ward No. 4, the election to which was held today under security. He defeated Congress candidate Gurtej Rana.

The polling had been put off on March 9 after some supporters of a candidate poured ink into ballot boxes.

Mr Kuku polled 1366 votes, Mr Rana could secure only 346 votes.


Villagers seek 24-hr power supply
Our Correspondent

Rampura Phul, March 12
A large number of residents of Raman Bas village, near here, staged a dharna in front of the subdivision (urban) office of the Punjab State Electricity Board PSEB in protest against the poor Power supply to their village.

The residents alleged that their village was facing an acute shortage of power and no official of the PSEB was ready to listen to their grievances. They alleged that in June, 2000 the village had paid Rs 25,000 to the PSEB for getting a 24-hour power supply connection, which had not been made available to them. They also showed a receipt (No 470, June 25, 2000) to this correspondent in this regard. They alleged that while they had paid Rs 25,000, the PSEB officers now said the village had deposited only Rs 10,000.

The sarpanch of the village said they were promised 24-hour power supply and the lines for the same were to be laid with Bhunder village. He said due to poor power supply, the studies of their wards were getting adversely affected. He said the PSEB had been increasing the power tariff as the power supply had been drastically cut. He said if their village was not connected to 24- hour power supply line by March 15, they would resort indefinite strike.

Mr J.S. Dhaliwal, SDO, on being contacted, said the scheme had been abandoned by the PSEB and he was helpless. The matter had been brought to the notice of the higher authorities, he added.


PSEB staff hold rally
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 12
Members of the Guru Nanak Dev Thermal Plant Employees Federation today staged a dharna near the plant for two hours as part of the statewide “satyagraha” of employees of the PSEB to oppose the formation of corporations in place of the board. The employees also disrupted traffic on the Bathinda Malout Road for some time. Some other unions like the Bharati Kisan Union (Ekta) and the Lok Morcha, Punjab, also participated in the dharna.

Mr Gursewak Singh president of the union, said the recommendations of the Haldia Committee should not be implemented as these were against the interests of employees as well as consumers of the PSEB and the union would oppose the government’s move to implement the report.

Meanwhile, members of the Technical Services Union (TSU) observed a two hours strike today.


Reduce TDS on liquor, Capt to Jaswant
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 12
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today wrote to the Union Finance Minister, Mr Jaswant Singh, requesting that the rate of tax deducted at source on country liquor and IMFL should be brought down from 10 per cent to 2 per cent.

It may be recalled that in the Union Budget there is a proposed amendment in Section 206 (C) of the Income Tax Act whereby, traders in liquor would be required to pay 10 per cent of their purchase price as tax at source. The Chief Minister has suggested that this amendment should be withdrawn.

The letter states that if the proposed amendment is passed by Parliament, it shall cripple liquor business and shall adversely impact the state's revenue. At present 23 per cent of the Punjab revenue is collected from liquor. The total value of liquor purchased by retailers in the state worked out to be worth Rs 500 crore.


Plot holders seek probe
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 12
In a letter to the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, members of the All-India Rashtriya Yuva Chetna Manch have claimed that more than 200 persons had purchased plots on Majitha Road in 1994, but these were transferred in the names of an MLA and another person.

In a press conference organised here today, members of the manch presented copies of letters sent to various authorities.

The plot holders have sought a fresh inquiry into the matter.


Fire disrupts telecom services
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, March 12
Telecom services at the local new sabzi mandi and adjoining localities were disrupted following a fire that broke out in the telephone exchange at the sabzi mandi here today.

As many as 2,600 telephone connections went out of order. Mr K.C. Jindal, General Manager (Telecom), said though the cause of the fire was yet to be ascertained. He said the services would be restored by tomorrow evening.


Time for milling running out
K. K. Goyal

Mansa, March 12
During the current season, paddy equal to 2,92,598 quintals of rice has been procured by all state and central government agencies. Out of this procurement, rice weighing 1,91,361 quintals have been delivered to the FCI till date and the remaining rice is lying with the millers. The last date of paddy milling in the state is March 31, 2003. But till date, only 53 per cent of the paddy purchased by the state foodgrain agencies has been milled by the 130 rice millers of the district as compared to 89 per cent paddy of the Food Corporation of India (FCI).

If the millers of the district fail to deliver the rice to the FCI within the stipulated period, who will be responsible for the loss suffered by the state foodgrain agencies concerned due to non-delivery of the rice?


PTDC shows door to 62 workers
Lalit Mohan

Ropar, March 12
The Punjab Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) management has decided to discontinue the services of 62 daily wage workers with the corporation since the past 15 years. Sources said orders to discontinue the services of these employees were issued last evening.

As per the orders, the management had decided not to grant further service sanction to the employees when their term comes to an end by March-end.

The orders have evoked strong reaction among the PTDC employees union. The Chairman of the PTDC Karamchari Dal, Mr Prem Bhat, talking to this correspondent, said an emergency meeting of the State Karamchari Dal had been called to discuss the issue.

The decision of the management was contrary to the assurance given by the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, to the PTDC employees, he said. The Chief Minister had said in case the PTDC was privatise, the employees would either be offered VRS or re-adjusted in other departments.

However, the decision of the management out of the blue to sack daily-wage workers was unjust. The employees had been with the PTDC for the past 15 years on minimum wages. Hence, there was little logic in discontinuing their services.

Mr Bhat said the decision had led to a feeling of insecurity among other employees. At least 20 employees were on an ad hoc basis. The management was now mulling over the idea of sacking them too, Mr Bhat alleged.

The employees’ union of the PTDC would launch an agitation and challenge the decision of the management in court.

It is worth mentioning here that at a meeting of the committee constituted to overlook the disinvestment process of the PTDC under the chairmanship of the Chief Secretary, Punjab, on January 27, it was decided that the employees of the corporation would be offered VRS.

It was also proposed at the meeting that the employees who did not opt for VRS or were not entitled for the same would be transferred to the investing company on the condition that they would not be retrenched for a period of one year, except on disciplinary grounds.


Govt offices major defaulters of power bills
Our Correspondent

Mansa, March 12
An amount running into lakhs is outstanding against government offices on account of pending electricity bills in the district. A sum of Rs 61.10 lakh is outstanding against various government offices in nine subdivisions of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) of the district.

Among major defaulters are SDO (Water Supply), Mansa, against whom Rs 14.36 lakh is outstanding. Similarly Executive Officer, Municipal Council, Mansa, has yet to pay Rs 13.48 lakh, the SDO, Sewerage Board, Mansa, Rs 4.87 lakh, Senior Medical Officer, Civil Hospital Mansa, Rs 2.60 lakh, the Deputy Director, Animal Husbandry, Rs 1.06 lakh, the Project Officer, Civil Hospital, Sardulgarh, Rs 1.78 lakh, the SDO, Irrigation, Khiali Chailanwali, Rs 2.58 lakh, the Municipal Council, Budhlada, Rs 2.70 lakh, the Municipal Council, Bareta, Rs 4.29 lakh, and police offices of the district, Rs 1.74 lakh.

The PSEB has stopped supply to some government offices in the district, disconnecting their power connections. 


MC razes 100 structures
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, March 12
Municipal Corporation officials today demolished unauthorised constructions on government land in Housing Board Colony here today. The police resorted to a lathi-charge on the residents, who were opposing the move, terming it as selective.

Earlier, the MC officials accompanied by the police reached the colony and started demolishing illegal structures constructed on the government land. As many as 100 such encroachments were removed by a special team. Residents of the area raised anti-government slogans and termed the demolition drive as selective. Mr Surjit Singh, a local resident, alleged that though the MC had identified about, 4,000 encroachments in Bhargo camp locality about two years ago, but no action was taken to remove these despite clear instructions from the Punjab and Haryana High Court in this regard.

Meanwhile, the police resorted to a lathi charge on the residents, two tried to resist the demolition drive by laying themselves before the bulldozers. Six persons received minor injuries in the incident.

The residents alleged that though hundreds of illegal buildings including hotels, restaurants and big market complexes were constructed in the city in the past five years, but no action was taken against the defaulters so far.


MLA’s son booked for attacking SDO
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, March 12
A case has been registered against Mr Jaspal Singh, son of the local MLA, Mr Sukhdarshan Singh Mrar, along with two others under Section 332,353, 186, 342, 379 and 34, IPC, for allegedly beating up a senior functionary and a peon of the PSEB at Bariwala in this district.

Police sources said Mr Jaspal Singh along with Mr Lakha Singh and Mr Bhupinder Singh, an employee of the PSEB, went to the office of the SDO, Mr Amrit Lal Bansal, yesterday and asked him to sign two applications for power connections to tubewells.

When Mr Bansal told them that he would sign only after going through the applications, the accused reportedly bolted the door of his office and started beating him up. When the peon, Mr Jeet Singh, tried to intervene, he was also beaten up.

Mr Atma Singh, SHO Bariwala, said raids were conducted on the residences of the accused but they were missing.


Mansa SMO held for graft
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 12
The local Vigilance authorities have arrested Dr Bhagwan Dass Mittal, posted as SMO at the Civil Hospital at Mansa, after registering a case against him on March 10 under Sections 7, 13 (2) and 88 of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Talking to newspersons here this afternoon, Mr Santokh Singh Saini, DSP, Vigilance Bureau, Sangrur, said Dr Mittal had been arrested in connection with a corruption case while he was been posted at Dhuri Civil Hospital in 2001.

The DSP said the case had been registered against the SMO after conducting an inquiry into a complaint submitted by Mr Joginder Singh of Rampura Phul who had alleged that Dr Mittal had taken Rs 3,000 from him for conducting the post-mortem examination of the body of his son, Bhupinder Singh, who had died in the Dhuri Civil Hospital after consuming poison which had allegedly been given to the deceased at Dhuri by his in-laws with whom he had some dispute.

The DSP also said as per the complaint Dr Mittal had initially demanded Rs 10,000 from Joginder Singh for the post-mortem examination of Bhupinder Singh but finally agreed to accept Rs 3,000 and received the same amount from Joginder Singh. Later, the deceased’s father, Mr Joginder Singh, lodged a complaint with the Vigilance Bureau in this regard which inquired of the matter and registered a corruption case against the SMO.


Travel agent booked for cheating
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, March 12
The Bholath police has registered a case under Sections 420, 406 and 120-B of the IPC and Section 24 of the Immigration Act against Jagtar Singh, a travel agent, of Maqsoodpur village for duping Amarjit Singh Rs 1.25 lakh on the pretext of sending him to the United Kingdom.

In a press-note issued here today, Dr R.N. Dhoke, SSP, said Baldev Singh, a resident of Maqsoodpur village in a complaint alleged that Jagtar Singh demanded Rs 8.50 lakh for sending his son, Amarjit Singh, to the UK. He gave Rs 25,000 to Jagtar Singh and the passport of Amarjit Singh about-eight months ago who promised that Amarjit Singh would be sent within 20 days. Thereafter, the agent took Rs 1 lakh more from Baldev Singh on the pretext purchasing tickets for Amarjit Singh for his flight. Baldev Singh alleged that Jagtar Singh neither sent his son abroad nor returned the money. A case has been registered.


4 held for cow slaughter
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 12
At least four persons of the eight persons booked for slaughtering cows and selling beef on pretext of being goat meat have been arrested. The remaining four accused have absconded.

The Ramdass police under Majitha police district near here got a tip-off that the accused Yaqoob Masih, George Masih, Padras Masih, Sakha Masih, Joginder Masih, Pamma Masih and Roshan Masih of Fufian village used to kill cows and sell their meat as goat’s meat.

A case has been registered under Sections 3,5 and 8 of the Cow Slaughter Prevention Act 1985 and 419 and 420 of the IPC against accused.


Video parlour owner held

Jalandhar, March 12
The police today arrested one person on the charge of allegedly showing obscene movies to minors in his video parlour.

The district police chief, Mr Varinder Kumar, stated here today that acting on a tip-off, a police party raided Jiwan Video Hall located near Sodal Road in the city and arrested the proprietor, Jiwan Kumar while he was showing an “A” certificate movie to minors.

A case has been registered under Section 292/294 of the Cinematograph Act, 1952, at police Division No. 8. A VCD player, a TV set and several CDs have been seized. PTI

Cinema owner booked
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 12
The district police has registered a case against the owner and the manager of the Maya Cinema here for allegedly showing blue films here today.

On a tip-off the Chheharta police has registered a case under sections 292 and 188 of the IPC against Mukhtiar Singh, owner, and Rup Lal, manager of Maya Cinema.


Doc arrested with drugs
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, March 12
Dr Krishan Kumar Ohri was arrested with several drugs last night. A case has been registered under Sections 22/61/85 of the NDPS Act, according to an official press note issued here this evening. 


Ex-DEO (Primary) clarifies
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 12
Dr Miss Malti Batra, former District Education Officer (DEO), Primary, today claimed that she had brought to surface a major Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan scandal running into crores of rupees.

Reacting to reports in a section of the media, she said that even in his Budget speech last year, the state Finance Minister, Mr Lal Singh, had stated that a total amount of Rs 264 crore, including the state's share of Rs 66 crore, had been provided under the programme for the year 2002-03. In reality, she alleged, only Rs 64.9 cr was sent to the districts for the implementation of the scheme. “There is need to investigate where the remaining money has gone”, she added.

She also quoted a letter purportedly written on behalf of the Additional Director-General of Police (Intelligence) on December 24 about utilisation of funds under the scheme. The letter quoted a Supreme Court directive that money should be spent through the District Education Officer (Primary) as an attempt was being made to divert this money to another officer.

Dr Batra also quoted a letter purportedly written by the state Education Minister, Mr Khushal Bahl, alleging that the previous government misutilised the money meant for the scheme but the present government had released the money to be utilised through Village Education Development Committees under the supervision of Block and District Education Development Committees.

Mr Bahl further said in his letter of September last year that the entire amount of Rs 64.9 cr had been sent to the districts from the state headquarters. The amount is to be further remitted by cheques to villages. He wanted all Ministers, Speaker, Deputy Speaker and party MLAs to convey their availability to the Deputy Commissioner concerned so that release of money to the villages could be publicised by organising functions.


Teachers flay MLA’s views
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 12
The Democratic Teachers Front (DTF) has condemned the statement of the Chairman of the High Powered Finance Committee, Mr Surinder Singla, that despite the huge expenditure incurred on government schools, the quality of education there was poor.

The office-bearers of the DTF at a meeting here today said the statement by Mr Singla was issued without taking into account the ground reality. He said that there was no truth in the statement that wards of more than 91 per cent teachers of government schools study in private schools.

Major Basant Kumar, general secretary of the district unit of the DTF, said that instead of blaming the teachers of government schools, the politicians should think about their wards. He said the children of ministers and MLAs who frame policies for government schools, study in convent schools.

He alleged that due to the wrong policies of the government, the quality of education in the government schools had been affected.

Mr Madan Pal Bhagta, district president, said the quality of education in government schools was not as poor as portrayed by some politicians. He said that due to unnecessary interference of political persons, inadequate facilities given to the students and lack of infrastructure in government schools, the teachers had to face difficulties.


Petrol dealers threaten stir
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, March 12
Perturbed over the recent decision of the state government to include petrol and diesel under the purview of the state VAT policy in contrast to the national policy. The Punjab Petroleum Dealers Association has decided to observe an indefinite strike from March 20 if its demands are not accepted by the state government.

Mr J.P. Khanna, president of the association, in a press statement issued here today, said that the Central government’s draft on VAT policy has exempted petrol, diesel, LPG, aviation turbine fuel and kerosene from the purview of VAT till 2005. Besides, the new tax structure VAT, being enforced from April this year in the country, was aimed at cutting multiplicity of taxes.

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