Saturday, March 15, 2003, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Punjab ignorant about rollback in urea prices?
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 14
Is the Congress Government in Punjab ignorant about the rollback made by the Union Government in the prices of various fertilisers? It seems to be so if the Governor’s Address delivered in the state assembly today is any indication.

The address was prepared by the state government and as a part of his constitutional responsibility, it was read out by the Governor in the House today. It was perhaps one of the lengthiest Addresses to be ever presented in the house. Normally, the Governor’s Address is spread over 40-50 pages but this one was of 80 pages.

Para 9 on page 8 of the address says “the proposals made in the recently introduced Union Budget regarding an increase in the prices of urea at the rate of Rs 12 per bag and the price of DAP at the rate of Rs 10 per bag, coupled with repeated increases in the price of diesel without any corresponding increase in the minimum support price (MSP) for wheat and paddy have added insult to injury insofar as the small and marginal farmers of the state are concerned ..... My government would, therefore, strongly urge upon the Government of India to withdraw the hike in the prices of fertilisers and suitably increase the minimum support price”.

It may be mentioned that Union Finance Minister, Jaswant Singh announced the rollback in the price of urea and other chemical fertilisers on March 11.

Even three days after the rollback the Punjab Government was unable to delete the lines from the Governor’s Address pertaining to the prices of fertilisers.


Faux pas regretted

Chandigarh, March 14
The Punjab Chief Secretary, Mr Y. S. Ratra, tonight regretted the faux pas that took place in the Governor’s Address in the Punjab Assembly today regarding the hike in the prices of fertilisers effected in the Union Budget and the state government’s resolve to urge the Centre to withdraw the same. The Governor’s Address, he said, was already under print when the fertiliser price hike was rolled back by the Centre. TNS


Punjab on difficult path
Time for honest talks between govt, beneficiaries
P. P. S. Gill

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 14
Will Punjab make progress in difficult areas and lay the foundations for revitalisation of its economy and governance? This is the least the World Bank expects in its assessment of the state’s economic reform review report.

It is, therefore, time for an honest talk between the government and its beneficiaries, both within and outside, as the two sides are getting on each other’s nerves. This is evident since release of the white paper on Punjab finances in March, 2002, followed by the Disinvestment Commission report and the Experts’ Group report on power reforms.

The government says that beneficiaries are “insufficiently co-operative and understanding” and continue to demand more. The beneficiaries, complain that the government is not “evenhanded” in keeping its poll promises or cutting down on its own profligacy.

Among the many beneficiaries, are employees, including of public sector undertakings, pensioners, and government-aided educational institutions, besides, debt-ridden small/marginal farmers, who find agriculture unremunerative and small-time business, trade and industry entrepreneurs, who always want more incentives/concessions, as there are big defaulters, who always get away as politicians/bureaucrats wink.

The government owes statement to farmers, entrepreneurs, employee/pensioners etc on how much or what all it can do or not do for them. It must also convey to the private government-aided colleges’ teaching/non-teaching staff whether it intends to continue with 95 per cent grant-in-aid or impose cuts. It must also say if it will or will not implement their pension-cum-gratuity scheme, being denied to them by the successive Congress/Akali Governments since 1992.

Farmers are on the streets today, PSEB employees/engineers are in an agitational mood, government-aided college teachers are threatening a strike from March 20 and employees/pensioners are restive and reminding the government of its poll promises. There is skepticism if the government will do what it intends to do despite having taken some bold steps. To do all this, a politico-administrative will is as essential as some “sacrifice” on the part of beneficiaries, who cannot be denied services they pay for.

“Punjab is in an unenviable situation”, says the World Bank economic reform report due to “growth slowdown, stagnant agricultural sector and poor showing of fiscal numbers” as also runaway increases in wages/ salaries.

The World Bank has identified the following five important reforms that it wants Punjab to commit to if the situation is to be redeemed:

(1) passage of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Bill by the Vidhan Sabha (This is coming up in the current Budget session); (2) control over the salary bill through more reforms and to bring Punjab employees’ pay scales on a par with central employees and also introduce a voluntary retirement scheme (VRS); (3) Introduce power reforms, including a subsequent tariff increase and VRS; (4) legislative authorisation for the EXIM form to be collected at all checkposts, which will curb evasion, now estimated to amount to at least half of the potential revenue; and (5) restoration of land revenue/ property tax on self-occupied residential structures so that the local government is not robbed of its fiscal rights.

Thus, the government-benefactor networking and honest talk is crucial to sustenance of the economy, governance and peace in Punjab.


CM orders reshuffle of portfolios
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 14
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, tonight effected a minor reshuffle of portfolios of four Ministers of State, according to top official sources.

Mr Ashwani Sekhari is now attached to Chowdhary Jagjit Singh for Labour and Employment. Mr Ramesh Dutt Sharma get independent charge of Grievances and Pensions and is also attached to Mr Lal Singh for Cooperation.

Mr Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa is attached to Mr Tej Parkash Singh for Transport and Mr Joginder Singh Mann for Scheduled Caste Welfare and Women and Children Welfare. Mr Malkiat Singh Brimi is attached to Mr Raghunath Sahai Puri for Housing and Urban Development.


PSSSB case: accused gets police remand
Our Correspondent

Kharar, March 14
Mrs Preeti Sahni, Judicial Magistrate, Kharar, today remanded Gurmail Singh who was arrested by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau in connection with corruption cases of the Punjab Subordinate Services Selection Board of the previous SAD-BJP government in police custody till March 15.

Mr Charanjeev Arora, public prosecutor, appeared in the court and pleaded for a 10-day police remand of the accused.

He informed the court that the Chairman and other members of the board collected huge incomes disproportionate to their known sources of income through corruption by appointing non-deserving candidates. He said that a case has already been registered against them and in some cases, challans have already been submitted in the court.

He said that the accused accepted a bribe of Rs 7 lakh from Mr Ajit Singh for getting his son Gurdeep Singh appointed as added through the PSSSB against posts advertised by the board on May 15, 1995, for which the test was conducted on March 24, 1996.

The complainant gave Rs 4 lakh to the accused by withdrawing from his bank account and the remaining Rs 3 lakh was given by him after taking loan from his relatives.

He pleaded for police remand as information was yet to be collected from the accused about the other persons from whom he got the bribe money.

He said that when the son of the complainant was not appointed and he asked for the refund of money, he was threatened by the accused.


Bogus pensioners under scrutiny
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, March 14
The district administration has decided to initiate strict action against those fake pensioners, who had continuously withdrawn pensions under various social security schemes, by submitting forged documents even as they were not fulfilling the prescribed norms in this regard.

Mr S.S. Bains, Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC), in a press statement issued her yesterday, said during the scrutiny of records for a period between March 31, 2000, and September 15, 2002, it was found that 7,989 pensioners had withdrawn pensions in violation of the rules even as they were not eligible for the same. Mr Bains said out of total 28,396 case, which were sanctioned under the social security scheme during the period, only 19130 cases were found to be eligible.

Elaborating further about the fake pensioners, Mr Bains said acting upon a complaint against Sukhvir Kaur, widow of Lakhvir Singh of Rajaw village, it was found that though she was married again, she continued to withdraw widow pension. The department had recovered the requisite amount along with interest from the defaulter, which was deposited with the district treasury office.

Similarly, in another case, Darshan Kaur of Billi Waraich village, had submitted fake documents to support her case for the sanctioning of pension. The department had recovered the amount from her.

The ADC further said necessary legal action would be initiated against 7,989 fake pensioners for duping the state government using forged documents. Interestingly, the statement did not mention the departmental action to be taken against the officials concerned for their alleged involvement in the whole racket.


Hola Mohalla: Akalis not to share stage
Our Correspondent

Ropar, March 14
All Akali parties will hold separate rallies during the Hola Mohalla celebrations at Anandpur Sahib. This has negated any possibility of Mr G.S. Tohra and Mr Parkash Singh Badal sharing the stage or sinking their differences.

On the plea of these parties, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, given the main ground in front of Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib to the SAD for its rally, the ground near the sarovar to the SAD Amritsar and the ground in front of Guru Tegh Bahadur Niwas to the SHSAD.

The Congress has got its traditional place near Khalsa College of Anandpur Sahib. The Lok Bhallai Party of Balwant Singh Ramoowalia has also decided to hold its rally during the celebrations and taken ground near the bus stand at Anandpur Sahib, for the purpose.

Meanwhile, Hola Mohalla began today with usual fervour at Kiratpur Sahib, with thousands of pilgrims thronging gurdwaras and inns at Kiratpur Sahib and Anandpur Sahib.


RRD to hold Hola Mohalla convention
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 14
The Rashtriya Raksha Dal (RRD) a party of ex-defence personnel and officers would hold its national convention on March 19 on the occasion of Hola Mohalla. For the first time many top former defence officers will participate in the convention under RRD banner to be held every year on the occasion of Hola Mohalla.

The party’s members are Air Vice -Marshal (retd) G.S. Punia, chairman of the dal, Lt Gen (retd) Baldev Singh Randhawa, Lt Gen Kartar Singh Gill, Col Harsharn Singh Sandhu, president RRD India, Lt Col APS Dhillon, Lt Gen Kamaljit Singh Bhagowalia, Col Jagjit Singh Bal, president RRD Punjab and all district presidents of the party. This was stated by Col J.S. Bal in a press note here today.


Cong MLAs want to be “educated”
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 14
At the Congress Legislature Party meeting today, MLAs expressed their desire to get educated on the government policies, programmes and fiscal/economic reforms, particularly, in respect of some of the “controversial” reports, before they could go to the people and build public opinion in favour of the government and what it intended to achieve. These reports include one of the Disinvestment Commission, experts’ group on power reforms, diversification in agriculture, state industrial policy, VAT (value added tax) legislation, the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Bill and the Right to Information Bill being introduced in the current Budget session, assessment report of the World Bank on the state’s economic reforms etc.

The meeting, chaired by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and attended by PPCC President Mr H.S. Hanspal, saw party MLAs air their concerns about several social and economic issues and also services the state provided to the people. Some talked about paucity of potable drinking water in rural areas, others drew the attention to the exorbitant fee farmers had to pay for submitting applications for power connection to their tubewells or how because of billing of power farmers wanted to replace their higher horse power motors (installed when power was free) with low hp motors etc.

The Chief Minister tried to assuage the apprehensions of certain MLAs on some issues, like retrenchment of employees/engineers as a consequence of the recommendations of some of the reports in respect of public sector undertakings, boards and corporations and the state electricity board. Capt Amarinder Singh said there would be no mass sacking and the employees would be given VRS or golden handshake or even absorbed in other places.


Bhai Kanahiya kin undecided on offer
Lalit Mohan

Mohiwal (Ropar), March 14
About 50 descendents of Bhai Kanahiya who are residing at Mohiwal village near Anandpur Sahib are undecided about taking up the job of reviving mashks (water skins) as proposed by the DSGMC. There are perplexed about the decision of the DSGMC to recognise the centuries-old service of their family by providing them the job of reviving the mashks. Mr Bachan Singh, Mr Rattan Singh, Mr Sheetal Singh, and Mr Ram Singh are the heads of these families.

Mr Bachan Singh said most of the family members were working as carpenters or masons on daily wages. Only one member, Mr Ram Singh, had a government job with the Ranjit Sagar dam in Pathankot.

After Bhai Kanahiya’s passing away, they settled at Anandpur Sahib and continued to maintain and serve the five baolis (water sources) situated in Mohiwal from which Bhai Kanahiya used to draw water and serve the injured soldiers. However, at present just two baolis were functional and the remaining three have dried up.

Last year, the two baolis were handed over by the government to the Archaeological Department. The department has posted one employee in Mohiwal who takes care of the baolis.

Initially, the Archaeological Department had sent an estimate of about Rs 1.5 lakh to restructure the historically important baolis. However, that amount was not received. Now the department has entrusted the job to the PWD.


Employees take a holiday that wasn’t
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 14
A large number of government employees enjoyed a holiday today as a report that appeared in a Punjabi newspaper said that the Punjab Government had declared a holiday today.

Sources said a large number of employees of treasuries, Health, Public Health, Veterinary, Ayurvedic and Education Departments observed the holiday that had not been declared by the state government. Some employees took the report to their workplaces and forced the heads to “declare” a holiday. The offices of the state government in the rural areas were the worst affected and staff attendance there was almost nil.

Employees of the Education Department, which is notorious for a long list of holidays, were on duty today as the annual examinations of various classes are on. Sources in the Education Department said due to the examinations of classes VI, VII and IX, absenteeism was checked to some extent. However, in a few schools, some teachers remained absent without informing their heads or sending leave applications. It could not be confirmed whether the annual examinations were delayed at some places or not due to a shortage of staff, though the sources did not rule out the possibility.

The sources said such reports had not only been playing havoc with the reputation of newspapers but also the loss of working hours in the government departments had been leading to a delay in work.

Even employees of the District Treasury Office “declared” a holiday today after reading the report, the sources said. When a section of the employees from the District Public Relations Office (DPRO) personally called at the Treasury Office and apprised them that the Punjab Government had not declared a holiday, those employees who had not left the office by then, joined their duties. At some of the departments, employees had to be called from their houses by their officers.

The situation was similar on the eve of Krishan Jamashtami last year when a large number of employees enjoyed a half-day holiday which was not declared by the state government. The Deputy Commissioner had then ordered that a half-day leave should be filled by all such employees.

Senior officials in the Public Relations Department confirmed that no intimation in connection with the holiday was received today. They added that the Punjab Government announced no holiday in connection with Moharram.

Mr Anurag Verma, Deputy Commissioner, could not be contacted.


Holiday rumour keeps staff away
Our Correspondent

Ropar, March 14
Government employees of the Mini Secretariat and other offices situated in the district left office within an hour of the start of their duty on hearing the rumour about it being a holiday on account of Moharram.

Nangal Municipal Council employees also left for their homes early in the morning. The contractors who had been called for the opening of contract bids had to return due to the non-availability of the officers concerned. Similarly, many teachers failed to reach schools, assuming a government holiday today.

When the situation became clear by afternoon of there being no holiday, some employees sent in their leave applications. The Deputy Commissioner, Ropar, Ms Seema Jain, when questioned, said employees missing from duty without sanctioned leave had been marked absent.


MLA to get 7-day notice
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 14
Taking up a petition filed by Punjab MLA Ajit Singh Kohar, Mr Justice K. C. Gupta of the Punjab and Haryana High Court today directed the issuance of a seven-day notice in any first information report registered against him.

Seeking the grant of anticipatory bail, Kohar’s counsel had expressed apprehension that the petitioner might be implicated in a false case due to political rivalry. He had added that a former Minister and political rival, Brij Bhupinder Singh Lalli, was trying to ensure the spoiling of the petitioner’s clean image.

He had added that efforts might be made for implicating him through one Sarpanch, Boota Singh, close to Mr Lalli. The Sarpanch had alleged that money was handed over to the petitioner for passing on to another person for resolving a matrimonial dispute, counsel had added.

The High Court, it may be recalled, had already granted bail to Kohar in an alleged cheating and corruption case. He was booked by the Vigilance Department in a case registered under Section 420 and 120-B of the Indian Penal Code, besides under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

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


Mr Justice Jasbir Singh of the High Court on Friday directed that an application, seeking the cancellation of anticipatory bail granted to former SGPC chief Bibi Jagir Kaur, should be placed before another Bench.

Pronouncing the orders, Mr Justice Jasbir Singh also fixed April 8 as the next date of hearing in the case. In his application, her daughter Harpreet Kaur’s “husband” Kamaljit Singh had earlier stated that Bibi’s nephew, arrested by the police, had revealed that he had gone to kill him on three different occasions, but could not succeed because of the security. It was further alleged in the petition that Bibi was threatening the witnesses. Kusam, a key witness, had turned hostile during the cross examination though she had fully supported the prosecution case during the examination-in-chief.

Set aside

In just over three years after elections to the post of Sarpanch of Patti Kalyan village in Panipat district were held, Mr Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel of the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday directed the setting aside of orders for recounting the votes, and the result thereof.

Pronouncing the orders on a petition filed by Sarpanch Bugli Devi, Mr Justice Goel ruled: “In view of the Apex Court judgement, recounting cannot be ordered or upheld if tampering had taken place after the original counting. Since recount was not justified as subsequent to the original counting, tampering was alleged to have taken place, the order of recounting as well as the result thereof are set aside”.

It may be recalled that the trial court had initially ordered recounting of votes during the hearing of an election petition challenging the Sarpanch’s elections. Subsequently, the Sarpanch had alleged that 56 valid votes polled in the petitioner’s favour were tampered with by putting double stamp.


A petition seeking the grant of bail filed by Punjab’s former Senior Superintendent of Police Gurcharan Singh Pherurai, accused of giving Rs 2.8 crore to PPSC’s former Chairman Ravinderpal Singh Shidhu for getting his son selected as a DSP, was on Friday dismissed as withdrawn by Mr Justice G.S. Singhvi and Mr Justice S.S. Grewal of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Claiming to have been implicated in the case, Pherurai had earlier contended that his son was deserving. His counsel had added that the government was prejudiced against him as they considered him to be close to former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. 


Hike in excise duty on pumps opposed
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, March 14
The Punjab Centrifugal Pump Manufacturers’ Association has criticised the Central Government for increasing excise duty on pumps in the Budget and demanded its withdrawal. The association said it was an “anti-farmer and anti-industrialist” step.

Addressing a press conference here yesterday, Mr Sushil Thukral, vice-president of the association, said centrifugal pumps were used by farmers and the government had increased excise duty on these from 4 per cent to 8 per cent. He said there was a lot of variation in the rates of pig iron and iron due to export. He stated that several countries were importing pig iron and iron from India, causing acute shortage of raw materials for pumps.

Mr Thukral said the small-scale sector was suffering and on the verge of collapse. He said with the introduction of VAT, the government was further going to create problems for the industry.


Lectures on heart ailments
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 14
Mr D.S. Guru, Managing Director, Punjab Health Systems Corporation, will inaugurate the 57th state-level conference of the Punjab unit of the IMA on March 16 at Mansa.

Giving this information here on Wednesday, Dr Surinder Singla, state secretary of the IMA, said besides deliberations on medical ethics, eminent doctors of the country would also update knowledge of participants regarding various common diseases like heart ailments, diabetes etc to serve the patients in a better way.

He said Dr T.S. Kler from Escorts Heart Institute, New Delhi, and Dr G.S. Wander from DMC, Ludhiana, would deliver lectures on coronary artery diseases commonly known as heart attack, while Dr G. Awasthi from DMC, Ludhiana, would speak on hypertension emergencies (emergencies due to high blood pressure).

Dr Raghuvansh Sharma from Medical College, Patiala, would speak on diabetes while Dr D.N. Bhardwaj from Patiala would deliver a lecture on breast cancer. Besides, Dr Navdeep Khera from DMC, Ludhiana, would speak on renal failure treatment options.

He said awards would be given at the conference to various branches of the Punjab IMA and individual members for their outstanding performance in the association’s activities.

The state secretary said the conference would also impress upon the medical fraternity the importance of discharging professional duties as per medical ethics.


Rs 25,000 grant as ‘ghund chukai’
Our Correspondent

Mansa, March 14
Mr S.K. Ahluwalia, Deputy Commissioner, Mansa, had to pay Rs 25,000 as “ghund chukai” (removal of veil) to women of Kahnewal village in the district.

The DC visited the village yesterday and many women attended his meeting with veils on.

He impressed on the women to remove veils and most of them did so.

Only woman sarpanch of the village was left with the veiled face.

The Deputy Commissioner asked the sarpanch to remove her veil.

She said that in the presence of her husband she could not remove her veil due to a tradition of the family.

After much persuasion she removed her veil.

Thereafter the husband of the sarpanch asked the Deputy Commissioner to pay “ghund chukai” (token money paid as per tradition) and the Deputy Commissioner announced Rs 25,000 grant for the development of the village amid applause from the gathering.

Thereafter the woman sarpanch demanded assistance for the widows of the village and on an inquiry from the Deputy Commissioner she said there were 18 widows in the village.

The Deputy Commissioner announced to give 18 sewing machines, one each for the widows of the village.


2 abducted girls traced
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, March 14
The police has recovered two Dalit sisters, abducted on March 2 from Gidderbaha town of the district by two boys of Kot Bhai village. Mr Shiv Kumar, SSP, said that two Dalit sisters were abducted by Gathi Singh and Gora Singh from this town.

He added that after abducting the sisters, the accused took them to Rajasthan and visited places in that state. He said Mr Mukand Singh Malli, DSP, Gidderbaha, recovered the girls after arresting the accused.

A case under Sections 363, 366 and 120-B of the IPC has been registered.


Kidnapped Dalit child found
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 14
A Dalit child, Sunil Kumar, who was kidnapped on July 19, 2001, by a woman from the Siva temple near the main bus stand here, was recovered today and handed over to his parents.

The child, when a year old, had been snatched from his sister by the woman.

The failure of the police in tracing the child had made local persons form an action committee to put pressure on the police.

Mr A.S. Rai, Senior Superintendent of Police at Sangrur, said the boy had been recovered today from Shinder Kaur, who had been living in a rented house on Mehlan Road here with the child.

The SSP said the woman had kidnapped the child with the help of another woman, Jassi of Daraj village.

The boy was the only brother of five sisters at the time of his kidnapping. The search for Jassi is on.


PSHRC seeks report on demolition
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, March 14
The Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) has sought a comprehensive report from the local District Magistrate regarding the alleged demolition of houses of Scheduled Castes by the members of the upper caste community in Para village of the district about two months ago.

Mr N.C. Jain, chairperson of the commission, while accepting the complaint submitted by the Kulwant Singh, Mr Balwinder Singh and Mr Santokh Singh of Para in Jalandhar on March 13, asked the District Magistrate to submit his report before the next date of hearing fixed for May 8.


Bhattal to honour freedom fighters’ kin
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 14
A lot of political significance is being attached to the function being organised by Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Punjab Rural Development and Agriculture Minister, at Dhanaula (Sangrur), on March 16. According to sources, the function will be organised under the banner of the Baba Hira Singh Memorial Trust, which is headed by Ms Bhattal.

At the moment, Ms Bhattal is the only representative of Malwa heartland in the Punjab Council of Ministers. Most of the districts of Malwa heartland remain unrepresented in the Council of Ministers as mostly Akali MLAs were elected from that region.

Sources said at the function rich tributes would be paid to heroes of freedom and “parja mandal” movements. Their family members will be honoured at the function. Those to be honoured on the occasion include a brother of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, a grand daughter of late Sewa Singh Thikriwala, family members of Giani Zail Singh, Shaheed Udham Singh, late Jagir Singh Joga. Besides, Mr Bhagat Singh Bilga, a renowned freedom fighter, will also be honoured.

The party high command will be represented by Ms Mohsina Kidwai at the function. All senior Congress leaders from the state have also been invited to the function.


Cong captures Batala MC
Our Correspondent

Batala, March 14
As per the direction of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the counting of the votes of the Batala Municipal Council was held here today under the supervision of Mr Parneet Bhardwaj, Assistant Returning Officer-cum-Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Batala. The following candidates were declared elected.


2 contestants to boycott repoll
Our Correspondent

Jalalabad, March 14
Mr Prem Kumar Valecha, president of the local Municipal Council and candidate of ward no 9, and Mr Rajnish Kumar Bindru, candidate of ward no 12 of local Municipal Council, have decided to boycott the re-elections of the wards to be held on March 16.

In a press note issued here, Mr Valecha alleged that although boothcapturing and large-scale rigging were resorted to all 15 wards of the town, but the state Election Commissioner had ordered re-polling in only two wards of the town.

Mr Bindru alleged that he was still receiving threatening calls for not participating in the March 16 repoll.

Mr Valecha and Mr Bindru stated that they had no faith in the Punjab police, which has registered five “false” cases against their supporters.


Panchayat poll on June 30
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, March 14
The Punjab Government has announced elections of panchayats for June 30.

The Election Commissioner in a letter to the District Electoral Officer has mentioned that under Section 35 of the Punjab State Election Commission Act 1994 a programme appointing dates for the panchayat elections will be announced in the second week of June.


Clash averted
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 14
A clash between the Divya Jyoti Jagran Sansthan (DJJS), headed by controversial godman, Ashutosh Maharaj, and activists of various Sikh organisations, including the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, today was averted due to timely intervention of the police. The DJJS had planned to hold a “congregation” in the Islamabad area here. However, the activists of the Sikh organisations, including some members of the SGPC, reached the place.


Paledars demand hike in wages
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 14
A large number of paledars (labourers) under the banner of the Punjab unit of the All-India FCI Mazdoor Federation, led by Mr Amar Singh Bhatian, state president, today held a rally in front of the office of the Deputy Commissioner here to compel the government to accept their demands.

The paledars demanded that privatisation of government institutions and public undertakings should be stopped immediately. They also demanded withdrawal of the decision to reduce wages to 22 paisas per bag of 50 kg from the existing 47 paisas and said the government, instead of reduction should enhance their wages. They urged the Union Government to withdraw the decision regarding closing of the ration depots.


Thandal disallowed to attend session

Ropar, March 14
Special Judge A.S. Kathuria here today rejected the application of former Punjab minister, Food and Civil Supplies, Sohan Singh Thandal, seeking permission for attending the Budget session of Punjab Assembly. Mr Thandal an MLA from the Mahilpur Assembly constituency has been in judicial custody till March 27 for corruption earlier moved the court seeking permission to attend the Budget session of Punjab Assembly. OC


Blood donation camp on March 23

Bathinda, March 14
Mr Ramesh Mehta, president, Aasra Welfare Society, in a press note here yesterday claimed that in the past 15 days 35 units of blood were donated by society members. He said the society had donors of every blood group and had been donating blood to the needy. He said the society would organise a blood camp on March 23 to observe martyrdom of Shaheed Bhagat Singh. OC


Exhibition opens

Sangrur, March 14
A seven-day photo exhibition on “Women in India” highlighting women’s empowerment was today inaugurated by Mr Balwinder Singh, ADC, Sangrur, at Panchayat Bhavan here. The exhibition has been organised by the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP), Union Ministry for Information and Broadcasting. TNS


Scientists favour organic farming
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 14
Distinguished food scientists say that many pesticides have become less effective and organic farming can help farmers maintain the soil and groundwater health.

Organic foods have better nutritional quality and low content of heavy metals like aluminum, cadmium, lead and mercury. These experts participated in a seminar on ‘Organic Foods — Scope, Production and Benefits organised by the Department of Food Science and Technology of Guru Nanak Dev University in collaboration with the Association of Food Scientists and Technologists, and the Association for Promoting Organic Agriculture in Punjab.

They said excessive use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and insecticides had caused environmental imbalance.

Dr Bhupinder Singh, Deputy Director of the Department of Food Supplies Punjab, in his keynote address, said organic farming was a better option for maintaining healthier soil and water, as it decreased cost of production as well. Chemicals banned in Europe should also be banned in India.

Dr Prabha Mahale of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements said government policy should be amended for adopting organic farming. She said extension services and training for farmers should be given and investment and research in organic agriculture should be encouraged. The approach should be “land to lab” and not vice-versa.

Europe, the USA and Japan are getting increasingly concerned about their health and environment. Dr Rajinder Singh, secretary of the Association for Promoting Organic Agriculture, said termite-control chemicals still in use in India had been banned in the USA.


Travel agent held in fake passport case
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, March 14
The district police has arrested a travel agent on the charges of enabling a criminal, who was convicted in an extortion case and later released on bail by the court, to flee the country on a fake passport.

Mr Varinder Kumar, SSP, in a press note issued here today, said Arvinderpal Singh of the local Defence Colony was arrested last night for enabling Ranjodh Singh of Dhollon village in Jagraon, to flee the country by using his influence to prepare a fake passport by submitting false particulars.

During interrogation, Arvinderpal Singh said Ranjodh Singh was convicted by the court in a case under Sections 386 and 506 IPC, on March 14, 2001, and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for and fined Rs 500. Ranjodh Singh appealed against his conviction and was later released on bail.

After his release, he approached Arvinderpal Singh, who used his influence for issuance of a passport from the Regional Passport Office here by showing Ranjodh Singh as a resident of the local Mota Singh Nagar locality. The RPO authorities had issued a passport no. EO-321756 on December 12, 2001, to Ranjodh Singh, who managed to obtain a visa to visit the USA in December 2001 on the pretext that he was willing to donate his kidney to one of his relatives there even as the ‘kidney recipient’ was found hale and hearty in the USA.

Arvinderpal Singh said Ranjodh Singh got issued another passport (no. EO- 568179) on December 30, 2001, using his correct particulars by the RPO, Chandigarh.

The purpose behind procuring two passports from different offices was that in case Ranjodh Singh was denied a visa on one passport, he could use the other passport to conceal the rejection of his visa application by the US embassy.

Arvinderpal Singh will be produced in the court and further investigation of the case has been entrusted to Mr Naresh Kumar, DSP.

Meanwhile, in another case, the police has arrested Oma of the local Chohan Nagar following recovery of 500 gm of opium from her by a police patrol party from the Sheetal Nagar area. A case under Section 18 of the NDPS Act has been registered.


Three booked for threatening lawyer
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, March 14
A case has been registered against Lakhwinder Singh of Sarna, Gurmeet Singh of Nangal Bhoor and an associate on the charge of threatening Mr S.S. Bhullar, a Pathankot lawyer, who was here in connection with a hearing.

Mr R.P.S. Brar, Senior Superintendent of Police, said here today that a case under Sections 341, 506 and 34 of the IPC had been registered against the accused and the police was raiding their possible hideouts.


2 looters held; weapons seized

Moga, March 14
The Punjab police said today it had caught two of the four men accused of looting a petrol-filling station at Fatehagarh Korotana on the Moga-Dharamkot road late on March 7. It also seized two country-made pistols and ammunition, besides recovering Rs 20,000 of the looted Rs 29,000 from them. PTI


PTU exams rescheduled
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, March 14
Keeping in view the late receipt of question papers for the re-appear exams in some centres yesterday, the Punjab Technical University (PTU) has rescheduled the exams for various courses under its Distance Education Programme.

The Registrar of the university in a press statement issued here today, said it had been decided to cancel the exams for Window 200 Professional Server subject in the 4th semester of M.Sc. (LE), programming in Visual Basic in 2nd semester of PGDCT, PC Organisation and Arch in the 2nd semester of B.Sc (CAM), Operating System in 2nd semester of BSc. (IT), Software Engineering in the 4th semester of B.Sc. (LE) and Enterprises, Java Programme in 2nd semester of PGDST.

These exams would now be held on March 31 at the respective centres.

The exams scheduled for March 19 have been postponed due to the holiday declared by the government on account of holi and would held on April 1. The statement further said that the papers for non-IT courses had been postponed and rescheduled with effect from March 27 due to clash of dates of exams as some students were appearing for both IT and non-IT courses.


Mass copying in board exams
Our Correspondent & UNI

Moga, March 14
The District Education Officer transferred one superintendent and the supervisory staff of at least four examination centres, following reports of mass copying in the matriculation and class XII examinations of the Punjab School Education Board.

Reports of mass copying had come from Government Girls Senior Secondary School at Baghapurana and Dev Samaj Senior Secondary School at Moga.

Flying squads seized several mobile telephones from examinees in Government Senior Secondary School at Bhimnagar and recommended the cancellation of the March 10 history paper.

TARN TARAN: The flying Squad, in a surprise check at the local Government Girls Senior Secondary School, observed mass copying in examinations and ordered to remove the Superintendent. It told the controller of the centre to make alternative arrangement. Ms Kuldeep Kaur has been appointed the new superintendent.


Denial of bus passes: students threaten stir
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 14
The Pepsu Road Transport Corporation (PRTC) has stopped concession to students whose institutions do not undertake to compensate the Corporation.

The Corporation earlier stopped issuing concessional bus passes to all students, has started reissuing these to the students of government schools and colleges. Students of a few institutions, which undertook to compensate the corporation for the concession made to the students, are being given passes.

Many students, including those studying in Punjabi University and belonging to Government-Aided Colleges have make do without bus passes. Corporation Managing Director Dharamdut Tarnech said the Corporation had initiated to find out the nodal agencies which would reimburse the money not taken from the students by the Corporation.

Mr Tarnech said many schools and colleges belonging to Trusts and private owners had created a problem for the Corporation on the bus travel facility for students.

He said the corporation had written to heads of several government departments and autonomous institutions. He said the Corporation was still to frame a policy on the issue.

Meanwhile the Punjab Students Union has declared to organise dharna in front of the office of the Deputy Commissioner here, if bus pass facility was not given to all students. Union’s District Secretary Dharminder Singh Patran said students were facing problems in getting bus passes for the past two months. He said a “sangharsh committee” was also being formed to start an agitation on the issue in the state.


PUOSA meet today
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 14
A meeting of the Punjabi University (Campus) Old students Association will be held at Cheshma Sahi Farm, near the Balongi checkpoint, on Saturday at 11 a.m., Mr D.S. Guru, president of the association, said today. Dr H.S. Mehta will speak on adverse effects on obscenity on private television channels. Besides, a cultural programme will be organised.

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