Sunday, March 16, 2003, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Govt opens dialogue with agitating farmers
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 15
The Punjab Government has opened dialogue with the agitating farmers here. Informed sources say that a three-member team of the state government led by Mr Gurchet Singh Bhullar, Irrigation Minister, held talks with representatives of the farmers.

The other members of the team were Rana Gurmeet Sodhi and Mr Parkash Singh. From farmers' side, among those who participated in the meeting with the government, were Mr Pishora Singh Sidhupur, Mr Gurmeet Singh Dittupur, Mr Ruldu Singh, Mr Hardev Singh Sandhu, Mr Satbir Singh, Mr Kulwant Singh Sandhu, Mr Prem Singh Bhangu, Mr Raghbir Singh Benipal, Mr Maghar Singh Kulrian and Mr Ranbir Singh Dhillon.

Informed sources said that the next meeting of the farmer leaders would be arranged with the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh. It can be held either on Monday or the next day. Mr Bhullar and others, who met farmer leaders, have paved the way for such a meeting with the Chief Minister. Farmer leaders have no hesitation in meeting him, it is learnt.

The main issues discussed at the meeting were withdrawal of sales tax on pesticides, fertilisers and cess on diesel, etc. Mr Bhullar reportedly assured the farmer leaders that the Chief Minister was ready to sympathetically consider this demand. Another demand is to lower the fee that is Rs 5,200 for increasing the power load per horse power. Farmers wanted that it should be minimised as it was difficult to pay for them.

Earlier, the issue of the farmers echoed at the meeting of the Congress Legislature Party. According to informed sources, as many as four Congress MLAs, including Mr Ravinder Singh Babal, Mr Birdevinder Singh and Mr Jasjit Singh Randhawa, raised the farmers' issues.

Sources said that as the agitation was spreading to all parts of the state, efforts should be made to defuse the situation. The agitation at the moment was going on at Patiala, Tarn Taran and Chandigarh. Efforts should be made to persuade the farmers to withdraw the agitation by assuring them that the government was serious to help them in various ways.

Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Agriculture Minister, briefed the Chief Minister on the demands of the farmers. She reportedly handed over a memorandum of farmers to the Chief Minister. He said that most of the demands being raised by farmers had been met. Sugarcane dues and funds for the payment bonus on paddy and drought relief had been released for distribution.

He expressed his helplessness in providing free power and water to farmers for agricultural purpose. It is one of the major demands of the agitating farmers. There are certain demands which fall in the purview of the Union Government.


Arhtiya-farmer rows settled
Our Correspondent

Mansa, March 15
To settle the loan disputes between arhtiyas and farmers and bank loan disputes, a special state-level Lok Adalat was organised here today on the premises of the newly constructed Judicial Court Complex which is yet to be inaugurated.

The Lok Adalat was organised under the direction of Mr Justice H.S. Bedi of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and Executive Chairman, State Legal Services Authority. Its purpose was mainly to resolve the disputes between arhtiyas and farmers at the pre-litigation stage and pending cases along with other civil matters and compoundable criminal cases.

The Lok Adalat was presided over by Mr Lakhbir Singh, District and Sessions Judge and Chairman, District Legal Services Authority, Bathinda and Mansa.

More than 700 cases were summoned, out of which 626 loaners appeared in today’s special Lok Adalat and 312 cases were settled and Rs 1,07,99,182 was awarded to them by today’s special Lok Adalat.

Earlier, a seminar on free legal services was organised in which Mr Vijay Singla, president, District Bar Association, Mansa, Mr Harsh Mehta, Chief Judicial Magistrate, Mr Dharam Singh, Additional District and Sessions Judge, Mr SHP Singh Mahal, member secretary, State Legal Services Authority, Punjab, Mr Lakhbir Singh, District and Sessions Judge, and Chairman District Legal Services Authority, Bathinda and Mansa, Mr S.K. Ahluwalia, Deputy Commissioner, Mansa, Mr S.S. Srivastva, SSP, Mansa, and Mr Jatinder Agra, Member, District Legal Services Authority, Mansa, addressed the gathering.

The District Administration also made arrangements for community langar for the general public who attended the Lok Adalat and seminar.


Countdown to Punjab Budget
Efforts to find ‘fiscal space’
P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 15
Countdown to the presentation of the Punjab Budget, 2003-04, on March 24 has begun.

Financial pundits are busy juggling revenue income and expenditure figures available so far. The effort is to find ‘’fiscal space’’ and balance political populism and compunctions. This makes the budget-making task more arduous, steep and slippery, despite the fiscal reform mechanism of multi-year framework introduced in June, 2002.

Right away, say sources, cabinet subcommittees are scheduled to meet here on Monday to consider anti-theft legislation as suggested in the experts’ group report on power reforms; finalise local government proposal on “one-time voluntary disclosure of building violations within municipal limits and settlement, thereof’; and draw a roadmap of the tourism policy.

The same day, the cabinet subcommittee on fiscal management will also meet to consider "user charges’’ in respect of a rationalisation for water supply and sewerage services proposed by the local government; revision and utilisation of user charges for repair and maintenance of rural water supply schemes of the public health; and upward revision of fees, etc. for higher education even as the transport sector continues to be a ‘’weak’’ revenue-earning link.

With elections to the municipalities now out of the way and panchayat elections due in June, the political decision-making on Monday will impact the budget-making exercise. In fact, some Congress MLAs at the party’s legislature wing meeting on Friday had sought ‘’relief’’ to their rural constituents in several social and economic services given by the state.

Even as the Budget documents are readied for March 24, on second thought, the government has put on the backburner the proposed Punjab Transparency in Public Procurement Bill, 2003. It will not be placed before the Vidhan Sabha. Instead, a committee, headed by Mr B R Bajaj, has been constituted to study it. A similar Act is operative in Karnataka.

The new industrial policy has been announced, promising Rs 100 crore per year worth incentives/concessions, etc for rejuvenating the small-scale sector. Likewise, agriculture and social sectors — primarily education and health — are also to get priority, as will panchayati raj institutions under the 73rd and 74th Constitutional amendments. Are these sectors ready to absorb the money proposed to be pumped into them given their present archaic procedures, schemes and creaking systems, besides the mind-set?

To give effect to what the current year Budget reform documents and White Paper on financial situation project, it requires ‘’basic’’ restructuring of the administrative departments and their re-engineering for improved functioning. This has not happened so far. Only this week a committee, headed by the Chief Secretary, was constituted on restructuring of these departments. In the meantime, the government, for the first time, now has a ‘master manpower register’. It has also identified ‘’surplus staff’’ in various departments/wings. This will help in making proper appraisal of the continuing runaway wages/salaries bill.

The government’s draft Punjab Civil Services (Re-deployment of Surplus Employees) Rules, 2003, are waiting the Cabinet’s approval. It has, however, cleared the voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) for employees of the public sector undertakings (PSUs) as also proposals on disinvestment. To process the report of the disinvestment commission, there is a directorate. The disinvestment process, however, is showing signs of political strain and bureaucratic kid-handling.

The apprehension of retenchment persists among the employees, despite VRS. The question is, ‘’If some PSUs are to be shut down, why VRS? Why not legal compensatory allowance’’?

Some other issues in the political firing range include abolition of octroi and its replacement by local area development tax (LADT) or introduction of VAT (value-added tax) and opposition to it and their impact on industry outside municipal limits, which may lose its competitive edge. Has the state calculated the expected loss or how much will it seek from the Centre once LADT/VAT is introduced? Punjab already stands discriminated against on its share in the divisible central taxes. It has also not yet been ‘’politically decided’’ as to which resources within the state are to be tapped for additional resource mobilisation.

The major source of revenue, 80 per cent, comes from excise and taxation. The annual auction of liquor shops hit a snag on the very first day at Ludhiana on Friday. There was a deadlock over the increase that the government had expected and trade had offered. Insiders say the last year’s same political lobbyists again pulled strings in New Delhi and almost stalled the auctions which started only around 5 pm. At the end of the game, the same group had held sway. Ludhiana could notch up Rs 19 crore increase over that of last year, with all 16 circles going for Rs 225 crore.

The overall increase in excise auctions in 2002-03 was Rs 100 crore. This season, it is expected to be around Rs 60 crore. This may upset calculations of the Budget estimates, say sources. These are only some of the issues before the finance pundits as they prepare the Budget speech of the Finance Minister, Mr Lal Singh.


60 per cent colleges below standard, says NACC
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 15
Prof V.N. Radhashekhran Pillai, Director, National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NACC), lamented that about 60 per cent colleges in the country do not meet the minimum education standards. The infrastructure in these colleges is outdated and massive overhauling and financial resources, in addition to effective manpower, are needed to upgrade these.

Prof Pillai was here today to preside over the 32-nd convocation of BBK DAV College.

The Director said that NAAC, which came into being some five years ago, had certified almost 150 colleges in neighbouring Haryana, while 120 more were ready to be accredited in that state shortly, compared to Punjab which is lagging in the field of education. Less than a dozen colleges in Punjab had applied for accreditation, he added.

Prof Pillai while answering a query regarding the low pay scales of ad hoc teachers said recommendations had been presented to make pay scales of ad hoc teachers on a par with regular teachers to improve the quality of education.

“The West has followed the pattern of ad hoc teachers with pay scales much more than regular teachers with great degree of success in improving the quality of education.” He suggested that at least 50 per cent of the staff for a particular discipline should be permanent and the rest ad hoc. In India, an ad hoc teacher is exploited by paying the lowest possible salary.

The recommendation report which is presented and made public by NACC every five years, has certified only 5000 colleges, who can boast of minimum infrastructure to be accredited out of a total of 300 universities and 14000 colleges in India.

Prof Pillai rued that industry and business houses, which could make active contribution towards education, were shying away from doing so. “It is wishful thinking to expect that the government would support institutes of higher educations forever for their infrastructure. Governments can support only salaries structure of colleges. Otherwise, there could be a large divide in infrastructure provided by some colleges, and others would be severely hit owing to their weak infrastructure.”

The NACC Director pointed out that the biggest reason for government colleges having weaker structures was frequent transfers in these. The teacher is barely able to establish his rapport before transfer orders distracts and snatches his/her loyalties. He said while Karnataka and Maharastra were identifying its lead colleges, no such attempt had been made in northern states. He said that about three more years were needed to complete the accreditation process.

Meanwhile, 750 students of BBK DAV College were awarded degrees at the convocation function. Ms J. Kackaria, Principal, read out the college report. Dr S.P. Singh, Vice-Chancellor, Guru Nanak Dev University, presided over the function. Prof Pillai inaugurated a multi-media centre, while Dr S.P. Singh inaugurated a jewellery design laboratory in the college on the occasion.


Ludhiana MC role model, says Planning Commission
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 15
The Ludhiana Municipal Corporation has done wonders within a short span of one year, with a chronic loss-making institution getting flush with crores of surplus funds. This has become possible only after the new Commissioner, Mr S.K. Sharma, took over in May last year.

Mr Sharma has achieved several distinctions during the brief span of less than a year. He claims the credit for ensuring safe drinking water for the entire population living within the municipal limits of the city. This is the only corporation in the country that will provide safe drinking water to all its inhabitants. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh launched the project on November 1. It is in its final stage and is all set to be inaugurated any moment.

The massive turnaround can be explained with the facts that when he took over, the corporation had liabilities of Rs 17 crore. But within a period of less than a year, after squaring off old liabilities and paying for developmental works to the tune of Rs 54 crore, the corporation has surplus cash running into crores of rupees. Incidentally, the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation is the only corporation in the state which has surplus funds.

Mr Sharma has many more distinctions up his sleeve. Besides providing drinking water to the entire population, it is during his tenure that the corporation installed the first bio-medical waste disposal plant with a daily capacity of treating five metric tons of biomedical waste.

The corporation has attained the distinction of again being the first in the country to have devised an integrated approach to the slum development for all 210 slum settlements in the city. Thanks to these achievements, the MC’s credit rating has been upgraded by the ICRA. The Planning Commission of India also described the MC, Ludhiana, as a role model to be replicated at other places.

According to Mr Sharma, it required a lot of labour and hard work to revamp the functioning of the corporation. “It was not just generating the finances, but total overhaul of the system that had developed in the corporation over a long period of time”, he says, while maintaining that it needed a holistic approach, not just isolated pieces and bits.

Mr Sharma’s reputation of a no nonsense bureaucrat and a hard taskmaster, served him in good stead. The reputation travelled with him and the things started getting smooth and streamlined within a few weeks he took over. “It was not any coercion or force that made things fall in line, but just little motivation and better leadership“, he said, while disclosing that he would himself come to the office dot at nine. That made every employee to be at his desk before that time.

The benefits were for the public to share. While earlier, they could hardly expect any official to be at his seat, now it was entirely different. “There would rarely be a person, who would say that he was turned out without his job been done”, he claimed, while adding that each individual, right from the top down the ladder was made accountable also. “Every official is made to feel that he is as important as anyone else. That is why he is responsible and accountable”, he said, while adding, “it also leads to a sense of belonging to the institution.”

Otherwise it would not have been possible to achieve what the MC Ludhiana had achieved. The results were also too prominent to be not taken note of. Before Mr Sharma took over, nobody trusted the fund-starved corporation. The contractors started backing out as they were not sure of their payments and the development came to a standstill. “But it is other way round now. The same contractors, who were offered work and had refused, are now vying with each to work for the corporation.”

It is not only the financial management within the corporation, but also its follow-up in the shape of development projects, Earlier, the contractors would provide a simple and straight excuse for delaying the works. Now they were bereft of excuses. Mr Sharma started reviewing the progress of the work from time to time and those found behind schedule were penalised. Consequently, the development works picked up, rather these got expedited.


BJP to document police ‘excesses’
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 15
The Punjab unit of the BJP today set up a three-member committee to document facts with regard to the police “excesses” on party activists in various parts of the state during the recent municipal elections.

All the three MLAs of the party have been made members of the committee that will submit a report to the party chief, Mr Brij Lal Rinwa. A meeting of party office-bearers, including those of the district units, was held here today to discuss the political situation in the state after the municipal elections.

Addressing a press conference after the meeting, Mr Rinwa alleged that on the directions of the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, the police had started terrorising BJP activists in the countryside. He said that at several places, the BJP workers were roughed up by the police. Even Congress leaders took the law in their own hands and beat up BJP workers.

He said that because of the reign of terror let loose by the ruling party on its opponents, the BJP and the SAD boycotted the Address of the Punjab Governor in state assembly yesterday. The issue of rigging of poll would be again raised in the assembly, he added.

He said that the committee would collect details of these excesses. After the report, a follow-up action would be taken accordingly. He said that the Amarinder government had promised to stop corruption, but what it was doing in the countryside in the form of police excesses was far worse than corruption. He said though the BJP had lodged complaints with police officials and others concerned but no action was taken.

The BJP would organise a rally soon against the Amarinder government. He said that the Congress had won by using police force and on the basis of bogus votes and now making false claims that the people had supported in elections. In Raikot, he said 99 per cent votes were polled. Was it possible without the casting of bogus votes and rigging of booths? he asked.


Minister Kaypee unhappy with party Mayor
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, March 15
Punjab Technical and Industrial Training Minister Mohinder Singh Kaypee today accused Congress Mayor of local Municipal Corporation Surinder Mahey of bringing bad name to the party by pursuing anti-people policies.

Mr Kaypee expressed anguish during a visit to the Housing Board colony here, which falls in his Assembly segment, this afternoon to assess losses following demolition by the civic body against encroachments on government land recently.

The minister met the residents, who alleged that the selective demolitions were carried out at the behest of Mr Mahey, a loyalist of Punjab local Bodies Minister Choudhary Jagjit Singh.

The residents alleged that though most of them had already submitted applications to the Deputy Commissioner’s office for regularisation of encroached land as per the policy of the state government, but the civic body staff went ahead with demolitions and damaged several houses.

Mr Kaypee, talking to reporters here, alleged that the Mayor was bringing bad name to the party as the matter could have been resolved amicably by awaiting the final decision of the Cabinet sub-committee on the matter, scheduled to meet on April 17.

He alleged that the selective demolitions in his Assembly constituency would hit party’s image in the elections. Mr Mahey said that the civic body had only acted according to the instructions of the high court. “I am a loyal party worker first and will never involve myself in any act, bringing in bad name to the party. In fact, the Congress gained a lot during his stint as Mayor as several matters had been resolved during the past seven months,” he added.


Dharna by SAD, BJP workers
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 15
Activists of the BJP, the SAD, and residents of the town today staged a dharna at the Pheruman Chowk here to protest against the assault on Mr Nanak Chand Kalra, former chairman of the Sangrur Improvement Trust, and his son Jatinder Kalra, a BJP Municipal Councillor and demanded the arrest of the remaining four accused.

The police booked six persons, including Ravi Chawla who had lost to Mr Jatinder Kalra in the recently held Municipal Council elections, his brother Sanju and their mother Santosh Rani under Sections 148, 149, 186, 323, 353, 427, 452 and 506 of the IPC on March 11 for assaulting Mr Nanak Chand Kalra, Mr Jatinder Kalra trespassing into the house of Mr Kalra, and damaging to a showcase and other articles. The police arrested Ravi Chawla and his mother on the same day while others were at large.

The protesters condemned the assault on the Kalra family and demanded action against the accused.

Mr Rajinder Singh Kanjhla, district president of the SAD, Thakur Jagdish Rai, district president of the BJP, Mr Sukhwant Singh Dhanaula, vice-president of the Punjab BJP, and Mr Anurag Chopra, vice-president of the District Bar Association, Sangrur, also addressed the protesters.


Nagpal appointed city Cong chief
Our Correspondent

Abohar, March 15
Mr Sunil Jakhar MLA warned officials of the Municipal Council and the Punjab Water Supply and Sewerage Board of action if sanitation was not attended to in a few days. Officials looking after amenities would have to shed lethargic life-style, Mr Jakhar said at a press conference later. Residents owe Rs 140 lakh due to sewerage, drinking water supply charges but no effort had been made to recover it. More than 50 per cent streetlights are not working. There has been a fall in the recovery of octroi. This would not be tolerated, Mr Jakhar told the officials. He told the PWSSB to install at least two tubewells on the bank of the canal to reduce scarcity of water for drinking.

At another meeting chaired by District Congress President Sajjan Kumar Jakhar appointment of the city Congress committee president was cleared. The office had been vacant for 12 months following the expulsion of Mr Sudhir Nagpal from the party. The DCC president announced the nomination of Mr B. L. Nagpal as president of the city Congress committee.


PSSSB case: accused gets judicial remand
Our Correspondent

Kharar, March 15
Mrs Preeti Sahni, Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate, here today sent Gurmail Singh, who was arrested by Vigilance Bureau in connection with the appointment scandal of the Punjab Subordinate Services Selection Board (PSSSB), in judicial remand till March 26.

Mr Charanjeev Arora, Public Prosecutor, pleaded for a police remand for the accused and said that more information was yet to be ascertained from him.

He said that the accused was arrested on the charge of accepting a bribe of Rs 7 lakh from Mr Ajit Singh for getting his son appointed as ADEO through the PSSSB.

The judge remanded him to judicial custody and ordered that the accused should be produced before the Special Judge, Ropar, on that day.


25 buses leave for Afghanistan
Our Correspondent

Wagah, March 15
A convoy of 25 buses was flagged off from the joint checkpost (JCP) here today around 1 p.m. Mr Abdul Razzaq Jalali along with Mr Shahid Kazim and Mr Abdul Waffa, Director of Transport Ministry, Secretary, Transport, and official in the Transport Ministry of Afghanistan, respectively, accompanied the buses to Pakistan for their onward journey to Afghanistan. The buses were received by Mr Mohammed Samim Hamraz, second secretary, Embassy of Afghanistan in Islamabad, on the Pakistan side.

This is the first fleet of buses by Ashok Leyland for assistance to the war-torn country by India. The earlier buses sent were manufactured by Tata Telco. A total of 160 buses have been gifted till now from India. As many as 25 drivers and four mechanics accompanied the buses that crossed over today. Drivers from Afghanistan, while speaking to the press, accused Pakistan Customs officials of illegally pinching and confiscating articles they carry as gifts for their children and relatives like toys, blankets, music cassettes, stereo systems, bicycle, tricycles etc. Thirty two more buses are scheduled to leave for Afghanistan on March 17.

Meanwhile, the German High Commissioner, Mr Baronhardt George, reportedly crossed over to India via the Wagah route today in his official vehicle.


Badungar flayed for sacking Manjit
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 15
Sympathisers of the dismissed Jathedar of Kesgarh Sahib, Prof Manjit Singh, today organised a seminar here today in the hometown of SGPC President Kirpal Singh Badungar to censure the latter and urge the Akal Takht Jathedar to finalise the service rules of the jathedars of the Sikh Takhts.

A resolution presented by Kanwar Manjit Singh, convener of the Sikh Culture Centre, was passed unanimously. It disapproved the procedure adopted to sack Prof Manjit Singh which, it said, was not only insulting to the former Jathedar but also undermined the dignity of the office of the Jathedar. The resolution also resolved to urge the Akal Takht Jathedar to get the directive of the five head priests about the service rules of Takht Jathedars finalised at the earliest “so that the Sikh Panth did not have to face the irresponsible conduct of the SGPC in future”. The resolution also appealed to the Akal Takht to place the facts regarding Prof Manjit Singh’s removal before the public so as to remove the shroud of mystery created by the President of the SGPC.

Speakers at the seminar said the sacking of Prof Manjit Singh was symptomatic of the mindset of the SGPC leadership. They said the need of the hour was to educate the Sikh masses about the dangerous implications of such a callous approach to the most important issues confronting the Panth. Principal Harsimaran Singh from Anandpur Sahib highlighted the need for reform in the SGPC organisation and strengthening of the office of Akal Takht.

Giani Kewal Singh, former Jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib, said the role of the present Jathedar of Akal Takht in the removal of Prof Manjit Singh was objectionable.


Heritage status for Golden Temple opposed
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 15
The Khalra Mission Committee (KMC) has opposed the move of giving heritage status to the Golden Temple and allowing women to perform seva and kirtan in the sanctum sanctorum of the Golden Temple.

These views of the KMC were expressed by Mr Virsa Singh Bahila at a press conference here today. To discuss these issues of the Sikhs a ‘panthic Vichar Sammelan’ on March 29 was being organised. Sikh intellectuals would take part in it.

Mr Dalbir Singh, a member of the KMC said that the organisation was against the move of declaring the Golden Temple as World heritage, because then it would become a place for tourists not for pilgrims, he added.

He said the efforts of rapprochement between Mr Prakash Singh Badal, President of the SAD and Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, President of Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal, was a farce and a political gimmick having Lok Sabha elections in mind.


4 ultrasound units face action
Violation of PNDT Act
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 15
To initiate proceedings against four ultrasound units of this district, the District Advisory Committee (DAC) for the implementation of the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PNDT) Act, at its meeting, recommended the cancellation of registration of one ultrasound unit for the violation of various provisions of the PNDT Act. It also recommended suspension of registration of three ultrasound units for one month on a similar ground.

The meeting was held here yesterday to discuss the cases of these four ultrasound units as show-cause notices had been issued to these units on February 26 by Dr J.R. Bansal, Appropriate Authority for PNDT Act-cum-Civil Surgeon, Sangrur, for the alleged violation of provisions of the PNDT Act. These units had been given one week’s time to file their reply. The show-cause notices had been issued to these units on the report of an inspection team which checked these units on February 25 and allegedly found that these units had been “violating” the provisions of the PNDT Act.

Yesterday’s meeting of the DAC was attended, among others, by Dr Bansal, Dr P.S. Kler, a child specialist, Mrs Darshana Sharma, APRO, Mrs Kusam Garg, a social workers, and Mr Mukesh Dhawan, a representative of the Lions Club, Sangrur.

The DAC for the implementation of the PNDT Act has recommended cancellation of the registration of the ultrasound unit of Khosla Hospital, Bhawanigarh, while it has recommended suspension of the registration of ultrasound units of Raikhy Nursing Home, Sangrur, City Ultrasound Centre, Sangrur, and Sangrur Scan Centre, Sangrur, for one month.

Sources told TNS here today that the district health authorities were bound to seal the ultrasound machine of Khosla Hospital, Bhawanigarh, as its registration had been cancelled by the DAC. However, they expressed apprehension that the authorities would not seal the ultrasound machines of those units whose registration had been suspended for one month. They were of the view if the authorities did not seal these ultrasound machines, then suspension of registration of these units would remain in on paper as under these circumstances, ultrasound machines could be “used” during the suspension period.

It is also learnt that the authorities will now take legal action against the ultrasound unit whose registration has been cancelled.

Confirming the cancellation and suspension of registration of ultrasound units, Mr Mukesh Dhawan, member of the DAC, said action against the “erring” ultrasound units would now be taken by the Appropriate Authority for the PNDT Act.

The inspection team had found that these ultrasound units had allegedly violated the provisions of the PNDT Act by not keeping the records of the ultrasound tests of pregnant women or by not keeping the referral slips, issued by the competent medical authority for performing the ultrasound tests, etc.


Doctors told to pay 2 lakh
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, March 15
The District Consumer Redressal Forum, Gurdaspur, presided over by Mr Gurdial Singh Sandhu, has held two doctors of Gurdaspur responsible for operating upon Amarjit Kaur in a “careless” and “negligent” manner causing her death. The forum directed the two doctors to pay Rs 2,00,000 as compensation to the complainants.

According to Bachan Singh, a resident of Tibri tehsil in Gurdaspur district, his wife Amarjit Kaur felt a pain in her gall bladder and in the first week of April 2001, he along with his wife approached Chaman Surgical and Maternity Hospital, Gurdaspur, being run by Dr Uma Kaushal and Dr Sunil Kaushal.

After examinations, the doctors said there was swelling in the gall bladder, as mentioned in the scanning report, and suggested open surgery. Consent for the surgery was allegedly obtained by the doctors.

The complainant stated that Rs 10,000 was deposited with the doctors on May 25, 2001, which was denied by the doctors.

Bachan Singh alleged before the forum that the operation was not successful and some liquid and a few stones of the gall bladder fell into the stomach and abdomen on account of carelessness and negligent manner of the doctors.

He said after the operation his wife became weaker day by day.

On June 6, 2001, Amarjit Kaur was referred to a hospital at Amritsar from where she was referred to a hospital at Ludhiana due to her critical condition.

The complainant stated that he spent a huge amount on the treatment of his wife.

Amarjit Kaur died on July 8, 2001, and left behind two minor sons and two daughters who were also complainants in the case.

Feeling aggrieved by the conduct of the doctors, complainant Bachan Singh and his four children claimed Rs 10 lakh as compensation.

The doctors concerned denied the charges of negligence and said the complainants did not follow their advice and instructions and left the hospital against medical advice.

The forum held the two doctors guilty of negligence and allowed the claim of the complainants partially. The forum directed the respondents, the doctors concerned and the United India Insurance Company, insurer of the hospital, to pay the compensation within two months and also pay interest at the rate of 9 per cent per annum from September 24, 2001, to the complainants. The orders were issued on March 12.


Symbolic protest against squalor
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, March 15
A section of local journalists presented a unique memento to civic body chief Malkiat Singh Ragbotra here yesterday. As a symbolic gesture against the insanitary conditions in town in general and around the statue of Mahatma Gandhi outside local Town Hall in particular, the journalists cleaned and washed the statue with milk and swept its surrounding areas. Then they presented a “jharhu” (broomstick) to Mr Ragbotra, it was learnt today.

Mr Ragbotra expressed regrets over the insanitary conditions and promised that one employee would be deputed to take care of the statue.

Earlier, the journalists had taken out a protest march from the local Gandhi Chowk holding a “jharhu” in one hand and a pen in the other as their writings about the squalor had failed to awaken administration.


Demand for Baba Bairagi memorial
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 15
Mr Krishan Kumar Bawa, President, Bairagi Mahan Mandal, Punjab, today demanded that the Central Government should install a memorial in honour of Bairagi Baba Banda Singh Bahadur at Mehrauli, where he was martyred.

Mr Bawa further said that Baba Banda Singh Bahadur avenged the Mughals for bricking alive the two sons of Guru Gobind Singhji at Sirhind. He lambasted the institutions who claimed to be the protagonists of the martyrs but were grossly ignoring the claim to restore the glory of the Sikh Panth by not raising this issue with the Delhi Government.

Mr Bawa further said that the Bairagi Mahan Mandal, Punjab, would observe the Martyrdom Day of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur at Guru Nanak Bhavan, Ludhiana, on June 9. Prominent personalities from different walks of life would also be honoured for making concerted efforts for propagating the life and works of Babaji.

He also appealed to the President, SGPC, to commemorate this day of supreme sacrifice and valour without any discrimination.


Rasta roko martyrs remembered
Our Correspondent

Malerkotla, March 15
Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, MP from Sangrur and president of the Akali Dal (Amritsar), today urged the people to oppose the alleged misdeeds, profligacy and bad governance of the Congress government. He was addressing a shaheedi conference at Kup Kalan village, near here, organised to remember the 12 persons who were martyred in 1983 at Malerkotla and Kup Kalan village in the rasta roke agitation.

He announced Rs 10,000 each to families of persons killed in different places after 1998.


ZP chief’s vehicle challaned
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 15
The police has challaned the private vehicle of Chairman of the Zila Parishad, Mr Bikramjit Singh, for violating the rules.

The vehicle was challaned near the Bibiwala Chowk last evening when a relative of Mr Bikramjit Singh was driving it. Mr Bikramjit Singh was not in the vehicle but it had red light atop . Its glasses were also tinted. The driver did not have the driving licence.

The driver of the vehicle tried not to stop when he was flagged down near the chowk. The police chased the vehicle and stopped it a few metres away from the chowk.

The driver told about the owner of the vehicle to influence the police but it failed.

Mr Bikramjit Singh is said to be close to Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh.

Earlier a judicial magistrate was named in a DDR for misbehaving with traffic policeman, when they objected to the parking of a private vehicle by the driver in a ‘no parking’ zone in the busy Dhobi Bazaar of the city. The DDR was written on the complaint of the traffic policeman.

On Wednesday the vehicle of Mr Baljit Singh Bir Behman, MD of Cooperative Banks was challaned as it was parked in a no-parking zone in the Gole Diggi area. The vehicle also had red light atop.

Mr Nilabh Kishore, SP (City) heading the campaign regulating traffic in the city, is said to have told the policeman not to spare traffic rules violators.


Officials review Kathua, Chamba problems
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, March 15
Top civic and police officials of Punjab, Himachal and Jammu and Kashmir today held a meeting to sort out the problems of Kathua and Chamba and review the security arrangements at the Ranjit Sagar Dam.

Those who attended the meting include Mr Rajinder Singh, Inspector-General of Police, Security Punjab, Mr P.L. Gupta, I.G.P. zone Jammu, Mr M.K. Sinha, S.P. Kathua, Mr R.P.S. Barar, SSP, Gurdaspur, Mr R.C. Jain, Chief Engineer, RSD project, Mr A.K. Yadav, S.P. Chamba, Mr K.A.P. Sinha, DC, Gurdaspur, Lt-Col Avtar Singh, Chief Security Officer, R.S.D project, and Mr Aseem Kumar DFO, Pathankot.

According to sources, the meeting was convened at the instance of Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, and Capt Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister of Punjab.

Sources revealed that the people of the adjoining states had complained about the security arrangements, due to which they had been facing a number of problems.


Auction of liquor shops put off
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 15
The Punjab Excise Department authorities today postponed the auction of liquor shops in the Banga area and Hoshiarpur district. Informed official sources said the participants in the auction had pooled and had been asking for lowering the reserve price by Rs 10 crore.

However, the officials refused to concede the demand of liquor barons and preferred to postpone the auction.

Sources said that shops were only auctioned for Nawanshahr town today and proceeds from of auction of these was about Rs 1.23 crore more than the previous year.


Suspended for insubordination
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, March 15
The General Manager, Milk Union, Gurdaspur, on Thursday placed under suspension Balbir Singh, a Senior Assistant (Administration), on charges of dereliction and negligence in the performance of duty, disobeyance of orders, abusing and showing ill-will against higher officials and making complaints against higher authorities for ulterior motives. He was directed to handout the charge to Mr Kuldip Singh Gill, Deputy Manager, Administration.

It may be mentioned here that Balbir Singh had earlier demanded a vigilance probe for giving undue promotion to Harminder Singh from fodder seed supervisor to Manager, fodder. The promotion was allegedly made in 2001 within a period of five months.

Balbir Singh, had in his case, apprehended victimisation in the form of transfer and suspension from service and even physical injury and mental harassment for exposing the corrupt.


Gang of thieves busted, 6 held
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, March 15
The district police has busted a seven-member gang of thieves with the arrest of its six members and recovery of stolen electronic goods.

Mr Varinder Kumar, SSP, in a press note issued here today, said following a tip-off, a police party raided the cremation grounds at Lambra village and arrested six persons — Amarjeet, Harpreet Singh, Rakesh Kumar, Tilak Raj, Ashok Kumar and Balwinder Singh — all residents of Malkon village.

A personal search of the arrested persons led to the recovery of a knife and a country-made pistol. The seventh accomplice, Rajiv Kumar of Simbian mohalla in Noormahal, however, escaped. Preliminary interrogation of the arrested persons led to the recovery of five colour TVs, seven VCD players, one stereo and an electric iron. The arrested persons will be produced in the court.

Meanwhile, in another incident, the police has booked five persons for their alleged involvement in betting on World Cup cricket matches. The were identified as Kulwant Singh, Babbi Chadha, Satta Pehwan, Raju Choudhary and Manjit Singh Batra.

Manjit Singh Batra was arrested by the police last night. A case under Sections 420 of the IPC and 13-A of the Gambling Act has been registered.


SI arrested for extorting money
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, March 15
The police has arrested Sub-Inspector Karanjit Singh, posted as Station House Officer, Dorangla police station in the district, for allegedly extorting Rs 2,000 from Joginder Singh of Sadda village under Dorangla police station.

Mr R.P.S. Brar, Senior Superintendent of Police, talking to reporters here today said that Joginder Singh and his brother Mohinder Singh of Sadda village were caught red-handed by officials of the Forest Department while they were felling trees unauthorisedly in the nearby Kaler village along the canal bank side. The officials fined them Rs 25,324 on the spot and after realising the fine amount, they were handed over a receipt by the officials.

The SSP, Mr Brar, said later Karanjit Singh came to know about the incident and went to the house of Joginder Singh and Mohinder Singh and questioned them. Both brothers told him that they had paid the fine in this regard. However, Karanjit Singh threatened them and, misusing his official powers, demanded Rs 2,000 to “settle the issue”. Under coercion, both brothers yielded to the threats of the accused.

Aggrieved by the behaviour of the Sub-Inspector, the brothers lodged a complaint with the SSP here who deputed Mr Jagdeep Singh Hundal, DSP (Rural), to inquire into the allegations levelled against the Sub-Inspector. On inquiry, the SSP said, the allegations were found to be correct and a case was registered against the accused yesterday at Dorangla police station.


Custodial death: 2 cops booked
Our Correspondent

Nawanshahr, March 15
The local police registered a case against Head Constable Bhola Amir Singh and Constable Kundan Lal under Section 304, IPC, here today in connection with the alleged custodial death of suspected Kashmiri terrorist Qasim (35) of Tanka village of Doda district in Jammu and Kashmir yesterday. He was reportedly taken into custody on Thursday night during a raid conducted by the police at the nearby Durgapur village.

The post-mortem of Qasim was done here today at the local Civil Hospital and the body sent to his native village. Sources say that four persons — Qasim, Ismyal, Att Mohammad and Alfdeen — had been taken into custody.


Sinha rules out talks with Pakistan
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 15
External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha today ruled out talks with Pakistan unless it stopped aiding terrorism in India. He said both countries would benefit if Pakistan permitted economic linkages and greater people-to-people contacts between the two countries.

Speaking at the 29th convocation of Punjabi University here, the Union Minister said complete domination of Pakistan’s politics and economy by the military prevented choice of policies which could respond to popular needs and aspirations. He said there could be a new dawn in relations between the two countries in case Pakistan was willing to shed hostility and stopped using terrorism as an instrument of national policy.

Mr Sinha said India was not concerned with the issue of infiltration alone but of active sponsorship of terrorism in India by Pakistan. He said this must be stopped if any talks were to take place between the two countries. India was willing to discuss the issue of Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan but the latter wanted parity with India in terms of the “locus standi” in Kashmir.

He said Pakistan was in illegal occupation of a part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the only issue which needed to be resolved was the question pertaining to this illegal occupation and the domination of the people of the area by the military establishment based in Rawalpindi. He said presently Pakistan was engaged in a proxy war with India and was sponsoring cross-border terrorism with the motive of altering the status quo on ground to undermine India’s secular fabric.

Later while talking to newsmen, the Union Minister said that India was not in favour of any unilateral strike against Iraq. He said that Iraq should also comply with all resolutions of the United Nations to which it had already agreed to abide by. When asked about the government’s stand on giving permission to Sikh jathas to visit religious places in Pakistan, he said the Centre was still considering the case. He said it was felt that a relentless anti-India propaganda war was launched during the visits of the jathas.

The varsity Chancellor and Punjab Governor Lt-Gen J F R Jacob (retd) awarded Ph.D. degrees on the occasion. Mr Arun Joshi, MSc (forensic science) was awarded Diwan K S Puri Medal. The Chancellor’s Medals for 2001 was received by Mr Siddharth Sharma for his performance in the field of extra-curricular activities while Ms Arohi Walia was awarded the Chancellor’s Medal for 2002 in the field of performing arts and Ms Anuradha for excellence in academics.

As many as 238 students were awarded degrees in PhD, M. Phil, postgraduate and undergraduate classes in various faculties. Around 125 students were also given medals for securing first position in various university examinations held in April 2000, 2001 and 2002.

Earlier in the morning, a meeting of the Senate was held under the chairmanship of Vice-Chancellor Swarn Singh Boparai in which noted agriculturist Dr G S Kalkat, Justice Kuldeep Singh and industrialist S P Oswal were cooped to the varsity Senate. Similarly, Kharar legislator Birdevinder Singh, Minister Jasjit Singh Randhawa and Advocate-General Harbhagwan Singh were elected members of the Syndicate. Mr Randhawa and Dean, Colleges, Dr S. P. S. Virdi, were elected to the Finance Committee from the Senate.


PUOSA may take up issues of public interest
Tribune News Service

SAS Nagar, March 15
Need for taking up important social issues like family planning, diversification and better healthcare for masses was stressed at the general body meeting of the Punjabi University (Campus) Old Students Association held here today.

As many as 50 alumni of the university campus, including IAS officers, teachers, lawyers and journalists, turned up for the meeting where Dr H.S. Mehta, a former fellow of Panjab University, gave a talk on the adverse effects of obscenity on private TV channels.

Mr N.S. Rattan, who was the guest of honour, made a revelation that he was from the first batch of postgraduate students of Punjabi University. And last year, he in his capacity as Principal Secretary, Higher Education, had to officiate as Vice-Chancellor of his alma mater for five and a half months to steer the university out of a difficult situation.

Mr Rattan wanted that such interactions among old students should be informal and more frequent and more and more old students with their families should be involved in the activity. Such alumni associations, he felt, can play an important and effective role in helping the weaker and needy sections of society by taking up important projects.

Mrs Bansal, senior vice-president of the association, said that since society had given them enough, now was the time for the alumni to give back something to society.

A copy of the souvenir brought out by the association was released. Mr Darbara Singh Guru, president of the association, recalled its brief history and said that efforts would be made now onwards to hold regular meetings. Mr S.S. Sidhu presented the annual report.


Holiday confusion upsets exam dates
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 15
While a section of teachers enjoyed the Moharram holiday, which was never declared by the Punjab Government yesterday, the students of classes 6, 7, 9 and plus one in some schools of this and nearby districts could not appear in their annual exams.

Sources said even as the Director Public Instruction (DPI) had issued a state-level common date sheet for the exams, a section of teachers and school heads, on reading the report of holiday in a vernacular newspaper, did not go for work. Interestingly, some schools conducted the exams as per the schedule given by the DPI office, but announced a holiday after conducting the exams.

The sources said that today on getting to know that the Punjab Government had not declared a holiday yesterday, some schools on their own, conducted the exams today.

At some places, the school authorities also allegedly changed the records to save their leave, while in some cases, the school heads marked the teachers as absent as no intimation for leave had been received by them. Mr Chander Hans Puri, DEO (S) or Mrs Surinder Kataria, DEO (E) were not available for comments.

Mr Gurdev Singh, Principal, Government Secondary School (Boys), Goniana Mandi, when contacted admitted that the exams were held in his school as per the date sheet announced. He said that the exams of class VI (physical education), class VII (Maths) and class IX (Hindi) would now be held on March 20. The exam of plus one would also be held March 20, he added.

Some leaders of teachers’ associations alleged that these incidents happened as the state government did not announce such holidays well in time to avoid confusion.


Better education in govt schools stressed
Tribune Reporters and PTI

Amritsar, March 15
Expressing dissatisfaction over the basic structure of the government-run schools in Punjab, the Minister of State for Education, Professor Darbari Lal, said more than 90 per cent of such schools were without minimum basic infrastructure and needed special attention.

Talking to the mediapersons here today at the Circuit House, Professor Darbali Lal said the present set-up in the government schools was not up to the mark, which forced the large chuck of society to send their children to public or private schools. “Even teachers working in the government schools, by and large, relish the idea of admitting their children to private schools, which indicates ‘not up to mark level’ of education in government schools”.

Holding government teachers responsible for the sorry state of affairs for all this, he stressed upon the teachers serving in government schools to ensure their presence in the schools for providing better education to the children, who usually came off from the deprived section of society.

Laying emphasis on English as a compulsory subject in all government schools, Prof Darbari Lal remarked that unless English was taught right from the beginning, students from Punjab could not compete with their counterparts from other states, which grab most of the seats in the premier institutes for IT (information technology) and other prestigious courses.

He said that shortly all rural schools would have well equipped infrastructure with IT education besides highly qualified staff, who would also be given home town posting so that they could ensure 100 per cent presence in the schools.

“All government teachers would be asked to set an example by admitting their children to government schools instead of private schools so as to make them realise that their own children would be the sufferers, in case they play truant with their duties”, Prof Darbari Lal said.

He said the state government would try to do away with the circuitous way of getting Scheduled Caste certificates for students of the backward community.


AITU plans dharnas
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, March 15
The All-India Trade Union (AITU) will launch a nationwide stir in May to oust the BJP-led NDA government for “failing” to protect the interests of all sections of society. Rail and road traffic will be jammed and bandhs observed throughout the country.

This was stated by Mr Guru Dass Gupta, general secretary of AITU, while addressing a two-day state-level conference organised by the Khet Mazdoor Sabha today.

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