Tuesday, March 18, 2003, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



SAD-BJP MLAs stage walkout
Discussion on Governor’s Address
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 17
Even before the Punjab Vidhan Sabha formally began discussion on the Governor’s Address, the SAD-BJP opposition today staged a walkout. The two had also boycotted the Governor’s Address on March 14.

The walkout was in protest against the Speaker’s ruling of not allowing Capt Kanwaljit Singh to raise the issue of firing on the farmers, who were peacefully praying in a gurdwara at Pidhi village in Tarn Taran on March 12.

Talking to mediapersons outside the House, Capt Kanwaljit Singh said that by not being allowed to raise a people-oriented issue even during ‘’zero hour’’ tantamount to strangulating the freedom of expression by elected members. The attitude of the Treasury Benches also showed their ‘’insensitivity’’ to the human tragedy perpetrated by the police.

Today’s incident has shocked the Akalis, who plan to take up the matter seriously and devise ways to have their say inside the House.

Meanwhile, the discussion on the Governor’s Address was initiated by Mr Sunil Jakhar and seconded by Rana Kanwarpal Singh. They were followed by Mr Manpreet Singh Badal and Mr Jasbir Singh Gill (Dimpa). Most of the Treasury Benches were empty when Mr Jakhar started speaking.

The House also observed a two minutes’ silence after paying tributes to 14 eminent persons.

The House was also informed that the Governor had given assent to the five Bills that it had passed in its fourth session.

Several administrative reports were also placed on the table of the House, besides the six ordinances, that the House will subsequently take up in its subsequent sittings.

The two call-attention motions could not be taken up as the Akali MLAs, who had moved the same, had walked out.

The Speaker also presented in the House the proceedings of the Business Advisory Committee. As per the schedule, the House programme has been drawn up till March 29.

During question hour, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh did not rule out a hike in power tariff and explained the mechanism involved and gave reasons why he thought a tariff hike would be necessary.

From the replies given by different ministers, the House learnt that 1142 dowry-related cases were registered in the state in 2001 and 952 in 2002. A sum of Rs 47.39 lakh was spent on repair and furnishing 23 government house allotted to ministers/Parliamentary Secretaries. The House was also given details of telephone bills paid by the state on behalf of all ministers.

Likewise, members were informed of compensation paid to farmers in the three border districts for damage caused due to the landmines laid by the Army last year. Of the total sum of Rs 51 crore released by the Army, Rs 47.80 crore has been disbursed. The House was also told about vacancies in schools or how many people affected by terrorism had not yet been given employment of other benefits by the state.

The House now meets on March 20 when there will be two sittings. The discussion on the Governor’s Address concludes on March 21.


SGPC undecided on siropa to Kalam
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 17
The SGPC still in a dilemma whether a siropa should be presented to Mr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, President, during his proposed visit to the Golden Temple on March 23 as this practice was discontinued about two years ago.

The practice of presenting a siropa at the SGPC’s information office here was discontinued when Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar took over as president of the SGPC. However, honouring of Capt Amarinder Singh at Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib by the then Jathedar had created ripples at that time. If Mr Kalam is presented a siropa in the presence of Capt Amarinder Singh who is likely to accompany him it would start another debate in the Sikh circles.

The presenting of siropa would also give enough ammunition to the Congress that its party leaders were being discriminated against by the SGPC during their visits to the Golden Temple. It will also give a feeling that Mr Kalam was presented a siropa because he was a nominee of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the Shiromani Akali Dal is its political partner.

While, Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, a former Secretary of the SGPC, said Mr Kalam must be presented a siropa during his proposed visit to Darbar Sahib, Mr Raghbir Singh, personal assistant to the SGPC chief said any decision in this regard could be taken after a meeting.

However, it is learnt that the SGPC has chalked out a programme to accord warm welcome to the visiting President. Mr Kalam is the fourth President of the country after Mr V.V. Giri, Mr Sanjiva Reddy and Giani Zail Singh who would pay a visit to the city. The sources said the SGPC would leave no stone unturned to make the visit of Mr Kalam to Darbar Sahib successful.

On the other hand, the devotees are likely to face a lot of inconvenience as the President would visit Golden Temple during the evening — which is peak time.

Meanwhile, the district administration today held a meeting at the circuit house in wake of the proposed visit of Mr Kalam. The meeting which was presided over by Mr Iqbal Singh Sidhu, Deputy Commissioner was also attended by senior officials of the SGPC and the police.


Hola Mohalla celebrations begin
Tribune Reporters

Anandpur Sahib, March 17
The annual Hola Mohalla began with fervour at Anandpur Sahib today with thousands of pilgrims attending the celebrations. The pilgrims paid obeisance at Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib and took dip in the sarovar. All approaches to Anandpur Sahib were clogged with vehicles carrying pilgrims. The pilgrims had set up langars on tractor trailers at various places in Anandpur Sahib and at roads leading to the town.

Nihangs groups have also started thronging the holy town in their traditional attires and horses. They have set up their deras at traditional places. Though a ban has been imposed and campaign has been carried out by various Sikh organisations against the use of narcotics during the festivities it seems have little effect on the Nihang groups who are consuming and distributing these.

The Punjab Government on Monday set up an exhibition highlighting the achievements of various departments. The Minister of State for Cooperatives, Mr Ramesh Dutt Sharma, inaugurated the exhibition set up adjoining the venue of the political conference of the Congress near Khalsa College. The Wrestling association of Punjab has organised wrestling bouts on the Khalsa College campus.

The police has divided the mela area into nine sectors, to maintain law and order.

The temporary bus stand for the mela days has been set up in the parking area at Jhinjri village. From the said bus stand local buses would carry the pilgrims to various parts of the town.

Activists of all political parties were busy setting up pandals political conference scheduled tomorrow. Besides the traditional parties, the Shromani Khalsa Panchayat is also organising its conference near the railway station. Due to a clash between members of the SGPC and members of the Khalsa Panchayat in the premises of the Golden Temple recently the police is maintaining a strict vigil.

Meanwhile, a colourful procession was held from Sri Paonta Sahib gurdwara in connection with the Hola Mohalla celebrations.

A colourful devan will be arranged on Tuesday where a number of ragi jathas, dhadi jathas, religious preachers from Rajasthan, Delhi and Haryana will deliver their offerings.


Red Cross helpline for Hola Mohalla
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 17
The District Red Cross authorities in a press note issued here today stated that as many as 31 first aid posts had been established to cater to the needs of the pilgrims visiting the Hola Mohalla festival.

These first aid posts would work till March 19 and an ambulance had also been pressed into the service. The main control room had been set up at Government Secondary School (Girls). Their mobile numbers were 9815094349 and 9814746544. Similarly six first aid posts had been set up on the Chandigarh-Ropar route and the in charge had been provided with mobile numbers 9915428439 and that of the Nangal-Ropar was 9815094394.

On route No 3 (Ropar-Nurpur Bedi) five first aid posts had been set up and the officer in charge had been given a mobile number 9417021113. He would also supervise operations of the Ropar-Machhiwara route. On the Ropar-Nillo route the in charge officer had been provided with a mobile number 9814002965. The helpline number for the Ropar-Fatehgarh Sahib route was 9814002965.


Widows exempted from house tax
Municipal council budget passed
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 17
The widows, physically challenged persons with 60 per cent disability, terrorist victims and victims of 1984 riots residing in the city will not have to pay house tax if their annual income is up to Rs 24,000. These residents have been given special benefit in the budget of the local municipal council passed today.

As per the budget proposal an income from different sources for the municipal council for the year 2003-04 is expected to be Rs 31.22 crore while the expenditure will be Rs 31.12 crore. The budget proposals will be sent to the Director of the Department of Local Bodies for approval.

While most of the budget proposals were passed smoothly, some members raised objections about the income from octroi. Mr Jagroop Singh Gill, former president, Municipal Council and Congress councillor, raised objection about the proposed income of Rs 22.16 crore from octroi. He said even as there was a proposal to abolish octroi in the state from July, there was little possibility that the target would be achieved. Many members agreed with Mr Gill and questioned the proposal. Mr Bhupinder Singh Bhullar, president of the council, said after the abolition of octroi, the municipal council would be compensated and the city would get its share also. No change in the proposal was made.

The budget proposal stated that there were 33,800 units under the municipal council and out of these 125 units were industrial, 3,699 commercial and 1,918 houses were given on rent. For the year 2003-04 the proposed income from house tax was Rs 190.65 lakh. The income from the excise duty was expected to be Rs 175 lakh.

An amount of Rs 205 lakh was expected to be collected from water supply and sewerage, Rs 6.5 lakh from fire cess, Rs 82 lakh from shops’ rent of the municipal council Rs 25 lakh tehbazari Rs 25 lakh licences Rs 219.35 lakh from other sources like show tax, entertainment tax, building fee, etc.

Though a proposal passed today the council has urged the state government to allow it to appoint four drivers for the fire brigade and 100 safai karamcharis for the city. It has also sanctioned Rs 50,000 annual grant to a library established in the name of freedom fighter Sant Rsm Nabha.

The council has set aside about 66 per cent of the expenditure to be spent on development works. The total amount to be spent for the purpose is expected to be Rs 20.75 crore, while the expenditure on staff will be Rs 9.22 crore.


Civic staff thrive on illegal construction
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 17
More than 200 commercial complexes, hotels, restaurants, schools are coming up in Jalandhar in stark violation of the building bylaws and the Punjab Municipal Act, thanks to the supervisory staff of the Jalandhar Municipal Corporation who turn a blind eye towards the ongoing illegal construction with a view to minting money or for the political and bureaucratic clout of violators.

The extent of violations is such that almost none of the hundreds of such upcoming complexes fulfilled the basic requisitive criteria like provision for parking places.

What was more interesting was that the illegal construction activity in cities such as Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Bathinda and Patiala, has gone into the top gear as the violators hope that all illegal buildings would be regularised in near future in the wake of a recent announcement by the Punjab Chief Minister that no illegal building would be demolished and rather regularised after charging a “judicious” composition fee. The situation was likely to create a major problem in residential areas in most cities in the absence of provision for parking places in huge commercial and other complexes.

Investigations by The Tribune revealed that if hundreds of illegal buildings were being constructed in most cities of Punjab, Jalandhar topped the list with more than 200 such buildings, mostly in plush areas like Model Town, Guru Teg Bahadur Nagar, Urban Estate, Vijay Nagar, Nakodar Road and Shakti Nagar. The total money involved to keep the Municipal Corporation staff away from the construction sites till the buildings were completed — mostly in a record time of one to two months — was reported to be more than Rs 150 crore.

Though the local civic body recently launched “Operation Ditch Machine” under which ditch machines were parked outside the residences of people who owed either house tax or composition fee for having constructed their buildings illegally, only small players were targeted while influential persons or big builders were left untouched.

The modus operandi being used by the civic body staff was to shut their eyes till the buildings were completed only to enable the owners to negotiate the composition fee. While the composition fee could be charged only from those who had effected construction within the parameters of the building bylaws but without prior approval of the building plan, any other construction violating the bylaws has to be demolished. However, no serious effort has ever been made to realise even the composition fee what to talk of demolition of illegal structures.

The money minted by the civic body staff varied from case to case ranging from Rs 50000 to Rs 1 lakh (small and medium sized commercial buildings), anywhere between Rs 3 lakh and Rs 5 lakh (big complexes and hotels) and Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000 for minor violations in the residential buildings, said highly placed sources in the MC.

Since the number of minor violations in residential buildings was too large, the officials have devised a new method for keeping a tab on any ongoing construction activity in different parts of the city by keeping in touch with those who supplied building material. The state of affairs in the local civic body could be judged from the inability of the top civic authorities to do something concrete about the mysterious missing of more than 2400 files pertaining to building bylaws violations from the records of the civic body. A case was also registered by the local police when the incident came to light last year.


UPSC to be revamped within 3 years: Hota
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, March 17
Mr P.C. Hota, Chairman, Union Public Service Commission, has said that the working of the UPSC would be revamped within three years as per recommendations submitted by Mr Y.K. Alagh.

Addressing students of Nawab Jassa Singh Ahluwalia Government College here today, Mr Hota said the recommendations were lying with the Central Government and as soon as the government gave its nod, the commission would be revamped.

He expressed hope that the Centre would take a decision within six months. However, he refused to reveal the contents of the recommendations.

Mr Hota said the commission would give three years to students to prepare themselves, keeping in view the new syllabus of UPSC examinations, when the recommendation come into force.

He lamented that more than 90 per cent students, who appeared in UPSC competitions, were from institutions like ITIs and very few students from degree colleges appeared in these examinations.

Mr Hota said he had never come across any political pressure and transparency was maintained in the examination and recruitment procedure.

He, however, parried questions regarding the PPSC recruitment scam and said that a high-level committee had been constituted to make recommendations to states in order to check irregularities in recruitment procedures.

Mr Hota stressed on the need of the development of information technology and urged the students to face the challenge of the 21st century. He advised the students to behave in a natural way while appearing for an interview and restrain from misleading the board. He also advised the students not to become nervous and face interviews boldly.

Mr Hota, accompanied by Mr Rakesh Kumar Verma, Deputy Commissioner, also visited historical buildings in the town.


Repoll result vindicates Cong stand: Josan
Our Correspondent

Fazilka, March 17
“The victory of the Congress candidate, Mr Mohinderjit Singh Madaan, from Ward No 9 in the Jalalabad civic body repoll with a convincing margin after the deployment of the CRPF and special observers has shown once again that the elections were fair,” said Mr Hans Raj Josan, Jalalabad MLA, at a press conference after the declaration of the result late on Sunday. Mr Madaan defeated his nearest rival, Mr Prem Valecha of the Bharatiya Janata Party, by 404 votes.

Repoll had been ordered in Wards 9 and 12 of Jalalabad, following allegations of booth capturing and rigging. Mr Prem Valecha, president of the Municipal Council of Jalalabad and an executive member of the Punjab BJP, was contesting from Ward No 9. Mr Rajnish Kumar Doomra, outgoing BJP councillor, was contesting from Ward No 12.

After the repoll order of the State Election Commissioner, both candidates had given a boycott call in protest against the March 9 poll, in which, the Congress had won in all the remaining 13 wards. Mr Josan said, the BJP call was a farce, as Mr Madaan was a clear winner. The result for Ward No 12 will be declared later, as the case is sub judice.

Mr Josan said, the BJP-SAD leaders, during the MC poll 5 years ago, had kidnapped the Congress candidates and torn their nomination papers. There had been no repoll then, he said.

He said newspapers had given only one aspect of the elections. Seven party activists had been assaulted and shot at, he said.

Rs 8 crore will be spent on setting up a canal-based drinking-water project for Jalalabad. This project is financed by World Bank. There shall be a vigilance probe into all substandard works done by the outgoing Municipal Council.


Suicides by farmers on the rise: CPI
Our Correspondent

Mansa, March 17
Mr Shemin Faizee, secretary of the National Council of the Communist Party of India, Dr Joginder Dayal, secretary of the Punjab State Council of the CPI, and Mr Hardev Arshi, a former Budhlada MLA and member of the state secretariat of the CPI, after their two-day tour of the Mansa, Sangrur and Patiala villages worst hit by cotton-crop failure, said at a press conference here today that farmers were being forced to sell their produce and equipment at throwaway prices to repay loans.

They said they had met families whose members had committed suicide due to the financial burden. The CPI leaders said small farmers had received no support from successive governments in the state, as the prices of agricultural inputs had been rising continuously.

They said suicides by farmers were becoming common in these districts. “The CPI will support the All-India Sabha for holding its state-level conference at Nihal Singh Wala in Moga district from March 20 to 23 to draw a plan for launching an against anti-farmer policies of the Vajpayee government,” they said.

Dr Dayal and Mr Arshi also said the increasing incidence of hepatitis in the town was a cause for concern and the health authorities had taken no step to control it. They blamed the faulty sewerage system for the spread of the disease.

However, when contacted, Dr K.K. Singla, officiating Civil Surgeon, he had no knowledge of any such outbreak.


Dhindsa honours SAD councillors
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 17
Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers and Secretary-General of the SAD, honoured SAD councillors, recently elected to the Bhawanigarh Municipal Council, at a function in Bhawanigarh yesterday.

The SAD candidates contested these elections under the leadership of Mr Parkash Chand Garg, a working committee member of the SAD. Speaking at the function, Mr Dhindsa said he would give a grant of Rs 10 lakh to the Bhawanigarh Municipal Council from the MP Local Area Development Fund and assist, in the approval of Centre-sponsored water supply and sewerage.


RRD political conference
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 17
The Rashtriya Raksha Dal (RRD) has decided to organise a political conference at Anandpur Sahib tomorrow on the occasion of Hola Mohalla, Col Harsharan Singh Sandhu, President of the dal, announced here today.

The dal had been prompted to organise a political conference because of the ongoing agitations by farmers in Punjab and continuous apathy of the central government towards both farmers and soldiers. The sacrifices made during the 1965, 1971 and Kargil operations had been already forgotten.


FBI quizzing hijack accused; counsel
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 17
The defence counsel of Dalip Kumar Bhujel and Bhupai Man Damai, both facing trial for their involvement in the hijacking of IC - 814 from Nepal to Kandahar, filed an application in the anti-hijacking Designated Court here today claiming that his clients were being interrogated by FBI investigators in the local central jail.

According to the application submitted in the court of Designated Judge S N Aggarwal, the counsel of the undertrials, Mr H.V. Rai claimed that he came to know this when he had gone to meet his clients after the Punjab and Haryana High Court passed an interim order saying that the defence lawyers would join further proceedings of the trial commencing from March 24.

The application submitted that the undertrials were in the custody of the court and were being represented by their counsels. It said in these circumstances, an investigating agency operating in a foreign country, could not have direct access to the undertrials without intimation and notice to their counsels.

It said the rule, well established and recognised at the international level, had been ignored. It said the FBI was allowed access to the undertrials without following the due norms and a separate objection complaint had been sent to the USA Ambassador in India.

Mr Rai, also requested the court to allow the inspection of the entire record of the court file and the documents of the case.


Interim bail

Chandigarh, March 17
Mr Justice S.K. Mittal of the Punjab and Haryana High Court has asked Punjab MLA Sohan Singh Thundal to apply for interim bail before the trial court for attending the on-going Vidhan Sabha session.

The MLA, in his petition, had sought directions to the state of Punjab and other respondents for allowing him to attend the session. His counsel had added that the MLA could be taken for the session in custody.


32 buses leave for Afghanistan
Our Correspondent

Wagha (Attari), March 17
The sixth convoy of 32 buses today left for Afghanistan via Wagha joint checkpoint here. Mr Shaifula Rehman, Director, Audit Department, Ministry of Transport, Afghanistan, accompanied the convoy. Mr Mohammed Samim Hamraz, Second Secretary, Embassy of Afghanistan, Islamabad, received the buses on the Pakistani side.

Mr Shaifula Rehman while talking to mediapersons here today said besides providing buses the Indian Government had also promised to give 300 military and municipal vehicles and bulldozer to Afghanistan.

A total of 192 buses had been gifted till now from India. As many as 34 drivers, two mechanics and two assistants also accompanied the buses.


Bishops deny conversions
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 17
Mr Pradip Kumar Samantroy, Bishop Diocese of the Amritsar Church of North India, said he had written to the Chairman of the National Minority Commission (NMC) and president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) to probe the allegations of conversion of Dalit Sikhs to Christianity.

The Bishop also criticised the Shiromani Akali Dal for its move to bring a Bill seeking a ban on conversion in the current session of the Punjab Assembly. He said the statement of Union Minister and the SAD general secretary Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, in which, he had sought the Bill, was not in a good taste. He said the news of conversion of Dalit Sikhs was baseless and a committee had already found his claim to be true.

A CNI committee led by Mr Daniel B. Das had visited the villages in question including Muglani and Veinpu in this district, on Friday and found that no conversion had taken place there, he said.

GURDASPUR: Mr Babu Masih, Bishop of the Amritsar zone of the Anglican Church of India, and Mr Manawar Masih, president of the All-India Christian Dalit front, denied here today that there had been any conversion. He, however, said there might be an odd instance, but, that too, not because of any allurement to convert to Christianity.


Conversions blamed on Badal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 17
Akali Dal (Amritsar) chief Simranjit Singh Mann today blamed Mr Parkash Singh Badal and Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, for the conversions from Sikhism to Christianity.

Commenting on Union Minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa's statement that an anti-conversion act should be enacted in Punjab, Mr Mann said it was a knee-jerk reaction by the traditional SAD (Badal) and not based on any solid logic or reasoning.

Mr Mann said he felt that if conversions had to be stopped, it must be done through love, preaching, equality of status and elections to the SGPC which were overdue. Legislation could not win the hearts of those who feel dissatisfied with the ills that had crept into Sikhism.

About the reasons for conversions in Punjab, Mr Mann said the Sikhs had suffered the leadership of Mr Badal and Mr Tohra for 40 years. These leaders were more political and less religious in their thinking and actions. The long Tohra-Badal spell had concentrated on destroying the ancient, historic and cultural heritage of the Sikhs and building new monoliths of marble and bathroom tiles.

The SGPC, the Sikh parliament, which was the vehicle for spreading the message of the Sikh Gurus had remained under their (Mr Tohra and Mr Badal) stewardship. There had been no religious work by this body and preaching the message of the Sikh Gurus had become second to Machiavellian politics of these two, Mr Mann said. The passage of the Moga resolution by Mr Badal in 1996, discarding of the Anandpur Sahib resolution of 1973 and declaring that the words "Sikh and Panth" henceforth be obliterated from the SAD resolutions had demoralised the rank and file of the party. The alliance with the ultra-rightwing Hindu forces by the SAD (Badal) had shattered the moral of the Sikhs, Mr Mann asserted.

Under the Badal-Tohra hegemony, the equality given to Dalits by the Sikh religion had been withdrawn under the influence of Hindutva. Now there were separate dharamshalas, cremation grounds and gurdwaras for Sikh Dalits everywhere, he added. Discrimination with Sikhs continued in various spheres of life. Sikhs jatha were not allowed to cross to Pakistan to pay obeisance at Sikh religious places there.


Liquor contractors cry foul over auction
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 17
The Excise and Taxation Department allegedly facilitated the allotment of the Patiala and the Sirhind-Khamanon circles to Amrik Singh (Congress legislator) and Ponty Chadha group, besides ensuring that in other cases the hammer fell in favour of other favoured bidders at prices just above the rates reserved by the government. There was much resentment at Sham Bagh Marriage Palace here today with liquor contractors raising slogans in protest against the manner in which the auctions were carried out. They also complained to Mr Kuldeep Kumar, Additional Commissioner, and Ms Kanchan Gupta, Deputy Excise and Taxation Commissioner, Ludhiana Division, but to no avail.

Later, the Excise Department in a press note claimed that intense competitive bidding was witnessed at the auction’ and that ‘the auction was held in a fair and open manner’. Mr Kuldeep Kumar when contacted to get his version on denial of chance to contractors to bid for the auction, said nothing of that sort had happened and that those who had failed to bid at the opportune time were making noises.

Besides not letting some of the contractors bid freely for the auction, the Excise Department, through another ingenious move, ensured that small and medium contractors could not take part in the auction. This was done by increasing the sizes of various circles. The entire Patiala circle was auctioned as one unit for Rs 36 crore, instead of breaking it into smaller circles. The Amrik Singh Ponty Chadha group bid successfully for the circle. Similarly, Rajpura was attached to the Samana-Patran circle to take its worth to Rs 25 crore. In direct contrast Dera Bassi which was auctioned as a single unit, witnessed enthusiastic bidding and was auctioned for Rs 15.15 crore, against last years’ auction value of Rs 13.90 crore.

Mr Praveen Kumar, a contractor, told Chandigarh Tribune that the department had earlier stated that it would form groups with respected auction value of Rs 8 crore to Rs 14 crore to facilitate all contractors. He said an impression was also given that the Patiala circle would be divided into four groups, but it was not done to ensure that small and medium contractors could not even compete for it. He said auction of the circles in smaller groups could have yielded more money to the government.

There was also a controversy over the auction of the Gobindgarh and the Sirhind-Khamano circles. In case of Gobindgarh, a bid of Rs 14.01 crore, made by Pawan Singla ‘Shurli’, was accepted immediately although another party, Sukhdev Sharma and Company, cried itself hoarse saying it wanted to place a bid of Rs 14.50 crore for the circle. Similarly, a bid of Rs 10.51 crore was accepted for the Sirhind-Khamanon circle although the same party had placed a bid of Rs 11.01 crore for the circle. Contractors, who were agitated over the acceptance of bids in such a manner, raised slogans and even lodged a protest with the department officials, but to no avail.

Meanwhile, the Excise Department said 265 country liquor vends and 104 IMFL vends were auctioned in four groups.


NAPM leaders to visit Chandigarh on March 23
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, March 17
Leaders of the National Alliance of Peoples Movements (NAPM) will visit Chandigarh on March 23 for a drive against communalism and globalisation.

Mr Balwant Singh Khera, a Janata Dal(S) leader and one of the organisers, said here today that 22 leaders, including Ms Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, Mr Sandip Pandey, Magsasay awardee, Mr Surinder Mohan, a former MP, Swami Agniveesh of the Bandhua Mazdoor Andolan and Mr Joginder Yadav of the Sampuran Kranti Manch would address a convention at the Panjab University campus.

Mr Khera said the campaign, called “Desh Bachao, Desh Banao Abhian”, started on January 26 from Palakkad in Kerala.

It will traverse 19 states before concluding at Ayodhaya on March 30.


Four ultrasound units sealed
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 17
The health authorities raided four ultrasound units accused of violating the PNDT Act and seized some USG machines from there today. One machine was seized at Bhawanigarh and three at Sangrur.

This action has been taken on the recommendation of the District Advisory Committee. The DAC, on March 14, had recommended the cancellation of the registration of the Bhawanigarh unit and suspension of the registrations of the Sangrur units for one month.

Dr J.R. Bansal, Civil Surgeon of Sangrur, said he had sealed the ultrasound unit of Khosla Hospital at Bhawanigarh early today after his visit there with Dr Vijay Kakkar, District Health Officer. A team of policemen accompanied them in the raid.

Dr Bansal said, now, as an authority for enforcing the PNDT Act, he would move court against Khosla Hospital.

He also said a team of district health officials, including Dr Inderjit Singh, Assistant Civil Surgeon, and Dr Vijay Kakkar, DHO, had sealed the ultrasound units of Raikhy Nursing Home, City Ultrasound Centre and Sangrur Scan Centre at Sangrur.

A special drive would be launched in the district for a complete check on illegal abortions and erring doctors, nurses and midwives would be charged under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act.

Regarding the suspension of the registrations the Sangrur units for one month, Dr Bansal said in case these units were found guilty of violating the PNDT Act in future, the registrations would be cancelled permanently.


Engineers for power reforms
Our Correspondent

Patiala, March 17
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) Engineers Association today claimed that it was not against reforms in or the power sector competition with the private sector. They pointed out that they had been constantly calling for internal reforms in the form of energy audit and hundred per cent metering, besides other steps. In a press note, the association claimed that there appeared to have been some “misgivings” due to which the view of the Engineers had not reached the State Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh.

The Engineers, who had been accused of politically lobbying against the power reforms yesterday by the Chief Minister, said it was their professional duty to share their experiences and knowledge on the subject of power reforms with the people. They said the fact that the privatisation of power sector in seven states did not yield the desired results and the fact had been admitted by the Haldea Committee which had been formed by the government to suggest reforms in the power sector.


War widows honoured
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 17
A rally of ex-servicemen of Sangrur district was held at the local military station yesterday. In the rally, about 2,000 ex-servicemen and war widows participated.

On the occasion, 74 widows of gallant soldiers who laid down their lives for the nation and 100 other gallantry award winners were honoured and gifts were presented to them.

The rally was addressed by Lt-Gen B.S. Thakur, AVSM, GOC, Khadga Corps, and DC, Sangrur. In his address, General Thakur informed the ex-servicemen about the recently started Ex-servicemen Contributory Health Scheme. He also informed them about a 24-hour helpline that has been established at all military stations for ex-servicemen.

Many stalls were also put up to educate the ex-servicemen about self-employment ventures and other employment opportunities available.

At the rally, a medical camp was also organised where ex-servicemen were provided consultation and treatment by a team of specialist doctors.


House-full show of ‘Daaire’ at Nabha
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 17
The Civil Hospital, Nabha, in collaboration with the Rotary International, Nabha, organised Dr Satish Kumar Verma’s Punjabi musical play ‘Daaire’, directed by theatre couple Pran Sabharwal and Sunita Sabharwal at a full-house auditorium of Punjab Public School, Nabha.

The play, organised by Dr Inder Dayal Goel, SMO, Nabha as an initial event of the year-long Women’s Awareness Theatre Campaign launched by the National Theatre Arts Society (NTAS), Patiala, was inaugurated by Mr Zora Singh Thind, SDM, Nabha, as chief guest. The SDM urged the people to mobilise public opinion against female foeticide, the theme, on which the play is based. He said NTAS’ value-based plays were always successful in conveying the message and improving the taste of appreciation of the people for Punjabi Theatre, language and arts.

Rotary International (Nabha) President M.M. Batta said it was the first time that the Nabha residents had witnessed such a captivating purposeful theatre production. The Child Development Project Officer, Punjab, Ms Nabiba Sultan, and Circle Education Officer Rajinder Kumar described the play as a powerful satire on over-population and atrocities on women. Mr Thind, Dr S.P. Sharma Assistant Civil Surgeon, Patiala, and Dr I.D. Goel, SMO, Nabha, released stamp-sized logo on female foeticide prepared and presented by Dr B.M. Dhir of the Indian Medical Association.


Govt to set up polyclinics
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, March 17
The Punjab Government in collaboration with the Union Government plans to set up polyclinics at Muktsar, Mansa, Nawanshahr, Fatehgarh Sahib, Ropar and Hoshiarpur to provide free medicare to the ex-servicemen and their wards. Under the plan 50 per cent of the total expenditure will be borne by the Central Government and the remaining by the state government. Directions have been issued to the deputy directors of the Sainik Welfare Boards of the respective areas to forward an entire plan in this connection to the state government on priority basis.

Disclosing this here today, Mr Daljit Singh Brar, Deputy Director, Sainik Welfare Board, Faridkot, who also holds an additional charge of Muktsar and Ferozepore said initially a staff of about 12 members including medical officers and other pharmacists, would be deployed to mobilise the plan.


Honest gesture by driver, conductor
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 17
In a case worth mentioning a bus conductor and a driver returned a hand bag of a woman passenger containing cash and gold, which she had forgotten in the bus.

Sources said Ms Gagandeep Kaur was coming from Barnala to Bathinda late last night and alighted from the PRTC bus at the Bibi Wala Chowk of the city, about 3 km away from the bus stand. She left her handbag, which contained Rs 1,500 cash and about seven tolas of gold jewellery by mistake and realised the same after reaching her home.

Her parents rushed to the local bus stand. The bag containing all valuables was returned to them by Mr Vijay Kumar driver, and Mr Sardara Singh conductor.

The PRTC authorities appreciated the honesty of Mr Vijay Kumar and Mr Sardara Singh.


Two travel agents held for cheating
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, March 17
The district police has arrested two travel agents on charges of cheating and breach of promise, while five others were booked on the same charges. Mr Varinder Kumar, SSP, in a press note issued here today said Kishan Singh of Herian village in Adamapur, in his complaint, alleged that one Chanan Singh, Gurmit Singh and Manjit Kaur, who were running a travel agency in Hoshiarpur, had assured the former that his son Satnam Singh would be sent to Germany by arranging a valid visa for which a sum of Rs 2 lakh was taken in 1995.

The duo managed to arrange a Russian visa for Satnam Singh, who however, was arrested by the Russian police and jailed before being deported to India. When the complainant asked the travel agents to return the money, they refused to oblige. A case was registered and Manjit Kaur was arrested from her residence yesterday night.

While the main accused Chanan Singh was still absconding, Gurmit Singh was granted anticipatory bail by the court. In another case one Ram Kishan of Samana in Patiala was arrested by the Goraya police yesterday night for duping Malook Singh of Rs 4 lakh on the pretext of sending his son, Amandeep to Italy. In a similar case, Chetan Kumar, Shiv Raj and Sanjay Mishra were booked under Sections 406, 420, 120-B of the IPC.


Man held for wife’s death
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, March 17
The post-mortem report of the dowry death victim, Anju Devi of Kharkara Thothowal village has pointed out that her in-laws tried to mislead the investigative agency.

According to Rajinder Kumar, resident of Raj Bagh, Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir his sister Anju Devi was married to Vijay Kumar of Kharkara Thothowal village on October 10, 1997. They had two children.

He alleged that dowry articles worth Rs 1.30 lakh were given at the time of marriage. But her in-laws demanded more dowry.

Her body was brought to the local Civil Hospital where a post-mortem examination was conducted. According to the post-mortem report, Anju Devi died due to asphyxia and an injury was also found on the neck of the deceased.

According to the report, the husband of the deceased along with some others allegedly hatched a conspiracy to kill the victim, and as a part of their planning they first killed her by strangulating her and then to destroy the evidence poured kerosene oil to deceive the investigative agency.

The police has registered a case and arrested her husband, Vijay Kumar, and mother-in-law of the victim, Soma Devi.


Couple assaulted
Tribune News Service

Rampuraphul, March 17
Mr Vijay Kumar, a local businessman and his wife Mrs Raj Rani, were admitted to the local civil hospital after they suffered multiple injuries when they were allegedly attacked by another resident Mr Satpal and his other kin.

Police sources said Mr Sat Pal, his son and another relative entered into the house of the victim and started beating Mrs Raj Rani. They also allegedly molested her. When Mr Vijay tried to save his wife, he was also beaten up with iron rods.

Some people from the nearby locality gathered and managed to save the couple. They were admitted to the local civil hospital.

The SP (D), Mr Harbaz Singh and Mr Balbir Singh Khaira, DSP, who visited the site of attack and the hospital got the case registered against the accused.

Mrs Raj Rani, alleged that accused misbehaved with her and beat her up and her husband in a bid to grab their house.

Civil hospital sources said Mr Vijay Kumar, who had suffered injuries on his forehead, nose and one of the legs, was being kept under observation.


Students awarded at college function
Our Correspondent

Patiala, March 17
As many as 389 prizes, including rolls of honour, college colours, medals, scholarships in academics, sports, NCC co-curricular activities and social work, were awarded to outstanding students at the annual prize distribution function of Mohindra College here yesterday. Punjab Minister for Public Works Partap Singh Bajwa gave away the prizes.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Bajwa lauded the achievements of the college in various fields. He pointed out that Punjabis had excelled in all fields and at all levels by virtue of their dynamism, dedication and education. He announced a grant of Rs1 lakh out of his discretionary quota for the college.

Earlier, Dr Raj Kumar Sharma, Principal of the college, welcomed the chief guest and presented a comprehensive report of the college with special focus on the visit of the NAAC team to the college.

He drew the attention of the minister to the need of a spacious library building for 82,000 books of the college.

Prof Swaran Singh, Registrar of the college, also spoke on the occasion. Dr P.S. Bhatti, Vice-Principal of the college, proposed the vote of thanks.

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