Friday, March 28, 2003, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Bir Devinder Singh is Dy Speaker
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 27
The Punjab Vidhan Sabha today unanimously elected Mr Bir Devinder Singh as Deputy Speaker. He replaces Mr Darbari Lal, who was inducted as a Minister of State into the Council of Ministers.

The name of Mr Bir Devinder Singh was proposed by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and seconded by Chaudhary Jagjit Singh. It was immediately accepted by Mr Manpreet Singh Badal on behalf of the Akali Dal, which supported unanimous election.

As a tactical move, Capt Amarinder Singh has silenced yet another critic though he had denied him a berth in the Council of Ministers. Capt Amarinder Singh escorted the new Deputy Speaker to his seat, alongside that of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Parkash Singh Badal.

When Capt Amarinder Singh stood up to eulogise the qualities of Mr Bir Devinder Singh, there was derisive laughter from the Treasury Benches that made the Chief Minister turn around to remark: “It is not a jocular matter. Mr Bir Devinder Singh is a dedicated, progressive person with a positive attitude. His elevation would enrich the House.’’

Pointing to his new seat-mate, Mr Badal said he was both happy and sad at Mr Bir Devinder Singh agreeing to be Deputy Speaker, ‘’I am happy that an experienced, hardworking parliamentarian and poet has been unanimously elected. I am sad because having been so outspoken, he should not have bent so low as to be content to accept this post. I was hoping he would reject the offer.’’ Amidst the thumping of desks, he continued: ‘’The state CID was spying on me and him. He is off the hook now, I am not. At least sitting together will give us an opportunity to share a lot. Personally, I think his seat should have been there,’’ as he pointed towards the seat directly opposite him, where the Leader of the House sits. There were peels of laughter in the House.

Mr Bir Devinder Singh replied to the shower of bouquets and barbs with aplomb and alacrity. Though, he studded his emotional responses with choicest couplets and even quotes from Bertrand Russell and F. M. Voltaire to justify why he had agreed to be Deputy Speaker, he appeared to be on the defensive. He recounted his days of ‘’struggle, highs and lows, pain and vicissitude’’ in the journey of life from the home of a humble farmer to occupy a seat in the House. He assured the members that he would uphold the dignity and rich traditions of the House with sincerity and perseverance.


Annul periphery Act, House panel moots
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 27
The Punjab Assembly’s Committee on Subordinate Legislation headed by Mr Bir Devinder Singh, a Congress MLA, has strongly recommended the repealing of the Punjab New Capital ( Periphery) Control Act, 1952, as “it has become redundant and obsolete piece of legislation in view of the fresh pieces of legislation enacted in 1995”.

The committee, constituted by the Speaker under Rule 240 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Vidhan Sabha, today presented its report in the House. Other members of the Committee are Mr Ram Lubhaya, Mr Gaganjit Singh Barnala, Mr Harbant Singh, Mr Kushaldeep Singh, Mr Rana K.P. Singh, Mr Malkiat Singh Dakha, Mr Randeep Singh, Mr Sital Singh, Mr Surjit Singh Dhiman, Mr Tarlochan Singh and Mr Tikshan Sud.

If the Act was annulled on the recommendation of the committee, it will provide relief to over 300 villages in the Punjab area in the periphery of the state’s capital of Chandigarh. From time to time voices have been raised against the Act by people from the affected villages through their elected representatives.

The committee says in its report that it has discussed threadbare the implications of the provisions of the Periphery Act and the difficulties faced by the people living within the periphery. After the Periphery Act of 1952, in 1995, the State Legislature enacted fresh pieces of legislation such as : The Punjab Regional and Town Planning and Development Act, 1995 ( Punjab Act 11 of 1995); The Punjab Apartment and Property Regulation Act, 1995 ( Punjab Act 14 of 1995) and The Punjab Apartment Ownership Act 1995 ( Punjab Act 13 of 1995).

The Committee says that on scrutiny of the provisions of the Acts of 1995, it has been seen that the work to regulate all activities of urbanisation and construction therein appears to have been covered under the provisions of these laws. In other words, the objects envisaged in the the Periphery Act had been achieved under the Acts of 1995 and therefore the Periphery Act “ does not seem to be a relevant law at present”. On the other hand, it creates hurdles and difficulties for the public.

“The committee feels that the existing provisions of the Periphery Act have virtually put a full stop to the development and growth of rural population falling under the jurisdiction of this Act. It is pertinent to mention that the boundaries of “Lal Dora” of the villages have not been extended for the past 50 years. This long span of time has not only witnessed population explosion, but has also multiplied the difficulties of the people settled in the rural areas”, says the report.

It adds “there is lack of basic requirements for improving the quality of life in the rural areas. At the time of enactment of the Periphery Act, the law-makers may not have realised the sufferings of people emanating from the implementation of provisions of this Act like the inhabitants outside the “lal dora” are not entitled to electricity and water supply connections. It is pertinent to mention that the periphery of the state capital is already surrounded by the urban estates of Panchkula, Mohali and Zirakpur. A number of unauthorised colonies in the capital area itself have been regularised by the Union Territory authorities.”

The committee further comments that “It is amazing that in the year 2003 when the whole world is marching towards globalisation, the villages in Punjab, which fall in the periphery of Chandigarh, are deprived of basic amenities such as water and electricity. Even construction activity is banned. The committee says when families have multiplied, their requirement for housing has also increased manifold but they are not permitted to build houses by this law whereas the outer limits of the municipal committees of various towns and cities have been extended a number of times.”

“The committee, therefore, strongly feels that the government should bring in fresh legislation, which would improve the quality of life in the rural areas, which have suffered immensely because of stringent provisions of the Periphery Act that has become spanner in the wheels of progress. Hence the Periphery Act should be annulled.”


Strait-jacket effort at fiscal reforms
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 27
The Punjab Budget (2003-04) is an endeavour to bring about a change in the direction of curbing government expenditure and mobilising additional resources.

In fact, it is a ‘’plus normal’’ Budget which has very little space for manipulation or manoeuvreability, yet, the Budget tends to rectify distortions in the social and economic services. Thus, people must learn to pay for these services while the government must ensure they get maximum value for their money.

Irrespective of the Centre’s response to Punjab’s proposals on ‘’diversification of agriculture’’, as suggested by Dr S S Johl, the state, on its part, is moving ahead to jack up the stagnating incomes and economy of the peasants through different schemes, like contract farming, agri-horticulture processing units, cool-chain infrastructure etc.

The Budget is also a pointer to the government’s concern at the way Punjab has slipped in education. The state economy may seem to be looking up, in education Punjab today is at number 15 among all states. It is hoped the two-tier system of school education may help Punjab climb up the education ladder. The two levels are, elementary—up to class VIII and secondary— up to 10+2.

Even higher education is in doldrums. To pay the high salaries of teachers, a proposal to hike fees is on the anvil. It may be just one way of helping private government-aided colleges. But resource crunch still worries the rural un-aided private colleges. As an alternative to the 95 per cent grant-in-aid scheme, the Budget proposes a one-time financial assistance to privately managed un-aided rural colleges for the basic infrastructure carved out on the UGC grant pattern.

The Budget documents show that the existing administrative structure is itself a burden going down with its own weight of burgeoning babus and bureaucrats. Therefore, unless Punjab gets a breather from the 12th Finance Commission by way of debt relief, gets flushed with money from the World Bank, checks its own profligacy and restricts its runway salary/pension bills, there is little hope.

If the Budget gives a relief of Rs 90 crore, it has also slapped a 12.5 per cent tax on telephone rentals. Finance Minister Lal Singh may justify that the tax is on the companies but he is acting innocent that companies will not pass on the burden to consumers. He expects Rs 100 crore from this.

Punjabis are yet to get used to paying higher consumer charges which, the Budget says, are meant for just recovering the ‘’operational and maintenance’’ costs of social and economic services provided by the government. Together, these charges will amount to Rs 100 crore. Also add to this another Rs 250 crore by way of enhanced stamp duty, registration fee and sales tax etc.

The Budget is certainly a continuing effort at fiscal consolidation to help Punjab emerge from a deep financial crisis which has gone worse in the past five years. More than additional resource mobilisation, it is imperative to curb the government’s wasteful expenditure, which will enable Punjab to breathe more freely. This calls for austerity. Mr Lal Singh expects that austerity or economy in expenditure to be around Rs 200 crore.

The Budget forewarns that there will be no free lunches in times to come and people must prepare to pay more for government services laced with its lethargy and inefficiency. It is also time that economic and fiscal issues are de-linked from competitive politics to improve fiscal health and provide a fresh impetus to development, infrastructure, social and economic growth. The Budget perhaps does provide a viable, pragmatic plan to forge a public-private sector partnership, mobilise resources and get some projects off the ground to achieve these objectives.

The appeasment of farmers, however, is only half a step. Withdrawing coercive Section 67 (a) of the Punjab Land Recenue Act, which is used for the recovery of co-operative loans is one thing and lowering of co-operative bank loans by just .5 per cent to bring it down to 13.5 per cent is quite another. It is, in fact, a cruel joke that the rate of interest of cooperative banks is still much higher than that of commercial banks. What is Mr Lal Singh trying to convey in the face of a huge debt burden on farmers and reports of suicides from rural Punjab? Merely reducing the sales tax on fertilisers from 4 per cent to zero per cent and reducing puchase tax on milk from 4 per cent to 2 per cent will not do. Farmers need a better deal in view of the impending danger of dismantling of the minimum support price regime.


A bureaucrats’ Budget: Capt Kanwaljit
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 27
Initiating the discussion on the Budget, former Finance Minister Kanwaljit Singh said in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha yesterday, “It is a bureaucrats’ budget, which has neither political commitment nor sincerity. It has no roadmap, no direction”. His advice to Mr Lal Singh was to declare budget or plan “holiday”. Sitting across him, the Finance Minister was seen taking notes.

Interestingly, the budget has been prepared by the same team led by Principal Secretary (Finance), K R Lakhanpal, which had worked with Capt. Kanwaljit Singh.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh said not only had development come to a standstill but the law and order situation had also deteriorated in Punjab in the past one year. Despite an attempt to present 2003-04 as the “Year of Development”, the Budget had no concrete proposals for taking Punjab on to the path of “progress, economic and fiscal stability”. He found faults with the government’s strategies on making agriculture sustainable, profitable and ridiculed the concept of contract farming, which would fail.

He also criticised the proposals on ameliorating the lot of the Scheduled Castes and backward classes or the manner in which high-intensity “user charges” were proposed to be levied on socio-economic services making life more harsh, particularly for students. He also gave facts and figures to show how octroi has been repackaged as local area development tax, which will spiral the prices of goods much to the consternation of the common man.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh said as in the first Budget Mr Lal Singh had again tried to veil his tax proposals. “I will unveil the hidden taxes, which are to the tune of Rs 3,500 crore”. He also said the budget was silent on the implications of the WTO.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh referred to the Congress election manifesto and unfulfilled, broken promises on the basis of which the people gave their mandate, only to be betrayed. “This government believes in only lara-lappa”, he added.

The refrain of Capt. Kanwaljit Singh’s speech was that in times to come Punjab would be pushed further deep down into the vortex of debt, particularly, if and when the World Bank released Rs 5,000 crore loan for the five projects. He remembered to ask the Treasury Benches as to what happened to a similar funding from the International Financial Consortium in New York. He sounded skeptical about the World Bank loan. He also criticised the Budget on power reforms and said all fiscal and administrative reforms would fail because these lacked political commitment.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh referred to the lowering of interest rate by 5 per cent on co-operative bank loans, lowering it to 13.5 per cent whereas, the rate of interest in commercial banks was between 8 per cent and 11 per cent. The Centre had helped the commercial banks clear their non-performing assets and not the co-operative banks. The government must, therefore, give more relief in cooperative credit due to financial burden on farmers and suicides.

Among others who spoke included Rana Gurjit Singh, K.P. Rana, Tota Singh and Raj Kumar. 


Discussion on Budget concludes
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 27
The discussion on the Punjab Budget concluded today with nine MLAs from the Treasury and opposition Benches taking part in it. The discussion was initiated by former Finance Minister, Kanwaljit Singh, yesterday, describing the Budget as ‘’directionless sans political content’’.

Those who spoke for or against the Budget were Mr Parminder Singh Dhindsa, Ms Gurkanwaljit Kaur, Mr Sucha Singh Chottepur, Mr Tikshan Sud, Ms Upinderjit Kaur, Mr Jasbir Singh Gill (Dimpa), Mr Randeep Singh, Mr Surjit Singh Rakhra and Mr Raj Kumar Gupta.

The House will tomorrow take up discussion and voting on demands for grants (2003-04) with specific discussion on agriculture, irrigation and power, health and education after which the Finance Minister Lal Singh will wind up the deliberations.

The Budget session has been extended by two days, as per the revised programme circulated today. Now it will adjourn sine die on April 2. The House will even meet on Saturday (March 29) to take up a motion on the constitution of elected committees of the House, appropriation Bill for Budget estimates, (2003-04) and a motion on “thrashing of and causing injuries to the Akali/BJP councillors during the recent municipal council and parishads elections in the state”. The House will meet on April 1 after two holidays off-days and take up a resolution on the SYL canal.

On the last day, April 2, the House will take up legislative business, when several Bills are expected to be moved and passed. The Cabinet has approved the same and includes the Electricity Bill.


150-foot breach in minor submerges 400 acres of wheat
Our Correspondent

Residents of Bhokhra village try to repair the damaged portion
Residents of Bhokhra village try to repair the damaged portion of Kot Bhai Rajwaha at Bathinda on Thursday. — Photo KB.

Bathinda, March 27
Residents of Bhokhra and Amargarh villages today sat in dharna as 400 acres of their wheat crop was submerged by Kot Bhai minor water.

The minor yesterday morning had 150 feet breach following which water flowing into the Bathinda canal affected fodder crop in the two villages. The villagers said that the minor breached and the authorities concerned were informed of it immediately. They alleged that release of water to the minor was not reduced. They had to stop traffic on the Bathinda-Goniana road this morning to press for the demand.

A large number of farmers from nearby villages also with tractors helped check the damage with bags filled with sand. Affected farmers alleged that people could not control the damage as tractors could not move in the mud and gushing water.

Mr Mohinder Singh, former sarpanch, Amargarh, alleged that the damaged portion of the minor gets damaged frequently. He said that due to trees along side the minor roots of the trees had weakened the minor’s bed and it leads to water seepage. He said that when the minor was damaged last time, the contractor had reduced the width of a portion, which had been leading to accumulation of water in the portion damaged now.

Mr Joginder Singh, a farmer, who had taken 28 acres on a contract, said that he would be in debt due to losses, as his entire crop was damaged. He said that the water had entered houses also. He was distressed over the damage to his crop, submerged in three feet deep water. The water reached very near the village power grid and a few houses.

Other farmers also said that they had spent much on the crop and the recent attack of insects (Telaa) on the crop had also cost them heavily in terms of insecticides. The farmers pointed out that even if water dried up in fields in a few days, the yield would be reduced.

Mr Upjeet Singh Brar, Subdivisional Magistrate, who visited the affected villages, said that the flow of water had stopped slightly late, as the flow of water in the Bathinda canal was very heavy.

He said that higher authorities had been informed of the incident and the farmers would be compensated per the orders and the directive of the state government.

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


Dhumal appears in Ropar court
Granted bail in defamation case
Our Correspondent

Ropar, March 27
After the rejection of his petition by the Punjab and Haryana High Court seeking the quashing of the defamation case filed against him in the court of CJM, Ropar, Mr Prem Kumar Dhumal, former Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, appeared in the court of the CJM today.

Mr Dhumal was granted bail against a surety bond of Rs 20,000 and a personal bond of Rs 20,000. The next date of hearing has been fixed for April 26.

Though Mr Dhumal has been granted bail he has been granted exemption from personal appearance in the court.

Earlier the CJM Ropar had summoned Mr Prem Kumar Dhumal for today in the defamation case filed by Mr Bharat Bhushan, resident of Morinda and PPSC member. Mr Bhushan in his complaint before the court had alleged that Mr Dhumal made a defamatory statement against the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and AICC spokesperson, Mr Anand Sharma, that was published in the Hind Samachar on Februrary 7, 2003.

The statement, he alleged, had lowered the public image of the Congress and hurt the feeling of the Congressmen. He pleaded that criminal proceedings under Section 499 and 500 of the IPC should be started against Mr Dhumal.

Mr Dhumal had earlier filed a petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court seeking the quashing of the petition of Mr Bharat Bhushan on the plea that the latter was not directly party to the case. The high court yesterday dismissed the petition of Mr Dhumal.

Talking to newsmen outside the court complex, Mr Dhumal said he had not issued the disputed statement in the said court. Beside this, he had also sent a contradiction of news to the Hind Samachar newspaper to clarify his position regarding news contents.


Judge who decided 4,000 cases in 4 months
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 27
Four thousand cases in four months in the present overburdened judicial system seems impossible but is true. The man who achieved this is none other than Justice Tejinder Singh Doabia, who after completing his five-year tenure as a Judge of the J&K High Court, is in the city and intends to settle here. Justice Doabia, after a brief stint here in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, spent most of his time as a Judge — nine years — in other high courts than the one in his home state.

His uncanny ability to dispose of cases speedily earned him the unofficial title of “Express Mail”. And he had several landmark judgments, including the award of state subject status to several women hailing from J & K and married outside the state, restoring the rights of displaced persons of 1947 , making B.Ed a requisite qualification for teachers’ appointments in the State and settlement of Pakistan national Shahnaz’s case who while in an Indian jail gave birth to a girl after being raped by the jail Superintendent.

The Jammu & Kashmir High Court would celebrate its diamond jubilee this year. It was established in 1928. At one stage two judges of this court were on the Bench of the Supreme Court.

The judiciary he said was perhaps the only institution which was not affected by militancy. As such the judicial system in the state had rendered unique service towards upholding the sovereignty of India. Separatists denying faith in the Constitution of India, swear that they are citizens of India and also state subjects as otherwise no writ petition is maintainable, says Justice Doabia.

In the Jammu wing of the High Court, the pendency of old cases is not more than 1000. The state subject matter pertaining to the rights of a woman marrying a person who is not a state subject had been pending since 1979 and it was decided by a Full Bench last year.

For the Bar in the state, which is well conversant with the legal traditions, going on strike is not unusual, as it remained on strike for almost six months on the issue of creation of fast-track courts, adds Justice Doabia.

In an exclusive interview with The Tribune, he talked about the conditions prevailing in the state. The state as well as the Central Government has to take notice of the ground realities. The problems faced by the common man need to be understood. “Some of the leaders who claim to be separatists are getting all assistance from the state as their relatives are employed in the state services, some of them even members of the Legislative Assembly and the Legislature Council and have been getting pension from the state exchequer. Until the ground reality is understood there may not be any lasting solution. The state suffers from lack of employment opportunities both in the public and private sectors. As a matter of fact government jobs is the main source of livelihood. There is hardly any industry,” says Justice Doabia.

The Central Government has to ensure that Kashmiris are given employment outside the state. The creation of Ladakh Scouts by the Army and engagement of Ladakhis have greatly helped nurture a pro-India feeling amongst the people of Ladakh. A similar attitude needs to be adopted for those residing in the valley and in Jammu, he added. “The opening of Kendriya Vidyalyas in the Valley can go a long way in bringing the youth within the mainstream. English-medium schools are doing well in Jammu as well as in Srinagar. The convent school in Srinagar is still a sought-after institution.

“In Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) retired Army officers have been settled, he says, suggesting that similar steps can be taken in Jammu & Kashmir. The presence of men and officers of the disciplined forces along with their families can be a great asset”, he adds.

“The problems of those who have come from either PoK or those who have been forced to move out of the valley and other disturbed areas have been taken care of by the judicial system. Those who had migrated from POK were not conferred the proprietary rights. They even did not have the right to repair the properties in their possession. In theory POK is treated as a part of J&K. As such those who come from there are not treated as displaced persons. This anomaly has been rectified by the judicial pronouncements. The affected persons have been entitled to similar treatment as enjoyed by other displaced persons,” he added.

About the home front, he says it was difficult for his wife, Rani for whom time spent in Srinagar was like that of a “civil prisoner” for whom “looking at the Dal lake whole day from her house was as dull as it could be”.

“Ringing of a telephone was considered an omen as it rang rarely ,” she says, adding that love and affection given by the people of J &K was overwhelming.


Punjab ministers air grievances
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 27
Indications are that Punjab ministers are restive and have aired their grievances at the March 24 and March 26 meetings of the Council of Ministers.

Sources say that besides the bureaucracy becoming a soft target, at least two ministers also found themselves on the wrong side of the fence. Though Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has tried to assuage the ruffled feelings of his colleagues by asking the Chief Secretary to look into their complaints, he has stepped in to iron out political wrinkles over incidents that took place during the visit of the President of India on March 22.

It is learnt that explanations of the Deputy Commissioner and the SSP of a district have been sought on a complaint lodged by Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Mr Partap Singh Bajwa, alleging that they were not included in the caravan of the President and were also ‘’stranded’’ after the President’s visit. Once this issue was raised, several other ministers also chipped in. In the process, the real issue of approving the Budget was reduced to a mere formality while the ministers’ grievances dominated the early morning meeting on March 24. There are reports that “political scores” were being sought to be settled through officials.

At the second meeting on March 26, several ministers reportedly took exception to the parking of funds — about Rs 175 crore — meant for panchayati raj institutions and urban local bodies, as recommended by the Second State Finance Commission. It was pointed out that the Minister for Agriculture, Ms Bhattal, and the Minister for Local Government, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, had put this money in the treasuries at Fatehgarh Sahib (for panchayats) and in Ropar (for urban local bodies) reportedly for disbursement at their discretion. The ministers were told that there were clear guidelines for distributing the money and it would be done strictly according to the rules. Thereafter, the Chief Minister assured that the money would be placed at the disposal of the district planning boards headed by ministers for further allocation.

Another contentious issue pertained to a proposed new Act — “Enforcement of Reservation for Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes in Recruitment and Promotion” with a proviso of “five year jail” to those politicians and bureaucrats, who did not follow the same. This was literally shouted down and eventually an eight-member Cabinet committee was constituted to examine the same.

Yet another issue over which anguish was expressed at the March 26 meeting was the occupation of houses meant for ministers or Ministers of State or Parliamentary Secretaries. Instances were quoted of IPS officers being in possession of two houses, one at their place of posting, say Ludhiana and Jalandhar, and one at Chandigarh. In fact, they were not entitled to such big houses in Chandigarh. Now there is demand for houses to accommodate new ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries, who want officers to vacate. The Chief Minister has promised to sort this out and has asked the Chief Secretary to put up the case to him at the earliest.


Amritsar MC budget passed
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 27
The annual budget of Rs 80.50 crore, inclusive of water and sewerage charges, was passed amidst a walkout by opposition councillors in the session of the Municipal Corporation, here today. The SAD-BJP combine staged the walkout protesting the meagre allotment for development projects.

Earlier, Mr Shwet Mallik (BJP) asked the House presided over by Mr Jasbir Singh Bir Commissioner, and Mr Sunil Mayor, about the soft approach of the corporation in getting the pending Rs 22 crore from the state government, which would go a long way in improving the financial Health of the corporation. The money is payable to the corporation by the state from devolution of taxes, reimbursement of excise and cover-up loss of income during octroi abolition. He suggested that the entire House should go to Chandigarh to make a collective plea to the government in this regard.

Mr Swinder Singh Chhinda, senior Deputy Mayor, was reportedly conspicuous by his absence. The issue of loan repayment in the case of Pandit Deendayal Sharma Market Triconi Park) was raised, which was objected by the opposition as it could be cleared after selling off the market space.


Ajnala let off with warning
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 27
Mr Harpartap Singh Ajnala Congress leader earlier ‘expelled’ by District.

Congress president Inderjit Singh Baserke refuted his expulsion with a letter from Congress president H.S. Hanspal, at a press conference here today. Alleging that Mr Baserke was ‘vindictive’ in announcing his expulsion arbitrarily he said the district president could only send a complaint and not expel him from the party. He distributed copies of a letter from party president Hanspal.

Mr Hanspal had replied after Mr Ajnala had submitted his clarification regarding his alleged anti-party activities, He ( Mr Hanspal) had “reveived his explanation regarding his position during Municipal elections in Ramdass Municipal Council elections”. State president adds that “He ( Mr Ajnala) was expected to be careful in future while handling such delicate issues and responsible bahaviour is desirable from a person like him.”

Mr Baserke a few days ago announced Mr Ajnala’s expulsion from the party for six years for anti-party activities during Municipal Council elections Ramdass at a press conference here. However, Mr Ajnala said today as special invitee executive member of the state Congress he could not be expelled by the district president.

Moreover, he claimed that party candidates were allowed to contest these council elections without being allotted party symbols. He blamed fellow party member Mr Ravi Rajbir Randhawa for a conspiracy against him. Both had contested against each other in Ajnala where Mr Ajnala was rebel Congress candidate while the latter was the official Congrerss candidate in Assembly elections.


Contracted green peas dumped in open market
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

The magic of contract farming seems to be wearing thin in the year of its initiation itself with a few hundred farmers, who had put their faith in the promises of Punjab Agro by sowing peas in around 500 acres of land in Patiala and Fatehgarh Sahib districts, being forced to dump their produce in local ‘’mandis’’ after rejection by the agro agency.

This is the second setback for contract farming in Patiala and Fatehgarh Sahib districts as the earlier contracted crop of winter maize completely failed due to inclement weather.

Though Punjab Agro officials say the green peas grown by farmers of both districts are being rejected due to spread of fungus infection due to inclement weather, farmers feel even quality peas are being rejected making them deeply suspicious of the contract farming scheme being initiated in the State under which agencies like Punjab Agro are giving certified seed to the farmers on promise that their crop would be procured at determined rates.

Sukhpal Singh of Bishanpur Channa village, near here, is a dejected man today. Having sowed three acres of peas in his land he has managed to get only a part of his produce procured by Punjab Agro. Talking to TNS, Sukhpal said he had been given both seed as well as fungicide by Punjab Agro through a local company, Plantsman Seeds. He said the fungicide was apparently not of good quality as it could not control the spread of white fungus which resulted in low yields.

The farmer said he started getting green peas to the procurement centre earmarked by Punjab Agro at the Plantsman Seeds’ godown in Rakhra village, near here, from March 10 onwards. His crop was rejected three out of six times due to which he had to dump it in the local market. Sukhpal showed the rejected crop to TNS. Besides Sukhpal, other farmers whose produce is not being procured by Punjab Agro are also selling it in the local market which has resulted in a decrease in prices. As a result the farmers, who had contracted to sell their green peas crop to Punjab Agro at Rs 5 per kilogram, are now selling it at Rs 3 per kilogram, in the local market, incurring huge losses.

Kashmir Singh of Sanour says he would have been better off had he not gone in for contract farming at all. “I will earn half than what I could have got sowing wheat,” he added. Other farmers who had gone in for pea cultivation in the Sanour, Samana and Sirhind areas are also ruing their fate, pleading that the least the government could have done was to arrive at an understanding with the farmers if it could not give the agreed price of Rs 5 per kilogram.

Dr Charan Kamal of Punjab Agro, who is in charge of procurement at Rakhra, said the contract with the farmers clearly stipulated that the agency would not buy any produce which was afflicted with any disease. He said fungus had developed due to large-scale rain in the winter which was immediately followed by a rise in temperature.

Plantsman Seeds Managing Director Wahid Ali, whose firm was responsible for supply of seeds to farmers are well as for guiding them during the entire sowing season and afterwards, said a large part of the peas being brought to the procurement centre were not of export quality after being hit by inclement weather. Mr Ali said he had talked to Punjab Agro officials and had requested them to procure the produce after negotiating with the farmers.


Transport Dept sets up nodal point
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 27
The Transport Department authorities have set up a nodal point at the local Patel Chowk-based Punjab Roadways workshop ground for smooth conduct of test drives of licence seekers and registration of new vehicles.

The nodal point, which is expected to reduce the daily rush of about 400 licence seekers at the DTO office to half, will be manned by an officer of the rank of Additional District Transport Officer (ADTO) on Tuesdays and Thursdays for test drives and on Wednesdays and Thursdays for the issuance of registration certificates.

Maintaining that Jalandhar was the first district in Punjab where work concerning the Transport Department would be disposed of at two different places, Mr Vinay Bublani, District Transport Officer (DTO), said the new system which was being put to use on a test basis had shown encouraging results, particularly, as the rush at the main DTO office had been reduced to just about 150-200 persons a day as compared to the earlier 400. “Now, there will be no need for rushing to the DTO’s office for every job as they can get it at the nodal point”, said Budlani.


Vigilance verifies ‘benami’ properties
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 27
The Punjab Vigilance Bureau has verified land records and details of ‘benami’ properties of former Ministers Sucha Singh Langah, Tota Singh and Ajit Singh Kohar in several villages in Patiala and Sangrur districts.

Sources disclosed that the Vigilance Bureau had done this to verify revelations in the cases registered against the former Ministers. The Vigilance Bureau team from Chandigarh visited Rauni village yesterday to verify a tract of land which Ajit Singh Kohar reportedly had bought in the name of his nephew. The team interviewed villagers and the sarpanch in this regard.

The team also took the record of a few acres of prime land adjoining the main road in Bahadurgarh which reportedly has been bought by former Minister Tota Singh. It also questioned people on some buildings in Bahadurgarh which allegedly are linked with the former Minister.

The team also reportedly visited three villages in Sangrur district to verify the properties of Sucha Singh Langah. The sources said the former Minister had bought properties in the name of several of his relatives in the district which included his niece and daughter-in-law besides others. It also took the record of several buildings built on these pieces of land.

The sources said the raids on the suspected properties of the former Ministers was a renewed effort by the Vigilance Department to pin down the former Ministers. It also aims at getting further proof of the ‘benami’ property of the former Ministers during the Akali-BJP regime in the state. 


Notice issued in Bhattal case
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 27
In less than a fortnight after a Special Judge for Vigilance cases ruled that the complainant in the corruption case against Punjab’s former Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal had no right to argue at the time of framing charges, the Punjab and Haryana High Court today issued notice of motion on a petition challenging the orders.

The petition, filed by complainant in the case Balwant Singh Dhillon, will now come up for further hearing on March 31. Bhattal was earlier accused of misappropriating Rs 20 lakh after withdrawing it from the Chief Minister’s relief fund following which a case under Section 409 of the Indian Penal Code and Prevention of Corruption Act was registered.

During the proceedings before the trial court, Bhattal had moved an application for dropping the proceedings and for being discharged. Soon after a reply was filed by counsel for the complainant, the defence counsel opposed it on the ground that he could neither file reply, nor argue at the time of framing charges.

After hearing the arguments in the matter, the Special Judge had ruled that the complainant and his counsel could only assist the public prosecutor and could act under his directions as per the provisions of law.

The Judge had added that the complainant or his counsel could only submit the written arguments, and that also after the evidence was closed, with court’s permission. Deciding the case against the complainant, the Judge had added that the reply filed by the complainant to the application of the accused for dropping the proceedings could not be read at the time of deciding the plea.

Bail plea

A petition seeking the grant of bail filed by former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s officer on special duty Hardeep Singh will come up before Chief Justice Mr B.K. Roy of the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday.

It may be recalled that Hardeep Singh had earlier accused the Congress government of adopting a revengeful attitude towards political opponents. He had asserted that the Chief Minister had openly declared that Badal and his men would be taught a lesson and as such he was being targeted.


Taking up a petition filed by Punjab’s former minister Jagdish Singh Garcha seeking the grant of bail in a cheating and corruption case, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Thursday fixed March 31 as the next date of hearing in the case.

Garcha was earlier booked in a case registered under Sections 420 and 120-B of the India Penal Code, besides under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Seeking the grant of bail, his counsel had contended that a false case had been registered against him. He had further submitted that the Congress government was framing cases against its political opponents. The allegations that the employees recruited by Punjab Technical University were from his constituency were also baseless, counsel had added. 


Vigilance probe against Gurdev Badal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 27
The Vigilance Bureau, Punjab, said today that it had initiated a probe against Mr Gurdev Singh Badal, a former Agriculture Minister, for alleged misuse of his official position while making appointments and promotions in the Agriculture Department without sticking to proper procedures and rules.

The Chief Director-cum-ADGP of the bureau, Mr A.P. Pandey, said irregularities had been committed in the allotment of petrol pumps and gas agencies in the state. In this connection, an inquiry had been started against certain officials of the Petrol and Gas Dealers Selection Board and the Oil Dealers Selection Board and a former minister of the BJP.

An inquiry has also been initiated in the sale of eyeballs ( cornea) after removing these from dead bodies at the time of post-mortem examination in Government Rajindra Hospital, Patiala. A Vigilance probe was also in progress against Mr Ranjit Singh Brahmpura and certain other persons, he added.


New Punjabi TV channel from May
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 27
A Canadian broadcasting company run by two Punjabi NRI brothers has decided to launch a new Punjabi satellite TV channel from Punjab for Punjabi viewers across the globe by the end of May this year.

Talking to TNS, Mr Ravinder Singh Pannu, president and chief executive officer of Pannu Broadcasting Inc., running Sur Sagar TV and Radio channels from Toronto, Canada, revealed that the new channel, NRI TV, would be launched by the end of May.

Having its headquarters at Ludhiana, the broadcasting company planned to set up its studios at Chandigarh, Bathinda, Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Amritsar, he said.

With uplinking facilities from Noida, the company decided to set up the studios with latest technology available in the world to ensure better visual and audio quality. He said all cameras and other equipment required for studios and launch of the channel were being purchased from Canada.

It may be mentioned that Pannu Broadcasting Inc. first started its TV programme for east Indians on City TV, Toronto, in 1986. In 1992, the company started broadcasting TV programmes in coastal areas all over Canada. 


Liquor shops’ auction a tame affair
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 27
The auction of liquor shops of Amritsar, Kapurthala, Jalandhar and Nawanshaher districts which had been put off earlier, turned out to be a tame affair today with the areas being auctioned off almost at the reserve price itself.

Respective assistant excise and taxation commissioners made it a point to make the game easy for the big players. While a lot of time was spent on explaining the procedure, all four bids were over in a few minutes. The auction seemed to be a sham with it being announced that most of the shops in the districts had been auctioned off at the reserve price. Excise officials did not, however, announce as to whom the districts had been awarded to and were hard pressed in filling up names of the major contractors even after the auction had officially taken place.

Only a few areas in the various districts which were put on the block saw auction individually. This included the Phagwara area and Jyoti Chowk area in Jalandhar which was auctioned off to Chadda and Wadia Associates at a nominal increase in the reserve price. The excise officials even did not give a detail of the auctions to the District Public Relations Office keeping everyone in the dark about the procedure.

Sources said the Amritsar area was in fact auctioned off at a loss of Rs 1.76 crore as compared to last year. The Excise Department had kept a reserve price of Rs 108 crore for the district. It was auctioned for Rs 108.01 crore. Similar was the case with the other districts also with no enthusiastic bidding taking place for any of the districts on the block. In fact the assistant excise and taxation commissioners who were auctioning their respective districts shops preferred to get away with the affair by raising the price slightly and entering the name of the buyer.

Kapurthala districts was auctioned off for Rs 44.81 crore against a reserve price of Rs 44.80 crore. Last year also it had been auctioned for Rs 44.80 crore. In case of Jalandhar, against a reserve price of Rs 125.40 crore, it was auctioned off for Rs 125.42 crore. Last year it had been put on the block for Rs 133.76 crore. Nawanshaher district liquor shops were auctioned off for Rs 37.59 crore against a reserve price of Rs 37.50 crore. Last year it had fetched a bid of Rs 36.95 crore. Gurdaspur district was bagged by Gurdaspur traders according to sources who bid Rs 55.37 crore against a reserve price of Rs 55.56 crore.


Zaffarwal rules out revival of terrorism
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, March 27
Mr Wassan Singh Zaffarwal who reached his village today after more than 19 years, talking to reporters at his house said he was and had been against the formation of Khalistan and continuance of terrorism both in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir. He added that neither Pakistan nor the ISI had contacted him to revive terrorism in Punjab after he left Pakistan more than five years ago.

Mr Zaffarwal, who was president of the five member Panthik Committee and chief of the Khalistan Commando Force, said he would participate in political activities in the state. He added that no political party had contacted him so far and he had not talked to any political party for entering politics.

Mr Zaffarwal said the political system in the state was in a mess and he would prefer to launch a new party. He would advocate a political system which was free, fair and transparent.

He said when he left Pakistan, terrorist leaders like Lakhbir Singh Rode, president of the International Youth Federation, Paramjit Singh Panjwar, chief of the KCF(Panjwar) and Wadhawa Singh Babbar were there. 


Jawan cremated with honours
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 27
The mortal remains of Varinder Kumar (24), who laid down his life during counter-insurgency operations in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir on March 24, were consigned to the flames at his native Khelan village 20 km from Lalru in this district, today.

Varinder was killed in an ambush and had sustained multiple injuries on his legs and chest. He was the only son of Meghraj, retired subedar. Varinder had been enrolled in the 5 AR in 1999 and had been posted to 27 Rashtriya Rifles in October, 2002.

Army officials brought the body to Khelan village today where it was cremated with full military honours.

The jawan is survived by his wife Babli whom he had married three years back. Major R K Singh of 68 AR Patiala, Subdivisional Magistrate Amarjit Singh Dhindsa, Sainik Welfare Officer Lt-Cdr Surmukh Singh and PPCC member Sheelam Sohi were among those present on the occasion. 


Clarification on Dang’s statement
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 27
The Tribune in its issue of January 22 carried a news-item which announced that the RSS chief, Mr K.S. Sudarshan, during his visit here on January 29 would honour about 600 of its veterans or their relatives who had played a “cammendable role in saving thousands of Hindus from the clutches of Muslim goons” it was also claimed that but for the role of the RSS “lakhs would have lost their lives or would have been forced to convert to Islam”.

The CPI leader, Mr Satya Pal Dang, issued a statement on January 25 which pointed out that actual facts had been grossly distorted immediately after the partition by the RSS. “Muslim goons did massacre Hindus and Sikhs but gangs of Hindus and Sikhs had also massacred Muslims. Hindus and Sikhs had saved many Muslims while many Muslims had saved many Hindus and Sikhs, in each case even risking their own lives”, he said.

Mr Dang had further alleged that this distortion was motivated “to help attain its objective of establishing a Hindu theocratic state in India”. Unfortunately, a distorted seven-and-a-half-line summary of Mr Dang’s statement appeared in these columns on January 26 which made no mention of the central point of his statement i.e. killings as well as saving lives had taken place both ways. Whatever had appeared was a complete distortion and even opposite of what he had said. It also gave a wrong impression of Mr Dang being anti-Hindu. A similar and smaller summary appeared again in these columns on January 29. Despite subsequent written requests by Mr Dang, the necessary amends were not made. The above omission is regretted.


Thandal’s judicial remand extended

Ropar, March 27
Mr Amrik Singh Kathuria, special judge, Ropar, today extended the judicial remand of Mr Sohan Singh Thandal, former Minister of State for Food and Supplies, Punjab, till April 11 in a criminal case registered against him by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau at SAS Nagar. OC


Farm experts to brief CM
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 27
The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has agreed to cooperate with the Punjab Government to help it provide options on grain management, diversification of crops and subsidy rationalisation to bring the food economy of the state in tune with the WTO regime.

“Following up a last year meeting with the Chief Minister on the issues of the agriculture economy of the state, we have gathered resources to start work on diversification, grain management and subsidy regime,” Dr Ashok Gulati, Division Director, IFPRI, told The Tribune here today at the sidelights of a seminar on the issues at the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID).

A team of experts from the IFPRI led by its Director-General, Dr Joachim Von Braun, Division Director, Dr Peter Hazzel, Dr Gulati and a Chinese expert and senior research fellow, Dr Shanggen Fan, will meet the Chief Minister to inform him about the preparedness of the international body.

Dr Gulati informed that the response of the institute has followed a request from the Chief Minister last year.


Tiwari is Special Secy (Power)
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 27
Mr D.K. Tiwari has been posted as Special Secretary, Power. He has also been given additional charge as Special Secretary, Parliamentary Affairs, Punjab.

Ms Manisha Trighatia and Mr Zade Vijay Namdeorao, both IAS probationers allocated to the state, have been posted as Assistant Commissioner (under training) at Ropar and Patiala, respectively. 


DC releases credit plan
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, March 27
Mr Vikas Pratap Deputy Commissioner, launched credit plan 2003-04 of the State Bank of Patiala, while presiding over a meeting of the District Consultative Committee at Bachat Bhavan here today.

He said bankers in the district had loaning budget of Rs 415.71 crore for financial year 2003-04 as compared to 317.57 crore for the current financial year. He asked the banks to disburse the maximum number of cases sponsored under various government sponsored schemes, especially PMRY, SGSY and SJSRY.

Mr M.L. Guru, Lead District Manager Fatehgarh Sahib, assured the Deputy Commissioner to provide maximum financial assistance to the weaker sections under various government schemes.


Two vehicle thieves held
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, March 27
The police has busted a two-member gang of vehicle thieves with the arrest of its members and the seizure of three stolen cars.

Mr Varinder Kumar, SSP, in a press note issued here today, said that following a tip-off, a naka was laid near Paragpur village on GT Road.

At the naka, a car, DL-8CG-8629, was intercepted, but its occupants could not produce any document to establish their ownership. Both the occupants, after sustained questioning, revealed that the vehicle had been stolen from Delhi. Subsequently, they were identified as Jarnail Singh of Tarn Taran and Sapandip Singh of Kapurthala.

Meanwhile, the police has booked two travel agents on the charges of breach of promise and issuing threats under Sections 406, 420, 506 of the IPC. They have been identified as Pavitar Singh of Landhran village and his father Lehmbar Singh. 


Four arrested on murder charge
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 27
The police has arrested four persons namely Pamma, Bittu, Laxman Singh and Lotty on charges of murdering Jasvir Singh and later throwing the body into a canal.

Police sources said Laxman, the main accused in the crime, took the help of three others in murdering Jasvir, who was working as a mechanic in a local workshop and resident of Bada Bhai Ka village, located near Jaitu town of Faridkot district.

Jasvir disappeared under mysterious circumstances on March 10. His father, Gurdev Singh, informed the police on March 23.

Investigation revealed that Laxman was allegedly having illicit relations with a woman. The victim, who was a friend of Laxman, had been urging him to stop visiting the house of the woman.

Laxman, who did not like the advise of Jasvir, murdered him along with the help of three accused.

A case was registered under Sections 302, 201, 364, 34 and 120-B of the IPC has been registered.


Doctor booked for flouting PNDT Act

Sangrur, March 27
Since the implementation of the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PNDT) Act, 1994, the health authorities today for the first time filed a complaint in a local court against the owner of an ultrasound unit for the alleged violation of various provisions of the PNDT Act.

Dr J.R. Bansal, District Appropriate Authority for the PNDT Act-cum-Civil Surgeon, Sangrur, said he had today filed a complaint under Section 23 of the Act in the court of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate here against Dr Vijay Kumar Khosla, proprietor of Khosla Hospital, Bhawanigarh, for the violation of various provisions of the Act by his ultrasound unit. The court has fixed May 20 as the next date for further proceedings. TNS


FCI employee booked
Our Correspondent

Muktsar, March 27
Mr Shiv Kumar Sharma, SSP, in a press note issued here yesterday said that a case against Balvinder Singh, a quality inspector with the Food Corporation of India (FCI) has been registered under Sections 409, 412, 417, 418, 424, 427, 428, 471, 474 and 120-B of the IPC, as the accused had caused losses to the state exchequer to the tune of Rs 26,86,183.

The amount was deposited into the account of the son of the accused, Harkrishan Singh, at the Oriental Bank of Commerce, Kotkapura, by submitting bills of the same amount showing the purchase of paddy during the 2002 paddy procurement season, the SSP said. 


Punjabi writers end chain fast
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 27
Punjabi writers ended their chain fast at Matka chowk today with the Minister for Higher Education and Languages, Punjab, Mr Harnam Dass Johar assuring them the acceptance of their demands. The Principal Secretary, Education, Mr N.S. Rattan and Director, Language Department, Mr Madan Lal Hasija, were also present on the occasion. The writers had been sitting on a hunger strike under the aegis of the Kendri Punjabi Lekhak Sabha, for over 10 days now.

The main demand of the striking writers was the withdrawal of government’s decision to introduce English from first class as also to incorporate the provision of punishment to those officers who don’t execute their official work in Punjabi. The writers demanded that the Vice-Chancellor of Punjabi University, Patiala, be directed not to raise controversy about making Devnagri the script of Punjabi. They also demanded that the same syllabus be applicable to all schools in Punjab.

The writers discussed the offer of the government and later decided to end the strike by accepting glasses of juice from the visiting minister. Those who called off the strike today were Harmeet Vidyarthi, Surjeet Chamak, Sohandeep Thind, Nirmal Prasann, Des Raj Moga, Hakim Singh and Bhupinder Singh. Towards the end, President Dr. S. Tarsem extended his thanks to the writers for their effort to safeguard the status of Punjabi.


PTU cancels exams, orders probe
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, March 27
Punjab Technical University has constituted a committee to probe alleged leakage of question papers for the examination of M.Sc. (Information Technology) and M.Sc. Programming in C-Sharp (Lateral Entry) for third semester under its Distance Education Programme.

Mr S.K. Bhatia, Registrar of the University, said today that as per the reports received from the SSP, Bathinda, and the observer appointed by the university for the examination center at Government Polytechnic, Bathinda, regarding the leakage of question papers, it was decided to cancel the exams held at various centers of Punjab on yesterday. The exams will not be held on April 20. Mr Bhatia said strict action would be taken against the erring officials.


NAAC gives A+ grade to Mohindra College
Our Correspondent

Patiala, March 27
The local Government Mohindra College has achieved the rare distinction of becoming the first college in Punjab to bag the A+ grade from the National Assessment and Accreditation Council of India (NAAC), which is entrusted with the task of performance evaluation, assessment and accreditation of universities and colleges in the country.

The A+ grade is awarded to an institution which scores between 90 and 95 per cent on the new nine-point scale adopted by the NAAC, replacing the old star system.

The college Principal, Dr Raj Kumar Sharma, said the NAAC had formulated a three-stage process for assessment and accreditation, including preparation of the self-study report. He said the report was validated by the peer team of the NAAC during a visit to the institution and the final decision was taken by its executive committee.

He said the assessment was made on the basis of a seven-point criteria which included curriculum aspects, teaching learning and evaluation, research, consultancy and extension, infrastructure and learning resources, student support and progression, organisation and management and healthy practices.

A study of the NAAC report with respect to Mohindra College revealed that the team felt that the college was encouraging effective leadership, strict discipline, sports as well as ensuring smooth functioning of the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA).

The NAAC has, however, pointed out some areas where the college needs improvement. It has advocated giving it autonomous status, besides modernising facilities in the departments. The report said it would be desirable to have a School of Languages in the college.

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