Tuesday, May 6, 2003, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



PPSC chief promises total transparency
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 5
The Chairman of Punjab Public Service Commission, Lt Gen Surjit Singh (retd) asserted that he would bring total transparency in the working of the commission, which had been under cloud for the past couple of years.

Addressing a large gathering at Rotary Club, Civil Lines, yesterday General Surjit Singh said he had taken various steps to improve the image of the commission while bringing about efficiency.

The Chairman admitted that political interference had dented the credibility of the PPSC and this had resulted in large-scale recruitments due to favouritism besides political and financial considerations.

The General felt that the alarming rise in the cases of corruption was a reflection of the sick society and we all must accept the blame for the deteriorating moral standards in the country. He added that it was not easy to check the menace of corruption without adequate checks and balances with deterrent punishment to keep the corrupt out of the system.

General Surjit Singh said to maintain transparency in the tests on April 27, 2003, the PPSC had declared the results of 5581 candidates within three days. He said the papers for the examination were set by eminent persons from outside the state to pre-empt any scope for leakage. He, however, admitted that during the previous regime there were number of instances of favouritism during interviews and to avoid similar occurrence commission had decided to reduce the interview numbers to 10 per cent. He asked people to make suggestions to improve the functioning of the PPSC.

Earlier, the secretary of the Rotary Club, Dr Indu Ravijit Singh, gave a brief account of the club activities. The president of the club, Mr G.R. Sekhon, welcomed the chief guest and presented a memento on behalf of the club.


Cong to revamp district, block panels
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 5
Targeting the coming Lok Sabha elections, the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) is contemplating a major initiative to reorganise and reactivate the party at district and block levels. Changes in the District Congress Committees and some frontal organisations, including the Youth Congress, are in the offing.

Besides, a two-month long programme has been planned by the PPCC chief, Mr H.S. Hanspal, to propagate the “achievements of the present Congress government in the state’ to the grass roots level.

The seriousness of the initiative could be gauged from the fact that some senior party functionaries, including Mrs Mohsina Kidwai and Mrs Ambika Soni, would be here to attend the first meeting of the executive committee of the PPCC scheduled to be held on May 12. Though the former Union Finance Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, was also invited to attend the meeting, his confirmation was still awaited. The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, would also attend the meeting.

As a first step of this initiative, ad hocism at the level of District Congress Committees would be brought to an end by naming regular DCC chiefs. Eversince Mr Hanspal took over as the President of the PPCC, not even a single appointment of the District Congress Committee chief had been ratified.

Some DCC chiefs were changed during the last assembly elections in January-February last year and ad hoc appointments made in their place. While most of these appointments would be regularised, some changes in the District Congress Committees could not be ruled out.

To woo and keep both the Dalits and women in its fold, the party high command wanted the PPCC to keep some DCC chief posts for them also. At present, both Dalits and women have poor representation not only in DCCs but also in the Block Congress Committees.

Mr Hanspal had spent first eight months in office as the PPCC chief in undertaking extensive tours of the state to ‘dispel the impression’ that as an ‘outsider’ he had no grip on the party.

Talking to The Tribune here this evening, Mr Hanspal admitted that the PPCC would soon be reorganising DCCs. This will be done in consultation with the party high command. Some ad hoc appointments made earlier would be regularised and some changes, wherever necessary, would be made. The idea is to reactivate and rejuvenate the party in the state for the Lok Sabha elections.

“After the May 12 executive committee meeting, we would organise conventions at block and district level to mobilise the grass root level workers. From June 15 to July 15, we are planning a series of training camps at block and district levels throughout the state.” he said.

“Confirming acting or naming new DCC chiefs may not be an easy job as the interests of the party would be of uppermost importance. We will try to name the deserving candidates. May be we have to name certain MLAs as DCC chiefs for activating those units,” said Mr Hanspal.

Mr Hanspal says that it was at his intervention that a showdown in the Sangrur Zila Parishad election was averted. “Some problems of indiscipline will remain in every party. But as far as the Congress is concerned, we have no such serious problem ,” he added.

The Punjab Youth Congress Committee may have a new chief as the present chief, Mr Devinder Singh Babbu, is in his 40s now. Though there is no indication as yet of his possible successor, sources point out that one of the unsuccessful contestants in the last Assembly elections was a strong contender for the post.

The party high command was keen that wards of sitting MLAs or even ministers should be avoided for naming the chief of this most important frontal organisation of the party. The party high command, sources said, may go by the recommendation made on this behalf by the PPCC chief in consultation with the Chief Minister. 


Octroi goes from July: minister
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, May 5
Punjab Local Government Minister Jagjit Singh today declared that octroi in the state would go from July 1, resulting in a loss of Rs 550 crore to the government. He said it would be resourced from levying 2 per cent local area development tax (LADT).

Talking to newsmen and addressing a public meeting here today, the minister said the share of the LADT would be sent on a weekly basis to municipal corporation and nagar councils so that the development projects did not suffer after the abolition of octroi.

The government had released Rs 1 billion to urban local bodies for the acceleration of development in cities and towns, he claimed. A monitoring cell was overseeing the spending by municipalities, he said.

The Rs 80-crore water treatment plant under the Sutlej Action Plan was ready at Ludhiana and would soon be dedicated to the public by the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, disclosed Mr Jagjit Singh. Phagwara would also be linked to it, resulting in the end of its sewerage problems, he said. Phagwara would be made a model town and Rs 96 lakh had already been granted for its development.

Earlier, Mr Jagjit Singh inaugurated the Improvement Trust complex here and laid the foundation stone of a shop-cum-office.


Principals demand fee hike rollback
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 5
The Principals’ Association of Non-government Colleges affiliated to Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, have demanded a rollback of the students’ fee hike, release of 95 per cent grant-in-aid without a 20 per cent cut already imposed and the introduction of a pension-cum-gratuity scheme for the teachers. The Principals have also asked the Congress to implement its promises on higher education and fulfil the demands of private-aided colleges as contained in the February, 2002, election manifesto.

The most threatened are the rural colleges where students will be unable to pay the hiked fee. Of the 172 non-government aided colleges, nearly 100 are in rural areas while a majority of the 49 government colleges are in rural areas, particularly in Malwa. The Principals also want a complete ban on the opening of new colleges, private academies and ‘’teaching shops’’.

These issues were raised by the association President, Mr Subash Kumar, at a two-day orientation workshop of the Principals at University Staff College, Dalhousie, on May 3 and 4. It was inaugurated by Punjab Minister of Higher Education, Harnam Das Johar, where the Principals raised several academic issues and college demands. These included pay fixation of the Principals at Rs 14,940, the Professor’s scale for the Ph.D Principals, and grants to colleges against total rather than subject-wise posts.

Dr Jaspal Singh Randhawa, Principal, S N College, Banga, said the association had also demanded early notification on the promised withdrawal of 20 per cent cut in the grant-in-aid scheme and the introduction of a pension-cum-gratuity scheme. The minister, however, was non-committal and talked of paucity of funds and limited budget allocations.

About the 95 per cent grant-in-aid to non-government colleges, Mr Randhawa said against a salary bill of Rs 102 crore, the government had released only Rs 54 crore in 2001-02. The following a 10 per cent cut was imposed the following year, which still continues.

Meanwhile, nearly 30 candidates in the fray for elections to the PCCTU, scheduled at Jalandhar on May 11, have in a signed statement denied that there was any ‘’split’’ in the ruling group, as reported in these columns on Sunday. They have described the report as ‘’one-sided and false’’, saying that in no way had the PCCTU leadership let down the rank and file.


User charges for water, sewerage up
A.S. Prashar
Tribune News Service

The new user charges for unmetered water connections (domestic) are as follows:

User charges for metered water
connections (domestic):

Chandigarh, May 5
The Punjab Government has revised the water supply and sewerage tariff for all five municipal corporations and 137 municipal councils in the state with immediate effect. The measure will raise more than Rs 100 crore in a year.

According to an official notification available here today, the order will cover the municipal corporations of Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Patiala and Bathinda besides all municipal councils. Interestingly, the government has fixed the user charges for the next five years.

The government has also directed the Local Bodies Department to ensure the quality of water and minimum duration of supply. Billing and collection should be privatised in a phased manner. To ensure guarantee of standard of services, computerisation of bills, preparation of a website, showing hours of supply, status of complaints etc should also be introduced. Standby source of power should also be added in addition to existing source.

The notification lays down that water meter shall be arranged and installed by consumer at his own cost and proper testing and sealing would be done by the local body concerned. Cost of testing and sealing will also be borne by the consumer.

In case of a defect in water meter, the first bill shall be issued on average basis of the last three bills and there after if meter is not got repaired by beneficiary at his own cost, the rate shall be three times the average charges. Even consumers residing in plots of less than 1 kanal have option to go in for metered connection.

For institutional, commercial and industrial connections, only rates as on metered connections shall be charged for water supply and sewerage. For yellow card holders, the rates shall be 50 per cent of normal rates applicable up to 5 marla houses.


Jobs for engg students ‘limited’
Manoj Kumar
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 5
In the name of creating job opportunities for the state youth, the Punjab government has opened a number of engineering colleges and polytechnics in the past few years. But most of the trained youth from these institutions are unable to find suitable jobs in the state despite paying hefty fees.

According to information available from Statistical Abstract of Punjab, more than 40,000 trained engineering candidates were registered as unemployed youth during the past year. This included graduate engineers, diploma engineers from polytechnics and diploma holders from industrial training institutes (ITIs). Due to lack of adequate industrial development in the state, job opportunities have rather dwindled.

The officials in the State Planning Department agreed that the job opportunities in the state had declined after the closure of thousands of units in Ludhiana, Mandi Gobindgarh, Rajpura, Batala and other industrial towns. It was unfortunate, they said, the state government was still emphasising on creating more and more seats in the engineering institutes. But it was not bothered, they said, about the quality of education or creation of job opportunities.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Northern Region, in its recent report had also asked the state government to improve the quality of technical education and create job opportunities. It had lamented that the industrial units in other states were also reluctant to employ students from these institutes because of lack of required skills.

In a recent meeting held with the Industry Department, the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI) had claimed that due to mushrooming of private engineering institutes, which did not have adequate infrastructure, the supply of engineering students had substantially increased. But on the other hand, very few manufacturing units had been set up in the state. Consequently, these youth were unable to find jobs in the state or elsewhere.

The officials in the Economic and Statistical Wing, Punjab, agreed that at present there were about 12,000 seats in ITIs, polytechnics and engineering colleges in the state, but job opportunities were limited to a few hundreds only. Interestingly, the number of students joining ITIs had declined to 6,246 in 2001-02 from 6,958 in 2000-01.

According to information available from the Directorate of Employment, Punjab, about 5.21 lakh youth were registered with the state employment exchange offices.


PMT scam: key man held
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 5
In a major breakthrough, the Amritsar police has arrested Dr Mahesh Sharma, a close associate of Sirhind-based Akali leader Devinder Singh Pappu, the prime accused in the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) PMT leak scam, in New Delhi.

While Pappu was arrested from Hotel Royal Castle here before the test, Dr Sharma, an ayurvedic doctor, was arrested in New Delhi today. Dr Sharma is considered a strong link between CBSE officials and middlemen and is likely to throw light on the modus operandi.

Another associate of Pappu, Sundhashu, who belongs to Bihar, is still absconding. The police has been raiding the possible hideouts of the other accused. The local police has sought the help of the police of other states to nab those who had been luring MBBS aspirants.


Raids to nab MLA’s SHO son planned
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Nawanshahr, May 5
Even as suspended Nawanshahr SHO Rajbalwinder Singh, who has been booked by the Nawanshahr police for allegedly snatching lakhs of rupees from people at various nakas, is still at large, the Nawanshahr police will raid suspected hideouts to nab him.

Rajbalwinder Singh, son of Muktsar MLA Sukhdarshan Singh Marar, had allegedly gone underground after he was booked under Sections 392 and 34 of the IPC, following a complaint filed by Mr Jatinder Kumar, a resident of Rajpura, with Mr S.K. Sharma, IG (Zonal). The complainant had alleged that Rajbalwinder Singh and his aides, who had put up a naka at Aur village, near here, had snatched Rs 2 lakh from him.

Another case was registered against him at Bilga police station, following a complaint by Mr Pritam Singh, resident of Jalandhar. He had alleged that he was made to hand over Rs 2.5 lakh by Rajbalwinder Singh at a naka near Meowal village.

Ms Neerja Voruvuru, SSP, said, “We will arrest him like any other accused.” She said raids would be conducted to nab him.

Meanwhile, Mr S.K. Sharma, said an investigation was being conducted into the case, which had been handed over to the Phillaur DSP.


Lok Bhalai Party may field 5 candidates
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, May 5
The All-India Lok Bhalai Party plans to contest five constituencies in Punjab in general elections. The constituencies will be decided upon at a meeting of the political affairs committee at Ludhiana shortly.

This was stated by Mr Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, Rajya Sabha MP and President of the party, here last evening. Mr Ramoowalia was here in connection with the ‘lok lehar’, launched by the party. Earlier, addressing corner meetings here, Mr Ramoowalia lashed out at senior Akali leaders. He charged Mr Gurdev Singh Badal and Mr Tota Singh, former SAD ministers with amassing wealth and property by unfair means.

This led to a commotion at the meeting, held at Dogra Basti, for a while when a supporter of Mr Gurdev Singh Badal raised slogans and objected to Mr Ramoowalia’s remarks.


PSGPC to implement Nanakshahi calendar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 5
Accepting the authority of Akal Takht and the SGPC, the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) has resolved to implement the ‘Nanakshahi calendar’ in Sikh shrines of Pakistan.

This was disclosed by Mr Harpal Singh Bhullar, president, International Bhai Mardana Yadgari Kirtan Darbar, in a fax message which was received here today. Mr Bhullar said he had a telephonic talk with Mr Sham Singh, co-Chairman, PSGPC.


Jail inmate eats lizard, hospitalised
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 5
Kewal Krishan, a young inmate of the local Central Jail, allegedly ate a lizard to get kick as he could not manage to get the required dose of drugs in his barracks.

Kewal Krishan, a drug addict, who today complained of stomachache, was referred to the Civil Hospital by the jail doctor. When Kewal Krishan reached the local Civil Hospital, he suffered a fit and his condition became unstable.

Civil Hospital sources said Kewal Krishan had ate a lizard about two days ago. Kewal Krishan was a drug addict and had consumed the lizard as he could not get another dose of the drug.

The patient, whose condition was not improving, was being kept observation in the emergency ward of the Civil Hospital.

Official sources said Kewal Krishan, who was an undertrial, was lodged in the local Central Jail on May 2. A case under Sections 107 and 151 of the Cr PC had been registered against him in the city police station, Mansa. Kewal Krishan, a resident of Jawahar Ke village in Mansa district, was sent to the local Central Jail as Mansa had no jail of its own.

On May 3, Kewal Krishan was admitted to the hospital in the jail after he started vomiting and felt uneasiness. He remained under treatment for some time in the jail hospital following which he was shifted to the local Civil Hospital in the morning by the jail guards accompanied by constables of the Punjab Police.

Doctors attending on him said Kewal Krishan would be kept under observation for 24 to 48 hours as his condition could deteriorate further.

Meanwhile, the authorities of the local police had been informed about the incident.

However, a senior functionary of the Central jail on the condition of anonymity said Kewal Krishan had not eaten up any lizard as nobody from about 125 inmates, who were in the barracks as Kewal Krishan was, had pointed out the same so far.


Apply for passport through DC office: RPO
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, May 5
People should submit applications for passport in the office of the Deputy Commissioner concerned for quick processing and getting these in time because the applications submitted at the DC’s office will carry the police verification report when these will be received in the Passport Office.

This was stated by Mr Arvind Kumar, Regional Passport Officer, Chandigarh, while delivering a talk at Mata Gujri College, Fatehgarh Sahib to students of MBA/MCA and faculty members.

He said most of the people felt the process of getting a passport was a tedious task and as a result they got trapped in the clutches of touts and middlemen. He said if the people followed a proper procedure, they could get their passports issued within 45-50 days. He warned that people should not contact any tout or middleman because none had any illegal access to the office and it was only after completing the required formalities that one got a passport. He said the office catered to the needs of 42 districts of Punjab, Haryana and HP and as a result received about 700-800 applications for passport everyday. It issued nearly 600 passports every day because of which the work load of the office had increased and people had to wait in long queues for getting their work done. He said “we are public servants and people should contact us directly for any of their problems or grievances”. He said people should disclose information in their application forms and if they did so, they would not face any trouble in getting their passports. He made an offer to organise a camp at Mata Gujri College, Fatehgarh Sahib for making the documentation and application filling formalities for passport for the students so that they did not have to approach any office and could get their passports without any hassles and difficulties. He said if this camp succeeded he would organise such camps in other educational institutions also. He cautioned the youth not to follow illegal or wrong means for immigration to foreign countries because it brought a bad name not only to the country but also created many troubles for their families. He informed the students that the passport was the only document of identity in case of certain international examinations and advised them to get their passports made in advance in order to avoid emergency situations.

Dr Gurmohan Singh Walia, Principal of the college, welcomed the RPO and accepted his offer for organising camp at the college. He also lauded the RPO for providing guidance to the students. Prof Kamalpreet introduced the RPO to the students and Dr Dharminder Singh Ubha thanked the guest.


Psychiatric patient made to sign papers, says plea
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 5
If allegations in a writ petition filed before the Punjab and Haryana High Court are to be believed, a Ludhiana resident grabbed property in posh Sarabha Nagar after getting a psychiatric patient kidnapped in connivance with the police.

In her petition seeking probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the case registered on May 6 last year at Sarabha Nagar police station, petitioner Manjit Kaur submitted that her psychic father was made to sign blank papers after being taken in illegal custody.

Going into the background of the case, she submitted that her father came in contact with one of the accused at Ludhiana where they had a 1000 square feet house. The accused, in an attempt to grab the property, started interfering in the family's affairs. Initially the father was instigated to go in for a second marriage. Later, the father was asked to get the petitioner married off to a handicapped person, her counsel submitted.

He added that on July 3, 1999, the father, last seen in the company of a police official, disappeared. On October 2, 2000, the petitioner received a call from her father stating that he was in illegal custody. Later, the petitioner's father managed to escape and revealed that the accused had managed to get his signatures on blank papers before selling of the house worth Rs 1 crore for Rs 35 lakh to their “own men”.

Taking up Manjit Kaur's petition, along with another petition filed by the accused also seeking CBI probe into the matter, Mr Justice K.C. Gupta of the High Court today fixed May 30 as the next date of hearing. 


PUDA flats vacant, land encroached on
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 5
A number of Punjab Urban Development Authority (PUDA) flats (LIG and MIG categories) have been lying vacant for 14 to 18 years even as about 100 acres, worth crores, has been encroached on.

Official sources say due to the encroachment upon the prime land in phases II and III, PUDA had been finding it difficult to develop these areas. It has also been unable to provide basic amenities to people who have constructed houses on the plots allotted to them

PUDA has been finding it difficult to find buyers for more than 600 flats under the low income group (LIG) and medium income group (MIG) categories for the past 18 years. It has also been finding it difficult to get its prime land vacated.

PUDA has been slashing the prices of the flats for the past year. On the other hand, a number of flats, which have not been sold, have been occupied.

A number of unauthorised colonies — Beant Nagar, Indira Colony and Shastri Nagar — have come up on PUDA land. A major chunk of government employees reside in these colonies.

The sources say efforts of PUDA to get the encorached land vacated has failed to yield any positive result. It has given plots measuring 25 square yards each to most of the encroachers. It has had to face the wrath of ruling party politicians whenever it has launched an anti-encroachment drive.

Under a new strategy, the encroachers will be given plots measuring 100 square yards each at an alternative site and soft loans for the construction of their houses will be sanctioned. Under another strategy, a major part of the unauthorised construction on the encroached land will be regularised and the residents will be provided with all amenities.

According to Mr D.P.S. Kharbanda, Additional Chief Administrator, PUDA, negotiations will be held with the encroachers. Action will be taken in connection with the relocation of the encroachers, he says. 


Village scheme stone laid
Our Correspondent

Sardargarh (Bathinda), May 5
The Punjab Government will spend Rs 5.6 crore under the Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP) in Bathinda district to develop two villages in each block as modern villages.

Mr Surinder Singla, Chairman, High Powered Finance Committee, stated this, while laying the foundation stone of the scheme in Sardargarh village of Bathinda block today. He said the scheme would provide facilities in rural areas on a par with the cities.

He said Rs 35 lakh would be spent on this village under the scheme. Facilities of sanitation, sewerage, biogas plants, solar lights, parks and production of manure through earthworms would be provided in the village. He claimed that Rs 22 lakh had already been given to the village for the drinking water project under the Nabard scheme.

He said that in the first phase, two villages in each block would be developed. Subsequently, the scheme would be expanded to other villages.

The other village selected in this block is Multania. Mr Singla claimed that contract farming had encouraged small and marginal farmers to go in for crop diversification. Mr D.P.S. Kharbanda, Additional Deputy Commissioner (D), said special attention would be paid so that the money received under the scheme is properly spent.


Cong plays down row over ‘shops’
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, May 5
Even as the controversy surrounding the “illegal” construction of two “shops” in the backyard of Congress Bhavan and further “renting out” of these for peanuts allegedly by a senior Congress leader has started creating ripples in the political circles of the Doaba region, the Punjab Pradesh Congress, today apparently sought to play down the issue by maintaining that no new construction had taken place and the existing “old structure” was, in fact, a godown meant for storing publicity material of the party.

Meanwhile, keeping in view the allegations that the structure (two shops with separate shutters) had come up in violation of building bylaws, the municipal corporation Commissioner, Mr Sarojini Gautam Sharda, today deputed a team of senior officials of the Town and Country Planning Department, who, in turn, inspected the site this afternoon to assess whether the structure was actually constructed in violation of building bylaws or not. The team is likely to submit its report to the Commissioner within a day or two.

The two “shops” had allegedly been constructed at the instance of a senior Congress leader belonging to the District Congress Committee (Rural). Constructed in the backyard of Congress Bhavan in the posh Rajinder Nagar locality, each of these was allegedly rented out for just Rs 1500 per month to some persons close to him. An anonymous complaint regarding this was reportedly made to the PPCC chief, Mr H.S. Hanspal, who deputed Mr Parminder Singh, general secretary of the PPCC, to conduct an inquiry into the matter.

Even as the probe by Mr Parminder Singh was yet to take off, Mr Hanspal today replaced him with Mr Ram Rattan, vice-president of the PPCC. Mr Manjinder Singh Chaudhary, president of the District Congress Committee (Rural), denied that any illegal construction had taken place inside the bhavan. He said he had apprised Mr Hanspal of people who were raking up the controversy to defame him and for vested interests.

Talking to TNS over the phone, Mr Hanspal denied that any new construction had taken place on the premises in the recent past. “Actually, we have a godown there, which was constructed for the storage of publicity material of the party. Moreover, Mr Chaudhary has handed over the keys of the godown to me today. What I know is that the building has not been rented out. The godown was also built with my permission,” said Mr Hanspal, adding that Mr Ram Rattan had been asked to complete the probe within three days. He, however, did not specify as to why Mr Parminder Singh was replaced with Mr Ram Rattan.


Staff shortage hits PSEB complaint offices’ working
Jaswinder Paul Singh

Bathinda, May 5
The next time you call up a complaint office of the PSEB about a fault in electricity connection or transformers, do not expect that some PSEB employee will immediately come to rectify it. The number of employees at complaint offices is inadequate to handle the complaints received everyday.

As per information, complaint offices in the city receive more than 100 complaints every day, but there are only 20 to 24 employees to attend to these. A number of times, especially at night, only two employees are on duty. While one of them attends to the telephone, the others visits the site to rectify the fault.

For attending to the complaints of more than 2.5 lakh residents, there are only seven complaint offices. On an average, there are two or three employees at each office at a particular time.

Sources say if an employee is present to attend to complaints, he does not have sufficient equipment and spare parts. The employees ask residents to lend them screwdrivers, pliers, ladders and wires as there is shortage of equipment with the PSEB.

The sources say there have been incidents of employees getting injured due to the lack of proper equipment. The sources say the situation may worsen as the number of complaints will increase with the onset of summer. The sources further added that there was a need to revamp the complaint offices.

The complaint offices are located near Gole Diggi, Haziratan, ITI Chowk, cantonment area, Parasram Nagar, Amarpura Basti and Barnala bypass. The employees are on duty in three shifts — 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. and 10 p.m. to 6 p.m. — by rotation. About a year ago, the number of employees was halved. Subsequently, their number had been reduced further.

An employee at a complaint office said it was difficult for them to work under these circumstances. He said on occasions, they had to attend to a number of complaints one after the other.

The Niranjan Singh, Executive Engineer, when contacted, agreed that there was a shortage of staff at complaint offices. He said it had happened due to reshuffle of employees. He added that in about a month, the situation would be normal.

He said the equipment available at the local store of the PSEB had been given to the employees. He claimed that no PSEB employee had been hurt due to lack of equipment.

Power units shut down
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 5
The Punjab State Electricity Board authorities have shut down one of the four 110 MW units of Guru Nanak Dev Thermal Plant here one of the two 250 MW units of Guru Hargobind Thermal Plant, Lehra Mohabbat, and two of the six units of Guru Gobind Singh Super Thermal Power Plant.

PSEB sources said the demand for power was expected to rise during the coming few days due to sowing of paddy and cotton. The sources claimed that no cut was being imposed in the state and added that the stock position of coal had also improved.


Power staff strike today

Bathinda, May 5
The Technical Services Union (TSU), Employees Federation and the Bijli Mulajam Front of the Punjab State Electricity Board in a joint statement issued here yesterday said that to protest against the privatisation of the PSEB and to press for their demands they would be observing a strike on May 6 and May 7. 

The statement said that the Haldea Committee recommendations should not be implemented in the state. OC


Resentment against power failure
Our Correspondent

Batala, May 5
Resentment prevails among the residents of the areas of Haathi Gate, Bhattan Gali, Gurudwara Gali, and Smadh Gali due to disruption of electricity supply.

The electricity supply was disrupted yesterday at about 12.30 p.m. which had not been resumed till the filing of this report.

Mr H.S. Bajwa, along with other residents of the area, apprised this correspondent here today that they had lodged a complaint with the complaint office at South subdivision, Khajuri Gate, Batala.


Leaders meet Advani on conversions
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 5
A delegation of BJP leaders from Punjab met the Union Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Mr L.K. Advani, on the issue of religious conversions in New Delhi today.

The BJP, in a statement, said here today that the meeting with Mr Advani was held at the residence of the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The members of the delegation told Mr Advani that some “anti-national forces” were making poor people change their religion by offering them money.

Party leaders Avinash Jaiswal, Harjit Grewal and Jaswant Singh urged Mr Advani to ban the activities of such forces. The BJP leaders also expressed their concern over the concentration of people of a particular community near the Ferozepore border. They have sought a high-level probe into the matter. The delegation members also urged Mr Advani to revoke the death sentence of Prof Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar.

Mr Advani has sought a detailed report with regard to the activities of certain “forces” in border districts of Punjab.


VB wants ban on contractor’s entry
Our Correspondent

Ropar, May 5
Adding a new dimension to the EPF scam, the PSEB Vigilance has written to the authorities of the Guru Gobind Singh Super Thermal Plant, Ropar, to ban the entry of a labour contractor, Mr R.S. Sodhi, proprietor of M/s Sodhi Erectors. Sources here said the ADGP, Vigilance, PSEB, Mr Lalit Bhatia, had written to the General Manager of the plant in this regard in view of the criminal case registered against him.

This has placed the thermal plant authorities in a tight spot as Mr Sodhi has half of the total contract labour, which is employed at the plant, on his rolls. His contract with the plant is till July 31.

The General Manager of the plant, Mr Luthra, admitted that a letter seeking a ban on the entry of the proprietor of the M/s Sodhi Erectors had been received. He, however, added the letter had been referred back to the board for advice.

A criminal case was registered last year against Mr Sodhi due to his alleged involvement in the EPF scam. M/s Sodhi Erectors and M/s Calcutta Construction Company were found guilty in 1999 of misappropriating Rs 1 crore from the EPF accounts of the labourers working under them.

The crime branch of the Punjab police is conducting the inquiry into the scam which is likely to be completed by month end.

However, despite all this the contractor, who is allegedly involved in the EPF scam and has a criminal case registered against him, continues to be a contractor not only at this plant but also at the plant at Lehra Mohabbat. 


Swadeshi Manch flays MNCs
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 5
“There was only one East India Company and the country remained under its rule for 200 years. What will be our plight when more than 4,500 foreign companies will come here?” lamented office-bearers of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch.

This was stated here during a programme held in connection with the arrival of the “sangharsh yatra” in the city last evening. The office-bearers stressed the need for taking steps to escape the “onslaught” of foreign companies.

The manch said thorough preparations should be made for the meeting of the WTO on September 11 so that the activities of multi-national companies could be curtailed.

The organiser of the yatra, Mr Krishan Sharma, who is also the convener of the state unit of the manch, said it was sad that instead of curbing the efforts of the MNCs to control the Indian industry, the Indian Government was providing facilities to these.

The manch also criticised the decision of the government to sell profit-earning public sector undertakings. It said the government had done so under pressure from the MNCs.

Ms Latika, one of the speakers, while stressing the need for using domestic goods, said the quality of such goods also needed to be improved.

Others who spoke on the occasion included Mr Kamal Kant, member, national executive committee of the manch, and Mr Navin Singla, Mr Sunil Singla, Mr Ramesh Goyal, Mr Ashok Gupta, Mr Mahajan, Mr Naurang Lal Mittal and Mr S.K. Kalra, all office-bearers of various social organisations.


Drive to help disabled persons
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, May 5
The district administration has launched a special drive to help handicapped persons in the district in which the Social Welfare Department, some NGOs and the Health Department would participate.

The Deputy Commissioner, Mr Raminder Singh, said since November 2000, 191 artificial limbs, 133 polio clippers, 216 clutches, 873 tricycles, 151 wheelchairs, 40 walking sticks and 121 hearing aids had been provided to the disabled, poor and needy by the district administration.

Medical camps would be organised at the block level in which besides providing medical aid, awareness campaigns would be launched for diseases like leprosy. He told first of the series of such camps would be held at Primary Health Centre, Guruharsabhi, on May 24.

The DC later inspected the District Artificial Limb Transplant Centre in the Civil Hospital complex. He was accompanied by Dr JS Kahlon, Civil Surgeon, Ferozepore. 


NGO organises cultural programme
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 5
Ms V.R. Goyal, chairperson of the Diamond Welfare Society, in a statement here today, said the local MLA, Mr Surinder Singla, had promised an aid of Rs 51,000 for the society in recognition of its efforts for the welfare of students, especially the physically-challenged.

She said the NGO had organised a cultural programme last evening in which students from as many as 43 schools participated. She said a computer training institute for the physically-challenged students was being run by the society which also provided them study material free of cost. A few medical check up camps had also been held by the NGO, she claimed.

She added that the students of DAV Convent School, Raman Mandi, stood first in the giddha, Holy Heart School, modelling, and students from Hindu Public School, Raman Mandi, were awarded the best item prize.


Drinking habit claims 2 lives
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, May 5
A minor dispute led to the death of a man and his son at the local Nanaksar Mohalla last night. A case has been registered under Section 174, Cr. PC.

Police sources said here tody that Makhan Singh protested against his son Dilbag Singh’s drinking habit to which the latter took exception and committed suicide by consuming poison. He died on way to the local Civil Hospital. When Makhan Singh learnt about it he suffered a heart attack and died.


Saying thanks with soil
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, May 5
The Desh Bhagat Committee will present the soil of the National Martyrs Memorial, Hussainiwala, Ferozepore, to Mr Manohar Joshi, Lok Sabha Speaker, to express gratitude for his approval to install a statue of Shaheed Bhagat Singh in Parliament. Mr Satya Pal Baghi, freedom fighter, said it was a long-standing demand of the committee.


Tax barriers to be computerised
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, May 5
The Punjab Government has decided to spend Rs 25 crore to fully computerise the tax barriers in the state from July 1 to curb tax evasion, estimated to be over Rs 500 crore per year.

Talking to mediapersons here today, the Punjab Finance Minister, Mr Lal Singh, said in a major step to bring the derailed economy of the state back on the rails, it had been decided to inter-connect all tax barriers in the state by introducing a computerised system for which a sum of Rs 25 crore had already been allocated. “As we have already announced the abolition of the octroi system from July 1, the Cabinet has decided to implement 2 per cent Local Area Development Tax (LADT) on all goods being brought into the state. The LADT will be collected at all entry tax barriers, he said.

Criticising the previous government for abolishing the octroi system without suggesting alternative arrangements to generate revenue for carrying out development works, Mr Lal Singh justified the imposition of the LADT, stating that it would fund the development projects in the state. “The LADT will be transferred online into the bank accounts of all civic bodies at the present ratio of octroi collection,” he said.

Elaborating on the development plans, he said the government had earmarked a sum of Rs 1,500 crore for various development projects, including Rs 1,000 crore for roads and flyovers, Rs 200 crore for railway overbridges, Rs 50 crore for the construction of four bus terminals at Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Patiala, and Rs 80 crore for strengthening the technical education sector.


Parking lot contract cancelled
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, May 5
The five-day-old dispute between residents and the contractor over the entry fee of the parking premises at New Sabzi Mandi and Old Grain Market in Kot Kapura town, 12 km from here in this district, was settled here today with the intervention of Mr Davinder Singh, SDM of Faridkot, who cancelled the contract.

According to reports, SDM directed the officials of the Market Committee, Kot Kapura, to auction both the site again after placing advertisements in two dailies. He also asked the technical wing of the committee to prepare a plan for the demarcation of the parking sites and complete the process with in a month.

The SDM promised to compensate the contractor if any financial loss had been caused to him during the stipulated period of the contract.

Earlier, Mr Davinder Singh held a meeting with the residents and the contractor to resolve the issue amicably. Among the prominent leaders and representatives at the meeting were Mr Mantar Singh Brar, MLA, Mr Mohan Singh Matta, president of the nagar council, and Mr Ajmer Singh, Chairman, Improvement Trust of Kot Kapura.

The Market Committee of Kot Kapura allocated the contract of the parking area of Laddi, Katiyal party of Ludhiana at an annual fee of Rs 1.93 lakh on April 22. However, a conflict erupted on the very first day, May 1 with the alleged adamant attitude of the contractor to charge entry fee from all visitors and over 300 rehriwalas selling commodities in the mandis after paying the monthly fee regularly to the committee for the past many years.

Meanwhile, talking to this reporter, the SDM said a plan had been formulated to give a new look to the New Sabzi Mandi and Old Grain Market. All modern amenities and other facilities would be provided on both the premises. Directions had been issued to the officials of the Market Committee in this regard.


CBI to probe Panchayat Secys’ selections
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 5
The Punjab Government has ordered a CBI inquiry into the selection of 909 Panchayat Secretaries made from 1996 to 2001.

Sources said the Department of Home has issued a notification in this connection. A copy of the notification will be presented in the Punjab and Haryana High Court on May 7, it is learnt. The notification, has reportedly been issued by Mr S.K. Sinha, Principal Secretary (Home).


Pension for 50 pc disability
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, May 5
The Punjab Government will grant pension to a person with 50 per cent disability and 45,000 physically challenged persons are getting pension in the state. This was stated by Mr Joginder Singh Mann, Social Welfare and Social Security Minister, at a function at the Kamla Nehru College for Women here today, according to a press note.

Three per cent of government jobs were reserved for the physically challenged, besides free bus travel, said the minister. He asked non-government organisations to work in villages for the rehabilitation of the physically challenged.


Appraisal & reforms panel set up

Chandigarh, May 5
The Punjab Government today constituted a state-level appraisal and reforms committee under the Chief Secretary to monitor and review the functioning of key departments.

It comprises the Principal Secretaries of Finance, Planning, Information Technology, Coordination and Science and Technology. An official spokesman said the committee would work out the modalities of development strategy as per the policy guidelines especially in relation to fiscal reforms. TNS


3 appointed PSHRC members
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 5
The Punjab Governor, Lt-Gen J.F.R. Jacob (retd), today issued orders appointing Justice R.L. Anand of the Punjab and Haryana High Court; Mr B.C. Rajput, a retired District and Sessions Judge of Punjab, and Mr V.K. Sibal, a retired IAS officer, as members of the Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC). 


Pharmacist booked on rape charge
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, May 5
The police has registered a case under Sections 376, 506 and 120-B of the IPC against six persons, including a pharmacist, Ramji Suman, of the nearby Sarhal Mundian village on the charges of rape, criminal intimidation and criminal conspiracy on a complaint of a farmer state leader of the mahila wing of the Lok Jan Shakti and a social activist of the local Prem Nagar mohalla.

It was learnt today that the complaint had alleged that Suman had repeatedly raped her at a hotel in Hoshiarpur and earlier at a place in Himachal Pradesh many times last year. He had told her that his parents lived in the USA and he would take her there after marriage. He told that he had a medical store at Dosanjh Kalan village and even showed it to her. He took her to his village, Sarhal Mundian, where she met his brothers and sister-in-law, who also approved of their plan to marry. He took her to Manikaran in Himachal on April 6 last year and declared that he had taken her there as his wife and he would formally solemnise the marriage later. He raped her there for the first time, she alleged. Then he took her to a Hoshiarpur hotel many times between June and October last year and raped her several times, alleged the NGO activist.

In the meantime, she came to know about the affair of Suman with a girl of his village. She also learnt that he had clandestinely married her. When she objected to it, she was threatened and ill-treated.

He washed his hands off the relationship, with her and declared that he had a permanent affair with the village girl. The social activist reported the matter to the Kapurthala SSP, R.N. Dhoke, who ordered that a case be registered against Ramji Suman, his father, two brothers, a sister-in-law and the village girl.


Two abducted girls recovered
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, May 5
The local police has recovered two teenaged girls reportedly abducted on May 4 and September 27 last year from their respective villages.

In a press note issued here today, the police said it had recovered a 15-year-old resident of Badrukhan village, near here, who had been abducted on September 27 by Raju Gupta of Sewan district in Bihar with an intention to marry her. The police recovered her from the custody of Raju Gupta at his village in Bihar on April 29 last. It arrested Raju Gupta and the girl was later handed over to her father.

The police said in another case, it had recovered an 18-year-old resident of Bahadurpur village, near here, who had been abducted on May 4 last by Lachhman Singh of Bhadson village in connivance with Chand Singh of Khurad village. She had also been abducted with the intention of marriage. The police had arrested Lachhman Singh and Chand Singh.


Rape case against XEN decried
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 5
The Punjab Engineers Class-I Association (Irrigation Wing) today took strong exception to the rape case registered against Mr D.K. Syal, an Executive Engineer posted in Gurdaspur division of the Upper Bari Doab Canal.

Mr Malvinder Singh, General Secretary of the association, said Mr Syal had been implicated in a false case at the behest of the land mafia. Mr Syal had got a lot of land of the Irrigation Department vacated from the land mafia in the Madhopur area. Though he was threatened with dire consequences, Mr Syal continued his drive against the encroachers.

Demanding immediate withdrawal of the case, the association said the case was registered against him on May 2 by the local police.

The association would meet Chief Minister Amarinder Singh in this regard.


18-yr-old raped
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 5
An 18-year-old girl was allegedly raped by four persons here this evening.

The girl admitted to the local Civil Hospital alleged that she was kidnapped in a jeep by four persons while on her way to the market. She recognised one of them as Raju.

The girl, who was married a few months ago at Dabwali in Haryana, was here to meet her parents.

The remaining suspects were identified as Lali, Sandip and Shamsher. A case would be registered after the medical examination of the victim, the police said. 


Two of marriage party killed
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 5
Two local residents, who were part of a marriage party, were killed in a road mishap last evening.

While the bridegroom was getting ready to mount the house for a customary ride near a marriage palace at Tapa, 45 km from here, a vehicle hit the ‘baratis’. The incident, which occurred on the Bathinda-Barnala road, left six persons injured.

Two of the injured were admitted to a hospital in Ludhiana, one to Patiala and others to the local Civil Hospital.

Hardass Kapoor (45) of the local Railway Colony and Ms Uma Chopra of Vishal Nagar succumbed to injuries at the local Civil Hospital and at Ludhiana, respectively. Of the injured Parkash was shifted to Ludhiana, Meenu was shifted to Patiala, Neelam and Jaspal to the Civil Hospital.

The Tapa police has registered a case under Section 304 A against the driver of the vehicle. 


Old college students form association  
Our Correspondent

Mansa, May 5
A meeting of old students of Government Nehru Memorial Postgraduate College was held here the college premises and formed the Old Students Association (OSA).

The association decided to call themselves “Nehruvians” and pasted stickers on their vehicles. The old students of the college decided to help the needy and poor students by instituting medals, trophies and awards for outstanding college students. Role of honour by the name of “Friends of Nehru College” will be given to the students doing outstanding work for the college.

The old students also decided to donate books to the college library which will be kept in a separate section known as “Nehruvians Section”.

The first general house meeting elected the following as its office-bearers: President — Mr Ram Paul Dhaipi, general secretary, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, (PPCC), senior vice-presidents — Mr Narotam Singh Chahal, advocate, former Mansa Municipal Chief, vice-president — Mr Ashok Sadiora and Mr Shaminder Singh, secretary — Prof Achhru Singh, joint secretary — Prof K.K. Sharma, development secretary — Mr Jatinder Kumar Agra, press secretary — Mr Joginder Singh Mann.


MA (Punjabi) students seek grace marks
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 5
Students of MA (Punjabi) part II were surprised to find the question paper on “Sufi kissa ate veer kav”, held today, not according to the syllabus.

The students alleged that in today's question paper the fourth section should have contained two questions from different books but the paper had two questions from only one book “Jangnama” and no question was set from “Chandi di Waar”.

Students doing the correspondence course said they were not supplied with the complete study material and they were forced to arrange the books and notes on their own.

A senior professor said such irregularities happen when paper setters were not provided with the latest guidelines about the changes with regard to the syllabus and style of paper.

A student hailing from Malout said separate books had been prescribed for each of the four sections of the paper for which detailed answers were to be given. He said two questions in each section were to be set from the books (one from each book if there was more than one book for a section) prescribed for the respective sections.

The students said the superintendent of the examination centre had assured them that he would be writing to the university about the mistakes in the setting of papers. They also demanded grace marks. 


B.Ed entrance test on June 15
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 5
Guru Nanak Dev University, on behalf of the Punjab Government, will conduct the state-level B.Ed. Joint Entrance Test-2003 on June 15 for admission to the B.Ed. course in colleges affiliated to Panjab University, Chandigarh, Punjabi University, Patiala, and Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar.

Mr Gurnam Singh, coordinator of the test, said the prospectus for the test would be available from May 15 at some branches of Punjab and Sind Banks to be notified in newspapers. The last date for the submission of forms is May 30.

The application forms for this test would be accepted at 19 city centres. The roll numbers of candidates would be issued on the spot from May 23 to 30, including Sundays and holidays.


Rs 64 crore for school facilities
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, May 5
The government will arrange buses for teachers and students of schools at far-off places.

This was stated by Mr Ravinder Singh Sandhu, Parliamentary Secretary for NRI’s while addressing principals of government schools of Ferozepore and Zira tehsil at a seminar organised under the Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan. He said Rs 64 crore had been earmarked for facilities like drinking water, writing desks and toilets in 596 government schools in the district.

Mr Sandhu said the state government had divided all schools into two categories — elementary and secondary. He said block and district education development committees had been formed for the supervision of works related to education.

Mr Sandhu said girl students of classes I to VIII would be provided with free books. He said contingency funds would be allocated for running expenses. He said a plan for 10 new school building had been approved.


Hearing in ex-VC’s case on May 9
Our Correspondent

Patiala, May 5
The fast-track court of the Additional Sessions Judge, Mr K.R Mahajan, today heard arguments pertaining to the framing of charges against former Vice-Chancellor of Punjabi University, J.S. Ahluwalia and co-accused Bhupinder Singh Cheema in the case of assault on Dr H.S. Bhatti, Reader in Punjabi University.

The prosecution demanded framing of charges under Sections 307, 323 and 120(B), IPC, against the two, both of whom were present in the court, on the ground that it had enough oral and documentary evidence against them. The defence counsel, however, said no charges could be framed against the accused.

Dr Bhatti, who was the member of the joint action committee in connection with the infamous Saru Rana case, had got an FIR registered against Dr Ahluwalia on March 5, alleging that Mr Cheema on the instructions of the former Vice-Chancellor had attacked him with a sharp edged weapon during an agitation.

The next hearing will be held on May 9.


B.Com II results
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 5
The result of B.Com Part II examination conducted by Guru Nanak Dev University in April will be declared tomorrow.

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