Saturday, May 10, 2003, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



5,000 teachers to be sent back to rural schools
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 9
The Punjab Government has decided to shift as many as 5,000 teachers at present doing duty in the urban areas of the state along with their posts to rural schools to do away with surplus teachers in urban areas.

Stating this here today after speaking at a seminar on emerging concerns in education organised by the Punjab Writers Forum the Education Minister, Mr Khushal Behl, said a recent survey had revealed that nearly 5,000 teachers had got themselves transferred to urban schools over the years. He said an exercise was being conducted under which all posts in both urban and rural areas would be rationalised and excess posts in the urban areas would be transferred to rural schools.

The minister said the government would release Rs 129 crore in two installments to improve infrastructure in its schools. He said committees were being formed at the school level to conduct the work, adding that panchayat members, members of the Parent Teachers Association and volunteers would form the committees. The repair of 1,000 buildings was being taken up under the Sarb Shiksha Abhiyan, under which drinking water facilities besides toilets were being created, he added.

Mr Behl said that primary schools would be attached with middle schools, which would be called elementary schools. He said this was being done so that teachers could be utilised to teach students from classes 1 to VIII. A cluster system was also being adopted, under which the functioning of the present primary schools would be supervised by Principals of senior secondary schools. Each cluster would be in an area of 5 km and checks would be carried out on the primary schools at least 10 times a month, he added.

Meanwhile, Dr Y.S. Rajan of Punjab Technical University, while speaking at the seminar, said there should be adequate infrastructure to improve the quality of education. The Principal Secretary, Higher Education, Mr N.S. Rattan, called upon educationists, educational administrators and writers to promote character building and value-based quality education. Papers were read on the occasion by Prof S.C. Sharma on “education for peace, progress and prosperity, Principal Gurdev Singh on “Value education” and Principal S.M. Devgun on “Dynamic education”.

The organisers of the conference, including Punjab Writers Forum president Ved Prakash Gupta and Mayor Vishnu Sharma, honoured IAS topper Ankur Garg and Prof Kirpal Kazak for his contribution to literature and culture. Others present on the occasion were noted poet Jigar Jalandhari and Languages Department Director M L Hasija.

Agitated Congress men today gave a severe tongue lashing to District Education Officer (Secondary) Bhupinder Kaur Rana in front of Education Minister Khushal Behl. Muncipal Councillor Rajinder Modgill started the tirade alleging that the DEO was not working according to the wishes of Congress men and was in fact adjusting Akalis. City Mayor Vishnu Sharma supported the Congress workers saying that the DEO was working in a highhanded manner. Meanwhile, the DEO made a quick exit after explaining her viewpoint to the minister.


Governor pays obeisance
Tribune reporters

Amritsar, May 9
Justice Om Parkash Verma, Punjab Governor, visited the holy city here today. He paid obeisance at Harmandir Sahib and Durgiana Mandir and offered floral tributes at the historic Jallianwalla Bagh on his maiden visit to the city after taking oath as Governor.

He was accompanied by his wife Shobha.

The Governor wrote in the Golden Temple visitors’ book: “It is only by virtue of blessings of Harmandir ji that I had the opportunity to live in this holy town earlier and got this opportunity again to visit the temple. I have come again to seek blessings of Harmandir ji to serve the people of the state with my full might.”

He was presented a sword, a shawl and a set of religious books by the SGPC President, Prof Kirpal Singh Badungar.

Earlier, talking to The Tribune, the Governor said that he would look into the matter of curtailing expenses to boost economy. This was in response to a query on his views regarding his earlier statement that the states should curtail unnecessary expenditure to strengthen economy, when he was Lok Ayukt in Himachal Pardesh.

The Governor and his wife were happy to meet their local friends Krishan Bhalla and Charan Dass, in whose residence Justice Verma had stayed during his stint as Income Tax Tribunal Law Judge in the holy city.

After placing wreaths at the ‘Flame of Liberty’ in the Jallianwalla Bagh, the Governor wrote in the visitors’ book , “We are living in an independent India due to the sacrifices of heroes, in whose memory this monument is set up. I bow my head and pay respect to them.”

Later, he visited Durgiana Mandir where he was presented a shawl and a sword. The Governor said it was a thanksgiving visit to obtain the blessings of the Almighty to discharge this enormous responsibility to the best of his ability.

Meanwhile, Mr Justice Rama Jois, Governor of Jharkhand, also visited the Golden Temple today. He said Punjab was a “moti” (pearl) of the country and Sikhs had been “rakshaks” of the country for generations.

He was accompanied by his wife Vimla Jois.

Later, he visited the Jallianwala Bagh and paid obeisance at Durgiana Mandir.


Durgiana panel presents sword!
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 9
The Punjab Governor, Justice O.P. Verma, was presented a sword, a shawl and other items by the Durgiana Mandir Committee on his maiden visit at the temple here today after taking over as Governor.

Significantly, this is for the first time that a ‘sword’ has been presented to any visiting VVIP as a ‘symbol of strength’ by the Durgiana Committee, said Mr Surinder Arjun, head of the committee. Normally, ‘sword presentation’ is done by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee to visiting VVIPs in the Golden Temple.


Panchayat poll: quota rules soon
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 9
The procedure of declaring seats reserved and unreserved for the posts of sarpanch and panch for the panchayat poll to be held on June 30 is being worked out in all districts of the state. The entire exercise is likely to be completed by the next week and the lists will be sent to the state Election Commissioner for approval and subsequent notification by the government.

The panchayat elections were held in June, 1998, during the tenure of the Akali government and many villages were reportedly declared reserved or unreserved without following a set procedure. A large number of complaints were received by the authorities and many affected parties went to court.

According to sources, this time round the government did not want to invite criticism from the people and had directed the Village Development and Panchayat Department to work out a new procedure for reserving and dereserving panchayats, besides ensuring the mandatory representation to women and Scheduled Castes in a fair manner.

A meeting of senior officers and field staff of the department had suggested that a roster should be prepared where a breakup of the population — general and Scheduled Castes (both men and women) — should be listed in addition to the status of the village in the previous election. The sources said as per the new procedure the reservation of sarpanch posts in the districts would be done as per the rural and Scheduled Caste population figures made available by the 1991 Census. Similarly, one-third of the seats in the reserved category would be further reserved for the Scheduled Caste women candidates. Besides one third of the total number of seats for sarpanch, including those already reserved for the Scheduled Caste women, would be reserved for women candidates.

The sources said the seats would be reserved on a rotation basis in the alphabetical order this time. Villages in each block would be listed in the alphabetical order in English. First, the seats for the Scheduled Castes would be notified and then the seats for Scheduled Caste women would be reserved in the alphabetical order finally. The seats for women (general category) would be fixed.

After following this procedure, the department would also prepare a roster where the panchayats, which were reserved in the previous elections, would be listed. The register would also list villages whose panchayats would be reserved in the coming elections. The panchayats, where the poll was to be held in the general category, would also be mentioned. This information would be published in the gazette at the time of notification for the poll.

The sources added that in villages where the entire population belonged to the general category, the reservation for only women candidates should be made. However, in case any village had a Scheduled Caste or backward caste population, the panchayat could be brought on the general category list.


Punjab told to reconsider decision
Tax on Prasar Bharti assets
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 9
The Government of India has strongly reacted to the decision of the Punjab Government to impose tax and surcharge on electricity, property tax and motor vehicle tax on the assets of the Prasar Bharti (Broadcasting Corporation of India), which telecasts programmes on the All India Radio and Doordarshan.

In a letter written to the Chief Secretary of Punjab recently, Mr Pawan Chopra, Secretary, Department of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, has asked the state government to reconsider the decision of imposing tax and surcharge on electricity, property tax and motor vehicle tax on the assets of the Prasar Bharti.

The Secretary has highlighted in his letter that the Prasar Bharti is a statutory autonomous organisation under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. It was set up in November 1997 as a public service broadcaster.

“As a public service broadcaster of the country, the Prasar Bharti has to provide for universal access and conduct broadcasting as per its mandate, as opposed to the commercial broadcasting, which is driven entirely by market demands and commercial considerations”, states the letter written to the Punjab Chief Secretary.

Justifying the demand, Mr Chopra has written that the gap between its revenue and expenditure is met by grants from the government to the extent of about two-thirds of its budget every year. In view of these facts, there were sound reasons to exempt the Prasar Bharti from the payment of tax/surcharge on electricity, property and motor vehicles.

It may be mentioned that Parliament had specifically included Section 22 in the Prasar Bharti Act, 1990, giving exemption from the payment of tax on income, profits or gains.

The Section 22 of the Prasar Bharti Act states, “Notwithstanding anything contained in the Income-Tax Act 1961, or any other enactment for the time being in force relating to income tax or any other tax on income, profits or gains, the corporation shall not be liable to pay any income tax or any other tax in respect of -

(a) Any income, profits or gains, accruing or arising out of the fund of the corporation or any amount received in that fund; and

(b) Any income, profits or gains, derived or any amount received, by the corporation.”

The issue is also significant in the Union Territory of Chandigarh, as the local administration had imposed 5 per cent property tax on commercial properties this week. Subsequently, the property tax would be applicable to the assets of the Prasar Bharti in Chandigarh, as per the present decision of the UT Administration.


Villagers welcome move to resume
Indo-Pak rail link
Rashmi Talwar and Gurbaxpuri

Jati Umra (Amritsar), May 9
Villagers of Jati Umra, a nondescript hamlet, 35 km from Amritsar, are overjoyed over the prospective restoration of rail and road links with Pakistan. The place shot into limelight as the native village of Mr Nawaz Sharief after he became Prime Minister of Pakistan. Villagers here had been keenly hearing news on radio about the peace initiatives between the two countries that could restore personal, trading cultural, sports and other links between them.

Although mostly small farmers are left in the village which has a population of about 1200, the connection with Pakistan has continued unabated. So much so that Hardip Singh, son of Boor Singh, who was a worker in the iron foundries set up by Mr Nawaz Sharief’s father, Mian Mohammed Sharief, in Lahore, has kept in touch with the Sharief family in Saudi Arabia where it was residing after its ouster from Pakistan.

Talking to The Tribune, Gurbachan Singh, son of the late Arjun Singh, who was a close friend of Mian Mohammed Sharief, “The ties between this village and Pakistan have always been strong and will continue to be so due to the village’s connection with the former Pakistan Premier”.

The village also boasts that its soil was taken on the Lahore-Delhi ‘Sada-e-Sarhad’ bus on its inaugural run by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee as a goodwill gesture for the thaen Pakistan Prime Minister, Mr Nawaz Sharief. As a mark of respect for the Sharief family, an impressive gurdwara is under construction where the ancestral house of the Sharief family existed.

Hardip, who works as a mason in Doha Qatar near Saudi Arabia, claims that he had a talk on the telephone with Mian Mohammed Sharief in Saudi Arabia after managing to get his number with some difficulty and asked him when they would be returning to Pakistan. Mian Mohammed Sharief replied “when Allah is willing”. Hardip was a member of the 19-member delegation sent to Pakistan in 1998 through the efforts of Jati Umra Indo-Pak Parivar Milap Trust formed by a former Lieut-Governor Goa, the late Col Partap Singh Gill (retd). Hardip proudly held up a photograph of his meeting with Mr Nawaz Sharief and his grandchildren during their Pakistan visit.

Despite not holding any passport, Mrs Amrik Kaur says although their strongest link with Pakistan, Mr Nawaz Sharief, is not there any more will love to visit the gurdwaras in Pakistan after the resumption of rail links. Mrs Mahinder Kaur, wife of Mr Boor Singh, said she did not enjoy her recent visit to Belgium where her second son lives but would try to get a visa to Pakistan to visit the gurdwaras there.

Mr Zail Singh, Sarpanch of the village from a Dalit family, who is hardly able to earn two square meals for his family is thrilled. He says his only desire is to go to Pakistan. He says the opening of the a cheaper rail route maybe his last chance to make it to the land visiting which had remained an unfulfilled dream of his grandparents.


Peace moves rekindle hopes
Anirudh Gupta

The peace overtures by both Indian and Pakistani Governments have once again kindled hope among residents of the border town, especially traders and farmers.

The traders lobby, which has been clamouring for the opening of the Hussainiwala border for trade and transit, has become active again. The Hussainiwala route was the lifeline of traders dealing in dry fruits, clothes, vegetables and fruits, but its closure in the aftermath of the 1971 Indo-Pakistan conflict hit the booming trade severely. Some traders had to shift from Ferozepore to other places. Once a flourishing trade centre, Ferozepore now lags way behind Amritsar that has the Wagha border route for trade between the two nations despite the fact that Ferozepore is just 11 km from the international border. Some traders attribute the reason behind the non-opening of the Hussainiwala border to the strong traders’ lobby of Amritsar which does not want this route to open.

Old-timers reveal that local cinema halls used to attract a lot of visitors from Pakistan when the Hussainiwala border was open as Pakistanis liked Indian movies. Pakistani dry fruits, grapes, cloth material have a ready market in India whereas Indian sugar, tea, vegetables, pan, farm equipment have great demand in Pakistan.

Mr Ashwani Mehta, president of the local Beopar Mandal, said if the Hussainiwala border was opened for trade and transit, transporters, PCO holders, hotels and restaurants, foreign exchange operations, porters and general merchants would benefit a lot and the shattered economy of this region would be put back on the rails.

As the Army was mobilised to the frontier areas along the Indo-Pakistan international border in the aftermath of the December 13, 2001, attack on the Indian Parliament, its deployment affected local population as bunkers and minefields sprung up over tilled land overnight. However, residents of these border villages, however, took losses in their stride and extended unflinching help to the Army but now after a span of 15 months, these people have started finding it hard to make both ends meet as their land holdings have not been returned to them.

Mr Yadwinder Singh of Palla Mehga village, a progressive farmer, said neither they had got any compensation nor their land had been returned.

Mr Zora Singh Mann, MP, said he had raised this issue umpteen times in the Indian Parliament, Earlier, the Prime Minister’s Lahore bus journey had raised hopes but the subsequent Kargil conflict and the attack on Parliament eclipsed it all.


SAD to submit memo to Pak MPs
Tribune News Service

Former Chief MinisterParkash Singh Badal and other senior Akali leaders at the barsi of Teja Singh Toofan, an Akali leader in Bathinda on Friday. — Tribune photo

Bathinda, may 9
The SAD chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, said today that the party would submit a memorandum regarding its demands, including the release of all Punjabis languishing in various Pakistani jails and control of maintenance of Sikh shrines there with the SGPC, to the Pakistan MPs who are touring India.

Mr Badal, who was here to attend a function organised in connection with the first death anniversary of former senior party leader Teja Singh Toofan talking to mediapersons, said the party was in favour of good relations between India and Pakistan for establishing permanent peace in South Asia.

He said he had urged the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to take up the issues pertaining to the release of Punjabis from Pakistani jails and handing over the maintenance of Sikh religious places there to the SGPC whenever he met his Pakistani counterpart, Mr Zafarullah Khan Jamali. The issue concerning the prisoners of war should also be taken up.

The Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, looking after the maintenance of Sikh shrines in that country, did not represent the Sikh community. Moreover, it was headed by a non-Sikh, he pointed out.

“Both countries will benefit if the relations improve and will witness more trade, more development, less violence and everlasting peace. Besides, Jammu and Kashmir will again become a peaceful state while Punjab, which shares its border with Pakistan, will witness a boost in its trade with that country”, the Akali leader said.

The SAD demanded that trade and travel routes between India and Pakistan should be opened from the Hussainiwala, Hindumalkot, Sriganganagar, Wagah, Fazilka and Anoopgarh borders. He added that a delegation of the SAD would try to meet the Pakistani MPs.

To a question, Mr Badal said the SAD would continue to play the role of a responsible Opposition and would launch an agitation against the ruling party’s move to put an unnecessary financial burden on people by hiking water and sewerage charges and the tuition fee of schools and colleges. He said though the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, had been justifying these steps on the pretext that the state coffers were empty, yet he had hiked the allowances and perks of ministers and MLAs. The number of members of the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) had been increased without any logic and more than 100 advocates had been enrolled to fight government cases.

The Akali leader disclosed that to strengthen the base of the party, circle-level meetings of party workers would be held from May 15 to May 30.


Embassy staff meet NRI in custody
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, May 9
Officials of the US Embassy yesterday visited an India-born American citizen, arrested on the complaint of parents of a girl whom he wanted to marry.

US embassy Vice Chancellor John Peters and Assistant Counsellor Suresh Kumar Nandan met Birendra Gupta at sadar police station where he is lodged. A criminal case has been registered against him under various sections of the IPC.

Mr Gupta told the embassy officials that he was beaten up by relatives of the girl and tied to a hospital bed with chains in Sultanpur Lodhi near here.

He urged the embassy officials to help him and contact his parents in New York. Mr Gupta and his parents are settled in the USA for more than 10 years.

The US officials also met city DSP Jaspal Singh in this connection.

Later, the US officials told reporters that they would submit a detailed report of human rights violation to the US Home Department in Washington.

Mr Gupta, reportedly, came to India to marry the girl whom he had met in the USA two years ago. However, the girl’s parents were reportedly not in favour of the alliance as he belongs to a different caste. They alleged that he was forcing himself on the girl and also threatening them. PTI


Municipal Corporation sans Commissioner
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 9
A month has passed since the civic body of the city was given the status of fifth Municipal Corporation of the state on April 9, the government has not appointed Municipal Commissioner, leading to stoppage of administrative work.

Sources said that reason of delay in the nomination of the commissioner was that two groups of the ruling Congress party had been trying to get a person of their choice appointed and senior functionaries of the party have not been able to make up their mind on it. The sources added that not only certain bureaucrats were lobbying to get nominated as commissioner.

Official sources said that tenders for development works worth Rs 60 lakh had been postponed due to the ‘absence’ of a commissioner.

These tenders included for the construction of roads in Paras Ram Nagar, Gopal Nagar and some other outer areas and tenders worth Rs 5 crore could not be floated. The sources said that the third installment of the loan sanctioned by HUDCO, worth Rs 2.88 crore was received by the former council and this was to be spent on water supplies (Rs 1.53 crore and for sewerage (Rs 1.35 crore), but these projects had to be put in ‘active’ files. A large number of projects, including the Transport Nagar, Dairy Nagar, Ring Road were also in the pipeline.

Official sources said that to ensure ‘smooth’ functioning of the corporation the executive officer had been given the Drawing and Disbursing Officer (DDO) powers and he had been drawing and disbursing the salary of the employees. The sources said that the outgoing president, Mr Bhupinder Singh Bhullar, had ordered the release of the payments to the contractors, who had completed contracts before the tenure of the Municipal Council ended.

Political observers said that due to delay in the appointment of the commissioner of the corporation, enthusiasm of the people about their ‘new found status’ had started fizzing out. They pointed out that the city was expected to witness the beginning of new era in development after it was given status of Municipal Corporation.

Mr J.S. Brar, Secretary, Punjab Contractors’ Association, said that no headless organisation could be expected to function smoothly and urged the authorities concerned to appoint a development and result-oriented commissioner at the earliest and start development works in the city.

Mr Kamal Kant Goyal, executive officer, when contacted admitted that some tenders had been postponed but claimed that the development works already started had been going on smoothly. He claimed that the functioning of the corporation was smooth.


Kala Afghana may be declared ‘tankhaiya’
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 9
A Canada-based cop-turned-Sikh scholar, Mr Gurbax Singh Kala Afghana, who had showed his inability to appear before Akal Takht, is likely to be declared ‘tankhaiya’ (guilty of religious misconduct). The deadline for appearing before the Takht was May 10.

Mr Kala Afghana had pleaded that he could not appear before the Sikh clergy as he could be arrested as soon as he entered India due to his close links with Sant Jarnail Singh Bhinderanwale. Coming down heavily on the Jathedar, Akal Takht, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Mr Kala Afghana said this fact had already been accepted by the Sikh high priests and he was allowed to clarify his position through videoconferencing, which was later cancelled. He said he was bed-ridden for a long time. Mr Kala Afghana said it was unprecedented that the Sikh high priests had backed out of the word given to him while he kept on waiting in the gurdwara in Canada for giving his clarification through videoconferencing.

A meeting of the Sikh clergy is scheduled to be held at the Akal Takht secretariat tomorrow in which crucial issues will be taken up. Mr Vedanti has reached the city after a 10-day religious tour of the USA.

TALWANDI SABO: The alleged conversion of Sikh youths to Christianity by priests of a religious place in New Delhi recently for sending them abroad illegally in lieu of money, will also be discussed at the meeting in Amritsar.

At the meeting, about 10 Sikh youths belonging to various districts of the Malwa region in Punjab will tell the Sikh clergy and the SGPC chief regarding the treatment meted out to them and how they were looted by the priests on the pretext of sending them abroad.

Mr Balwant Singh Nandgarh, Jathedar, Takht Damdama Sahib, while talking to TNS today, confirmed that a meeting would be held on Amritsar on Saturday and pointed out that the matter regarding conversion of Sikh youths was a serious one and deserved discussion by the Sikh sangat.

He added that he had already taken up the matter with the Jathedar, Akal Takht, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, and the SGPC chief.

He alleged that those who had converted the Sikh youths to Christianity had committed a great offence and action should be taken against them.

He said the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee had been asked to explain the circumstances due to which these Sikh youths fell prey to unscrupulous elements and later on converted to Christianity. He said the matter came to light when a Sikh youth narrated his tale of woe to a resident of Bathinda. He said when the youths demanded their money back from the priests, working as travel agents, after they were denied visas, they were threatened.

He said the meeting would also take a decision regarding honouring Sikh intellectuals who contributed in the preparation of the Nanakshahi calendar.


Death-after-delivery: hospital records
tampered with
Tribune News Service

Rampura Phul, May 9
Certain officials of the Civil Hospital here have been found guilty of tampering with records of a probe into the death of Mrs Sunita Rani, who died a few hours after delivering a baby on March 23. The probe was conducted by SDM Sukhwinder Singh on the direction of Deputy Commissioner, Mr Anurag Verma.

Official sources said that the inquiry into the death was ordered following a complaint by her kin and Mr Parshottam Kumar, President, Vikas Committee, who had alleged that Mrs Sunita Rani had died due to doctors’ negligence and paramedical staff, who attended on her.

The inquiry found certain staff members of the hospital guilty to the extent of tampering with the official records. Negligence on the part of staff members, on duty when Mrs Sunita Rani was admitted to the Civil Hospital, could not be established. The inquiry officer had also recommended to the Deputy Commissioner suitable action against the officials, who had tampered with the official records.

Mrs Sunita Rani was admitted to the hospital here when she started having labour pains on March 23. After delivering a baby, her condition deteriorated. When her condition could not became stable, she was referred to the Civil Hospital, Bathinda. She died a few hours after reaching the hospital. The death of Mrs Sunita Rani sparked an agitation in the town and a section of residents organised dharnas.

Official sources said a probe found that the employees of the hospital, who attended on her, gave her the treatment which was needed medically. When Mrs Sunita Rani was referred to Bathinda Civil Hospital, her kin first took her to a doctor here who also advised them to shift Mrs Sunita Rani immediately to the Civil Hospital, Bathinda.

The inquiry also revealed that staff members also took proper care of Mrs Sunita Rani when she was hospitalised here and even the doctors concerned repeatedly checked her condition late in the night.

However, the certain employees, who were on duty when Mrs Sunita was under treatment in this hospital and those who were on duty in the next shift were found guilty of tampering with the official records. The accused had tried to change the admission time of Mrs Sunita Rani apart from serial number of her admission for reasons known to them.

The inquiry pointed out that state health authorities were competent to take action against the officials found guilty of tampering with the official records, which was a serious offence.


PSHRC orders probe into liquor vends issue
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 9
Taking a serious view of the location of a large number of liquor vends, on state and national highways throughout Punjab, the Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) has issued directions to the Financial Commissioner, Taxation, to conduct an inquiry and submit a report to it.

The issue was raised before the PSHRC by Mr Charanjit Singh Bakshi, a social activist, by referring to a news report published in The Tribune last week. The report was based on a field survey.

Mr Bakshi said a large number of liquor vends had come up along state and national highways in Punjab in grave violation of the directions issued by the Supreme Court and the High Court. As many as 2,202 persons had lost their lives in road mishaps in Punjab during 2002-03 and the death toll in road accidents was 2,664 in 2001-02.

In spite of the directions of the courts, no action had been taken.

The PSHRC, after considering the gravity of situation, decided to register the complaint as a case, holding that it involved the violation of human rights.

Mr N.K. Arora, a member of the commission, issued directions that a copy of the complaint, with annexures, be sent to the Financial Commissioner, Taxation, by a special messenger so that the matter was inquired into and a report submitted before August 21, the next date of hearing.

The PSHRC also issued directions that a copy of the complaint be sent to the Chief Secretary for taking appropriate action. Another copy of the complaint was directed to be sent to the Principal Secretary, Home.


Rs 29 cr collected as penalty
Tribune News Service

SAS Nagar, May 9
The Excise and Taxation department, Punjab, has collected over Rs 29 crore as penalty from various defaulters in Punjab in 2002-2003. Out of this, sales tax arrears of Rs 8 crore was due from seven major distribution and production units based at Ludhiana, Amritsar, Ropar and Kurali.

Announcing this here today, the Minister for Excise and Taxation, Punjab, Mr Sardool Singh pointed out that sales tax collections up to March, 2003 had increased by 12.5 per cent while excise collections had increased by over 6 per cent over last year’s collections.

The minister was speaking to media persons at a press conference organised by the department at the PCA stadium to highlight the achievements of the department over the year. ‘‘The total sales tax collections till the end of March this year was Rs 3073 crore while the collection of excise duty and licence fee amounted to Rs 1431crore.’’ he said.

Informing about some of the major changes announced by the Excise and Taxation Department, the minister said that police personnel posted in the Department of Excise and Taxation would be under the direct control of the Excise and Taxation Commissioner. 


Kidney scam: PHRO sees chinks in probe
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 9
The Punjab Human Rights Organisation (PHRO) today pointed out glaring missing links in the investigation conducted by the special investigation team (SIT) into the multi-crore kidney scam.

The PHRO alleged that doctors in Jalandhar, who had performed many kidney transplantations, managed to influence the SIT. This despite the fact that the SIT had come across clear evidence of NRIs and foreign nationals having come on charted plane from abroad and having got operated upon here.

Justice Ajit Singh Bains (retd), chief of the PHRO, alleged that it was surprising that the SIT had decided not to arrest the kidney recipients even though more than 90 per cent of them had given fake addresses in the affidavits presented before the authorisation committee. On the other hand, poor donors were harassed and beaten up by the police before being put behind bars.

“As per our report, kidney donors, recipients, middlemen, doctors, member of the authorisation committee, leaders, lawyers and magistrates who attested false affidavits are all guilty of violating the law. Our team has collected evidence against them,” he said.

Justice Bains alleged that some poor kidney donors were picked up from different places and brought to Gol Bagh. The Supreme Court directions regarding their arrest were violated. The FIR was allegedly concocted and the challans were issued in back dates. The signatures of witnesses on memos were also forged.

Justice Bains urged the Chief Minister to hand over the inquiry to an officer of great integrity.


Technical, mechanical staff hold rally
Our Correspondent

Patiala, May 9
Members of the Technical and Mechanical Employees Union, Punjab, organised a protest rally on the Mall Road here today against the delay in regularising daily-wage workers despite the issuance of a government notification in this regard. Employees from all over the state belonging to the PWD, Sewerage Board and the Irrigation department participated in the rally.

The employees demanded that daily-wage workers who have completed more than three years of service be regularised at the earliest as per the notification.

The general secretary of the union, Mr Pyara Singh Mangat, while addressing the workers also demanded that the 4-9-14 promotion channel be implemented in each category of the employees.

The other demands of the employees included introduction of a pension scheme in the Sewerage Board, payment of allowance for uniforms in cash along with the salary and appointment of pump operators who had passed the required test as JEs.

Among other employee leaders who addressed the union members were chief organiser of the rally Mahinder Singh Dhaliwal, Surjeet Singh Gill and Jagdev Singh Lehra.


Information sought
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 9
On a petition filed by 1120 serving and retired technicians alleging that the state of Punjab had created a class among same category employees by not granting pay scales given to petitioners in another case, a Division Bench of the high court has asked the state to inform if the petitioners in the present case were similarly placed.

Issuing the directions, the Bench, headed by Mr Justice Swatanter Kumar, also directed that a responsible officer should be present on the next date of hearing in case the state was unable to inform the court

In their petition, Mr Sikandar Singh of Mansa district and others had earlier contended that they had not been granted the same scale despite the fact that all of them were working on the same posts, performing the same duties. The case will now come up for further hearing on May 27.

Directive to SSP

If allegations in a writ petition filed before the high court are to be believed, six labourers were forcibly detained by four Nabha landlords for years together. They were “abused”, threatened with dire consequences “in connivance with the police” and tortured before “they ran away from the shackles of the landlords”.

Taking up the petition filed by Jalandhar-based social worker Jai Singh, a Division Bench of the high court, comprising Chief Justice Mr Binod Kumar Roy and Mr Justice J.S. Khehar, asked Patiala’s Senior Superintendent of Police to find out whether the landlords “had allegedly breached the relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code, besides the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act of 1976 and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989”.

The Judges further directed the SSP to submit his report, after giving an opportunity to the landlords so that they “had their say in the matter”, and after ascertaining the contents of the statements made by the alleged bonded labourers....”

Mr Jai Singh, in his petition, meanwhile, added that he was approached by the labourers “living in an atmosphere of utter fear and terror”. Counsel submitted on the petitioner’s behalf that the “landlords, in connivance with the police, were now pressuring the families of the labourers, asking them to come back and work in the capacity of bonded labourers”. “The police was raiding their premises and had become an instrument of exploitation,” he concluded.

Week’s notice

Taking up a petition filed by Punjab’s former minister, Jagdish Singh Garcha, Mr Justice K.C. Gupta of the high court directed the issuance of a week’s notice in case he was required in connection with any criminal case.

In his petition, the former minister had expressed apprehension that he might be implicated again in a false case due to political vendetta. Garcha, it may be recalled, has already been granted bail by Mr Justice Jasbir Singh of the high court in an alleged cheating and corruption case.

Seeking the grant of bail, his counsel had earlier contended that the Congress government was registering cases against its political opponents. The allegations that the employees recruited by Punjab Technical University were from the former minister’s constituency were also baseless, counsel had added.


Special cell for senior citizens
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, May 9
The district police has constituted a special cell to protect the life and property of senior citizens as well as to redress their grievances at the earliest.

According to Mr B. Chandra Sekhar, SSP, a four-member committee has been formed under the presidentship of SP(H) and a social worker-cum-retired police officer, Mr Devinder Singh Panag, has also been made the member of the committee.

Giving details, he said the senior citizens had been facing various types of problems. So the police has decided to constitute a special cell under the community policing scheme.


Parandi makers — heirs to a dying art
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 9
Trendy short-hair styles and new fashion trends have not only sounded the death knell for the world famous parandi making tradition of the city, but have also forced hundreds of its karigars to eke out a living by making rakhis besides going in for embroidery work, for which they are paid a pittance.

Parandis, nalas and juttis were what Patiala was famous for, says a shopkeeper dealing in parandis. He says while the traditional nalas have disappeared, now even the use of parandi has become limited as it is usually used as an accessory during wedding ceremonies only. “But even at weddings only the bride or her closest friends want to wear parandis”, the shopkeeper said adding that they usually found buyers during the marriage season.

The production as well as the sale of parandis has come down to 20 per cent of what it was around 10 years ago, says Vicky Bansal of Shyam Parandi House situated near the Quila Chowk. Neelam Kumar of Khanna di Hatti says kaleeras were now catching the fancy of youngsters during weddings. He said as kaleeras were more intricate and fancy these sold well during the marriage season.

Shopkeepers traditionally dealing in parandis may be able to deal with the fall in demand by selling other products, but for the karigars who made these parandis, it means the end of an era. “There was a time when shopkeepers used to vie with each other to give us work”, says 80-year-old Surjit Kaur of Kumharan Wala Mohalla near the Quila Chowk. But now, she said, things were such that karigars were literally begging the shopkeepers to give them some work. She said the families that were earlier engaged in parandi making were now producing rakhis of different kinds for traders.

The income of entire households of Kumharan Wala Mohalla, Jattan Wala Chauntra and others who were engaged in parandi making has taken a dip every since the decrease in the sale of this traditional handicraft. “Now we sometimes get an order to make specially designed parandis using tilla (gold wire) otherwise we are dependent on small time work assigned to us by shopkeepers to earn a livelihood.”

A visit to the Kumharan Wala Mohalla and Jattan Walan Chauntra revealed that almost entire family of these karigars was engaged in thread work. Almost all women and young children are doing this work to supplement their income. Prem Kumar said an average worker was able to earn around Rs 10 to Rs 15 per day by going in for the present embroidery work, including rakhi making. “The wages may be low, but beggars cannot be choosers”, he said adding, “at least we have some work at present. During the monsoons the workers do not have any work at all”.

While changing lifestyles have heralded difficult times for the parandi makers of Patiala, there could be some hope for them, says Manmeet Singh, a social worker. He says with almost every household engaged in embroidery work in some areas of the city, a society could be formed which could provide work and buy it from these out of work parandi makers directly. He said there was still a large scope for selling parandis outside Punjab as well as abroad. The karigars can also be engaged in making of other traditional handicraft items which could enable them to earn a better livelihood, he added.



Health scheme for ex-servicemen inaugurated
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, May 9
To provide healthcare to the retired Army personnel, windows and their dependents, the Defence authorities today launched Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) with inauguration of Armed Forces polyclinics at Una and Hamirpur in Himachal.

In a statement here today, Brigadier D.S. Kullar, said that under the ECHS, these polyclinics were equipped with in most ultra modern medical facilities .

He said that a one-time contribution ranging between Rs 1,800 and Rs 18,000 depending upon the pension being drawn would ensure total medical cover to the entitled categories of ex-servicemen.


Move for theatre in Gargi’s memory
Our Correspondent

Patiala, May 9
To give recognition to the contributions made by Punjabi writer and playwright late Balwant Gargi, an open air theatre named after him may soon come up on the premises of the Languages Department here.

Mr N.S. Rattan, Chief Secretary, Higher Education, mooted a proposal in this regard at a function organised at Bhasha Bhavan today in the memory of Balwant Gargi. Describing Gargi as a fearless and forthright writer who created a niche for himself in the heart of the common man as well as the intelligentsia, Mr Rattan said the state should promote theatre in the region.

Gargi’s son, Manu Gargi, touched quite a few hearts when he shared the memories of his father with the gathering.

Tributes were paid to the playwright by various personalities. The powerful use of colloquial language (Malwai) by Gargi and its impact on society was lauded by those present.

Writer Kirpal Kazak, Dr Harcharan Singh, Mr Pran Sabharwal, Dr Kuldeep Singh Dheer, Ajmer Singh Aulakh, Ms Neena Tiwana and Dr Suneeta Dheer also shared their thoughts.



Registration of ultrasound unit suspended
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, May 9
The District Advisory Committee (DAC) for the implementation of Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PNDT) Act at its meeting here yesterday recommended that the registration of the ultrasound unit of Baba Aapo Aap Hospital here should be suspended for one month. The DAC also recommended the sealing of the ultrasonography machine of the unit for the alleged “violation” of various provisions of the PNDT Act.

Talking to TNS, yesterday, Dr J.R. Bansal, District Appropriate Authority for the PNDT Act-cum-Civil Surgeon, Sangrur, said a team had inspected the ultrasound unit of Baba Aapo Aap Hospital on April 21 which found that the unit had been “violating” various provisions of the PNDT Act.

Dr Bansal said on the recommendations of the inspection team, a showcause notice was issued to the ultrasound unit on April 22. However, the reply of the unit was found “unsatisfactory”, due to which the DAC recommended the suspension of registration of unit for one month and sealing of its ultrasonography machine.

Dr Bansal said the DAC had allowed Dr Geetanjli Jain (wife of Dr Bikram Jain) who also runs an ultrasound unit, to conduct ultrasound tests at her husband’s clinic along with her own ultrasound unit.

It may be mentioned here that Dr Bikram Jain had sent a request to the DAC to allow his wife to conduct ultrasound tests at his ultrasound unit from 9 am to 6.30 pm daily, along with her own ultrasound unit.

The DAC also decided to seal the ultrasonography machine of Dhaliwal Ultrasound Centre here as the owner had requested the DAC to do so.


40 injured as bus overturns
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, May 9
Forty passengers, including children and women, were injured, six of them seriously, after a New Phagwara Transport Company bus overturned near the Khati village bridge on the outskirts of the town on the Phagwara-Hoshiarpur road around 8 a.m. this morning. The bus was coming from Badon village to Phagwara.

Twentyseven of the injured were admitted to the local Civil Hospital while others were treated at private clinics. Mr Harmanbir Singh Gill, SP, told reporters at the hospital here that some mechanical snag in the bus seemed to be the cause of the mishap.

Local MLA and Social Welfare Minister Joginder Singh Mann, accompanied by SDM Pritam Singh, visited the injured at the hospital. In a gesture, hospital doctors, led by the SMO, Dr Subash Sharma contributed from their pockets and served tea and refreshments to the injured. Residents of the nearby villages also helped the injured. 


Two killed in accident
Our Correspondent

Mansa, May 9
Raju Singh (23), an employee of the Punjab Sewerage and Water Supply Board and Gurmail Singh (25) a truck driver were killed in front of local Radha Soami on the Sirsa Barnala road.

The deceased were coming on a motorcycle when a truck parked in a queue in front of a plinth, started moving and struck the motorcycle. They were taken to the local Civil Hospital where the doctors declared them brought dead.

The bodies were handed over to their relatives. The police has registered a case. 


PSEB extends VDS date
Our Correspondent

Patiala, May 9
The Punjab State Electricity Board has decided to extend the date of Voluntary Disclosure Scheme for the regularisation of unauthorised Agricultural Power load to June 30, 2003. The charges for Service Connection have been fixed at Rs 4000 per BHP with effect from April 1, 2003 onwards.

The PSEB has also extended the date for the payment of dues of farm Tubewell Consumers up to May 15 without late payment surcharge.


Raids on dhabas
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, May 9
Food and Civil Supplies officials today raided hotels and dhabas in Kartarpur and confiscated 25 domestic LPG cylinders, allegedly being used for commercial purposes.

In a press note issued here today, the District Food and Supplies Controller, Capt Parveen Vij, said special flying squads of the department conducted raids on 20 hotels and dhabas at Kartarpur to check the misuse of domestic cylinders for commercial purposes.


PUDA-temple row: devotees lathicharged
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, May 9
The police resorted to lathi charge tonight to disperse a brickbating mob comprising devotees of Thakurdwara Bairagian Shri Hanuman Mandir, after PUDA officials, accompanied by a heavy police force, removed two signboards fixed by devotees to stake claim to government land. The SP, Mr Harmanbir Singh Gill and the SDM, Mr Pritam Singh, who were present on the spot, said they were there to protect government land, measuring nine kanals and 17 marlas, of the old Civil Hospital.

They denied any lathi charge and asserted that the police only dispersed the violent mob, which was resisting the vacation of the encroachment on government land. The ACA of PUDA, Mr Parveen Kumar, and the SDO, Enforcement, Mr B.S. Bajwa, were also present.

The police registered a case against 32 persons, including senior Congress leader Kanwaljit Singh Bittu, president, Goraya Municipal Committee.

It was also learnt that some persons were rounded up.

Yesterday, PUDA officials were manhandled by devotees when they removed a signboard of the mandir installed in the premises of the old Civil Hospital building. The SDO, Enforcement, PUDA, Mr B.S. Bajwa, who was sitting in the office of the SHO, city police station, to discuss the issue, was also manhandled.


Truckers ‘pay’ for wheat pilferage
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 9
Truck operators of Maur Mandi town have alleged that the amount of wheat in some gunny bags was less than the prescribed limit. They had lifted the bags from some purchasing centres in the district.

A section of truckers on Wednesday stated this in a press note. They urged the authorities concerned to look into the matter. They alleged that many gunny bags contained 1 kg less wheat. They also alleged that the gunny bags were not weighed at the purchasing centres before being loaded into the trucks. They said that the amount equivalent to the cost of the ‘missing’ wheat had been deducted from the fare they were given.

They have also urged the authorities to make arrangements for quick unloading of trucks at the godowns. They said that they had to wait for two or three days to get the trucks unloaded, while no extra payment was made for the delay.


Akali leader, wife booked

Sangrur, May 9
Akali leader and former councillor of the Nagar Council Bhajan Singh and his wife Surjit Kaur were booked today for allegedly selling poppy husk following a raid at their house here.

The raiding police party found that they had built a bunker in the bathroom of their house in the new grain market where some sacks full of poppy husk were concealed.

The police claimed that the couple had amassed movable and immovable property through illicit trade. The couple, it is said, owned 15 acres of land, two big houses, one truck and other articles of luxury worth lakhs of rupees.

The police has arrested Surjit Kaur, while Bhajan Singh is still at large. UNI


40 bottles of liquor seized from house
Tribune News Service

Maur Mandi (Bathinda), May 9
Following the registration of a criminal case for possessing 40 bottles of liquor against a local resident, Mr Jaspal Kumar, his relatives have got registered a case against two liquor contractors — Khush and Seera — for allegedly trespassing on their house.

Police sources said that a joint raid was conducted at the residence of Mr Jaspal Kumar by Excise and police officials last evening. During the raid, 40 bottles of liquor were seized from the premises. However, the accused could not be arrested. A case under Section 61 of the Excise Act was registered against him.

After the case was registered, the relatives of the accused complained that some persons identified as liquor contractors of the area had trespassed on their house and attacked them. On their complaint, a case under Section 452, 323 and 34 of the IPC was registered against Khush and Seera.

However, Excise officials and associates of the two contractors have alleged that the police had registered a case against Seera and Khush under pressure of a politician.

They pointed out that Khush and Seera, against whom the case had been registered did not accompany the raiding team, which seized 40 bottles liquor from Mr Jaspal Kumar’s house.

Mr Jaspinder Singh, Excise and Taxation Officer (ETO), Bathinda, when contacted, said the district police chief, Mr Ishwar Singh, had assured him that an inquiry would be conducted into this incident.

Mr Gurdarshan Singh, SHO local police station, when contacted, said that matter was being investigated. He added that efforts were being made to arrest Mr Jaspal Kumar. 


Gang of six robbers busted
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, May 9
The district police claims to have busted a six-member gang of robbers with the arrest of all its members and the recovery of stolen goods from their possession.

Following a tip-off, a special police party raided the suspected hideout of the robbers at Talhan village, near here, this afternoon and arrested six persons. The arrested persons were identified as Sachin Thakur, Neeraj, Sikander Paharia, Gaurav Kumar, Ashok Kumar and Nirmal Singh, all residents of Jalandhar.

Questioning of the arrested persons led to the recovery of one country-made revolver, two gold bangles, one gold chain and ring each and two gas cylinders.

A case has been registered.

Meanwhile, seven persons were arrested in four separate cases registered against them. They were identified as Balkar Singh, Amrik Singh, Ramesh Kumar, Rani Bala, Sat Pal, Jagjit Singh and Surinder Singh. 


Drug supply in jail: probe ordered

Muktsar, May 9
A Punjab and Haryana High Court Judge, Mr Justice M.M. Kumar, was concerned when he was informed by some Muktsar subjail inmates about the inflow of narcotics in the jail. During an inspection of the jail yesterday, its conditions “quite unsatisfactory”.

Mr Justice Kumar ordered an inquiry into the supply of narcotics in jail and asked the local Deputy Commissioner to probe the matter.

He noticed that 178 inmates were put in this subjail against its capacity of 60. A similar scene was witnessed in the Moga jail where 186 inmates were lodged against its capacity of 45.

He listened to the grievances of jail inmates and granted bail to 21 of them who were involved in petty cases under the Excise Act and referred the cases of 25 inmates to trial courts for consideration.

Mr Justice Kumar recommended that the state government should ensure a permanent dispensary and doctors in both the jails and the construction of additional barracks. UNI


Man commits suicide
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 9
A man reportedly committed suicide by hanging himself from a tree near Kot Shamir, 14 km from here, today. He used a pair of pyjamas for hanging himself. 

He could not be identified. A post-mortem was conducted at the local Civil Hospital and the body handed over to an NGO, as there was no claimant for it. The NGO cremated the body.


Three held for stealing vehicles
Our Correspondent

Malerkotla, May 9
The police has arrested three youths for stealing vehicles and selling these in car bazaars.

One Bolero Jeep, two pistols cartridges and one knife were recovered from them. Two members of the gang escapes. They were arrested today after chase on the Malerkotla-Dhuri road by DSP, Raj Bachan Singh.

Suspended constable Satwant Singh alias Kaka resident of Delhon heads the gang and includes several wrestlers from an Akhara in Ludhiana district.

Those arrested were Jaswant Singh son of Gurmail Singh Raghian Dehlon, Joga Singh son of Gurmail Singh Dehlon and Raman Kumar son of Tilak Raj resident of Dehlon.


Panchayat members protest against
poor school results
Our Correspondent

Dhuri, May 9
Protesting against the ‘poor’ result of class VIII of Government High School, Bardwal, about 4 km from here, panchayat members of three villages — Bardwal, Ruldu Singh Wala and Dhandra, along with parents of failed students locked the main gate of the school this morning before the arrival of the school staff and students. As many as 63 students of this school had appeared in the examination held in February this year, of which 39 students could not pass the examination.

Mr Rajesh Bhandari, in charge of the school, said that the students of the school returned to houses after sitting for two hours in the school complex, while staff members remained present in the school hours.

Mr Bhandari added that later District Education Officer (D.E.O.) Sangrur and Tehsildar, Dhuri, visited the school in the afternoon and got the lock opened.

Both officers assured the villagers and the parents that proper care of the students in the school would be ensured in future, to improve results of the school.


Students, teachers donate blood

Talwandi Sabo, May 9
The two-day camp organised by NSS volunteers of the local Guru Gobind Singh College of Engineering and Technology concluded here today.

As many as 50 students and members of the staff of the college donate blood today. A seminar on the awareness about AIDS was also organised today.

The students participated in the cleanliness drive in the area surrounding the college yesterday. OC


Internal exam for admission to MA (Sanskrit)
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 9
Punjabi University today announced that it would allow graduates who did not have any background in Sanskrit to seek admission in MA (Sanskrit) for the academic year 2003 -04.

An official press note issued here stated that such students would have to clear a short term bridge course in Sankrit. The examination of this short term course would be held at the department level. 


Exhibition of diamonds ends
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 9
The ‘Diamond Jewellery Festival’ organised by Dwaraka Jewellers in the city concluded this evening.

The organisers claimed that the purpose of the festival was to introduce new designs of diamond-embedded jewellery in the city and also introduce the diamond jewellery meant for the middle class families. The festival-cum-exhibition began on Wednesday.

The organisers said that the response of the people was enthusiastic and it exploded the myth that diamonds were not affordable by all.

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