Tuesday, May 20, 2003, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Badal writes to Vedanti, SGPC meets today
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 19
At last, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, president, Shiromani Akali Dal has sent a letter to Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar, Akal Takht through the SGPC chief in which he has feigned ignorance about the violation of ‘hukamnama’ (edict).

Confirming Mr Badal writing to Giani Vedanti, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Union Minister and secretary general of the Shiromani Akali Dal, said that it would pave the way for Panthic unity. As reported in The Tribune, Mr Badal signed the letter on May 17 at Chandigarh. “I am the most happy man today as the move of unity between Mr Parkash Singh Badal and veteran Akali leader Gurcharan Singh Tohra would be in the large interest of Punjab Panth and the party”, Mr Dhindsa said.

Sources close to the SGPC chief and Akal Takht revealed that Mr Badal in his letter had said that he had always remained ‘panthic’ and could not think of violating the ‘hukamnama’. The contents of the letter almost reiterated the stand of Mr Badal.

Mr Dhindsa said that he never wanted that the Akali stalwarts (Mr Badal and Mr Tohra) should have parted company as both of them had ‘served’ the Panth jointly for a long time.

Answering a question, Mr Dhindsa said that Mr Badal would return to Chandigarh on May 24 or May 25 after attending the marriage of a journalist at Gorakhpur. Mr Dhindsa hoped that after writing a letter by Mr Badal, Akali unity would be forged shortly.

Meanwhile, Mr Badungar has called an emergency meeting of the SGPC executive committee here tomorrow.

It is learnt that on his return from Gorakhpur, Mr Badal would summon a meeting of the Political Affairs Committee, district Jathedars, MPs, MLAs and former MLAs of the party at Chandigarh. The proposed PAC meeting would propose ways for the unity with the Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal, sources pointed out that Mr Tohra had already agreed to disband the SHSAD.

The proposed unity would bring major reshuffle in the SGPC.


Fresh norms for panchayat poll
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 19
Taking cognizance of complaints of large-scale rejection of nomination papers on flimsy grounds, the Punjab State Election Commission has issued fresh instructions that all nomination papers should be properly checked at the time of their filing and their receipt acknowledged on photocopies to be produced by the candidates concerned.

No vacations for school, college staff

The State Election Commission proposes to set up 15,000 polling stations in various schools and colleges of the state. Since the elections are being held during the summer vacations, instructions have already been issued to the Department of Education to keep the schools and colleges open. The staff of these schools and colleges would also be required to attend rehearsals.

The Home Department had been asked to make arrangements for the deployment of men in uniform well in advance for the maintenance of law and order on the day of polling.

The new instructions would be strictly followed for the coming elections to 12,337 panchayats in Punjab on June 29.

Talking to The Tribune here, the State Election Commissioner, Mr C.L. Bains, said one of the major grounds for the rejection of nomination papers had been intentional misplacment” of certain mandatory enclosures required to be submitted with the nomination papers.

“The candidates would also bring an attested photo copy of the nomination papers along with the original ones. The returning officer shall return the photocopy duly signed by him to the candidate as a token of receipt. This would avoid the rejection of nomination papers under pressure from different quarters,” Mr Bains added.

The State Election Commissioner has also imposed a ban on new recruitments till the conclusion of the panchayat elections on June 29. The commission has also issued instructions that polling parties should comprise personnel drawn from different departments to ensure transparency and impartiality. Employees of the Rural development and Panchayats Department have been kept out of the official duties for the conduct of the elections.

The past practice had been that the Block Development and Panchayat Officer (BDPO) used to be the returning officer for the entire block for the acceptance of nomination papers. Under the new guidelines, the returning officer shall accept and scuritinise nomination papers for a block of 15 villages only. The ROs would also be drawn from different departments. These ROs will set up their offices at the block headquarters.

The commission has also asked the state government to shift those District Development and Panchayat Officers (DDPOs) and BDPOs who are posted in their home districts.

The State Election Commission, Mr Bains said, had also asked the Chief Secretary that no discretionary funds or grants should be released to any gram panchayat going to the polls on June 29.


Nitish not convinced of stove theory
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 19
Railway Minister Nitish Kumar is learnt to have dismissed the theory advocated by railway officials that the bursting of a stove had caused fire in Golden Temple Mail coaches on Thursday.

Within a couple of hours of the incident, senior railway officials had begun to hint at the fire having been caused by a stove in bogey S-4. Mr Nitish Kumar is reportedly un convinced by the argument.

He has refused to give a clean chit to the maintenance (electric) department of the Railways and ordered an inquiry.

Despite several holes in the story, the Railways almost managed to convince all, including the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, on its theory. Even the member, Railway Board, Mr SC Gupta, told reporters that experts, both electrical as well as forensic, had concluded that the fire was caused by a stove.

The Additional Director-General of Police (Railways), Mr SC Jain, barely an hour before Mr Nitish Kumars visited the accident site, gave the same explanation to some journalists.

There are three eyewitness whose statements have been overlooked — Manju from Delhi, Dharmender Kumar also from Delhi and Saif Petrowala from Madhya Pradesh.

Manju reportedly said she had seen sparks on the roof of the S-4 bogey. Dharmender told the Railway Minister that he heard four passengers mention about sparks from the coach roof.

Petrowala was more elaborate. He said the sparks were seen at Saharanpur too. According to him, some repairs were done at the Saharanpur station. Mechanics of the Railways reportedly applied a tape on the sparking wires, but by the time the train had reached Ludhiana, it was in flames.

Contradicting the version of the Railways somebody on the train had lit the stove, he asked: “Who will need to light the stove at 3.30 am?”


Proof is there, but Railways disagrees
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 19
For Sudershana Rani and her five children no tragedy can be bigger than losing her husband in train fire. She claims that she has lost her husband, Jaikishen in the fire on the Frontier Mail on May 15, but the railways does not accept her plea since his body was not found.

According to Sudershana, a resident of Swana village near Chintpurni in Himachal, her husband worked as a carpenter in Gandhi Dham in Gujarat. She said, he had told her that he would be coming by the Frontier Mail on May 15. Sudershana’s brother-in-law (Jaikishen’s younger brother) Subash claimed that Jaikishen was travelling in S4 coach and had reserved berth number 44.

Subash said, they had procured the details from the railway booking counter in Delhi, from where Jaikishen had booked his seat for the train. When Jaikishen did not return home on May 15, the family was worried. The family took some time to find out the coach and berth number, Jaikishen was travelling in.

The Commissioner Railway Safety, who is camping here for past some days refused to make any comment on the issue. However, some railway officials, on the condition of anonymity, maintained that it was difficult for the Railways to entertain the claim of Jaikishen’s family. They pointed out, the Railways had confirmed the death of 36 persons and all 36 bodies had been identified and none of those was that of Jaikishen.

Subash said, they have been asked to file claims with the senior Railway officials and the matter would be investigated to find out the truth. Compensation would be decided only after that. But the family is not sure whether anything will come out of the investigations.

The family, consisting of five minor children of Jaikishen, his wife, his sister, his two brothers and one of the aunts, is camping here outside the camp office of the Commissioner Railway Safety, Mr Bhupinder Singh. The family members arrived here today. Although they had a meeting with the Commissioner, but they have not been assured of anything.

Helpless Subash asked, “why we are not being heard despite having the proof that Jaikishen was travelling in S4 coach on berth number 44 in the ill fated train on May 15...the mere fact that they (the Railways) could not find his body does not meant that he did not perish in the tragedy”.


Railway team continues probe
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 19
Commissioner Railway Safety Bhupinder Singh today continued with his investigation into the causes of the fire in the three coaches of the ill-fated Frontier Mail on May 15. He met several people, including some officials, today.

Railway officials said he spoke to passengers and some officials present on the spot. He, however, refused to talk to the media. Senior officials accompanying him said the inquiry would be conducted within six weeks and would be submitted to the Railway Ministry. Relatives of victims from different parts of the country also met him.

Meanwhile, 36 bodies had been identified by the Railways. There were reports of some missing people whose bodies could not be found.


Tributes paid to Dr Alphonsa
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, May 19
People from all walks of life paid tributes to Dr Alphonsa Chelaappurath, who had perished in the Golden Temple mail fire on May 15, at burial services held at the Sacred Heart hospital here today.

The coffin, containing remains of Dr Alphonsa, was placed in front of the hospital for people to say prayers.

Prayers were led by Father Varghese Parappally from Satna diocese and was attended by Father Sebestian Ouseparambll, Father Thomas Keezhedan, Father Joseph Keezhedan VC, Father Mathew Koyickan and sisters from all over Punjab.

Punjab Local Bodies Minister Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, Parliamentary Secretary Kamaljit Lalli, Mr Surinder Mahey, Mayor also paid last respects. Peter Celestine from Jammu-Srinagar diocese, Bishop Anil Couto from the Delhi Archdiocese, Mathew Nllappana, Vice-General of Jalandhar Diocese, Father Thomas Pullat also joined the prayers.


Another wait for PoW’s release begins
Vir Chakra winner missing since 1971
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 19
Though the release of 20 persons from captivity by the Pakistan Government was the end of a long wait for their family members, for scores of other such families, another chapter of a seemingly endless wait has just begun.

For these families, another round of running from pillar to post and approaching the government with new evidence about the whereabouts of their lost relatives has commenced. They are also likely to make a beeline to the houses of the persons released to get more details about their relatives allegedly imprisoned somewhere in Pakistan.

The family of Flt-Lt Gurdev Singh Rai, Vir Chakra, missing in action since the 1971 Indo-Pak war, is one such example. Residing in Chak Sarwan Nath village on Ludhiana-Chandigarh highway, the family is in constant touch with the relatives of other missing PoWs. The number of PoWs in Pakistan jails is said to be more than 50, according to newspaper reports.

Some family members had been camping at the Wagah border for the past two days on the hope that the Flt-Lt Rai would be one of the persons released. They were disappointed, but the disclosure made by the 20 freed persons yesterday that more than 100 persons, including some PoWs, were languishing in jails across the border, has renewed hope for the family. It has, at the same time, refuted the claims of the Pakistan Government that there were no PoWs in Pakistan.

“We have the addresses of the released persons and would be meeting them soon to learn about our missing brother. There were a large number of families like us at the Wagah border who have been undergoing the same ordeal for the past over three decades,” said Mr Sukh Kanwar Singh, youngest brother of the missing soldier.

The disclosure that several prisoners had gone mad due to the prolonged imprisonment and alleged torture was troubling them. “Aethon di mitti sab theek kar devegi (the motherland will cure them),” said Mr Sukh Kanwar Singh while talking to The Tribune team at his native village today.

Such families have earlier also undergone the same process. Whenever anyone is released, they are filled with hope. Whenever the Indo-Pak government started talking about the release of the prisoners, they start approaching the authorities.

Despite the series of disappointments, hope sustains life for these families and their friends. The relatives of the officer, who had been awarded the prestigious Vir Chakra for his heroic feat in the 1971 war, with the help of the villagers, are keeping his memory alive. The gate of their house boldly displays the name of the decorated war hero. The state government had named a school in the nearby Heeran village after him.

“Pakistanis have been making statements since 1971 that there were no PoWs, but still a number of Indian spies who had returned to the country after spending several years in Pakistan jails claimed in media interviews that they had seen Flt-Lt Gurdev Singh Rai in some Pakistan jail,” the family says. They show media reports quoting Mukhtiar Singh, an Indian spy.

Giving details about his valiant brother, Mr Sukh Kanwar Singh said his brother joined the Air Force against the wishes of their parents. In fact, he did not inform the family before joining the defence forces. He even rejected several marriage offers, as he wanted to remain single. In 1965, he fought gallantly and his heroism was recognised in 1971 when he was assigned the task of destroying several strategic locations.

On December 4, 1971, he commanded a fleet of Hunter planes to destroy some radars in Sakesar, near Mianwali, in Pakistan and inflicted a major loss to the enemy station. The next day, he again led an attack at the same place and completely destroyed the radars.


Wheat for BPL families finds easy way to market
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 19
On April 10, the Tapa Mandi police of Sangrur district seized 90 bags of wheat meant for the below poverty line (BPL) category from a flour mill. The suspect, in connivance with an official of a procurement agency, was to sell it in the open market.

A day later, the Mansa police unearthed the BPL wheat diversion scam when it managed to seize a tractor-trailer containing bags of wheat from a depot holder, who was taking it to the grain market for sale.

On May 1, the Bathinda police seized wheat meant for the BPL category from a depot holder of Balluana village, who was taking it for sale, in the open market.

For the past over a month, a section of depot holders and others involved in the distribution of wheat to BPL families have been diverting it to the open market to mint money, depriving the poor of foodgrains at subsidised rates. The authorities have failed to check this illegal practice by traders and government officials.

Yesterday, the Gidderbaha police seized 85 bags of wheat from a tractor-trailer, which was being transported to the grain market for sale.

The suspects, involving a junior engineer of the Block Development Panchayat Office (BDPO), along with a flour mill owner, Jagdish Rai, and the driver of the tractor-trailer, Sukhdev Singh, have been booked under Sections 406, 409 and 420 of the IPC for their alleged involvement in the diversion of BPL wheat to the open market. The driver of the tractor-trailer has been arrested while the other two are at large.

Police sources said those who had been diverting the BPL wheat to the open market would buy the BPL wheat at Rs 430 to Rs 440 per quintal, and would sell it in the open market at Rs 640 per quintal.

The other modus operandi was that a section of flourmill owners would buy the BPL wheat at cheaper rates and convert it into flour, which would then be supplied to cities and towns in the state at the market price.

Information gathered by TNS revealed that the rackets pertaining to the diversion of BPL wheat to flourmills and the open market was going on with the connivance of a section of officials of various state procurement agencies. In most cases, the suspects managed to escape legal action with the help of a section of the ruling politicians.

Information revealed that apart from the BPL wheat, kerosene meant for BPL families was also being diverted to petrol stations, which was used in adulterating diesel and petrol. The local police had unearthed a major scam in this connection recently.

Mr Amritpal Sidhu, president of the Punjab Young Farmers Federation, and general secretary of the state unit of the Nationalist Congress Party, has sought an explanation from the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, regarding this.

He said the guilty should be exposed and punished.


CPI to hold dharna on May 26
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 19
The Punjab unit of the Communist Party of India (CPI) here yesterday gave a call for a state-level dharna here on May 26 to demand the withdrawal of a steep hike in college fee and sewerage charges.

Announcing this here today, the CPI Secretary, Dr Joginder Dayal said the state- level dharna, which will be addressed by the national unit Secretary A. B. Bardhan, would ask Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to restore free electricity to farmers and roll back privatisation of public sector undertakings .

Dr Dayal said the Chief Minister, who had been a votary of the WTO regime, was pursuing the so-called reforms policies despite the opposition of the party leaders at the state and central levels.

He said the All- India Congress Committee General Secretary, Ms Mohsina Kidwai, and the Political Advisor to Ms Sonia Gandhi, Ms Ambika Soni, had expressed their opposition to the opening of casinos and the fee hike in education respectively.

Dr Dayal said the Chief Minister was planning to privatise the Punjab State Electricity Board which would lead to hike in charges.


Dal Khalsa holds training camp
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, May 19
The Dal Khalsa held a two-day political training camp for its members to understand Sikh culture and imbibe its, spirit. The message to the youth was to give politics a positive turn and discover the spirit within.

The Dal Khalsa, which drew the world’s attention with the hijacking of a Srinagar-bound Indian Airlines flight in 1981 in protest against the arrest of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and the killing of 20 Sikhs at Chowk Mehta, has again announced its plans to achieve the right to self-determination of the Sikhs in a democratic way.

In a 10-point questionnaire that was made the basis of the discussion, the Dal Khalsa objected to the RSS calling the Sikhs “Keshadari Hindus”, entry of Hindi newspapers in Punjab, controversies surrounding Sikh institutions, distribution of drugs and liquor during elections by Sikh candidates, misuse of POTA against the minorities and political dissidence, besides other issues.

The Dal Khalsa resolved to observe the martyrdom day of Bhindranwale on June 6. It also discussed the issue of the proposed unity move. It also discussed the issue of the proposed unity move. It observed that since the elections were approaching, Mr Parkash Singh Badal and Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra had decided to reunite to “mock the electorate”. Blaming the SAD for betraying Sikh interests, the Dal Khalsa stated that a single party with a monopoly in Sikh politics was working in “connivance” with “saffron powers” to damage Sikh tenets.

Indo-Pak relations and the peace initiatives taken by both countries also came up for discussion. The Dal Khalsa was of the opinion that both countries would have to build confidence if they were to resolve contentious issues, including the core issue of Kashmir. It was felt that the strengthening of trade and economic cooperation between both should be the foremost task.

The gathering felt the need for the promulgating the Sikh personal law and also reviving the Sikh Anand Marriage Act. An appeal was made to the leadership for reciprocating on the proposal of Pakistan for allowing Sikhs to pay obeisance at Kartarpur Sahib without a visa.

The government’s decision to open casinos in Punjab was opposed. Capt Amarinder Singh was criticised for ignoring Sikh and women representatives in the recently reconstituted Punjab State Human Rights Commission.

Dr Gurdharshan Singh Dhillon, former head of the Institute of Sikh Studies, addressing the camp explained as to what role the Dal Khalsa could play in the present scenario. He was of the view that youth should not shy away from politics. Rather they should joint it for the welfare of the community.

On the concluding day, Dal Khalsa leaders, including Mr Satnam Singh Paonta Sahib, Mr Charanjit Singh Dhami, Mr Tirlochan Singh, Mr Iqbal Singh Mann, Mr Randhir Singh, Sarbjit Singh Ghuman and Mr Shinder Pal Singh (all executive committee members) briefed the press.

Taking exception to the manner in which the Sikh institutions had been involved into one controversies after another, Dal Khalsa secretary for Political Affairs Kanwar Pal Singh said with incompetent religio-political leadership, the Sikhs were heading nowhere.

He expressed outrage over the annual report published by Home Ministry stating the “ISI had established training camps for Sikh youth in Muscat, Thailand, Dubai and Iran for reviving militancy in Punjab”. He said such reports were meant for maligning the image of the Sikhs worldwide.


MC contractors ‘violating’ EPF Act
Our Correspondent

Ropar, May 19
The EPF Act is being violated by contractors at various government departments and municipal councils.

This was revealed in an investigation by the correspondent.

According to the correspondent, most of the contractors working in municipal councils and government departments such as the Building and Roads (B&R) and PWD Department were not depositing the provident fund (PF) of the employees working under them.

As per the EPF Act any contractor who employs more than 20 labourers, irrespective of the fact that he works for some private, government or semi-government organisation, has to deposit the PF in the accounts of the employees.

Moreover, the said contractors do not even have a permanent EPF account number.

The contractors by not depositing the PF were not just cheating the employees but also making the government department liable under the Act.

As per the guidelines issued to all Regional Provident Fund Commissioners if the contractor working for a government, semi-government or private organisation fails to deposit the PF of his workers then the department for which he is working will be considered as the principal employer and made liable for the payment of the PF.

Many of the daily-wage earners working at BBMB were not even provided the social cover mandatory under the EPF Act.

The Regional Provident Fund Commissioner (Compliance), Mr S.K. Aggarwal, when asked about the violation of the EPF Act at various government departments gave an assurance in this regard.


PSEB richer by Rs 1.50 cr
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 19
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) may buy power from Central Generating Agencies during the coming paddy season with the money collected from consumers.

The Board has collected Rs 1.50 crore in the first few days of the Incentive-based Pre-paid Scheme launched by it in all zones. The scheme was launched for the South Zone by PSEB Chairman Y.S. Ratra today.

Sources say that the PSEB aims at collecting Rs 200 crore from the scheme. The PSEB is offering an incentive of 4.5 per cent interest to the consumers depositing estimated bill amounts in advance with it.

Speaking at the function held to launch the scheme the Board Chairman said the objective of the scheme was to create more facilities for consumers. He also highlighted benefits of the scheme. He said under the scheme the consumers would continue to receive bills detailing the amount deposited, deductions and the balance and the interest accrued on their deposits.

South Zone Chief Engineer N.K. Dharmani disclosed that 1256 consumers had deposited Rs 50.75 lakh under the scheme today in all four Circles of the South Zone under this scheme.


No respite from intrusion bids
Anirudh Gupta

FEROZEPORE: The confidence-building measures by the Indian and Pakistani Governments notwithstanding, there is no respite in infiltration bids by Pakistani intruders.

Several such cases have been reported from the Ferozepore sector in the past couple of months. Mohammed Younus, son of Jumma Khan, a resident of Sialkot in Pakistan, was apprehended by BSF jawans on April 13, near the Khemkaran sector; Mohammed Altaf, son of Mira Baksh, a resident of Kasur district in Pakistan, was captured on April 18 from the Ferozepore sector; Zayad Ali, also a resident of Kasur, was arrested near the Mamdot border on April 19; Deen Mohammed, son of Abdi Mohammed, a resident of Chaman village in Pakistan, was nabbed near the Amarkot area on April 21; Zuber, son of Kamil, a resident of Kohat in Pakistan, was arrested near zero line in the Ferozepore sector on April 23, while Asif, son of Majid, was arrested while crossing the border on May 10.

The BSF apprehended a Pakistani intruder, Amanat Al, son of Safi Mohammed, a resident of Maratiya village in Kasur district of Pakistan, last week. The intruder was arrested near the Masta Gatti border outpost in the Mamdot sector. During the first quarter of the year, Nazir Ali, son of Mohammed Ali; Rasool Mohammed Sagar, son of Din Mohammed, a resident of Kasur; Mohammed Ali, son of Noor Mohammed (all Pakistani nationals), were apprehended by the BSF in the sensitive border zone.

The security agencies apprehend that it could be the game-plan of the ISI and other anti-national agencies in Punjab.

According to highly placed sources in the BSF, five tunnels had been detected and several infiltration bids foiled so far. The first tunnel was discovered by the BSF on March 12, 1997, when the BSF was clearing “sarkanda” ahead of the border fencing in the Channa border outpost area. The second tunnel was detected on January 23, 1998, again in the Channa border outpost area which was 182 feet in length and 155 feet towards Pakistani side from cobra fencing.

The third tunnel was detected near the Kamalpur border outpost while the fourth was found on March 1, 2001, in the Chountra border outpost area, just 15 yards from border fencing.

BSF officials said in order to check intrusion, highly sophisticated ground sensor equipment was being procured.


Billa accused of collecting funds in temple’s name
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 19
The Durgiana Temple Committee today accused Mr Surinder Kumar Billa, president, All-India Hindu Shiv Sena, for collecting funds in the name of the temple and misusing his security.

In a letter written to the Chief Minister and the DGP, Mr Surinder Arjun, secretary, Durgiana Temple Committee, alleged that the activities of Mr Billa were found to be ‘suspicious’ and hence his security should be withdrawn at the earliest.

However, Mr Billa alleged that the pro-Congress committee, which forcibly took over the management with the help of the police on October 6 last year, wanted to “eliminate” him as he had been highlighting irregularities committed by members of the committee. He showed the official record, which showed that he was on the hit-list of the ISI, Babbar Khalsa International and Khalistan Commando Force (Panjwar).

Mr Billa alleged that the Durgiana Temple Committee had become a den of corruption. He claimed that he had enough proof with regard to the embezzlement of temple funds.

On the other hand, Mr Arjun, who is also secretary, District Congress Committee, said he was already conducting a probe into the “dubious” activities of Mr Billa, which would be completed within a week. He claimed that the committee had received complaints against Mr Billa.

However, Mr Billa claimed that he had never collected funds in the name of the temple.


Temple panel begins fast over land row
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, May 19
The 21-member Thakurdwara Bairagian Action Committee today began a relay fast in the temple complex to press for a public apology from the officials who had allegedly violated the 'maryada’ of the temple by lathicharging the followers in the temple on May 9. The committee also sought the withdrawal of cases registered against the followers and handing over of the nine kanals seventeen marlas land to the temple.

The fast site was behind the signboard which had become a bone of contention between the temple followers and PUDA officials.

The signboard proclaimed that the old Civil Hospital land belonged to the temple while PUDA officials had removed it with force, saying that the land was transferred to PUDA on May 10, 2002 and a mutation of the same was sanctioned in its favour in June last year.

However, the authorities have denied any lath charge or entry of policemen in the temple.

Two cases were registered on May 10 under Sections 186, 353, 447, 506, 148 and 149, IPC, on complaints of the AE, PUDA, Mr Harjit Singh Arora, and the SDO Enforcement, PUDA Mr Balwant Singh Bajwa, against the mob led by a Congressman and some BJP leaders on charges of obstructing a public servant in the discharge of duty.

Meanwhile, the Thakurdwara lost its first legal battle when the application, filed by it in the court of the Additional Civil Judge, Senior Division, seeking a stay order on the sale etc of the property, was dismissed yesterday.

Mr Ram Saroop Arora, a member of the action committee, today declared that the Thakurdwara would go up to the highest court for justice. In its plea, the Thakurdwara had also prayed for restraining the defendants from interfering and disposing of the Thakurdwara property.


Punjab moots drastic changes in public transport policy
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 19
The Punjab Government plans to make drastic changes in its public transport policy. Sources said the government wanted to remove all restrictions on the plying of private airconditioned and deluxe buses.

A decision in this connection is expected to be taken tomorrow at a meeting of the Cabinet subcommittee on fiscal matters. The issue was discussed at an earlier meeting also but any decision was deferred after a minister having high stakes in the transport business objected to making such a change.

Sources said the government felt that anyone who wanted to ply deluxe or airconditioned coaches should be allowed to do so. Permits in this connection should be issued to all those ready to pay the requisite fee to ply such buses.

Another major proposal expected to be taken up at the meeting was regarding an increase in the special road tax from Rs 5.18 paise per seat per km to Rs 5.75. The government also wanted to increase the existing special road tax of Rs 2,500 on trucks to Rs 5,000.


Truck operators hold protest
Tribune News Service

Rampura Phul, May 19
In a significant development, hundreds of truck operators, along with members of various employees, trade organisations and a section of Congress leaders, held a procession here today to lodge their protest against Mr Gurdev Singh, a resident of Gill Kalan village, taking over as president of the local Truck Union without any election.

The protesters, who raised slogans against Mr Bharat Inder Singh Chahal, media adviser to Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, the police and civil authorities for their alleged role in making Mr Gurdev Singh president of the Truck Union, announced that they would set up a separate union till the election of the executive body of the parent truck union were held in a democratic manner.

Mr Gurdev Singh was made president of the local truck union as “unanimous choice” on May 17 at a function organised here amidst heavy police deployment. A significant section of truck operators boycotted the function, alleging the Congress government had “imposed its own man” as president of the union. Mr Gurdev Singh is father of a close confidant of Capt Amarinder Singh.

Yesterday, the truck operators, who have started mobilising support from all sections, staged a dharna to lodge their protest against the “highhandedness” of the Congress government. Mr Jagdev Singh, a senior Congress leader, said he would quit party post if the election for the executive of the Truck Union was not held in a proper manner.

Mr Tarsem Sharma, a truck operator, who along with senior Congress leader Ajaib Kuku, has been leading the agitation for the past few days, said at the truck operators would go from village to village to garner support for their cause.

He alleged police personnel had tried to uproot a tent pitched by them. Threats were being issued to truck operators for a separate truck union by some Congress leaders and government functionaries, he said.

Mr Devinder Attri, Station House Officer (SHO), when contacted, said the truck operators had held their demonstration without any “interference” by the police under a pepul tree and had not pitched a tent.


Nod to residential areas’ conversion into commercial ones
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, May 19
The Jalandhar Municipal Corporation has finally given nod for the conversion of residential areas along Bhagwan Mahavir Marg, from the BMC chowk to HMV chowk and certain other major parts of the city into commercial areas.

The move, which is seen as an outcome of the lobbying by a group of builders and owners of illegally commercial complexes along the road, however, would take practical shape after a final decision by the Punjab Local Bodies Department. The Punjab Local Bodies Department had sought the views of the civic body authorities on the issue and the latter, it was learnt, has given a green signal to the plan. “This will be part of the voluntary disclosure scheme (VDS) envisaged by the department under which even the owners of illegally constructed buildings would be able to get their structures regularised after paying the due charges,” Mr Surinder Mahey, Mayor said. He maintained that since it was not possible to demolish such buildings the MC was planning to regularise these to earn more revenue. “Under the scheme a change in the land use fee would also be required to be deposited by those intending to convert their residential premises into commercial ones,” Mr Mahey said.

Apart from the BMC-HMV road stretch, a major part of Model Town Market was also being included in the proposed scheme.


SSP dares Samra
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, May 19
The much publicised CBI case against two judicial officers on the basis of a complaint filed by the Kartarpur-based Dr Gurvinder Singh Samra, who had also levelled serious allegations against the Jalandhar SSP, took a new turn today, with the SSP, Mr Varinder Kumar, challenging Dr Samra to prove his allegations against him or face legal action.

Refuting the allegations levelled by Dr Samra against him and some other judicial and police officials, Mr Varinder Kumar claimed that Dr Samra had turned vindictive against him after he started taking action in about 15 cases registered against Dr Samra.

Interestingly, Mr Swaran Singh Bal, father-in-law of Dr Samra’s Canada-based sister, today created a flutter during his telephonic talk with mediapersons. He alleged that Dr Samra had even “usurped” six acres belonging to him at Chhajalwadi village, near Jandiala Guru, with the help of two senior IPS officers.

Meanwhile, seven more alleged victims surfaced today and narrated how Dr Samra allegedly duped them of lakhs after promising “magic cure” for their maladies.


Dental college told to refund Rs 2 lakh
Our Correspondent

Mansa, May 19
The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Mansa, has directed Mr Naginder Singh Harika, Managing Director, Khalsa Rural Dental College, and Hospital for Women, Nangal Kalan, to refund Rs 2 lakh with 12 per cent interest each to Ms Manmeet Kaur and Ms Maninderjit Kaur, of Ludhiana district. The forum has also awarded Rs 2000 as cost each to the two students. According to the order Rs 2 lakh taken from each of the two students by the dental college as security in July, 2000 with a promise to admit them in BDS course. The complainants requested to the college but it neither refunded the security nor admitted them in the BDS course. Career of the complainants was affected.

The complainants had demanded Rs 2 lakh back with Rs 70,000 interest and travelling expenses of Rs 7500 to each, Rs 50,000 for mental and physical torture and Rs 1 lakh each for the loss to their career. The dental college has been ordered by the forum to refund Rs 1 lakh to Ms Sonali Soin of Ferozepore Cantonment with interest at the rate of 12 per cent. The forum has also awarded cost of Rs 2000 to the above students. Rs 1 lakh was taken from the above student by the above Managing Director as security as the student got admission in the dental college on the basis of 1998 PMET result against free seats. The student later migrated to Government Dental College of Patiala as per the order of January 25, 2001 of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Managing Director of the dental college failed to refund the security of the student which led to the complaint.


Charges against Ahluwalia framed
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 19
A court here framed charges today against former Punjabi University Vice-Chancellor Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia and former student leader Bhupinder Singh Cheema in a case of attack on varsity’s sociology teacher Dr Harwinder Singh Bhatti.

Charges against Dr Ahluwalia have been framed under Section 120 (B) of the IPC. He has been accused of conspiracy of attack on the university’s teacher by Bhupinder Singh Cheema.

The court today framed charges against Cheema under Section 307 of the IPC and 120 (B) and 323 (for causing simple hurt). The court ruled that Cheema had conspired with the former Vice-Chancellor to do an illegal act. It said following this Cheema had fired at the teacher intending to kill him. It also ruled that on May 5 last year Cheema had fired at the teacher and attacked him along with other assailants.

Certain teachers opposed to Ahluwalia had formed a Joint Action Committee. Mr Bhatti was standing outside the gate of the university opposite the Urban Estate when the Joint Action Committee was forcing the closure of the varsity gates. Cheema attacked him alongwith a few others.


Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 19
Coming down heavily on the Punjab National Bank (PNB) authorities for unnecessarily dragging a matter pertaining to the release of fix deposit receipts, Mr Justice Viney Mittal of the high court dismissed their petition after imposing a fine of Rs 10,000.

In their petition, the authorities had sought directions for deleting the bank’s name from the array of parties in a suit filed by Phillaur resident Balbir Kaur. Going into the background of the case, the petitioners had contended that Balbir Kaur, in her suit, had sought directions for restraining the bank from releasing the receipts to a defendant. Instead of filing a reply, the bank filed a petition seeking the deletion of its name, counsel had submitted. After the application was dismissed by the trial court, the authorities moved the high court.

Mr Justice Mittal ruled: “This case is a classic example of how the provisions of law and proceedings are misused for delaying the free flow of justice”.

The Judge added: “The most unfortunate part is that delaying tactics have been adopted by PNB which is a nationalised bank and an instrument of the state.... It is apparent that by filing the application before the trial court and then taking up the matter to the high court through the revision petition, the bank has made efforts to delay the proceedings. Since the bank has chosen to unnecessary drag the matter, the revision petition is dismissed with Rs 10,000 costs”.

Bail sought

Taking up a petition filed by MLA Dr Rattan Singh Ajnala for the grant of anticipatory bail in a first information report registered by the Amritsar Vigilance Bureau under the Prevention of Corruption Act, the high court fixed May 21 as the next date of hearing.

Accusing the “present government” of having adopted a revengeful attitude towards its opponents, particularly the leaders of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Dr Ajnala, in another petition, had added that the authorities feared exposure by them.

Giving details, he asserted that the “government had adopted a policy of arresting them on trumped up charges on the pretext of weeding out corruption and was going out of the way to discredit and demoralise them”.

Referring to two writ petitions filed by Dr Ajnala regarding the registration of cases against former Congress ministers and revamping of the Vigilance Bureau, counsel had added that the petitioner had been raising his voice against the “malfunctioning” and “partisan attitude” despite the prevailing atmosphere of intimidation and fear.

Notice issued

Taking up a petition filed by the Shiv Sena (Hindustan) for directions to the state of Punjab, the Central Board of Secondary Education and other respondents to streamline the working of private education institutes, particularly the ones in Ludhiana, a Division Bench of the high court issued notice of motion for July 3.

In their petition, Sena members had submitted that hefty amounts were being charged for admission to pre-nursery, nursery and other classes while meritorious students were being denied admission.

Minister’s order

The state of Punjab, in a significant development, claimed that an order passed by a minister on a file was no order unless it had been authenticated by the Governor. The statement was made by state counsel during the hearing on a bunch of petitions filed by over 100 handicapped candidates working in the Department of Rural Development and Panchayat.


Fresh warrants against Bihar MP

Patiala, May 19
A court here today issued non-bailable warrants again against Motihari MP Radhe Mohan allegedly for kidnapping a minor girl from Bihar. The warrants were issued for June 3. Earlier the warrants were issued in the case against the MP for today.

The Kotwali police station added the name of the MP in the FIR registered against Chunnu and others charged with kidnapping . The MP’s name was added in the FIR after a police party which went to Motihari constituency to retrieve the girl, returned empty handed. The police party had claimed that the MP was shielding the culprits in the case and that the police was told first to withdraw the case against the accused. TNS


Judicial remand for EO
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, May 19
Mr Surinder Kumar, former Executive Officer (EO) of the Sirhind Municipal Council, and now posted as EO Mahalpur MC, who was arrested by the district Vigilance department allegedly for accepting a bribe of Rs 50,000, was sent in judicial custody up to May 31 by Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) Neelam Arora after the expiry of his police remand. The Vigilance Department had sought further remand but the CJM sent him in judicial custody.

Balbir Singh of Attewali village had lodged a complaint with the Vigilance Department that Mr Kumar had taken Rs 50,000 from him for transferring land of a proposed school building. However, even then he did not get his work done and refused to refund the money.


Judicial complex inaugurated
Our Correspondent

Mansa, May 19
Mr Justice N.K. Sodhi of the Punjab and Haryana High Court inaugurated a judicial complex at Mansa yesterday. Mr Justice J.S. Kehar of the high court was the guest of honour.

Mr Justice Sodhi said the courts were the temple of justice. He said judicial officers would now be able to dispense justice from a comfortable building.

Mr Justice Kehar congratulated residents of the district for the judicial complex and asked the Chief Engineer (B and R) to complete the chambers of advocates at the earliest possible. Mr Lakhbir Singh, District and Sessions Judge, Bathinda and Mansa, said with the inauguration of the judicial complex, a long-standing demand of the people of the district had been met.

Members of the Bar associations of Mansa and Bathinda, and judicial officers of both districts were present on the occasion.


Illegal detention by police alleged
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 19
Ashwani Kumar, a resident of Deviwali street near Jora Papal area here, in an affidavit issued to media today alleged that he was kept in illegal captivity by some CIA officials.

In a letter to SSP Narinderpal Singh, he alleged that a sub-inspector along with an assistant sub-inspector of the CIA and others had raided his house on May 7 and kept him in illegal custody till May 12 without any reason. He alleged that he had been released after his brother Rameshwar paid Rs 25,000 to them through a mediator. He said the officials had earlier picked up his brothers Anil Kumar and Ajay Kumar on May 5 who were later released with the intervention of some respectable persons of the area.

Mr Vaneet Mahajan, vice-president of the All-India Anti-Corruption Morcha, and NGO, alleged that the police was harassing the members of Ashwani Kumar’s family for more money.


Seminar on challenges before police
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 19
The Punjab IPS Officers Association will organise a two-day seminar on “Challenges before Punjab Police — Terrorism and Aftermath” at the northern region headquarters of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) here from May 22.

According to Mr Rajdeep Singh Gill, president of the association, important issues like women and the police, corruption in society and services, police and the media, modernisation of the Punjab police and human rights would be discussed during the seminar.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh would inaugurate the seminar while Mr K.P.S. Gill, a former DGP of Punjab, would deliver the keynote address on challenges posed by terrorism. Justice J.S. Verma would speak on human rights and the police while Mr Tejendra Khanna, a former Lieutenant-Governor of Delhi, would speak on corruption in society and services.

Mr Hari Jaisingh, a former Editor of The Tribune, would speak on Media and the police while Mr A.A. Siddiqui, Additional Director-General of Police, Law and Order, Punjab, would talk about modernisation of the Punjab police.


Squatters detain Jan Shatabdi for 20 minutes
Tribune News Service

Rampura Phul, May 19
Hundreds of residents of this town, including activists of different political parties and trade organisations, today detained Jan Shatabdi Intercity Express for about 20 minutes to press upon the authorities concerned to make the train halt at the local railway station.

Hundreds of residents, who had reached the railway platform in the morning, squatted on the tracks to stop the train that runs daily between Delhi and Bathinda. They detained the train for about 20 minutes.

The residents demanded that as the town was the biggest centre for tea trade in the region, commuters faced a lot of difficulty in making trips to different locations as Jan Shatabdi Intercity Express did not halt here.

The residents submitted a memorandum to the local Station Master, Mr O.P. Verma. They announced that they would detain the train daily till the authorities met their demand.

Mr Verma, when contacted, said he had informed the higher authorities about the demand of the citizens.


Action sought against Dalit leader
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 19
Some panchayats, political and employees’ associations have urged the authorities concerned to take legal action against the state president of a Dalit organisation for allegedly being instrumental in the registration of a “false” case of murder against some residents of Mehma Sawai village.

The panchayats and these associations alleged that the president of the Dalit organisation had instigated the wife of a youth of Mehma Sawai village, who (the youth) died in an accident in April, to give false information to the police. They said on the complaint of the wife of the youth, the police registered a case of murder.

Members of the panchayats and office-bearers of the associations alleged that the state president of the Dalit association wanted to “extract” money from those who were booked by the police.

They alleged that after the registration of the case, the said leader tried to intervene for effecting a patch-up among the wife of the youth and those booked by the police. They alleged that the leader asked the alleged accused that if some money was paid to him, he could arrange a compromise among the parties.

They further alleged that on the one hand the leader claimed to be the president of an association protecting the rights of the Dalits, on the other he was “responsible” for the registration of a murder case against six persons five of whom belonged to Scheduled Caste.

The associations and the panchayats had written letters to the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, DIG (Faridkot Range) and SSP, Bathinda, and urged them to take action against he Dalit leader.

As many as 15 panchayats of the area have also passed resolutions against the Dalit leader and have urged the authorities to take legal action against him. The sarpanches and members of the panchayats had signed the resolutions.

Besides, the sarpanches and panches others who signed the letters sent to the Chief Minister and others included Mr Jasmel Singh, former MLA and former president of SC/ST cell of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, Mr Baldev Singh, president, SC/BC cell of the DCC, Mr Gurjant Singh, president, SC/BC cell of the block Congress, Mr Jaskaran Singh, president, human rights cell of the block Congress, Mr Dogar Singh, president, Punjab Palledar Union, Mr Jhanda Singh, block president of the Class IV Employees Union and Mr Hira Lal, president of the Galla Mazdoor Union.


Reasi Fort closed to general public
S.P. Sharma
Tribune News Service

REASI: The historic 286-year-old fort of the Dogra rulers, which is a protected monument, and many other government buildings in this small town have been declared out of bounds for the general public as these have been occupied by the Army and security forces which are deployed here to fight terrorists.

The fort overlooking the town, which is perhaps the only place for the local people for an outing, has been made out of bounds as a communication centre of the Army has been established in it.

The sprawling garden around the fort is deserted and a couple of men of the Floriculture Department are allowed to go there to take care of the plants. A subedar of the Army said that no one was allowed to visit the fort and neither he was in a position to describe the condition of the monument.

The fort has a history behind it as Raja Gulab Singh found the place strategically important after the annexation of Reasi in 1817 and constructed the fort.

Among other buildings occupied by the security forces is the boys hostel of the higher secondary school where the CRPF has established its camp. The hostel was constructed some years ago for the students of the interior areas of the tehsil who came here for studies.

The office of the sub-divisional police officer has been set up in a portion of the hostel.

The Army has occupied the PWD rest house, which was earlier perhaps the only place for the visiting officials to stay. The office building of the Agriculture Department near the main bazaar has also been occupied by the Army.

The people have been complaining that many schools and other public buildings in the interior areas have been occupied by the security forces.


Dr Singla retires from contest
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, May 19
Dr Surinder Singla, secretary of the Punjab unit of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and a candidate for the elections to the Punjab Medical Council (PMC), today announced his retirement from the elections in protest against the voting right being provided to only 7,468 doctors instead of the nearly 34,000 doctors registered with the PMC.

Besides, the local unit of the IMA, sticking to its stand of boycotting the PMC elections, today returned all blank ballot papers of its members (voters) to the Returning Officer (RO). The unit also forwarded the letter relating to the retirement of Dr Surinder Singla from the contest to the RO. Dr Singla is a member of the local IMA unit.

Disclosing this here today, Dr B.L. Jindal and Dr Nirpal Singh, patron and president, respectively, of the local unit of the IMA, said this action had been taken in protest against the non-enrolment of about 26,000 doctors in the electoral rolls for the PMC poll and some alleged irregularities in the PMC election process.


Cleaning of Harike wetland on
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, May 19
The areas of the Beas and the Sutlej with Harike and its satellite wetlands can add to the eco-tourism potential of Punjab, and the scanty forest and wildlife wealth of the state can be increased by developing vast riverine systems and species-rich wetlands, said Mr Rajan Kashyap, Chief Secretary to the Punjab Government, who visited the Harike wetland today to take stock of the ongoing process of the removal of water hyacinth from the wetland.

Mr Kashyap said the removal of the weed would take its own time. He said the government would use biotech mechanics for the speedy removal of the killer weed and restore Harike wetland to its glory. He said the condition of the wetland had improved. He said the Wetland International had agreed to provide all sorts of assistance for the development of the wetland.

About reports of encroachment on the government land near the wetland, Mr Kashyap said the government had taken cognisance of the reports. He said that the matter would be resolved in the course of the law.


Land freed from illegal occupation
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 19
The Punjab Forest Department today freed 6.5 acres of prime land from its illegal occupant in Lang village, near here, which had been in his illegal possession since the past 25 years.

A team of the Forest Department and a police force today took the possession of the land. The team, which was led by the Divisional Forest Officer did not face any resistance.

The Divisional Forest Officer said the evacuation orders in this regard had been passed by the Sub Divisional Magistrate recently after it was found that the occupant Niranjan Singh had tampered with the record in the case. He said the Forest Department put up concrete pillars along with barbed wire today and had also planted a number of plants on the boundaries of the land. He said the land would be taken up for plantation during the rainy season. Earlier in a similar drive recently, the department had got 20 acres of prime forest land at Majal Khurd village vacated from the possession of seven families. He said this another 5 acre of land was got vacated at Sidhuwal village situated along the Bhakra main line canal.


50 coolers burnt in godown fire
Tribune News Service

Rampura Phul, May 19
As many as 50 desert coolers worth more than Rs 1 lakh were burnt in the fire which broke out in a godown located in Patiala Mandi here this afternoon.

Information gathered by TNS revealed that the fire broke out in the godown when it was closed for lunch.

Though it is suspected that the fire broke out due to short-circuiting, the authorities concerned are looking into the exact cause.

The people who gathered at the spot after seeing smoke coming out from the godown, broke open the shutter and took out the gas cylinder which was lying there and prevented a big mishap. The people also took out some other material from the godown.

Sources said the flames were brought under control within half an hour of the fire engines being pressed into service.


Jalandhar-Wagah road to be 4-laned
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 19
The Union Government has given the nod for the four-laning of the national highway from Jalandhar to the Wagah border at a cost of Rs 450 crore.

This was stated by Mr Partap Singh Bajwa, Minister for Public Works, here today. He was here to inaugurate work on the widening and strengthening of the 15-km road from Chheharta to Bir Baba Budha Sahib at an estimated cost of Rs 2.5 crore.

Mr Bajwa said the 20-km stretch from Jalandhar to Subhanpur had already been approved and work on it would commence shortly.


Designers to coach RCF engineers
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, May 19
A team of experts of the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, today visited the Rail Coach Factory (RCF) here to train the engineers of the factory about the latest developments in improving the coach interiors in the wake of the recent fire accident on the Frontier Mail, near Ludhiana.

The team led by Manisha Singh will hold a 10-day design awareness workshop and train the engineers about the latest developments in the basic design to improve the coach interiors with emphasis on aesthetics, optimum space utilisation and development of cost-effective safe coaches.

The workshop was inaugurated by RCF General Manager M. Sirejjudin.


Water shortage in 11849 villages
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 19
Realising that 95 per cent of the 12402 villages in Punjab have problems of drinking water, the Punjab Government plans to spend Rs 118.93 crore to provide potable water to approximately 10 lakh persons in rural areas during the current financial year. Mr Jasjit Singh Randhawa, Public Health Minister, said 11849 of the 12402 villages had been identified as problem villages having scarcity of drinking water. Safe drinking water was supplied in 7,847 villages only as of now.


Probe ordered into doctors conduct

Amritsar, May 19
An inquiry has been ordered into a case which involved two doctors at Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital. A woman doctor and a male doctor were allegedly seen in objectionable position when a nurse pushed open door of a room. The matter was reported to Medical Superintendent Dr H.S. Gill. An inquiry was ordered under Dr S.K. Shergill head gynaecology department. OC


Recruitment rally
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 19
An official spokesman of the Punjab Sainik Welfare Department said here today that a recruitment rally would be held at Ferozepore (118 Engineers Regiment) from June 16 to June 29 for enrolment of soldiers (general duty) — Sikh (Mazhbi & Ramdasia), Maratha and other Indian citizens (OIC) — from amongst sons and brothers of serving or retired Bombay Sappers, sons of widows of Bombay Sappers, personnel and sons of serving a retired personnel of other regiments and corps.


Water shortage delays cotton sowing
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 19
Even as the acute shortage of canal water last month has caused a delay in the sowing of cotton crop in the state, the Agriculture Department has pressed its field staff into service to motivate farmers to complete the sowing by the end of this month.

The field staff have also been asked to motivate the farmers to shift from paddy to cotton so that the target of bringing 6.40 lakh hectares under cotton crop in the current year, is met. Last year, cotton was sown only in 4.5 lakh hectares and the production was 10.83 lakh bales.

Official sources said on finding that cotton crop could not be sown in a large area till the end of April, the state Agriculture Department has urged the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, to make arrangements for an adequate supply of canal water in the cotton belt comprising the seven districts of Bathinda, Muktsar, Ferozepore, Faridkot, Moga, Mansa and Sangrur so that sowing could be completed by the end of May and the crop could be saved from bollworm attack.

As per the information gathered by TNS from the field, only 2.95 lakh hectares could be brought under cotton sowing till May 14. Though cotton sowing was on in full swing, the erratic canal water supply had been embarrassing the farmers. The acute shortage of canal water during the prime time of cotton sowing had the plans of the Agriculture Department to save the crop from bollworm.

A senior functionary of the Agriculture Department while talking to TNS today pointed out that the production target for the current year was 19.51 lakh bales. If all went well, the target of total area to be brought under cotton would be met. But if the supply of canal water remained erratic, about six lakh hectares would be brought under cotton crop this year.

He pointed out that cotton could not be sown in fields which were irrigated with underground water as it was unfit.


4 IT Commissioners transferred
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, May 19
The Central Board of Direct Taxes has transferred four Additional Income Tax Commissioners from Punjab, including Mr M.P. Singh of Phagwara IT range, who goes to West Bengal from the north-west region.

Other officers to be transferred from the north-west region, include Mr G.S. Sahota, Mr R.L. Chhanalia and Mr P.K. Shrivastva. While the first two go to West Bengal, the third goes to UP (W).


Life term for rape, murder of step-daughter

Moga, May 19
The Additional Sessions Judge, Moga, Mr Jagmohan Singh Chawla, has sentenced Darshan Singh of Bhinder Kalan here to life imprisonment for committing rape and then murder of her three-year-old step-daughter and also imposed a fine of Rs 9,000 on him.

On October 31, 1999, the accused’s wife Swaran Kaur had gone to attend a bhog ceremony in the village and took her elder daughter with her, leaving behind the youngest three-year-old girl at home.

When she returned, she found that her husband had raped the little girl.

According to the prosecution, when she raised the alarm, Darshan Singh locked the room and later murdered the girl and then cremated the body.

Kept under lock for 10 days, Swaran Kaur was given food but not allowed to move out of the house.

On November 10, 1999, when she found her husband under the influence of liquor, she managed to escape and reached her village, Galib Kalan, and narrated the whole story to her father and mother, who later lodged a complaint with the police. PTI


Accused not arrested
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 19
Resentment prevails amongst a section of residents of Chak Ram Singh Walla village, near here, as the district police has not arrested the accused in a case registered after the death of a girl of their village.

Sources said the girl, Karamjit Kaur, a resident of the village, was married to Gurpal Singh of Joga village, of this district in 1996 and her in-laws had allegedly been harassing her for bringing inadequate dowry. She had shared her apprehensions with her relatives and had feared that she might be killed for bringing inadequate dowry.

The sources said her in-laws allegedly poisoned her on night of May 13.

The police registered a case under Section 306, IPC (Abetment of Suicide), rather than murder, allegedly under pressure.

Police sources said that no arrests had been made so far.


Punjab Forest Corpn ex-chief in custody
Our Correspondent

Barnala, May 19
Mr Bharpur Singh Dhanaula, former Chairman, Punjab Forest Corporation, and Akali Dal leader was produced before Mr Jagnahar Singh, Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Barnala at his residence on Sunday evening (May 18).

He was remanded in judicial custody till May 31 by the court. Mr Bharpur Singh Dhanaula was arrested on Saturday.

According to sources, Mr Bharpur Singh Dhanaula and his accomplice Mr Surjeet Singh had been booked under Sections 18/61/85 of the NDPS Act by Dhanaula police station.

Sources added that Bharpur Singh Dhanaula and Surjeet Singh were travelling by a car when the police allegedly recovered 1 kg of opium tied to the waist of Mr Dhanaula and 250 gm from the possession of Mr Surjeet Singh.

Mr Bharpur Singh Dhanaula had contested February 2002 Punjab Assembly election from Dhanaula Assembly Constituency as rebel Shiromani Akali Dal nominee against Mr Gobind Singh Longowal, former Punjab Minister and now an MLA, Mr Dhanaula were expelled from the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) for six years by Mr Parkash Singh Badal Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) chief and former Punjab Chief Minister.


Gang of looters busted, 6 held
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 19
With the arrest of six armed persons the district police today busted a gang of looters active in the area. They were nabbed from Dhapai area in Islamabad where they were planning some looting.

They have been identified as Deepak Kumar, Manish Kumar (both brothers) of Bhagtanwala, Ajay Kumar and Avtar Singh of Dhapai, Bikramjit Singh of Deviwali Gali and Jagdish Khanna of Gali Gandawali.

The police has seized a .32-bore revolver along with three cartridges, two pistols of .315 bore along with five rounds, one .12 bore pistol with four cartridges from them. The police also recovered gold jewellery weighing about 41 tolas, 1 kg of silver jewellery, 20 televisions, seven CD players, 40 gas cylinders, stolen vehicles and mobile phones from them.

The police officials claimed that as many as 13 criminal cases under various sections of the IPC had been registered against them.


Chemist shop owner held

Amritsar, May 19
Shamsher Singh of Chheharta who has a chemist shop at Khasa 13 km on the Amritsar Attari road from here was arrested allegedly for possessing intoxicating drugs.

A case was registered under Sections 21-22-61-85 of the NDPS Act at Chheharta police station. The accused was nabbed at a naka near Sifti dairy on the Amritsar-Attari road. The police seized 4600 capsules of Dexavon, 2000 capsules of parmodex, 3500 tablets of microtel, 250 tablets of nitron-10 and 100 injections of norphin.

In another case the police nabbed four persons Raghubir Singh of Nawan kot, Dev Raj of Sahai Sant Ram, Birbal of Wariam Singh colony and Ramesh Kumar of Katra Khazana for gambling and seized Rs 2260 from them. OC


Booked for minor daughter’s rape
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, May 19
A man allegedly raped his minor daughter at Bhumbotar village near Talwara in Hoshiarpur district late last night. The victim alleged that finding her alone her father forced her to fields and raped her after gagging her with a piece of cloth. She alleged that her father was drunk.

In the morning she narrated the incident to her uncle who took her to the Talwara police station where a case was registered. The Talwara police maintained that a case has been registered against and raids were being made to trace the alleged rapist.


Ex-sarpanch held
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 19
The Talwandi Sabo police today arrested Baldev Singh, former Sarpanch of Nathea village, for allegedly stealing forest wood weighing about 50 kg.

Sources said the accused was taking the wood in a tractor-trailer after cutting it. The police also seized illicit liquor from him.

A case under Section 379 of the IPC and Section 61 of the Excise Act was registered.


JET form submission date extended
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 19
Guru Nanak Dev University has extended the last date for submission of forms for the joint entrance test to May 26. The test is held for admission to B. Pharmacy, B.Sc. Honours School (three-year course in botany, chemistry, human genetics, physics and B.Sc. industrial microbiology for the session 2003-2004, said Prof A.J.S. Bhanwar, co-ordinator, JET (UG) science-2003.

The application forms would be accepted without late fee upto May 26 and could be submitted with late fee as per details given in the prospectus, Professor Bhanwar said. The JET would be held on June 6 at Guru Nanak Dev University here, he added.


Short-circuit guts hostel room
Our Correspondent

Patiala, May 19
An accident seemed waiting to happen in the ill-maintained senior boys’ hostel of Government Medical College here and it did take place last night when a fire broke out, probably due to a short-circuit, and completely destroyed a room in the hostel.

Fire-tenders that were called in around midnight were able to douse the flames and prevent the fire from spreading to the entire block of rooms. Sources said an intern living adjoining to the locked room in which the fire occurred was the first to raise the alarm.

Books and furniture lying in the room were completely burnt. The door of the room was found shattered. Students said the door was shattered with a series of bomb blast-like noises that occurred in the room before it was engulfed by the fire.

Students said the wiring in the hostel was very old and that short-circuits and sparks had occurred earlier also. They said as most of them had installed coolers in their rooms, the load on the age-old wiring was intense. They said despite complaints, the matter had not been looked into due to apparent paucity of funds.

The hostel has 280 rooms.

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