Wednesday, May 21, 2003, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



SGPC ex-secretary wants to be summoned at Takht
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 20
Jathedar Akal Takht, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, and Mr Parkash Singh Badal, president Shiromani Akali Dal may find themselves in a fix, even as the former SGPC secretary, Mr Kulwant Singh Randhawa today offered to appear before the Sikh clergy for undergoing ‘tankhah’ (punishment for religious misconduct) allegedly for conniving with Pro-Badal SGPC members.

Mr Randhawa who met Jathedar Vedanti at latter’s residence today confessed that he (Mr Randhawa) was party to the decision taken by the then pro-Badal SGPC executive committee members which had removed Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra and Bhai Ranjit Singh as SGPC chief and Jathedar Akal Takht respectively for the violation of the ‘hukamnama’ (edict) which had directed the warring Akali factions to maintain truce till celebrations of the tercentenary of the birth of Khalsa Panth.

Though Mr Randhawa claimed that the timing of the release of letters written by him to Jathedar Vedanti did not have any political implication, yet it was clear that the move was initiated in wake of the forthcoming unity between Badal and Tohra Akali factions.

The former SGPC secretary alleged that the pro-SGPC executive committee members and members of the general house were responsible for violating the hukamnama. He alleged that Jathedar Vedanti seemed to be under pressure and hence did not want to summon him at Akal Takht.

However, sources said that Jathedar Vedanti did not want to summon Mr Randhawa as such a step would force him to punish Mr Badal and other SGPC members who had violated the hukamnama issued by Bhai Ranjit Singh. Moreover, if Mr Badal had already accepted the veracity of the ‘edict’ issued on December 31, 1998, then all those who were responsible for its violation could be summoned as per ‘maryada’.

The former SGPC secretary claimed that those who had ever violated the ‘hukamnama’ had to pay a heavy price in the past. Quoting the examples, Mr Randhawa said that Balbir Singh Pannu, a former Senior vice-president SGPC, Bibi Jagir Kaur, former SGPC chief, Prof Manjit Singh, Giani Kewal Singh, both former Jathedars and Mr Parkash Singh Badal had already paid the heavy price for the ‘sins’ committed by denigrating the prestige of Takhts and the Sikh clergy.

Mr Randhawa said that he and his family members were under tremendous pressure and had guilty conscience for giving wrong advice to Mr Badal which led to the division of Sikh clergy and the Akali Dal before tercentenary celebrations, amounting to violation of the ‘hukamnama’. He said if Sikh clergy failed to summon him, he would arrange an Akhand Path at Akal Takht for atonement.


Akali unity ‘before panchayat poll’
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, May 20
Mr Manpreet Badal, MLA of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), today revealed that the unity between former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and former SGPC chief Gurcharan Singh Tohra would be finalised well before the panchayat election scheduled for June 29.

Talking to mediapersons here today, Mr Manpreet Badal, who is a nephew of the SAD chief, Mr Badal, said all formalities for forging unity had been completed and it would be announced soon.

Admitting that Mr Badal has recently written a letter to the Akal Takht chief, Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti, for seeking permission to appear before the Takht, Mr Manpreet Badal said the party had given all rights to Mr Badal to take any step regarding the unity.

“All misunderstandings between the two leaders have been removed and now it is just a formality to announce the unity as both Mr Badal and Mr Tohra have got all rights from their respective parties to forge the unity”, Mr Manpreet Badal said, adding that the SAD did not consider the SHSAD as its political rival any more as the latter was a member of the SAD team and the unity would bring together old team-mates.

The unity will definitely affect party prospects in the forthcoming panchayat and parliamentary elections in a positive way”, he said, claiming that his party would win both elections under the leadership of Mr Badal.

He admitted that the structure of the party would be revamped after the formalisation of the unity as SHSAD leaders would also be appropriately accommodated in the party forum.

He denied that senior BJP leaders were behind the unity move and said the unity talks had begun without the mediation of BJP leaders.

He criticised the state government for not making public the basis on which the panchayat segments would be declared reserved and termed the whole process arbitrary as no guidelines were issued.

“Our party will knock at the door of the high court to compel the government to make public the basis on which it had recommended the reservation of panchayats”, he said.

In the forthcoming panchayat and parliamentary elections, Akali unity, anti-incumbency factor and non-performance of the state government would play a significant role to the benefit of the SAD, he said.


Functioning of labour court crippled
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 20
The functioning of the local labour court having jurisdiction over Bathinda, Mansa, Ferozepore, Muktsar and Faridkot districts has been adversely affected as there has been no presiding officer in the court for the past four months.

While brining this fact to the notice of Mr Justice J.S. Kher, Judge, Punjab and Haryana High Court, who is carrying out an inspection of the local courts here, the Judicial Accountability and Human Rights Promotion Organisation urged him to see that a presiding officer was posted in the labour court at the earliest.

The organisation added that litigants of the labour court, who mostly belonged to the poor section of society, had been suffering a lot as they had to come to the court for getting information regarding the next date of hearing of their respective cases. For the past four months, the working of the court had been crippled as no new case was being admitted and pending cases were not being heard.

In a memorandum submitted to Mr Justice Kher today, the organisation pointed out that some of the presiding officers of different subordinate courts postponed the hearing of arguments time and again. Even when the arguments were heard, the judgements or orders were not pronounced in the period stipulated under the law. On account of this, the cases got unduly delayed giving rise to unwarranted suspicions in the minds of the litigants and hence this practice should be discarded. A concerted effort should be made to dispose of all those cases that were more than three years old within a definite time period.

Apart from it, proper decorum in the courts should be ensured and proceedings should be conducted in an orderly manner. Sheds for litigants and other facilities should be ensured on the court’s premises. The presiding officers should be asked to pay due attention to the execution proceedings. All advocates, who had completed 68 years of age, may be designated as senior advocates. The attesting fee for an affidavit for oath commissioners should be enhanced to Rs 10.

Mr N.K. Jeet, general secretary of the organisation, pointed out that apart from these demands, the organisation had also urged Mr Justice Kher to take some corrective measures to reduce the rush in the local Central Jail that was overcrowded. Towards this objective, the Sessions Judges of Bathinda and Mansa may be authorised to conduct a review of the cases of all jail inmates and those undertrials who had spent a term in the jail which was more than or almost equal to the period of imprisonment prescribed for the offences allegedly committed by them, should be released on bail.

Those undertrials, who had not committed any serious offence and were unable to furnish bail bonds, may be released on personal bonds. All judicial officers should adhere to the principle laid down by the Supreme Court that bail was a rule and jail was an exception. They should adopt a liberal approach in bail matters.

The organisation also urged Mr Justice Kher that the Bar Association should be consulted before shifting the local courts to some other place for setting up a new judicial complex in place of the existing complex by demolishing it. Minimum dislocation should be ensured and adequate number of chambers for lawyers should be constructed in the new judicial complex apart from giving space to litigants.

Mr Justice Kher was also urged to make the inspection of lower courts effective. Only one court should be inspected in a single day and before conducting the inspection, views of the Bar Association and litigants should be obtained about the functioning of the court. Apart from it, surprise visits should also be made to the lower courts by the judges of the high court.

The complaints and problems pointed out by the lawyers and the litigants during an inspection should be dealt with in a transparent manner and the complainants should be informed about the results.


Samra to face probe in fraud case
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, May 20
A probe has been ordered into allegations against Dr Gurwinder Singh Samra, who was instrumental in the arrest of suspended Jalandhar District and Sessions Judge R.M. Gupta and UT Judicial Magistrate S.S. Bhardwaj, for allegedly defrauding ICICI Bank of about Rs 40 lakh.

Mr Paramjot Singh, in charge of the ICICI bank branch here, in a complaint to SSP Varinder Kumar, alleged that Dr Samra had borrowed Rs 39.93 lakh from the bank about two years ago to purchase a Mercedes Benz and a Mitsubishi Pajero, but he failed to repay the loan and instead instructed the bank authorities not to release payments of those “postdated” cheques, which were given to bank in advance.

The district police chief has entrusted the inquiry to DSP Charanjit Singh asking him to initiate legal action against Dr Samra. The complainant further alleged that Dr Samra had availed two loans, one of Rs 18 lakh for the purchase of a Mercedes Benz on January 9, 2001 and another of Rs 21.93 lakh for the purchase of a Mitsubishi Pajero on November 30, 2001, and also given 36 and 32 postdated cheques, respectively, towards the equated monthly instalments (EMIs). However, he failed to pay any EMI as all postdated cheques issued by him bounced.

The official also alleged that Dr Samra, contrary to the terms and conditions of the agreement, had fraudulently and dishonestly suppressed the details of the hired vehicles and illegally sold out or parted with the possession of the vehicles to get wrongful gains by fraud.

The complainant demanded registration of cases under Sections 420, 406 and 120-B of the IPC against Dr Samra.


Dual stand on power tariff revision?
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 20
Is the Punjab Government resorting to double standards as far as the revision of power tariff is concerned?

Officially, the state government is for a rational hike in power tariff. The government has conveyed to the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC), which is to pass the tariff revision order either on Monday or the day after, that power customers should not be “burdened financially” for the PSEB’s inefficiency.

Unofficially, the government is, however, keen that the PSEB should be saved from collapsing even if the increase in power tariff is “substantial”. The government’s top brass, including Chief Secretary Rajan Kashyap, Principal Secretary (Finance) K.R. Lakhanpal and PSEB Chairman Y.S. Ratra and others held a lengthy meeting with the commission last evening.

These officials, according to sources, conveyed to the commission that the increase should be in the range of 25 per cent for domestic consumers, 15 to 20 per cent for the industrial sector and about 10 to 15 per cent for other categories. There should be no change in tariff for the agricultural sector. The government wanted that the PSEB should be allowed to mop up about Rs 1,500 crore by way of tariff revision. The PSERC wanted that if the Government wanted that much increase, it must be conveyed officially.

However, the PSERC is of the view that it will be judicious to allow the board to mop up Rs 7,00 crore by way of tariff revision, meaning an increase in the range of 4 to 12 per cent for various categories.

The PSERC is to announce its decision regarding tariff revision on two applications of the PSEB. One application is to review the tariff pertaining to 2002-03 and other for the current financial year.

On the first application, the PSERC is expected to allow the PSEB to mop up Rs 350 crore by revising the power tariff. On the second petition, the PSERC is again inclined to make the board collect Rs 350 crore through revised tariff.

Another major issue that remains to be decided between the PSERC and the government is with regard to the subsidy to be given to the board. The government is committed to paying Rs 950 crore to the board for providing power on concessional rates to the agricultural sector and the weaker sections. The PSERC has written to the government that it should send in writing as to how much money will be paid as subsidy to the board. The earlier stand of the Government was that it could not afford to pay the subsidy in cash. However, it will not recover the interest amount of Rs 550 crore due on the loans advanced by the government to the board and also allow the board to retain electricity duty to the tune of Rs 150 crore. The commission has pointed out that the interest amount being recovered by the government from the PSEB was about Rs 70 crore in excess.

If Rs 70 crore is deducted, the interest amount will come down to Rs 480 crore by adding electricity duty totalling Rs 150 crore to it. The total amount to be transferred only in books as subsidy to the board will come to Rs 630 crore.

The PSERC wanted that the remaining subsidy of Rs 320 crore should be paid in cash by the PSEB. And the commission wanted a written commitment from the government to this effect. The government is, however, reluctant and has sought two days’ time to respond.


Mohan Rakesh Award for Dr Mann
Tribune News Service

Dr. Gian Singh MannChandigarh, May 20
Sahitya Kala Parishad, Government of Delhi, has conferred the prestigious Mohan Rakesh Award for the year 2003 on eminent Ludhiana-based playwright Dr. Gian Singh Mann. Dr. Mann has bagged the award for his Hindi play “Katha ek machhander ki”.

Adjudged as the best play in the All-India Drama Competition conducted by the Sahitya Kala Parishad, this play gives a new and comprehensive dimension to the theory of transmigration of souls and the cycle of creativity in the universe, as propounded by the earlier traditionalists. The story, that revolves around a central character Mirza, attempts to analyse the timeless concept of rebirth and transmigration in a highly contemporary context. The author avers: “Through the tale of Mirza I have attempted to prove the point that life and soul do not trickle over to other ages, unless of course the situation in that particular age warrants so. Ram and Ravana will never be reborn, until there is a backdrop of Sita Haran and consequent rule of tyranny, as embodied by Ravana in Lanka.”

As a sequel to the selection of Dr Mann’s play as the best play at the drama festival, the Sahitya Kala parishad has also decided to stage it at various centres as a token of respect and appreciation for the author, who would be awarded a certificate and a citation, along with a cash prize of at a special function to be organized shortly.

Dr Gian Singh Mann is a celebrated writer and has to his credit more than 50 published works. Already a recipient of two National Awards for novels, as well as the Shiromani Hindi Sahityakar Award from the Punjab government for his epic poem, Dr. Mann is now on his way to earn the national honour for the third time.

Member of the Hindi Salahkar Samiti, Government of India, Dr Mann holds a Ph D degree on poetic drama and a D Litt on Theatrical Arts. He has travelled abroad several times to deliver talks on Indian philosophy, culture and astrology.


Infighting in BJP factions hots up
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, May 20
The infighting between the groups led by Mr Hans Raj Nakra, district president of the local unit of the BJP, and Mr Tikshan Sud, MLA further intensified today when 45 BJP activists, including Mr Sat Pal Sareen, former President of the municipal council, Mr Gian Bansal, president of the district beopar cell of the party, Mr Ajay Jain, president of the city unit of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, Mr Vijay Kumar, senior vice-president of the district unit of the party, belonging to Mr Sud’s group released a ‘White Paper’ against Mr Nakra. Mr Abinash Rai Khanna, leader of the BJP in the state Assembly, was also targeted in the Paper.

It is stated in the paper that Hoshiarpur city is dominated by the BJP. The BJP propagated its ideology and programme intensively during the past decade and successfull got elected its MLA from the segment. A BJP member of Parliament was also elected from the Hoshiarpur Lok Sabha seat and the party had also captured the local municipal council. In the last state Assembly elections, when the BJP badly failed in the state, it had performed well in Hoshiarpur district as the number of its MLAs increased from one to two. Under the influence of power, the district president of the local unit of the party encouraged his henchmen everywhere and started ignoring the party workers. When the state president of the BJP, Mr Brij Lal Rinwa came here on May 17, the workers came out openly against Mr Nakra.

It was further stated in the paper that after becoming MLA in 1997, Mr Sud resigned from the presidentship of the party under the principle of one man one post. During the organisational elections of the district president in 1997, the name of Mr Nakra was proposed but all office-bearers of five party units opposed it. The state leadership deputed Mr Jugal Mahajan and Mr Sud to build consensus on Mr Nakra’s name. It was then that Mr Nakra became the district president. During his tenure, Mr Nakra, created groupism among party workers. As a result, in 2000, during the organisational election, Mr Nakra had to face heavy opposition for becoming the district president for a second term. After becoming president again, Mr Nakra adopted a revengeful attitude towards his opponents which agitated the workers and a majority of them gave up party politics.

All the party workers who have signed on the ‘White Paper’ said they were loyal soldiers of the BJP but were sore over the “dictatorial” attitude of Mr Nakra and the state leadership. They urged the party high command to make an assessment of the situation in the interest of the party and save it from ruin.

When contacted for his version of the developments, Mr Nakra said being a disciplined soldier of the party, he had nothing to say to the Press. He said he would submit his reply in this connection to the party high command.


Office-bearers of SAD to meet on May 28
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 20
A meeting of office-bearers and executive members of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) will be held at Alamgir Gurdwara, near Ludhiana, on May 28, according to a party spokesperson. Members of the SGPC belonging to the SAD, all party MLAs and MPs, former MLAs and MPs have been invited to attend the meeting to be presided over the party President, Mr Parkash Singh Badal.

The official agenda of the meeting will be panchayat elections. However, the issue of the unity with the Akali faction headed by Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra will also figure at the meeting.

The party spokesperson said the meeting would chalk out strategy to stop the Congress from rigging the panchayat poll.


Police violating SC order
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 20
For a section of Punjab Police the Supreme Court order that no undertrial will be handcuffed except in special circumstances seems to have little effect as they handcuffed undertrials on the district court premises here today.

The happened in the presence of a high court Judge, Mr Justice J.S. Kher, at the local courts as the police took the undertrials from the bakhshikhanna to different courts after handcuffing them. Their hands were freed only when they reached the courtroom. Six undertrials had been tied and subsequently handcuffed with a single iron chain, according to the correspondent. The policemen accompanying them made them walk in two rows without bothering about their difficulty in walking.

When TNS questioned the policemen in this regard they stated that if any undertrial escaped from their custody they would lose their job.

When asked whether they had taken permission from the authorities concerned for handcuffing the undertrials they declined to comment.

A senior functionary of the local Central Jail pointed out that the policemen had been violating the Supreme Court order. He added that the jail authorities had nothing to do with it.


Investigation handed over to CBI
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 20
Taking up a petition filed by former President of Malerkotla's Municipal Council Kewal Krishan Jindal alleging police inaction in an alleged assault case, Mr Justice K.C. Gupta of the Punjab and Haryana High Court today ordered that the investigation of the case should be handed over the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Seeking the transfer of the case registered on August 28, 2002, to the CBI, Mr Jindal had contended that the first information report in the matter was registered after great reluctance even though he had sustained serious injuries after being attacked on August 26 last year. Moreover, the police was not seriously investigating the case under the influence of Punjab's Deputy Inspector General of Police, Mohammad Mustafa, and his MLA wife Razia Sultana, the petitioner had further alleged.

Giving details, he had asserted that Mr Mustafa and his wife were not allowing proper investigation in the matter as the accused were their own supporters. He had added that the police had failed to arrest even a single accused in the case even after a lapse of so many months.


People’s confidence in judiciary ‘waning’
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 20
Mr Mohinder Singh Sindhu, district president, Bar Association said today that the confidence of the people in the judicial system had started to wane.

Mr Sidhu said this while welcoming Mr Justice J.S. Khehar Judge, Punjab and Haryana High Court, who was here today on an inspection. Highlighting the demands of Bar members, he said the working days of the district courts should be on a par with the high court and retired judges should not be encouraged to join fast track courts or district consumer forums.

He lamented that litigants were being made to move upper courts as lower courts were not deciding their cases.

Mr Khehar in his address said the point regarding holidays was not acceptable at this point of time.

Some lawyers highlighted the problems faced by litigants. They demanded that court inspections should not be planned.

Mr Khehar, while replying to a question, said no advocate was usually appointed a local commissioner twice and added that the juniors were being given due preference.

Later, Mr Khehar declined to accept the memento presented by the Bar Association, citing personal reasons.


Dept of Posts loses 4 cr to Telecom Dept
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 20
The Department of Posts has lost commission amounting to Rs 4.09 crore due from the Telecommunications Department following its failure to deduct it when they were made two separate departments.

Postal accounts offices at Jalandhar, Kapurthala and Sundernagar had failed to deduct the commission due before remitting the telegraph charges collected by combined post and telegraph offices to the telecom circles, resulting in non-realisation of commission aggregating to Rs 4.09 crore.

According to the latest report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), presented in Parliament last week, the Department of Posts revised the rates of commission for telegraphic messages handled by the combined offices for four years, from 1992-93 to 1995-96, in March, 1996. These changes ranged from Rs 10.90 to Rs 14.40 per message.

However, as the Department of Telecommunications did not agree to these rates, it issued instructions in July, 1999, to the effect that the inter-departmental adjustments could continue to be made from 1992-93 after the deduction of the commission at the pre-revised rate of Rs 6.95 per message, pending the decision on finalisation of rates by an inter-departmental committee.

Scrutiny of the audit records in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab postal circles, however, revealed that, contrary to these instructions, postal accounts offices at Jalandhar, Kapurthala and Sundernagar had failed to deduct the commission at the provisional rate.

This resulted in the non-realisation of commission aggregating to Rs 4.09 crore (Rs 1.81 crore in Himachal Pradesh, Rs 16 lakh in Jammu and Kashmir and Rs 2.12 crore in Punjab) for the period from 1992-93 to 2002-03.

The CAG report further revealed that the Union Ministry of Telecommunications and Posts had accepted the lapses in the departmental procedure adopted by it in November, 2002, stating that of the amount, Rs 1.84 crore had been recovered or adjusted (Rs 1.08 crore in Himachal Pradesh, Rs 10 lakh in Jammu and Kashmir and Rs 75 lakh in Punjab).

Further, the postal accounts offices had been asked to adjust, in consultation with the authorities concerned of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, the outstanding amount against the telephone revenue collections in case the telegraph charges collected were less than the commission outstanding. So far, the ministry has filed no reply regarding this before the CAG.

The departmental rules provide, inter alia, that the postal accounts offices should pay the telegraph charges realised by the combined post and telegraph offices to the telecom circle accounts office concerned quarterly after deducting the commission at the prescribed rates, other charges and payments to the department. As per the rules, an inter-departmental committee constituted for the purpose determines the rates of commission from time to time.


Train probe period extended
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 20
Unable to complete the inquiry about the cause of the fire aboard the Golden Temple Mail, the Commissioner, Railway Safety, has extended the term of the inquiry by another day. The CRS, Mr Bhupinder Singh, said though he had already formed an opinion about the possible cause of fire, he would wait for the forensic report to corroborate his findings, before making a statement.

Mr Bhupinder Singh said he had extended the term of the inquiry commission by a day so that more statements of people, directly or indirectly related to the incident, could be recorded. “Since not many people have come forward voluntarily to share information, possibly because of lack of facilities like passes for travel, etc, I have asked the officials concerned to make adequate arrangements to facilitate their travel. We want as many people as possible to come and share with us any information them may have with them”.

Addressing his first formal media interaction here today, the CRS said as per the progress of investigations, he would be able to submit a preliminary report on the cause of fire within a period of 10 days. However, the main report would take about two months, he added. The main report would also list recommendations on safety measures that needed to be it safer to travel by incorporated to make the Railways.

The team headed by CRS has already conducted several experiments, including re-enactment of the scene. It would continue to conduct more experiments till the submission of the report to be certain about the cause of the fire. In this regard, Mr Bhupinder Singh would travel in the engine of the Golden Temple Mail himself on the night of May 21 and conduct some experiments. He would spend some time at the forensic laboratory at Chandigarh on May 23 and in New Delhi on May 24.

The Railways authorities have appealed to the people to come forward and share any information they may have about the cause of the fire with the team probing the incident. Mr Bhupinder Singh said the members of the team would be available at the Railway Guest House at Ludhiana on May 21. He said, so far, only officials of the Railways had come forward with information and not many people from the public had volunteered any information.

During the past two days, the team headed by Mr Bhupinder Singh, has met several people and conducted several experiments on coaches of the ill-fated train. These included setting fire to the coaches by sprinkling kerosene and alcohol, causing fire by short circuit where pedestal fans were used to further ignite the fire.

The team members said they were working on several theories, including the sabotage theory, but were unwilling to make any definite statement in this regard till the findings of the forensic laboratories were known. They said several samples, including pieces of baggage and parts of the compartment, had been sent for chemical and other examinations.


SGPC’s aid to train fire victims
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 20
The Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) had decided to give financial assistance to the victims of fire incident in the Golden Temple Mail and in a factory of Khud Mohalla area of Ludhiana recently. The decision was taken at a meeting of interim committee of the SGPC held here today. As many as 38 persons were charred to death in the Frontier Mail (Golden Temple Mail) tragedy.

Stating this in a press note Prof Kirpal Singh Badungar SGPC President informed that the committee had decided to give Rs 21,000 each to next of kin of deceased, Rs 11,000 to critically injured and Rs 5,000 to other injured persons. The SGPC would also held Akhand Path on May 23 and the bhog would be performed on May 25.


Reunion saga set to inspire TV viewers
A.S. Prashar
Tribune News Service

Siswan (Ropar), May 20
The true story about the reunion of a Pakistani woman with her long lost Indian son which has moved people on both sides of the border ever since it was broken by The Tribune about 23 years ago, is set to inspire them again at a time when the Indo-Pak ties are showing signs of a thaw.

Bachni Bibi with Khushia at Siswan
Bachni Bibi with Khushia at Siswan. The photograph was taken by late Yog Joy on March 4, 1980.

The story has already led to the birth of an award-winning novel, “Karmanwali” by the wellknown Urdu author, Dr K.L. Zakir which was later adapted for a play of the same name by the National School of Drama’s N.K. Raina. In 1994-95 the play was staged in different parts of the country, including Delhi’s Kamani auditorium and Chandigarh’s Tagore Theatre, and its shows were attended among others by the former President of India, late Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma, and the former Prime Minister, Mr I.K. Gujral. The lead role of the Pakistani woman was played by Seema Biswas who later went on to star in Shekhar Kapoor’s “Bandit Queen”.

The Urdu novel has since been translated into Hindi and Punjabi as well and has acknowledged the fact that it is based on the Tribune story.

It is now being made into a five-episode Punjabi television serial, “Mera Ranjha, Mera Jogi” for Doordarshan to be telecast from Srinagar on its Kashmir channel as also on its international satellite channels and is expected to make its own contribution towards creation of a proper climate for talks between the two countries.

The serial is being produced and directed by the wellknown TV and stage artiste, Manjit Singh Malhotra. The role of Bachni Bibi, renamed Karamanwali in the serial, is being played by Anita and the role of Khushia is being enacted by Bobby Ghai. Dr Zakir makes it a point to attend the shooting schedules of the serial to ensure that the story remains close to facts. He recalls that the story has moved a lot many people in Pakistan and when he visited that country some years ago, he was honoured with the “Naqoosh” award.

Incidentally, the shooting of the teleserial has been on for the past about a fortnight in the same area where the family of the Muslim woman, Bachni Bibi, used to live before the partition of the country in 1947 separated her from her son, three-year-old Khushia. Khushia was entrusted by Bibi Bachni to her brother-in-law who, however, abandoned him in Siswan before going to Pakistan. Khushia was later picked up by a Sikh family which raised him as one of their own.

In Pakistan, Bibi Bachni who began residing in Chak 240 in Faisalabad district refused to give up hope. “Every time a Sikh delegation visited Nankana Sahib for pilgrimage, I would go there to meet them and enquire about my son”, she recalled in an interview with this correspondent 23 years ago. The breakthrough in Bachni’s search for her lost son came when somebody from Siswan’s neighbourhood visited Chak 240. He helped her locate her son and fulfil her life-long mission to meet him. Although she made a trip to Siswan and stayed here from December, 1979 to March, 1980, she failed to persuade him to come with her to Pakistan.

“Why should I go to Pakistan? Khushia asked this correspondent in a talk 23 years ago. “I have everything here. Everybody whom I love and care for is here. I am leading a happy contented life. Who knows me in Pakistan? I will be a complete stranger there. Let my mother come and stay with me”.

Finally, Bachni was forced to return to Pakistan empty-handed.

As Dr Zakir points out, it is a humane story portraying the fact that it is the same set of emotions and desires which drives people on the both sides of the border.


Row over derogatory remarks
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 20
A section of Akali sarpanches of Nathana circle have decided to approach the SAD President, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, for action against party leaders who allegedly used derogatory remarks against a senior party worker in his absence while addressing a meeting on May 18 at Nathana town, 30 km from here.

Party sources said about 10 Akali sarpanches, along with other workers, had conveyed to the party MLA from Nathana, Mr Gura Singh Tungwali, that if action was not taken against the leaders, they would find it difficult to work for the party.

Mr Tungwali, while confirming that derogatory remarks were used against a senior party worker by a senior leader, said he was trying to pacify the agitated sarpanches. He said he was trying to arrange a meeting of the sarpanches with Mr Badal at the earliest.

Information gathered by TNS revealed that a senior leader, while addressing party workers, had remarked that a senior worker had earned crores by indulging in illegal activities during the previous SAD-BJP combine government and had now gone abroad when the party was facing a crisis.

Information revealed that among other senior leaders, the meeting was addressed by the party general secretary, Mr Balwinder Singh Bhundar, and the district president, Mr Sikander Singh Malooka.


Drive to update land records
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 20
Mr Amarjit Singh Samra, Revenue and Rehabilitation Minister, today claimed that the Revenue Department had earned Rs 117.54 crore more as revenue fee during this financial year as compared to the last financial year due to efficient working of its employees.

He said the government had launched a special campaign to attest the pending mutations to update revenue records. The campaign would continue till May 31. He said the government aimed to attest 2 lakh mutations in the state during the campaign.

He was presiding over a function organised at the local grain market to attest the mutations. He said 1,300 mutations had been attested in the district since May 12.

He said getting information about land records would be easy after all mutations were entered in the revenue record.

Patwaris, kanungos and other officials of the department were present to complete the formalities regarding attestation of mutations. Ms Surjit Kaur Sandhu, Secretary, Revenue Department, Punjab; Ms K.P. Brar, ADC and Mr Upjit Singh Brar, SDM, were also present.


Taraksheel panel’s drive against ‘tantriks’
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 20
The Tarksheel Society today said that it would step up campaign against ‘tantriks’ misguiding people and making money by spreading superstitions.

The society has been planning to strengthen its units in Bathinda, Mansa and Faridkot districts for the purpose. The society said that to generate awareness against superstitions, special camps would be organised at different places in these districts. The society has 40 units in the three districts of the area.

This was stated in a press note here today by Mr Baldev Singh, Zonal Secretary of the society. He said that a fresh campaign against superstitions would be launched. He said there was need that the campaign should be made a mass movement.

Mr Baldev Singh added that it had been observed that many educated persons were also under the influence of tantriks. He the said campaign against tantriks received a setback when the persons who were supposed to become pathfinders themselves became followers of tantriks.

He said that it was observed that the persons believed to be under the influence of some “evil spirit” were actually suffering from some psychological illness. He said that such persons behaved in an unnatural way as they were forced to repress some desires or they wanted to harass their family members.

The society will hold a convention of delegates at Teachers Home on May 31 here. Delegates from Bathinda, Mansa and Faridkot districts will participate in the convention.

Mr Baldev Singh said that the convention had been called to assess the performance of different units of the society and draw up programme for intensifying the campaign against tantriks.


Evasion of market fee detected
Tribune News Service

Maur Mandi (Bathinda), May 20
A team of the Vigilance Bureau, led by the DSP, Mr Brij Mohan Sarup, has detected evasion of market fee and rural development fund (RDF) worth lakhs of rupees on the purchase of wheat by a local factory owner.

Official sources said when the Vigilance team checked the premises of the factory owner, it found more than 8,000 bags of wheat which were directly purchased from farmers and other sources without paying the market fee and RDF on these.

The sources added that to work out the total evasion, the Vigilance team seized the record of the factory and also took photostat copies of the record of the local office of the market committee. Some of the wheat bags had the trademarks of the procurement agencies and some bags were without any mark. Almost all wheat bags were not stitched properly and were of unequal weight.

Meanwhile, the Vigilance Bureau has arrested a revenue official posted at Bhai Bakhtaur village of the district while accepting a bribe from a person to get his work done.


11 more cases of gastroenteritis
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, May 20
Eleven new cases of gastroenteritis were reported from Onkar Nagar and adjoining Shivpuri localities since last night but medical authorities denied it. Today a case was reported from Shivpuri with Vijay Kumar (10) coming to ESI hospital last night. Ten cases related to Onkar Nagar mohalla where the disease had broken out.

Most of the fresh cases involve children. All are being treated in their homes. With Ms Punna Devi, wife of Harinath Parsad, also getting afflicted with the disease, the whole family of this worker is now suffering from the disease. However, Mr Parsad told newsmen today that they were being visited regularly by doctors and given medicines. Besides Punna Devi, other cases include Mukesh, Urmila, Rupali, Soni, Sahil, Vishal, Niha, Seema, Rohit, all of Onkar Nagar.

Dr Subhash Sharma, SMO, Civil Hospital, denied any fresh case of the disease. Doctors visited the locality today and found no fresh case, he asserted. Even earlier, cases were of diarrhoea and vomiting and the disease was under control, added the SMO. Earlier 18 cases of gastroenteritis had been reported from Onkar Nagar in the past four days. However, the medical authorities here are afraid of addressing or admitting the disease as gastroenteritis and term it diarrhoea and vomiting. Meanwhile, Senior Inspector Health Department, Baldev Singh said here today that so far 132 blood slides and 10 water samples had been taken in Onkar Nagar mohalla.


Gurdev Badal’s son refused bail

Faridkot, May 20
A court here has dismissed the anticipatory bail application of Suba Singh, a son of former Punjab Agriculture minister Gurdev Singh Badal, in a corruption case registered against him about a month back.

Punjab Vigilance Bureau (VB) officials reportedly stepped up attempts to arrest the accused, following the rejection of his bail plea yesterday.

A case under the Prevention of Corruption Act was registered against Suba Singh on April 28 at Ferozepore Vigilance police station.

Suba Singh was charged with amassing property disproportionate to his known sources of income. The bureau VB had detected property worth Rs 25 lakh in the name of the accused at various places in the state. This property was owned by the accused under two different names Suba Singh and Manjit Singh. UNI


Stop stubble burning: lawyers
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 20
The Punjab Law Forum in a press note said here yesterday that if no action was taken against the farmers polluting the environment by burning wheat stubble and paddy straw, they would move the High Court. Mr Chander Mohan Ruby, joint secretary of the forum, in a statement here said that ban had been imposed on the burning of wheat straw, but a large number of farmers had been burning it. The authorities have not taken any action against the farmers so far, he alleged.

Mr Rubby claimed that the ban orders remained on papers only and even after the media highlighted the malpractice, no action was initiated against the erring farmers. He said that in the current wheat-harvesting season, wheat stubble in 20 per cent of the area had been burnt and the situation has worsened.


“Billa’s charges baseless”
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 20
Mr Surinder Arjun, Secretary, Durgiana Temple committee today refuted charges of Mr Surinder Kumar Billa, president, All-India Hindu Shiv Sena that the committee wanted to ‘eliminate’ him and that committee had become a den of corruption.

A press conference at committee’s office here today Mr Arjun said that if he felt unsafe then why he visited temple everyday as he was neither a committee member nor committee had given any work or service to do him in the temple.

Mr Arjun said if he had proof with on a embezzlement of temple funds, he should proof give to me, to the president or to any person he trusted. He said that Mr Billa’s charges were baseless.


Fire in paper mill causes heavy losses
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, May 20
A fire broke out in the premises of the Komal straw Board and Paper Mills on the Gurdaspur-Dera Baba Nanak road here at 7 pm last night.

Two fire tenders which were rushed to the site, could not control the flames which spread with speed due to a squall.

The fire was finally extinguished by 10 fire tenders at 5 am after about 10 hours.

according to sources, rice husk, waste paper, machinery and parts of the building were burnt. The loss was estimated to be in crores. Mr KAP Sinha, Deputy Commissioner, Mr Tarnjit Singh, SP (Operations), and Mr Amarjit Pal, Sub-Divisional Magistrate, supervised the rescue operations.


Cabinet panel meeting postponed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 20
The Punjab Cabinet Sub Committee on fiscal matters failed to meet today. Sources said the meeting had been postponed for unknown reasons. At the meeting, important issues such as hike in the special road tax and new transport policy were to be discussed.


Notice issued
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 20
Staying further proceedings on a petition filed by a police officer for quashing a kidnapping case registered at Rajpura, Mr Justice K.C. Gupta of the high court issued notice of motion for September 6.

In his petition, former Station House Officer of a police station in Nawanshahr Raj Balwinder Singh, along with four others, had claimed that he was being implicated in a false case.


Khehra in court remand
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, May 20
Mr Bikramjit Singh Khehra, president, Punjab Janata Yuva Dal, who had surrendered in the court of Sub Judge, Junior Division Navjot Kaur Sohal, on May 17 and was in police custody, was today sent to judicial custody till June 3.

Mr Khehra is said to be the prime accused in the murder of NRI Mohan Singh of Raipur Rasulpur village. The UK based Mohan Singh (29) had come for a marriage. He was hit by a bullet during the marriage celebrations. He died on way to a Jalandhar hospital.


Officer visits Thakurdwara
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, May 20
The Deputy Director, Local Bodies, Mr Harjit Singh, visited the followers of the Thakurdwara Bairagian, who are on a relay fast, and perused the papers of the temple staking claim to the nine kanal and 17 marla land of the old hospital to which PUDA also lays claims. He asked the representatives of the Thakurdwara to come to his office with relevant documents the next day.


Farmers, power consumers hold protest
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, May 20
Hundreds of farmers including women today protested against the lack of civic amenities faced while depositing power bills at the focal point here.

Farmers held a demonstration and raised slogans against the non-availability of drinking water and absence of shelter from summer heat. Mr Mohinder Singh and Mr Satnam Singh, representatives of the demonstrators told that hundreds of farmers reached the office of the PSEB to deposit power bills when till 11 a.m. no arrangement was made to collect the bills and there was no drinking water and relief from heat. Mr P.P. Singh, SDO denied any protest demonstration had taken place.


‘Don’t sow paddy before June 10’

Moga, May 20
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), after consulting experts of Punjab Agricultural University and State Agriculture Department experts, has appealed to farmers to desist from sowing paddy before June 10 as early sowing will not only provide less yield but also be inflicted with diseases, according to a press note. UNI


6 of gang held, eight cars recovered
Our Correspondent

Batala, May 20
The Batala police has apprehended six members of a gang involved in incidents of murder, robbery and theft of vehicles in Batala, Amritsar, Hoshiarpur and New Delhi. The police claims to have solved a number of cases with their arrest.

Mr G.S. Sahota, DIG, Border Range, Amritsar, told a press conference here today that on a tip-off that the gang members were present at a deserted place near B.U.C. College, Batala, and were planning to commit a crime, a police party arrested Amarjit Singh, a resident of Amritsar, Kulwinder Singh of Gounspura, Narinder Singh of Loharka, Gowardhan Singh of Sadatpur, New Delhi, Jaspal Singh of Labour Colony, Batala, and Jaswinder Singh of Batala. A revolver, a pistol and eight cars were recovered from them.

During interrogation, the gang members confessed to having committed crimes pertaining to murder, robbery and theft.

Amarjit Singh is the leader of the gang. A case has been registered under Sections 399 and 400 of the IPC.


88 kg of poppy husk seized

Dhuri, May 20
The CIA staff of Bahadur Singh Wala has claimed to have seized 88 kg of poppy husk during a raid in Pedhani village here last night.

According to information, available, acting on a tip-off, the CIA staff of Bahadur Singh Wala yesterday raided Pedhani village and seized the contraband, which was concealed in a truck.

The police has arrested Sarbjeet Singh and Nishan Singh, both residents of the same village.

A case has been registered under sections 15,61 and 85 of the NDPS Act. UNI


Students doubt validity of online degrees
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 20
Thousands of students of various courses being run by Punjab Technical University, Jalandhar, under its Virtual Online Campus have expressed apprehensions about the recognition and validity of the degrees, which they would be getting. Sources said even as the PTU online campus had failed to hold exams , the validity of the degrees was troubling them as it is the India’s first online campus. They said the prospectus of the online courses had no information about the validity of the degrees and students had failed to get any concrete reply to their queries in this regard.

Gurpreet Kaur (name changed) said her queries to the PTU online campus had not yielded any results. Since her admission in July last year, she wanted to know whether the degree she would be getting was recognised for government jobs. “The authorities have stereotyped replies and always say that PTU is a recognised university and the colleges affiliated to it have been declared valid by the AICTE to run technical courses, but the replies about the degrees to be obtained from the online mode are vague”, she alleged. The sources said it was for the first time that an onling campus had started various technical courses, including the MBA, BBA, M.Tech and B.Tech (information technology), MCA, M.Sc and B.Sc (computer science), BA (professional), Masters Diploma in Computer Application (MDCA) and Masters Diploma in International Trade (MDIT) in collaboration with a private business house.

Some students have also alleged that their study centres are not informing them about the validity of their degrees and they are redirected either to PTU, Jalandhar or the website. The students said the website ( displayed the letter of the then Chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC), Mr Hari Gautam, appreciating the efforts of the PTU online campus, but was silent on the validity of the degrees.

“No mention has been made whether the courses and degrees to be awarded by the PTU virtual online campus have been approved by the AICTE, which is the apex body to recognise all technical courses,” alleged one of the students of M.Sc (IT) at a centre near Bathinda. Mr S.K. Bhatia, Registrar, PTU, Jalandhar, said the UGC had no authority to recognise or derecognise the degrees conferred by any university. He said all universities were fully empowered to start new courses and the AICTE only approved the technical colleges.

The website of the PTU online campus said, “Under Section 3 of the University Act, Punjab Technical University is authorised to institute and confer degrees, diplomas, certificates and academic distinction. The nomenclature of all programmes is as per the University Grants Commission (UGC) norms and the university is a member of the Association of Indian Universities. Thus the degrees and diplomas given by Punjab Technical University stand recognised by other universities on a reciprocal basis”.


Rotation of headship norms violated
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, May 20
The rule on the appointment of the Heads of Departments by rotation at Sant Longowal Institute of Engineering and Technology (SLIET), Longowal, has been “violated” for the past more than one year. The rule was approved by the Board of Governors (BoG) of the SLIET at a meeting on November 7, 2001 and introduced system of rotation of Heads of Departments.

Sources in the SLIET said that while approving rules relating to the appointment of the Heads of Departments by rotation for SLIET, the Board had approved that the appointment of a Head of Department under the rotation system shall be made for three years extendable by another term of three years thus the total period of headship would not exceed six years.

Sources also disclosed that in “violation” to the above rule, the appointments of eight Heads of Departments, out of total 10 departments, had been made for an unspecified period by ordering their appointments till further orders in the past more than one year. As per the rule they should be appointed for a minimum term of three years, they added.

Sources also alleged that by appointing Heads of Departments for unspecific period, the SLIET authorities created uncertainty about the tenure of headship.

At present the following Heads of Departments have been working under the “till further orders” scheme: Dr Harish Chopra (Chemistry), Mrs Savita Gupta (Computer Science and Engineering), Mr H.R. Ghatak (Chemical Technology), Dr B.C. Sarkar (Food Technology), Dr S.K. Mohapatra (Mechanical Engineering), all were appointed on February 19, 2002; Dr A.S. Dhaliwal (Physics) appointed on June 10, 2002; Dr Mandeep Singh (Mathematics) and Dr Jap Preet Kaur (Enterpreneurship Development Programme), both appointed on January 15, 2003. Besides these Heads of Departments, Prof V.K. Jain, Dean (Welfare) has also been performing duties of Dean (Welfare) under “till further orders” arrangement since March 13, 2002.

Dr R.C. Chauhan, Director, SLIET, claimed that appointments of Heads of Departments and fixation of their tenure was under the purview of the Director as this was an administrative matter. He also stated that though he was bound to implement the rules but he had to also watch the interests of the institute. He also claimed that in case any Head of Department did not perform his/her duties properly, he/she might be removed from headship before time.


Re-evaluate math paper: students
Our Correspondent

Patiala, May 20
Students of Mohindra College today submitted a representation to Punjab School Education Board Chairman Kehar Singh to get the ten plus two maths paper re-evaluated due to large scale complaints of low marking.

The students, in the representation, said the marks awarded to them in the maths examination were much below their expectations and had rendered them ineligible for various engineering entrance examinations. The students alleged that the examiner who evaluated their answer sheets had been casual in his approach.

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