Wednesday, July 16, 2003, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Populism versus economic issues
Choice before Punjab
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 15
Tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting to review the financial position of Punjab is likely to set the agenda for two important meetings — one between Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission K.C. Pant on July 24 and the other with the World Bank mission team on appraisal of the economic and fiscal reforms on July 28.

Sources told TNS today that because of the limited resources, Punjab would seek additional central assistance from the Planning Commission to the tune of Rs 150 crore for the implementation of the Rs 3,200 crore Annual Plan (2003-04). The state had received Rs 43 crore last year. In return, the commission may ask Punjab to opt for a Rs 2,600 crore core plan.

The commission has already conveyed its deep concern to Punjab over its fiscal imbalances because of which the state’s economic growth is sluggish. At 4.5 per cent between 1985 and 2000, it is even lower than the national economy’s average growth of 6 per cent. Also of concern to the commission are the borrowings that have pushed Punjab into a debt-trap.

Much of the sluggish growth is attributed to slowdown of the agricultural economy for which the commission wants Punjab to earnestly pursue its ‘’second push’’ to agricultural reforms. Punjab is yet to show positive turnabout in the power and transport sector reforms. Its tax revenue collection is poor, the sex ratio is skewed and the human resource development indices, literacy and health, are only a little above the all-India average.

The outcome of tomorrow’s meeting will help the Planning Department reprioritise the talking points for Capt Amarinder Singh’s meeting with Dr K.C. Pant.

The key reform challenges before Punjab are — severe fiscal stress, low agricultural growth and weaknesses in governance. The World Bank mission team that visited the state in November, 2002, had sent a report on all these aspects in February, 2003. It had also submitted a concept paper on Punjab’s agricultural policy. The World Bank Country Director, Mr Michael Carter, had attended the roundtable on ‘’Implementation of Reforms’’ in Chandigarh on July 2.

In this backdrop, Mr Carter is sending the second team comprising Mr Steven Howse, Lead Economist, Poverty Reduction, Mr Sadiq Ahmed, Chief Economist, South-Asia; and Mr Bikram Chand, Senior Public Sector Management Specialist; for an appraisal of the reforms on July 28.


News analysis
New anti-Cong axis takes shape
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Interestingly, four Punjab Congress ministers, commenting on the BSP rally, said it was a “complete and utter failure”. Mr Jagjit Singh, Mr Sardool Singh, Mr Mohinder Kaypee and Mr Santokh Chaudhary, in a joint statement, said the BSP was a party without a “mass base”.

Chandigarh, July 15
A new anti-Congress axis comprising the Shiromani Akali Dal, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the BJP seems to have started taking shape in Punjab, if the content of the speech delivered by senior BSP leader and the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Mayawati here today is any indication.

From the tone of Mrs Mayawati’s speech, it was almost clear that the next Lok Sabha elections would be contested by the SAD, BJP and the BSP jointly. While training guns at the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister said the Punjab Chief Minister had no other job except to target the former Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, and the Dalits in the state.

She reminded the BSP activists that they had committed a “blunder” in supporting the Congress in the last Assembly elections. “You should have voted for your own BSP party. The balance of power would have been in your hands. I have succeeded in forming government in Uttar Pradesh though I have no majority in the UP Assembly”, she told the party workers.

It was one of the biggest rallies ever held by the party here. Interestingly, most participants were youth in the age group of 18 to 25. The turnout ostensibly created a panic in the ruling Congress which came to power in Punjab because of support from Dalits in the last Assembly elections. Ms Mayawati, who spoke for over an hour, was heard with rapt attention. The audience responded with thundering applause to her fiery comments against Capt Amarinder Singh.

From the response of audience, it was clear that the Dalits of Punjab have not forgotten Talhan. In fact, Talhan seems to have forced Dalits to reunite under the banner of the BSP, which had become an insignificant political force in the state about two years ago.

The coming days will throw several political challenges to Capt Amarinder Singh, engaged in a tough political battle against the SAD chief, Mr Badal. The BSP has added to his (Capt Amarinder Singh) woes by opening a new front against him. The SAD and the BSP both have a strong support base in the state.

In fact, the threat issued by Ms Mayawati that the BSP would go all out to get the Capt Amarinder Singh government removed is far more serious than that by Mr Badal, who recently made a similar demand at a meeting with Union Home Minister L.K. Advani. After Mr Badal, Ms Mayawati is the second leader, with close ties with the BJP-led government at the Centre to publicly seek the “dismissal” of Capt Amarinder Singh’s government.

“Capt Amarinder Singh’s government is not functioning as per Constitution. It has been denying Dalits even the right to hold rallies. I have urged the Punjab Governor to send a report to the Union Government to remove Capt Amarinder Singh’s government. I have also spoken to top functionaries of the Union Government in this connection,” she proclaimed.


Plan to check exploitation by NRI grooms
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 15
The Punjab Parliamentary Secretary for NRI Affairs, Mr Ravinder Singh Sandhu, here today said that the state government in consultation with the Central Government, was preparing a blueprint to check the exploitation of young Punjabi women at the hands of NRI grooms and their families.

The blueprint, besides containing relevant points to check this tendency, would also suggest measures to amend the rules in favour of young girls. Mr Sandhu heard the grievances of people for an on-the-spot redress at the Punjab Congress Bhavan.

He advocated that the government should evolve some legislation to help these victims get justice. The NRI cells already set up in each district would be strengthened.

Eighteen members of a delegation called on the minister and apprised him of their long pending demands. Assuring them of justice, the minister directed the officers concerned to take quick action in this regard. While most of the complaints were redressed on the spot, the remaining were sent to the departments concerned for necessary action.


Chohan to expose Badals’ anti-Panth activities
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, July 15
The Khalsa Raj Party chief Dr Jagjit Singh Chohan today said that establishment of the “Khalsa Raj” and “Khalistan” was final political goal of the Khalsa Panth.

Addressing a press conference here today, Dr Jagjit Singh Chohan said the Akali Dal which did not subscribe to the principle of “Khalistan” would not be acceptable to the Khalsa Panth. He said that despite sacrifices by the “Sikh Nation”, the Congress-led governments always betrayed Sikhs in “all spheres of life”. “The Sikhs as a nation have experienced all types of political, economic, constitutional and cultural discrimination. The Operation Bluestar and anti-Sikh riots exemplified mala fides of the Central Government. The Sikhs have been left with no option but the establishment of Khalistan”, said Dr Chohan, who was accompanied by Mr Balwant Singh, General Secretary of the party.

They alleged that the Akali Dal led by Mr Parkash Singh Badal had been instrumental in undermining the sanctity of Akal Takht. “Badal is going to enact a political drama at Manji Sahib on July 16 at Amritsar and this “anti-Panthic” act of Badals amounts to black-mailing the state government to save his family from corruption charges. We are going to mobilise all Panthic forces to expose the anti-Panthic activities of the Badals and their associates”, said Dr Chohan.

He said his party and its political wing — the Council of Khalistan — has approached the International Human Rights Organisations, Amnesty International and the UNO for securing the release of a large number of innocent Sikh youths languishing in jails without any valid grounds. He alleged that the violation of human rights and excesses of police force were rampant in Punjab and an example of it was Mr Jaswant Singh, a Fatehgarh-based journalist, who was “implicated in a false case at the instance of a former Punjab Minister. He demanded that a high-level probe should be ordered to find out the truth.


Hanspal asks Badal, son to resign
Our Correspondent

Sunam, July 15
Mr H.S. Hanspal, president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC), today asked Mr Parkash Singh Badal and his son Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal to resign from all political posts and membership of legislative bodies as they had amassed assets worth thousands of crores of rupees, disproportionate to their known sources of income.

He said Mr Badal should not claim that he would resign if it was proved that he had illegal assets. He said properties worth thousands of crores had made it evident that the Badal family had collected these by using “unfair” means.

Mr Hanspal was addressing a function organised here today to honour the newly elected sarpanches, panches and members of Zila Parishad and Block Samities.

Besides, Mr Hanspal, the MP from Patiala, Ms Preneet Kaur, Dirba MLA Surjit Singh Dhiman, Sangrur DCC president Subhash Grover, PPCC organising secretary Aman Arora, Suman Municipal Council president Geeta Sharma and Congress leaders Sonia Arora and Rajinder Deepa, were also present on the occasion.

Mr Hanspal also criticised Mr L.K. Advani, Union Home Minister, for shielding Mr Parkash Singh Badal. He said Mr Advani should not protect Mr Badal by saying that the Centre would send NDA team to Punjab.

Ms Preneet Kaur said the Amarinder government would construct and repair roads stretches to equal 1000 km in the state. She also listened to the grievances of the people and assured them that these would be redressed at the earliest.

Mr Aman Arora also presented a purse of Rs 51,000 to Mr H.S. Hanspal for party fund.

Mr Rajinder Deepa urged the PPCC president to revive the “shagun scheme” and reduce the power tariff.


Residents seek merger of villages
Tribune News Service

Chak Fateh Singh Wala, July 15
In 1998 the then Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, divided Chak Fateh Singh Wala, the village of his in-laws, into two villages to make his two brothers-in-law sarpanches. The newly carved out village, Har Joginder Singh Nagar, was named after his father-in-law Har Joginder Singh.

After enjoying “VVIP” status for more than five years, a section of its residents have raised a demand before the district administration that both villages should be merged and only one panchayat should run the affairs of the village.

Mr D.P.S. Kharbanda, Additional Deputy Commissioner (Development), while confirming that a representation in connection with the merger of these two villages had been received from a section of the residents, said the District Development and Panchayat Officer (DDPO) had been asked to prepare a report by making an on-the-spot assessment.

Mr Iqbal Singh, DDPO, said he had deputed Mr Harinder Singh Sran, BDPO, Nathana, for the purpose. He said in the representation, the villagers mentioned that the division of the village had confused them and they had to suffer a lot in the recently held panchayat elections as there was no clear cut division of voters of these two villages.

He said as the panchayat elections had been held, it was difficult to merge these two villages now. However, he said action could be taken by following proper procedure.


Education grants in crores not utilised
Poonam Batth
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 15
Has the Punjab Government squandered the money given by the Centre for qualitative improvement of education in the state? The Education Department has not been able to utilise grants of more than Rs 200 crore during the past three years.

The Finance Department has not released an amount of Rs 22.88 crore received from the Centre for various cent per cent sponsored schemes, like Prime Minister’s Gramodhya Yojana (PMGY) and grants under the 11th Finance Commission for girl and computer education.

In case of several other schemes, where the share of the state was nominal, the Finance Department withheld the same. These schemes were Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Modified Class Project and Adult Literacy Programme.

In most cases the grants released by the Central Government lapsed as the state government did not release its share in the stipulated period. A senior official said that Punjab had lagged behind in the field of school education due to its failure to use the funds made available by the Centre for improvement of primary education and upgradation of infrastructure.

The Central Government had during the tenure of former Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal released its first instalment of Rs 55.15 cr — 50 per cent of its allocated share of Rs 110 cr — under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan in 2001-2002. The state government, which was required to contribute Rs 9.73 crore of its total allocated share of Rs 19.47 crore, was unable to do so. This resulted in the state suffering a loss of Rs 110 crore and the scheme being scrapped.

The department suffered further losses as the scheme started on a 85:15 basis between the Centre and the state changed to 75:25 in 2002-2003 and a grant of Rs 142.12 crore was awarded. While the Central Government released Rs 103 crore out of its share, adjusting Rs 55.17 crore from the previous year, the state government recently released its balance share of Rs 25.83 crore. Now the state hopes to get the third instalment of Rs 161 crore from the Centre next year.

This government, too, has failed to make use of huge grants released by the Centre under various schemes. It could neither use the grant released by the Centre for recruiting 2,010 teachers last year, not formulate a policy to utilise the same.

The Finance Department failed to release Rs 13.24 crore for the Prime Minister Gramodhya Yojana (PMGY), Rs 18.03 crore as grants under the 11th Finance Commission for girl’s education, Rs 2.24 crore for primary education and Rs 6.57 crore for computer education.

The Principal Secretary, School Education, Mrs Tejinder Kaur, said after a meeting under the championship of the Chief Minister, the Finance Department had been directed to make provisions for releasing the state share so that central grants could be utilised.

Directions had been issued to make available funds already received from the Centre for various cent per cent centrally sponsored schemes. “The financial crunch is the main hurdle in the release of these grants”, she added.


1 dies in custody; natural death, says police
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, July 15
Even as Suresh Kumar, a Dalit youth, died in police custody yesterday while he was being taken to the Medical College at Faridkot for treatment, Mr Surinder Pal Singh, SSP, Muktsar, has claimed that deceased, who was arrested in a case pertaining to smuggling of narcotics, died a natural death.

He said that post mortem of the deceased had been conducted as per the instructions of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) while his inquest report was prepared by the Executive Magistrate appointed by the District Magistrate for the same purpose.

He added that no policeman was responsible for death of Suresh Kumar as he had died a natural death. Moreover, no complaint had been received from the kin of deceased against the police officials of Lambi police station, where the deceased had been lodged after his arrest.

Suresh Kumar, a resident of Rajasthan had been working as farm labourer in one of the villages of this district. He had been arrested by the Lambi police in the recent past for his alleged involvement in the smuggling of narcotics.

Yesterday, Suresh Kumar felt unwell and started vomiting in the police station. He was given first aid and then taken to a private clinic for treatment. From the private clinic, he was shifted to the Civil Hospital, Malout. From there he was referred to the Medical College, Faridkot, as his condition had deteriorated.

While he was being taken to Medical College, Faridkot, he died in the way. The body was then taken to Civil Hospital, Muktsar. The post mortem was conducted there as per the norms laid down by the NHRC.

The district administration has also ordered a probe into this incident.

Meanwhile, in another case, the police arrested a local resident, Raj Kumar, for his alleged involvement in smuggling of opium from Rajasthan to Punjab. About 10 Kg opium was recovered from him. A case in this connection had been registered against him under the NDPS Act.


Bir Devinder warns two Cong leaders
Our Correspondent

Kharar, July 15
Mr Bir Devinder Singh, Deputy Speaker of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha and local MLA, today warned that any unnecessary interference of two local Congress leaders in his constituency would not be tolerated.

He was here in connection with a function organised to honour the newly elected panchayat members at the local grain market.

Without taking names he appealed to the high command to check the activities of some Congressmen in the Kharar constituency.

As many as 101 of the 145 panchayats participated.

While addressing the gathering he said a development profile of all villages would be formed on a website and a five-year plan in this connection would be made.

He declared that a social vigilance and awareness group in the Kharar constituency would be formed which would monitor the overall development of the constituency.

Among others present on the occasion included the SDM Kharar, Mr S.S. Gill, Kharar, DSP Rupinder Singh, Mr Jagat Singh and Mr Jugraj Singh Gill (both former MLAs), Mr H.S. Billa, former Mohali MC President, and Mr Om Prakash Sharma (former Kharar MC President).


Brig Kahlon joins SAD
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 15
Brig K.S. Kahlon (retd), a former Director, Sainik Welfare Board, Punjab, has joined the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) along with several ex-servicemen.

After putting in 33 years of service in Indian Army, Brig Kahlon served as Deputy Director-General, NCC, Uttar Pradesh too. Brig Kahlon said that he had joined the Akali Dal on persuasion of Capt Kanwaljit Singh, general secretary of the SAD.

Brig Kahlon reached Amritsar today to attend the Akali conference to be held here tomorrow.


Allegations against me baseless: Cong leader
Our Correspondent

Abohar, July 15
Mr Bal Mukand Sharma, a former minister and Vice-President of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee has said that allegations against him of amassing immovable property disproportionate to his known sources of income were totally baseless. He was only one of the 12 buyers of the Modi Mills complex.


High Court
Cross-examination concludes
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 15
Former Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) President Bibi Jagir Kaur’s cross-examination concluded before Mr Justice Amar Dutt of the high court today. The case will now come up for examination of other witnesses on Wednesday.

Seeking directions for setting aside the elections of Bibi Jagir Kaur from the Bholath Assembly constituency, Congress candidate Sukhpal Singh had earlier alleged the adoption of corrupt practices. He had further alleged that Bibi had procured the help of the police and other officers for the furtherance of her prospects.

Markfed chief seeks bail

Taking up a petition filed by Markfed Chairman Jagdish Singh Walia seeking the grant of anticipatory bail, Mr Justice Nirmal Singh of the high court on Tuesday issued notice of motion to the state of Punjab and other respondents for July 22.

In his petition, Mr Walia had stated that directions should be issued to the arresting officer to release him on bail in the event of his arrest in first information report pertaining to disproportionate assets.

Notice issued in allowance case

Taking up a petition filed by the wife of a Punjab Police Sub-Inspector alleging wilful disobedience of the high court order in a case pertaining to the release of her husband’s allowances, Mr Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel has issued notice to the Punjab Director-General of Police.

In her petition, Swinder Kaur had asserted that her husband Sub-Inspector Joginder Singh was implicated in a case pertaining to the murder of NRI Jaswinder Kaur. Her counsel added that the petitioner had filed a petition in the high court after allowances were not paid. The high court in May directed that the same should be paid within two weeks, but the orders were not complied with, she alleged.


Shahpur Kandi hydel project to be given to private sector
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 15
The Punjab Government has decided to commission the Lehra Mohabbat second stage thermal project through a joint venture between the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) and the Power Financial Corporation (PFC) even as it had decided to award the commissioning of the Shahpur Kandi hydel project to a private company. Talking to newsmen here state Chief Secretary Rajan Kashyap said in case of the Lehra Mohabbat stage two project it had been decided to have a joint venture between the PSEB and the Power Financial Corporation. He said this had been done because the PSEB had already invested in the project in terms of infrastructure and basic necessities.

He said as far as the Shahpur Kandi hydel project was concerned, the government was studying the viability of the project. He said due to the costs concerned, the government was clear that it would given to the private sector only. He said the cost of the project would be divided between the Irrigation Department which was using water from the Ranjit Sagar dam further upstream for irrigation purposes and the PSEB. He said former Chief Secretary A.S. Chatha had been appointed consultant to devise ways so that the share of both the departments could be properly identified. The Chief Secretary said a few French and Canadian companies had expressed their willingness to take up the project but added that a final decision on the matter would be taken only after the feasibility study of the project was received.

The Chief Secretary said it was wrong to presume that there would be any roll back in the dismantling of the PSEB with the improvement in the funds position of the board. He said the financial position of the board had improved slightly because of the tariff hike as well as a good monsoon which had saved it an estimated Rs 300 crore which would have been spent on providing water to the paddy crop. He said unbundling of the board would be completed by June next year according to the directions of the Central government.

Mr Kashyap also said that the World Bank had agreed to revive a multi crore drinking water supply scheme for rural areas in the state. He said this development had taken place at a recent meeting held at Delhi. He said the Chief Minister had written to the Rural Development Ministry to submit a fresh proposal in this regard as the original proposal had been shelved in 1997 because the World Bank had opposed the move of the Akali - BJP government to give free power to the farmers for agricultural operations.

The Chief Secretary said the World Bank had already agreed in principle to give Rs 840 crore for various Highway projects in the state. He said on July 28 a World Bank Economic Affairs team would arrive in Chandigarh to consider structural adjustment of the loan given to the state.


Anti-encroachment drive from today
Our Correspondent

Abohar, July 15
The sub-divisional civil and police authorities have decided to launch an anti-encroachment drive from tomorrow with assistance from staff of the Municipal Council. NGOs have also been requested by the administration to join the drive. Though the authorities do not apprehend any resistance yet heavy contingent of the police will accompany the sanitation staff of the council to ensure success of the campaign.

The Democratic Citizens’ Forum has submitted a comprehensive master plan on this occasion to regulate the traffic in this subdivisional town. According to Mr Subhash Kanwar Bedi, president of the forum, the plan if introduced shall solve the problems being faced by over one lakh citizens besides the administration.

According to the plan, all types of heavy vehicles, including buses coming from Malout and Fazilka side, should be allowed to enter the town via Hunumangarh road only. In no case the vehicles should be permitted to enter or go out through the road between Jain Nagar and water works which should be left exclusively for the use of two-wheelers, autorickshaws, cyclists and pedestrians. This will ensure safety to a large number of school going children who pass this over-congested road daily. All such vehicles should also be not permitted to enter the town from Thana road which should be strictly used for out-going traffic only to Malout and Fazilka side. Heavy vehicles, after converging on Hanumangarh road, can go to Hanumangarh straight and to Sri Ganganagar through the bypass and can enter town through Sahitya Sadan road easily under an one-way traffic system from near the chowk at the railway crossing. All passenger buses should also adopt the same track to reach the main bus stand.

No heavy vehicular traffic should be allowed to enter the town through the old Fazilka road which should be kept open for out-going heavy vehicular traffic with the exception of light vehicles which should follow one way traffic system only. The road is too narrow to sustain normal traffic flow both ways. At times it results in blocking of traffic when trucks and trolleys while loading and unloading cotton at different factories get standard in a haphazard manner. All heavy vehicles coming from Fazilka and Malout desiring to go to old Fazilka road should converge on Hanumangarh road. After entering the town via Sahitya Sadan road it should reach old Fazilka road from Kalyan Baloomy Chowk under one-way traffic system already existing.

Heavy vehicle traffic from Hanumangarh side can follow the straight road and such type of vehicular traffic coming from Sri Ganganagar side should enter the town en-route bypass converging at Hanumangarh road (College road). All such heavy vehicles, including buses, after crossing the railway crossing at Hanumangarh road can either proceed straight to Fazilka or Malout and can enter the town through Sahitya Sadan road under one-way traffic system after crossing the railway crossing. Out going traffic to Sri Ganganagar side can be permitted via town through Krishana Nagar road from Vir Haquiqat Rai Chowk or Sethi Palace road under one way-traffic system.

The forum has suggested that traffic police personnel should be posted at Bhagat Singh Chowk diverting traffic via street behind old tehsil leading to Nehru Civil Hospital allowing traffic via Lakkar Mandi & Gaushala road to reach Circular Road & Gaushala Road. The stretch of road between Bhagat Singh Chowk and crossing at street 12th should be utilised for out-going traffic towards Bhagat Singh Chowk under one-way traffic system only as this part of the road is too narrow to sustain traffic both ways.

Yet another important troubled spot having chaotic traffic conditions is the road leading to the railway station. From Ghanta Ghar Chowk to railway station the whole of link road is always blocked because of the permanently stationed rehris selling fruit and vegetables on both sides of the road leaving no place even for the pedestrians . This link road must be cleared of every type of obstruction to allow smooth flow of vehicular traffic which can return to Circular Road from railway station through link road passing from Rani Jhansi Market.


Action against Afghana ‘unjust’
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 15
Several Sikh scholars, representing various organisations, today said that the Sikh clergy’s decision to excommunicate Canada-based Panthic writer Gurbax Singh Kala Afghana from the Panth for his alleged ‘blasphemous acts’ was “unjust and violative of the very fundamentals of Sikhism”.

Addressing a press conference here today, Mr Gurtej Singh, Professor of Sikhism, said, “Sikh clergy is not vested with decision-making powers on ordinary matters even, what to talk of excommunicating a Sikh”.

Posing a question to the Jathedar of Akal Takht, Mr Gurtej Singh asked that under which provisions of the Sikh canon, he and other jathedars were exercising the authority to issue “hukumnamas” (religious edict) and taking decisions on behalf of the Panth.

“The Sikh clergy is overstepping its jurisdiction and in the name of Akal Takht, is trying to replace orthodox Brahmanism with a new type of Sikh Brahmanism.”

Mr Gurtej Singh said that to discuss the re-emergence of Brahmanical practices in Sikhism and various other religious issues pertaining to the Panth, a World Sikh Convention, would be held here on September 14.

Defending Mr Kala Afghana, Mr Gurtej Singh stated that he was an eminent scholar who had written 10 books. Eminent Sikhs, who had examined these books, have also not found anything objectionable in them. Only a handful of people, who have not gone through his works, were raising objections.

He further said the SGPC was not a representative of all Sikhs, as it was only confined to certain states. Its primary task was the management of gurdwaras. The Sarbat Khalsa was empowered to decide about religious matters pertaining to the Sikhs, he added.


Revamp working of Social Securities Dept, says minister
Our Correspondent

Amritsar July 15
Expressing dismay over the performance of the Social Securities Department responsible for disbursing pensions under its welfare schemes, Ch. Jagjit Singh Minister for Local Government, Parliamentary Affairs and Labour and Employment, said the credibility of this department had suffered. He said the functioning of this department had put a question mark on the image of the government.

The minister was presiding over a meeting of the District Planning and Development Board and sanctioned an amount of Rs 13.54 crore under various development schemes in the rural and urban sectors of the district here today.

The minister asserted that working of this department needed to be revamped and the tempo of development be accelerated . He directed the Additional Deputy Commissioner, Mr Neelkanth, to personally examine all records and ascertain the factual position on pensions. He also ordered the registration of FIRs in cases of financial bungling in the pension disbursement process that had come to light in Sri Goindwal Sahib as per report of the SDM, Khadoor Sahib.

An amount of Rs 35 lakh was released for widow and old age pensions so as to clear the backlog, said the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Raminder Singh. He further said physically challenged persons with a handicap of 50 per cent could now avail the financial assistance as a result of new amendment.

The board today released a sum of Rs 4.46 crore to District Development and Panchayats Officer for grant-in-aid to panchayats under community development scheme. A sum of Rs 94,000 was released for distribution as stipend to SC sports students to District Welfare Officer. A grant of Rs 20 lakh under rural sector for providing plots to the houseless SC persons and Rs 67 lakh for attendance stipend to SC primary students was also given.

The Deputy Director, Local Government, was given a sum of Rs 50.67 lakh for development works in Patti. The Deputy Director Fisheries was given a sum of Rs 32,000 for aid to fish farmers.


Bodies continue to surface in canals
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, July 15
With the recovery of one more unidentified body today from a distributory near Kanakwal village in Talwandi Sabo subdivision in the district, the number of bodies recovered from various water bodies, including canals, distributaries, water channels and lakes, dotting this area in the past three and a half months has reached 17. Even as the recovery of bodies from various water bodies situated at the tail end of various canals in the state has been continuing for the past many years, the authorities concerned have failed to find out the reasons behind it.

Apart from baffling the police authorities, the recovery of the bodies has surprised many others, who are wondering whether the victims died a natural death or have been murdered.

Mr Amritpal Singh Brar, general secretary, Nationalist Congress Party, Punjab, said he had taken up the matter with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to institute a probe into the matter so that the mystery behind the recovery of the bodies could be solved. He said he had written to the Chairman, NHRC, in this connection.

Information gathered by TNS revealed that a majority of the bodies recovered from the water bodies were mutilated, decomposed and beyond recognition.

Mr Vijay Goyal, president, Sahara Jan Sewa, Bathinda, who along with volunteers of the organisation, has been performing the last rites of these victims, pointed out that of the 17 bodies recovered till date from April 1, 2003, only four had been identified. Those identified belonged to Ludhiana and Sangrur districts and one to Rampura Phul town, who committed suicide after murdering a son of his friend a few months ago. Civil Hospital sources said after conducting post-mortem, the viscera of the victims was being sent to a Patiala-based laboratory for chemical examination to find out the reason of the death. If the body was decomposed, then it was sent to Medical College, Faridkot, for post- mortem and forensic examination.


Record of sarpanch’s poll summoned
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, July 15
The State Election Commission has reportedly summoned the record pertaining to the election of a sarpanch from the SDM (Baba Bakala) and the presiding officer of the block.

The sarpanch had complained to the Election Commission that the district administration was allegedly tampering with the record to declare his opponent sarpanch under pressure from a local MLA.

Mr Gurmeet Singh, a resident of Ramdiali Musalmana village in Baba Bakala and a Congress worker who had contested for sarpanch in the recently concluded panchayat election had alleged yesterday that his opponent, Sawinder Singh, a resident of the area was using his influence to declare the result in his favour.

Gurmeet Singh while talking to this correspondent claimed that he had won the panchayat election by seven votes from Sawinder Singh and was declared sarpanch by the returning officer. He claimed that he had secured 550 votes while his opponent had bagged 543 votes.

He alleged that Sawinder a close relative of the local MLA, was using political influence to change the results of the election in his own favour.


Govt awaiting report on octroi
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, July 15
Ch Jagjit Singh, Local Body Minister, Punjab, has said the government was awaiting the report of panel set up to explore the possibilities of which could replace octroi.

Talking to the mediapersons here today he said the report was expected to be submitted to the government within two months. He said it had become necessary to introduce a new tax in the shape of local area development tax which was opposed by certain people, including political parties.

He said all government land under encroachment would be vacated which would give a boost to the economy of the state.

He presented a cheque of Rs 87.26 lakh to local Municipal Council chief, Mr Sharvan Kumar to carry out development works in the city.


Dalits’ stir still on in village
Our Correspondent

Mansa, July 15
The dharna by the Dalits of Dalel Singh Wala village of the district entered its third day yesterday with no let up in steam. Mr Jai Singh Phillaur, national coordinator of the Dalit Dasta Virodhi Andolan (DDVA), joined the dharna yesterday and addressed the Dalits.

Meanwhile, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has also extended support to the cause of the Dalits.

Mr Phillaur said Punjab had not spent a single penny on creating awareness of their rights among 5 lakh bonded labourers in the state in the agriculture sector only. He said Dalel Singh Wala village had a history of struggle, as Dharam Singh Fakker had laid down his life here for the rights of agricultural labourers.

He said 150 bonded labourers from this village alone had approached the National Commission for SC/ST, New Delhi, for their release. After the complaints, the Jat Sikh farmers had started selling their labourers to other farmers. Several minor girls had appeared before Mr Kulwant Singh, Additional Deputy Commissioner, Mansa, during an inquiry and given statements that they were in debt bondage and had never attended school. An old woman had also complained of being in debt bondage, but the district administration had not taken cognizance of the offence, Mr Phillaur said. After complaints by the Dalits, Mr Mukhtiar Singh, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Mansa, had also heard the Dalits several times, but taken no action against the Jat Sikh farmers. The police had rather insisted that the bonded labourers should repay the debt or resume work in the fields of the Jat Sikh farmers.

Mr Phillaur said 300 such cases from the district were pending with the Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC), Chandigarh, since 1999, but no relief had ever been given to any complainant and no inquiry had ever been conducted. Hence, the Dalits had lost faith in the judicial system. The police instead of charging the Jat Sikh farmers under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989, charged them under milder Sections of the IPC only. In Kahangarh and Ramanandi villages of the district, houses of the Dalits had been forcibly locked by the Jat Sikh farmers and complaints to the police were of no use. Mr Phillaur even demanded separate Dalit districts.


Docs seek immunity under Section 88
Our Correspondent

Patiala, July 15
The Punjab unit of the Indian Medical Association, today urged the state government to grant immunity to doctors under Section 88 of the IPC from any offences in the event of death of a patient during the course of treatment in hospitals.

In a memorandum submitted to the Chief Secretary, Mr Rajan Kashyap, here the association said Section 304 was not be applicable to hospital deaths and Section 304-A could not be made applicable without establishing any prima facie medical negligence. The association also demanded the constitution of an experts committee to go into the records and that no case be registered against any doctor without the report of this committee.

Speaking on the occasion Mr Kashyap said a committee consisting of Principal Secretary, Health, Principal Secretary, Medical Education, two representative of the IMA, Punjab, and one lawyer representing the IMA would soon be constituted to formulate a permanent policy to streamline the process of investigations in such cases.


Woman seeks probe into husband’s murder
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, July 15
Ms Simerjeet Kaur, widow of Babu Singh, a resident of Bhucho Khurd village, who was murdered under mysterious circumstances on June 29, the day of polling for panchayat elections, has urged the police authorities to investigate the case properly so that the murderers of her husband could be identified and arrested.

In a letter written to the Additional DGP (Crime), Punjab, she alleged that the police was not showing any interest in the case as it was “ under pressure” of some political persons who were shielding the guilty. She said the murder had been committed with political motive.

Babu Singh, a resident of Bhucho Khurd, was murdered on June 29 after the declaration of the panchayat elections and his body was found near the cantonment area in the district after two days.

Meanwhile, an action committee has been formed by about 10 social and voluntary organisations which had demanded a high-level probe in the murder case. While Mr Bhan Singh Bhora, Member of Parliament, and Mr Hardev Arshi, a former MLA, also demanded immediate action in this connection.


Moga was Rup Lal Saathi's citadel
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Mr Rup Lal Saathi (86), a veteran Socialist and a former member of the Punjab Legislative Assembly, who died in a Ludhiana hospital yesterday, belonged to a rare brand of politicians for whom "probity in public life" was the guiding principle. No public function in Moga town was ever considered complete without his presence. The death came after a prolonged illness. His cremation at Moga this afternoon was attended by a large number of people.

Mr Rup Lal Saathi was not only a truly "people's representative" but also a "terror" for those in the local administration who tried to circumvent the law. “I had a couple of chances to meet and interact with him on various issues concerning Punjab in general and its political setup in particular and always found him "bold and forthright in his views and convictions". My last meeting with him was in January, 2002, on the eve of the assembly elections.” He had taken the onerous responsibility of managing campaign of his son, Mr Vijay Saathi.

“In 1952, I revolted against the denial of the ticket to me and contested as an Independent to ensure the defeat of the official candidate of the Congress. Exactly 50 years later, my son, Vijay Saathi, got the Congress ticket and I am working extra time to ensure his success ," 'Bapu' Rup Lal Saathi had told me at his house in Moga in January last year , maintaining that he had always opposed corruption, dishonestly and double standards in public life. As luck would have it, Vijay lost the election.

"Our family has never spent any money on contesting elections. At times, we end up with some money left in our kitty at the end of elections,” confessed Mr Rup Lal Saathi, who represented Moga in Punjab Vidhan Sabha in 1969 and again in 1977. His son, Mr Vijay Saathi, was elected in 1992 but from Baghapurana.

In 1957, the nomination papers of Mr Rup Lal Saathi were rejected and in 1962, he lent his support to Mr Gurcharan Singh Nihalsinghwala, the ultimate winner. Between 1952 and 2002, no election to the Punjab Vidhan Sabha from Moga constituency was held without active participation of the Saathis.

Mr Rup Lal Saathi was one of founder members of the Janata Party and remained President of its Punjab unit and General-Secretary of the national party.

In 1992, Dr Malti Thapar defeated him narrowly. “When the Dass Commission was set up to probe charges against the previous Congress Government headed by Mr Pratap Singh Kairon, I was a member of that commission. It is because of our quality of calling spade a spade that we have a mass base here,” Mr Saathi had told me then.


Gurdarshan Singh remembered
Our Correspondent

Nabha, July 15
Thousands of people thronged the local Ghordian Wala gurdwara to participate in the 15th death anniversary of Gurdarshan Singh, a former Punjab minister. Mr H.S. Hanspal, President, PPCC, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Agriculture Minister, Mr Kaushal Behl, Education Minister, Mr Tej Parkash, Transport Minister, Mr Gurvinder Atwal, Parliamentary Secretary, Mr Jagmohan Kang, Dairy and Animal Husbandry Minister, and Mr Sant Ram Singla, Chairman, Mandi Board, among others paid tributes to the departed soul.

Hailing his services to the community, Mr Tej Parkash called him a great leader and a noble personality. He recalled his days spent with Gurdarshan Singh.

Mr Gurwinder Atwal said he was among the rare species of honest politicians and such politicians were the need of the hour.


Stuck in Lahore, Indian returns after months
Tribune News Service

Wagah, July 15
Resumption of the Delhi-Lahore bus service came as god-sent opportunity for Ramzan Ali Mulah, as Indian national, who had been stuck in Lahore for the past more than one and half a year due to the snapping of rail, road and air links between the two countries.

Mr Ramzan, a resident of Dagmaipurhe village in Hoogly district, said it had been a gruelling period for him and his family.

He returned here this morning on the Lahore-Delhi bus. He said he had gone to Lahore to meet his maternal uncle.

Twentyseven passengers, including 14 mediapersons and three crew members, came from Lahore today.


Dharna by farmers
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, July 15
A two-hour dharna was staged by hundreds of members of the Kisan Sabha in front at the SDO’s office of Fatehpur subdivision Rajputan (Nawa Pind) protesting against the harassment of farmers by Punjab State Electricity Board officials.

In a joint statement Mr Lakhbir Singh and Mr Balwinder Singh, secretary and general secretary of the sabha, respectively, stated that the village elders should be allowed to accompany PSEB officials during assessment of power load checking. They said they were facing harassment at the hands of power officials.


Woman buried alive

Moga, July 15
A woman of Kot Ise Khan in the district was buried alive, while her 12-year-old son had a miraculous escape when the land on which she was sitting suddenly caved in today.

The victim, Jasbir Kaur, was cleaning utensils at her house. — UNI


Ghana national held with fake passport
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, July 15
The Immigration Department at Wagah yesterday nabbed a Ghana national, Iogin Ilanoulao Pen for allegedly possessing a fake passport.

Mr Manjit Singh, Immigration Officer at the Wagah joint check post, in a complaint lodged at Gharinda police station, stated that the suspect had fraudulently pasted his photograph on the passport.

He was nabbed during checking at the Immigration Department. A case has been registered under Sections 420,468,471 of the IPC.


NAAC training programme opens at GND varsity
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, July 15
“The higher education in Punjab will have to be revamped to make institutions in the state compete with the best institutions in the country”. These views were expressed by the NAAC (National Assessment and Accreditation Committee) team at the northern region training programme held at Guru Nanak Dev University here today.

Prof Mariamma A. Verghese, Senior Education Consultant, NAAC, while talking to the mediapersons said the NAAC had laid down strict guidelines and all colleges and universities would have to adhere to these for getting NAAC accreditation. Prof Verghese said the Minister for Higher Education Mr Harnam Dass Johar, had invited the team this week for preparing a comprehensive report on higher education.

Talking about the recent phenomenal hike in the fee structure announced by some governments, Prof Verghese, also former Vice-Chancellor of SNDT University Mumbai, felt that the entire fee structure should be revamped so that all sections of society could avail of the opportunities in higher education.

Mr Harnam Dass Johar while inaugurating a three-day northern region assessors training programme of NAAC said all colleges of Punjab would have to offer themselves for assessment by the National Council for Assessment, Accreditation, Bangalore before December 31. Mr johar revealed that in a meeting of principals of all colleges in the state they were told to be ready for NAAC assessment by October 31.

The minister also honoured Dr K.L. Johar, former Vice-Chancellor of Guru Jambeshwar University (GJU), Dr Antony Stella, Dr M.S. Shaymasunder, Adviser and Deputy Advisor of NAAC, Prof Mariamma Varghese, former Vice-Chancellor of SNDT women’s university, Mumbai.

Earlier, a book “Innovations and healthy practices” written by Dr S.P. Singh, Vice-Chancellor, was released on the occasion.

The NAAC team said it had organised five national training programmes in as many years. However, in order to meet the growing needs the committee had decided to hold four regional programmes throughout the country.


No Syndicate meeting yet on engineering college
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 15
The Punjabi University authorities have failed to hold a meeting of the Syndicate to present the complete details on the new University College of Engineering opened by it despite an assurance given in this regard to the august house.

Varsity Vice-Chancellor Swaran Singh Boparai had assured the Syndicate in a meeting held nearly three weeks back that the house would be reconvened after 15 days to present details of the Engineering College being started by it. The varsity had failed to give details of the Engineering College like the finances and infrastructure involved besides details of course curriculum.

The university authorities and the Punjab Higher Education Department seem to have different ideas about the necessity of opening an Engineering College on the campus of the university. Soon after the university had floated the idea of starting an Engineering College on its campus, it had received a communication from the Principal Secretary, Higher Education, asking it to provide several details besides advise that the university should ensure there was no violation of its statutes while setting up the college.

The issue was finally resolved at the level of Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh following which the Syndicate in a meeting held 15 days back had passed the agenda pertaining to the Engineering College. However, even in this meeting Principal Secretary N.S. Rattan had first called for deferring of the proposal till all the needed details on the Engineering college were furnished by the College. Finally it was decided that varsity would convene another meeting to present the complete details to the Syndicate.

Varsity Public Relations Director Dr B.S. Sandhu when contacted on the issue, said the meeting would be organised shortly. He said the Syndicate had asked the varsity authorities to prepare a broad plan on opening of the college after a suggestion in this regard by legislator Birdevinder Singh. He said the plan had been prepared but the meeting could not be held because of pressure of admissions. He said the entire senior faculty had been busy in the admission process.

Meanwhile, sources disclosed that the Higher Education Department has not taken kindly to the delay on the part of the varsity to explain details regarding the Engineering College to the Syndicate. The university is still to give details of the fee structure and financial details of the college to the Syndicate even as all the seats in its mechanical engineering, electronics and communications and computer engineering have been filled. Now only seats for NRI candidates are left.


Ex-officer honoured for contribution to university
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 15
The Punjabi University Old Students Association honoured Prof Daljit Singh, a former Director, Youth Welfare, Punjabi University, Patiala, at a function held here last night.

The president of the association, Mr Paramraj Singh Umranangal, who is also the SSP of this district, presented a silver plate and a memento to him. Speaking on the occasion, the SSP said extracurricular activities had reached a new high in the university during the tenure of Prof Daljit Singh. He said two years back the university had won the overall championship in the national-level inter-university competition held in the university itself.

Prof Daljit Singh, Mr Ujjagar Singh, District Public Relations Officer, and Mr Deepak Kampani, Manager, State Bank of Patiala, spoke on the occasion, among others.


Farid school kids win world dance contest
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, July 15
The team of students of the local Baba Farid Public School got first position in the World Dance Competition held in North Wales, England, a few days ago. Students of about 60 countries participated in the competition and Prince Charles was chief guest at the prize distribution function.

Mr S.S. Garewal, spokesperson of Baba Farid Public School, said in a press note issue here today that 20 students of the school had participated in the competition. He said children had performed ‘bhangra’, in the competition, which was highly appreciated by the audience.


Workshop for Principals tomorrow
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, July 15
The Punjab School Education Board will organise a one-day workshop for the Principals of various affiliated schools on Thursday. The workshop would be conducted at the board’s auditorium at 9 am and the problems faced by the schools would be taken up.


All not well with ST collection in Punjab, says Kashyap
Our Correspondent

Patiala, July 15
Punjab Chief Secretary Rajan Kashyap said today that sales tax collection in Punjab vis-a-vis Haryana proved that there was more corruption in Punjab than in the neighbouring state.

Delivering a lecture on ‘’ Reforms in Punjab’’ at Punjabi University, the Chief Secretary said the sales tax collection in Punjab was two-thirds that of Haryana while the state’s Gross Domestic Produce (GDP) was more than that of Haryana. He said these statistics proved that all was not well as far as the collection of sales tax in Punjab was concerned.

Mr Kashyap said Punjab, which was once first among the states, was today lagging behind in economic growth. He said the economic growth of the state during 1985-2000 was at the rate of 4.5 per cent, which was the lowest in the country.

Mr Kashyap also laid stress on the involvement of the local community and self government in schools and village hospitals to provide better education and health facilities to the people. He also reiterated the concept of providing technical education integrated with the requirements of the industry.

He said there was a need for providing basic infrastructure in the state as it was a must for the progress and development of any state. He said Rs 80 crore had been granted to the Irrigation Department this year. He said uniform sale tax rate should be introduced in the state.

Speaking on the occasion, the Vice-Chancellor, Punjabi University, Mr Swarn Singh Boparai, said there was a need to match accountability and authority. He also emphasised the decentralisation of powers in the state, saying that giving more teeth to the local bodies would bring in a transparent and accountable government. The Head of the Public Administration Department, Dr Harbans Pathak, and the Dean Academic Affairs, Dr U.C. Singh, also spoke on the occasion.

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