Friday, July 18, 2003, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



4 departments to go to panchayats
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 17
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today said the drive against corruption would continue in the state as long as he headed the government, even as he said the state government would transfer the powers of four departments of Primary Education, Health, Social Welfare and Public Health to panchayats.

Addressing a massive gathering of panchayat members of four districts in the state, the Chief Minister said the drive against corruption was aimed at cleansing the political system in the state and was not against any one individual as was being made out by the Akalis. He said he was clear in his mind that the drive would continue, adding the unity among the Badal and Tohra factions of the Akali Dal had not made any impact on the people of the state as the Akalis had already been exposed before the people.

Capt Amarinder Singh said his government had also decided to devolve powers to panchayats in the true spirit of the Panchayati Raj Act. He said Congress President Sonia Gandhi would formally inaugurate the scheme after the monsoon. In the meantime formal training would be immediately started for panches and sarpanches so that they could effectively run the panchayats in their villages, he added.

Speaking about the finances given to panchayats by his government, he said while in the last Budget Rs 158 crore had been provided to them, this year Rs 161 crore had been allocated to panchayats. He said in stark contrast the Akali - BJP government had given Rs 3 crores to panchayats in the last year of its power. He said the government was committed to all round development in the state. Besides rural development, stress was also being laid on improving the road network in the state. He said the World Bank had approved a Rs 800 crore scheme for improving the condition of the state highways. He said the Punjab Infrastructure Development Corporation (PIDB) was in the process of laying 935 km length of roads. He said besides this 42 rail overbridges and five main bridges were in the process of being constructed in the state.

Speaking on the issue of disinvestment while talking to newsmen later, the Chief Minister said the government was in the process of identifying further boards and corporations which could be privatised. He said at present against an expense of Rs 8300 crore, the boards and corporations were earning Rs 8 crore. He said the borrowings of the public sector undertakings had touched Rs 19,000 crore while their assets were only Rs 2,000 crore. He said, however, any privatisation move would be done after taking the employees of the corporations into confidence.

The Chief Minister also said his government was committed to power reforms. He said the government would, however, provide cheap and continuous power while conducting the reform process. Others present on the occasion included PPCC President HS Hanspal, Agriculture Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Finance Minister Lal Singh, MP Preneet Kaur, Punjab Mandi Board Chairman Sant Ram Singla, MP Jagmeet Brar, Deputy Speaker Birdevinder Singh and Legislator Raj Khurana.


42,310 sarpanches, panches take oath
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, July 17
In its bid to give more powers to Panchayati Raj institutions, the state government has decided to start the process of handing over the control of a number of departments, including Health Services, Water Supply and Education, to panchayats within two months.

Stating this at a function organised by the state government in which 42,310 panches and sarpanches from Jalandhar division took oath, Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Punjab Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, said the state government was committed to working wholeheartedly in the direction of empowering the Panchayati Raj institutions and to fulfilling the dreams of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Rajiv Gandhi.

She said the process of handing over the control of a number of departments would start within two months and all 12,449 villages in the state would be covered under this scheme. “All these villages would be extended city-like facilities,” said Ms Bhattal, adding that villages were still devoid of a number of basic amenities like roads and public toilets.

She said the party was also formulating a comprehensive programme for extending more powers to panchayats and this would be inaugurated formally by the All-India Congress Committee chief, Ms Sonia Gandhi, in September or October. “Once the process of giving more rights to panchayats is completed the rural life scenario will change,” said Ms Bhattal, adding that an amount of Rs 167 crore had already been spent on rural welfare through panchayats.

She announced that the state government had envisaged an ambitious scheme wherein people would get a heavy subsidy for the construction of modern toilets in their homes. “Of the total estimated cost of Rs 5,500, Rs 4,500 would be given by the state government as subsidy,” said Ms Bhattal.

Mr Balbir Singh, MP, said the Congress had always been a strong votary of empowering panchayats. “If need be, there should be no hesitation to amend the Panchayati Raj Act for this, he said.

Congratulating the newly elected panches and sarpanches, Dr Kewal Krishan, Speaker, Punjab Vidhan Sabha, expressed the hope that they would work for stengthening the Panchayati Raj institutions.

Earlier, a souvenir was also released by Mr J.R. Kaundal, Principal Secretary, Rural Development and Panchayats.


Bus carrying panches  overturns, 12 injured
Nishikant Dwivedi

Ratwara Sahib (Kharar), July 17
What would have been a moment of pride for the newly elected sarpanches and panches, turned out to be an anti-climax. A bus carrying 30 elected representatives from five villages for the oath taking ceremony to be held in Patiala, overturned while negotiating a sharp turn near here this morning.

Twelve of the elected representatives were injured and none of them could reach Patiala where they were seheduled to take oath in the presence of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh.

As per information available, a private bus (PB10AK 9625) was hired to take sarpanches and panches of 10 villages of Kharar area to Patiala. Luckily, no one, except the panch of Jayanti Majri village, Mr Sher Singh, was seriously injured in the accident. Mr Sher Singh was admitted to the General Hospital, Sector 16, Chandigarh, where his condition was said to be stable.

The bus driver, Major Singh escaped unhurt.

Mr Rajesh Kapoor, Panchayat Secretary, said newly elected members and members of their family were very enthusiastic that they were being given an honour by the state Chief Minister as soon as they stepped on the first ladder of electoral politics.

“I had to take sarpanches and panches of 10 villages to Patiala for oath. I had picked up elected representatives from five villages when the bus overturned”, said Mr Kapoor, who also sustained minor injuries in the accident.

All of us were very enthusiastic about attending the oath-taking ceremony. It would have been a moment of pride for us to take oath in the presence of the Chief Minister,” said a disappointed Mr Gurcharan Dass, a panch of Jayanti Majri village, who sustained injuries on the back. According to him, later in the day they signed the oath papers brought to them by Mr Rajesh Kapoor.

Among the injured were Mr Tarsem Lal, Ms Bachani, Ms Banti Devi and Mr Som Nath. No official was available for comments.


CM firm on doing away with NPA
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 17
Even as agitated organisations of government doctors today called the decision of the state government to do away with the non-practicing allowance (NPA) being given to doctors in the state “illegal”, the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, said there was no reason why the government should continue to subsidise this allowance.

The Chief Minister, while talking to newspersons here after attending a function in which the newly-elected panchayat members were sworn in, said the state government could not afford this expenditure. He said the NPA was putting an additional burden of Rs 80 crore on the state Exchequer.

Capt Amarinder Singh said besides this the NPA had failed in preventing government doctors from doing private practice. He said government doctors had continued to do private practice despite appeals and even checks on them.

Meanwhile, the National Medicos Forum, in a press release here, said the stoppage of NPA was not only ill conceived but also “illegal”. Its president, Dr D.C. Sharma, said NPA represented a pay which for all intents and purposes including retirement benefits and not an “allowance” as was widely considered. He said the pay of an employee could not be lowered adding the present cadre of doctors were appointed after 1972 under the conditons of the NPA and “no private practice” and that they could not be deprived of this benefit. He said the move of the government would affect the retirement benefits, including the pension, gratuity and leave encashment.

In another statement the PCMS Association of the Government Rajindra Hospital urged the Chief Minister to immediately review this decision. An Association leader, Dr D.S. Bhullar, claimed the State bureaucracy had given wrong information to the Cabinet which had decided to stop the NPA. 


Govt decision makes people happy but doctors ‘sick’
Tribune Reporters

Sangrur, July 17
Majority of the persons, belonging to different sections of the society today hailed the Punjab Cabinet’s decision regarding abolition of non-practising allowance (NPA) for the government doctors and allowing them private practice. They termed the NPA as an unnecessary burden on the state Exchequer. They also alleged that despite getting the NPA, doctors had not stopped from indulging in private practice.

On the other hand, the doctors’ community said that abolition of the NPA would certainly affect the ‘dutiful’ doctors adversely as it would force them as well to start private practice because each doctor’s monthly salary would reduce ranging from Rs 5000 to Rs 7000. Thus the exploitation of poor patients would increase as the doctors would fleece them in form of fee and unnecessary costly clinical tests.

Mr Rajinder Singh Josh, general secretary of Punjab Beopar Mandal, termed this cabinet decision as correct, claiming that despite getting the NPA, many doctors had not given up private practice.

Dr Surinder Singla, former state secretary of Punjab IMA, called it an “anti-doctor” and “anti-people” decision. He said the NPA was a misnomer and given to doctors for reasons other than private practice, including hard nature of duty, odd working hours and working under life-threatening conditions.

Mr Ashi Goyal, a local advocate, endorsed the cabinet’s decision regarding abolition of NPA, saying most of the doctors, had already been doing private practice even after getting NPA.

Mr Krishan Kumar, a local book-seller, termed the government’s decision as a right decision, but opposed the government’s decision to allow the doctors private practice.

Mr Jatinder Kalra, a local Municipal Councillor, and Mr Harpreet Singh Bhandari, district press secretary of the SAD (A), said the NPA should not be abolished as it would lead to exploitation of the poor patients because now doctors would do private practice without any fear and openly. They said instead of abolishing the NPA, the government should take action against those who did private practice even after receiving the NPA.

Prof Tejwant Mann, Head of Punjabi Department, Akal Degree College, Mastuana Sahib, near here, and Mr Chand Maghan, a local industrialist, also endorsed the Cabinet decision.

Dr Ishwar Singh, eye specialist at local Civil Hospital, said the government should not abolish the NPA.

Mr Udey Partap Singh, a social worker and chairman of Punjab Population Control Committee, an NGO, also welcomed the Cabinet’s decision on the NPA and private practice.

DHURI: The members of the local Punjab Civil Medical Services (PCMS) Association on Thursday condemned the decision of the Punjab Government to abolish the non-practising Allowance (NPA) of the doctors working under the Punjab Government.

An emergency meeting of the medical officers working at the Civil Hospital, here was held on Thursday in this regard which termed it as anti-poor people decision. The association demanded from the Punjab Government to revoke its decision immediately.

HOSHIARPUR: The Punjab Civil Medical Services (PCMS) and the PCMS Welfare Associations have flayed the proposed decision of the Punjab Cabinet to abolish the non-practising allowance (NPA) of the government doctors.

In a press release here on Thursday, Dr Ajay Bagga, press secretary of the PCMS Association and Dr Sardul Singh, general secretary of the PCMS Welfare Association, termed the decision as anti-people. It had caused resentment among the doctors who were already furious over the stagnation in promotions. They alleged that bureaucrats, led by a seniormost functionary of the government had succeeded in misleading the political leadership. This ill-advised decision would further affect the working of the health department which was already facing severe criticism due to the non-availability of essential drugs and dilapidated condition of the buildings in the rural areas.

They further stated that a deputation of doctors led by Dr Hardip Singh and Dr M.L. Puri, president of the PCMS Welfare Association, respectively, would soon call on the Punjab Chief Minister and Health Minister to apprise them about the ill effects of this decision. They stated that joint meeting of the general bodies of both the associations would soon be convened to chalk out a strategy to oppose the above proposed decision.

AMRITSAR: The PCMS Association has threatened to launch an agitation against the decision of abolishing NPA that would adversely effect the medical profession and state health services. Dr Baljit Singh Dhillon, general secretary, Punjab Medical and Dental Teachers Association, asserted that the government must reverse this decision or would have to face unrest among doctors and other medical staff. A press release issued by the local unit president of the PCMS Associations, Dr Navtejpal Singh and the vice-president, Dr Harsimrat Singh, here on Thursday appealed to the government to make a true assessment of their duties which were unique from any other profession and not to penalise the entire medical fraternity for the illegal private practice by a few doctors by withdrawing their NPA.


Petrol stations start charging hiked prices
Manoj Kumar
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 17
The announcement of the Punjab Government decision to raise Sales Tax on petrol from 20 per cent to 25 per cent on petrol with effect from today has created a peculiar situation in the state. While the oil companies are still awaiting the copy of the notification, and have not officially announced the hike in petrol prices, a number of petrol pumps in the region have started charging increased rates.

The regional office of the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) here which coordinates the oil prices in the state, has not so far received the copy of the notification. A senior official in the marketing division of the IOC claimed that petrol dealers could not increase the prices without our instructions in this regard. He said, “We are still awaiting the notification copy. It is expected to reach in a day or two. It would result in increase in oil prices by 15-20 paise per litre though the actual sales in the state is likely to fall substantially.”

The petrol dealers in SAS Nagar, Zirakpur, Kharar and other areas in Punjab adjoining Chandigarh and Haryana claimed that with the increase in Sales Tax by the state government, their sales would come down by 15-20 per cent in the next few days. Though the dealers denied that they had increased the price, yet the customers alleged that the petrol dealers were charging increased rates on the pretext that the state government had announced the increase in the Sales Tax with effect from today.

Interestingly, some dealers were even refusing supply of petrol, claiming it out of stocks. They were reportedly storing the petrol to charge higher prices later. Mr Amar Singh, a taxi driver in Phase I, SAS Nagar, claimed that the petrol dealers were demanding Rs 32.20 instead of Rs 31.97 per litre, the earlier price. He claimed that he would prefer to purchase petrol from Chandigarh or Panchkula where it was cheaper.

The petrol dealers alleged that in Chandigarh, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh and even in J&K the Sales Tax on petrol was 20 per cent, but in Punjab they would have to pay 25 per cent Sales Tax, 10 per cent surcharge on the Sales Tax besides 1 per cent octroi in the municipal limits. It would create a price difference of up to 75 paise per litre. They said on petrol the Centre was already charging 30 per cent excise duty.

An official of the Indian Oil Corporation disclosed that in Punjab on an average 42,000 metric tonnes of petrol was consumed per month. The state government was already earning Rs 350 crore from taxes. With the increase in tax, though it is expecting to generate additional Rs 68 crore annually, yet the actual revenue would be substantially lower due to the impact on the sales, he added.


Decision on raising ST on diesel deferred
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 17
The Punjab Council of Ministers that took some politically bold decisions yesterday to either increase or introduce new sales tax rates and matters related to the employees had also deferred some decisions ostensibly as much on political grounds as opposition from vested interests within the council. These decisions concerned farmers.

Among the deferred proposals was to increase sales tax on diesel from 8 per cent to 12 per cent and bring fertilisers and pesticides also under the ambit of sales tax at the rate of 4 per cent each. At present there is zero tax on these. But this was not done on the pretext that the government had given its word to the farmers’ representatives not to tax these items. The fact is that some Congressmen are themselves transporters and, therefore, had opposed sales tax on diesel. Had sales tax been approved on these three agriculture-related items the expected revenue would have been around Rs 240 crore.

Sources say that if the council took these economy-driven, and not populist decisions, it was because of the ‘’bleak’’ financial picture painted by the Principal Secretary, (Finance), Mr K R Lakhanpal. Given the present financial position, the government cannot implement its Annual Plan from own resources as Punjab was facing a huge debt burden of Rs 36,853 crore. No government can afford not to pay even the committed expenditure, like salaries and pensions or get deeper into a debt-trap. Hence the need for additional resource mobilisation and cutting government expenditure.

The council was given a gist of observations and concerns made by the Planning Commission on the state’s financial situation. There was a resource gap of Rs 625 crore between the proposed Annual Plan of Rs 3,200 crore and the resources assessed by the commission at Rs 2,575 crore. Punjab should take harsh decisions without waiting for a national consensus on several items. Given the state’s economic potential, the commission assessment was that Punjab could generate a revenue of Rs 5,500 crore to Rs 6,000 crore per annum from sales tax alone. Another concern of the commission was the state’s blooming debt, whose servicing was crowding out investment in development. Public sector undertakings were also a drain on the state.

Though the council approved certain targets both on sales tax and excise duty, stamps and registration fee, motor vehicle tax, transport sector and curtailing Rs 400 crore non-plan expenditure in the remaining part of 2003-04, it is doubtful if these would be achieved.

There were still several unimplemented decisions that were listed in the government’s first Budget, (2003-04). Attention was drawn to these at the council meeting. These relate to reducing non-plan expenditure. There was to be a review of leave encashment, non-practising allowance, commutation of pensions etc., replacement of medical reimbursement by a scheme of medical insurance and freeze on dearness allowance. Incidentally, doctors would now be permitted to do private practice outside the hospital working hours, as the non-practising allowance has been abolished. It was also proposed to discontinue the accelerated career progression scheme. A decision is awaited on these expenditure-reducing steps.


Low quality board education worries principals
Tribune News Service

SAS Nagar, July 17
The Punjab School Education Board (PSEB) has become the last choice of meritorious students, thanks to the low standards of education being offered by the board.

School principals from all over the state gathered here today to convey this in no uncertain terms to the board officials at a workshop organised by the PSEB. And if the board officials were worried, they did not show it.

Emphasising this point, principals of schools affiliated to the PSEB stated that the board, in trying to grapple with massive scale of operations, has lost focus on the quality of education. The principals had been invited by the board today to participate in a one-day workshop here.

“The board has imparted enough education, it is high time it starts to learn. I have taught both in the ICSE and CBSE systems and now I am principal of a school affiliated to the PSEB. It is sad but the PSEB has a long way to go,” said Mr Harwant Singh, Principal, Guru Nanak School, Fathegarh Sahib.

“For example, the board is stuck on single stream science and social studies when everywhere else in the country science is taught separately as physics, chemistry and biology. Secondly, the system of additional subject like physical education, agriculture, drawing etc is a big fraud, an extra burden on the students, specially when marks are not counted and trained teachers and books are not available,” he added.

The Principals said: “The courses we teach are probably the lengthiest in the country. We are unable to finish the syllabus before exams and there is never any time left for revisions. The syllabus has to be limited to a few important topics. Then the board should ensure that books in all three mediums are made available. For years we have been facing an acute shortage of social studies books in the English medium but no one seems to have paid attention to us,” said Mrs Savita Misra, Principal, Ravinder Day Boarding Sr. Sec. School, Jalandhar.

Suggesting that small changes in the examination system can bring about a big improvement in the method by which the students are graded and marked, Mrs Harminder Singh, Principal, Manohar Saini Sr. Sec. School, Ludhiana, said that the board followed a flawed system of examining students. “Five separate sets of question papers are provided to the students to ensure that no cheating is done. But these five sets of question papers also contain different questions. This brings luck factor into the examinations and some students get all easy questions while others get the difficult ones,” she said.

The principals also pointed out that the board’s insistence on teaching students using their books alone is also a negative trend. ‘‘We are checked by board officials to see if we are using their books are not. But at times when we don’t get the requisite books from the board, we use NCERT books. Moreover we have told students to freely consult these books for better understanding,” said Mr Harwant Singh.

“The board cannot improve its standards of education till it strictly controls cheating that takes place at some centres. We have been asked for money by the board’s invigilators in government schools where we take our children for examinations. Why will a student want to learn when he can get marks by cheating?,” said Sister Lissy, Principal of Sacred Heart School, Chougawan. Amritsar.


Civic bodies defy order on water user charges
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 17
Though the Punjab Government enhanced the user charges for drinking water and sewerage about three months ago, but nearly 90 per cent of the municipal committees have not implemented the government order in this connection.

Of the 130 municipal committees and nagar panchayats and five municipal corporations, only 15 municipal committees and three municipal corporations have enhanced the user charges. The corporations which have not implemented the order are Ludhiana and Patiala.

In fact, most of these bodies are of the view that they have the autonomous status and the government has no business to interfere in their affairs by issuing instructions such as enhancement of user charges etc. At several places, there is a resistance at the political level with regard to proposed increase in charges.

However, the government authorities concerned say the municipal committees and corporations have no choice but to implement at their directions regarding increase in user charges. “ The committees and corporations will have to implement the government order sooner or later”, said a top officer of the Punjab Local Bodies Department. “ We are monitoring the situation and if need be, fresh instructions will be given to all concerned to implement the new rates at the earliest”, said the officer.

Before the implementation of the order, each committee and corporation has to pass a resolution in its elected house at the local level. However, according to information reaching here, most of such bodies have not even fixed any dates for such meetings.

Three months ago, the government had revised the water supply rates to Rs 2 per 1000 litre from Rs 1.20 per 1000 litre, which were fixed in 1993. However, the Punjab Water Supply and Sewerage Board is actually spending Rs 3 to supply 1000 litres of water to residential areas in cities and towns. 


SAD, CPI decry imposition of taxes
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 17
The Punjab state council of the CPI, today criticised the heavy dose of taxes to the tune of nearly Rs 1,000 crore.

Dr Joginder Dayal and Mr Bhupinder Samber sought to know which were more than Rs 2,000 crore of extra taxes collected by the government in the past 18 months and what steps had been taken to plug the pilferage of sales tax to the tune of Rs 2,500 crore annually.

In a joint statement the two leaders said the government must withdraw these WTO and bureaucracy-inspired taxes immediately and take bold steps to check tax evasion, recover nearly Rs 3,500 crore worth of debt due from a few individuals for several years; and rightsize the abnormally heavy police and civil administrative pyramid.

The CPI will organise rallies against these steps.

The Shriomani Akali Dal president, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, described as “cruel and devoid of economic vision” the decisions to hike sales tax on petrol, impose tax on CSD goods, discount pension of employees and abolish the non-practising allowance for doctors. “The decisions reflect a most insensitive administration”, he added.

The PCMS Association has decided to put up strong resistance against the abolition of the Non-Practising Allowance (NPA).


Cong to project Jagjit as Dalit leader
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, July 17
Feeling upset over the success of Uttar Pardesh Chief Minister, Ms Mayawati’s rally at Chandigarh on Tuesday as an aftermath of Talhan episode, the top leadership of the state unit of the Congress has decided to organise a big rally of Dalits in the state to project Punjab Local Bodies Minister, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, as their “undisputed” leader. The move was initiated at a function organised for the mass swearing-in ceremony of newly elected sarpanches and panchayat members at the NFL stadium here today. The move was initiated by the Congress leadership in its bid to keep its hold over the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other Backward Communities, which were considered as its traditional votebank.

“We will organise a huge rally of Dalits in Punjab soon which will be addressed by the AICC Chief, Ms Sonia Gandhi, to tell the Dalits that they should not be taken for granted by those “outsiders” who have failed miserably to do any thing for their Dalit brothers and sisters’ welfare in their own state”, pointed out Chaudhary Jagjit Singh and the Chairman of the High-Powered Finance Committee, Mr Surinder Singla, addressing the function.


DCC chiefs’ meeting on July 19
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 17
Mr H.S. Hanspal President of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, has convened a meeting of the DCC Presidents for July 19 at Punjab Congress Bhavan here, according to Mr Raj Pal Singh, Secretary (Media). 

The General Secretaries of the party have also been invited to the meeting. The “Simla sankalap”, membership drive and other issues will be discussed at the meeting.                   


Bail petitions of Badal’s OSD
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 17
Mr Justice Amar Dutt of the high court today referred to another bench two bail petitions filed by Punjab’s former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s officer on special duty Hardeep Singh. The details of the orders were not yet available.

Claiming to have been implicated in both the cases due to mala fide reasons, the petitioner submitted that no offence was made out against him. The petitioner had asserted that the second case was registered simply to curtail his liberty.


Production warrants against Narottam
Our Correspondent

Kharar, July 17
Ms Baljinder Kaur Bhatia, Subdivisional Judicial Magistrate, here today issued production warrants for July 21 against Narottam Singh Dhillon, a close relative of former Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal, in connection with a case registered against Mr Badal at SAS Nagar.

The public prosecutor moved an application on behalf of the Vigilance Bureau (VB) alleging that Mr Badal, during his tenure means in connivance with some of his relatives, including Narottam Singh Dhillon.

The charge is that this money has been deposited in banks in India and abroad. Narottam even accepted a huge money in bribe on behalf of the Badal family. This money had been transferred to the Badal family by issuing cheques through his NRI bank accounts.

The application says that Narottam, thus, converted to white crores in black money belonging to Mr Badal.

Thandal’s bail plea rejected
Our Correspondent

Ropar, July 17
The Special Judge, Ropar, Mr S.K. Goel, today rejected the bail application of former State Minister for Food and Civil Supplies Sohan Singh Thandal.

Mr Thandal was in judicial custody in a corruption case registered against him by the Vigilance Bureau.


Five get judicial remand for abetting suicide

Kharar, July 17
A local court today remanded five persons accused of abetment of suicide in judicial custody till July 30. The Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate (SDJM), Ms Baljinder Kaur Bhatia, while accepting the prosecution’s request for a judicial remand of the accused, ordered to take Om Pal, Mohan Lal Sethi, Des Raj, Naresh Kumar and Raj Kumar in 14-day judicial custody.

The police had booked the five accused, who were employees of a cold store at Balongi village, on the charge of abetment of suicide in connection with the death of a cold store employee, Tej Parshad. — PTI


Tenders not opened, work half finished
Lalit Mohan

Nangal, July 17
A nexus between certain contractors and officials of the Nangal Municipal Council has resulted in a strange case of corruption in which the work worth Rs 5 lakh is already being executed by a certain contractor, while the tender for it is yet to opened. The case came to the fore today due to the infighting among contractors.

The work for constructing the retaining wall from the cremation ground of the Dobeta colony to the Sharma Store area of Nangal is listed as item no. 35 in the tenders yet to be opened by the council. The work was to be completed by the contractor within three months after the tenders had been opened. However, the contractor concerned has already completed more than 50 per cent of the work.

When this correspondent visited the site, he found that the retaining wall of the cremation ground had already been constructed, while the financial bid for the work was yet to be submitted as per the tender notice.

The matter came to the fore when certain contractors had an argument with the Executive Engineer of the council over the allotment of 34 other works worth about Rs 1 crore. The 35th work was deemed to be given to the contractor who has already completed more than 50 per cent of the work. When this correspondent reached the council office, the contractors were involved in a heated debate with the Executive Engineer.

The contractors alleged that the disputed tender had been stated to be opened on June 13, but the opening had been then postponed on the plea that the officials concerned were busy performing election duty. The opening was then fixed for July 14 when again it was postponed due to administrative reasons. Today, all contractors were called for the third time to present bids.

Finding their favourites not getting the contracts, the officials allegedly again postponed the opening. This agitated the contractors, who alleged that the council officials were trying to pool the contracts to seek maximum commission from their favourites. They said item 35 of the tenders, regarding the work of the retaining wall of the Dobeta cremation ground, had already been allotted to a contractor who had even executed the work beforehand.

The Executive Engineer of the Nangal Municipal Council, Mr Sukhdev Singh, when asked to comment on this, said no such work had been done. However, the wall at the site tells a different story.

Sources said though the council had sold the tender forms worth about Rs 60,000 to the contractors, no receipt for these had been issued.


Ratra conducts surprise check
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 17
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) Chairman Mr Y.S. Ratra, today paid a surprise visit to the board’s grid substations at Sarai Banjara village and Banur during which consumers complained of erratic power supply on domestic feeders of the areas concerned.

Mr Rajinder Kumar, a panchayat member complained that two villages — Sarai Banjara and Basti Bazigar — were being fed from just one transformer. Villagers also complained of improper earthing due to which many persons had suffered electric shocks. They also regretted long interruptions in domestic power supply during night hours.

Mr Ratra directed the officers and line staff to conduct frequent raids and punish erring persons instead of disconnecting power supply. The chairman appealed to sarpanches, panches and villagers to help the board in catching the defaulters. He also urged the farmers to desist from running agricultural power pump sets during single-phase supply by installing condensers.

Mr Ratra warned the staff to remain on duty and took note of absence of some officials from their headquarters and asked for explanation.

He was accompanied by Mr H.C. Sood, Chief Engineer Commercial, Mr R.P. Pandove, Director Industrial Relations, and a team of enforcement wing officers.


Hounded youth asks Vedanti for help
Rashmi Talwar

Amritsar, July 17
Dalit youth Harbans Singh continues to be hounded by the Haryana police. This youth from the village of Dadwan Dhariwal in Gurdaspur district was falsely charged with possessing counterfeit currency, but it later turned out that the currency was genuine and some senior police officials of Haryana had connived to divest him of his money.

Five years later, he continues to receive threats to withdraw the case. No arrest has been made in the case and no action has been initiated against the erring officials of the Haryana police.

He has now urged the Jathedar of Akal Takht to come to his rescue after being acquitted in a long legal battle. The police officials who had been charged on the directions of the Additional Director General, Vigilance, after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had certified the currency to be genuine were alleged to be hounding Harbans in connivance with some officials of the Punjab police.

Despite being given security by the Gurdaspur police on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Harbans fears returning to Panipat to collect his money and ornaments that had been confiscated.

Last year, when Harbans went to collect the sum, an official of the Crime Branch allegedly registered another false case against him, this time under the NDPS Act. He was jailed at Ambala and later got a stay in this case.

Harbans, who has three children, fears for his life which changed five years ago when he was first framed while trying to pay in cash for land in Panipat. He could never purchase the land and even lost all his money in the legal battle. His business, too, was ruined. He has been receiving death threats to make him withdraw the case against the police officials. In his letter to the Jathedar Akal Takht, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, he has talked of having suffered torture in custody. 


Bhai Jasbir Singh back from England
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 17
Bhai Jasbir Singh Khalsa Khannewale was accorded a warm welcome on his return here from England. He had gone on a two-week visit to that country to perform “Shabad Kirtan”, according a press note issued by Sri Guru Harkishan Sahib Eye Hospital Trust being run by Bhai Jasbir Singh.

During the visit to England, Bhai Jasbir Singh performed “Shabad Kirtan” at gurdwaras in Southall, Manchester, Leicester, Bradford, Southfields, Birmingham, Leeds and Nottingham etc. He told the Sikh community living in that country to follow the teachings of the Sikh Gurus. During his visit to various gurdwaras in England, he told Sikhs they should also not forget their roots and should remain in touch with the land of their elders. 


Minister for cooperative politics in villages
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, July 17
While advocating cooperative politics for ensuring allround and effective development of the rural areas to make them self-reliant, Punjab Local Bodies Minister Chaudhary Jagjit Singh today said the state government would empower the panchayats shortly to set up a “real” Panchayati Raj system in Punjab.

Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, who administered the oath of office to newly elected 18490 sarpanches and panchayat members of six districts of Faridkot and Ferozepore divisions at a function organised at the NFL stadium here, said the Congress Government was following a one-point agenda of “transferring power from Chandigarh to villages”.

The minister, who was deputed to administer the oath as the Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, could not make it due to bad weather, pointed out that a revolution would be brought into the Panchayati Raj system after these bodies were made totally independent by empowering them to run their affairs on their own. He added the AICC chief Ms Sonia Gandhi, would inaugurate the system shortly in Punjab.

He stressed that the only way to carry out development in villages was that sarpanches and panchayat members should work in unison with the government.

He said the state government would release Rs 252 crore shortly for the newly elected panchayats for development works. Apart from it, a scheme worth Rs 900 crore had been approved by the World Bank for providing drinking water and sanitation facilities in the rural areas.

Mr Surinder Singla, Chairman, Highpowered Finance Committee on Fiscal Reforms, Punjab, pointed out that the three-tier system of governance was introduced during the prime ministership of the late Rajiv Gandhi by making the 73rd and the 74th amendments to the Constitution.

Meanwhile, Mr Bhan Singh Bhora, MP, could not attend the function as he was not allowed to take his vehicle upto the VVIP parking lot despite the fact that he showed his pass to police officials concerned.

Talking to this reporter, Mr Bhora said as he reached near the venue, he was asked by police personnel to park his vehicle at the space, about 2 km away. He said when he told the police officials that it would be difficult for him to reach the venue, he was told that they would not allow him to go to the venue along with his vehicle.

He said the police officials also refused to recognise the VVIP pass given to him by the district administration for attending the function.


Fear of breach has villagers worried
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, July 17
Resentment prevails among residents of Naushehra Nalbandan, Chhotepur, Kala Chack and Gandar Lahri of Pathankot sub-division of this district for the government’s “failure” to undertake flood protection measures to check land erosion.

According to sources, more than 1000 acres of fertile land of Nalbandan village has been washed away during the past five years. Over-flow in the Madhopur-Beas link could cause breach near these villages leading to damage to life and property.

The sources said a Rs 30-lakh project had been sent to the government for approval of flood protection measure on the link near the villages but nothing had been done in this regard.

The sources said the Punjab government had not allocated any funds in this regard for the past more than seven years. The Rajasthan government had been allocating funds now and then but these were too meagre to undertake the construction of studs and spurs.

Mr Raghunath Sahai Puri, Punjab Urban and Housing Minister, had written the government in this regard but in vain.


Bathinda areas inundated
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, July 17
Almost all commercial establishments of Sirki Bazaar, Guru Nanakpura sector, Mall Road, Paras Ram Nagar, Bathinda-Goniana road, Veer Colony and some other parts of the city were closed following the flooding of this area.

Poor water drainage worsened the situation as rainwater collected, shop owners were busy saving furniture and other goods that were floating.

Officials of the local municipal corporation, including Commissioner, D. K. Tiwari, visited some of the affected areas.

Mr Chander Mohan Ruby, a resident of Sirki Bazaar, said successive governments had been promising that drainage would be improved but nothing had been done. He said even insurance companies had stopped insuring goods of shopkeepers of the area.

Today’s rain belied MC claims that water would not collect in any part of the city.

The rain also left a major part of the city knee-deep in water and affected vehicular traffic.

Mr Mukesh Kumar, a jeweller, said people did not venture out in these areas to make purchases as they knew that water would remain for days together.

Ailing residents could not visit hospitals due to the heavy rain.

Though a number of power-operated pumps had been installed at various parts of the city to drain out water, the topography of the town has posed problems.


Breach plugged
Our Correspondent

Abohar, July 17
More than 100 acres of agriculture land was affected due to a breach in the Lambi Minor (sub canal) today.

The breach was plugged this afternoon with the help of villagers and the Irrigation Department Bazidpur Bhoma village adjoining Chak Radhewala was flooded. The water may not harm the paddy crop but will definitely affect the area under cotton and fruit.


Farmers allowed to buy own transformers
Our Correspondent

Patiala, July 17
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) has decided to allow individual and clusters of agricultural consumers to purchase their own distribution transformers for feeding their networks.

An 11 KV line would be laid by the board for the purpose, but the H-Pole structure and allied equipment, including distribution transformer, would be paid for by consumers. The laying of the interlinking LT line would also have to be funded by them.

The distribution transformers will be inspected by the Superintending Engineer concerned.


DC holds open darbars in six villages
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, July 17
The government was committed to provide urban facilities to the rural people and a campaign has been launched by the district administration to identify the immediate requirements of the villagers, so that it could be fulfilled at the earliest, said Mr S.K. Ahluwalia, Deputy Commissioner, Fatehgarh Sahib, while addressing open darbars in six villages of Bassi Pathana subdivision yesterday. He said such darbars would continue and he would go to every village to identify the problems of the rural people, so that they might not need to visit the district headquarters for their petty matters. He said revenue officials have been directed to visit the rural areas and to monitor the development works personally.

Addressing the meetings at Kajal Majra, Nand Pur Kalour, Main Majri, Dadiana and Railon villages, the Deputy Commissioner called upon the people to create self-awareness and confidence, if they wanted to become prosperous. He urged them to rise above petty party politics and groupism and should work unitedly for the welfare of their villages. He congratulated those panchayats, which had elected their sarpanches and panches unanimously and said an amount of Rs 2 lakh would be sanctioned at the earliest for these panchayats. He said district administration was committed to implement the anti-corruption drive of the Chief Minister and urged the people to report him personally or openly if any official or employee demanded bribe from them. He also cautioned the villagers about the increasing trend of intoxicants among the youths and urged the people to keep close watch on their children and to help the district administration in its deaddiction campaign. He also urged the villagers to unite on one platform and to fight against the social evils. He called upon the social organisations, youth clubs and other religious organisations to come forward and help the district administration in plantation campaign. He said ‘one man one tree’ slogan would be made popular in the district and everybody would be urged to plant at least one sapling and should also own responsibility to look after that plant. He also urged the youths to keep a close watch on the development works being done in their respective villages and if sub-standard raw material was used and bogus bills were obtained to grab the government money, they should immediately inform him and the complaint would be handed over to Vigilance Department for inquiry.

Narrating their tale of woes, villagers in these villages mainly made complaints against the working of electricity department and they said they were getting power just only for two or three hours, whereas the government claims eight-hour power supply to the rural sector. They said during this short period they do not get water even for drinking and what to talk of other basic amenities. They said they were forced to live in a hell like situation without power. All these village panchayats alleged that they had already deposited the amount required for 24-hour power supply since long time but the board has not yet initiated any step in this regard. The other common problems of these villages were the disposal of sullage water, shortage of teachers in schools resulting in poor results in the schools, absenteeism among the doctors and other para-medical staff in village dispensaries, encroachments on panchayat lands by influential people, construction of drains, streets and boundary walls of village ponds. The panchayat of Nand Pur Kalour village demanded action against the teachers, as the result of Class X of the government school is zero. At Railon village, the Deputy Commissioner announced a grant of Rs 35 lakh for various development works in the village.

Earlier prior to the visit of the Deputy Commissioner, the JCB machine had been pushed into service in these villages to remove the heaps of rubbish from the roadsides and also removed illegal encroachments from the panchayat land. The officials of the subdivision led by the SDM had been camping in these villages to sort out the problems of the villages. In most of the villages, the villagers in their address said it was for the first time that the Deputy Commissioner had visited their village to know their problems. They assured full co-operation to the district administration in its campaign against corruption and social evils.


MC President cancels tenders
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, July 17
Mr Gurcharan Singh, President of the nagar council, yesterday cancelled the tenders invited for various development works and invited fresh ones following objections by councillors.

The Punjab Government had sanctioned grant of Rs 57 lakh to the council for the development of this district headquarter town. According to reports, 10 municipal councillors of the Congress — Mr Baljeet Singh Gora, Mr Mohinder Singh Bhandari, Mr Ranjit Singh Khera, Mr Tulsi Ram, Mrs Amritbir Kaur, Vice-Chairperson, Mrs Uma Grover, Mrs Jasbir Kaur, Mrs Sukhdeep Kaur and Mrs Sonia Bansal — along with Mr Harinder Singh Kala, an independent councillor, met Mr Hussan Lal, Deputy Commissioner, on July 11 and accused the President of the council of committing various irregularities in the tenders invited last month. However, Mr Gurcharan Singh denied this and alleged that charges were being levelled against him under political pressure to damage his reputation. The Deputy Commissioner directed both the parties to settle the issue amicably.

The infighting among the 14 municipal councillors of the Congress came to the fore during the election of the President of the council on March 24 when Mr Gurtej Singh Gill, former president and one of the senior councillor of the Congress along with three other members with the support of an Independent and SAD councillors elected Mr Gurcharan Singh as president, disobeying the orders of the Congress high command. This annoyed the other Congress 10 councillors who raised a banner of revolt against Mr Gill and Mr Gurcharan Singh.


Probe against municipal planner
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 17
A high-level team, headed by the Chief Vigilance officer, Local Government, Mr A.K. Kansal and Mr Rajinder Rai, Vigilance Officer, today conducted on-the-spot inquiry against Mr Hemant Batra, municipal town planner, an additional divisional fire officer and certain officials of improvement trust.

One of the complaints pertains to tampering with records by trust officials which had led to change of a plot in the green plaza scheme number 16 near Annaam Theatre.


Sarkar assumes charge

Ferozepore, July 17
Mr B Sarkar, IAS, yesterday assumed charge of the Commissioner, Ferozepore Division. 

He held a meeting with the senior civil and police officials of the division. — OC


Woman, sons charged with murder
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, July 17
The police today claimed to have solved a murder case. The murder had been committed last year and the body had been found with a hand chopped off.

A press note by the Kapurthala SSP, Dr R.N. Dhoke, this evening said Krishna, her brother and sons, besides some relatives, had been charged with the murder of Rashpal Ram.

In all, nine persons were involved in the murder and the police had nabbed seven of them. An illicit relationship was stated to be the reason behind the murder.


Man held for making fake school papers
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, July 17
The Bholath police has arrested Rajinder Singh of Mubarkpur village who was running a stationery shop at Begowal village for allegedly preparing fake school-leaving certificates.

The police has seized 20 school-leaving certificates bearing the stamps of headmaster of S.P.S. Khalsa School, Begowal. Twentyfive attested character certificates and three fake stamps of the headmasters have also been seized.

In a press note today, the police said the certificates had been forged.

He charged Rs 1500-Rs 2000 per certificate. A case has been registered.


Altercation over meat leads to murder
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, July 17
An altercation over meat led to the murder of Hadam Masih, a resident of Chamiari village under the Ajnala police station in Majitha police district, here late last evening. The suspects allegedly buried the body.

On a complaint of the victim’s wife, the police dug out the body and sent it for a post-mortem.

Victoria Masih, wife of Hadam Masih, in her complaint, stated that the suspects, Teja Masih, Raja Masih and Bagga Masih, all residents of the same village, along with her husband, killed an animal. The suspects then came to her house and said that her husband had died. She said they told her that they had buried her husband’s body. However, she said they did not disclose how her husband was killed.

She said when she went to the spot, people told her about the altercation and that the suspects had hit her husband with a hammer, which led to his death. The police has registered a case.

Meanwhile, the Beas police has booked two persons, Natha Singh and Balwinder Singh, both residents of Dhariwal village, for allegedly defrauding Satya Kaur.


Power board head cashier shot dead
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, July 17
Shiv Ratan Salwan, head cashier in the PSEB, was shot dead and a tea vendor seriously injured when two scooter-borne armed Sikh youths tried to snatch a bag containing lakhs of rupees from him at the Majitha road here today.

The incident occurred at about 11.30 a.m. when Shiv Ratan, posted at the Gopal Nagar branch of the PSEB, was walking towards a vehicle for depositing the money in bank.

The youths approached him and demanded the bag at gunpoint. Shiv Ratan threw the bag in the vehicle in which Kultar Singh, another cashier, was sitting. Kultar Singh ran away with the bag. In a fit of rage, the youths shot Shiv Ratan who died on the spot. They also fired at Kultar Singh but he escaped. Davinder Kumar, a tea vendor, however, was hit.


One arrested in cash-for-job case
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, July 17
The police has arrested Rajinder Kaur, a resident of Chiddan village in Amritsar district on the charge of committing fraud of Rs 6 lakh on four persons of Kanjli village for providing jobs in the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB).

Sukhwinder Singh, Sarwan Singh, Jaswinder Singh and Paramjit Singh, all of Kanjli village near the town, lodged a complaint with the police on March 24, 2003. They had alleged that Rajinder Kaur took Rs 6 lakh from them for getting them jobs in the PSEB.

On inquiry, the allegations were found correct and a case under Sections 406 and 420 of the Indian Penal Code was registered against her. Rajinder Kaur was arrested on July 15, 2003.

In another case the Bholath police has arrested Tirath Singh of Miani Bhagupurian village on the charge of making a passport in the name of Tirath Singh.


Killers of youth arrested
Our Correspondent

Kharar, July 17
The police has arrested five persons who were responsible for killing one person and seriously injuring another two at three places on the outskirts of Mullanpur Garibdas village on July 3.

Mr Rupinder Singh, DSP Kharar, told The Tribune that five persons were caught by the police of Mullanpur Garibdas at a naka set up today. They have been identified as Banarsi, Sikander Karamjit, Jagan Nath and Tilku. He said the accused were residents of Morinda and they had been identified by a complainant.

It may be recalled that Mr Sunil, a labourer, was killed while Deepak and Harsh were seriously injured when they were attacked by the robbers. The robbers also looted valuables from some houses on that day and the police had registered a case under Sections 395, 396 and 397 of the IPC at that time.

The accused were produced before the court of Ms Harinder Sidhu, Judicial Magistrate, Kharar, today and were remanded in police remand till July 18.


Fake CDs seized, 3 held
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, July 17
The police today arrested three persons from Killianwali town of this district for their alleged involvement in making fake compact discs (CDs) under the garb of branded CDs.

In a press note issued here today, Mr Surinder Pal Singh, SSP, said that about 2,400 blank and recorded CDs, five copier machines, four UPS, black and white television and other equipments were seized from the premises owned by one of the accused Sanjiv Kumar. The other two accused, who had been arrested, along with Sanjiv Kumar, had been identified as Ramesh Kumar and Omar Sain. The two more accused Sandeep Kumar and Sanjay Kumar escaped.

He said a case had been registered under Sections 51 and 52-A, 63,65 and 68 of the Copy Right Act and Section 420 of IPC against the accused. 


2 killed in accident
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, July 17
Two persons, including a woman were killed and three seriously injured when a Tata Sumo and a truck collided head on on the Jalandhar-Amritsar road, near here, today.

According to the police, the victims have been identified as Ravinder Kaur (22) of Tahli village in Tanda, and the driver of the Sumo Satnam Singh of Akbarpur village in Bholath.


43 assessors trained at NAAC programme
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, July 17
As many as 43 assessors were trained to take up the job of assessment and accreditation of universities, colleges and other institutions of higher learning of India at a three-day Assessors Training Programme (Northern region) of NAAC held at Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) campus, which concluded here today.

Presiding over the valedictory function, Dr Satinder Singh, Pro Vice-Chancellor, GNDU, advocated for a nation-level body like NAAC for the assessment and accreditation of schools on which our higher education was based.

Speaking on the occasion Dr Antony Stella, Adviser and Dr M.S. Shyamsunder, Deputy Adviser, NAAC, said that 23 senior professors and educationists from various universities of UP, Bihar, Uttaranchal, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir, along with 20 college principals, had been trained as ambassadors of the NAAC.


Book promoters of institute, says varsity
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, July 17
Punjab Technical University (PTU) has asked the Nawanshahar police to register a case against promoters of Dayanand Dental Institute and Industrial Training Centre for “misleading” students on the affiliation with the university.

Mr S.K. Bhatia, Registrar, in a press note here today, said Dayanad Dental Institute and Industrial Training Centre was not affiliated with the university but it was misleading the students by admitting them to the Dental laboratory technician course.

A raid was conducted on the premises of the institute and it was found that its promoter was using the name of the university without getting mandatory approval. The institute was sealed by the university authorities and it was recommended to the police to register a case against its promoters.


Students decry fee hike
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, July 17
A large number of students from all over the state under the banner of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarathi Parishad (ABVP) organised a rally in front of Government College here today in protest against the new higher-education policy of the state causing a heavy increase in fees.

Student leaders said the state government had made education unaffordable. They said it had ignored the paying capacity of the middle and lower class. Hostel fees had also been increased, which would further hit the rural students and even the bus-pass facility had been withdrawn.

Later, they went in a procession to the District Courts and presented a memorandum against the fee hike to the Additional Deputy Commissioner.


Move to privatise ITIs opposed
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, July 17
Mr Avtar Singh Karimpuri, president of the Bahujan Samaj Party, Punjab, today condemned the state’s proposal to privatise 18 polytechnics and 94 ITIs. In a message faxed from Mahilpur, he also criticised the state government for imposing sales tax on goods sold to military canteens.

He expressed anguish over the recent suicide of a student of Mahalan village of Moga district due to the heavy increase in college fees.

He said students should not take such drastic steps, but jointly oppose the move.

Referring to the proposal to abolish non-practising allowance (NPA) being given to doctors, Mr Karimpuri said it would adversely hit health services in the state, as most government doctors would prefer to join private practice.


Milk outlet inaugurated
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 17
A milk bar, which is a unit of the Patiala District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union, was inaugurated at Rajpura, near here, today. The bar was jointly inaugurated by the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Patiala Milk Plant, Mr Raghubir Singh Ghuman, and its General Manager, Mr Sukhbir Singh. 

Prominent among those present on the occasion were members of the Board of Directors of the plant and senior residents of Rajpura.

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