P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



CM refuses to resign
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, December 23
Even as Congress dissidents stayed away from the Samman rally held here after unveiling the statue of freedom fighter and former Speaker of Punjab Vidhan Sabha Prabodh Chandra, here today, Capt Amarinder Singh said he won’t resign as the Chief Minister as demanded by his Cabinet colleague, Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal.

Without mincing words, the Chief Minister said, ‘I am the leader of Congress Legislature Party and would continue to remain the Chief Minister as long as Ms Sonia Gandhi wishes’. He, however, hastened to add that the matter was pending with the party high command and both groups had authorised Ms Gandhi to take decision in this regard. Fielding a volley of questions, Capt Amarinder Singh admitted that the current volatile situation if continued would certainly have adverse effect on the party. However, he hoped that the impasse would be resolved. He said nobody was above the high command and all problems would be resolved on the table. Replying to a question, Capt Amarinder Singh said the matters like expansion of the Cabinet or dropping of certain ministers in the wake of Anti-Defection Bill were the prerogative of the high command.

Capt Amarinder Singh admitted having committed some mistakes during his regime. He said dissidence was the internal affair of the party and would soon be resolved. He dared Mr Parkash Singh Badal and announced that the Congress would rout the SAD-BJP combine in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.

The fervent appeals made by the Chief Minister to dissidents for sinking their differences in the larger interest could not bear fruits as they stayed away from the rally thereby presenting a clear picture that the party is still a divided house. Except for Mr Ashok Kumar Sharma, an MLA from Pathankot, who is close confident of Mr Ashwani Kumar, a Rajya Sabha member and main organiser of the rally, Mr Khushal Behl, Mr Partap Singh Bajwa — both ministers and Mr Sucha Singh Chhotepur — an independent MLA, all MLAs of the ruling party and Mrs Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder, a former MP, were conspicuous by their absence. Ministers and MLAs of this border district who did not turn up at the rally included Mr Ashwani Sekhri, Mr Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Mr Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Mr Rumal Chand and Mr Raghunath Sahai Puri were not seen during any function held in Gurdaspur.

Breaking the traditions, Dr Kewal Krishan, Speaker of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, today urged the Congress legislatures not to dethrone Capt Amarinder Singh who had been fighting to stamp out corruption. He said dissidents would have to face the onus if they created hurdles in the way of any campaign launched against corruption.

Mr Jagmit Singh Brar, MP from Faridkot, Mr Partap Singh Bajwa and Mr Kushal also appealed to the dissidents to help blow over the crisis. Mr Bajwa went to the extent that it was always Doaba and Majha regions which had been standing with the Congress in the time of the crisis while Malwa had always elected Akali Chief Ministers. He said the Chief Minister had already assured that he was ready to mend his style of working. “Let us not fight within the party but with the Shiromani Akali Dal and the BJP as elections were round the corner”, he said the unity in Punjab Congress Legislature party was need of the hour which would help the party high command.

Mr Brar said, “Don’t give any significance to the conspiracies being hatched. He said ‘Soniaji’ knew that Capt Amarinder Singh was fighting against corrupt Akalis and hence it was the duty of all Congressmen to support him at this juncture.

Earlier paying rich tributes to Shri Prabodh Chandra Capt Amarinder Singh said he was a great visionary and a man of convictions and exhorted the younger generation to seek inspiration from the history of freedom struggle as the Indian history was replete with in numerable instances of selfless sacrifice and patriotism.

The messages received by the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Mr Chander Shekhra and Mr I.K. Gujral — both former Prime Ministers, Ms Sonia Gandhi, President, Indian National Congress, and Mr Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Vice-President, were also read out. The freedom fighters were also honoured by the Chief Minister.


Deadlock continues, factions hold separate dinners
Prabhjot Singh

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
Return to work by the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh and some members of his Council of Ministers notwithstanding, the deadlock over the leadership crisis in the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) continues unabated with "dissidents" staying away from official functions.

Though the Chief Minister has switched to reconciliatory mode by announcing an open arm policy to win back the dissidents, the continuous absence of the Bhinder-Bhattal group from Capt Amarinder Singh's public functions at Mehraj (Bathinda), (Samrai) Jalandhar, Fatehgarh Sahib and Gurdaspur is an indication of the adamancy on their part on the leadership issue.

Interestingly, none of the dissidents was invited for any of the dinner or breakfast meetings which the Chief Minister loyalists convened since their return from New Delhi last week. Attempts, however, have been made to hold one-to-one meetings with dissidents who prefer to meet members of the CM loyalists in groups rather than individually.

Tomorrow, Mrs Gurkanwal Kaur, MLA from Jalandhar Cantonment and daughter of former late Chief Minister Beant Singh, will be the host to the dissidents group as on Monday her brother, Mr Tej Parkash Singh, Transport Minister, organised a breakfast for the group. Yesterday, it was Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal who went to the extent of demanding the resignation of the Chief Minister on the plea that he had lost the confidence of more than 50 per cent members of the Punjab CLP.

She said that had she been in place of the Captain, she would have not taken a minute to quit in the interest of the party as well as the State. The Chief Minister, on the other hand, had been maintaining that since the ball was in the court of the Congress President, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, and he would continue to discharge his duties as the Chief Minister so that governance does not suffer.

During the past some days, the Chief Minister has been attending public functions as well as attending to his office in the secretariat and meeting delegations, presiding over meetings and holding parleys with his loyalists to indicate that everything was normal and he has taken to a style of functioning minus his "adverse advisers".

But his changed style of functioning has not impressed the dissidents who maintain that "habits die hard" and changing of "advisers was not our demand". The dissidents may meet on Christmas day for deciding their future line of action.


Kaypee lashes out at Amarinder govt
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, December 23
“The kin of those senior Congress leaders, who were killed by terrorists for waging a battle against the menace of terrorism in the state, have been totally sidelined by the present Congress government, thus causing disillusionment among them,” said the Punjab Technical Educational and Industrial Training Minister, Mr Mohinder Singh Kaypee, while talking to this correspondent over phone here today.

Mr Kaypee, who had tendered his resignation to the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, after returning from Delhi for being sidelined in the government, alleged that the family members of Congress leaders killed by terrorists had been sidelined by the present Congress government.

The minister reaffirmed his stand for siding with the group led by the state Agriculture Minister, Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal. “I have stood by Ms Bhattal and there is no plan to shift the stand. In fact, I feel being sidelined by the Chief Minister at the behest of some Congress ministers of Doaba region,” he said.


Amarinder invites Pak’s Punjab CM
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, December 23
The beleaguered Capt Amarinder Singh said today that he was recently taken aback when a person called on his mobile phone and identified himself as the Chief Minister of Punjab. He could not believe his ears and asked the caller to identify himself. The caller turned out to be none other than the Chief Minister of western Punjab (in Pakistan), Mr Parvez Elahi.

The Chief Minister said he had personally invited his counterpart to visit the Indian side to forge an alliance and to help the region by offering all facilities and items so that the people in both side of Punjab could prosper. Mr Elahi responded positively to his invitation and could visit Punjab soon. The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, felt that there was a strong need to bring down barriers with their erstwhile province of western Punjab in Pakistan for building a strong economy on both sides of the border.

The Chief Minister said Punjab had ushered in green revolution and had made great achievements in the agriculture sector while it had done exceedingly well by setting up many small-scale units which had made the country proud. He said Punjab could offer all possible help to people across the border and make this region economically prosperous. 


Complainants in Daler case told to give evidence
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 23
The pendulum in the human trafficking case seems to have started swinging in the favour of pop star Daler Mehndi with the police showing satisfaction with the record submitted by the singer regarding his trips abroad between 1998- 2000 even as it has started asking the complainants in the case to “give further evidence” to support their charges against Daler.

Daler, who is at present in police custody and was interrogated by senior police officials yesterday and also today, has submitted the complete record of the trips undertaken by him from 1998 - 2000 and has agreed to provide the record of trips made before this period to the Patiala police. Daler, who is being interrogated in camera with the entire proceedings being video-taped, has told his interrogators that he can prove whatever he is saying.

Daler’s record had also been verified from the record sent by Mr Rakesh Kaushal, alias Rocky, who is an event manager and was behind the hosting of Daler’s shows abroad. According to the police, Daler had never applied for any visa directly. It was Rocky who used to do this by making a representation in the United States requesting for work permits for members of Daler’s troupe. The United States authorities then asked for a clarification from their embassy in India following which a work permit was given to the troupe members. It was only then that visas were issued to these persons.

Senior Superintendent of Police A.S. Rai said Mr Kaushal had sent some of the “notices of action” on the basis of which work permits were issued to members of Daler’s troupe. The SSP said the police was, however, going by the documents only.

The SSP said the police had asked Daler to submit documents of his visits abroad before 1998 as well as details of the troupe members he had taken along with him.

Meanwhile, the Patiala police has started calling the complainants in the case to the Sadar police station. The complainants, who number more than 30, are being asked to give further documentary evidence to supplement their allegations against the pop singer. The SSP said this was necessary to hold up the accusations made against the pop singer. 


Saka Sirhind — a unique example of faith and sacrifice
Lakhs expected to pay homage
Surinder Bhardwaj

Fatehgarh Sahib, December 23
Saka Sirhind, the martyrdom of the two younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh is unique in the annals of world history. The barbarous incident of the bricking of the two sons alive for refusing to embrace Islam took place on December 24, 1704. To commemorate the event, Shaheedi Jor Mela is held every year from December 24 to 28 at Gurdwara Fatehgarh Sahib.

Renowned Hindi poet Maithilli Sharan Gupt commemorates Saka Sirhind in his poem.

“Jis kul jaati, desh ke bachche de sakte hain balidan,

Us desh ka wartman kuchh bhi ho. Par Bhavishya hai maha mahan.”

As the family of Guru Gobind Singh got separated while crossing Sirsa Nadi after leaving Qila Anandpur Sahib. Guru Gobind Singh along with two elder sons and followers went to Chamkaur Sahib while the younger sons along with their grandmother Mata Gujri took shelter at the house of Gangu, Guru’s cook. The greedy cook informed the Ranghar chief of Morinda about the presence the Guru’s family and the two were handed over to Nawab Wazir Khan, the then Governor of Sirhind. The Nawab ordered nine-year-old Zorawar Singh and seven-year-old Fateh Singh to embrace Islam, but they turned down his command.

Nawab Sher Mohammad Kahn of Malerkotla pleaded that the children were too young and innocent to be punished. But on the advice of Sucha Nand, Nawab Wazir Khan ordered Zorawar Singh and Fateh Singh to be bricked alive.

Prof Harbans Singh, a Sikh scholar, in his book, “Guru Gobind Singh,” writes that when the two Sahibzadas were bricked the structure tumbled down time and again and the unconscious Sahibzadas were taken back to the jail.

“Bhai Rattan Singh Bhangu, an eminent Sikh scholar in his book, “Parachin Panth Parkash”, Bhai Santokh Singh in his book, “Suraj Parkash”, Bhai Sukha Singh in “Gurubilas” and Mohinder Singh Manupuri in his prize winning poem, “Saka Sirhind” confirm this belief.

Mela arrangements

About 10 lakh devotees are expected to pay homage at the mela. The district administration has made elaborate arrangements in this regard.

Earlier the mela used to be purely religious in nature but with passage of time it has been politicised. The occasion is used by the ruling party to highlight their achievements and to declare their future policies and programs for the welfare of the people of the state. On the other hand the Opposition use the occasion to condemn the policies of the government. This year the mela is more politically important as the Akalis are in the Opposition and the Congress is in the ruling.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh told The Tribune that the party would announce its next phase of action at the conference. He said all top party leaders, including its president Parkash Singh Badal and Jathedar Gurcharan Singh Tohra, President, SGPC, would address the gathering.

Interestingly, the site for all political conferences of Opposition parties are adjacent to each other. The current crisis in the state Congress unit may affect its image at the mela.

Vaid Hari Krishan, president, DCC, and Mr Bir Devinder Singh, Deputy Speaker, are making all-out efforts to make the conference a success.

Parties like SAD (A), Dal Khalsa, BSP, Lok Bhilai Party and various kisan unions will also be organising conferences on the occasion.

The main attraction of the mela would be the light and sound program “Sirhind ki Dastan” being organised by the Public Relations Department.

Addressing a joint press conference, Mr S. K. Ahluwalia, Deputy Commissioner, and Mr Shiv Kumar SSP, said the mela would be totally religious in nature and no antisocial activity would be allowed. They said wine shops would be closed for three days around the mela site and no gambling and dance stalls would be allowed.

Special buses would be plied for older persons from the G.T. Road to the mela site. Drinking water, toilets, dispensary, information centres have been set up for the devotees. About 2,296 policemen have been put on duty.

For the convenience of the devotees telephone Nos. 223100, 233773 and 232244 have been installed.

A large number of langar sites have also been set up.


Jor mela holidays from Dec 24
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 24
The Punjab Government declared today that the restricted holidays in connection with the shaheedi Jor mela at Fatehgarh Sahib will be observed on December 24, 25 and 26 instead of December 26, 27 and 28.


SAD may open doors to non-Sikhs
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
SAD President Parkash Singh Badal has set up a high-level committee to suggest changes in the party constitution to broaden its base.

Mr Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, senior Vice-President, is the convener of the committee comprising Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Mr Balwinder Singh Bhunder, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, Mr Maheshinder Singh Grewal, Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta. The amendments recommended by the committee will be approved at a meeting of the general house of the party in February.

Party sources said a provision for a post of Secretary-General would be made in the constitution. Besides, the number of posts of general secretary would be increased to five or seven from two at present.

A provision would be made in the constitution to give representation to NRI Sikhs. There was resentment among NRI Sikhs for not making them a part of the main Panthic political stream. They have already raised a banner of revolt against the SGPC, saying that the apex religious body only represented the Sikhs of three states — Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh — and the Union Territory of Chandigarh.

The most important issue to come up before the committee is the opening of membership to non-Sikhs by including a provision to this effect in the constitution. The SAD was out and out a party of Sikhs as the number of non-Sikhs in the party is symbolic.


Entry in DDR against Kanjhla
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, December 23
On the complaint of Mr Mohinder Singh, a traffic policeman, the local police today made an entry in the daily diary report (DDR) against Mr Gobind Singh Kanjhla, MLA from Sherpur and former Punjab minister in the SAD-BJP government, for allegedly misbehaving with Mr Mohinder Singh while he was performing his duty.

Talking to TNS this evening, Mr Gurinder Singh Dhillon, SSP, Sangrur, said Mr Mohinder Singh was on duty at the Chhota Chowk in the main bazar here today when Mr Kanjhla travelling in a private vehicle along with his gunmen reached there. Mr Mohinder Singh stopped the vehicle of Mr Kanjhla and appealed him to follow the one-way traffic rule. This reportedly provoked Mr Kanjhla and he allegedly misbehaved with the traffic policeman. He also drove his vehicle ahead by violating the traffic rule and without caring for the signal of the policeman on duty, the SSP added.

The SSP further said the police would now investigate and verify the matter before initiating any action against Mr Kanjhla. He said in case Mr Kanjhla was found guilty an FIR would be registered against him.

Mr Kanjhla said the had not misbehaved with the traffic policeman, rather Mr Mohinder Singh misbehaved with him when he tried to stop him from abusing a commuter.

Mr Kanjhla said the traffic policeman also pounded the bonnet of his vehicle. He returning to his village after meeting his lawyer friends in the district courts complex here when the incident occurred, he added.


Sukhminder discharged in Badal case
Our Correspondent

Ropar, December 23
The arguments on the bail applications of six persons booked in the disproportionate assets case registered by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau against the former Chief Minister Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Mr Gurpinder Singh Grewal, Mr Jagnandan, Mr Harbans Lal, Mr Pavitar Singh, Mr Darshan Singh, and Mr Nirapjit Singh were closed today in the court of Special Judge, Ropar, Mr S.K. Goel. The judge reserved orders on the bail applications for tomorrow.

In another development in the case, Mr Sukhminder Singh, one of the persons booked, was temporarily absolved of the charges as the vigilance had failed to produce any evidence against him till date. The judge ordered the release of Sukhminder, who was till today in judicial custody.

According to UNI, while Mr Sukhminder Singh was discharged, judicial remand of Mr Pavitar Singh, Mr Darshan Singh, Mr Nirapjit Singh, alias Nibhy Dhanoa, and Mr Gurpinder Singh Grewal, was today extended by the Special Judge till January 6.


MCs buying chlorination plant at different rates?
By Lalit Mohan

Ropar, December 23
Can different municipal councils in the state purchase similar equipment at different rates. If the data collected by this correspondent from the municipal councils was believed to be true the councils were purchasing chlorination plants at different price.

The Nangal Municipal Council has recently installed a water chlorination plant at a cost of Rs 10 lakh. However, a similar plant was being installed by the local municipal council at a cost of Rs 2.5 lakh. The BBMB, another organisation at Nangal, has also purchased similar plant at a cost of Rs 2 lakh. The sources here said besides Nangal many other municipal councils and corporation, including Bathinda and Ludhiana, had installed similar water chlorination plants at cost of Rs 12 lakh.

The chlorination plant consists of chlorine cylinders, a gauge to control the out flow of chlorine into the water and a few valves. The only difference between the plant at Ropar and Nangal municipal councils was that former was using 1 tonne cylinder with a capacity of storing 900 kg chlorine while the later was using the cylinder of 2 tonne. However, the investigation carried by this correspondent revealed that the cost of the chlorine cylinder does not make much difference to the cost of the plant. The authorities of Punjab Alkalis and Chemicals Ltd which was the main supplier of chlorine in the region, when contacted said the cost of 1 tonne chlorine cylinder was just Rs 30,000. They also added that generally the buyer of chlorine need not buy the cylinder. They enter into an agreement with the company for buying chlorine and get the refill whenever needed.

Another interesting fact about the chlorination plant installed at Nangal is that while chlorination is generally done for the drinking water, the Nangal Municipal Council for the first time in the state has installed a new plant for chlorinating the sewerage water after its treatment. The council officials claim that the plant has been installed on the direction of the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB). The PPCB had directed the council to chlorinate the sewerage water after treatment before releasing it into the river.

However, the pollution board authorities when contacted said though chlorination of sewerage water was an effective method to control microbes in the water, no direction in this regard had been issued to the councils. It was worth mentioning here that the sewerage treatment plant at which the chlorination plant had been installed by the Nangal council a Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) method was already being used to control microbes in sewerage water. The BOD method was the most effective method to control microbe strength in sewerage water in the state.

The proprietor of the Universal Business House Firm, Mr P.L. Gupta, that supplied the plant to the Nangal council, when contacted said the cost of a chlorine toner was Rs 83,000 against the PACL toner of Rs 30,000. The cost of a single chlorinator or the gauge was Rs 1.5 lakh against the total plant cost Rs 2 lakh to the BBMB, Rs 1 lakh for room constructed in the plant, Rs 2 lakh as salary to workers for maintaining the plant and Rs 1.5 lakh for accessories that include a gas mask and a few hand tools.

However, the inquires revealed that just one non-technical person had been deputed at the Nangal plant. Mr Gupta also maintained that he had supplied the plant to the Nangal council at 25 per cent less cost than what was estimated by the Sewerage Board, Punjab.

However, sources said initially a low ranking official had sent an estimate of Rs 12 lakh to the councils for installing the plant. After detecting the error sewerage board officials sent a communication to the municipal council urging it not to consider the estimate. However, the councils in connivance with the contractors procured chlorination plants at hefty prices using the earlier estimate as basis.


3 KLF militants held
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 23
In a major breakthrough, the Majitha police has arrested Jeewan Singh, alias Natha Singh, belonging to the Khalistan Liberation Force along with two of his associates while two others escaped under the cover of darkness.

Mr R.P.S. Bajwa, Senior Superintendent of Police, while talking to The Tribune, said the police had seized three hand grenades, two rifles, one country-made .303 pistol, 11 cartridges and a stolen Maruti car from the militant. He said on interrogation Jeewan Singh had confessed that he had been closely associated with the chief of the KLF, Gursewak Singh, alias Fouji. He also admitted that their group, including Surjit Singh, Jassa, Satnam, Jasmail Singh and Kewal Singh, all members of the KLF, had killed eight Railway Protection Force personnel at Buttari railway station in 1991.


Jakhar may contest from Ferozepore
Our Correspondent

Abohar, December 23
Without commenting on rumours that he was being tipped to replace Ms Girija Vyas as the president of the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee, Mr Balram Jakhar, a former Speaker of the Lok Sabha, has expressed his willingness to contest the next Lok Sabha election from the Ferozepore constituency.

Responding to questions from newsmen at his farmhouse at Maujgarh near here, the former Union minister said though he was under pressure from party workers to contest the election from some constituency in Rajasthan, he won’t mind returning to his home constituency, Ferozepore, if desired by the party high command.

Mr Jakhar, who was among star campaigners of the party during the Rajasthan poll, said it was not a victory for the BJP but a defeat of the Congress.

Mr Jakhar said the present political scene was full of criminals. He blamed politicians for corrupt practices, but added that the voters who expected the candidates to offer them money, liquor and other favours were equally responsible for the situation.


Drive against drug peddlers yield results
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 23
The intensive police drive against the smuggling of narcotics has yielded positive results, as on an average a case under the NDPS Act has been registered after every 30 hours in the district this year.

Over the past few years, the district has become a haven for smugglers and drug peddlers as they have been finding it easy to carry narcotics and other contrabands from one place to the other due to its proximity to Haryana and Rajasthan. It has become a regular route of the smugglers to transport their consignments. Even women have actively been indulging in this illegal activity.

Official sources said during 2002 on an average a narcotic case was registered after every 40 hours and in total 218 cases were registered. In 2001, on an average a case under the NDPS Act was registered after every 42 hours and in total 204 cases were registered. In 2000 a case under the NDPS Act was registered after every 38 hours.

Last year the number of persons arrested under the NDPS Act was 249 and this number had gone up to 390 so far in the current year. Last year 14 smugglers from Haryana and six from Rajasthan were arrested. In the current year, the number of smugglers from Haryana arrested by the district police was 37, while the number of smugglers from Rajasthan arrested here was five only.

Besides, the police authorities had been making efforts to ensure conviction of the smugglers in the court of law so that it could prove a deterrent for others. So far of the total 514 cases registered under the NDPS Act in the district in the past four years, accused in 231 cases had been convicted, while accused in other 55 cases had been acquitted. The remaining cases were still in courts.

Police sources said what had been proving a boon for the police authorities was the fact that on one hand more smugglers and drug peddlers were being caught and on the other hand more of them were being convicted. Earlier, the conviction rate under the NDPS Act was insignificant.

Mr Kapil Dev, SSP, pointed out that a large number of cases pertaining to the smuggling of narcotics had been registered in the district in the current year following intelligence inputs.

He said besides people were being educated about the ill-effects of drugs and encouraged to give information about drug smuggling.

Police sources said in the past few years the police had arrested notorious inter-state smugglers, including Raj Modder, Rajinder Puri, Jagdish Singh Bhola, a police inspector, and Sadhu Singh Ragi, a member of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee (SGPC). The Bathinda police had also moved court for the forfeiture of the properties of Raj Modder and Rajinder Puri, while such a move against other smugglers was in process.

The sources added that during the current year more than nine kg of opium, about 13,000 kg of poppy husk, 116 litres of intoxicants, thousands of pills and some quantity of smack had been seized from the smugglers.


PCMS Doctors Forum elect office-bearers
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
The Punjab State Senior PCMS Doctors Forum at a general body meeting today unanimously elected the following office-bearers: Dr Hardev Singh (Civil Surgeon, Patiala) — president; Dr Nirpal Singh (Civil Surgeon, Mansa) — vice-president; Dr Yashpal Singla (Deputy Director, Family Welfare, Chandigarh) and Dr J.K. Bajaj — treasurers.

Dr S.K. Goyal (Civil Surgeon, Bathinda), Dr Jujhar Singh (Civil Surgeon, Nawanshahr), Dr Gopal Krishan Sood (DMC, Ludhiana), Dr J.M. Singh (SMO, Eye Mobile unit, Ludhiana) and Dr SPS Sohal (SMO in the office of the Director, Health Services, Punjab) have been elected executive members.

The president of the forum (appealed to the members to put forth their grievances to the president general secretary through their respective Civil Surgeons.


Couple, child burnt to death
Our Correspondent

Abohar, December 23
Three members of a family were burnt alive at Raipura village, near here, yesterday.

Residents of the village said Kashmir Ram was living in a hut with his wife and three-year-old son outside the farmhouse of Mr Avtar Singh. They had kept a burning “Angeethi” to save themselves from the biting cold, but forgot to extinguish the fire in it before going to sleep.

The residents of the farm house noticed smoke and flames coming out from the hut. But by the time they were able to control it, all members of the labourer’s family were burnt completely.

In another incident, a local school teacher, Neelam Baghla, died at the Civil Hospital here. Family sources said she had consumed poison by mistake. She was rushed to the hospital but could not be saved.


Christmas procession taken out
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 23
A large number of Christians today participated in a Christmas procession organised by the Masih Nagar Kirtan Committee here. The procession was headed by Bishop P.K. Samantarao and inaugurated by Mr Jugal Kishor Sharma, MLA.

The procession begun from Sacred Heart Convent School, Majitha Road, and passed through Ghalamala Chowk, Jamanwali Road, Lawrence Road Chowk, Bhandari Bridge, Hall Bazar, Goal Hatti, Rambagh Chowk, Railway Station and Link Road.


Christmas celebrated
Our Correspondent

Kharar, December 23
Christmas was celebrated with great enthusiasm by students of Mother Mary School here today.

The school was decorated right from the gate to classrooms. Students sang Christmas carol.

Mr E. Philip principal of the school said a shobha yatra was also organised by the school, which passed through Jandpur Road, Didar Nagar, Dashmesh Nagar, Janta Market and Mundi Kharar. On the route, Santa Claus distributed sweets to children.


Rally on environment
Our Correspondent

Ropar, December 23
Atleast 5000 schoolchildren today organised an environmental awareness rally here today. The rally that was a part of the national environment awareness programme was inaugurated by the Chairman of the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB), Mr K.P.S. Rana.

The rally started from DAV school.


2 killed in fog-related accidents
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, December 23
Two persons died in the district within the last 24 hours. According to police sources, Sucha Singh of Bhulana village died on the spot when his scooter hit a wall in the village due to poor visibility on account of dense fog this morning. Sources said Darshan Singh of Ajram drowned in a nullah of the village last evening due to thick fog.


Cop booked for letting off ISI agent
Our Correspondent

Malerkotla, December 23
The Malerkotla police has registered a case against in charge of city police station Jugraj Singh for allegedly letting off a suspected ISI agent, Hafiz Asdula, after taking money from him.

The police has registered a case under sections 413, 414, 124A, 221 and 120B of the IPC in this regard. Talking to this reporter Mr Baljeet Singh Sidhu, SHO, Sadar Police Station, Malerkotla, said Hafiz Asdula was a suspected ISI agent from whom Jugraj Singh had seized Rs 1.20 lakh.

But Hafiz Asdula had been let off by Jugraj Singh later on without properly investigating the case. He said the police was now investigating the case and concentrating on whether Jugraj Singh had taken money from Hafiz Asdula in lieu of allowing him to go.

Meanwhile, according to the reports the Sangrur SSP has sent Jugraj Singh to the police lines. The police is investigating the matter.

A police party from Malerkotla has been sent to Jammu and Kashmir to take Hafiz Asdula back to Malerkotla.


Man ends life on rail track
Our Correspondent

Dera Bassi, December 23
Vishal Dutt, an employee of a Mohali-based telecommunication firm, allegedly committed suicide by jumping in front of a train on the Kalka-Ambala railway line at Jawaharpur village, near here, late last night.

Vishal belonged to Ward No. 13, Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir. His mutilated body was noticed by residents on the railway line and they informed the Railway police in Lalru.

A suicide note was found in which he had stated that he was suffering from depression. He had been residing in Sector 15, Chandigarh.

The body has been sent to the Civil Hospital, Rajpura, for a post mortem.


Gang of cheats busted
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, December 23
The district police claims to have busted a five-member gang of criminals which specialised in cheating gullible people on the pretext of multiplying their money. The police seized Rs 40,000 from them.

A police spokesman stated here today that after getting a tip-off, the police raided the Nangal Shama chowk and arrested Sukhdev Singh Bhatti and Bablu. The other members of the gang were identified as Mehar Singh, Rajesh Kumar and Mahela Singh.


Award for Principal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 24
Mr Mohan Lal Sharma, Principal of DAV Senior Secondary School, Kakrala, (Patiala district), has been conferred with the Outstanding educationist and best Citizen India award, 2003, in recognition of his contribution to the promotion of highly competitive education in rural areas.

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