P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Khalsa Diwan row: efforts for compromise on
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, December 25
The five-member committee setup by Akal Takht to resolve the Chief Khalsa Diwan dispute has decided to explore a compromise between the two factions.

The Akal Takht Jathedar has set up a five-member committee comprising Justice R.S. Narula (retired), Justice Kuldip Singh (retired), Prof. Prithipal Singh Kapoor Former Pro-Vice Chancellor, Guru Nanak Dev University, Dr Kharak Singh Mann and Principal Ram Singh to resolve differences between the two groups of the Chief Khalsa Diwan.

A meeting of the committee was held in Delhi on Monday where all five-members were present. This was the third meeting of the committee.

Earlier two meetings were held at Amritsar where the representatives of both groups presented their cases before the committee.

At the Delhi meeting, the committee is understood to have studied the memorandums of the two groups and decided that the impasse be resolved at the earliest and election of the Chief Khalsa Diwan organised.

Since the committee has taken over the day-to-day administration of the Chief Khalsa Diwan through Prof. Prithipal Singh Kapoor, the steps taken by him were approved by the committee, it is learnt. Chief Khalsa Diwan a body of Sikh philanthropists, runs 48 schools, 28 dispensaries, one orphanage, one old-age home and a school for the visually disabled is faction-ridden. One group is headed by Mr Bhag Singh Ankhi while the other is by Mr Charanjit Singh Chadha a liquor baron of Amritsar.

Dispute arose over the alleged debarring of 280 members of the Diwan from participating in the election of office-bearers. The Ankhi group maintains that these (28), persons ceased to be members as they did not attend six consecutive meetings of the Diwan. The other group alleges that the meeting were never held. The membership of the Diwan is more than 500, and its budget runs into several crores.

The Amritsar Deputy Commissioner had appointed an SDM as administrator of the Diwan following a dispute between the two factions. But the National Commission for Minorities took serious note of it and Akal Takht formed a five-member committee. Following this, the Deputy Commissioner withdrew the order appointing an SDM as the administrator.


Mela devoid of merry-making
Surinder Bhardwaj

Fatehgarh Sahib, December 25
All political parties during their conferences tried to take mileage from the initiative taken by the district administration to commemorate the Shaheedi Jor Mela of the younger Sahibzadas, who were bricked alive. On the Congress stage, all speakers claimed that the Amarinder Singh government had banned all items of entertainment like swings, circus, skill games, gambling, dances and all other amusement items as the occasion was of great sorrow. On the other stage, the SAD claimed that the strict measures of the SGPC resulted in this decision.

Earlier, the mela used to be celebrated with fervour. For the first time today no stall of amusement, circus, dancing, gambling, swings or merry-making was allowed in the mela. In fact, sweets, ladoos and jalebis were missing in the langars organised. Loudspeakers were also not allowed to attract the devotees. Only simple food was allowed in langars.

The stalls were permitted only on one side of the road beyond five feet. The other side was kept vacant for the convenience of the devotees. The wine shops remained closed during mela.

“Bhagti sangeet samnelan,” “var gayan” competition, painting on Sahibjadas competition and Shabad Gayan competitions were organised by the district administration to pay homage to the Sahibjadas.

The district administration arranged a siren which was played at the time of “ardas” so that the devotees may pay homage by standing at that exact time.

A special souvenir on the mela dedicated to the Sahibjadas was brought out by District Administration for the first time. The Chief Minister released the souvenir.

For the first time, the police made adequate security and particularly traffic regulation arrangements to the satisfaction of the devotees. Another first was that no VIP passes were issued by the district administration.


Jor Mela solemn again
Tribune News Service

Fatehgarh Sahib, December 25
What the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) could not do in decades, the Chief Minister,Capt Amarinder Singh, has done in an year. Gambling and vulgar dances which had become a part of the mela for the past several years ,have virtually disappeared. So have merry- go-rounds and other play rides which had made the mela a fun affair.

A strict vigil was maintained to ensure that the new rules were not violated which resulted in the nabbing of four gamblers by Deputy Commissioner S. K. Ahluwalia himself. A sum of Rs 26,000 was confiscated from them at the spot.

The district administration has not only banned these amusements but also banned the use of loudspeakers by various religious organisations who organise langar for the devout on the occasion. The loudspeakers had made even the hosting of the langar a competition with organisations enticing people to come to their tent through loud pitch announcements and "inducements" like 'desi ghee' preparation and the like.

For the devout, the atmosphere in the mela had changed completely. "Earlier liquor was available slightly away from the mela site with many of the contractors even putting up tents to sell their wares. Now it is not available in a three kilometer radius of the mela site", says Swaran Singh of Sirhind. He said the mood of the people coming to the mela had also undergone a change and the people of Sirhind and nearby areas were already talking about the atmosphere prevalent in the area earlier.

"The people of Sirhind used to sleep on the ground for three days to mourn for the cruel manner in which the sahibzadas were bricked alive", says another resident of the city. He said he was at a loss to tell as to why the atmosphere of fun and frolic had replaced the age-old observation of the occasion.

Wazir Singh, another resident, says December was a cruel month for Guru Gobind Singh. "The battle of Chamkaur was fought in this month, the elder son of Guru Gobind was martyred, the Guru was separated from his family and finally his younger sons were bricked alive. What can be more sorrowful".

Even as the people of Sirhind reawaken to their tradition, people converging to the gurdwara also feel the visit reinvigorate their faith in their religion. "I come here to remind myself of the suffering through which my religion emerged", says Jagir Singh of Jakhwali village. “Coming here, visiting the gurdwara and touching the wall where the Sahibzadas were martyred gives me emotional strength to take on all challenges h", he adds.

This faith may be further strengthened with the government deciding to observe a "shok sabha" on the last day of the Jor Mela in a more organised manner. Deputy Speaker Bir Devinder Singh disclosed that a three-minute silence would be observed to commemorate the sacrifice of the martyrs. The "shok sabha" proceedings would be telecast live.


PHRC satisfied over government action
A.S. Prashar
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 25
The Punjab Human Rights Commission (PHRC) has expressed satisfaction over the prompt action taken by the state government against some drunken policemen who allegedly shot dead a boy in Patiala in August for delay in bringing tea for them.

The commission noted while the police had registered an FIR against the accused and arrested them under Section 302 of the IPC, the state government had announced a compensation of Rs 50,000 for the bereaved family which was subsequently raised to Rs 1 lakh at the recommendation of the commission. The Patiala police force too had shown magnanimity by contributing one day’s salary for providing succour to the family of the deceased, thus raising an additional sum of Rs 2. 20 lakh.

Mr Justice R.L. Anand, Member, PHRC, in his order dated December 22 said that the commission was of the opinion that prima facie there was a gross violation of human rights when a human soul had been lost at the hands of the protectors of the law on a petty cause. Thus, reports from the DIG of Police, Patiala Range, and the SSP, Patiala, were called for intimating the commission all the circumstances in which the murder had been committed.

The DIG in his report, frankly agreed with the observations of the commission that it was a blatant act of human rights violation on the part of the culprits and required to be dealt with strictly. It was also held by the DIG that there was no substitution for the human life and, the murder of an innocent boy at the hands of the police must be condemned.

The commission placed on record its appreciation of the bold step taken by the police and the impartiality which had been shown by it while dealing with this sensitive issue. The commission was of the view that law had been set in motion by the police and it did not spare any erring person abiding by the principles of the rule of law. The legal action would take its own course according to the established procedure of the law courts. Therefore, the commission closed the proceedings in this case by noticing that needful had been done by the official circles as well as at the level of the government.


Ahmadiyyas from Pak arrive for convention
Pawan Kumar

Wagah, December 25
The 362-member delegation of Ahmadiyya Muslims which today crossed over to India through this joint checkpost remained tight-lipped about their nightmarish life in Pakistan as they were “persecuted” there for more than three decades.

This is for the first time that such a large group, including women and children, of the Ahmadiyya community have come to the headquarters at Qadian after the December 13, 2001 terrorist attack on Indian Parliament House, which resulted in the snapping of rail and bus links and other ties with the neighbouring country. The delegation will participate in the three-day 112th international annual convention starting on December 26 at Qadian in Gurdaspur district.

Mr Sultan Mahmood Anwar from Rabwah (Jhang district), leader of the delegation, while talking to ‘The Tribune’ said that the relationship between two countries was moving towards normalisation. That the Pakistan Government had granted visas to such a big group was a positive sign and he hoped that both the governments would ease travel restrictions and allow people to travel freely.

The leader pointed out that they neither have any complaints nor demands from anyone. On being questioned by mediapersons about their conditions in Pakistan or whether their community was being persecuted, he said they were not complaining as Allah is great and looks after his children.

Mr Maqbool from Qadian was also present to receive the delegation. His cross-border marriage with Tahira, a Pakistani girl last month, had made headlines. He said the Pakistan Government had allowed a large number of them to attend annual conference being held at Qadian.


Wrappers of drugs found in school toilets
Lalit Mohan

Ropar, December 25
Schoolchildren are increasingly becoming susceptible to psychotropic drugs that are openly available at chemist shops in the district. The activists of the Bhartiya Janta Yuva Morcha today collected empty bottles, wrappers and injections of such drugs from various schools in the Nangal area to highlight the problem of drug abuse among the schoolchildren.

Mr Sandal, one of the activists, while displaying the collected material before newspersons, said a large quantity of wrappers, empty bottles and used injections were recovered from the toilets of the schools in the Nangal area. The presence of these material in the schools clearly indicated that drugs were allegedly being used by children.

Wrappers of proxywon, dexovon, parvon and sun prazin, all sedatives, corex, anti-cough syrup, and fortwin and norphin injections were recovered from the school toilets. Most of the said drugs were psychotropic drugs and could not be sold by the chemists without the prescription of the doctor. However, to make a quick buck the chemists were openly selling them even to schoolchildren, who were increasingly becoming addictive to them, he said.

Mr Japdeep Singh Dua, lecturer in the Shivalik College of Pharmacy, said drugs like proxywon, dexovon and parvon were analgesic combinations. There abuse could lead to visual disturbances, liver dysfunction, dizziness, abdominal pain and nausea. The intake of injections like fortwin, that are opioid analgesic, could lead to respiratory depression, visual hallucinations and disorientation. The recovery of sun prazin category drugs from the school toilets was most dangerous as these were anti-psychotic drugs. Their abuse could even lead to death in weak persons.

The sources told this correspondent that due to their easy availability and cheap price the psychotropic drugs were becoming favourite of addicts despite their adverse long-term effects. While a bottle of even countrymade liquor costs about Rs 100, the cost of a fortwin injection, its alternative, was just Rs 5.

Mr Sanjeev Sharma, another activist, said the morcha would present the collected material before the competent authorities and seek action against the guilty chemists. The recovery of wrappers of psychotropic drugs from the schools also indicated the slackness of the school authorities, who had failed to check the rising tendency of drug addiction among their students. A campaign would also be launched in the schools to desist the children from taking drugs, he added.


Christmas spirit visits Punjab
Our Correspondents

Batala: Christmas was celebrated at Balchak and Shikar-machhaan village on the Batala-Dere Baba Nanak link road, near here. Mr B.M. Choudhary, President-cum Head of Christian Institute for Religious Studies, Baring Union Christian College, Batala, presided over the function. Mr Choudhary also distributed woollen blankets and clothes among needy members of the Christian community.

Phagwara: Prayers and carols marked the Christmas celebrations at the local Catholic Church of St. Joseph’s Convent School on the Road and other shrines. Erratic power supply, however, played spoil sport on the occasion.

Amritsar: Christmas was celebrated with joy and fervour in the holy city. A shobha yatra’ was taken out by the Punjab Masih Sangathan. It was led by Dr Archi Samual, Director, and Mr Guljar Masih, Chairman of the Sangthan. The participants, holding candles started from Saint mary’s Church and passed through various markets of the city.

Christmas was also celebrated at Doon Public School. The main attraction was a fancy-dress competition, in which a large number of school students participated.


Christmas celebrated
Our Correspondent

Patiala, December 25
Christmas was celebrated with great pomp and show at the Central Methodist Church here today. Christmas carols and prayers were offered to mark the birth of Jesus Christ. The Church was decorated with bows, stars, flowers, candles and a bash that followed added to the fun. Santa Claus distributed sweets and chocolates among children.

Meanwhile, local Children Memorial School celebrated Christmas on the school premises. Children came to school in colourful dresses and decorated Christmas tree with balloons, bells, stars. Sweets and gifts were also distributed among the kids by Santa Claus.


Flashback ’03

Tohra makes comeback as SGPC chief
Varinder Walia
Tribune news service

Amritsar: Appearing of the Shiromani Akali Dal President before Akal Takht, re-induction of veteran Sikh leader Gurcharan Singh Tohra as SGPC chief, denying kirtan and seva to the Sikh women which ultimately led to the unceremonious removal of Prof Manjit Singh as Jathedar of Takht Keshgarh Sahib, implementation of the Nanakshahi calendar, ex-communication of Canada-based cop-turned Sikh scholar Gurbax Singh Kala-Afghana, debarring ‘Sehajdharis’ from voting in the General Election of the SGPC and declaring Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale as ‘martyr’ were some of the significant developments witnessed in this year.

The frequent changes of guard in the SGPC discouraged its Dharam Parchar Committee from chalking out any ambitious programme to meet the challenges of the new millennium.

One of the most significant developments witnessed this year was the implementation of a separate Sikh calendar — Nanakshahi Jantri, released on April 14 to mark Baisakhi at Talwandi Sabo.

The issue of giving right to perform kirtan and seva to baptised Sikh women made headlines of newspapers when ‘The Tribune’ published a page-one story on February 13 that two England-based Sikh women, including Ms Mejinderpal Kaur, alleged that they had been roughed up by some SGPC employees when they tried in vain to touch the ‘palki’ (palanquin) carrying the holy Guru Granth Sahib for ‘Sukhasan’. Prof Manjit Singh, the then Jathedar of Keshgarh Sahib was sacked when he supported the demand of Sikh women. He was removed as Jathedar on February 23 by the then SGPC chief, Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar following levelling of serious charges. His removal came a day after the unprecedented clash between the Shiromani Khalsa Panchayat (SKP) and SGPC (supported by activists of Sikh Students Federation) in the Golden Temple complex. The SKP had been demanding the removal of ‘tainted Jathedars’ who were facing charges of corruption.

Paving the way for unity with his foe-turned-friend, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, Mr Parkash Singh Badal “manipulated” the Sikh clergy and managed to get himself go ‘scot-free’ by fulfilling the condition (of Mr Tohra) by presenting himself before the Sikh clergy. The Sikh clergy received flak from various quarters for not punishing Mr Badal as per the Sikh tradition who had allegedly violated the edicts issued by the then Jathedar of Akal Takht, Bhai Ranjit Singh, who had directed the warring Akali factions to maintain truce till the tercentenary celebrations of the Khalsa Panth.

However, Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar, who had worked as OSD to Mr Badal during his stint as Chief Minister had to resign as SGPC chief, paving the way for Mr Tohra. Mr Tohra who was unceremoniously removed as SGPC chief through a no-confidence motion before the tercentenary celebrations was re-inducted on July 27 amid much fanfare. Mr Badal showered words of praise on Mr Tohra who was dubbed as ‘Congress agent’ earlier. However, some Sikh scholars described the unity between Tohra and Badal as a marriage of convenience.

The employees suffered a lot during frequent changes of guard in the SGPC as frequent reshuffles, reversions and promotions on the basis of personal loyalties were witnessed.

The SGPC failed to resolve the controversy over ‘Dasam Granth’ this year despite directions by Akal Takht. The Shiromani committee also failed to resolve the differences between Giani Puran Singh, Head Granthi of Golden Temple and the Jathedar of Akal Takht. Giani Puran Singh had been absenting himself from the meetings of Akal Takht which is considered a violation of the Sikh traditions. However, despite initial hiccups, the jathedars of Takht Patna Sahib and Hazoor Sahib started attending the meetings of Sikh clergy. It was for the first time that Jathedars of these two Takhts (Patna Sahib and Hazoor Sahib) accepted the supremacy of Akal Takht.

The ex-communication of Canada-based cop-turned Sikh scholar caused a flutter in the Sikh Panth when many Sikh scholars and the Editor of a prominent Sikh magazine, ‘Spokesman’ openly challenged the edict issued by the Takht at a ‘controversial sarbat khalsa’ convened in Mohali. Many Sikh organisations, including the SGPC, had given a call to boycott the ‘so-called sarbat khalsa’. With the result, the Jathedar of Akal Takht summoned Mr Joginder Singh, Editor of ‘Spokesman’, at Akal Takht for allegedly supporting the ex-communicated Sikh. However, despite tall claims, the SGPC failed to withdraw the ‘title of Professor of Sikhism’ bestowed on former IAS officer Gurtej Singh.

The 31-member committee constituted by Akal Takht to oust controversial godman Ashutosh remained a non-starter. The SGPC could not select a place where a memorial to ‘Operation Bluestar’ could be built.

The SGPC prepared a dossier of the Golden Temple which was sent to UNESCO for declaring it as world heritage site.

After a long gap of 19 years, the SGPC accepted the death of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. The Jathedar of Akal Takht, Giani Joginder Singh, was present at a function held in the SGPC complex where Bhindranwale was declared ‘martyr’.

The Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission remained in the limelight throughout the year. Many cases pertaining to the violation of Sikh maryada by ‘Badal loyalists’ were later withdrawn after a rapprochement was brought about between Mr Tohra and Mr Badal.

Though the SGPC had constituted a Religious Advisory Board for advising the Sikh clergy on Sikh matters and helping frame rules for the appointment and removal of jathedars, it has not made any concrete suggestions in this regard so far.

The Sikh Judicial Commission played a significant role in removing the employees who continued to serve despite the fact that they had crossed the age of 60 years. Though Mr Bhagwan Singh, Head Granthi of Akal Takht, was removed following the directions of judicial commission, the same yardstick was not applied on Jathedar Vedanti who continued to serve as Granthi of the Golden Temple simultaneously.


Councillors support beleaguered Mayor
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 25
A majority of councillors belonging to all political parties today lent their support to the beleaguered Mayor, Mr Sunil Datti, while the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, also backed him. Mr Datti was allegedly embroiled in the unsavoury flesh trade controversy, which had triggered discontentment in the ruling party.

More than 45 councillors from the Congress, the BJP, the Akali Dal and the CPI attended a meeting to back the Mayor against the accusations made by a former Mahila Congress leader, Mrs Neelam Choudhry, who had produced an audio tape claiming that her family had been threatened after she was arrested by the police.

The Mayor, while talking to The Tribune, said the Chief Minister had given him a clean chit and advised him to continue working. The persons responsible for defaming him would be taken to task, the Chief Minister had assured him.

Mr Datti said he was overwhelmed by the support extended by such a large number of councillors belonging to all parties, including his party. He said a political conspiracy had been hatched by a vested group of individuals, which had tried to tarnish his image and the image of the party.

He said he was willing to face any enquiry into the charges levelled by his detractors at the behest of the enemies of the party. Asked to name the persons behind the smear campaign against him, Mr Datti said he would expose them at the right moment as the party at the state level had taken a serious view of the allegations.

Mr Amarjit Singh Asal, a local CPI leader, said they fully supported Mr Datti as the allegations against him were the result of an intra-party discontentment.


Party for Khalistan floated
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 25
A new political party, Shiromani Akali Dal (International), headed by Mr Atinderpal Singh, a former MP from Patiala, was launched here today.

While addressing a press conference, the party president said the aim of his party would be to achieve Khalistan. In the same breath he said they would get the party’s working, formation and constitution registered with the Election Commission of India. He said they would contest the forthcoming SGPC elections.

On a query, he said they would contest elections under the Indian Constitution but eventually would work towards the establishment of Khalistan. When asked if Khalistan would mean a separate Sikh state, he skirted the issue saying that they had no connection with Mr Jagjit Singh Chauhan, the Khalistan ideologue. Instead, he said, the formation of Khalistan would be within the jurisdiction of Punjab with a democratic, socialist and secular set-up. On apprehensions of return of violence that shook the state for a decade, he assured that they condemned those who indulged in violence.

The list of members of the party included two hijackers of 1984, Karam Singh and Harinder Singh, who he claimed had enrolled themselves as members of the party on telephone from Switzerland. The party members also included family members of slain militants.

Mr Atinderpal Singh, who had faced serious charges of having a hand in the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, actively participating in struggle towards a separate Sikh state of Khalistan and being the mastermind behind the fortification of Darbar Sahib, he said they would strengthen their party at grass-roots level in four years and emerge victorious as a ‘Panthic’ party to bring about significant and positive changes in the state.


Ludhiana-Amritsar rail section electrification
by March
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, December 25
The Northern Railway will open eight “Computerised Ticket Reservation Centres” at eight district headquarters in Jammu and Kashmir by March next year. This was stated here today by Divisional Railway Manager Hukam Chand Punia. Such centres would be at Fazilka, Kotkapura, Nawanshahr, Mukerian and Chakki Bank in Punjab by March, 2004.

He added that eight railway stations of Ferozepore division — Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Amritsar, Pathankot, Jammu, Kathua, Ferozepore and Chakki Bank — were made Model Railway Stations.

He said that more than 12 old railway bridges were being strengthened and work of laying a new track on Jalandhar-Pathankot-Jammu rail section would be completed by March, 2007.

He said the Railways was considering to increase the speed of Shatabdi Express train running between Delhi and Amritsar from 110 km per hour to 120 km per hour. A proposal has been sent to the Railway board. He said all express trains at present were running at a speed of 90-100 km per hour in Ferozepore division, including all night trains. He said the division had recorded a 30-35 per cent increase in the Railways revenue as goods loading traffic had increased.

On electrification of railway track between Ludhiana and Amritsar, he said that track was electrified between Ludhiana and Jalandhar and the Kashmir Mail and the Jhelum Express trains were plying with electric rail engines up to Jalandhar now and work would be completed up to Amritsar by March next year.


Negligence caused sparks in train’s junction box
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, December 25
The four-member probe panel, inquiring into the causes of sparking in the junction box of a coach (E-C-01484 AB) of the Amritsar-Darbhanga Jansewa Express near Jandiala Guru on November 18, has submitted its report to Mr Hukam Chand Punia, Divisional Railway Manager, Ferozepore Division, Northern Railway.

The report has found “public negligence” to be the cause behind the sparking as the panel had found bidi butts, plastic bags, plastic glasses and other pieces of litter in the junction box.

No technical snag was found by the panel.


Rescheduling of train times sought
Our Correspondent

Barnala, December 25
Commuters on the Barnala-Bathinda rail section are sore at train times of Delhi-bound two trains running between Bathinda and Delhi via Barnala, Dhuri, Patiala and Ambala as there is no night train for Dhuri, Patiala, Ambala and Delhi.

Many traders and other passengers resented the times of mail trains-Bathinda New Delhi, Sriganganagar Haridwar, and Bathinda New Delhi in the morning in a row with a gap of an hour or so were most unsuitable.

The residents and traders said that the Bathinda New Delhi Inter-City Mail Train arrives at Barnala at 6 a.m. followed by the Sriganganagar-Haridwar Mail at 7.50 a.m. and then the Bathinda Delhi Mail Train at 8.35 a.m. These three trains take same route up to Ambala. People are unhappy over the fact that after 8 p.m. for the whole night there is no train on the Bathinda-Barnala-Dhuri rail section for Dhuri, Patiala, Ambala and Delhi.

The residents and traders here demand that the timings of Bathinda Delhi mail train reaching Barnala at 8.35 a.m. be rescheduled. They wanted this train to start from Bathinda in the late evening offering night train facility to traders and public so that they could reach Delhi in the morning.

They favoured rescheduling of this train by Railway authorities at the earliest as this decision would facilitate traders-public with a night train and with improvement in rail revenue generation.

This decision will also end a big time gap at night time with no train available on the Bathinda-Ambala for passengers of Barnala, Rampura, Bhucho and Tapa.


Red Cross to train blind, disabled
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 25
The health authorities and the District Red Cross Society have decided to identify blind and physically challenged persons in the district so that they could be trained in different vocations to enable them to earn their livelihood.

Mr K.A.P., Deputy Commissioner, while disclosing this, said this decision was taken in a meeting of all district officials held here yesterday. He added that meeting was held to devise various programmes for the physically challenged and blind persons.

He said district health officials and members of District Red Cross Society would identify them and if possible give them coffee machines with suitable sites for running the business.

He disclosed that a blood component separator unit had been installed in the blood bank of the local Civil Hospital so that any component of blood which was required for a particular patient could be given to him or her without wasting the whole blood.


DSP dismissed for outraging woman’s modesty
Our Correspondent

Abohar, December 25
DSP Bhanwer Singh Shekhawat, who was charged with outraging the modesty of the wife of a government doctor during his posting at Sriganganagar, 40 km from here, has been dismissed.

Official sources confirmed today that Deputy Secretary, Personnel (Admn), issued the orders for Mr Shekhawat's dismissal from service after obtaining consent from the Rajasthan Public Service Commission.

According to information Dr Arun Chamdia, in charge of Primary Health Centre, Mirzewala, near Sriganganagar, met the DGP, Rajasthan, along with his wife (Seema) on March 20, 1996 at Jaipur. He complained that the DSP visited the official residence of the doctor on March 17, 1996 and outraged the modesty of his wife in his absence.

Ms Anu Chaudhry, Judicial Magistrate, Sriganganagar, decided the case on April 22, 2003 and sentenced Shekhawat to six-month simple imprisonment besides a fine of Rs 1000. The complainant sent a copy of the court orders and sought Shekhawat dismissal under the service rules.


Centre to make plastic-based limbs
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, December 25
The District Disability Rehabilitation Centre (DDRC) authorities here would develop a high-tech centre for fabricating plastic-based light-weight endoskeleton prosthetic limbs in a couple of months with this high technology. The centre will be the first such centre to adopt this technique in Punjab.

Mr Sarvjit Singh, Deputy Commissioner, has taken up the matter with the Director, National Institute of Visual Handicapped (NIVH), Dehra Dun, to provide machinery, kit components and raw material for the manufacture of plastic-based light-weight endoskeleton prosthetic limbs.

With the fabrication of plastic-based light-weight endoskeleton prosthetic limbs, the needy disabled persons will get light-weight artificial limbs in place of heavy ones. The fabrication period of artificial limbs will also reduce.

Mr Mohan Sharma, member secretary of the DDRC, said the DDRC had been providing artificial limbs, calipers, crutches, etc free of cost to the handicapped persons, whose monthly income was below Rs 5,000.

He said the DDRC would also arrange loans for the handicapped persons through the National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation for starting ventures.


Plea to take up Sikh issues at SAARC summit
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, December 25
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee should also take up Sikh issues when the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir is discussed between him and his Pakistani counterpart during the SAARC summit in Islamabad in January.

This was demanded here yesterday by Mr Jaskaran Singh Kahansinghwala, general secretary, SAD (A). Talking to newsmen here, he said the Sikhs should be allowed to visit Pakistan any time and there should be no visa restrictions. He said the Sikhs wanted to go there for paying obeisance at the gurdwaras left in that country, including Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev.


Call to oppose French legislation
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 25
Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia, a former Vice-Chancellor of Punjabi University, Patiala, today asked Sikhs to join others to oppose French legislation banning ‘visible’ religious symbols.

In a press release issued here, Dr Ahluwalia said according to the BBC News French President Jacques Chirac and justified the proposed legislation, banning the wearing of visible religious symbols, such as Islamic headscarves and Sikh turbans etc. in public schools and at work places on the ground that such practices were “anathema to many French people....” Sikh boys wearing turbans would be most affected by this legislation.

The SGPC in liaison with other like-minded organisations, should address a strong protest to the French President through the French Embassy in New Delhi, he said.


Consumers Day celebrated
Our Correspondent

Patiala, December 25
The Patiala Consumers and Telephone Subscribers Forum organised its annual conference on National Consumers Day at Central Library here yesterday.

The Senior Superintendent of Police, Mr A.S. Rai, was the chief guest. President of the forum J.N. Shahi said the objective for the forum was to create awareness on consumers rights. It had been organising awareness camp, declamation contests and distributing printed information material. The vice-president of the forum, Mr G.S. Rekhi, said the latest amendments in the Consumers Protection Act had empowered the presiding judges of the consumer forums and commissions to decide cases up to Rs 20 lakh at the district level and up to Rs 1 crore at the state level and above that, at the national level.


Council to spend 2 cr on amenities
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, December 25
The Nagar Council here presently will spend nearly Rs 2 crore for city’s facelift and on projects like roads, streets, drains, sewerage and water supply and other civic amenities. Mr Malkiat Singh Ragbotra, Council President, stated this yesterday, has completed one year in office.

Rupees three crore had already been spent on these projects, claimed Mr Ragbotra. He said that the Council had received Rs 40 lakh from the 11th Finance Commission and Rs 76.94 lakh from the District Planning Board. The Council was yet to receive about Rupees two crore from the Excise Department and the delay affecting development projects, regretted Mr Ragbotra.

Four new tubewells would come up in Tambakoo Kuttan mohalla. New Model Town, Chahal Nagar, Kila Mohalla Hadiabad before next summer for supply of drinking water, he informed. New tubewells had already come up at Palahigate, Shivpuri, Preet Nagar, Santokhpura, he claimed.

He asserted that low lying areas of Shivpuri, Khothran road, Patel Nagar, were given preference for providing roads.

He informed that efforts were on to get land for garbage disposal. Encroachments would be removed, he warned.


Procedure of IT raids changed
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, December 25
Mr K.K. Kapila, Director-General, Income Tax (Investigation), North-West, on Tuesday told newsmen that 15 big raids were conducted in the region during the year and concealed money to the tune of billions of rupees was unearthed.

The procedure of conducting Income Tax raids had been changed, he said, adding that earlier, warrants for searches were signed by Director and proposals were made at three to four levels. Now, only the Director-General could sign the search warrants and the level of proposals had also been raised to concentrate on the cases of big concealments.

Meanwhile, the local Bar Association on Tuesday conferred the Nyaya Shiromani award on Mr Mohan Lal Jhanji of Ludhiana at a function organised here.


Income tax offices to be computerised
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, December 25
The Income Tax Department offices of the north-west region of North India will be computerised within the next six months and the department will introduce electronic filing of returns of income tax assesses.

This was stated by the Director (North-West) of the Income Tax Department, Mr K.K. Kapila, while talking to this correspondent here on Tuesday. Mr Kapila said transparency would be brought in the working of the department which would be more efficient with the computerisation of all income tax offices of the region.

He said only the Income Tax Department of few states, including Tamil Nadu, were computerised and had adopted electronic filing of income tax returns.

Mr Kapila said the department would release refunds of the assesses through computers and it would be directly credited to the bank.


Cheating cases doubled this year, says police chief
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 25
Even as the cases pertaining to cheating witnessed a jump of nearly 100 per cent in the current year as compared to the cases of cheating registered in the previous year and cases pertaining to the theft witnessed a jump of 50 per cent as compared to the cases of previous year, the district police authorities have decided to lay stress on reducing the number of pending cases and trying to reduce the number of preventable crimes in the next year.

While disclosing this at a press conference this evening, the district police chief, Mr Kapil Dev, said the efficiency of the police force would be improved and it would be made more people friendly. He said the items of “case property”, which had been lying unclaimed with the police since long, would be disposed off as per the procedure.

He said the police officials had been managing themselves with shortage of staff.

Releasing the annual district crime data to media, he said the police had achieved success in putting a check on criminals as 281 cases were registered under the NDPS Act as against the 212 last year. The recovery of poppy husk increased from 7,813 kg to 13,630 kg this year while the recovery of opium decreased. He added that the smuggling of the narcotics was high due to peculiar location of district, which shares its borders with Haryana and Rajasthan.

Replying to a question, he said as the number of road accidents and the number of fatalities had increased, the police would be taking up the task of educating the people about sensible driving. He claimed that the strength in the Traffic Wing was adequate. He said traffic education camps for the school-going kids had been organised.

Commenting on the large number of dead bodies recovered from the Bathinda canal, he said the photographs and records of post-mortem examination were being kept with the police.

He said that no incident involving the “kale kachechewale” gang had been reported while eight of the 14 blind murder cases were yet to be solved. He pointed out that of the 50 murders this year 11 were due to domestic quarrels (13 last year) while illicit relations emerged as the number one reason for murders. Last year, six murders had been committed due to illicit relations while the figure this year was 12, witnessing a 100 per cent increase.

He urged the people of the city to cooperate with the police authorities.


Three arrested for gambling
Our Correspondent

Barnala, December 25
The local police has arrested three persons under Sections 13A, 3-67 of the Gambling Act in three cases.

Dr Narinder Bhargav, SSP, said here yesterday that in wake of intensification of drive against anti-social elements in the region the Tapa police caught Yaadvinder Singh of Rampura Phool red handed and recovered Rs 22,710 from him.

Dr Bhargav further said Parvinder Singh of Rampura Phool was also arrested for indulging in gambling and Rs 15,770 was recovered from him.

In another case the CIA staff of the local police caught Pardeep Kumar, a resident of Barnala, for indulging in gambling and Rs 105 was recovered from him. The three suspects were booked under the Gambling Act at Tapa and Barnala police stations and later arrested.


One arrested for duping 12 persons
Our Correspondent

Abohar, December 25
The city police has arrested Daljit Singh in connection with “kabootarbazi” episode. He has been remanded in judicial custody by the court. The police had on Saturday registered a case against Jatinder Singh, a Chandigarh-based homoeopath and son of a “sex specialist” Vaid Daljit Singh and his brother Inderjit Singh of Dharam Nagri here. As many as 12 residents of the sub division had complained to the police that they had been duped of Rs 1.5 lakh each on the pretext of sending them to Canada.

The “local agents” of the homoeopaths had reportedly been publicising that the father-in-law of the homoeopath was a big industrialist based in Canada and needed Indian employees for his firm.


Gang of looters busted
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 25
The Islamabad police yesterday busted a gang of looters with the arrest of five persons.

They have been identified as Kaddu, a resident of Guru Nanak Dev Pura, Gurpreet Singh Totu, Gurdev Singh, alias Ghalu of Haripura, Deepak of Nepal and Nikka of Uttar Pradesh. However, one of the accused Rakesh Kumar, alias Rambo, managed to escape. The police recovered iron rods and sharp-edged weapons from them.


3 hurt in accident
Our Correspondent

Patiala, December 25
Three persons were injured in a road accident on Rajpura road here last night.

According to the information a mini truck collided with another truck due to lack of visibility on account of fog. Shiv Kumar (51), Gurpreet Singh (27) and Deyaram (30) who were injured were immediately rushed to Civil Hospital, Rajpura. The three were admitted at local Rajindera Hospital today.


VC throttling voice of dissent, alleges Pal
Gurvinder Kaur

Patiala, December 25
Punjabi University Pro Vice-Chancellor, Dr R.N. Pal, today lashed out at Vice-Chancellor Swaran Singh Boparai, saying a non-academician could not run the university.

The Pro-Vice-Chancellor, who was apparently reacting to the recent dismissal of an Assistant Public Relations Officer (APRO) at a social function, also demanded that the Vice Chancellor should provide details of his income and properties. He said he was ready to do so.

Speaking on the issue of dismissal of APRO Harminder Singh Khokhar, he accused the Vice- Chancellor of trying to create a dictatorial atmosphere in the varsity in order to suppress any voice of dissent against him. He said he had learnt that the VC, who had recently suspended senior teacher Dr K.S. Sidhu who had earlier also served as Registrar of the varsity, had now chargesheeted the teacher. Dr Pal was speaking at a social function organised by Dr Sidhu in a city hotel.

While condemning the decision to terminate Khokar’s services by the university, he stated that he would have objected to the same had he been present at the Syndicate meeting held last month wherein the decision was finalised. It may be recalled that the Pro-Vice-Chancellor was asked to step out of the meeting by the Vice- Chancellor as he was perceived to be obstructing the proceedings by raising points other than those listed in the agenda.

The decision to dismiss an Assistant Public Relation Officer (APRO) had been taken at the same meeting. The university authorities had cited the plea that continuation of the services of two APROs were superfluous to university functioning and were causing economic strain on the varsity’s resources. According to the varsity spokesman, Khokar had been dispensed with as he was the junior man at the post.

Dr Pal, who was interacting with newsmen at the reception of Registrar, Punjabi University, Karamjit Singh Sidhu’s son today claimed that such ‘arbitrary’ removal of varsity employees is an attempt by the Vice-Chancellor to ‘terrorise’ the rest into silence. He added that the Vice-Chancellor while ordering enquiries into the functioning of various senior varsity officials should first introspect about his own style of functioning.

The Pro-VC also added that few close ‘associates’ of the Vice-Chancellor had acquired control of the varsity and he had been excluded from the decision-making process altogether. He said that even the proceedings of various meetings held in the campus reached him either late or distorted.

While dismissing recent charges levied against him by the Vice-Chancellor regarding alleged financial anomalies, Dr Pal said that he was ready to face any enquiry into the matter. He added that those clamouring for his removal should know that his dismissal is not possible under the given varsity norms.


Pbi varsity sacks APRO
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 25
Punjabi University has terminated the services of an Assistant Public Relations Officer (APRO), who was alleged to have been wrongly confirmed in his job by the then Registrar, Dr K.S. Sidhu.

Dr Sidhu, a teacher in the Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, has already been suspended on this count.

According to sources, the notice terminating the services of APRO Harminder Singh Khokhar was pasted on a wall of his house as it was not received by anyone when it was despatched to him on Tuesday evening.

The notice states: “Since the syndicate has abolished the post of APRO, and you being a junior one, your services are dispensed with”. The notice has been issued by the Registrar.

Mr Khokhar had been appointed APRO by then Vice-Chancellor Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia. His probation was extended once, after the ouster of Dr Ahluwalia, before being confirmed by then Registrar Sidhu. The university establishment had taken the view that Dr Sidhu has overstepped his authority as the Vice-Chancellor had clearly directed that the case should be put up before him. Dr Sidhu was subsequently suspended for this.

The APRO, talking to TNS, claimed that he was being discriminated against.


Construction of controversial Kala Bhavan begins
Jangveer Singh

PATIALA: The construction of Kala Bhavan, which began during the tenure of the former Vice-Chancellor, Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia, restarted after being at a standstill for quite some time.

Kala Bhavan has been in the grip of controversy ever since it was visualised by Dr Ahluwalia. A garden and an open patch of land adjoining Guru Gobind Singh Bhavan and Guru Tegh Bahadur Bhavan were chosen as the site for the bhavan despite reservations that it would spoil the effect of Guru Gobind Singh Bhavan and also clutter the area.

Besides the need to change the design of the building, shortage of funds was also sited as a reason for the halt of the project. Now both issues seem to have been tackled. The university has decided to increase the utility of the building by doing away with an open air auditorium visualised for the top floor.

University Executive Engineer A .S. Sandhu said the auditorium was making the design of the building very heavy and that now space on the top floor would be used to make rooms so that four departments: fine arts, theatre and television, dance and music, can be shifted into the new building. The university has also reduced the height of the building so that it does not overshadow the adjoining Guru Gobind Singh Bhavan. Besides this the exterior of the Kala Bhavan will be in tune with that of the nearby Guru Gobind Singh Bhavan.

As far as funds are concerned, Kala Bhavan will be completed, courtesy the Punjabi Heritage Foundation headed by Dr Rachhpal Singh Aujla of the USA which has pledged $ 2 lakh for the purpose.

Student leaders busy

Student politics is at a low ebb in the university with most of the leaders of the Punjabi University Students Confederation appearing in the semester examinations. It is because of this reason that the nationwide call of the Student Federation of India (SFI) did not evoke any response in the university.

The SFI had recently protested against many new appointments being done in the university, saying the university should not induct more persons if it was undergoing a financial crunch. Sources say come January the students are expected to revive their old demands, specially the issue of non-issuance of bus passes.

Book released

A new initiative has been taken by a Reader in the Department of Journalism to differentiate between Punjabi journalism and Punjabi literary journalism. The author, Dr Harjinder Walia, has taken up the study of five prominent magazines-Preet Lari’, ‘Panj Daria’, ‘Aarsi’, ‘Nagmani’ and Drishti and compared how Punjabi journalism came into being and how it had progressed over the years.


NGO urges citizens to join hands
Our Correspondent

Patiala, December 25
Helping Hands Society, an NGO, started by a group of engineers in 1996, is now looking forward to others to join hands with them so that they could serve mankind in a better way.

The president of the society, Mr Vijay Gupta, believes that hands that serve humanity are a lot better than lips that talk of divinity.

The society is providing free education, books, clothing and other necessities of life to more than 500 poor students of the city and near by area.

They are given vocational training so that they can earn their living and become self-reliant. They are trained in repairing television sets, mobile phones and other electronic products. The basic objective of the organisation is to makes these children financially independent.

Besides this, the society also provides medical and health facilities by organising regular medical check-up camps. Medicines free of cost are provided to the poor and needy students.

In addition to this, to maintain ecological balance and to keep the city green and clean, its members plant saplings at suitable places.

The general secretary of the society, Mr Surinder Dhawan, said the members of the society also serve free food at the orphans’ houses, old-age homes, schools for deaf and dumb and home for the disabled from time to time. The monetary assistance is also given to orphans and poor girls at the time of their marriage

Mr Jatinder Narula, a senior member of the society, said they were also planning to provide computer education to these children.

He urged the people of the city to join hands and help them in serving the mankind.


Degrees conferred on 318 students
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, December 25
As many as 318 degrees were today conferred on girl graduate and post-graduate students by Dr R.S. Bawa, Registrar, GNDU, Amritsar, at the 28th convocation-cum-annual prize distribution function of the local Kamla Nehru College for Women, Phagwara. Dr Bawa and Mrs Charanjit Bawa, Principal, Guru Ram Dass Girls Senior Secondary School, Amritsar, also jointly gave away prizes to over 300 meritorious students.

Dr Bawa also laid the foundation stone of the B.D. Sardana Memorial Education Block. Sardana was the second president of the college management. Mr I.K. Sardana, present president of the college management, declared that the work on the new block would commence in January next year.

College Principal Kusum Verma read out the college report. Gauri Sudhera was given the best student award, while Simran Preet of Class XII (Science) was awarded for her 100 per cent attendance.

Prof Manjit Kaur, of the History Department, who had retired after serving the college for 37 years, was honoured by Dr Bawa. The college magazine “Aastha” was also released.

The college president, Mr Sardana, gave a vote of thanks. Dr Bawa was presented a painting made by Fine Arts professors Sudhamni and Rashmi. A cultural programme was also presented.


Physics refresher course concludes
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 25
The refresher course in physics organised by the Department of Physics in collaboration with academic staff college of Guru Nanak Dev University concluded here on Tuesday. Dr Amit Roy, Director, Nuclear Science Centre Delhi, delivered a special lecture on research facilities at the Science Centre in Delhi. Dr Satinder Singh, Pro-VC presided over the concluding function which had 30 participants from various universities and colleges.

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