P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Intranet row: Amarinder denies,
Badal reiterates charge
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 28
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, has categorically denied the existence of Punjab Intranet Company or signing of any agreement with any foreign collaborators. He suspects the authenticity of the letter in which the name of his son, Ranainder Singh, figures as a consultant.

On the other hand, former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has demanded an inquiry either by the CBI or the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence into the entire episode as it smacked of ‘’money laundering’’ by Moti Bagh palace. He will meet the Prime Minister and the Union Finance Minister on this issue in New Delhi tomorrow.

The issue of alleged ‘’hawala’’ transaction in the name of a yet-to-be-set-up company and payment of $ 100,000 on behalf of the Chief Minister’s son that appeared in Hindustan Times today, prompted both Capt Amarinder Singh and Mr Badal to hold separate press conferences late in the evening within minutes of each other.

Capt Amarinder Singh, who was accompanied by a battery of bureaucrats and some ministers, told media persons in Punjab Bhavan that the story was a ‘’plant’’. He also saw behind this the hand of the NDA government ‘’out to destabilise the Congress-ruled states’’ and did not rule out the possibility of the Badals in this. While refusing to hand over inquiry to the CBI, dubbing it has hand-maiden of the BJP, he said, ‘’We will investigate it at our own level and find out if the letter is genuine or not’’. Neither any such company had been formed nor any consultants appointed nor any payments made, he added.

Admitting that Mr Leonard Freeke was a family friend who had stayed with the family in July last, the Chief Minister said he had expressed the desire to undertake some Internet wide area connectivity project in Punjab. He had met couple of officers and visited certain places in Punjab ‘’at my instance’’.

The two officers, who had visited Amsterdam in August last while on their way to Stanford University in the USA, had told Mr Freeke that Punjab already had such facilities and did not need the project. ‘’Moreover, we are shortly signing an agreement with the BSNL,” he added.

He said, ‘’Punjab or my government has nothing to do in this venture. My life is an open book, my government believes in transparent working and no one can compromise on my integrity. There are procedures for such ventures and nothing wishy-washy has been done. There is a process to sift all such deals and offers.” He even read out extracts from a two-page fact-sheet handed over to him and said he had had a word with his son as well.

He also saw more such dubious actions coming in the wake of the probability of early Lok Sabha elections and did not pick any quarrels with the newspaper.

Mr Badal, who also issued a written statement, told mediapersons at his official residence that what had been reported today was just a tip of the iceberg. He said, “The money belongs to Patiala palace. It is intended to be laundered and brought back vis the proposed Punjab Intranet Company. The Chief Minister is the government and nothing moves without his consent and knowledge. This is a serious matter. We will walk any length to demand a thorough inquiry as not only several crore of rupees are involved in this shady deal, which is the biggest scandal of the year, but it is also an anti-national act. Such rackets can destabilise the nation’s economy and pose a threat to its security’’.

He was asked if he had any proof other than what had appeared in the newspaper and what was his reaction to the allegation of Capt Amarinder Singh that he saw the hand of the Badals.

To this he said, ‘’In our case, ‘source report’ was used as an excuse and basis of investigation by the Vigilance. What more proof is needed than what is produced in Hindustan Times? This is the source.

The letter that has appeared is self-explanatory. As to our hand, as alleged by Amarinder, our hands are full doing our own work’’.

Mr Badal said Capt Amarinder Singh should resign on moral grounds. Even his own party men have demanded that he mark an inquiry by the CBI. He also reminded Capt Amarinder Singh of what he had said on the floor of the House that as Chief Minister he would live up to his word and refer any instance of corruption brought against him or his close aides, advisers and kin to the CBI for a thorough probe.

When told that the Chief Minister after verifying facts at his own level would entrust the case to the vigilance, Mr Badal and his son, Sukhbir Singh, laughed and remarked, ‘’He, perhaps, will like to send his officers abroad to probe.’’

Interestingly, while Capt Amarinder Singh has no faith in the CBI, the Badals have no faith in the Vigilance. Mr Badal said, ‘’Unfortunately there is no unbiased agency which one can approach in such matters”. He preferred even a High Court or a retired judge of the Supreme Court to probe such matters. 


Prove majority or quit, BJP dares Amarinder
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, December 28
The state executive of the BJP has adopted a political resolution, asking Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to either prove his majority on the floor of the House or put in his papers.

Stating this at a press conference here today, Punjab BJP President Avinash Rai Khanna said there was no government in Punjab and political uncertainty had engulfed the state. Official machinery and money were being misused for transporting groups of ministers and MLAs by rival factions to Delhi for parading their strength before the Congress President. The Punjab Governor should convene a special session of the Assembly as the place for parading MLAs for a show of strength was not the office of the Congress President, but the floor of the House, he said.

He demanded a CBI probe into the allegations of corruption against Punjab Transport Minister Tej Parkash Singh. The CBI should also probe the allegations of corruption levelled by dissident Congress leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal against the Chief Minister, he said. Corruption was rampant and press reports today suggested that $ 1 lakh were transferred in the name of a company, in which the name of the Chief Minister had also been mentioned, he alleged.

A judicial commission headed by a retired high court Judge be constituted to probe the allegations of corruption against politicians and bureaucrats, he demanded. The office of the Chief Minister should be brought under the purview of the Lok Pal, he said.

Mr Khanna said the Punjab BJP would demand a larger share in seat distribution in the Lok Sabha poll from its alliance partner, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). Asked about the exact increase of seats, he quipped that it would be more than the previous share of three seats. He added that the issue would be settled by the committees to be constituted in this regard by the SAD-BJP combine. The number could be five, he said.

He did not rule out seat adjustment with other like-minded parties. The alliance with SAD was permanent, but there would not be any reservation in case any other parties like the BSP made an offer for an electoral tie-up with the combine, he said. On the overture of SAD(A) President Simranjit Singh Mann to have an electoral tie-up with the BJP, Mr Khanna shot back that the stand of Mr Mann was not permanent.

He denied the allegation of the Chief Minister that the BJP was trying to destabilise his government. Why should one disturb a party that was divided and going downhill, he asked. He refuted the allegation that the Centre was having an intelligence surveillance of Punjab ministers and their telephones were being tapped.

He declared that the BJP and the SAD would contest and win all 13 Lok Sabha seats on the planks of the achievements of the NDA government led by Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the misrule of the Congress government in Punjab. After the completion of Operation-2003, the party had now launched Mission-2004 to win the next Lok Sabha poll, he said. Vision-2020 was also being launched for making India a frontline country in the international comity of nations, he added.

The meeting began by condoling the death of former BJP national President Kushabhau Thakre and observing a two-minute silence. It placed on record Thakre’s services to the party and the country.


Tej Parkash Singh episode a mischief,
says Amarinder
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, December 28
Tej Parkash Singh Capt Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister, Punjab, at a press conference at PWD Rest House, Dasuya, 40 km from here, yesterday alleged that out of 11 Congress-ruled states, the BJP was encouraging Congress MLAs in seven states, including Punjab, to topple the government there. This is dirty politics for petty gains, he added.

Referring to Punjab Transport Minister Tej Parkash Singh’s episode, the Chief Minister said it was a mischief to widen rift in the Congress and destabilise his government. Guilty persons would not be spared, he said.

To a question on the charge of corruption against any member of his Cabinet, he said only a complaint against Mr Harbans Lal, former Forest Minister, was received into which the Vigilance Bureau had conducted an inquiry and the corruption charge had not been proved against Mr Harbans Lal. He said he would continue his anti-corruption campaign. He said in case any minister of his Cabinet remained absent from the proposed Cabinet meeting of December 30, he would not take action against him.

Out of 13 Lok Sabha seats in the state the Congress secured nine in the last Lok Sabha elections. It would definitely improve its score in these elections, he added.

He refuted that the pace of development in Punjab had come to a standstill. Villages of Punjab would get power supply round-the-clock after June 30, 2004, he assured. He said Rs 800 crore had been sought for the construction of roads and bridges and Rs 930 crore for the water supply from NABARD.


Plot to defame Transport Minister, say councillors
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 28
Municipal councillors of the city today appealed to Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh to order a high-level inquiry to “expose” the “conspiracy” under which an attempt had been made to defame State Transport Minister Tej Prakash Singh.

Councillors Gurjit Guri, Pawan Nagrath and Mrs Gurdev Singh Punia besides Beopar Mandal leader Chamal Lal Bansal in a statement here, said the Chief Minister should understand that the manner in which a simple complaint had been forwarded to the Union Territory administration by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau was part of a “planned conspiracy” to defame him.

The leaders said Mr Tej Prakash Singh’s father Beant Singh had been responsible for ushering in the era of peace in the state after a decade-long period of militancy. They said even now the Congress was enjoying the fruits of power due to the superhuman efforts of Mr Beant Singh who had met the challenge of militancy head on and had been successful in eliminating it all together.

Mr Gurjit Guri also claimed that the family of Mr Beant Singh did not even have a house in Chandigarh or even its vicinity. He said Mr Tej Prakash Singh was known all over the state for his honesty and had run the Transport Department without inviting a single complaint.


DGP meets Johar, sparks off speculations
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 28
Director-General of Police A.A. Siddiqui's visit to the residence of Higher Education Minister, Harnam Dass Johar here last night has sparked off speculations about the purpose behind the visit. Mr Siddiqui, who was here last night to attend a function organised by the Ludhiana chapter of the Indian Medical Association, went to the Model Town residence of Mr Johar. He reportedly stayed there for about an hour. However, what transpired between the two could not be ascertained.

Family sources of Mr Johar confirmed that Mr Siddiqui had come over a cup of tea. It was simply a courtesy call, nothing more should be read into it, they said. Moreover, the sources pointed out that the DGP was an apolitical person.

Since Mr Siddiqui happens to be a close relative of Mr Ahmad Patel, Political Secretary to the Congress president, Ms Sonia Gandhi, much significance is being attached to the meeting. Mr Patel is one of the three members of the panel set up by the Congress President to resolve the leadership issue in the Punjab Congress.

At the same time, Mr Johar is learnt to have distanced himself from any move that would culminate in splitting the party in the state. It was learnt that during the discussions about the course of action to be adopted by the dissidents a few days back, one of the options was said to be splitting the party in case the high command did not act.

Mr Johar reportedly made it clear at the meeting that he was not interested or inclined to split the party. He reportedly maintained that whatever course of action to be adopted should be within the party. He pointed out that he was with the party and had no personal inclinations. “I would be the last person to allow it to happen,” Mr Johar reportedly asserted.


Gujral, Amarinder to attend Punjabi conference
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 28
The ninth World Punjabi Conference is scheduled to be held at Lahore from January 29 to 31, 2004. According to a statement issued here today, the conference is aimed at jointly promoting the Punjabi language, culture arts and literature by communities on both sides of the international border.

About 200 delegates from 20 countries, including former Indian Prime Minister, Mr I.K. Gujral and the Punjab Chief Minister, are expected to attend the conference, according to Mr Deepak Manmohan Singh, one of the organisers.

The theme of the conference will be “Globalisation — language, culture and literature with special reference to Punjabi”. A cultural extravaganza, mushaira, drama and an exhibition would also be organised. The statement said that just like Punjabis in India, their counterparts in Pakistan were also involved in a continuous battle to preserve Punjabi culture in Pakistan as well as across the globe.

Mr A.S. Paul added that the 10th conference is planned to be held in India, the 11th in Paris or Vienna and the 12th again in Lahore. Eight conference with similar objectives have also been held earlier in India, Pakistan, USA, Canada and the UK.


ISI agent arrested near IAF station
Our Correspondent

Barnala, December 28
The Barnala police arrested an ISI agent, Maroof Ali, near the Barnala Air Force station field area yesterday. He had reportedly passed on information about military installations, cantonments and certain Air Force fields in India to the ISI.

Following a tip-off, a police party found him roaming near the Air Force station. Apprehending trouble, Maroof Ali tried to flee, but was captured.

After a search of Maroof Ali, an electronic digital camera was recovered from his possession. After his interrogation, facts pertaining to his nexus with the ISI were revealed.

The police claimed that Maroof Ali used seven mobile phones with different numbers to avoid interception. his computer contained many Pakistani website addresses and 16 documents, maps of two cantonments, an electronic digital camera, identification marks of Indian Army vehicles chart, a computer and a newsletter of the Ambala Air Force station were recovered, it added.

Hailing from a village on the Haryana - Uttar Pradesh border, Moroof Ali tied the knot at Wazirabad in Pakistan in 2000. He went to Wazirabad and came back to India towards the end of 2000 after staying there for three months. He again visited his wife Razia and in-laws on July 23 this year.

One day before the expiry of his visa, he found his passport missing. After a couple of days, he succeeded in finding his passport. His visa had expired and he was told that he could not go back. On reaching his relatives’ house, some ISI activists told him that they could get his visa date extended on the condition that he worked for the ISI, tempting him in many ways.

When he agreed to work for the ISI, he was imparted training as well as given tips on how to identify and get information regarding defence forces bases. He was offered money in two instalments to the tune of Rs 50,000 and Rs 10,000 by the ISI.


Pak has photos of air bases, reveals spy
Sanjay Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 28
Pakistan has procured photographs of strategic Indian air bases of Halwara, Barnala and Hindon through a spy operating from Yamunanagar.

This has been revealed to the Punjab Police by a Pakistani spy Mehroof who was arrested recently while taking photographs of 505 radar station in Barnala, sources told The Tribune here today.

The police said photographs of the Barnala Radar Station were taken as this base was capable of keeping an eye on the movement of Pakistani aircraft.

A Kalanaur resident Mehroof, son of Nek Mohammed, had allegedly been spying for Pakistan since August this year after he returned to India from Pakistan.

The Inter-Services network for which 22-year-old Mehroof was suspected to be working for, extended to Punjab, Gujarat and Maharashtra, the sources said.

Mehroof had been asked to gather information on the movement of Indian Army’s armoured divisions. According to the spy, Pakistan was keen to know about the armoured divisions.

Mehroof had recently got Rs 1.2 lakh from Pakistan through a hawala channel to settle in the border belt of Batala, Amritsar and Gurdaspur to keep a tab on the movement of the Indian Army, the sources said.

Mehroof had been sending photographs to Pakistan and faxing sensitive information.

The police seized a camera from the Pakistani spy when he was arrested from Barnala recently.

The police was looking for four others from Jalandhar who were allegedly associated with Mehroof and it was also trying to trace out the hawala channel being used to send money from Pakistan.

Mehroof came in contact with the ISI during his second visit to Pakistan in 2003 when his visa expired. He had earlier been to Pakistan in 2001. Mehroof went to Vazirabad in Gujranwala district in Pakistani Punjab, where his maternal uncle stays.

During his first visit in 2001 Mehroof got married to Razia, a daughter of his maternal uncle.

Mehroof was in trouble during his second visit in 2003 when he overstayed in Pakistan beyond the period his visa was valid for.

When Mehroof was looking for help to get his visa extended, an ISI agent contacted him and got his visa extended in lieu of a promise from him to gather information from India which the ISI wanted. Wriggling out from the visa-related trouble in Pakistan Mehroof came to India and started operating from Yamunanagar. Mehroof had recently bought a motor cycle from the money sent by ISI and was looking for a house in the border areas of Punjab.

Indian sleuths had been on the trail of Mehroof tracking his phone calls to Pakistan. The Punjab Police had kept a couple of its personnel as beggars in Yamunanagar in Haryana to follow Mehroof and ultimately caught him when he was attempting to take photographs of the Barnala Radar Station.


Daler’s police remand extended
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 28
Duty Magistrate P.S. Dhanoa today extended the police remand of pop star Daler Mehndi until December 30 even though the prosecution had urged for a five-day extension of the remand so that Daler could be taken to Mumbai to affect more recoveries in the human trafficking case registered against him.

The prosecution claimed that some documents could not be recovered in Delhi because of Christmas. It said some of the pop star’s employees who needed to be questioned with regard to the case were on leave due to Christmas. The prosecution said the police wanted to take Daler to Mumbai so that it could get more details about the working of his show promoter Rakesh Kaushal, alias Rocky, and recover some documents from him.

Daler’s lawyer said Daler had already been in police custody for a week. He said during this period Daler had been cooperating with the police and had handed over his two old passports to the team that had taken him to Delhi. The lawyer said Daler had also provided the police with details about his troupe and documents about their travels abroad. The defence said keeping this in mind there was no need to extend the police remand of the accused. It had earlier also maintained that Daler did not have any office in Mumbai and no purpose would be served by taking him there.


A Daler in need has a ‘daler’ indeed

Patiala, December 28
Though Punjabi pop singer Daler Mehndi is yet to be granted bail in the human trafficking case registered against him and others, a fan of the singer today came forward and offered Rs 1 crore property documents to him to furnish bail bonds in a local court here.

Harbans Singh of Dadhera village of this district made this offer to Daler when he met him outside the court after the case hearing.

Harbans Singh has agricultural land in the village worth Rs 3 crore and he offered one-third of it to Daler.

During his meeting with Daler, the devoted fan broke down and said he usually came to the court on every hearing but it was only today that he managed to meet the singer face to face.

Talking to newspersons with tears in his eyes, he said he was also running a transport business and had many trucks. He said when-ever he was away on his business tours it was Gurbani and Daler’s songs which kept him ‘’alive and kicking’’.

He said he wanted to serve food to the singer if permission was granted to him. — UNI


Flashback — ’03
Daler Mehndi case brings Patiala into limelight
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 28
This year will be known for major crime cases with the police accusing Punjabi pop star Daler Mehndi of being involved in human trafficking besides netting Kashmiri terrorists, gun smugglers supplying arms to the Peoples war Group (PWG) and a gang which had created terror by committing robberies after bludgeoning people to death.

The Daler case brought Patiala into limelight as never before. Crews of electronic channels with their relay vans became a routine feature for months in Patiala. The case, which started off innocuously with the police receiving a complaint against two persons - Shamsher Singh and Daler Singh in September, exploded in October when Daler accused the Patiala police of demanding Rs 1.5 crore to hush up the complaint against him.

Following this the Patiala police expanded the scope of the inquiry and even claimed that more than 35 more persons had complained against Daler. The change of guard in the Patiala police in November-end saw the police relying more on documents and “evidence” to nail Daler. The end of the year saw Daler being arrested in Delhi and being bought to Patiala where he was given police custody so that the police could investigate his role in the alleged human trafficking case. Daler’s brother Shamsher Mehndi is in judicial custody in the case since October 18.

Other major crimes included the arrest of Kashmiri militants with sophisticated weapons. However these arrests also came under a cloud with few of the accused in the case, who had allegedly earlier worked as police “agent” during the militancy period, claiming that the district police had cooked up the case to get publicity. Certain persons being arrested for being involved in smuggling guns to banned outfits like the Peoples War Group. A number of gun dealers in the state were taken into the ambit of the case. A gang of tribesmen which had bludgeoned a number of people to death besides another gang of tribesmen involved in robbing gold and silver jewellary was also arrested during the year.

Tragic incidents also took place this year. As many as 13 persons of Dhiru ki Majri locality in the city died after consuming spurious liquor in February. In another incident, a seven-year-old child who was working in a tea shop near the National Institute of Sports (NIS) was killed when a police official accidentally fired at him.

Murders were on the rise in the city this year. Two persons were murdered at Khalsa Colony and Jagdish Ashram in August. This month a police Inspector who was living alone in a flat in Urban Estate was done to death in a gruesome manner. Two murders occurred in November. In one case a 15-year-old boy was done to death in Sukhram Colony while he was alone at home while in the other a couple and their child were killed in what appeared to be an execution carried out by professionals. The two murders are still to be solved.

There was also a case of a major robbery in October when two motorcycle borne youth looted Rs 8 lakh from the shop of a commission agent in the New Grain Market at gun point. The crime graph rose in the latter half of the year and also saw a new set of police officers at the helm of affairs. Besides Senior Superintendent of Police Paramraj Singh Umranangal, most other members of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) which had been formed to investigate the Daler case, were transferred out of the district. New officers, including present SSP A.S. Rai joined in November.


Mullahs misinterpreting ‘jihad’, say Ahmadiyyas
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 28
The real meaning of “jihad” was spelled out on the concluding day of the International Ahmadiyya Convention at Quadian.

After recitation of the holy Quran and the nazm, the session was presided over by Chaudhary Hameedullah, jamat’s additional president, today.

The one-hour televised address by Moulana Hameed Kausar Sahib, international head, from London on Muslim Television Ahmadiyya was the highlight of the convention.

The head directed the members to establish peace through noble self-examples. Quoting from the Quran he said: “Men of peace never initiated any war against their opponents and the only occasion of war was in defence. Moreover, Islam explained rules and guidance, which explained concept of peace and tolerance in Islam. Respect for other religions and their leaders is essential”, he added.

Moulana Hameed Kausar delivered the opening address on the concept of “jihad”. Explaining the real meaning of “jihad”, he deplored the forces that were bent upon to destroy the very edifice of Islam. Islam gives the right to defend oneself against aggression. The very meaning of Islam is peace. Islam asserts religious freedom and does not allow compulsion in matters of faith. The real meaning of “jihad” is to endeavour with persistence, he asserted.

Castigating the political mullahs (clergy class), he said they had used the word “jihad” in a negative sense, either out of sheer ignorance or vested interest.

A.M. Rashid, Imam of a London mosque, while speaking to The Tribune said despite presenting memorandums and issuing statements to Ambassadors and High Commissions of Pakistan in various countries, Pakistan had always given a ‘standard answer’ that produced no concrete results.

Students were honoured on the concluding day. Goodwill messages were read out from Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, President of India; Mr L.K. Advani, Deputy Prime Minister; Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, Minister of Human Resource and Development; Mr Sushil Kumar Shinde, Chief Minister, Maharastra; Mr N.D. Tiwari, Chief Minister, Uttaranchal; Mr O.P. Chautala, Chief Minister, Haryana; Mr Virbhadra Singh, Chief Minister, Himachal Pradesh; Mr T.N. Chaturvedi, Governor, Karnataka; Mr Sundersen Aggarwal, Governor, Uttaranchal; Mr R.P. Gupta, Governor, Madhya Pradesh; and Mr Tripat Rajendar Singh Bajwa, minister, Punjab.

Giani Puran Singh, Head Granthi, Darbar Sahib, Capt Kanwaljeet Singh, a former minister; Dr Prassna Kumar Patasani, MP, and Mr Natha Singh Dalam attended the function, among others.


Films with Punjabi themes aimed
at NRIs: Harbhajan
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, December 28
While the Punjabi film industry is still in the doldrums due to lack of government initiative to boost this sector since independence, Bollywood producers are now aiming to cash in on the Punjab factor by producing more and more films based on Punjabi heritage and culture to have better returns through their release abroad.

According to film industry experts here, realising that about 50 lakh Punjabis are settled in England, USA, Canada, Australia and Germany, renowned producers have virtually been forced to make films on Punjabi themes. The success of “Jee Aayan Nu” in North America and England, which starred Punjabi pop singer Harbhajan Mann, has once again compelled Hindi film producers to include several Punjabi traditional numbers even in Hindi films.

Harbhajan Mann, who is playing the lead role in Punjabi film “Wapsi Watnan Nu” and its English version, “Back to India”, claims, “Punjabi stuff is the main demand of NRIs. Producers like Yash Chopra and B.R. Chopra are coming up with new projects in this regard. The sale of ticket in a Canadian theatre fetches $ 20 as against Rs 50 from an Indian theatre.” He says the trend has been witnessed during the past few years in Bollywood, particularly following the success of “Dil Wale Dulhanian Le Jayenge” and “Monsoon Wedding” abroad.

Father-son duo weaves magic
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, December 28
Grammy Award winner Mohan Veena maestro Vishwa Mohan Bhat and his son, Salil Bhat, captivated hundreds of music lovers who converged last night in front of the ‘samadhi’ of Baba Harballabh, the saint who initiated this journey of classical music 128 years ago.

Vocalist Vidushi Sumitra Guha mesmerised music lovers with ‘bandishs’ in raga bihag, rageshwari and a bhajan of Surdas.

The biting cold did not deter staunch votaries of the revival and preservation of Indian classical music who have been patrons of the annual event.

As the foggy evening progressed towards a starry night, Vidushi Sumitra Guha, rendered some melodious ‘alaaps’ and ‘taans’, which smoothly got converted into a ‘bilambit bandish’ —” Sumiran kar le”.

Vidushi aptly used small but very intricate ‘taans’, followed by a drut khayal bandish —” Murali baaj rahi maduban mein......”.

Accompanied by Pt Anup Ghosh on the tabla, Sushmita Chakarvorty on the harmonium and Bharat Bhushan Goswami on the Sarangi, Vidushi unveiled the magic of spring as she rendered another ‘bandish’, ritu basant, in raga rageshwari.

Towards the conclusion of her soulful presentation, Vidushi rendered a bhajan of Surdas. Vidushi, who has incorporated the best of Kirana Gharana in her music, has done her honours in philosophy from Shantiniketan.

When Pt Vishwa Mohan Bhat,  whose albums “A meeting by the River” and “Mumtaaz Mahal” featured in two Hollywood films “Dead Man Walking” and “Two Days in the Valley” — gently touched the strings of his highly modified 19-stringed mohan veena with raga maaru vihag, the sound resonated in the nearby ‘sarovar’ of the temple. Pt Vishwa Mohan Bhat was accompanied by his son Salil Bhat and tabla player Sandip Dass.

The youngest scholar of the ITC Sangeet Research Academy, Arshad Ali, sang a khayal, “Jaako samjhao”, in ‘bilambat ek taala’. He was accompanied by Idrish Khan on the tabla. After this, he presented a ‘chotta khayal’ and ‘raga malkauns’.

Sarod player Narendra Nath Dhar of the Senia Gharana, presented his ‘alaaps’, ‘jor’ and ‘bilambit gat’ in ‘teen tala’ in raga bageshwari, while he concluded his presentation in raga mishar.

Earlier, last year’s winner, tabla player Himanshu Mahant, presented ‘roopak tala’, ‘teen tala’ and ‘ek tala’, while the event started with ‘sarasvati vandana’ by students of HMV.

Lala Lajpat Rai, MP, who was the chief guest, and the special guest, Barjinder Singh, Editor of the Ajit group of newspapers, assured the Shri Baba Harballabh Sangeet Mahasabha that efforts would be made for setting up a museum for the conservation of Indian classical music.

Others who were present included Ms Poornima Beri, general secretary of the mahasabha,  Shital Vij, Surendra Seth and advocate S.N. Chopra, all vice-presidents of the mahasabha, Mr Ashwani Kumar, chairman, Lalit Gupta, eminent music teacher, Prof B.S. Narang, Dr Arun Mishra, Des Raj from Jalandhar Doordarshan and the SSP, Mr G.S. Bhullar.


Bhat for fusion of Indian, Western music
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, December 28
Celebrated Mohan Veena player Vishwa Mohan Bhat, famous for his historic ‘jugalbandi’ with a Chinese erhu player, Jei Bing Chen and a performance for Queen Elizabeth during her 1997 India visit, is a votary of judicious fusion of the Indian classical and Western music. He also finds nothing wrong with the current drift of the young generation towards Western music.

Talking to The Tribune, Pt Vishwa Mohan Bhat broke common myths about the “harm” brought by the Western style of music and the commercialisation which has crept into the world of music.

“I don’t see any harm. Rather, Western musicians are far ahead in music. They have developed their own fine techniques. I feel this drift is a good sign towards the attainment of a universal platform,” observed Pandit Bhat, who was awarded the Padam Shri for his contribution to music.

“I vote for fusion of Indian and Western styles. But this fusion should be very judicious,” he said, adding that, “A good artiste should not be biased and it is essential for him to be a combination of a composer, performer and a teacher.”

Denying that the young generation was not interested in classical music, Pandit Bhat said, “They understand it. Anyone can do so if he or she devotes about two hours daily to understand Indian classical music. During my over 100 presentations, I have found that youngsters are very receptive.”

About the commercialisation of music, he quipped, “To some extent it is good. Take the example of Michael Jackson. What he earns from a single show is more than the lifetime earnings of an Indian classical singer. For maintaining one’s status in society, earning is not bad. But ‘over-commercialisation’ leads to nowhere. Artistes are also human beings. They also need comforts like good cars.”


BJP cells, units reconstituted
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, December 28
Punjab BJP president Avinash Rai Khanna said at a press conference here today that out of the total 32 frontal wings and cells of the state party, about 17 had been reconstituted while all 24 district units had been reconstituted to activate the organisational set-up.

He released the following names of presidents of these wings and cells: kisan morcha—Mr Surjit Kumar Jaini; Mahila morcha — Ms Trishna Minhas; yuva morcha — Mr Manjit Singh Rai; beopar cell — Mr Satpal Gosain; local bodies cell— Mr Satpal Mahajan; cooperative cell — Mr Satpal Saini; Medical cell — Dr Baldev Chawla; legal cell—Mr Ashok Bharat; publicity cell — Mr Daulat Ram Kamboj; Backward Class — Mr Mehinga Ram Khera; and ex-servicemen cell— Col Partap Inder Singh Pulkha (retd.).

The remaining names would be released soon, he said.

Mahila jagriti sammelans were being held in the state to galvanise women activists of the party, he said. 


BSF: more hits less misses this year
Anirudh Gupta

Along the zero line (Ferozepore), December 28
With fog engulfing the entire region, the task of the BSF sleuths to man the International Border has become increasingly arduous. Keeping in view the hostile weather conditions. The BSF had to intensify the patrolling and launch special operations to thwart any attempt by anti-national elements and ISI agents to sneak inside the Indian territory taking advantage of the inclement weather. The BSF had not only to protect the border from the outsiders but also to keep a watch on the intruders and cross-border smugglers commonly called as “snakes” in this area.

BSF officials said that the pockets and riverine gaps where the cobra fencing had not been done due to topographical restraints, special boat nakas had been laid and round-the-clock vigil was being kept by BSF troops. Sources in BSF said that several operations like Operation Tiger, Operation Roar, Operation Panther had been planned in recent times especially for the 557-km-long Punjab Frontier bordering Pakistan.

Officials said that during heavy fog and in inclement weather conditions more manpower was added to the normal BSF deployment to form a physical barrier along the borders. At a few places near the riverine gaps, BSF sleuths sporadically resorted to speculative fire at night in order to keep the intruders away. With the visibility restricted to only few metres, the mobile patrolling was also enchanced and in addition to it, horse patrolling was also done to watch the International Border. The nakas, which were considered sensitive, were opened and interlocked with other adjoining nakas to form a human chain.

BSF officials said that the BSF troops deployed along the zero line were provided with hot tea at least four times during one night from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. these days to keep them alert and the vehicles used to supply tea also patrolled the border from one post to another.

According to the information, during 2003, the BSF troops had either apprehended or gunned down 66 persons, including 32 Pakistani nationals, 11 Indian nationals and 23 Bangladeshi nationals near the International Border in the Ferozepore sector as compared to 21 in 2002.

However, the biggest achievement of the BSF was to unearth a tunnel, being constructed by the Pakistan-based elements across the zero line of the Indo-Pakistan border through the area near the border outposts of Kassoke and Mohammadiwala. The tunnel, which was 20 m long and 2 feet in diameter started from one burrow type hole dug in the area of BOP Kassoke near border pillar no. 183 which was 2 feet above ground level. BSF officials said that the FIU and ISI of Pakistan were actively supporting anti-Indian elements and the attitude of the Pakistani Rangers also remained uncooperative most of the times.

About the various incidents in which abortive attempts had been made by some anti-national elements to sneak into the Indian territory, the BSF DIG, Mr A.K. Sarolia, when contacted, ruled out any spurt in infiltration bids. He said that sporadic incidents did take place but the BSF troops were vigilant enough to defeat any sinister designs of the enemy. He said that after the complete fencing of the Indo-Pakistan International Border along Punjab, the BSF had been able to put total brakes on any sort of cross-border infiltration, crime or smuggling incidents.

About the problems being faced by the BSF jawans during winters and foggy days, Mr Sarolia said that the BSF was in process of procuring most modern equipments like thermal and IR imagers, and other ground sensor equipments from Israel to reduce the stress under which BSF sentinels were working.


Woman backtracks on charges against Mayor
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 28
Former Mahila Congress leader Neelam Chaudhary backtracked on her statement on Friday evening, and said that she was under pressure from certain local Congress leader backed by an MLA to name Mr Sunil Datti, Mayor in the flesh trade racked. In press note here Ms Neelam alleged that she was made to believe that the case against her was filed at the behest of Mr Datti. She said that it was shocking that the Congress leaders who had provoked her, against the mayor, were now supporting him.

She felt that I was used and now decided to bring the truth out. Ms Neelam said she had already expressed her apology to the mayor.

Ms Neelam said that she would present the entire case to the party high command with the proofs of senior party leaders being the actual culprits in the episode.

Meanwhile, senior BJP leader and former MLA Ms Laxmi Kanta Chawla alleged that the Congress government had not pursued the case involving Congress leader in flesh trade racket. Ms Chawla said the state government had not bothered to probe the racket, since they belonged to the ruling party. She said the police should have interrogated the girls involved in the racket to find out the truth about the names of the leader involved.


India should sign treaty on landmines, says NGO
Our Correspondent

Abohar, December 28
Dr Bal Krishan Kurve, coordinator, Indian Campaign to Ban Landmines, affiliated to the United Nations Organisation (UNO), has said India and Pakistan should make up their mind during the SAARC Summit to sign the international treaty to stop using landmines near borders.

Speaking at a meeting of coordinators from border districts of Punjab and Rajasthan here today, Dr Kurve said 151 countries had responded positively to the call given by the UNO-based organisation, but the USA, Russia, China, India and Pakistan were still reluctant. Signing of the treaty by India and Pakistan would be considered as a major step towards restoring peace in the subcontinent, he observed.

Quoting official figures he said the Indian Army had set a new record by planting nearly 10 lakh landmines along the Indo-Pak border after the attack on the Parliament by militants. Several lakh farmers had failed to cultivate their agricultural land as the area remained under mines for two years and hundreds of border area residents had been disabled due to landmine explosions, he added.

The government had to review its decision following a publication of a survey report from the Indian Campaign to Ban Landmines in the media. The cover-page story from Abohar in The Tribune was prominently discussed at the international headquarter of the campaign in Geneva, Dr Kurve said. A PLA filed by a local advocate, Mr Shashi Kant Gilhotra, in the Punjab and Haryana High Court had also prompted the authorities to increase the amount of compensation.

Dr Kurve, president, Indian Institute for Peace Disarmament and Environment Protection, said defence experts believed that at least one lakh of the 10 lakh landmines planted by the Army still existed in the affected areas despite demining operations. Illiterate residents and their wards could not be expected to realise that the objects they had found in the fields were explosive mines. No efforts were made to educate border area residents while laying landmines.

The organisation had decided to take up a survey of affected persons, cattle and agricultural land from January 1 next in Punjab and Rajasthan. It might not be possible to take up the exercise in Jammu and Kashmir as the areas were snow-bound at present.

Dr Kurve said workers duly authorised by the organisation would go from house to house in border villages to complete the survey reports by March 31.


Civil enclave to be ready in April
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, December 28
Pathankot shortly would be on the civil aviation map of the country. As more than 80 per cent work on civil enclave Pathankot had been completed, and by April 2004, the central government would dedicate it to the people. This was stated yesterday here, by Master Mohan Lal, former Punjab Minister.

The BJP leader said, the project which is being developed by The Airports Authority of India (AAI), for civil flights.

Pathankot due to its location is a life line for the defence of the country, especially for the states of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal, added Master Mohan Lal.

He said former governments of Punjab and Himachal endorsed the proposal of the central government and came forward to acquired land for the civil enclave handed it over to the AAI.

The BJP leader said, the project construction of new terminal building, equipped with facilities to handle 300 passengers at a time, construction of an apron and linked taxiway. He disclosed that the runway at the airport was suitable for the operation of airbus A-320 class of aircraft. However, civil flights could be operated only after the civil enclave was developed.


9 couples tie the knot
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, December 28
Baba Ashok Singh Rajdev, a “pramukh” of Dera Sehanshah Alam Dargah Peer Kadar Shah at Mander Bet village, 10 km from here, today organised mass marriage of nine couples.

Mr Joginder Singh Mann, Social Welfare Minister, Mrs Swedesh Chopra Director, Hind Samachar Group, Jalandhar, and Mr Sukhpal Singh Khaira, Chairman, Traffic Regulatory, Authority, Punjab, blessed the couples.

Mr Mann announced a grant of Rs 1 lakh for development work to the gram panchayat and Rs 50,000 to the dera.

Talking to mediapersons at the dera, Mr Mann said the crisis in the Punjab Congress would soon be solved by the Congress high command.


Bank Manager still untraced
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 28
The State Bank of India’s Kasel branch Manager, Mr Prem Sagar Mahajan, has been missing since November 30. He left his house that day on foot but did not return.

Addressing a press conference here today, his wife Sunita Mahajan and two daughters said Prem had been under tremendous stress. They said he used to work even on Sundays and holidays and returned late.

A case was registered the next day at the Islamabad police station after it was found that the Manager had not reached the bank that day. 


Consumer forum tells PUDA to refund excess
transfer fee
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Mohali, December 28
In an important decision, the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission Chandigarh (CDRC) has entitled a complainant to a refund of the ‘extra’ transfer fee charged by Punjab Urban Planning and Development Authority (PUDA) from him.

The decision given by Mr Justice K.K. Srivastava and two members of the commission, though specific to the complainant, was likely to benefit all those who bought residential property from original PUDA allottees after June 30, 1997.

These persons had been charged transfer fee by PUDA at the rate of 10 per cent of the allotment price. However, PUDA in July 2000, decided to reduce the transfer fee from 10 per cent of the allotment price to 5 per cent of the allotment price. This decision of PUDA was to be applicable retrospectively from June 30, 1997.

‘‘Meaning thereby that all houses allotted by PUDA on or after June 30, 1997 can be transferred after paying 5 per cent of the allotment price to PUDA as fee but all houses allotted by PUDA before June 30, 1997 will be transferred after paying 10 per cent of the allotment price to PUDA as fee,’’explained Mr Bipinjeet, the complainant to the CDRC.

‘‘However, PUDA decided to implement the reduction in transfer fee from July 2000, the month the decision was taken instead of June 1997 with retrospective effect,’’ he added.

In case of Mr Bipinjeet, he bought a house from an original allottee in January 2000 and paid 10 per cent of the transfer fee. The allotment of the house had been done to the allottee in 1999. Following the reduction in transfer fee in July 2000, he demanded a refund from PUDA but was refused following which he brought his problem before the CDRC.

Now the commission stated that the complainant was entitled to be refunded 5 per cent of the allotment price of the house charged by PUDA as transfer fee since PUDA had specified that the reduction in transfer fee was being done with effect from June 30, 1997.

In Mr Bipinjeet’s case, he had paid Rs 58,600 as transfer fee to PUDA and was now expecting a refund of Rs 29,300 from them. ‘‘But it is not going to be easy to get the money back. We have just won the first step in this long-drawn battle against PUDA which is charging money for nothing,’’ he said.

Mr Bipinjeet had also prayed to the consumer redressal Commission to ask PUDA to charge only 2.5 per cent of allotment price as transfer fee but it was rejected. ‘‘What business does PUDA have to charge such a huge sum for one person selling his property to another?’’

When contacted, Mr Yashvir Mahajan, Additional Chief Administrator, PUDA, Mohali, stated that the judgement would be legally examined and further course of action would be then decide upon.


Ropar MC faces financial crunch
Lalit Mohan

Ropar, December 28
The Ropar Municipal Council is facing a financial crunch. With its earnings equal to expenditures, the council has almost nothing to spend on development. As a result, despite being the district headquarter, Ropar has poor roads, streets and lanes.

The council had passed a budget of Rs 3.56 crore, However, the revenue might remain between Rs 2.3 crore to Rs 2.4 crore.

For the first three quarters of the current financial year, the revenue of the council had remained at an average of about Rs 20 lakh per month. The amount equals the committed expenses of the council, including salaries and power bills. In this case the council has to depend on the occasional grants offered by ministers for development.

The Executive Officer of the council, Mr Ranbir Singh, admitted that the earnings of the council were equal to the expenditure. He, however, added that the council might get Rs 36 lakh as its share in the excise duty collected from its area.

However, sources said the chances of transfer of the excise duty share to councils were remote. Last year also the Ropar council got Rs 11 lakh out of its above Rs 35 lakh share in the excise duty collected from the area.

The financial problem of the council stems from lack of any industry within its jurisdiction. The sources said Ropar did not even have a plastic recycling plant in its vicinity and there were no rag pickers in the town. Uncollected plastic bags had chocked drains.

Several big industrial units were located in the vicinity of Ropar and were dependent on Ropar for their basic needs. However, since they were technically in Nawanshahr district, the units were not liable to pay any tax to the Ropar council.


Sewerage work inaugurated
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 28
City Mayor Vishnu Sharma today inaugurated the start of sewerage work in Ward Number 18 which covers the New and Old Bishen Nagar besides Ram Nagar and the Sewa Singh Thikriwala complex.

Speaking on the occasion, the Mayor said the town would be soon developed into a model city with the Congress government going in for planned development.

He said the corporation was targeting the development of a modern sewerage network besides augmenting water supply in the city. He said while sewerage work was going on in 15 different places in the city, the corporation had dug up 18 new tubewells.

Mr Sharma also assured Councillors Gurjit Singh Guri and Daljit Singh Chahal that he would look into the problems of people of the area. He said better cleanliness would be ensured with the garbage haulage system being modernised.

The Mayor also announced that the corporation would spend Rs 2.38 lakh in the ward on augmenting the water supply in the area. He also announced that he would take up their demand for completion of dharamshalas in both Bishen Nagar and Ram Nagar with Patiala MP Preneet Kaur.


Murder mystery solved
Our Correspondent

Abohar, December 28
With the help of the Punjab Police, the Sriganganagar Police yesterday claimed that murder of Gurbachan Singh Bawri at Rawla Mandi had been solved.

A police party from Rawla Mandi visited Abohar on Thursday to seek information from contacts of the slain. Later the police raided house of  Chhinder Singh at Golu village near Moga and arrested him on Friday. Chhinder Singh reportedly told the police that he and his friend took a woman ‘friend’ to Bawri’s house at Rawla last week. As Bawri allegedly tried to molest their ‘friend’ they got enraged and killed Bawri with a sharp-edged weapon. He was allegedly stabbed 10 times. They wrapped the body in a blanket and threw it into a hide-out cleaned the floor and escaped.

Sources said Bawri’s wife had deserted him due to his alleged involvement in thefts and burglaries. Bawri, married near Muktsar, was booked by the Sriganganagar police under Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act earlier. He had not allowed his wife to take four children with her to the parental house at Muktsar.

The police said that two accomplices of Chhinder Singh were yet to be arrested.


Gang of robbers busted
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, December 28
The police claimed to have busted a gang of robbers by arresting five members of the gang, who were planning to strike in industrial town of the district, Mandi Gobindgarh. Two .12 bore pistols, four live cartridges and four kirpans and iron rods were seized from their possession.

Addressing a press conference here today Mr Shiv Kumar, SSP, said following a tip-off that five to six persons near floating restaurant, Sirhind, on the bank of Bhakra Canal were holding some conversation in a suspicious manner. Those arrested have been identified as Jagtar Singh, resident of Amritsar, Gurpreet Singh Lopoke, Harjeet Singh Ramban, Charanjit Singh of Tripri Patiala, Harinder Singh of Chatiwind Amritsar and Vijay Kumar from Uttar Pradesh.

During interrogation they revealed that they had come to the area to commit crimes during the Jor Mela and they were planning to strike at industrial town Mandi Gobindgarh. They admitted that they were surveying the area for the past three days. The police has registered a case.


Three killed in mishap
Our Correspondent

Ropar, December 28
Three of a family including Kulwinder Kaur, her husband Tajinder Pal Singh and his father were killed in an accident on the Ropar-Anandpur Sahib road near Bharatgarh today.

According to sources, they belonged to Patiala and were on the way to Anandpur Sahib on a scooter when a vehicle hit them from behind. The police has registered a case under Sections 304 and 289 of the IPC against the unidentified driver of the vehicle. 


College teachers not paid for eight months
Our Correspondent

Barnala, December 28
Resentment prevails among  teachers of Guru Gobind Singh College, Sanghera (Barnala). They have not been paid salary for eight months.

Prof Darshan Kumar, President, Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers Union (PCCTU) Guru Gobind Singh College, Sanghera unit on Friday regretted that it was very difficult to be without salary of eight months.

Prof Kumar informed that this grievance was brought to the notice of college authorities many times that salary had to be paid by 10th of every month as per  Punjabi University calendar but in vain. He alleged that college authorities were not giving annual statements of Contributory Provident Fund (CPF) along with   interest despite requests.

Prof Kumar said that the Managing Committee of the college was not making any effort to find a solution to the non-payment of salary to the teachers.


Students pledge to abstain from drugs
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, December 28
On the concluding day of the three-day zonal Gurmat training camp at Guru Nanak College here today, as many as 140 students of 10 schools and colleges of Kapurthala and Jalandhar districts pledged to abstain from drugs and apostasy. The camp was held by Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle.

Mr Jaspal Singh Dhosi, president of Gurdwara Singh Sabha, Gravesend (UK), was the chief guest while Dr Charan Kamal Singh, chief secretary of the study circle, presided. The SDM, Mr Pritam Singh, gave away the prizes.

Narinderpal Singh of SPSKS College, Begowal, was adjudged the best camper while Jagmit Singh of Railway Coach Factory, Kapurthala, was declared “Gursikh child”.

Dr Charan Kamal Singh said the students Against Substance Abuse Club had been set up by the Directorate of Social Health Services of the circle. Slides were also displayed on the occasion.

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