P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



My son innocent, says Preneet
Our Correspondent

Nabha, December 30
Ms Preneet Kaur, MP from Patiala and wife of Capt Amarinder Singh, has urged the media to play a constructive role in diffusing the prevailing crisis in the ruling Congress party.

She was here to inaugurate a cultural night organised by the local Maharaja Hira Singh Memorial Cultural Club. She was accompanied by local MLA Randip Singh.

While talking to mediapersons, she said Capt Amarinder Singh was a hero in the crusade against corruption and the opposition to any noble cause was certain in a corruption-ridden society. When asked about her son Raninder Singh’s involvement in the hawala transactions, she said the charges were baseless and cooked up by opponents.

She added that the Chief Minister would soon order a high-level enquiry into the matter. She said this was an attempt to tarnish the image of her family.

On being asked about the prevailing crisis in the Congress, she expressed her sadness and hoped that the crisis would be resolved soon. She said the rift among the leaders was because of their vested interests.


DCC concerned over crisis in Congress
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, December 30
The District Congress Committee (DCC) has expressed concern over the crisis in the Punjab Congress at a meeting held in office of the DCC here yesterday.

Mr Navtej Singh Cheema, president of the DCC, presided over the meeting. The DCC members were of the opinion that the crisis in the Punjab Congress would adversely affect the Congress chances in the coming Lok Sabha elections.

Mr Surinder Maria, general secretary of the DCC, told mediapersons that the meeting criticised the president of the local municipal council for showing hurry in implementing the notification about the increase in rates of sewerage and water charges in Kapurthala town whereas this notification is yet to be enforced in Jalandhar and Sultanpur Lodhi.

The meeting decided to organise meetings at block and village levels to mobilise Congress workers, municipal councillors, panches and sarpanches to prepare them for the coming Lok Sabha elections.

Prominent among those who attended the meeting were Mr Milkhi Ram Rattan, former Chairman of the Local Improvement Trust, Mr Surinder Maria, Mr Jaspal Singh Panesar and Dr Guran Ditta Mal.


Amarinder adopting double standards, says Badal
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 30
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Parkash Singh Badal said today that his party wanted allegations levelled against state Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh’s son Raninder to be investigated by the CBI or the Revenue Vigilance and that formation of any commission for the purpose would not serve any purpose.

Talking to mediapersons at a reception party held at Rakhra village by Samana legislator Surjit Singh Rakhra, Mr Badal said the Chief Minister was adopting double standards. He said the Chief Minister had referred his case to the Vigilance but had formed a commission to look into the allegations against his son Raninder Singh.

Mr Badal said the SAD would take the issue of “corruption” committed by the Chief Minister’s son to the people. He said the strategy for doing so would be finalised in the forthcoming meeting of the Parliamentary Affairs Committee (PAC) being held on January 1. He said the party would not rest till action was taken in the matter. The SAD president claimed that Capt Amarinder Singh did not have any moral authority to continue in the chair once his son was accused of corrupt activities.

Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal MP while interacting with the media said the removal of Mr A. P. Pandey from the Vigilance Department was only an eyewash as action against Transport Minister Tej Prakash Singh could not be initiated without the approval of the Chief Minister. He said Mr Pandey was being made a scapegoat in the case.


Pak must act to fight terror: Shashank
Rashmi Talwar

Wagah, December 30
India expects Pakistan to take positive steps to combat terrorism and declare its resolve to do so, remarked Mr D. Shashank, Foreign Secretary, who crossed over to Pakistan today to attend a meeting of the SAARC standing committee starting tomorrow in Islamabad. He said two important agreements on social reforms and industrial growth were likely to be signed at the forthcoming summit.

Mr Shashank, talking to mediapersons before going to Pakistan, said both governments had yet to take a decision about holding bilateral talks on the sidelines of the SAARC meeting. He said India had made it clear that it had no intention of engaging Pakistan in bilateral talks till the latter clarified its position on cross-border terrorism.

However, he did not rule out informal talks on bilateral issues. He said the issue relating to handing over of 20 most wanted persons was still open as Pakistan had yet to show its keenness on the matter.

The Foreign Secretary pointed out that the two-day meeting of foreign secretaries of the seven member nations would focus on a common strategy to combat terrorism in the region. Besides this, the secretaries will also thrash out differences on the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement. He said the trade agreement would be most crucial for the forthcoming summit as its implementation would be vital for the prosperity of the region.

Mr Shashank said he did not visualise any difficulty in the process to adopt the SAFTA agreement.

The Foreign Secretary said some “grey areas” in the SAFTA agreement would be sorted out during the two-day meet of the foreign ministers prior to the summit.

He said issues regarding the easing of visa restrictions and other relaxations would also be taken up during the foreign secretaries’ meeting.

The Foreign Secretary was accompanied by his wife, Ms Kalpana, and an eight-member delegation comprising senior diplomats along with the top security in charge from the PMO.

Earlier, Mr Shashank and his wife paid obeisance at the Golden Temple.


Parliamentarian from Pakistan for intellectuals’
role in talks
Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, December 30
A member of the National Assembly of Pakistan, Mr M.P. Bhandara, today favoured the foundation of a group of intellectuals from various walks of life of both countries to work out a comprehensive format for a structured dialogue to break the Indo-Pakistan impasse.

Talking to The Tribune, Mr Bhandara cited the example of similar talks being held between such a group from Israel with the Palestinians, which had managed to iron out differences to work towards lasting peace in West Asia. He said the USA also favoured these talks.

Elaborating on his concept for a dialogue between India and Pakistan, Mr Bhandara felt that bureaucratic-level talks would not bear fruit. He said the group of eminent persons could prepare a road map for the normalisation process.

Commenting on the recent assassination attempts on President Pervez Musharraf, Mr Bhandara said it was the result of the President’s bold initiative to scrap UN resolutions on Kashmir and the announcement of ceasefire.


Pak boy arrives for eye surgery
Our Correspondent

Wagah (Amritsar), December 30
A nine-year-old Pakistani boy Faraz Ahmad from Karachi arrived here for an eye surgery on the Sada-e-Sarhad Indo-Pakistan bus today.

He was accompanied by his father Imran Ahmed, mother Nafiz Begum besides four of his siblings. Talking to The Tribune he said he had injured his eye while playing cricket.

According to his doctors — Dr Akhtar and Dr Ata-ur-Rehman the child had seriously damaged his optic nerves and required specialised surgery for the restoration of vision that was possible in India.


Multi-crore fake permit racket unearthed
Tribune News Service

SSP Narinderpal Singh shows fake documents to mediapersons in Ludhiana on Tuesday.
SSP Narinderpal Singh shows fake documents to mediapersons in Ludhiana on Tuesday. — Photo by Pradeep Tewari

Ludhiana, December 30
Close on the heels of the Telgi fake stamp paper scam, the Ludhiana police has unearthed a multi-crore racket of fake vehicle registration copies, driving licences, insurance papers and national route permits, spanning over 150 cities in 10 states. The racket was allegedly run by an Agra- based woman.

Addressing a press conference at the police lines here today, Mr Narinderpal Singh, SSP, said a police team conducted investigation in Agra and arrested six members of the gang, including the alleged leader, Sitara Begum.

A large numbers of fake permits, blank insurance forms, stamped and signed driving licences, registration copies of vehicles and stamps of various transport authorities of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pardesh, Andhra Pardesh and Delhi were seized from Sitara Begum and her son Anees. The other gang members were Aasa Singh, Shalinderpal Singh, and Surinder Kumar, all residents of Agra, and Inderjit Singh of Haibowal.

The police said the recovered national permits and other documents would have earned a revenue of about Rs 5 crores. The permits were sold by the gang at throwaway prices causing a loss of crores to the government every year. Some transporters who had not paid taxes used to get forged RCs from the gangs showing up-to-date the payment.

The police said opinion was sought from the government press, Chandigarh regarding the permit forms seized from the gang and they were found to be fake. The forms had no serial numbers and the thickness and colour were different from the genuine forms. Fresh serial numbers were stamped on the fake permits and then they were laminated to cover the discrepancy of colour. Truck owners generally preferred fake permits as these were cheap and were delivered at their places.

Names of Kailashi of Aabat Vikas Colony, (Agra) and brother of Sitara Begum, Anwar Khan, have figured as the main suppliers of the permits and other documents. More disclosures were expected to be made.


Punjab IG dies of heart attack
Tribune News Service

Ramesh Chander Prasad Mohali, December 30
Punjab Inspector-General of Police Ramesh Chander Prasad died here this morning following a heart attack. The 52-year-old IPS officer was currently serving as IGP, Provisions and Traffic.

Mr Prasad who lived with his father and sister at the Commando Complex, Phase 11, here had come home last night from New Delhi after picking up his daughter from the airport. His daughter had arrived from the USA yesterday and the family reached Mohali at 10 p.m. last night.

Today morning on waking up, Mr Prasad complained of backache and fainted. He was rushed to the Fortis Heart Institute at 9.45 a.m. where he died after an hour. The doctors informed the police that Mr Prasad had died of heart attack and could not be saved despite their best efforts.

His daughter, Shabri (19), is studying in a medical college in the USA and had come to India to spend her vacations till January 20, 2004. Mr Prasad's son, Shivam (20), who is also studying in the USA, pursuing an engineering degree, has been informed. His wife, Mukta, who lives in Ludhiana, has also reached here.

Mr Prasad was an 1976 batch IPS officer of the Punjab cadre. Born on August 21, 1950, he hails from Muzzaffarpur, Bihar. Known for his uprightness, honesty and modesty, Mr Prasad had worked on coveted police assignments, including external security agencies of the country. He was also posted as IG, Litigation, IG, Lok Pal, SP (Traffic), Bathinda, SP (Detective), Bathinda, ASP Bathinda and ASP Ludhiana.

The Punjab DGP, Mr A.A. Siddiqui, and many other senior police officers visited his residence here to pay their condolences to the bereaved family.

Mr Prasad's body has been sent for post mortem to the Phase VI Civil Hospital and will be cremated the day after tomorrow when his son arrives from the USA.


State Cabinet defers toll policy
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 30
Due to differences among the ministers, the approval of the toll policy for roads and bridges in Punjab to be effective from April 1, 2004, was today deferred by the Council of Ministers.

It was desired that a comprehensive and uniform toll policy should be placed before the council at its meeting on Wednesday next.

The proposed user charges are to be levied on the state highways and major district roads that are considered the lifeline of the state’s economy. Punjab has a 7,300-km network of roads, including other district roads. Since there has been no Budget allocation for the upkeep of these roads and a large number of them are in bad shape, it was proposed to go in for loans, public-private sector participation and introduce toll plazas on built-operate-and-transfer basis. At least Rs 2,500 crore is needed for upgradation of the existing network in the state.

A provision of Rs 100 crore is in the current year Budget for the public-private partnership. This is in addition to the infrastructure fee of about Rs 120 crore per annum that is being levied and collected under the Punjab Infrastructure Development Act. Initially, toll tax is to be introduced on the Ropar-Phagwara and Jagraon-Nakodar roads and handed over to the private sector.

The reason why the council today did not approve the toll rates, sources said, was because of lack of uniformity in the proposed user charges. The proposals put forth were for two-lane highways. The proposed rates, on per km basis, were eight paise for two-wheelers, 35 paise for cars and three-wheelers, 53 paise for light commercial vehicles and tractor with trailer carrying non-agriculture goods, Rs 1.05 for buses, trucks and road-rollers, Rs 1.60 for multi-axle trucks and Rs 2 for earth-moving equipment.

The user charges will be of fixed amount between two towns and tollplazas but the distance between two toll collection points for levy of such minimum charges shall not ordinarily be less than 20 km.

The user charges would be subject to a minimum of Rs 3, Rs 10, Rs 15, Rs 30, Rs 40 and Rs 50 per trip for two-wheelers, three and four-wheelers, light commercial vehicles and non-agricultural tractors, trucks and buses, multi-axle trucks and earth-moving equipment, respectively.

These charges will be subject to annual revision of 10 per cent for the first seven years up to 2011.

Toll charges have been specified for bypass roads and bridges. For bypass roads, the charges were fixed at one-and-a-half times, per km rates applicable to normal road projects. For bridges, it was based on spanlength. For 50 metres to 100 metres, the charges were to be Rs 2.50 per trip and subsequently Rs 2 for every 100 metre length. For the railway over and under-bridges, the rates were up to 500 metres Rs 2.50 per trip and Re 1 for every 100 metres for subsequent length.

Several categories were exempted from toll tax, including local users. There are no administrative and legal hassles involved in determining user charges. The policy is tune with the World Bank guidelines.


Homecoming leaves Om Puri nostalgic
Gurvinder Kaur

Patiala, December 30
It is a homecoming that has left Om Puri fraught with emotions. As the car approached the “tonga” stand in the sleepy little town of Sanour, near here, the actor forbade his co-passengers to point out the way to his school, insisting that he would figure it out himself. As he passed the trees that he had plundered with his childhood friends to reach farmer Kishan Singh’s house, Om Puri knew he had come home.

“Kishan Singh Kamboj was a very dear friend of mine and was second family for me when I was living with my ‘nankas’ in Sanour. The news of his passing away nearly eight months ago jolted me and I was determined to revisit the place which holds so many pleasant memories for me. I was further egged on by my wife who wanted to have a feel of Punjab and its villages”, says the actor. Nostalgia seemed to grip the actor whose contribution to parallel cinema can be rivalled by very few.

The visit is to serve the purpose of reviving old links and relaxing from a hectic shooting schedule. Om Puri has been staying with friend and Mentor Harpal Tiwana’s family in the city. This is the house where the late playwright Harpal Tiwana shaped and honed the actor in him. “I came to know of the existence of the National School of Drama (NSD) through him. He is the man who trained me in the basics of theatre, be it make up, set designing or poster designing,” he says.

Talking about his Sanour days he says, “Ours was simple existence. There was no electricity in the village and everyday the children in the house would gather to clean and refill lanterns for the night. All of us used to delight in little pleasures like bathing in the pond and stealing guavas from orchards”. After finishing school, he used to cycle all the way from Sanour to Khalsa College in Patiala which was then situated inside Gurdwara Dukhnivaran complex.

Om Puri was spotted by Harpal Tiwana when the former was enacting a part in a play screened in the local youth festival. Promising him a raise of Rs 25 from his salary of Rs 125, Tiwana took him under his wing. Under his guidance, the actor joined the NSD. The rest as they say is history. “Some of the happiest moments in my life have been spent in this house, taking little Luna (Harpal’s daughter) for a stroll or fetching eggs for the kitchen”, he says.

Riding pillion behind the playwright’s motorbike was one of his chief delights. Pointing to an old Ambassador, he remarks “this is the first very car that I sat in”. The three years spent under his tutelage introduced him to world vision which prepared him for greater things to come.

“Tiwana sahib is no more with us. However, his wife Neena and son Manpal more than make up for his absence whenever I come,” he says. The “Nikka Jat” as Om Puri fondly calls Manpal adds that the actor has been eating ever since he came. “He wants saag served to him thrice a day, besides a liberal splattering of kachoris, golgappas and Amritsari kulchas. And guess what is the first word his son has learnt after his arrival here?” he asks. We does not mention it. Suffice to say that it is a “choice” word in hearty old Punjabi.


Akali Dal calls meeting of poll observers
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 30
An emergency meeting of the Chief Election Observer and the District Election Observers for holding the organisational elections of the Shiromani Akali Dal will be held at the Sector 28 Sri Kalgidhar Niwas on January 1, Dr Daljit Singh Cheema, press secretary of the Dal, announced here today. He said that the Dal chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, would preside over the meeting.


BSP, BSP (Ambedkar) merger today
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, December 30
The ground is set for the merger of the BSP (Ambedkar) headed by Mr Devi Dass Nahar with the BSP headed by Ms Mayawati. A “vishal milap” rally will be organised by workers and leaders of the BSP (A) at the local Jallowkhana Chowk tomorrow where the announcement of the merger will be made. Mr Nahar fell apart with the BSP 12 years ago.

In the recently headed Assembly elections in Punjab the BSP (A) candidates secured more votes than candidates belonging to the BSP in 15 Assembly seats.


Defying all odds in life
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, December 30
He has virtually been defying blindness for over 59 years by striving to lead a near normal life and by attaining a height in business like any other normal businessman. Now when he is 64, Chandu Lal Aggrawal has exhibited an inimitable zeal for life by making an effort to overcome his heart ailment by undergoing a complex heart operation.

Nobody in his family at Legha village near Bhiwani in Haryana had hoped that one of six brothers, Chandu, who was born in 1938 and who had lost his sight at the age of six due to chicken pox would ever be able to lead a normal life again. But, Chandu proved them wrong, particularly, after the family shifted its base to Jalandhar in 1948 and he started helping his father at his shop in the local Mandi Fantonganj. His acumen in business was so sharp that firstly he helped his father establish his business at a big level and then he even managed to get dealership of Tata Steel in 1965 — which was considered to be quite profitable, but ‘very difficult to get business’ in those days.

And if this was not enough, he single-handedly managed to run two rolling mills successfully at Kapurthala and Jalandhar without allowing the stigma of being blind to come in his way to success. Considering his abilities and zeal to live life as a normal man, Ramesh Devi, a normal healthy woman, mustered the courage to marry Chandu Lal in 1961. To acknowledge Chandu’s enthusiasm to live a full life, the Doordarshan authorities even made a documentary film, “Hanere Di Haar”, about 20 years ago.

Everything went well till about five-six years ago when he started complaining of pain in chest, which ultimately was detected as malfunctioning of three valves of his heart. What was different in the case of Chandu, whose business had sunk to a large extent now, for his heart problem and whose family was forced to deal in iron scrap, was his resolve to lead a normal life even at the age of 64. He decided to undergo a heart surgery even as he did not have enough-money.

“My only dream was to live as a normal man despite the fact that I knew the treatment would be very costly. I don’t know, how my sons and family members collected about Rs 2 lakh for my operation. But all is well that ends well,” said an enthusiastic Chandu Lal Aggrawal, who underwent a heart operation at the local Tagore Hospital.

“Even we were reluctant to undertake the responsibility of operating a blind man and that too at the age of 64, but, going by the enthusiasm and insistence of Chandu Lal, we gave a nod and now he is improving,” said Dr Vijay Mahajan, Director of the local Tagore Hospital. “Actually, in case of a blind man, more intricacies are involved in the post-operative care, which make people shy away from such a case,” said Dr Mahajan.


State policy on compassionate appointments
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 30
The Punjab Council of Ministers today condemned concerted attempts at the national level, the NDA government, to destabilise constitutionally elected governments and create impediments in the functioning of the Congress-ruled states.

The ministers dismissed the allegations against the Chief Minister’s family and termed the alleged involvement of his son Ranainder Singh in a telecommunication network as “baseless, malicious and motivated’’ and described these as part of a larger design to tarnish the image of the Congress in general and Capt Amarinder Singh in particular. This was being done to dilute the anti-corruption drive launched by him.

A government press note said that the council also approved a policy for compassionate appointments under categories D and C, thereby lifting ban on recruitment. Candidates eligible for such appointment would be exempted from any education qualification and even dependents of persons of Punjab killed in terrorist violence in Chandigarh would be eligible. The Department of Relief and Rehabilitation will attend to all pending cases within three months.

It was also decided that 50 per cent vacant or likely-to-fall-vacant posts of constable in the police be filled by appointing special police officers, already found suitable, strictly on merit.

The meeting, boycotted by the dissident ministers, approved refixation of the price for regularisation of unauthorised occupation and construction of government land in urban areas.

It was decided to pay subsistence allowance of Rs 1,500 per month to Bibi Sham Kaur, sister of Sant Harchand Singh Longowal,.

The council would now meet regularly every Wednesday.


'Guldasta Geetan Da' on ETC Punjabi today
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 30
A special variety programme “Guldasta Geetan Da”, will be telecast on ETC Punjabi channel tomorrow at 9.30 p.m. It will feature renowned Punjabi singers Hans Raj Hans, Sarbjit Cheema, Balkar Sidhu, the late Surjit Bindrakhia, K.S. Makhan, Pammi Bai, Harjit Harman and Palvinder Dhami (Hira group). Skits will be presented by Gurpreet Ghuggi and anchor Satinder Kaur Satti. This programme will be presented by Shamsher Sandhu and the music is by Atul Sharma.

The same programme will be telecast on Alpha Punjabi channel at 11 p.m.


Court orders to shift dairies
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, December 30
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has ordered the dairy owners in Jalandhar to shift their dairies to the Jamsher Dairy complex by January 6.

Talking to reporters here today, the Municipal Corporation Commissioner, Ms Sarojini Gautam Sharda, said the Dairy Development Association had filed a public interest writ petition in the high court to delay the shifting of dairies on account of the non-provision of proper facilities at the Jamsher Dairy complex.

The court, subsequently, constituted a high-powered committee lad by Principal Secretary, PWD (B & R), Mr R.S. Sandhu, to assess the ground situation and submit its report. Acting on the recommendations of the committee, the court ordered that all dairy owners of the city should shift their base to the complex by January 6, while fixing the next date of hearing to January 16.

More than 415 plots of different sizes were allotted to the dairy owners and other applicants at reserved price about four years ago while they were asked to deposit 25 per cent of the total cost as down payment. The beneficiaries were asked to pay the balance payment in five equal installments, but failure to develop the complex appropriately led to delay in the shifting of dairies.

The corporation had already spent about Rs 4.8 crore on the development of the complex, while execution of developmental work worth about Rs 40 lakh was in progress. The corporation authorities had submitted in the court that they were scheduled to develop the complex only after getting the installments from the applicants.

The plaintiffs contended that since there was delay on the part of the civic body to provide adequate facilities like roads, sewerage lines and a veterinary hospital in the complex, the penal interest to the tune of 13 per cent per annum on the remaining installments should be waived off.

Though the corporation, during a meeting of the House, had passed a resolution to waive off the penal interest and sent the same to the Department of Local Bodies for approval about three years ago, but no action was taken in this regard so far. “We had again sent the case regarding the waiver of interest to the state government about six months back, while we are still awaiting the approval,” Ms Sharda said.

Meanwhile, the court has instructed the high-powered committee to again visit the complex to hear the views of the dairy owners in this regard and submit its recommendations before the next date of hearing.

The Commissioner said appropriate action would be taken against those dairy owners, who would fail to comply by the orders of the court to shift their bases by January 6.


Punjab issues 2 million birth certificates to children
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 30
As part of the nationwide campaign to issue birth certificates to all children aged less than 10, Punjab has taken a lead by distributing more than 2 million certificates in just a-month-and-a- half.

According to Mr Inderjit Singh, Director, Census Operations, Punjab, a total of 24,33,181 certificates were prepared during November, 2003 out of which 22,02,207 (91per cent) have already been distributed among the families concerned. Seven districts out of 17 vis., Amritsar, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur, Nawanshahr, Ludhiana, Muktsar and Faridkot have achieved 100 per cent distribution of the certificates prepared by them. Gurdaspur and Ropar have also distributed 95 per cent certificates prepared by them. Punjab is the only state in the country which has implemented the nationwide campaign to issue certificates in its right earnest and prepared and distributed such a large number of birth certificates free of cost in a short span.

The first phase of campaign during which these certificates were distributed began on November 14 this year. Special teams were formed for preparation and distribution of these certificates under the overall supervision of Civil Surgeons, who are the district registrars. The campaign was organised jointly by the Directorate of Census Operations, Punjab and Directorate of Health Services, Punjab.

District level coordination committees were formed in all districts under the chairmanship of Deputy Commissioners. In the first phase, certificates were distributed among all those children who were born between January, 1994 to October 2003 and whose birth had already been registered with their name but birth certificates had not been issued.

After the success of the first phase of the campaign, the authorities plan to launch the second phase of the campaign in which the birth certificates will be issued to those children whose birth has been registered without name and also to those whose birth is yet to be registered. These cases were not taken up in the first phase as it required payment of a late fee under the registration of Birth and Death Act and rules. A proposal has been sent to the Punjab Government to waive off the late fee for entry of the name of the children as a one-time measure for a period of two years so that the birth certificates can be issued free of cost to these children. As soon as the Punjab Government issues a notification in this regard, the second phase will be launched. It has also been suggested to the Punjab Government to simplify the procedure for registration of births and entry of name in old cases.

The success of the first phase of the campaign in the state has helped in not only clearing backlog of the past one decade but also generated a high level of awareness amongst the masses about the need to have birth certificates.

The registration of birth, apart from being a legal necessity under the registration of Birth & Deaths Act, 1969 is also a “right of the child” under United Nation’s Convention on Child Rights, 1989. Although, the rules framed under the Act have laid down procedure for the delivery of birth certificates to the households concerned, provisions relating to issue of certificates free of charge and delivering them to the households are not being followed in most parts of the country. The net result is that households do not have any document to show that the birth of their child has been registered and in most of such cases are unaware of the registration status itself.

In Punjab, in urban areas, EOs of the municipal councils/nagar panchayats are the local registrars, while in rural areas, SHO of the police stations concerned are the local registrars. Civil Surgeons of the respective districts are the district registrars.


Ex-Improvement Trust officer in the dock
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 30
A former Additional Executive Officer of the Improvement Trust, Mr Rooplal Bhagat, is again in the eye of a storm. The trust has sent a detail note to the Punjab Government levelling charges against Mr Bhagat for alleged acts of omission and commission in cases of sale agreements.

The trust authorities have alleged that in 223 cases related to various trust schemes, the AEO fraudulently accepted payments and executed fresh sale agreement without having the authority to do so.

Earlier, an FIR was lodged by the then Deputy Commissioner and Administrator of the Improvement Trust, Mr Iqbal Singh Sidhu, on the allegations of bungling in the payment of compensation with regard to a trust scheme. The complaint was based on an inquiry conducted by the Sub Divisional Magistrate. It alleged that Mr Bhagat, the then Superintendent, land acquisition section, had called Mrs Beero, who had received compensation to the tune of Rs 1.15 crore, and got her signature fraudulently. He allegedly withdrew the amount from banks by forging signatures in the name of four persons who were dead.

Meanwhile, Mr Bhagat was released on bail.

Mr Bhagat said an investigation was in progress and he was fully authorised to execute the sale agreements.


Rs 14 cr for Chamkaur Sahib roads
Our Correspondent

Ropar, December 30
In view of the forthcoming tercentenary of the martyrdom of Sahibzada Ajit Singh and Sahibzada Jujhar Singh, the Punjab Government would spend Rs 14 crore to widen and strengthen all approach roads leading to Chamkaur Sahib.

The Deputy Commissioner here, Ms Seema Jain, gave this information after reviewing the progress of the various development works.

She said about Rs 4.5 crore would be spent on the Ropar-Bela-Chamkaur Sahib road, Rs 4 crore on the Ropar-Chamkaur Sahib road along the Sirhind Canal and Rs 2.5 crore on the bridge on the Budki river. The funds for strengthening and widening of the roads have been arranged from the NABARD bank. Four welcome gates were being brought up on the main roads leading to Chamkaur Sahib.

A sum of Rs 6 lakh has been spent on the renovation of the Chamkaur Sahib bus stand. Under the Sarva Sikhya Abhiyan, another Rs 6 lakh was being spend to develop the block resource centre in Chamkaur Sahib.

The schemes for improving the water supply, sewerage and streetlights in the historic town were also being launched very soon, she told.


FLASHBACK ‘03: Crime in Punjab
Trust statistics, corruption is on decline in Punjab!
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

IF statistics are to be believed, corruption, in spite of the sensational cases registered against the Badal family and Daler Mehndi this year, has been on the decline in Punjab.

Against 104 cases registered under the Prevention of Corruption Act in 2002, only 78 cases were registered in 2003, to give credence to the impression that statistics, manipulative as they are, seldom reflect the true picture.

The number of brides and bridegrooms duped by their NRI spouses may have been on the rise but statistics do not reflect so. Statistics compiled by the Punjab police indicate that cases of murder, kidnapping and dacoity have been on the decline this year compared to last year.

Though the serious and heinous crime was in the news most of the time during the year, there were corruption cases which made the headlines. Though it is the Vigilance Bureau which handles cases of corruption, its working, too, came under scanner at the fag end of the year. On the last but one day of the year, the government had to shift the Chief Director of the Vigilance Bureau, Mr A.P. Pandey.

The bureau had a mixed year. While the Akalis accused its top brass of acting as an extension of the Congress Party and making “source reports” as the basis for registering cases against them, the officials dismissed this criticism as “baseless”, maintaining that they were doing their duty.

After Akalis, the allegation came from Congressmen, especially after a complaint about change of money for grant of route permits was made against the Transport Minister. This was not the first case of its kind. Vigilance men had earlier visited premises of other Congress legislators who for one reason or the other shifted their loyalty from the Chief Minister’s camp to the dissidents camp. It was this discontent that led to the change at the top, thus bringing to an end the power wielded by the Chahal-Sinha-Pandey trio in commanding the “anti-corruption crusade of the Chief Minister Amarinder Singh”.

Besides the Vigilance Bureau, the police, too, had a non-too-pleasant year because of certain unsavoury controversies. After each of the major episodes, the top police order in the district or range concerned was shuffled, be it the Talhan, or Daler Mehndi or Tej Parkash case.

At one stage, it looked as if the Chief Minister-Director-General of Police rift would blow into a major controversy. Transferring police officers of the rank of Deputy Superintendent and above while the DGP was away to the union Capital attending a national conference had created a stir.

Not only that, another controversy, which is still raging in the Punjab police is about the future of outstanding sportsmen and women. As many as 437 of them are facing uncertain future as a letter issued by the Home Department early this month says that they would be reverted to their substantive ranks and again promoted to their present ranks on the year-to-year basis. This implies that from regular employees they become work-charged or ad hoc employees and their continuation in service would depend on yearly extensions, thus leaving it to the whims and fancies of either their superiors or their political bosses. Many of them would lose seniority as well as the post-retirement benefits.

These major controversies apart, many policemen were in the dock, both for their past record and their recent doings. The entire team investigating Daler Mehndi case was transferred. Similar actions were taken in other cases also.

For the first time in many years, the police swung into action in “kabootar business” — taking people abroad in the guise of artistes, sportsmen and women and theatre artistes, as part of cultural or religious troupes and other such means. Besides Daler Mehndi case, cases of five women cricketers and also NRI bride and bridegroom racket were reported. Another singer of Jalandhar was also hauled up as the police stepped up its drive to check growing trade of human smuggling.

Sale of girls and brides was another bombshell of the year linking this serious social menace to the problem of female infanticide and decreasing the ratio of females to males in the state.

The problem of drugs and growing incidence of drug addiction was another area of concern for the police. At the annual conference of the Punjab IPS Officers Association, the Chief Minister challenged the state police to name a single village which was not afflicted by the drug problem.

Armed robberies and burglaries involving tribal gangs also remained in news. It was only in the last three months that the police was able to track down some of these gangs.

Armed robberies at petrol pumps, banks, post offices and at departmental stores were reported. In one case where hawala money worth more than a crore was robbed, the police was able to track down the suspect and solve the case.

While the new DGP, Dr A.A. Siddiqui, talked about improving police-public contact, little could be achieved primarily because of the unsavoury controversy between politicians and bureaucrats. The proposed Punjab Police Act, 2003, too, could not be discussed by the Council of Ministers before being presented to the state legislature. It may take a while before it gets the approval of the legislature as well as the bureaucracy.


Police claims decrease in crime
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, December 30
Mr Lok Nath Angra, SSP, Hoshiarpur, claimed yesterday that crime remained under control in 2003. In 2002, 31 cases of murder were registered compared to 38 in 2003. There was slight increase in murder cases yet all cases (except 2) were traced and there was decrease of 16 cases in attempt to murder. 37 cases of attempt to murder had been registered compared to 21 in 2003. All cases were traced compared to 270 cases of hurt in 2002, only 200 hurt cases were registered in 2003.He said that in 2003 crime against women decreased.

He said that a campaign was launched against unscrupulous travel agents and 81 cases of cheating were registered against 148 agents and 1.76 crore was returned to the complainants.

To check crime, Hoshiarpur city had been divided in 15 beats for patrolling.


3 held for missing girl’s death
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, December 30
A sensational case of “murder” of BA-1 student, Sonia (17), has come to light. The girl was missing from her residence at Mandi Gobindgarh since May 5.

According to Mr Shiv Kumar, SSP, Mr Bhoj Raj, a peon in the Mandi Gobindgarh Municipal Council, along with his wife and relatives, had met him regarding the disappearance of his girl.

The SSP marked investigation to the CIA staff, Sirhind. He said after preliminary inquiry, it appeared that the girl had been murdered.

He said on interrogation, one of the suspects narrated the entire episode to the police. He said Sonia fell in love with Amarjit Singh, alias Soni, a resident of Mandi Gobindgarh, and developed physical relations with him.

Sonia got pregnant. Amarjit took her to his friend Gajinder Singh, who runs Gandhi Medical Hall, Mandi Gobindgarh. Both of them took her to a nurse, Madhu, who conducted the abortion on May 11. Sonia died during the abortion.

The SSP said Soni, his friend and brother Kamal threw the body in the Bhakra canal. They threatened the nurse to leave the town. She shifted to the nearby Harbans Pura village.

The SSP said that Soni the main suspect, fled the country to Dubai and is still at large. The other three suspects have been arrested under Sections 304, 201 and 318 of the IPC.


11 gold chains recovered
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, December 30
The district police has arrested three persons Baldev Singh, Arvinder Singh and Jatinder Kumar and recovered 11 gold chains and two stolen vehicles from their possession.


Varsity to set up centre for development of Punjabi
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 30
Punjabi University has decided to establish a Centre for Technical Development of Punjabi Language under which facilities will be provided for learning Gurmukhi anywhere in the world besides making research material in Punjabi available on the Internet.

Addressing a press conference on the campus today on the year-long activities and future plans, Vice-Chancellor Swarn Singh Boparai said the centre would work for creating innovative computer software for development modules for the development of the Punjabi language. He said under this, online teaching of Punjabi and trasncription of various works in other languages would be made available in Punjabi and vice versa. He said the prestigious Encyclopaedia of Sikhism would also be put online for users at the international level.

Mr Boparai said other projects in the new year would include building a separate building for the Computer Centre as well as another for the Punjab Religious and Cultural Museum. He said a placement cell had also been put in place to help students doing professional courses besides creation of a separate Computer Access Laboratory in which Internet facility was made available to students at nominal cost till 10 pm.

Speaking about the highlights of the current year, the Vice-Chancellor said the university was the only one in the world to establish Gurmat Sangeet as an academic discipline. He said besides establishment of a Chair in this discipline, a Gurmat Sangeet Bhavan was also being planned at a cost of Rs 2.50 crore for which funds would be given by the Guru Gian Parkash Foundation, New Delhi. Mr Boparai said besides this special efforts had been made to start job-oriented courses in various disciplines. He said one such course was Diploma in Counselling Psychology and the other was Diploma in Insurance Business.

The Vice-Chancellor also claimed that teaching days had increased substantially with the session starting from July 14 this year and that public holidays had been reduced to 10 from 35 earlier. He said similarly to keep pace with the latest trends and developments, the semester system had been adopted by the university and syllabi of post-graduate and undergraduate courses had been updated.

The Vice-Chancellor refused to answer contentious questions, especially about the Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Dr R.N. Pal, during the press conference.


Notice issued to Punjabi University

Chandigarh, December 30
Taking up a special leave petition (SLP) filed by a Patiala resident, Dr Inderjit Singh against Punjabi University, the Supreme Court of India has issued notice to the varsity authorities. He had challenged the judgement and order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court pronounced on September 2 regarding filling of a post in the Forensic Science Department.

Dr Inderjit Singh claimed that as per an advertisement, preference was to be given to candidates with PhD degree and UGC qualifications. He said his candidature was ignored even though he was Phd and possessed the necessary qualifications. Moreover, two candidates were selected against one post.

He had alleged that the appointments made by the interview board on August 22 had not been cleared by the Syndicate which was mandatory under the relevant University rules. He alleged in the SLP that the interviews concluded at 1 pm and all formalities like medical examination, besides issuance of appointment letters, was done by 4.30 pm. The candidate joined immediately. All this was done in a hurry to accommodate certain candidates, he alleged. TNS


Principal faces charges on retirement eve
Romesh Gupta

Faridkot, December 30
A function organised by the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) Brijindra Manch and the Old Students Association to honour Mr Harcharan Singh Punia, Principal of the local Government Brijindra College a day before his retirement today, took a controversial turn when 10 professors and three council members of the institution staged a dharna in protest against the alleged indifferent attitude of the Principal towards the teachers.

Prof Dalbir Singh alleged that the Principal during his tenure had flouted government norms. He also charged him with misusing funds worth over Rs 40 lakh and recruiting some employees in the Class IV category without the approval of the government.

The protesters demanded a high-level inquiry into the charges.

Mr Punia said the funds were spent on various projects like a botanical garden with 30 herbal plants, science laboratories, a canteen, a health centre, a swimming pool, and the purchase of fire extinguishers. He said even Prof Dalbir Singh himself headed a committee that constructed the canteen. He said he was ready to face any probe.

Meanwhile, speaking at the function, Mr Inderjit Singh Sekhon, one of the oldest students of the college and Chairman of the Tilla Baba Farid and Gurdwara Godri Sahib Management Committee, praised the efforts of the Principal.

The Principal announced a grant of Rs 11,000 annually for the development of the institution. As many as 30 social religious and voluntary organisations honoured him on the occasion. Mr Gurdev Singh Badal, senior vice-president of the SAD, presided over the function.

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