P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Hectic parleys to end Cong row
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 3
Supported by several former senior Congressmen, who called on Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal at her residence this afternoon, dissidents, on the eve of their final encounter with the party high command next Monday, are debating their future, including the chances of their success in their demand for change of leadership of the Punjab Congress Legislature Party (CLP).

Though most of the legislators owing allegiance to Mrs Bhattal had gone to their constituencies and would assemble at Sund village, near Nawanshahr, tomorrow, hectic parleys were continuing to keep the party united and find an amicable solution to the present crisis, which members of both groups admit, has done irreparable damage to the party in the state.

Those who met Mrs Bhattal today included several former PPCC chiefs, office-bearers and leaders of Mahila Congress, Youth Congress, ex-MPs and ex-MLAs supporting the cause for which they had been fighting.

After attending the death anniversary bhog of Ch Jagat Ram, father of Mr Tarlochan Singh Sund, MLA from Nawanshahr, the dissidents plan to reach Delhi by Sunday evening where they will once again open their cards to the new central team comprising Dr Manmohan Singh and Mr Pranab Mukherjee.

Though the Chief Minister’s camp is hopeful that the crisis will blow over with the central leadership finding an amicable solution, the dissidents are little suspicious. Based on their past experiences, they apprehend that because of the heat and bad blood created during the past five weeks, the chances of their subsequent political persecution may remain a possibility.

Sources reveal that the Chief Minister and his confidants are trying to have one to one meetings with the dissidents in trying to win or woo them over. So far they have met with limited success. A meeting with Mrs Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder could not materialise as she preferred to go to Gurdaspur, her hometown.

Some dissidents, especially young turks, are not averse to the idea of forming a separate group holding that the party high command has been intentionally delaying its decision so that the President gives his assent to the amended Anti-defection law.

They quote numerous examples from the past where many senior leaders, holding important positions in the party, had left the Congress. They name even Mrs Meira Kumar, daughter of Ch Jagjivan Ram, Mr Buta Singh, Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar and even the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, himself.

On the other hand, Mr Ashwani Kumar, Rajya Sabha member and who hails from Gurdaspur and is son of Mr Prabodh Chandra, another Congress stalwart of yesteryears, rules out any possibility of a split in the party.

“We have Lok Sabha polls on our hands and further continuation of this crisis will not be good for the party. The party is being reorganised from top to bottom by giving more importance to footworkers, party workers at grasroot level, to carry the slogan and message of the party, to the people.

“The Chief Minister’s policy of reconciliation and raproachment has shown good results. He has been meeting everyone and listening to them. Most of the grievances of the dissidents have been redressed. And the Central leadership will sort out the remaining issue in the next two to three days. Focus will be on development and better interaction with people,” he added.

Meanwhile, a spokesman of the Punjab Government clarified that all legislators, whosoever asked for accommodation in Punjab Bhavan, were given permits late last evening. He said rooms have been allotted to all MLAs, irrespective of their political party or group for the January 5 and 6 meeting. Most of them have been given rooms from yesterday evening itself. A sanction allotting rooms to all MLAs, including those of the dissident group, were sent by fax to New Delhi last evening,” he added.


Channi blames Hanspal for crisis
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, January 3
Mr Charanjit Singh Channi, Congress MP, has alleged that the PPCC was responsible for the prevailing conditions within the Congress Legislature Party in Punjab. Addressing a press conference here today, he said it was the duty of Mr H.S. Hanspal, PPCC chief, to apprise the party high command of the unrest among Congressmen against the functioning of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.

Mr Hanspal adopted a “partial” attitude, thereby promoting factionalism within the party, he alleged. As a result, the relations between Capt Amarinder Singh and Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal became more strained.

He said Capt Amarinder Singh had said during a meeting with Congress MPs that he would change his style of functioning . However, nothing had been done.


BJP to contest 375 LS seats, says minister
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 3
Mr Sanghpriya Gautam, Union Minister for Agriculture and Rural Industries, said yesterday that the BJP would contest at least 375 seats in the Lok Sabha elections with the aim of winning 300 seats on its own, while the rest would be contested by its alliance partners.

Mr Gautam was talking to mediapersons at the PWD Rest House here after attending a religious function at Dhanaula village, near Barnala.

The Union Minister claimed that in the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP and its alliance partners would get two-thirds majority. He said Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Prime Minister, knew the pulse of the people while Mrs Sonia Gandhi, Congress President, just belonged to the Nehru family. He said the Congress was now a demoralised force after its defeat in Assembly elections in three states recently.

Mr Gautam said the BJP and the SAD had a permanent alliance in Punjab as well as at the national level.

With regard to the sharing of seats between the SAD and the BJP Punjab in the Lok Sabha elections, he said earlier the BJP had contested three seats. He said this time also a decision in this regard would be taken by mutual consent.

The Union Minister said a decision about holding the Lok Sabha elections was taken at the BJP’s National Executive committee meeting on January 11 and 12.

Mr Gautam stated that there was no proposal to privatise Khadi Gram Udyog units. He said the Khadi Gram Udyog was now on top in the production and sale of basic consumer goods in the country.


Takht, SGPC to pay tributes to Indira’s assassins
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 3
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and Akal Takht today described Satwant Singh, the assassin of Indira Gandhi, as a great martyr and decided to observe his 15th death anniversary at Akal Takht on January 6.

In a press note issued here today, the SGPC invited representatives of various Sikh organisations and the Sikh sangat to reach Akal Takht in a big way to mark the occasion. The akhand path would start on January 4 and bhog would be performed on January 6.

It was for the first time that the SGPC chose to make the bhog a grand occasion, probably at the behest of the Shiromani Akali Dal in wake of the Lok Sabha elections.

Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar of Akal Takht, would pay tributes to Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh.


Takht in a bind over parallel celebrations
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 3
The parallel celebrations of the 338th “Parkash Utsav” of Guru Gobind Singh at Takht Patna Sahib and Hazoor Sahib has put the SGPC and Akal Takht in a sticky situation. The issue may be taken up in the forthcoming meeting of the Sikh clergy, likely to be held in the second week of this month.

While both Takhts had already celebrated Gurpurb last week as per the traditional Bikrami calendar, the SGPC and Akal Takht will commemorate the occasion on January 5 as per the Nanakshahi calendar that was implemented from Baisakhi last year.

Earlier, Giani Iqbal Singh and Giani Rattan Singh, Jathedar and Deputy Jathedar of Takht Patna Sahib and Hazoor Sahib, respectively, had agreed in principle to implement the Nanakshahi calendar. However, Giani Iqbal Singh told this correspondent on phone that the controversy over the Nanakshahi calendar could be resolved when all three jathedars from Punjab would visit Patna Sahib and Hazoor Sahib in the near future. He said Jathedar Vedanti had agreed to visit both Takhts to hold meetings with representatives of the locals in this regard.

He alleged that despite repeated requests, the then SGPC chief, Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar, had taken a hasty step to implement the Nanakshahi calendar. He said the Sikh sangat of Patna Sahib and Hazoor Sahib should have been taken into confidence before its implementation.

Though jathedars from outside the state had participated in meetings of Akal Takht after a long period, they have yet to resolve the issue.

Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, honorary secretary of the SGPC, however, claimed that the issue would be resolved soon. He said the two Takhts had already sought some time to implement the new calendar.


Sikh intellectuals, Vedanti again on warpath
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 3
Confrontation between the Jathedar of Akal Takht, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, and a group of Sikh intellectuals has again started on certain important issues regarding the Khalsa Panth.

A number of Sikh intellectuals from diverse fields have challenged the authority of Vedanti to summon the Editor of a magazine, Mr Joginder Singh, at Akal Takht on January 7. They have said that Jathedar Vedanti was never selected as Jathedar of Akal Takht as per Panth’s “Sikh rehat maryada (Sikh code of conduct)”, and hence he could not be recognised as Jathedar of Akal Takht.

These intellectuals have stated that the Jathedar and other high priests should tell all concerned how they have been exercising the powers of Jathedar and high priests when they have not been selected through a proper process.

Mr Gurtej Singh, Professor of Sikhism, in a statement released on behalf of the Sikh Intellectuals, including Dr Tarlochan Singh, Mr Narinder Singh, a retired Major-General, Mr Sukhdev Singh, Giani Jagmohan Singh, Principal Surjit Singh, Mr Harmit Singh, Bibi Jasbir Kaur and Dr Sukhjit Kaur Gill said that Sikh high priests needed to clarify how they were entitled to summon a Sikh to appear before them in the absence of his voluntary desire to seek forgiveness for dereliction of religious duty.

“Clearly the Editor has not violated any part of rehat maryada. Under these circumstances no Jathedar is entitled, according to the principles of Sikhi, to summon him to appear at Akal Takht. Sikh Intellectuals have stated that all powers to appoint or to dismiss the Jathedars have been usurped by the SAD President, Mr Parkash Singh Badal. It would not be proper to obey the orders of the Jathedars appointed at the behest of Mr Badal, they said.

These intellectuals have the view that “Dasam Granth” was not authored by Guru Gobind Singh. “So, attributing the authorship to the Guru is to destroy his image”, they said.

Commenting on the contribution made by Bhai Gurbaksh Singh Kala Afghana, these intellectuals said that “Bhai Kala Afghana is a believing, duly baptised Sikh writer. His books are dedicated to the betterment of the Sikh people and are in conformity with Guru’s word.”

Meanwhile, when asked whether he would appear at Akal Takht or not, Mr Joginder Singh said that he would hold a press conference on January 5 on this issue. “I have sent a detailed letter to the Jathedar of Akal Takht. Details of the letter would be revealed at the press conference”, he added.


Nagar kirtan taken out
Tribune Reporters

Amritsar, January 3
Ahead of “Prakash Utsav” of Guru Gobind Singh, a nagar kirtan was taken out here today.

The nagar kirtan that started from Akal Takht was led by Panj Piaras and Guru Granth Sahib was placed in a golden palanquin. The procession passed through the main bazars of the city and concluded at Akal Takht late evening. Devotees from all walks of life participated in it. Ragi jathas presented shabad and Sikh youths performed martial arts. Schoolchildren also participated.

“Prakash Utsav” is being celebrated according to the Nanakshahi calendar on January 5.

Processions were also taken out in Pathankot and Batala, as per reports.


Panj Piaras lead nagar kirtan
Our Correspondent

Abohar, January 3
A nagar kirtan procession was taken out here today in connection with birthday celebrations of Guru Gobind Singh.

A large number of devotees marched towards Gurdwara Singh Sabha. Panj Piaras marched ahead of flower-bedecked ‘palki’ carrying Guru Granth Sahib.


Varsity holiday on January 5
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 3
All teaching, non-teaching departments, administrative wing, regional centres at Jalandhar and Gurdaspur and the affiliated colleges of Guru Nanak Dev University will remain closed on January 5 in connection with Gurpurab of Sri Guru Gobind Singh, a press note of the University said here on yesterday.


New pension formula sent for review
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 3
The pension commutation issue, that has been hanging fire for the past several months in Punjab, has been referred back to the Finance Department.

Informed sources said today that the Chief Minister’s Office had asked the Finance Department to review the new pension commutation formula in view of the several representations given by various organisations of employees. Even a number of deputations of employees have also met the Chief Secretary as well as the Chief Minister on this issue.

Organisations of employees have urged the state government to revert to the old pension commutation formula. These organisations say that with the implementation of the new commutation formula, retirees have been hit hard financially.

According to Mr Karnail Singh Saini, joint secretary of the Punjab Secretariat Staff Association, if a class IV employee retires today, he or she will get about Rs 75,000 less as per the new pension commutation formula. He said in case of class III and Class II, the financial loss to the retirees was in the range of Rs 1.50 lakh to Rs 2.25 lakh. He said that as most retirees had no other means of income and even no landed or other property, they faced an uncertain future because of a drastic cut in the pension amount.

Sources said that the Chief Minister’s Office had asked the Finance Department to reassess the entire new pension commutation scheme in the light of the decreasing rate of interest in the country. With the implementation of the new formula, the Finance Department had reportedly projected a net saving of Rs 30 crore per annum to the state exchequer. However, the Chief Minister’s Office is of the view that the figure of Rs 30 crore seems to be on the higher side keeping in view the falling rates of interest etc.

Sources said that the Chief Minister’s Office wanted that there should be no drastic cut on the benefits that were extended to retirees by the state government. Moreover, as Lok Sabha elections are expected to be held any time this year, the government would like to win over the employees by withdrawing the new pension commutation formula which had led to strong resentment among them.

Meanwhile, though the Council of Ministers has given a green light to give jobs on compassionate grounds to the next of kin of deceased employees, yet no formal letter has been issued in this connection. Informed sources said that the letter was to be issued by the Personnel Department. About 5000 cases of the appointments on compassionate grounds have been pending in the state for the past about two years.


Special buses to Pak may be reality
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 3
Even as the demand of the SGPC to ply special buses to take pilgrims to Pakistan may be accepted by India and Pakistan, the demand of the Shiromani Committee to start a religious procession from Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib (Pakistan) to Khadoor Sahib (Amritsar) to mark the 400th birth anniversary of Guru Angad Dev in April may be turned down by the Central Government.

The SGPC had taken up the matter with Central Government to open a 3 km corridor between Dera Baba Nanak (India) and Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib (Pakistan) on the plea that the government of Pakistan had given its consent in this regard. However, the Ministry of Defence and the Union Home Ministry are reportedly averse to the idea, saying that the bridge across the Ravi would be difficult to man.

Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, honorary secretary of the SGPC, said the demand was genuine and pilgrims wanted to pay their obeisance at Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib. He said if the demand was turned down, the SGPC would try to get permission to take a special jatha to Pakistan through Wagah.

He hoped that the Government of India and Pakistan would give permission for the plying of special buses. He said during his visit to the Golden Temple, the SGPC had submitted a representation to Mr D. Shanshank, Foreign Secretary, in this regard. He said Mr Shanshank had promised to take up the matter with his Pakistani counterpart during his visit to Pakistan.


Mann decries siropa to Badal, son
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 3
Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, President of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), yesterday criticised French President Jacques Chirac’s legislation banning wearing of articles of faith in public schools and regulating their wearing at the workplace. Sikhs had historical links with the French and had been instrumental in their victories in the two World Wars.

Demanding the issue be taken up by the Government of India with its French counterpart the Akali Dal President said while “war memorials” give pride of place to Normandy prefecture, Belgium, the commonwealth memorial, Aisenworth, pictures of Sikhs adorn the memorial of “final triumph and at other European nations, the distinct identity of Sikhs was being sought to be ended. Endorsing ‘Nanakshahi Calendar’, the MP accused the Jathedar of Patna Sahib and Jathedar of Hazoor Sahib and others who had opposed the calendar, of having “brahmanical thinking”. He showed a diary published recently in the UK that mentioned Sikh functions in accordance with Nanakshahi calendar as an endorsement of it by the world. On the move to deploy of Intelligence Bureau (IB) officials at Attari, the CISF (Central Industrial Security Force) at Rajasansi Airport, adjudication of river water disputes by the apex court, he said these amounted to interference in state matters and could be seen as a sign of weak governance, he wrote to the governor yesterday.

Demanding that “siropas” (robes of honour) be taken back from former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son, the SAD (A) president said these had been ‘sullied’ as the duo had indulged in corruption. He added that step-motherly treatment was being meted out to Punjab even as the neighbouring states of Himachal Uttaranchal, Jammu and Kashmir were all given special tax concessions to induce industry.

Calling the influx of increasing migrant labour in state as a conspiracy to change the demography of the state he favoured that they be given permits but no voting or property rights in Punjab.


Cong, Akali workers join Mann Akali Dal
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 3
Many workers, including sarpanches and panches of the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal yesterday joined the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) led by Mr Simranjit Singh Mann.

Mr Ajit Singh Bath, district general secretary of the SAD (A) described it a success of his party. The workers who joined the SAD (A) included Capt Karaj Singh sarpanch Jasraur village, Subedar Tarlok Singh, Mr Ajit Singh, Mr Daleep Singh, Mr Mahinder Singh, Mr Pichhora Singh (all members of panchayats) Mr Phuman Singh, sarpanch of Bhagupura village and members Major Singh, Mahinder Singh etc, member of panchayats of Hashimpura village and Shurepur village and party workers in Kotli Phuman Singh, Miadia, village Kotla Amrik Singh, Punge, village Jafarkot and Jasraur.


Ex-militants to contest on ‘Khalistan’ issue
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 3
A former militant leader and chief of the newly-formed Shiromani Akali Dal (International), Atinder Pal Singh, yesterday announced that his party would contest the forthcoming Lok Sabha, SGPC, and Vidhan Sabha elections on the issue of “Khalistan.”

Addressing mediapersons here, Atinder Pal Singh, who was a former MP, said his party would wage a struggle for the attainment of “Khalistan” in a democratic manner and by remaining within the sphere of the Indian Constitution.

“If people can discuss the issue of a Hindu rashtra by remaining within the framework of the Indian Constitution, then why can ‘Khalistan’ issue not be discussed?” asked Mr Atinder Pal Singh.

He alleged that none of the existing Sikh political force was representing the Sikh sentiment in reality. “The different Sikh look has started facing a peril of extinction due to the failure of the existing Sikh leadership to guide the Sikhs. Our organisation has come into being to protect the basic rights of people of Punjab,” said Mr Atinder Pal Singh adding that a 13-member executive had been formed for a term of four years and that 50 per cent of the office-bearers would be Sikhs from other countries.


Satirical scheme for drug addicts
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 3
Launching a campaign against the use of drugs and intoxicants on New Year day, Charanjit Singh Kainth, a Punjabi writer, announced a satirical “maha bumper scheme” for drug addicts by distributing hundreds of handbills here and in other parts of the district. In the handbill, he promised that the scheme will continue for life.

Kainth has announced seven “prizes”, besides a “lucky bumper prize”, for consumers of biri, tobacco, zarda, gutkha, liquor and intoxicant pills. He said drug addicts and consumers of liquor and tobacco products would “win” cancer as the first prize, while they would “win” a damaged liver as the second prize, heart attack (third), skin disease (fourth), weak veins (fifth), loss of intelligence (sixth) and insults and a hell-like life at home as the seventh prize. He also announced the “lucky bumper prize” of “Ram Nam Sat Hai” (death).

The address for getting entry forms is “every shop of intoxicants”. Kainth has given the name of the “president” of the scheme as “Yamraj”.

Releasing the handbill under the anti-drug awareness campaign, Kainth “invited” users of drugs and intoxicants to get the “benefit” of the scheme at the earliest. He also offered a free bath with filthy drain water to drug addicts.

Talking to TNS here on Thursday Kainth said he would continue his efforts against the use of drugs and intoxicants to bring drug addicts into the mainstream and keep youths away from the menace.


Polio case at Nangal
Lalit Mohan

Ropar, January 3
Despite a persistent eight-year vaccination campaign for the eradication of polio and repeated claims of the Health Department that Punjab was a polio-free state, a case of polio has been detected in Nangal area of Ropar.

Eight-year-old Sagar, son of migrant labourer Pappu, was detected to be infected with polio on March 29 last by Rotary volunteers at Nangal. The child was sent to the civil hospital at Ropar for confirmatory tests, where he was found to be infected with polio.

The detection of the polio case despite a massive immunisation campaign shocked social organisations and district health authorities, which kept the case as a closely guarded secret. The child was immunised, but sources said polio infection had no cure.

The child also posed the threat of spreading the virus in surrounding areas. The child, found to be infected at Nangal, was living in a temporary slum area along with his parents.

Experts felt that since the place in which the infected child was living was open, there were chances of the virus spreading in surrounding areas. Polio could be spread by a number of ways. Persons not immunised against polio or having a weak immune system might contract polio. The polio virus could also spread through food or drinking water contaminated by the virus. The virus could also be contracted through direct contact with infected stool or throat secretions. Persons were most infectious a few days before and after the onset of symptoms, they said.

The district chairman of Rotary International Child Concern Committee admitted that the child was found to be infected with polio. The child was born at Sirhind. His parents, along with him, had moved to many places, including Bassi Pathana, Ambala and Panchkula, before coming to Nangal.


Lack of proper facilities led to jailbreak, say guards
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 3
Guards of the Central Jail here which witnessed a jail- break by two undertrials recently, today claimed that the lack of proper lighting, deterioration of security standards and practically no checking by senior officials were the factors behind the escape of the two undertrials.

The Jail Guards Association claimed that instead of addressing the real issues which were responsible for the incident, the jail authorities had suspended 15 personnel to shift the responsibility. The association claimed that the Jail Superintendent and Deputy Superintendent should be held responsible for the jail break and not the jail guards.

The Joint Secretary of the association, Mr Harjit Singh Walia, claimed that about 95 per cent of the lights in the jail complex were not functional, particularly those around the circumference of the jail compound. He also alleged that Assistant Superintendents, who were supposed to check the barracks at night, never did so because of which they did not command respect in the jail.

It has also been alleged that only one person was on patrol duty along the outer wall on the day of the jail-break despite the fact that the wall had a circumference of three kilometers and 18 personnel were required if it was to be patrolled in three-hour shifts throughout the night.

Similarly the association claimed that only seven of the 13 watch towers in the jail complex had been manned on the particular day.

Jail Superintendent Jagjit Singh said the allegations were baseless and that the jail guards wanted to escape their responsibility. He said it was surprising that the jail guards had not come to know when the undertrials removed the bricks around a ventilator and climbed out of the bathroom adjoining a barrack.

He said the undertrials had similarly escaped detention in the inner compound even though this was clearly visible even from the post on the main gate.

The Superintendent said there was no truth in the allegations that senior officers had not checked the barracks themselves at night. He said an Assistant Superintendent had checked the barrack on the day of the jail-break at 1.45 a.m. He said on the other hand four 'havildars' had also gone into the barrack on the same night but had failed to detect the absence of the two undertrials.

When questioned on the issue of proper lighting, Mr Jagjit Singh said there was no need to follow the same lighting arrangement as was done during the period of militancy. However, sufficient lighting existed on the jail complex, he said and added that the undertrials had taken advantage of the dense fog. The Jail Superintendent also disclosed that there was only one person on duty along the wall because two others had not reported for duty on that day. He said PAP personnel were deployed on seven watch towers which was enough to get an overview of the entire complex.


Withdrawal of hike in petrol, diesel rates sought
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 3
Prof Balwant Singh, Secretary of the Punjab unit of the CPM, has demanded immediate withdrawal of hike in the rates of petrol and diesel and called upon all political parties and other organisations to launch mass agitations against the anti-people policies of the BJP-led NDA government.

In a press statement issued here today, Prof Balwant Singh said during the BJP rule the prices of both petrol and diesel had been increased for the sixth time on January 1, 2004. Giving comparative figures, he pointed out that in 1999 the rate of diesel was Rs 10.4 per litre and today it was Rs 21.65 per litre, which is 100 per cent increase.

While prices of oil in the international market were falling, these had constantly been on the increase in our country, putting a burden on the peasants and other sections of society.

In Punjab alone, the farmers consume about Rs 273.37 crore litres of diesel every year, as a result of the hike they now have to bear the additional burden of Rs 3,000 crore every year with effect from January 1, 2004, he said.


CPI leader Bhaura cremated
Tribune News Service

Malerkotla, January 3
The CPI MP from Bathinda, Bhan Singh Bhaura (69), who died in Delhi during the intervening night of January 2 and January 3, was cremated with full state honours here today. His son, Dr Rajneek Singh, lit the pyre.

He is survived by his wife, a son and two daughters.

Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, minister, laid a wreath on the body on behalf of the Punjab Government while Mr A.B. Bardhan general secretary of the CPI, laid a wreath on behalf of the national council of the party, Dr Joginder Dayal, secretary of the Punjab unit of the CPI, also laid a wreath while Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, MP, placed a “dushala” on the body.

A contingent of the Punjab police reversed its arms and fired into the air. Hundreds of party workers and supporters attended, the funeral.

Dr Dayal said the CPI would organise a assembly in memory of Bhan Singh Bhaura on January 8 in Bathinda while a shardhanjali samaroh would be held in Malerkotla on January 11.

Chandigarh: The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today expressed grief over the demise of Comrade Bhan Singh Bhaura, a veteran CPI leader and MP from the Bathinda Lok Sabha constituency, who died of a heart attack in New Delhi.

In his condolence message, the Chief Minister said that Bhaura was a seasoned politician who worked tirelessly for the cause of the underprivileged.


Musician brings laurels to town
Our Correspondent

Abohar, January 3
Krishan Kumar, a member of the socio-cultural organisation Natrang here, has brought laurels to the town by winning a medal for his tabla performance at the 128th Harballah Sangeet Sammelan at Jalandhar. He was accorded a warm welcome by members of the organisation on his return today.

Krishan Kumar of Arya Nagar was awarded the first prize in the Indian classical music (senior percussion) category at the competition held during the sammelan. This was his second participation in this function. His performance was adjudged outstanding last year.

A disciple of musician Lachhman Singh Seen, Krishan Kumar is proud of being a student of Punjab Gharana, being led at present by Mian Qadar Baksh of Lahore. He had stood first in a similar competition at Panjab University Youth Festival in 1997. He was a member of the BVP team from Punjab which won the first prize at the All-India Group Song Competition in Hyderabad in 2000.


Brar’s appeal to lawyers
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, January 3
Congress MP Jagmeet Singh Brar has appealed to lawyers to utilise their energies to strengthen the nation in the interest of society. He said this while addressing a meeting of members of the District Bar Association here yesterday.

He praised Mr Arun Jaitely, Union Law Minister, for dedicating his services to the welfare of the nation. Mr Brar sought the cooperation of advocates for launching a mass movement for developing interest in reading good books.

He gave a cheque for Rs 2 lakh for the purchase of books for the library of the local Bar. Talking to mediapersons, he expressed the hope that differences among senior leaders of the party in Punjab would be settled shortly.


Sikh bodies block traffic
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, January 3
A large number of activists of various Sikh religious organisations today organised a traffic jam at Rohiwala bridge here today in protest against the alleged holding of functions by the followers of Jeewan Jyoti Jagran Sansthan Noormahal.

The organisations, including Khalra Mission Committee, Khalsa Panchayat and Gurmat Prachar Sabha, alleged that the SHO of Tarn Taran city police station, after permission, allowed the functions. The matter was resolved only after the intervention of and assurances given by the Deputy Superintendent of Police of Tarn Taran to not to allow any such functions.


Assault by Congress activists alleged
Our Correspondent

Zirakpur, January 3
A resident of Bartana and his son were allegedly assaulted by Haryana by Youth Congress (HYC) activists for not providing them transportation to be used in a rally. The incident occurred last night when a group of the HYC activists visited a readymade shop owned by Mr Milap Singh in Bartana.

Led by Umesh, alias Sonu, a resident of Sector 10, Panchkula, the group comprising Pappu, Kaka, both of Panchkula, and Pradeep Ramgarhia, a resident of Ekta Vihar Colony, Bartana, along with some other youths, reached the shop and demanded 10 vehicles from Mr Milap Singh, the police said. As the shopkeeper turned down their offer, he was beaten up by the activists. Milap Singh’s son, Gurvinder Singh, was also thrashed by the HYC activists while he took his father’s side.

The police revealed that the HYC activists used iron rods and sticks in the incident in which the man and his son sustained serious injuries. They were later admitted to the Civil Hospital in Dera Bassi. A case has been registered.


BSP threatens to launch stir
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 3
The Bahujan Samaj Party headed by Mr Bhagwan Singh Chauhan, state general secretary, today threatened to launch an agitation if the district administration failed to take action against the Civil Surgeon who allegedly misbehaved with a Dalit driver a few days ago.

He demanded the registration of a case under the SC/ST act against the Civil Surgeon.

Mr Chauhan said if the government failed to take any action against the Civil Surgeon by January 24, the party would resort to “chakka jam” after holding a meeting.


3 women fall unconscious
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, January 3
Three women, including an NRI, were found unconscious this morning at their Adarsh Nagar residence here due to carbon monoxide that emanated from an “angithi” that kept inside the room.

The NRI, Amarjit Kaur, and Rani were admitted to the DMCH, Ludhiana, while Sarabjit Kaur was admitted to the local Civil Hospital.


Falling profit margin worries poultry farmers
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 3
Poultry farmers in Punjab are distressed over the decreasing profit margins for their supply of poultry to Jammu and Kashmir.

They have now urged the Financial Commissioner, Jammu and Kashmir, to take up the matter with the Director, Food and Civil Supplies, to facilitate continuous supply of poultry to the state, said Mr Arun Kumar, general secretary of the Punjab Poultry Association.

The poultry farmers are especially irked over a notification issued in October that levies two per cent as tool tax per chick on import or export.

The association said even during the days of militancy in Punjab, farmers had kept a steady and uninterrupted supply of poultry to the beleaguered state.

The imposition has not only reduced the profit margin but also given a boost to corruption in the supply of poultry to Jammu and Kashmir. A number of complaints have been received about officials and police personnel posted at check posts harassing poultry suppliers.

The farmers state that the Director, Food and Civil Supplies, Jammu and Kashmir, has also “fixed” the rate for broilers in the state without taking into account the heavy fluctuations in prices. The association headed by Mr I.C. Nanda has written letters to the Chief Minister, Jammu and Kashmir, and the Director, Food and Civil Supplies, to waive the levy and fixed rates for poultry supply from Punjab.

Meanwhile, the first free laboratory for poultry diagnostics was inaugurated by Mr D.S. Bhullar, Deputy General Manager, Godrej Agrovet, here today. The laboratory has been set up by the private company in view of farmers’ needs in the border district.


MC to computerise birth, death registration
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, January 3
The Municipal Corporation here has decided to issue computerised certificates of deaths and births in bilingual format from the first week of February.

Municipal Corporation Commissioner Sarojini Gautam Sharda said here that it was decided to provide all relevant dates regarding registration of death and birth on its website www.mcjalandhar.com to enable the applicants and the authorities concerned to download it.

“In the first phase of the project, we will provide complete date on the website from the year 1954 onwards. Besides, we will issue computerised certificates in bilingual format — Punjabi and English versions,” she said, adding that software for the same had already been developed while the programme would be launched in February.

She said in the second phase, more than 250 private hospitals and nursing homes in the city would be connected online to the MC and registration process would be made completely online to avoid paper work. These private hospitals would be bound to ensure timely registration with correct details about the applicants.

“In fact, the applicants, after introduction of the computerised facility, will need not visit MC office to first-inform of death or birth and to later get a certified copy,” she said, adding that some private companies were being shortlisted for the project on build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) Basis.


Keep watch on staff, DCs told
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 3
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, yesterday directed all Deputy Commissioners and SSPs to keep a close tab on the subordinate staff to check stray incidents of corruption and ensure “clean, transparent and accountable administration”.

Presiding over a joint meeting with MPs, Deputy Commissioners and SSPs, he said the anti-corruption campaign would not be successful unless corruption at the cutting edge was checked effectively.

A press note said the Chief Minister cautioned the Vigilance to be careful while handling cases so that efficient and hardworking employees were not demoralised in any way.

Referring to the demand of MPs, the Chief Minister asked the Deputy Commissioners to prepare district development plans with their participation and give greater thrust to strengthening the rural infrastructure, renewal and rejuvenation of basic civic amenities at urban centres, diversification of agriculture, development and uplift of the Dalits.


Board plans 2 gas-based power plants
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 3
The Punjab State Electricity Board has proposed the establishment of two gas-based power plants in Bathinda and Doraha to take advantage of the gas pipeline which has been completed till Panipat.

The board has also decided to take up this proposal because of difficulties being faced by it in procuring coal from mines in Bihar and Jharkhand. This year the supply of coal was affected severely due to strikes in the mines as well as problems faced by the Railways which transports the coal to the board’s thermal plants.

The gas plants are expected to cost Rs 3,700 crore each and need around 70 acres of land. While the board has the required land in Bathinda, it will have to purchase land in Doraha for setting up the proposed plant. The board has submitted the proposal to its financial experts for determining the exact cost and feasibility of the project.


Panchayat demolishes wall
Our Correspondent

Dera Bassi, January 3
Following the directions of the Deputy Commissioner Patiala, Mubarikpur village panchayat today demolished an unauthorised wall constructed by a family of Meerpur village in past a couple of months.

While the panchayat claims to have demolished the unauthorised wall causing inconvenience to score of villagers, the family alleges that some villagers trespassed into their house and broke a wall of their bathroom.

The family also alleged that at least 200 persons of the village entered into their house and attacked them with sticks, axes and other sharp-edged weapons causing injuries to its five members.

Mr Balwinder Singh, a family member, alleged that the villagers ransacked their house, damaged household goods and broke the boundary wall of their bathroom when a majority of his family members were detained by the police in Mubarikpur police station.

The police, however, denied having detained the family members.


Gang circulating fake currency busted, 3 held
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, January 3
Claiming that Pakistan’s ISI is pumping fake Indian currency in to Punjab through its Dubai based agents, the district police has busted a four-member gang for its involvement in the distribution of fake currency to the tune of Rs 49 lakh during the past six months.

While three members of the gang were arrested and fake currency worth Rs 4.72 lakh was seized from their possession, one of their accomplices had escaped.

A police spokesman stated here today that following a tip-off that the gang had received a large consignment of fake currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 denominations, special nakas were laid in and around Nakodar. The police intercepted a Maruti car and seized briefcase containing stacks of fake currency.

While one of the occupants managed to escape, the remaining three were arrested. They have been identified as Jagtar Singh and Buta Singh of Bill Chao village in Nakodar and Makhan Singh of Chak Chela village in Shahkot. The fourth gang member has been identified as Joga of Masian in Shahkot.

The police said Rs 1.1 lakh was in the denomination of Rs 1000 and the remaining Rs 3.62 lakh were in the denomination of Rs 500.

According to the SSP, Mr G.P.S. Bhullar, the accused said Jagtar Singh, the alleged kingpin of the racket, was involved in human trafficking and had been arrested by the Dubai police last year. Jagtar came in contact with Sheikh Mohammad, a Pakistani national, settled in Dubai while the former was serving a sentence in a Dubai jail. Sheikh Mohammad told him that he had links with ISI officials in Pakistan and settled a deal with Jagtar for the distribution of fake currency in Punjab.

Both of them were released from jail in June 2003. Jagtar brought fake currency worth Rs 9 lakh from Dubai on his return to India. He found willing accomplices in Buta, Makhan and Joga. During his second trip undertaken on December 12 last year to India, he managed to smuggle fake currency worth Rs 10 lakh into the country. After disposing of the consignment, he went back to Dubai on December 10 and brought the consignment of fake currency worth Rs 30 lakh.

The currency notes were routed to Dubai and then brought into India through a chain of agents.6


Love marriage proves fatal
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, January 3
Jaswant Kaur, alias Roopa, was shot dead by her father Santokh Singh, a former sarpanch of Feroze Rollian village, at Nathupur early this morning. Her husband Gurwinder Singh was wounded in the firing.

According to the police, the deceased had solemnised a love marriage against the wishes of her father about two months ago. This had annoyed Santokh Singh. After the marriage, she had started living with her husband at Nathupur.

Santokh Singh, along with his daughter Kuldip Kaur, went to Nathupur in his Maruti car at 4 a.m. this morning. He remained in his car and sent Kuldip Kaur to the house of Gurwinder Singh to call Jaswant Kaur.

The couple came out to meet them. As soon as they reached near the car, Santokh Singh started firing and Jaswant Kaur died on the spot. Gurwinder Singh received a bullet injury in his arm. He escaped and informed the police. Santokh Singh and his daughter escaped in the car. A case was registered.


Flesh trade racket busted, 3 arrested
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 3
Kanwal (name changed), a Dalit (Majbi) girl, has given startling facts about gangs in Punjab forcing girls into flesh trade on the pretext of lucrative jobs. After escaping from the clutches of the gang, she disclosed to the police how she was sold in Chandigarh, Ludhiana and Hoshiarpur and forced into flesh trade after she was raped by two persons.

These gangs, which were operated from various areas in Punjab, including Chandigarh and Ludhiana, used to force poor girls, on the pretext of lucrative jobs, into flesh trade and took hefty amounts from their ‘clients’. Mostly it was women who were running this illegal trade.

Kanwal revealed that she came in contact with Amarjit Kaur, the main accused, when she was introduced to her by Gurnam Singh, a former sarpanch of Dhoulkalan village. She said she started working at the house of Amarjit Kaur, where she was raped by her son Vicky and Rakesh Kumar. After this, Amarjit Kaur sold her to Poonam in Ludhiana, who used to run a flesh trade racket there, for Rs 40,000. Poonam forced her into the trade and later sold her to Meenu in Chandigarh, the leader of the gang. She said after one month, Amarjit Kaur brought her back.

After she was sold in Hoshiarpur, she got a chance to phone her parents, who along with other relatives, arrived there. Kanwal said she escaped from the house of Jyoti, to whom she had been sold for Rs 25,000, and met her parents. She was then brought back to Amritsar by her family and reported the matter to the police. The police conducted raids at various places in Hoshiarpur and Amritsar and arrested Amarjit Kaur, Rakesh Kumar and Jyoti.

Investigations revealed that Amarjit Kaur had earlier sold Rajji of Sultanwind area in a similar way to Jyoti for Rs 20,000. The police said the accused then sold her to Manju in Ludhiana and then to Raj in Jeera. Raj and her husband used to bring ‘clients’ and run the flesh trade. On a tipoff, Gurnam Singh and his wife Raj were later arrested.

The accused had been running the illegal trade for a long time. When these girls resorted to any agitation, they were brutally tortured by the accused, the police was conducting raids to arrest the other accused.


Ex-Miss Punjab booked
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, January 3
The police has booked former Miss Punjab and three others on charges of duping a farmer of Rs 7 lakh on the pretext of sending him to the USA. Mr Lakhwinder Singh of Polar village in Kaithal district, in his complaint to the police, alleged that former Miss Punjab and resident of Model Town, Parpreet Kaur Brar, had duped him.

The complainant said he had first met Parpreet Kaur about four years back at Punjabi University, Patiala, where his sister was studying with the accused. Parpreet allegedly assured Lakhwinder that she would make arrangements for sending him to the USA.

Subsequently, Rs 4 lakh and a passport was given to Parpreet Kaur at her residence. After this, the accused asked for another instalment of Rs 3 lakh on the pretext that he had been granted a visa by the Belgium Embassy. In spite of paying the requisite amount, the accused failed to make arrangements for his journey to Belgium. The police has registered a case under Sections 406, 420, 342, 323, 34 and 120-B, IPC, against Parpreet, her mother, her brother and a family friend.


3 held, ornaments worth 60,000 recovered
Our Correspondent

Patiala, January 3
The local Kotwali police today arrested three persons and recovered gold and silver ornaments worth Rs 60,000. A case under Sections 457 and 380 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) had been registered against the three accused.

The Kotwali police had constituted a special team under the guidance of Inspector Krishna Kumar, Assistant Sub-Inspector Jagdish Kumar and other police officials and arrested Aditya Kumar, alias Sonu, a resident of Kaccha Patiala, Pankaj, alias Tapu Verma, a resident of Mishra Mohalla and Sher Singh.

According to the information, Gurcharan Singh, a resident of Jadish Colony, who has a jewellery shop in Sarhandi Bazaar had registered an FIR in the Kotwali police station that when he reached his shop at around 10 am, he found the locks of shop opened. Later, he found that ornaments worth Rs 60,000 and 3 kg of silver from the showcase of the shop were missing.

Meanwhile, the Kotwali police also arrested Sher Singh from Kali Devi temple and recovered a gold chain worth Rs10,000.

Earlier, a case had been registered against him under Section 356 of the IPC. He was accused of having stolen a gold chain of Kamlesh Tiwari.


Sales tax evasion worth lakhs detected

Patiala, January 3
The mobile wing of the Excise and Taxation Department has detected sales tax evasion worth lakhs of rupees during surprise raids conducted in several cities of the state, including Chandigarh.

An official release here today said the raids had been conducted during the past two days . The Patiala mobile wing conducted raids at Sheetal Enterprises and Jindal Sales Corporation, Nabha, and detected tax evasion worth lakhs of rupees.

The Additional Excise and Taxation Commissioner, Mr H.S. Ghai, Chandigarh Mobile Wing conducted raids on the premises of three marble dealers. OC


Six Punjabi varsity dons lose seniority
Dean (Languages) resigns
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 3
The seniority of six Professors of Punjabi University granted by the former Vice-Chancellor, Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia was struck down by the Syndicate, forcing one of them to resign from the office of the Dean, Languages.

According to the minutes of the Syndicate meeting which was held on January 1, six Professors — Dr S.D. Gajrani, Dr G.R. Kataria, Prof D.S. Dhillon, Dr H.R. Verma, Dr Harbans Pathak and Prof Surinder Singh Khaira — had been promoted under the merit promotion scheme by the former Vice-Chancellor. Firstly the cut-off date of the seniority of the professors was not mentioned and later Dr Ahluwalia passed an executive order stating that all six teachers would get seniority from 1995. However, the order was not approved by the Syndicate.

At the Syndicate meeting held two days ago, the high powered committee constituted to inquire into the case submitted its report. The report held that the six teachers were not entitled to seniority from 1995 and that they should be given seniority with effect from 1998 as was the case of teachers under the career advancement scheme.

One of the teachers — Dr G.R. Kataria, pleaded his case before the Syndicate also as he was present in his capacity as Dean, Languages. However, following the decision of the Syndicate, Dr Kataria tendered his resignation as Dean, Languages to Vice Chancellor Swarn Singh Boparai on the spot. Dr Kataria was not available for comments today as he is out of station.

Sources said Dr Ranjit Kaur Kapoor of the English Department is now likely to be reappointed as Dean, Languages following the resignation of Dr Kataria. They said earlier also Dr Kapoor had been appointed Dean, Languages by present Vice-Chancellor Swarn Singh Boparai but the order was taken back when six teachers represented to the Vice-Chancellor that the seniority given by the earlier Vice-Chancellor should be allowed to be continued till a final decision was taken on the matter. This led to Dr Kataria being appointed as Dean, Languages.

According to the sources, the committee constituted to look into the entire case noted that the former Vice-Chancellor, Dr J.S. Ahluwalia, had interviewed the teachers in 2000. However it noted that the teacher were promoted without being assigned their seniority and the seniority was declared through an executive order of the Vice Chancellor later.


PTU guidelines on quality education
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, January 3
The Punjab Technical University (PTU) has issued guidelines to all engineering and management colleges affiliated to it to impart quality education to the students using emerging technologies. This was stated by PTU Vice-Chancellor Y.S. Rajan during the first convocation of the local Apeejay Institute of Management here today.

Mr Rajan said Indian and China were set to become a major centre for outsourcing professionals by 2010. “According to a recent survey, there is a great demand for English-speaking professionals from India, while developed countries, including the USA, the UK and Canada, were in the process of setting up permanent outsource centres in India,” he said.

“We have asked the affiliated engineering and management institutes to use latest technological tools to upgrade skills of the students,” he said. He added that the working methods in the organised sector had witnessed a sea change in the past one decade.

Later, he awarded degrees to at least 300 students of the college who had passed out since 1997. Others present during the convocation included the Director of the institute, Dr Balram Dogra, and Dr S.K. Salwan, senior adviser, PTU.


Ministry of Science recognises varsity course
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 3
The Department of Science and Technology (SDT) of the Ministry of Science and Technology recognised the Department of Human Genetics of Guru Nanak Dev University, a DST-sponsored department. The ministry has sanctioned Rs 34 lakh to promote research in the department. Prof A.J.S. Bhanwar, Head of the department, said the department had competed at national-level amongst 200 others for the special sponsorship and recognition.


Annual prize distribution function
Our Correspondent

Patiala, January 3
S.D.S.E Senior Secondary School organised an annual prize distribution function here today. The Chairman of the Punjab School Education Board (PSEB), Dr Kehar Singh, was the chief guest on the occasion. The DEO (Secondary) Ms Prit Pal Kaur Sidhu, was the guest of honour.

Speaking on the occasion Dr Kehar said there was a need to create awareness among students about the importance of education in life.

He added that educational institutions should inculcate the spirit of brotherhood and humanity among the students.

A cultural programme was also presented by the students of the school. Fancy dress show, bhangra and giddha were the main attractions of the programme. Besides this, senior office-bearers and 10 teachers of the school were also honoured.

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