P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Amarinder gets a breather
Focus now on Sonia’s Bathinda visit
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 7
The Congress high command has done what it thought was best in the interest of Punjab. It has designated Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, as ‘’deputy’’ Chief Minister. Yet, the dissidents who had sided with her all these weeks are restive and there persists a political disquiet in the state.

Now there are rumours that PPCC President H.S. Hanspal is to be replaced. The Chief Minister, Capt. Amarinder Singh, is against such a change at this political juncture, when the Lok Sabha elections are ahead. He told The Tribune tonight that he had conveyed his views to the Congress Working Committee, requesting that there was no point in ‘’rocking the boat’’ and changing Mr Hanspal. Such a step would have a cascading effect involving change in the entire structure of the PPCC.

To a question, he said, ‘’I do not know what the CWC will finally decide but before I left Delhi around mid-day, I did say that my views be conveyed to the Congress President’’. Informed sources said the thinking in the party high command on replacement of Mr Hanspal, was based on vote bank factors, including caste and community, since two Jat Sikhs were now in the top-heavy legislative wing. Organisational changes were intended to be more of a ‘’balancing act’’ to placate Hindu and Schedule Caste voters.

On the expansion and reshuffle of the Council of Ministers, the Chief Minister said he would go to Delhi on January 10 with the proposal. ‘’I have to have the permission of the party President and know her views on what should be the criteria. Whether only senior leaders are to be taken in or even first-time MLAs are to be inducted. “Only thereafter the expansion will take place. I do propose to induct half-a-dozen new faces. At the moment, all focus is on the visit of Ms Sonia Gandhi to Bathinda on January 15, and making it a success. The second priority is to prepare the organisational and legislative wings to work together for the Lok Sabha elections’’.

A Cabinet-rank minister, requesting anonymity said, what the party high command had done to placate the party dissidents was a calculated move. He said, ‘’It is a cosmetic touch exercise but it has given Capt Amarinder Singh the much needed breather. As dissidents’ team-leader, Ms Bhattal had blundered and floundered at the goal-post. Now dissidents will flock to the Chief Minister’’.

It is too early to say how much impact the present patch-work solution will have on the final outcome of the Lok Sabha elections. Though, damage-control will require net-working of the Congress organisational and legislative wings. At present, both these wings are split and divided, vertically and horizontally. No doubt, Capt. Amarinder Singh and Ms Bhattal are yoked together, it remains to be seen if they would move in the same direction or pull in opposite directions. The Chief Minister has three important engagements at hand at present. One, the visit of Ms Sonia Gandhi to Bathinda on January 15 for a programme on the empowerment of panchayats and two, reshuffle of his council of ministers and review preparations and short-list winning candidates for the Lok Sabha elections.


Cong leaders unhappy with district administration
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 7
Even as the Congress high command has been trying hard to curb dissidence in Punjab with an eye on the next Lok Sabha elections, a few Congressmen of this district said yesterday that they would approach the state and central leadership of the party against the functioning of district’s civil and police administration.

A section of the Congressmen brought this fact to the notice of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, when he visited his village a month ago, but there was no change in the functioning of the authorities. Mr Harminder Singh Jassi, Chairman, Markfed, Punjab, made efforts for bringing about an understanding between a senior civil official and Congressmen. However, it did not yield results.

Mr Kewal Krishan Aggarwal, General Secretary, District Congress Committee (DCC), Mr Gurmit Singh, President, Block Congress Committee, Bathinda (Rural), Mr Des Raj, former President, Municipal Council, Goniana, and Mr Amritpal, member, Sale Tax Advisory Committee, told The Tribune yesterday a few police, civil and other officials posted in this district had been trying to spoil prospects of the Congress in the Lok Sabha elections by not doing works on merits.

They added that they would inform the party leadership that if civil, police and other officials continued to ill-treat people and Congressmen and ignored merit, party’s candidates would suffer in the Lok Sabha elections.

They said they would also meet Mr Surinder Singla, local MLA and Chairman, High-Powered Finance Committee, Punjab, to bring grievances of Congress men to his notice and seek transfer of a few civil and other officials of the district.

Admitting that corruption was rampant in government offices and people had to face insults and harassment at the hands of Sale Tax officials and policemen, they said that these officials had harmed the anti-corruption campaign of Capt Amarinder Singh as they were hand-in glove with the Akalis. They demanded that assets of government officials working in Sale Tax Department, police and other offices be probed by an independent agency.

They said some of the officials, who occupy plum posts in this district by violating the seniority and using their “connections” had repeatedly been ignoring Congressmen and were not doing their “genuine” works and hence the Congressmen would not be able to ask for votes for party’s candidates in the next Lok Sabha elections.

They added that one official, who had been ignoring Congressmen, was the one enjoyed plum postings during the SAD-BJP rule in Punjab.

They alleged that bureaucrats in this district and other government officials had been ruling and Congressmen feel that the government in the state was not headed by a Congressman.


Most ministers stay away from sectt
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 7
Official activity in the Secretariat was as dull today as it has been for the past several weeks. Of the 16 Cabinet Ministers, eight Ministers of State and 5 Parliamentary Secretaries, only two — Mr Partap Singh Bajwa and Prof Darbari Lal — turned up at their offices before noon in spite of the fact it was decided at the last meeting of the ministry that all ministers would be in their offices on every Tuesday and Wednesday. “If the crisis in the ruling party has been resolved, why are ministers still staying away from their offices”, asked a senior IAS officer.

Chief Minister Amarinder Singh came back from Delhi this afternoon.

“Ministers should not be given salary and other allowances for the period they stayed away from their offices. They should be asked to pay for the official vehicles they used to fight their personal political battles during the past month”, said another senior official in the Secretariat.

Sources said almost all dissident ministers and MLAs were camping in Delhi. They would be there for two more days. Their agenda is to get a date fixed for an expansion of the Council of Ministers, apart from the appointment of Mr Gurkirat Singh Kotli, a grandson of late Chief Minister Beant Singh, as President of the Punjab Youth Congress and of Mr R.L. Bhatia as President of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee. Dissidents claim that the appointment of Mr Bhatia as President of the PPCC is a part of the “political deal” the party high command has made with them.

Dissidents feel that the leaking out of the news about Mr Bhatia’s appointment prematurely to the media by a nominee of the high command seems to be a calculated move to stop him from getting the post. “We are feeling dejected as we have gained nothing worthwhile from the month-long crisis”, said a senior dissident leader.

However, the neutral group in the Punjab Congress says that the high command is reviewing the move to appoint Mr Bhatia as President for three reasons. First, he has been openly colluding with the dissident group, secondly the age factor (he is around 80 years) is not in his favour and thirdly he is not acceptable to certain MLAs, loyal to the Chief Minister. A strongman like Bhatia, who has direct access to the party high command, can become a parallel centre of power vis-a-vis the Chief Minister.

Another power centre has already been created with the elevation of Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal to the rank of Deputy Chief Minister.

Sources said the party high command had also offered the post of the President to Mr Shamsher Singh Dulo, Congress MP from Ropar. But Mr Dullo, who was earlier keen to be the President, was now keener to contest the Lok Sabha elections, which he could not if he accepted the offer.

The CM camp would like the continuation of Mr H.S. Hanspal as President of the state unit Mr Hanspal has stood by the CM during the crisis. With the help of former DGP M.S. Bhullar, Mr Hanspal even brought two dissident MLAs to the CM’s camp. The next few days are crucial as far as the reorganisation of the party in Punjab is concerned.

Dy Speaker reaffirms faith in CM
Tribune News Service

Mohali, January 7
‘‘Itni kadurat se na dekh ahle sahil ahle toofan ko, kabhi aisa bhi hota hai, kinare doob jaten hain.’’ This is how the Deputy Speaker, Vidhan Sabha, and MLA, Kharar, Mr Bir Devinder Singh, described the ‘victory’ that Capt Amarinder Singh had achieved within his own party. He was speaking at a public function at Government College here in the presence of the Chief Minister.

Allaying all doubts about his unstinting support to Capt Amarinder Singh, he said he had full faith in his style of functioning. Flaying the Badal government for ruining the state during his regime, he congratulated the CM on taking on the former CM for his corrupt deeds.

The MLA requested the CM to grant Mohali the status of district keeping in view its growing potential. ‘‘It would be most befitting if SAS Nagar can be given the status of a district during the 300th year of Sahibzada Ajit Singh’s martyrdom.”


Bhattal fails to appear in court
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 7
Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal today again failed to appear in the District Courts where charges of corruption were to be framed against her. The case has been adjourned for January 10.

Taking up an application moved by the Punjab Government seeking permission to file a supplementary challan, Additional District and Sessions Judge, R.S. Baswana today directed Mrs Bhattal to be present in the court on January 10. Mr Baswana said the complainant could file an application challenging the filing of supplementary challan by the government.

At the very onset of the hearing, counsel for Mrs Bhattal informed the court that she was unwell and that she should be granted exemption. After hearing counsel, the judge remarked that this was not the first time Mrs Bhattal had fallen ill on the day of appearance.

Mrs Bhattal got the reprieve when the court, taking into consideration that she was suffering from some illness and could not appear, granted her exemption from personal appearance for today.

Meanwhile, Mr P.N. Lekhi, counsel of the complainant in the case (Mr Balwant Singh Dhillon) while talking to reporters alleged that this time the Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh himself was trying to weaken the case by extending his ‘‘helping hand’’ to Mrs Bhattal. According to him motive of the government behind the application seeking permission to file supplementary challan was to delay the matter.


Centre to take up PSGPC issue with Pak
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 7
The Government of India has agreed in principle to look into the demand of the SGPC for the maintenance of Sikh shrines in Pakistan on a priority basis. The External Affairs Minister is likely to take up the matter with his Pakistani counterpart.

The SGPC had proposed sending a delegation of seven persons to Pakistan for taking up the case of the PSGPC and restoration of maryada (Sikh tradition) in gurdwaras there.

The SGPC had also proposed to visit some main Sikh shrines in Nankana Sahib, Lahore and Panja Sahib to assess their conditions.

This indication has been made in a letter written by Mr Yashwant Sinha, Minister of External Affairs, to Mr Tarlochan Singh, chairman, National Commission for Minorities (NCM).

The PSGPC was formed in April, 1999, to mark the tercentenary celebrations of the birth of the Khalsa Panth. However, the then SGPC chief, Bibi Jagir Kaur, had stopped sending jathas to Pakistan in protest against formation of the PSGPC. The SGPC had been demanding that the control of Sikh shrines be handed over to a body led by baptised Sikhs so that ‘maryada’ could be restored in the gurdwaras there.

In a communication to the External Affairs Minister, Mr Tarlochan Singh had stated that the issue of the PSGPC had not been resolved. The NMC Chairman told Mr Sinha that the condition of Sikh shrines in Pakistan was pitiable and there was need to renovate them on priority.

Earlier, Mr Tohra had urged the NMC Chairman to take up the matter with the Government of India so that Sikh maryada could be restored in the gurdwaras of Pakistan. Mr Tohra had also expressed concern that Government of Pakistan or the PSGPC had not made sincere efforts for their proper conservation and maintenance.


Rs 80,000 in fake currency seized, four held
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, January 7
Continuing with its crusade against agents dealing in fake currency, the district police has arrested four persons and seized fake currency worth Rs 80,000 from them.

The district police chief, Mr G.P.S. Bhullar, stated here today that following the busting of a five-member gang of fake currency agents, involved in the distribution of fake currency worth Rs 49 lakh recently, the police conducted statewide raids and arrested four more agents and seized Rs 80,000 from them.

Special police teams conducted raids at these agents hideouts at Moga, Jalandhar and Anandpur Sahib on the revelations made by the kingpin of the racket, Jagtar Singh, who was arrested on January 3.

The arrested persons were identified as Kesar Singh of Heerpur village in Anandpur Sahib, Sukhchain Singh of Ajitwal village in Moga, Baljit Singh of Sangatpura village in Moga and Deepa of Chamiara village in Adampur.

Mr Bhullar further said that during preliminary interrogation, Kesar Singh revealed that he was caught by the Dubai police last year for staying in that country after the expiry of his visa and was sent to jail, where he came into contact with Jagtar Singh.

After his return to India, Kesar Singh was roped in into the racket and was given fake currency worth Rs 1 lakh in lieu of genuine currency of Rs 50,000 by Jagtar Singh. The police has seized fake currency worth Rs 25,000 in the denomination of Rs 500 from him.

Sukhchain Singh also went to Dubai in 1991 where one Puppy, who originally belongs to Faridkot, introduced the former to Jagtar Singh. Later, they came into closer contact after they returned from Dubai and fake currency worth Rs 2 lakh was given to Sukhchain Singh. The police has seized fake currency notes worth Rs 30,000 in the denomination of Rs 1,000 from him.

The police has also seized Rs 15,000 in denomination of Rs 1,000 from Baljit Singh while fake currency worth Rs 10,000 in denomination of Rs 500 was seized from Deepa.

The police has also identified two more agents and efforts are on to arrest them.


Journalists hopeful of lasting peace
Tribune Reporters

Wagah, January 7
The ice has started melting between India and Pakistan, which will help in the early restoration of normalcy after the meaningful bilateral talks during the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). These remarks were echoed by editors and journalists of various national and regional newspapers of the country, who returned from Pakistan after attending the four-day South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA) convention held at Rawalpindi, coinciding with the SAARC summit.

The president of the Indian Chapter of SAFMA and former Resident Editor of The Hindu, Mr K.K. Katyal, while talking to The Tribune said that the holding of bilateral talks on the sidelines of SAARC was the biggest political breakthrough between India and Pakistan. He said that India achieved a diplomatic victory when Pakistan pledged not to allow any terrorist activities against India from its soil. He pointed out that India had managed to drive home the important issue of cross-border terrorism to its neighbour and its acceptance by Pakistan would go a long way in creating a permanent thaw in the relations.

Mr Katyal said that since both countries had decided to initiate a comprehensive dialogue, including on the Kashmir problem, in February, it would help create a congenial atmosphere for shedding mistrust and build bridges to open trade and cultural barriers. The talks between Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Gen Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Mr Zafarulla Khan Jamali will lead to the consolidation of confidence-building measures. He said SAARC had managed to build understanding and create sympathy for each other.

Mr H.K. Dua, Editor-in-Chief, The Tribune, said Pakistan had been compelled by current circumstances for holding talks with India on three counts. Enumerating, Mr Dua said that Pakistan’s continuous isolation in the international arena for fomenting terrorism in the past, coupled with Pakistan becoming a victim of terrorism itself, and the assassination attempts on President Musharraf had forced it to start a dialogue with India. He said at the moment, the military in that country also seems to be backing General Musharraf in his bid to normalise relations with India.

Mr Prabodh Jamwal, Editor of The Kashmir Times, felt that the bilateral talks were indeed a path-breaking achievement for both countries. He said both countries had declared their intention to accommodate each other on the Kashmir issue, which was a very heartening proposition.


Sikh council writes to Chirac on turban
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 7
Mr Amarjit Singh Buttar, Chairman of the World Sikh Council, America region, has urged French President Jacques Chirac, to reconsider his decision to ban conspicuous religious symbols, including head dresses, from government schools and other places in that country.

In a letter addressed to the French President, a copy of which has been faxed to The Tribune office here, Mr Buttar said he was disappointed to hear that the French President had called upon the legislative body of France to ban conspicuous religious symbols, including head dresses from government schools and possibly other public places in the name of separation of church and state. “This can create a great hardship for a law-abiding and peaceful Sikh religious minority in France”, he said.

By adopting such a law, Mr Buttar argued France would not only be forcing Sikh students in government schools of France to choose between their religious and education, but also be interfering in their religious beliefs.

“For a person practising the Sikh religion, cutting of hair is forbidden and observant Sikh men and women are required to cover their heads in public. The Sikh men wear a turban. A ban will deny the Sikhs their most legitimate fundamental right to practise their religion. It will affect more than 7, 000 Sikhs residing in France and hurt the feelings of Sikhs all over the world, since wearing of turban is an article of faith for them.


Akali Dal against LS poll in April
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, January 7
Mr Parkash Singh Badal former Chief Minister Punjab and president of Akali Dal (Badal) has opposed holding of Lok Sabha elections in March and April 2004 because he said farmers in Punjab would be harvesting wheat and rabi crops. Mr Badal conveyed this to Mr George Fernandes Union Defence Minister in Sultanpur-Lodhi where Mr Badal had come for a rally 30 km from here today.

Mr Fernandes convener of the NDA invited Mr Badal to attend a meeting of the NDA at Delhi tomorrow. Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa Union Minister will attend the meeting on Mr Badal’s behalf.

Mr Badal said patch-up between Mrs Bhattal and Captain Amarinder Singh would not last.

He said that the NDA stood with him. Mr Badal said that he had made a representation to the Centre for action against hawala scam by Mr Raninder Singh son of the Chief Minister.

Mr Badal lauded Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee Prime Minister for his Pak visit.

Mr Badal along with Dr Upinder Jit Kaur, Mr Raghbir Singh, Mr Ajit Singh Kohar, Mr Balramji Dass Tandon, Mr Nirmal Singh Kahlon, all former ministers. Mr Charanjit Singh Athwal ex-MP and Mr Hira Lal Dhir district president BJP addressed the rally.

Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra president SGPC did not attend rally.


Nayyar calls for reunion of Punjabs
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 7
Eminent journalist Kuldeep Nayyar today sentimentally called for a reunion of both Punjabs, in India and Pakistan, to promote Punjabi on both sides of the border.

In a speech here after accepting the lifetime fellowship conferred on him, Mr Nayyar said the Partition had harmed Punjabi. He said as borders could not be changed, efforts should be made to enlarge the reach of Punjabi on both sides as the ethos and sentiments of the people on both sides was the same.

Earlier in his inaugural speech, religio-social leader Bhai Ashok Singh Bagrian said the Sikh religion did not belong to one section. Rather it represented the entire thought process from the First to the Tenth Guru.

Bhai Bagrian said the war philosophy advocated by Guru Gobind Singh was the first and rarest of its kind, adding the Guru himself sacrificed his two elder sons for the sake of righteousness in war while two others gave their life for the sake of religion.

Former Chief Secretary S.S. Dhanoa in his presidential address emphasised upon the need to look into and give meaning to the existing diversities in Punjabi language.

He said the simplicity of Gurmukhi script of Punjabi language gave straight and beautiful expression to even complex human experiences and abstract feelings.

In his presidential address, Vice-Chancellor Swarn Singh Boparai termed the compilation of Bani by Guru Arjan Dev in the form of Guru Granth Sahib as a “bliss to mankind”.

He said when rapid social change compresses humans to the point of disintegration it is the spirit of Gurbani which helped them to keep their psyche intact and gave a new meaning and strength to one’s life.

Citing the university’s effort for the development of Punjabi, the Vice-Chancellor said so far the Department of Punjabi Development had completed 103 projects and had started 60 new projects in language, literature and culture.

He said the university was in the process of making the entire encyclopaedia of the Sikhs available on the Internet, besides translating major Nobel Prize winning works into Punjabi.

Earlier, historian Dr J.S. Grewal was conferred a lifetime fellowship. Dr Grewal shared his sentiments and views about Sikh history on the occasion.

The Registrar, Dr Param Bakshish Singh, while presenting a vote of thanks dwelt upon the need to preserve Punjabi language, literature and culture in its historical perspective.

Dr Dhanwant Kaur, Head of the department of Punjabi Language Development, said the department inspired scholars and writers to delve deep into the ocean of Punjabi literature available till date.


No proposal to increase passport fee

Phagwara, January 7
The Union Minister of State for External Affairs, Mr Vinod Khanna, today said the Central Government had no proposal to increase passport fees from Rs 1,000 in the near future.

Talking to UNI during his two-day tour of the state, Mr Khanna said all passport offices would soon be interconnected through latest technology. He also said that the Union Government would pay Rs 200 to Deputy Commissioner’s office and Rs 100 to post office for each passport sent through the DC office or speedpost services to encourage the government departments to receive passport applications.

He said passport offices were issuing new passports within 35 days if police report with clearance certificates was received by passport offices, while in the Tatkaal categories, passports were being issued within 14 hours after getting all required formalities.

Mr Khanna condemned the Goraya bomb blast on the railway tracks on the January 5 night and alleged that anti-national forces were finding it hard to digest cordial relations with Pakistan as initiated by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. — UNI


Pensioners seek Rs 500 as medical aid
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 7
More than 300 pensioners at a function, organised on the occasion of Pensioners Day under the banner of the Sangrur Government Pensioners Welfare Association here today, urged the Punajb Government to grant Rs 500 per month as medical allowance to government pensioners. They also demanded revival of dearness allowance (DA) for the family pensioners, which was abolished by the Punjab Government from May 14, 2001.

Mr Sarvjit Singh, Deputy Commissioner, Sangrur, was the chief guest at the function. The Deputy Commissioner also honoured eight government pensioners, above 80 years old, on behalf of the association by presenting them a shawl and Rs 1,000 each. The amount of Rs 8,000 for honouring pensioners was provided by Mr Hardarshan Singh, a retired tehsildar. Those honoured were Master Tirath Singh, Headmaster Ranjit Singh, District Language Officer Khajan Singh, Mr Kartar Singh, (102), Mr Chanan Singh, Mr Amar Singh, Ms Vidiyawati and Ms Raj Rani. Besides, Prof Manmohan Singh, a pensioner, was also honoured on the occasion.

Mr Rana Raghu Partap, president of the association, demanded that pensioners should be exempt from income tax. Family pensioners should also be given travelling allowance on the pattern of LTC, he added.


Spokesman Editor fails to appear at Takht
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 7
Mr Joginder Singh, Editor of monthly magazine, Spokesman, today, failed to appear before Akal Takht here. The deadline for explaining his position today ended. Earlier, the Editor had questioned the validity of the notice issued by the Sikh clergy.

The Sikh high priests had charged Mr Joginder Singh with violating the edict issued from Akal Takht by supporting the excommunicated Canada-based Sikh, Mr Gurbax Singh Kala Afghana, Mr Joginder Singh was also the main organiser of the Sikh conclave and ‘sarbat khalsa’ at Mohali last year in which participants had decided to oppose the Jathedars. However, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti had indicated that the Editor could be given more time to explain his position. In case he (Mr Joginder Singh) continued to defy the directives of Akal Takht, action could be taken against him as per Sikh traditions.

Instead, Mr Joginder Singh had started mobilising the public opinion against the ‘arbitrary style’ of functioning of the Jathedars. He claimed that the Jathedars had no authority either to summon any Sikh at Akal Takht or excommunicate from the community.


Resentment after notice to demolish ‘unauthorised’ structures
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, January 7
There was resentment among residents of the “Angooran wala bagh” area, here following they were given notices by the Improvement Trust, ordering them to demolish their houses in six hours.

According to residents after more than 20 years the Improvement Trust (PIT) “discovered” these unauthorised structures.

The notices order the house owners in the timber market and truck stand schemes of the Trust to vacate the land.

Hundreds of residents fearing eviction today evening were worried and holding corner meetings and discussing action.

Residents alleged that notices to them were part of a deep-rooted conspiracy. They said they had built houses after buying land and the authorities had installed electricity and water connections to the residents of the area. Presidents had ration cards and were enrolled voters.

Sources also said the trust had spent more than Rs 50 lakh to develop the area.

The Improvement Trust authorities said that a few residents had moved court, and the case was decided in the favour of the trust on October 30, 2002, the trust has also put up a notice prohibiting sale of the land.

Meanwhile, 1,000 families have formed a “Sangarsh committee” and held a meeting today and decided to meet higher authorities in this connection.


Dharna by PSEB staff
Our Correspondent

Patiala, January 7
On the call given by the Joint Forum of PSEB employees, a large number of Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) employees from the south zone held a dharna in front of the PSEB headquarter in protest against the decision of state government to unbundle the PSEB here today.

The employees blocked the Mall due to which traffic was disrupted. Addressing the gathering leaders of the Joint Forum condemned the state government’s decision to dismantle the board against the interests of common man, farmers, industry and employees. The forum also criticised the Central Electricity Act 2003, and demanded its withdrawal.

Speaking on the occasion Joint Forum leader Amarjit Singh Sodhi further stated that even provisions existed in the Central Act which empowered the states to choose any model, thus there was no mandatory obligation to unbundle the PSEB by adopting the same model which had already failed in many other states.

The Joint Forum said due to some internal reforms such as marginal tariff increase, better management of interest burden on institutional loans, better grid management and improved metering, the board had managed to come out of the red. They added that government had not taken various stakeholders and public into confidence before taking such a ‘drastic step’ regarding unbundling of power board.

The members of the forum said they would intensify their agitation and would also organise a state-level “chakka jam” if the government failed to resolve the issue. Those who addressed the dharna included Karam Chand Bhardwaj, B.S Sekhon, Sukhdev Singh, Davinder Singh.

Besides this, various kisan union leaders, including Balkar Singh Dhakonda BKU (Ekta), Gurdarshan Singh (Khetibari Vikas Front), Shobha Singh (Jamhori Kisan Sabha) also addressed the dharna and extended full support to the PSEB employees.


Track sabotage: search begins
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, January 7
The police today launched a search in the city following an alleged bid to blow up a rail track near the Goraya railway station on Monday night.

Nakas were set up in the city to keep tabs on anti-national elements. Twelve persons, were detained for questioning. They were later released after verifying their antecedents.


Motor cycle patrolling launched
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, January 7
The Faridkot police launched motor cycle patrolling here today. The step aims at checking anti-social activities, crime and to regulate traffic.

Initially, five motor cycles, fitted with wireless sets, sirens, speakers and first aid boxes, have been deployed.

The town has been divided into five zones. Extra vigil will be maintained around banks, educational institutions etc. The complainants will have to lodge complaint with the Police Control Room or the Community Police Resource Centre from where message will be conveyed to mobile teams that will reach the spot within five minutes.

Mr Paramjit Singh Sarao, DIG, Faridkot police range said the strength of patrolling squad would be raised later on.


This man jacks up buildings not cars
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

A worker peers through a row of jacks which are used to raise houses
A worker peers through a row of jacks which are used to raise houses.

Patiala, January 7
Do you want to jack up your building ? Literally. Leave it to Bhupinder Singh. This 20 something unlettered building contractor has lifted more than a 100 buildings in Patiala using jacks.

A building with a long open space on which jacks have been installed on small pillars of bricks may astonish people, but Bhupinder says the process is safe and that nearly 175 houses have been lifted up without any hitch in the city. Nor is the process time consuming. Bhupinder says it usually takes one week to lift a building to the desired level which is usually three to four feet.

Explaining the process he says jacks are put into the walls by making small openings. He said the lifting is accomplished by installing the jacks on the beam of the lantern which is lifted. Bhupinder says this process ensures the division of the house in two and the lower walls are reconstructed to join the two ends again.

Bhupinder has apprenticed under his maternal uncle Mamchand, who is presently plying his trade in Gurgaon, whom he credits with the first one to start use of this ‘’made in India technology”. Bhupinder says his uncle had first used jacks to lift a bridge near his village in Yamunanagar in 1991. He says out of this endeavour was born the inspiration to lift buildings. Bhupinder says his uncle was able to lift a few hundred buildings in Haryana and Gurgaon coming to the help of people who had no option but to dismantle their houses to counter problems of flooding during monsoons as well as overflowing of sewerage into their compounds.

“There is little one can do when construction and repeated carpeting of street roads leaves the floor of ones house one to three feet below the surface”, says a resident of Aman Nagar. “This is when Bhupinder comes in handy”, he adds saying there was a perennial problem of flooding of many houses during the monsoon season in the city due to improper drainage facilities. Bhupinder himself says his method besides ensuring relieve from such problems, is also cost effective. He charges Rs 30 per square feet in case of a single storey building and Rs 95 per square feet in case of a double storey building. “This is 10 per cent of the cost which will have to be borne if the building is razed down and reconstructed”, he adds.

Scoffing at any fears about the safety of his procedure because it is not passed by any local government body, Bhupinder says before undertaking any work he signs an undertaking with the owner that he would be responsible in case of any mishap. He says to make his clients feel more comfortable he also stays on the first floor which is being supported by jacks till the work is over.

The self tought “engineer” says he used mechanical jacks which are modified for his use. He says in foreign countries the process was done by use of hydraulic jacks but that the technology was very expensive and could be used only to preserve the character of heritage buildings if needed. The young contractor’s dreams - lifting buildings from the base itself in coming days which he says can also be done. “I’ll dream of some other innovation to make it possible”, he adds.


Bandh held over shrine dispute
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, January 7
Perturbed over the alleged failure of the district administration to resolve the mosque-gurdwara dispute, shopkeepers and other businessmen of Noormahal today observed a bandh. They were demanding a solution to the vexed issue.

On a call given by the Mian Shah Fateh Ali Parbandhak Committee, the shops and business establishments remained closed while hundreds of residents assembled at the old bus stand chowk in Noormahal this afternoon to put pressure upon the authorities to resolve mosque-gurdwara dispute. Addressing the gathering, the president of committee, Mr Subash Chander, said that the delay by the authorities had led to tension among different communities. He urged the state government to direct the Deputy Commissioner to solve the issue keeping in view the religious sentiments of both communities.


Preneet Kaur pays tributes to Baba Ala
Monica Ahluwalia
Our Correspondent

Patiala MP Preneet Kaur pays obeisance at the ‘‘dhuni’’ of Baba Ala in the Quila Mubarak Androon complex
Patiala MP Preneet Kaur pays obeisance at the ‘‘dhuni’’ of Baba Ala in the Quila Mubarak Androon complex on Wednesday.

Patiala, January 7
Patiala MP Preneet Kaur today paid tributes to the founder of the erstwhile Patiala state - Baba Ala Singh, by paying obeisance at the “dhunni” established on the top of the Quila Androon complex.

The “dhunni”, which consists of a slow fire which has been burning since the formation of the quila, rests on a platform of bricks which go right down to the foundation of the quila. It is popularly perceived that Patiala is safe as long as the “dhunni” burns.

The Bhog of Guru Granth Sahib was held at Quila Mubarak and at Shahi Samadhan. Addressing the gathering she said that the foundation stone of Quila Mubarak was laid down by Baba Ala in 1763 and the ‘jyot’ burning at the premises of the quila was the symbol of peace and prosperity of the city.

Ms Preneet Kaur asked the residents of the city to come forward and work for the development of the city. She added that this would be the real tribute to Baba Ala. The president and secretary of Baba Ala Club, Mr D.S. Bhullar and Mr Jaspal Singh Dhillon, respectively, demanded that a Chair in name of Baba Ala Singh should be established at Punjabi University. They added that a statue of Baba Ala should also be installed in the city.


Expressing ideas with pencil, charcoal
Our Correspondent

Patiala, January 7
It is difficult to confine artistic talent. If cannot be expressed through the medium of colour, it will find another way out. As in the case of Tirlok Singh who has expressed his creative ideas through the medium of pencil and charcoal.

A 10-day exhibition of his sketches has been organised by North Zone Cultural Centre at Banasar Art Gallery at Sheesh Mahal here.

Tirlok Singh exhibited nearly 42 sketches of well-known religious, political and social personalities, including the Sikh Gurus, Pandit Nehru, Mother Teresa, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Sonia Ghandhi, Preneet Kaur, and Capt Amarinder Singh.

Besides numerous landscapes depicting the Punjabi culture and life style of the state.

He has captured various scenes from the daily life of a common man of Punjab.

Earlier an exhibition of his works was inaugurated by the Chairman, of Improvement Trust, Mr K.K Sharma, here on January 2.

Informing about his work Tirlok Singh, said it was his fourth exhibition and he was looking forward to organise an exhibition of oil paintings in near future.

Tirlok Singh is also planning to organise a two-day workshop in various government colleges of the city in association with the North Zone Cultural Centre shortly.


High Court
Prisoners freed on fake documents may be booked
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 7
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has expressed hope that the Punjab Government will continue to make “sincere and serious efforts to book those responsible for securing release of prisoners on parole or otherwise by manufacturing and procuring fake documents and certificates”.

Taking up the case filed by the Lawyers for Human Rights International alleging release of high profile prisoners on the basis of forged and procured medical certificates, a Division Bench, comprising Mr Justice G.S. Singhvi and Mr Justice Hemant Gupta, also directed forwarding of the order’s copy to authorities concerned for compliance. The judges also disposed of the petition as infructuous.

Earlier during the proceedings, Punjab’s Senior Deputy Advocate-General Charu Tuli informed the court that further investigations were on. She added that those instrumental in procuring fake documents for securing the release of the prisoners on parole would be booked and proceeded against in accordance with law.

It may be recalled that an inquiry held by Patiala’s Commissioner C.S. Srivastava had indicted three prisoners for obtaining emergency parole by preparing, procuring and furnishing false medical certificates.

In his report, Mr Srivastava had held that medical certificates regarding the relatives of prisoners Jaspal Singh, Agyapal Singh and Krishan Kumar were false. The report was prepared after recording the statement of several doctors, including senior medical officers, along with Patiala’s Central Jail Superintendent Jagjit Singh.

The Commissioner was initially asked to look into the matter and submit a detailed report. He was asked to give details of ailment suffered by the prisoners concerned or their relatives, besides treatment given to them by the doctors, along with medicines administered.

In its petition filed in public interest, the human rights organisation through press secretary Arunjeev Singh Walia had alleged the release of prisoners from Patiala’s Central Jail on the basis of forged and procured certificates.

Chohan case

Seeking the dismissal of a petition filed by once considered self-styled president of Khalistan Dr Jagjit Singh Chohan for early Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) polls, the Union of India today claimed that the elections were scheduled to be held on May 23.

In a reply submitted before the High Court, the Union of India asserted that the Government of India, in consultation with the Chief Commissioner of Gurdwara Elections and other agencies concerned, had decided upon the date.

They added that the petition was liable to be dismissed as public interest was not involved in the matter. Moreover, the elections had not been delayed due to any political reasons.

Dr Chohan, in his petition, had earlier alleged that the elections were not held even though the polls were due in 2001. Going into the background of the case, Dr Chohan claimed that the elections were initially held way back in 1979 and then after a gap of over 17 years in 1996 but were not held after that. Quoting the legal provisions, Dr Chohan had asserted that as per the Sikh Gurdwara Act the SGPC members could hold office for five years, but unfortunately the board’s history showed that the elections were rarely held on time.



Bail sought in human trafficking case
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, January 7
Even as the district police was conducting raids to apprehend former Miss Punjab Parpreet Kaur, her mother and her brother in the Rs 7-lakh human trafficking case, the three accused today reportedly moved anticipatory bail in the court of the Sessions Judge here.

The co-accused Baljeet Singh Brar was sent to judicial custody till January 20 by a local court, while Parpreet Kaur, her mother Narinder Kaur and brother Neeraj Brar have been absconding since Saturday following the registration of a case under Sections 406, 420, 34, 120-B, 323 of the IPC on the complaint of a Kaithal-based resident Lakhwinder Singh. Baljeet Singh Brar was later released on bail.

Lakhwinder Singh had alleged in his complaint that Parpreet Kaur had duped him of Rs 7 lakh on the pretext of sending him to the USA, while he had to sell his tractor and a shop to manage the money. While Parpreet Kaur got herself admitted to the Civil Hospital on Saturday, alleging that Lakhwinder had injured her with sharp-edged weapons.

Lakhwinder and one of his friends were handed over to the police by Parpreet and members of his family.

During investigation, the police found that Parpreet had allegedly duped Lakhwinder of Rs 7 lakh on the pretext of sending him to the USA. The police registered a case in this regard after hearing the news about the registration of a case, Parpreet immediately fled from the hospital and was absconding along with Narinder Kaur and Neeraj Brar.

Meanwhile, it was learnt that efforts were on to strike a compromise with the complainant by returning his passport and Rs 7 lakh.



Life term for killing wife

Faridkot, January 7
District and Sessions Judge Gurdev Singh yesterday sentenced Chand Singh to life imprisonment for murdering his wife in April 2001. His two brothers were acquitted by the court here.

Chand Singh, a resident of Himatpura in Moga district, killed his wife Manjit Kaur on April 26, 2001 suspecting her fidelity.

The couple was married for 23 years and had grown-up children and even a son-in-law. — UNI



Prem Sagar sticks to his statement in Sidhu case
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 7
Ravi Sidhu case approver Prem Sagar today admitted during cross-examination that he, during his confessional statement in the same case earlier, had stated that he was turning approver in the case because the former PPSC Chairman and another accused in the case, Randhir Singh Dheera, had committed fraud on him.

He also admitted that he had gone to the Central Jail on May 17 to receive Randhir Dheera when he came out on bail. He said he had gone with Dheera to the PWD Rest House in the city, where Vigilance Superintendent of Police Mukhtiar Singh was also present. The cross-examination will continue tomorrow.

Earlier, the Vigilance Department had filed an application against allowing the defence to recall Prem Sagar for cross-examination in the case. But, the court ruled that Prem Sagar be recalled for cross-examination.


Accused escapes from police custody
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 7
Baljinder Singh, an accused in 13 criminal cases of looting, snatching, dacoity and other heinous crimes who was lodged in the local Central Jail, escaped from police custody late last evening. The incident took place while Baljinder Singh was being brought back here by three policemen after he was produced in a court at Pehowa (Haryana) in connection with the trials in two criminal cases pending in that court.

Police sources said the accused, who had allegedly committed crimes in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh and was facing trials in 13 criminal cases, escaped from the police custody near Nidampur village in Sangrur district.

His two accomplices, Amarjit Singh and Dalbir Singh, who were also taken to the Pehowa court, did not try to escape from the police custody.

The sources added that after Baljinder Singh escaped, a case under Sections 223 and 224 of the IPC was registered against Mr Harpreet Singh, Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI), Punjab police, Mr Gurwinder Singh, Mr Binder Singh (both constables) and Baljinder Singh at Bhawanigarh police station.

Mr Kapil Dev, SSP, Bathinda, said the guilty policemen would be placed under suspension after the official formalities were completed. He added that so far it could not be known from the Bhawanigarh police whether these three policemen had been formally arrested or not.

Mr Sukhdev Singh Saggu, Superintendent, local Central Jail, said Baljinder Singh had been facing criminal cases in Mansa district, Batala, Anandpur Sahib, Jagraon, Dasuya, Talwandi Sabo, Fatehabad, Pehowa and Nalagarh.


Fresh case against patwari
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 7
The police has registered another case against the patwari, Gurpal Singh, his wife Satinder Kaur and Balwinder Singh a resident of Ghuman Garh for allegedly taking Rs 23.5 lakh from Varinder Singh and Harpreet Singh, both residents of Phoolanwal village in Ludhiana district, for making fake registration deeds of Canal Rest House at Adampur.

The case has been registered under Sections 420, 467, 468, 471, and 120-B of the IPC at Sirhind. Satinder Kaur and Balwinder Singh are still untraceable.

Meanwhile, the patwari was further remanded to one-day police custody by Ms Neelam Arora, CJM, today.


18 held, 25 cars recovered

Jalandhar, January 7
The police here claimed having arrested 18 persons and recovered 25 cars like Opel Astra, Scorpio, Maruti Zen and Wagon-R from them, said Mr Gurpreet Singh Bhullar SSP today. “After refurbishing nobody could suspect that these vehicles were stolen,” said Mr Bhullar.

He added poppy husk (1,335 kg) smack (1.8 kg) and ganja (7 kg) were also recovered. Eight country made illegal weapons — pistols and revolvers and Rs 9.72 lakh fake currency were also seized. — TNS


Varsity bans recruitment in defunct depts
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 7
Punjabi University has decided to stop recruitment in Arts and Languages departments which are not attracting students and instead has decided to focus on courses in management, information technology and banking to generate resources and provide better means of employment.

The university had earlier not given admission to new students in courses where there were less than five candidates.

There was no admission in the philosophy and Persian courses this year.

It has decided not to recruit teachers in the departments where there is less intake of students even if there are vacancies in the departments. These departments include Sanskrit, Urdu and Hindi. The Dean, Academics, Prof U.C. Singh, said the institution wanted to limit recruitment in courses where the student intake had decreased. It had also been decided to use the services of teachers who did not have students in other departments.

He said teachers of philosophy were being asked to teach comparative religion in the Guru Granth Sahib Studies Department. Similarly, teachers in the Languages Departments would be given short-term projects so that the university could expand its research base.

The Dean said there was a proposal to train students in short-term information technology courses for Quark, a company which had decided to set up its base in Ropar district.

The university was also in the process of starting more courses at its Mohali centre where it would specialise in the management and information technology field.

He said the university had asked (PUDA) to provide it land for the purpose.

Short term courses in banking would also be introduced. A diploma in insurance business would also be offered through correspondence. Courses in clinical psychology and counselling were also on the anvil.


Education dept staff warned against making false claims
Our Correspondent

Abohar, January 7
Former minister and PPCC vice-president Sajjan Kumar Jakhar has said teachers will have to motivate students to follow the Gandhian way of life to weed out corruption from all fields.

Speaking at annual functions of Swami Keshwa Nand Secondary School and Mother’s Pride Public School here, he said learning according to modern curriculum was essential to meet the global challenges in coming days but forgetting Indian culture and heritage could be fatal for the next generation. A major threat to the nation was from corrupt elements in politics and administration. The teachers must be honest in performing their duty. “Each one of us should fix a noble target of life and struggle hard to achieve it come what may,” he added.

While cautioning teachers and employees of the education department against projecting false statistics on literacy and compulsory education, Mr Jakhar said truth must be preserved. Sandy heaps of claims on government-sponsored schemes would be razed to ground within a short period. Only facts can help in formulating an effecting education policy. He asked people to keep a vigil on the quality of development works in rural and urban areas so that not even a rupee is wasted.

Dr H.S. Chahal, District Education Officer, exhorted students to take up science subjects as it may be difficult to progress in future without a thorough knowledge of science. Dr G.L. Nagpal also addressed the audience.


Junior docs’ plea to conduct exam in March
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 7
The Junior Doctors Association (JDA) at its general body meeting here today urged the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences to conduct its annual examination in March “to save them from various conditions that would come into force according to the rules”.

The JDA said that while vital academic time would be lost, the PCMS candidates would be reverted to parent cadre and posted in field, hampering their preparation for the examination. They urged the Vice-Chancellor to conduct examination on time. This was informed in a press note by the JDA president, Dr SPS Bedi.


40 students arrive from North-East
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 7
As many as 40 students from seven north-eastern states arrived here today under the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarathi Parishad’s students experience of inter-state living (SEIL) programme.

The group, including 17 girls, will stay with different families during their four-day tour to have first-hand experience of Punjabi lifestyle.

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