P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



CM has no power to give powers: Bhattal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 10
Apparently in a fiery mood, dissident leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal said here today that Chief Minister Amarinder Singh was no body to give her powers as Deputy Chief Minister.

“I have been made Deputy Chief Minister by the party high command and the powers to be given to me will be decided by the high command”, she said. Seemingly not in a mood of compromise with the Chief Minister, Mrs Bhattal said: “My elevation to the rank of Deputy Chief Minister is one part of the package. The other part of the package will be announced by the high command after the visit of Mrs Sonia Gandhi to Bathinda on January 15. Continuing, she said: “I am not working under Capt Amarinder Singh. I am Minister because of the party high command”.

She said the Chief Minister had confessed before the high command that he had made some blunders and that he would not repeat them. But it seems the Chief Minister had not changed. “Otherwise the CM would have not have made the statement that no special powers will be given to the Deputy Chief Minister (Mrs Bhattal)”, she added.

“Of Course, our main demand was the removal of Capt Amarinder Singh as Chief Minister. It had not been conceded. But we have remained silent on this issue as the party high command has told us to do so. Otherwise, I have a lot to say about Capt Amarinder Singh”, she added.

“All dissidents are united and are with me”, she claimed. She said that no explanation was sought from 10-odd Congress MLAs, who had failed to call on Mrs Sonia Gandhi on January 6. The MLAs, who met Mrs Gandhi yesterday, had made their position clear to her (Mrs Gandhi), said Mrs Bhattal.

Mrs Bhattal said all the remaining advisers and Officers on Special Duty (OSDs) would be asked to leave the Chief Minister’s office.

Asked about the setting up of selection committees for the recruitment of panchayat secretaries by the Chief Minister, Mrs Bhattal said she was not aware about this development, though the Panchayats and Rural Development Department was under her.

When asked about the finding of receipts regarding her case by the State Government, Mrs Bhattal, said all the records were with the Chief Minister’s office for the past two years. She said certain officers, who were posted in the CM’s office, had been tampering with the records.


Bhattal case hearing on January 22
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, January 10
A local court today adjourned the hearing in a case of alleged misappropriation of funds by Punjab Deputy Chief Minister (designate) Rajinder Kaur Bhattal till January 22. The matter was adjourned by Additional District and Sessions Judge R.S. Baswana.

After three adjournment on health grounds, Ms Bhattal today appeared in person in the court.

The public prosecutor submitted that the state government had found certain receipts pertaining to the withdrawal of amount from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. Further investigation into the matter was required.

Defence counsel Baldev Singh pleaded before the court that the framing of charges may be adjourned till the Punjab and Haryana High Court decided a petition filed by the state. The state, he added, had sought directions for deferring the framing of charges. The case, he asserted, was fixed for hearing on January 19.

Complainant Balwant Singh Dhillon had alleged Mrs Bhattal was involved in the embezzlement of Rs 20 lakh from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund during her tenure as Punjab Chief Minister in 1996. An FIR in the matter was registered against her by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau on the complaint of Mr Dhillon.

The court had ordered for framing of charges against Mrs Bhattal under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act and also criminal breach of trust against Mrs Bhattal on December 10.


All set for train to Pak
Varinder Walia and Ashok Sethi

Attari, January 10
A high-level joint inspection team of senior officers of Customs, Railways and security today reviewed the arrangements at the railway station to ensure the smooth resumption of the Samjhauta Express re-starting on January 15. The Railways have already issued notification for the resumption of the passenger, goods and parcel services from the scheduled date.

Foolproof security arrangements have been made to check the smuggling of narcotics, fake currency and arms at the railway station here. Despite the thaw in Indo-Pak relations, the customs and security agencies are not taking chances and have decided to step up vigilance.

The Customs have debarred porters from entering platform numbers two and three, designated for the arrival and departure of passengers. Earlier, the services of many porters were terminated by the Railways in view of their alleged activities. Trolleys have been introduced to facilitate passengers for carrying baggage on the pattern of international airports.

The Commissioner, Customs, Mr M.S. Negi, and Divisional Railways Manager (DRM), Mr H.C. Punia, who personally supervised all aspects said that all arrangements had been made and the train could resume any time. Mr Negi said that extra measures had been taken, including the installation of new X-ray machines, narcotic detection kits (NDK) and fake currency detection modules. He said that the record of passengers and goods had been computerised in a bid to step up surveillance.

The sister security agencies working at Attari railway station have already informed the Union Home Ministry that thousands of Pakistani nationals who had come to India in the Samjhauta Express in the past had not returned to their country.

Mr Negi said close circuit tvs had been installed at the two platforms designated for the Customs and Immigration departments to keep a close watch on the passengers. Mr Negi said 144 superintendents, inspectors and sepoys had been posted at the railway station here. They had been given training in courtesy and handling of baggage.

Mr H.C. Punia, DRM said the Railways had made elaborate arrangements and thoroughly checked the signalling equipments, communication, track and passenger amenities. He said of the 220 Pakistani railwagons, including 67 loaded with sugar which had been stranded after the snapping of rail link between the two countries, would be sent to Pakistan. The 37 Indian wagons, which were stranded in Pakistan, would arrive here after the resumption of the rail link.

Both Mr Negi and Mr Punia said that import and export would be increased manifold after the trade agreement and many traders had approached them for providing early availability of wagons.

Custom and Railway officials said that they would ensure the clearance of passengers and goods within the stipulated time.

The inaugural train from New Delhi would arrive here on January 15 while the train from Lahore would reach here at 12.30 p.m.


Indo-Pak exchange of dailies, news channels proposed
Our Correspondent

Wagah, January 10
Popular Pakistani newspapers, Jung, The Dawn, The News, and Indian newspapers may be freely available in both countries soon. Also popular news channels like Zee News, NDTV, Star News besides news channels of Pakistan like GEO TV, a Karachi and another Dubai-based news channels may soon be accessible to cable operators for viewers on either side of the border.

This was the path-breaking proposal of the South Africa Free Media Association (SAFMA) meet, said Mr Satnam Manak, vice-president of the Indian chapter of SAFMA, who arrived here today via the Indo-Pak land route after attending a media conference at Rawalpindi in Pakistan.

The proposal will seek to lift the existing bans and ensure duty-free flow of media products among Aouth Asian countries, especially when newspapers and news channels were freely available on the Internet. The idea had found many takers at the four-day SAFMA conference attended by nearly 1,000 foreign journalists, including those from Western countries, and South-Asian experts.

The proposed protocol also includes free movement of mediapersons across the region. With this, a journalist with a minimum of 15 years of experience/accreditation could be provided with some identification or system to ensure his/her free movement without visa. The facility could be in consonance with the facility being enjoyed by certain other categories of persons like parliamentarians, throughout the region. The proposal found a positive response when it was brought before five Minister of External Affairs, including Mr Yashwant Sinha and Mr Kasuri of Pakistan, besides Extrenal Affairs Ministers of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal, said Mr Manak.

In the context of better interaction between the two Punjabs across the border, Mr Manak said SAFMA’s India chapter would launch an Amritsar chapter on a par with SAFMA’s Lahore chapter this month. Both these chapters would hold their first meeting in either of the two cities in early April.

Clarifying that SAFMA did not confine itself only to media issues, he said the association would lobby for increased trade, information and material flow related to agriculture and industry on both sides of the border. He said the secretary-general of SAFMA, Mr Imtiaz Allam, would pursue this issue.

“The Kashmir issue was nearly non-existent as JKLF leader Amanullah Khan only objected about their (Kashmiris) non-inclusion in the SAARC summit,” Mr Manak said, adding that he was assured by the External Affairs Minister, Mr Yashwant Sinha, about taking up the Indo-Pak repatriation of prisoners.


Sikh issues to figure in Indo-Pak talks
Tribune News Service

Lapoke (Amritsar), January 10
The Government will discuss Sikh issues with Pakistan during the bilateral talks between the two countries in February. Issues, including the release of Sikh youths, languishing in various jails of Pakistan, restoring of maryada in Sikh shrines and handing of control of gurdwaras to baptised Sikhs, have been pending since a long time.

Talking to mediapersons here today, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, President, Shiromani Akali Dal, said he had already spoken to the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee in this regard.

Mr Badal and Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa were here to attend the ‘bhog’ ceremony of the father of Mr Veer Singh Lopoke, an Akali MLA.

Mr Badal said his party had geared itself for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections He said the sharing of seats with the BJP, the political partner of the SAD, would be worked out at the earliest.

Mr Balramji Dass Tandon, Dr Baldev Raj Chawla, both former BJP ministers, and Mr Daya Singh Sodhi, a former MP, were also present.

Coming down heavily on the Congress Government Mr Badal said Capt Amarinder Singh should have resigned as the Chief Minister as he had lost the faith of most of his colleagues. 


Union Secy reviews border security
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 10
The Union Home Secretary, Mr N. Gopalaswami, who is on a two-day visit to the border belt, today reviewed the security arrangements on the International Border in the wake of the improved relations with Pakistan.

His visit assumes significance in wake of the resumption of the Samjhauta Express from January 15.

Mr Gopalaswami also visited the Wagah border where he interacted with senior officials of various sister agencies working at Attari railway station and the joint checkpost.

Talking to the mediapersons here, he said the shortfall of manpower in the Border Security Force would be filled shortly.

The Home Secretary will preside over a high-level meeting to review the incomplete ‘galliara yojna’ (beautification of the corridor of Golden Temple) tomorrow.


Village celebrates Lohri of baby girls
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 10
It is a time to salute inhabitants of Manhera village near the historic town of Fatehgarh Sahib. They have not only broken the centuries- old tradition, but have a set a new path for society that has disliked the birth of the girl child since times immemorial.

Last evening, they collectively celebrated the Lohri of all baby girls who had born in the village during the past one year. They also organised a block- level seminar to highlight the importance of girls and women in society. The village panchayat led by the woman Sarpanch, Mrs Harjit Kaur, played host to the celebrations.

Since ages, in Punjabi society, Lohri is celebrated only for male children. But Manhera village has reversed this trend that has been criticised the world over for the falling female sex ratio. Punjab has earned the dubious distinction of " Kuri maaran da desh" ( a state of girl killers).

Lohri is celebrated only by the Punjabis. Special sort of sweets are distributed to celebrate the birth of male children on the occasion . " It was a big discrimination with girl children and we have tried to do away with it by celebrating Lohri for baby girls", said a resident of the village. 


80 lakh Bangladeshis in North-East, claims delegation
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 10
Contrary to the claims of Major-Gen Mohammad Jahangir Alam, chief of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), that no Bangladeshis were living in India illegally, students from the north-eastern states today gave a contrary version about the “large number” of such Bangladesh nationals living in their region. The students claimed that there was a large-scale continuing infiltration from Bangladesh into the Indian territory from the north-eastern side.

The 40 student delegates from nine states, representing 24 districts and major tribes of the North-East, including Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Tripura, Sikkim, were here on a national integration tour, “Bharat Darshan-Anubhav 2004,” organised by the Students’ Experience In Inter-State Living (SELL) programme and sponsored by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).

Mr Naba Bujar and Mr R Srikant from Assam, coordinators of the tour, while talking to The Tribune claimed that there were about 80 lakh Bangladeshis residing in the north-eastern states and a majority of them lived in Assam. Mr Srikant said in Assam, which had a population of more than two crore, there were 126 constituencies, out of which 60 were dominated by the Bangladeshis.

The delegation said the non-existence of fencing along the Indo-Bangldesh border, added to the woes of the people and led to a large-scale infiltration of Bangladesh citizens.


Bureaucrats caught in Congress infighting
Anirudh Gupta

FEROZEPORE: The border district of Ferozepore, which till recently had attained notoriety mainly for drug abuse, bootlegging and cross-border smuggling of narcotics, has suddenly gained infamy especially among bureaucrats who now seem reluctant to come here because of the ill luck that the officers have been running into during their tenure here.

More often than not, the year 2003 saw officers being martyred to the cause of political theatrics. For the first time ever in the history of Punjab, a serving Deputy Commissioner, Mr D.K. Tiwari, an IAS officer of the 1994 batch, was placed under suspension for quite unconvincing reasons best known to the powers that be. The decision evoked bitter criticism amidst bureaucratic circles and even the general masses. The reason cited for Mr Tiwari’s suspension was dereliction of duty, but actually it was clash of vested interests between local Congress legislators, which triggered the controversy resulting in his suspension.

In a House of 31 members of the Zila Parishad, the Congress had adequate majority, but due to the infighting within the Congress leadership vying for the control of affairs in this border district, the consensus over the name of a particular candidate could not be reached which aggravated the entire situation and the DC had to bear the brunt.

Thereafter, Mr Dharamvir, who was posted here as Commissioner Ferozepore Division, ran into bad luck as he took was suspended due to his alleged involvement in the forest scam during his posting as Secretary, Forest and Wildlife.

During the span of a year and a few months, this district, which is already suffering due to poor economy and lack of industrial growth, saw five Deputy Commissioners, which undid whatever progress had been made.

After Mr S.R. Ladhar, IAS was posted out on April 12, 2002, Mr Tiwari joined here as DC, but was abruptly posted out after 10 months. Thereafter, Mr Raminder Singh who joined here as DC on February 8, 2003, was transferred to Amritsar in the same capacity after a short stint of three months. Next in the line was Mr Vikas Pratap, who joined here on May 21, 2003, but was soon replaced by the present incumbent Mr Ranjit Singh on November 29, 2003.

Sources reveal that most of the postings have been due to the infighting between the warring Congress camps. The officers have been made the scapegoat. The recent posting of Mr Vikas Pratap, who had a tenure of a little over six months here, seems to the latest case of an officer being caught in the crossfire between political stalwarts of the region. Mr Vikas Pratap was shifted to PUDA at the ACA headquarters despite of the fact that he apart from being uncontroversial was doing a fine job here. His posting orders were first stalled on the instructions of the Chief Minister himself but later the CM was allegedly coerced to post him out by one of his close confidants hailing from the district.

Insiders reveal that the same was the case with so many other officers, including Mr V.K. Meena, ADC, Mr Praveen K. Sinha, SSP, and Mr Rakesh Aggarwal, ASP, Abohar, who all became victims of vested political interests. In this district, there seems to be a total vertical divide between the two warring Congress factions. Three Congress legislators have aligned themselves to the CM camp and three to the dissent group led by Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, On the one hand, Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi, Mr Sunil Jakhar and Mr Ravinder Singh Sandhu have pledged their support to Capt Amarinder Singh, the discontented lot includes Mr Hans Raj Jossan, Mr Mohinder Rinwa and Mr Prakash Bhatti support Mrs Bhattal.

The residents plead that instead of fighting for their petty political interests, the elected representatives should do something constructive for the district.


SAD open to poll alliance with BSP
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, January 10
The Secretary General of SAD, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, today revealed that his party was open to the idea of forging a pre-poll alliance with the BSP to ensure the defeat of Congress candidates in the forthcoming general elections.

Talking to reporters here today, Mr Dhindsa said though a formal announcement regarding holding of general elections was being awaited, but SAD was ready to forge pre-poll alliance with any party, including the BSP, to ensure the defeat of Congress.

Regarding the controversy over seat adjustment with the BJP, he maintained that the issue would be deliberated upon during the next meeting of Political Affairs Committee (PAC). “Winability will be the main criteria for sharing of seats,” he asserted.

The Union Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister alleged that the Congress Government in the state had failed to initiate development works during the past about two years while the government had remained busy in either settling scores with its political opponents by getting fake cases registered against them or to curb dissidence within the Congress Legislature Party (CLP).


Cong MLAs, MPs meet today
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, January 10
PPCC President H.S. Hanspal has convened a meeting of party MLAs, MPs and other leaders at Chandigarh tomorrow in connection with the preparations for the January 15 visit of AICC President Sonia Gandhi to Bathinda. They will also chalk out the strategy of the party for the coming Lok Sabha poll.

Mr Hanspal today informed that Mrs Gandhi was visiting Punjab to January 15 in connection with devolution of powers to Panchayati Raj institutions.


Nursing institutes raided for flouting norms
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Mohali, January 10
About a dozen nursing institutes across Punjab being run under the aegis of the Punjab Nursing Council were raided by the state health secretary today following complaints of blatant flouting of council norms by them. The raids which started today will continue for a month and cover every nursing institute registered with the Punjab Nursing Council.

None of the institutes visited by the Health Secretary's team was found to be complying with the norms. While in one case a nursing institute was running from a one- kanal (500 square yards) house here, in most of the other institutes, the college management was not following the teacher-pupil ratio laid down by the council.

Talking to The Tribune, Mr Satish Chander, Secretary, Health, Punjab, informed that these institutes would be given notices on Monday and a two- month notice period. ‘‘In the case of non-compliance, these institutes will not be allowed to take students in the forthcoming session in May-June,’’ he said.

The Secretary's team seems to have taken the bull by the horn, starting these raids from the institutes being runin Mohali, Kharar, Zirakpur and Dera Bassi, where a majority of these are being run and managed by families of political bigwigs.

The institutes raided today include the Charanjit Memorial School of Nursing, Mohali, which is allegedly functioning from a residential house. ‘‘This institute was blatantly violating all norms,’’ said Mr Chander.

The other institutes that were raided include the Victor School of Nursing, Kharar, Saraswati School of Nursing, Gharuan, Mata Sahib Kaur Nursing School, Mohali, Rattan Professional College Sohana, Amar School of Nursing, Zirakpur, National Dental College, Dera Bassi, and the Nursing Institute being run at Fortis Heart Institute, Mohali.

‘‘Other than the institute at Fortis, none of these institutes are functioning from their own buildings. All buildings being used are hired, which is not allowed. Secondly, a majority of these institutes are not following the teacher-pupil ratio laid down for teaching,’’ informed Mr. Chander.

The teacher- pupil ratio should be 1:10, but in many colleges the staff strength was even less than 50 per cent of what is prescribed. ‘‘In most institutes the hostel accommodation for the students was found to be deficient. There should not be more than two students in one room, but in some colleges there were eight students sharing a room,’’ said Mr Chander.

Most of the colleges were also found to be flouting the rule which makes it binding on the college to have a hostel within the college complex. ‘‘In two cases, the hostels were as far as 3 km away and that too in rented residential houses,’’ he added. Many colleges did not have a proper library or laboratories and even lacked duly qualified staff.


Stage set for empowerment of panchayats
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 10
The Punjab Government is all set to empower the panchayati raj institutions. A formal announcement in this connection will be made by Congress President Sonia Gandhi at Bathinda on January 15.

Bathinda has been chosen as a venue for the conference as it is located in the Akali dominated Malwa belt. Capt Amarinder Singh’s objective is to make inroads into the Akali belt by establishing direct contact with panches and sarpanches through the conference.

The issue has been hanging fire since 1995 when the then Council of Ministers headed by late Beant Singh had approved the devolution of powers to the panchayats. But no one implemented the decision. Even, the present government would have delayed it had the Punjab and Haryana High Court not intervened. The court had asked the government to devolve powers on the panchayats within three months, according to a senior officer of the Panchayats Rural Development Department.

Instead of district planning boards, all decisions on the development of rural areas would be taken by the Chairpersons of Zila Parishads. In the first phase, various departments will authorise Zila Parishads to handle various schemes at the district level.

The government has decided to render the monitoring of primary health services to Zila Parishads. Besides, a chairperson, each Zila Parishad will have a Chief Executive Officer enjoying the same seniority as the Deputy Commissioner of the district concerned or even senior to him so as to ensure smooth functioning of these organisations. Zila Parishads will have the powers to check the availability of medicines in dispensaries and attendance of doctors and paramedical staff there.

The recruitment of teachers, opening of schools, inspection of schools and checking of attendance of teachers will be in the jurisdiction of panchayati raj institutions at the district and village levels. Cases of pension for old age persons, widows, destitute women and dependent children would be approved and funded at the Zila Parishad level with the help of panchayat samitis and gram panchayats.

Besides, the Zila Parishads will have the power to attest documents Sarpanches will also enjoy such powers, Recruitment boards would be set up at the district and block levels for recruitment in panchayati raj organisations. Panchayat Samitis will have the power to approve an expenditure of up to Rs 20 lakh and a gram panchayat up to Rs 10 lakh.


Wakf Board to get 23,000 properties vacated
Our Correspondent

Barnala, January 10
Following the disbanding of undivided Punjab Wakf Board by the Union Government, now the Wakf Board will get its 23,000 properties worth about Rs 1000 crores in the state vacated.

These properties had allegedly been illegally occupied by certain influential persons.

Mr Mohammad Izhar Alam, Additional Director General Police (Vigilance) -cum-Chief Executive Officer, Punjab Wakf Board gave this information to mediapersons while addressing a press conference in S.D. Senior Secondary School, Barnala   Complex today ( Saturday).

He revealed that 61 per cent share of properties of the Joint Punjab Wakf Board had  been offered to Punjab Wakf Board. He informed that Mr S.K. Sinha, Principal Secretary, Home, Punjab had been made its Administrator in  ex-officio capacity.     

Mr Alam said he had already requested IGs, DIGs, and SSPs to help him in getting the properties vacated.

He made it clear that income generated by the Punjab Wakf Board would be spent  for the welfare of common poor  people, public health care, education of poor students and old age pension of senior citizens.


Ten lakh expected at Maghi Mela
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, January 10
As about 10 lakh people are expected to visit this historical town during the three-day Maghi Mela, the district administration has made elaborate arrangements for the convenience, safety and security of the pilgrims.

The Maghi Mela, which is held every year to mark the supreme sacrifice made by 40 Muktas (liberated ones) during the last battle of Guru Gobind Singh with the Mughals at Khidrana-ki-Dhab (now Muktsar), will be held at the space around the Mini Secretariat here from January 13 to 15.

People from all over the country and abroad will pay obeisance at the historical Gurdwara Tutti Gandi Sahib and take a dip in its sarovar.

Mr R.S. Khatra, SSP, said security arrangements had been made to prevent any untoward incident during the mela. Arrangements had also been made for the smooth flow of the traffic. Policemen in plainclothes would be deployed on the mela premises to keep a check on the activities of anti-social elements and prevent eve-teasting.

Mr Ravinder Singh Sandhu, Parliamentary Secretary, Punjab, who visited this town today to see the arrangements made by the district administration, said the authorities had been directed to ensure that no pilgrim should suffer any inconvenience.


Punjab Govt to spend 500 cr on developing urban slums
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 10
The Punjab Government will spend Rs 500 crore for providing basic civic amenities like sewerage, water supply and street lighting in urban slum areas, said Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, Minister for Local Bodies, while addressing a gathering at Mandi Gobindgarh in the district.

The minister inaugurated the new block of the bus stand, constructed at a cost of Rs 70 lakh, as well as a water supply scheme completed at a cost of Rs 9 lakh. He also laid the foundation stone for a municipal park to be constructed at a cost of Rs 1 crore over four acres in the town.

Interestingly, Mr Sadhu Singh, MLA from Amloh, who was in the Bhattal camp during the conflict between two warring factions of the Congress, appeared at a public function after two months. In his address, he did not mention the Punjab Government or the Chief Minister.

Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, in his address, said the Local Bodies Department had constituted a special vigilance cell to ensure transparency in the working of the department. He said Mrs Sonia Gandhi would visit the state on January 15 to inaugurate a scheme of the government to give more powers to village panchayats. He said the development of urban areas would be done as per the wishes of the MLAs concerned.

Addressing the gathering, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, MP, said he had sanctioned grants to almost all villages and towns falling in his Ropar constituency. He said he would distribute his remaining grant of Rs 1.75 crore till January 31 as per the requirement of all seven MLAs in his constituency.

Mr Sadhu Singh highlighted the various development projects initiated in his constituency. He said the previous Akali government had prepare an estimate of Rs 2 crore for the bus stand, whereas it had been completed at a cost of Rs 70 lakh.

Mr Joginder Pal Singla, president of the Municipal Council, said the council had set up a computerised complaint centre in the council, where grievances of the public would be redressed within two days. He also gave detailed information about ongoing projects in the town since the formation of the Congress government. Mr Joginder Singh Maini, Mr Jagmeet Singh Sahota, both senior Congress leaders, Mr Lachhman Singh, EO, and Mr Charanjeev Channa, president, MC, Sirhind, also addressed the gathering. 



Steps to give police people-friendly image
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 10
To present a people-friendly image, the Punjab police is busy improving its house-keeping and taking steps at modernisation for better crime detection and investigation, despite financial constraints.

To this effect, the Director-General of Police, Mr A A Siddiqui, today allowed the media a peep into the functioning of the police at a press conference. Conceding much more was required to be achieved in terms of behavioural and attitudinal change in the police culture, Mr Siddiqui claimed that there wasan overall reduction in the crime rate in 2003, as compared to the previous year, despite liberal registration of cases and complaints.

In fact, out of 13,600 complaints received in the internal vigilance cell, over 5,600 were against the policemen. While several cops were proceeded against by the department, cases were registered against many others.

The DG.P said if internal audit of manpower and resources had enabled the police to inject work culture efficiency and introduce concepts like community policing, all-women police stations, first traffic police station, women and child and NRI help-lines, it had also helped crack several cases of heinous crime, bust gangs of thieves and scoundrels, unearth fake currency rackets and fraudulent NRI marriages.

Besides policing, care was also taken to impart training, organise orientation courses and arrange classes to help cops update skills and de-stress.

He answered a wide range of questions, like brazen behaviour of cops on VIP security duty toward ordinary people and criminalisation and politicisation of the police. He replied to comments and questions on the reinstatement of tainted cops, re-employment of retired personnel on contract, flaws in investigation into Daler Mehndi case, fate of the UBDC irrigation scandal or kidney scam and incidents of' "supari'' killing.

He showed concern over the prevailing traffic chaos on the roads in the state, traffic violations and accidents. At least 4,165 lives were lost and 3,796 persons injured in accidents in 2003. Faced with financial problems, the police now proposed to seek weapons and vehicles and other requirements from the Centre.

Recently, a finger print analysis and criminal tracing system was installed in Phillaur, which can store record of up to 5 lakh criminals. Referring to the police officials facing courts for their role during militancy, Mr Siddiqui said nearly 500 of them were involved in litigation at the High Court or the Supreme Court level. As many as 53 cases were under trialt There were 80 writs in the High Court and 30 n the Supreme Court. The conviction rate, however, was low.

To a question he said, ''A new Police Act is under the consideration of the government and to that is hinged the issue of introducing the commissionerate system of policing in the four major cities''.


PSEB to spend Rs 60 lakh on opacity meters
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 10
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) has decided to put up opacity meters wherever needed at its thermal plants to reduce the volume of suspended particles discharged by the plants.

According to sources, while opacity meters have already been fitted in four units at Ropar, these would also be fitted in the two remaining units at Ropar besides in other thermal plants. The board is expected to incur an expenditure of Rs 60 lakh on this.

The board was earlier following stipulations which made it mandatory to reduce the suspended particles in the air to 150 milligram per newton cubic meter. Now the Ministry of Environment and Forests has directed to bring down the levels of suspended particles to 100 per newton cubic meter which is necessitating the installation of opacity meters.

The PSEB has in another decision decided to construct a treatment plant at Ropar at a cost of Rs 5 crore to treat the discharge of its thermal plant.


Ghulam Ali to perform in Patiala
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 10
Ghazal singer Ghulam Ali is set to be the star attraction at the second Patiala Heritage Festival which would be organised in the city from February 14 to 22. Others who have confirmed their participation are vocalists Girija Devi and Rajan - Sajan Misra, danseuse Shovana Narayan and flutist Hari Prasad Chaurasia.

Stating this here yesterday at a press conference, Patiala MP Preneet Kaur said certain exponents of the Patiala Gharana would also perform at the festival and that Habib Tanvir’s “Charan Das Chor” might also be staged.

She said a crafts mela would also be organised from February 15 to 29. She said though the mela would be on the same lines as last year, this year it had been decided to have two theme states, Kerala and Uttaranchal.

The festival would comprise classical cultural evenings of music and dance, an evening of ghazals, pop concert, a fashion show and a theatrical performance. Besides this a painting exhibition, a three-day workshop of Quila Mubarak and heritage walks around the quila and the old city would be organised. She said sports events to be held during the festival would include rural sports tournaments, golf tournament, a cricket match and a polo tournament.

Patiala Heritage Society Secretary Tejveer Singh said the society aimed to take up the restoration of Quila Mubarak with the Punjab Government. He said besides this the government was likely to set aside certain funds to match contributions from the World Monument Watch Fund which had recently put Quila Mubarak on the list of 100 endangered monuments in the world. The Heritage Society had also decided to focus on historical gates in the city which were in a dilapidated condition.

The society was also proposing to facilitate tourists wanting to come to Patiala during the festival days. It was proposing a daily bus service from Chandigarh and Ludhiana and might also offer a weekend package to tourists wanting to come to the city during the festival. It would get people from the rural areas free of cost to the city during the festival so that they could also experience the folk culture and handicraft tradition of different states.



Former Navy sailor in penury
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 10
A 60-year-old Navy sailor is being forced to live in penury. Reason: non-implementation of rules by departments concerned has deprived him of pensionary benefits. He has not been issued an identity card. He can’t avail of canteen facilities and other allied benefits.

Chattar Singh Saroay, a resident of village Upal Heri near Rajpura had joined the Indian Navy as a Boy Sailor in 1960. He left the Navy in 1976 after rendering 15 years and five months of service. Besides a year of training, he had also spent four years as a Boy Sailor.

The ex-servicemen cell, Mohali, has written letters to the Director, Pay and Allowances at Naval Headquarters, New Delhi and the Commodore, Bureau of Sailors, Mumbai, yesterday. The Cell has pointed out in the letters that despite high court directions the period of boy service has not been counted while calculating his pension.

Earlier, the boy service period was not counted for assessing pensionary benefits. It was only during the eighties, after a number of affected persons sought judicial remedy to their grievances that the court directed that the period be taken into account.

Saroay, thereafter wrote the pension authorities several times, but did not receive any response. Following the court rulings, he had become eligible for the grant of pension as he fulfilled the criteria of a minimum of 15 years of service.

This criteria is in sharp contrast with the pension regulations governing civilian employees, who become eligible after 10 years of service.

Saroay suffered another blow when the authorities refused to treat him as an ex-serviceman. When he had left service, the rules stated that any personnel who had completed five years of service could be called an ex-serviceman. Thereafter, the rules were amended and a defence personnel should be drawing a pension to be called ex-serviceman.


CPI(ML) holds rally against corruption
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 10
The district unit of the CPI (ML-New Democracy) today held a rally at the Kaula Park market here and a march through the town in protest against the prevailing corruption, implementation of policies of the WTO and the 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution by the state and the Central Governments.

The rally was addressed by Mr Sardara Singh Mahal and Mr Ajmer Singh, both state committee members of the party, Mr Sukhwinder Singh “Pappi”, secretary of the district unit of the party, and Mr Raminder Singh, state president of the Punjab students Union.

Almost all speakers at the rally criticised the Congress and the SAD leaders for “indulging in corruption” and said that both parties were misleading the people on one pretext or the other to gain public support for capturing or remaining in power.

The leaders also stated that all political parties had earlier supported the WTO’s policies to achieve petty gains, but some of these were now criticising these policies. They demanded that the Government of India should reject the WTO agreement.

They alleged that under the garb of more powers to the panchayats and the local bodies through the implementation of the 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution, the people were being deprived of basic living facilities like health.


BBMB begins desilting of 2 village ponds
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 10
Under its community development programme, the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) started desilting operations of two village ponds at Ghati village in Himachal Pradesh today. The villages are near the Pong Dam reservior managed by the BBMB. All equipment and resoures of the BBMB will be used in the process.

A spokesperson for the BBMB, which has its headquarters in Chandigarh, said Mr Rakesh Nath, Chairman, BBMB, inaugurated the desilting process. The pond capacity will increase and it shall be used for rain water harvesting.

Mr Nath, accompanied by Mr Narinder Sharma, Chief Engineer, Beas Dam, also inaugurated a free medical camp at Sathanavillage in Himachal Pradesh in the vicinity of the dam. 


Govt charges Rs 30 for fax, private owners Rs 6
Our Correspondent

Batala, January 10
Resentment prevails amongst residents of the town against indifferent attitude of Telegraph Office here which had the Fax facility in office.

People alleged that Telegraph Office, was charging rupees 30 per page for a fax sent to Jalandhar, Ludhiana or Chandigarh etc., whereas the private fax owners charged only metered bill and a single page faxed to Chandigarh cost rupees six only.

When contacted officials of the Telegraph Office, Batala on phone no. 240452 which had the fax facility in office, the person on the duty said that they were obeying the order of their seniors and it was a policy matter of the Central Government. They are charging rupees 30 per page faxed to the other stations of India.


Surgical feat to remove heart tumour
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 10
Rare open heart surgery was performed to remove a tumour at Escort Heart and SuperSpeciality Institute here by heart surgeons led by Dr Harsharnbir Singh Pannu, Dr Arun Goel, Dr Pankaj Goel, Dr Rajesh Arora and Dr Punit Verma.

Ms M Kaur (35), a resident of Bathinda was operated upon for a tumour in her heart. Tumour greater than the size of a golf ball or an egg was removed.


Central sops poll stunt, says Santosh
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, January 10
Former AICC Secretary and Lok Sabha Member Santosh Chowdhary today declared that she was not in the race for the post of president of the PPCC.

Talking to newsmen, she asserted that any talk about it was mere kite-flying. On dissidence plaguing the party, she claimed that the differences were just a family affair and were now over with the intervention of party president Sonia Gandhi. She said they would win the Lok Sabha elections in the country.

The NDA government had become directionless and was doling out pre-poll sops in its interim budget for the rich and the upper classes, she alleged.

Punjab Social Welfare Minister Joginder Singh Mann, who was also present, denounced the Central sops as an election stunt.

The two leaders had come here to inaugurate the new building of the Block Resourse Centre constructed under sarb sikhya abhiyaan. 



Bail denied in human trafficking case
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, January 10
While the district police has so far failed to arrest the three absconding accused, including former Miss Punjab Parpreet Kaur Brar, in the Rs 7 lakh human trafficking case, the Additional District and Sessions Judge, Mr K.K. Garg, today dismissed the separate applicaiton filed by the accused seeking anticipatory bail.

Earlier, the public prosecutor, who presented the police record before the court, argued that anticipatory bail should not be granted for the serious nature of allegations. On the other hand, defence council Mandeep Singh Sachdeva contended that though his client Parpreet Kaur, in her statement tot he police, had alleged that Kaithal-based Lakhwinder Singh and his friend had tried to rape her and attacked her with a knife, in an attempt to kill her last Saturday, no case was registered against the duo.

The defence council termed the allegation of involvement of Parpreet Kaur and her mother and her brother in human trafficking as baseless. Later, Mr Garg dismissed the applications for the grant of anticipatory bail.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that Parpreet Kaur and other accused have approached the crime wing of the state police, demanding the case to be probed by a senior police official.



10-yr RI for 2 in rape case
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, January 10
The Fast Track Court-cum-Additional Sessions Judge, Gurdaspur, today sentenced Des Raj and Raj Kumar, residents of the Dharkalan area here, to 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment and also directed them to pay a fine of Rs 5000 each under Sections 324-325-376 of the IPC in a case registered at the Dharkalan police station.

The two men had raped a woman on Divali night in 2002 and also beaten up her husband.


Patwari’s remand extended
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 10
Mrs Neelam Arora, CJM, today extended the remand of Mr Gurpal Singh, a patwari, for two more days as the police pleaded in the court that it had to take the patwari to Delhi to arrest Ravi Khanna whose name had been disclosed by the patwari during interrogation.

The money he collected after selling the canal rest house at Adampur along with 19.5 acre of land was allegedly lying with Ravi Khanna.

Sources said the patwari had told the CIA staff during interrogation that he had been running a racket of call girls and Ravi Knanna allegedly used to supply the girls to him.

Meanwhile, the police has registered another case against the patwari on the complaint of Paramjit Kaur, a government employee, who said he had settled the sale of the canal rest house for Rs 18 lakh with her and she had given Rs 2.5 lakh as token money.



Farm information centre opened
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, January 10
The state Agriculture Department, in its bid to update farmers regarding the availability of international mandis to sell their produce, has decided to set up 38 ultramodern farmers’ information and advisory centres throughout the state under the World Bank-funded National Agriculture Technology project.

This was revealed by Dr Ajmer Singh, Director, Agriculture Department, at a function to inaugurate one such centre at Adampur, near here, today.

He said as part of the pilot project, the department has decided to set up such centres in four districts of the state, including Gurdaspur, Jalandhar, Faridkot and Sangrur. Fifteen centres are already operating at different locations.

The Director said, “We fell the need to update the information level of the farmers regarding the availability of suitable international markets to sell their produce to ensure better profitability. We are also deploying a plant doctor and a computer operator at each centre who will inform the farmers about revised guidelines issued by the department to solve their problems regarding the availability of seeds, pesticides and insecticides”.

“These centres will act as facilitators for the farmers to go global, particularly in the context of the full-fledged implementation of the GATT agreement in 2005,” he said. Latest computers with Internet facilities were being installed at these centres.


Water shortage drowns MC claims
Our Correspondent

Nabha, January 10
In spite of tall claims made by the local municipal council the supply of water has remained erratic, especially during morning hours. The council authorities had claimed that inadequate supply of water was due to tullu-pumps and the condition would improve automatically in the winter. But the problem still persists.

Residents complain that their roof tanks remain empty for most of the time due to low pressure. A senior citizen, Mr Prem Gupta, complained that the booster pump, catering to the needs of people of at least five wards of the town around railway station, bus-stand and cinema, had remained out of order for the past nine months and they were getting water supply only for a few hours.

Another resident, Mr Jagdish Chand, said the water was also contaminated as the supply pipes were rusted and due to seepage, drain water was getting mixed with domestic supply.

He feared that this would lead to many water-borne diseases.

He said the low pressure was due to inadequate number of water tanks in the town. The town had only one water tank to cater to the needs of a population of about 70,000. He said no new tank had been set up in the town for the past 20 years.

Mr Jiwan Das, an office-bearer of the Senior Citizens and Pensioners Association said no preventive measures had been taken by the Municipal Council to avoid water crisis in the city.

The Executive Officer of the Municipal Council claimed that the town had adequate number of tubewells but people themselves had caused the problem by installing tullu-pumps with the water supply pipes.


1 pc increase in sales tax collections
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 10
The Excise and Sales Tax Department has registered an increase of 10 per cent in the collection of sales tax by earning Rs 2372 crore in the first nine months of the current financial year. The total collection of sales tax revenue was expected to be Rs 3368 crore by the end of the year.

Mr Rahul Bhandari, Additional Excise and Taxation Commissioner, Punjab, who reviewed the collection of Muktsar district today, said during inspections carried out on premises of three business houses, dealing in cotton, it was found that an Abohar-based firm had been misusing the sales tax exemption, running into crores of rupees, given to it. The other two firms were found to be evading sales tax to the tune of Rs 3.5 lakh.

He said in the case of the Abohar-based firm, he had recommended the cancellation of the exemption facility. In the other two cases Rs 3.5 lakh were taken from the owners on the spot.


Man made bid on third child’s life also

Hoshiarpur, January 10
Madan Lal of Jandiala village in Jalandhar district, who strangulated to death his 10-year-old son Ravi and attempted to kill his 12-year-old daughter Monika near Gagret on the Hoshiarpur Chintpurni road yesterday, tried to kill his third child also last evening. Presuming him to be dead, Madan Lal threw him on the road near Phagwara and left for some unknown place.

Mr Lok Nath Angra, SSP, Hoshiarpur, told mediapersons here today that Prince (8), son of Madan Lal, whom he presumed dead, regained consciousness went to the tempo stand of Phagwara. He is a student of Class II. He narrated how his father had killed his elder brother and tried to kill his sister. He said that his father had throttled him as well. — OC


Fresh case against Jhanji
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 10
The police has registered a fresh case against Amit Jhanji, a self-styled president of the Hindu Surakasha Samiti, on the complaint of Amar Singh of Bassi Pathana for allegedly extracting money. He was presented in the court of Mr G.S. Dhillon, CJM, who remanded him in police custody for two days.

He was arrested yesterday allegedly for blackmailing and during interrogation, various bogus identity cards, driving licences, and bogus permission of the Punjab police for using black film and red light atop his car were seized.

Mr Shiv Kumar, SSP, said Amar Singh of Bassi Pathana had complained that Amit Jhanji had been forcing him to start illegal activities and posed as a confidant of the police. He alleged in the complaint that Jhanji had taken Rs 35,000 from him for a computer and Rs 8,000 for replacing the tyres of his car. The computer had been recovered.


11 duped of Rs 28 lakh

Sangrur, January 10
The Dhuri police has arrested Ashok Kumar, a resident of Dhuri, for allegedly duping 11 persons of Rs 27.90 lakh on the pretext of sending them abroad. The man’s wife, Reena, and his brother-in-law, Ashok Kumar, from Sunam have absconded.

Giving this information on phone this evening, Mr Parambir Singh Gill, DSP, Dhuri, said the police had registered a case under Sections 420 and 120-B of the IPC against the three on the complaint of Mr Sukhwinder Singh of Mojewal village (Sunam). The complainant said that the accused after getting money from him had neither sent him abroad nor returned his money and passport.

The DSP said that during interrogation, the accused had confessed to receiving Rs 27.90 lakh from 11 persons on the pretext of sending them abroad but he had not sent anyone abroad so far.

The DSP also stated that the police had recovered four passports from the accused but it could not recover any money from him as the accused had claimed that he had no money as he had given the same to other persons for getting the persons sent abroad. — TNS


Arrest warrants against drug distributor
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, January 10
Ms Kiran Bala, Judicial Magistrate (First Class), here today issued arrest warrants against a distributor for supplying 1,24,500 banned oxytocin injections to local chemists.

The police has recovered a huge quantity of fake and banned injections from local chemists and arrested two persons in this connection. The police said today that Gurpreet Singh Narang of Narang Medical Store, Ludhiana, had supplied the injections to local chemists and was wanted for investigation in a case under Sections 420 of the IPC and 11-12 of the Cruelty of Animals Act. According to sources, the accused is said to be a close friend of a Punjab minister.


Mother, son held for making fake degrees

Amritsar, January 10
The Jammu police headed by Mr Shakeel Ahmad, Inspector, Crime Branch, arrested Neelam and her son for allegedly making fake B.Ed degrees of Jammu University.

The police raided her residence last evening. The accused runs a college and allegedly used to make fake B.Ed degrees and sell them for thousands of rupees. The Jammu police has registered about 10 cases of fraud against the accused. — OC


Five arrested for killing sambar
Our Correspondent

Ropar, January 10
District forest officials have arrested five persons on the charges of killing a sambar in the forest area near Kansala village. Sources said the forest officials got information that Surjeet Singh and Karam Singh, both residents of Kansala village and Harnek Singh, Manjit Singh and Gurpreet Singh, residents of Kartarpur, village had allegedly killed a sambar.

A team of forest officials conducted raid and seized 25 kg meat of sambar, its skin and horns from the accused. A case under Sections 9, 39, 49, 51 of the Wildlife Act has been registered.

The accused were today presented in the court of the CJM, Ropar, who remanded them in judicial custody till January 24.



ITI staff union protests against privatisation
Our Correspondent

Jalalabad January 10
The Punjab ITI Employees Union  staged a dharna in front of ITI Complex here today to protest against the state government’s move to lease out ITI Complex to private sector. The employees raised slogans against Punjab government and the local MLA.

Addressing the employees Mr Navjot Singh, state secretary, Punjab  ITI Employees Union, alleged that the government had spent crores of rupees on the construction of the ITI complex and land had been provided by the district administration free of cost in order to benefit the youth of border areas. But instead of managing the institution properly the government had now planned to dispose it off at throwaway price.

He added that where neighbouring state of Haryana and Chandigarh were charging only Rs 180 and 1350 per annum as fee for ITI course the Punjab Government was charging Rs 3,400 per annum for the same course and still had decided to close down this institution.

He also criticised the local MLA, Mr Hans Raj Josan, for not taking any interest in the welfare of the premium institution of this area.


School kids spread message of road safety
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 10
A large number of schoolchildren took out a rally today in connection with Road Safety Week. The rally was flagged off by Mr N.S. Walia, ADC, Sangrur.

Carrying banners and placards the children spread the message of road safety in the town. The rally ended at the War Heroes Stadium here.

The ADC appealed to the parents not to allow their children aged less than 18 years to drive two-wheelers and other vehicles to avoid accidents. He said a minor error in driving could claim precious lives, so everyone should drive vehicles carefully and as per the traffic rules.

Mr Gurlovleen Singh, District Transport Officer, Sangrur, said special camps had been organised in the offices of truck unions at Sangrur, Sunam, Dhuri, Malerkotla and Barnala for imparting knowlede about road safety measures to the drivers. Special eye check-up camps had also been organised at these places, he added.


Gurmat scholarships given to students
Our Correspondent

Patiala, January 10
Tarnpreet Kaur and Arashpreet Kaur of Sant Iswar Das Public High School secured 95 per cent and won the first position (primary group) in Gurmat examination conducted by Guru Ramdas Gurmat Scholarship Organisation.

In the junior group, Harpreet Kaur (90 per cent) of Gobind Commonwealth Public High School secured the first position. In the secondary group, Balvinder Kaur of B.N. Khalsa Senior Secondary School won the first position by securing 95 per cent.

On the occasion, Assistant Development Commissioner (Development) Jagwant Singh Brar presented the scholarship, mementos and certificates to nearly 700 students who passed the examination.

Students of nearly 28 schools of the city and nearby places appeared in the examination.

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