P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Lok Sabha poll
Badal, Tohra to meet tomorrow
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 15
An exclusive meeting on the Lok Sabha elections has been fixed between SAD President Parkash Singh Badal and SGPC President Gurcharan Singh Tohra on the morning of January 17, followed by a meeting of SAD MLAs, MPs and other office-bearers. Sources said Mr Tohra and Mr Badal would deliberate on ticket distribution and other issues related to the elections.

The most important issue expected to generate heat at the meeting is the recent announcement by Mr Badal about continuation of the SAD alliance with the BJP, without taking the Political Affairs Committee into confidence. Certain senior leaders, including Mr Tohra, are of the view that the alliance with the BJP should be based on certain conditions.

“To have an unconditional alliance with the BJP is not in the interests of the SAD”, said a senior Akali leader. Mr Tohra wanted that the alliance with the BJP should be on equal footing and the latter should not take Akali support for granted.

Senior Akali leaders say that when former SAD ministers and the Badal family were facing a crisis, the BJP and the top NDA leadership kept silent for long. Mr Badal made several rounds to Delhi to request the BJP leadership to send a NDA team to Punjab to have a first-hand report on the victimisation of Akalis but no such team was sent.

Another issue is the allocation of seats to the BJP, which wanted at least three seats — Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur — though publically it had sought five seats. However, the SAD may offer only Gurdaspur which sent Mr Vinod Khanna, a BJP nominee, to the Lok Sabha last time. But just one seat will not satisfy the BJP, in any case. The SAD is also in touch with the BSP, it is learnt.

Mr Tohra, according to his close associates, is not interested in contesting the Lok Sabha election as he is keen on another term as a Member of the Rajya Sabha. The SAD is in a position to send him to the Rajya Sabha again. Mr Tohra would ask Mr Badal to put up his (Tohra’s) nominees from the Patiala and Ropar Lok Sabha constituencies. Mr Tohra wanted Ropar for his close associate, Mr Sukhdev Singh Libra. However, if Mr Badal refuses to give Ropar, Mr Tohra would seek the Tarn Taran constituency for his confidant, Mr Harminder Singh Gill, a top leader of the All-India Sikh Students Federation.

Mr Tohra, is expected to make Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra his nominee from Patiala in spite of the fact that the latter and Mr Harmel Singh Tohra, son-in-law of the SGPC chief, are not on good terms these days. Sources said Mr Chandumajra met Mr Tohra recently to dispel all misgivings created about him.


SAD to work for Cong’s defeat
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Adampur (Jalandhar), January 15
Shiromani Akali Dal chief Parkash Singh Badal today said the “anti-corruption” drive of Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh was a farce.

Mr Badal maintained that though the BJP was the SAD’s permanent poll ally, but the SAD, was open as far as poll alliance was concerned, to achieve its objective of defeating the Congress. On Mrs Sonia Gandhi’s “foreign origin” issue, he said the Congress had accepted defeat by not projecting its prime ministerial candidate.

Addressing an “anti-repression” rally here, Mr Badal said he was not afraid of the Vigilance Bureau sending officials abroad for “unearthing properties” allegedly owned by him or his family. “They can go anywhere. But, if any property is found in my or my family’s name, I, will stay away from politics,” Mr Badal said.

Mr Badal alleged that the “anti-corruption” drive of the government was to divert attention of people from the main issue — the development of the state. Nothing has been done to implement development schemes. The Rs 17000 crore Bathinda refinery  project, which had the support of the Centre has not been given practical shape. Rather it was ignored it. Nobody can tell what happened to the crop insurance scheme,” said Mr Badal adding the government would collapse under its own weight. He also denied allegations that Rs 40 crore was offered by the BJP to pull down the Congress government in the state. Their own ministers have levelled allegations of corruption and we have demanded high-level probe into the allegations of involvement of the Chief Minister’s son in the DRI scam. It is for the first time that 17 ministers openly spoke against their leader, said Mr Badal.

Mr Badal said his party would  work to defeat the Congress in Lok Sabha polls. Former Punjab Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal, former Jalandhar Improvement Trust Chairman Sarbjit Singh Makkar, former ministers Ajit Singh Kohar, Swarna Ram, Mohinder Kaur Josh,  former SGPC chief Bibi Jagir Kaur and Mr Balwinder Singh Bhundar and Mr Sukhdev Singh Bhaur also spoke.


Sonia’s effigy burnt
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 15
Even as activists of the Punjab Mulazam Sangharsh Committee burnt the effigy of the Punjab Government to lodge their protest against the apathetic attitude of the state government towards their problems, more than 50 activists of the Dalit Sena were rounded up by the police while they were protesting against the alleged move of the state government to abolish reservation through empowerment of panchayats.

Activists of the Dalit Sena who were proceeding towards the venue of the rally, to register their protest were bundled into different vehicles and taken to police station.

Meanwhile, the AICC chief, Ms Sonia Gandhi, today travelled by road after the chopper in which she was to fly to Bhisiana Air Force station from the venue of the rally in the town developed a technical snag.

Ms Gandhi, who was here today to formally initiate the process of empowerment of panchayats by the Punjab Government and to address a rally, was taken to the Bhisiana Air Force station by road, 25 km away from the site of rally, from where she went to Delhi in an aircraft.

The chopper developed a technical snag after Ms Gandhi, Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and other central leaders, including Dr Manmohan Singh, boarded it.


News Analysis
More populist steps likely in Punjab
by P.P.S. Gill

Chandigarh, January 15
Besides what Chief Minister Amarinder Singh recently announced, there is loud thinking in the Congress to increase the age of retirement of the government employees from 58 years to 60 years. There are two viewpoints on this. One, it may help the Department of Finance to have Rs 400 crore cash savings for the next two years but it will have a cascading impact on the state exchequer. Two, it will be counter to the World Bank-suggested administrative reforms which stress on the need for right-sizing the government.

Punjab’s achievements under the centrally sponsored schemes have often been projected in poor light because of diversion of funds or low utilisation or failure of the state to contribute its own share. In fact, apart from poor performance in centrally-sponsored schemes, the low returns from excise and taxation is a worrisome feature. With sales tax concessions worth Rs 200 crore already given to various beneficiaries during the current year out of political compulsions, the state can be hardly trusted not to announce more such revenue-sacrificing steps. The Department of Excise and Taxation has prepared a memorandum to jack up sales tax on 40-odd items.

Among those items, diesel is high on its agenda. In Punjab, the sales tax on diesel is 8 per cent against an all-India average of 25 per cent. Punjab is keen to levy 20 per cent sales tax to earn an additional revenue of Rs 5,00 crore.

This item has been often deferred by the Cabinet due to political compulsions. The opposition was mostly from politicians who owned passenger or goods transport companies. The alibi given both by the Opposition and Congress men is that the agricultural sector will be hit if sale tax was enhanced on diesel. The fact, however, is that the agricultural sector consumed just 20 to 25 per cent of the total diesel consumed in the state.

Capt Amarinder Singh and his estranged colleagues should realise that there are no “soft’’ options for the state if its failing health and stagnating economy were to be restored and simmering social tensions eased. Conceding demands of different sections of society out of either political compulsions or populist considerations was not the answer to justify political ends by compromising on economic means.

Even changing the norms from one girl child to two girls born into Scheduled Caste families to avail a grant of Rs 5,000 each or releasing money for regular disbursement of old-age and widow pension is not the answer to meet political expediencies. Even assured 24-hour electricity supply to villages by June or repairing of the village link roads at this juncture were part of the same political strategy to win over voters.

However, more such politically motivated concessions were not ruled out in Punjab before the general election.


Police HQ seeks DIG’s order
Reinstatement of Inspector Guddu
Poonam Batth

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 15
The Punjab Police headquarters has summoned the controversial order passed by Mr P.S. Sarao, DIG, Faridkot Range, and the service record of Inspector Shamsher Singh Guddu (substantive rank Sub-Inspector), who was recently reinstated after he had been prematurely retired.

Ms V. Neerja, SSP of Mansa, had in December last sent the controversial cop on premature retirement under Rule (3) of the Punjab Premature Retirement Civil Services Rules, 1975, on account of his “bad service record”, especially in Ludhiana district. A senior police officer in his inquiry report had even termed Inspector Guddu as a “dacoit in police uniform”. Despite this, Inspector Guddu was allowed to continue in service when DIG P.S. Sarao set aside the SSP’s order while accepting the cop’s appeal against the said order.

The top brass wants to examine if the DIG was entitled to take such a decision. Sources in the Police Department maintain that the order of the SSP was set aside under pressure from senior police officials Guddu was close to.

The sources add as per the service rules, Guddu’s appointing authority is the SSP and the DIG may not even have the powers to set aside the SSP’s order. Mr Sarao had accepted Guddu’s appeal on the basis of his past five years’ service record but the sources maintain that the past five years’ record is seen for promotions while the entire service record of the person concerned is seen for retirement purposes.

During his tenure in Ludhiana, four criminal cases were registered against Guddu while another case was registered on graft charge by the Vigilance Bureau at Patiala in December last. Intriguingly, in one of these cases, he has not been arrested till date even though his bail plea was rejected by the Punjab and Haryana High Court two years ago.


Panchayats to honour Deputy Commissioner
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 15
More than 100 panchyats of Dhuri subdivision will honour Mr S.K. Ahluwalia, Deputy Commissioner, by conferring “ Honour of Punjab” award at a function to be organised on January 28 at Bachat Bhavan, Fatehgarh Sahib. This honour would be bestowed on the Deputy Commissioner as he did not allow any gambling, dancing stalls, wine shops, swings, circuses and other items of amusement despite being pressurised in this regard, said Jathedar Daljeet Singh Dohla in a press note issued here today.

He said more than 100 panchayats of Dhuri subdivision had at a meeting organised at Teja Singh Samundri Hall, Amritsar, on January 8, 1999, urged the SGPC to commemorate Saheedi Jor Mela at Fatehgarh Sahib in purely religious manner by paying tributes to the younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh ,who were bricked alive. They also urged the SGPC to not to allow merry making at the mela. As the Deputy Commissioner was able to fulfil their request panchayat members decided to organise a state-level function at Fatehgarh Sahib and honour him. They also urged the political parties to honour the Deputy Commissioner.

Meanwhile, Mr Karnail Singh Panjoli, president of the state unit of the Youth Akali Dal, said panchayats of Fatehgarh Sahib would also organise a function to honour Mr Ahluwalia.


District Diary
Dist poised to become major education centre
Surinder Bhardwaj

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 15
The district is poised to become a major education centre of the state as entrepreneurs are setting up educational institutions like the law college, medical college, architecture college, B.Ed college and nursing college. Work on these institutions, except the medical college, has started.

The local Mata Gujri College, which is already running courses in management, computer science and other allied subjects, is going to get the status of deemed university, as announced by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh during his recent visit to the district. The RIMT engineering college at Mandi Gobindgarh, is already functioning.

Commemoration of martyrdom

The district will witness hectic political and religious activity this year due to the commemoration of the 300th anniversary of martyrdom of Guru Gobind Singh’s younger sahibzadas, who were bricked alive. Mr S.K. Ahluwalia, Deputy Commissioner has decided to initiate various activities throughout the year to commemorate the supreme sacrifice. The very first day of the year was dedicated to the sahibzadas with kirtan by Bhai Devinder Singh Sodhi.

The Deputy Commissioner has initiated efforts to achieve consensus among all political parties on not holding political conferences during the commemoration of the martyrdom.

Police successes

Since Mr Shiv Kumar has taken over as the new SSP of the district, a number of criminals and other anti-social elements have been nabbed. A murder case of a girl student of Mandi Gobindgarh has been solved and all culprits have been booked. A patwari who used to cheat people by preparing forged documents of prime properties has been put behind bars. Amit Jhanjhi, self-styled president of an organisation, who used to extort money in the name of the police, has also been arrested. Two gangs of thieves and satta operators have been busted in a short span. Industrialists and social organisations have decided to donate five motor cycles to the police for community policing on an appeal by the SSP.

Anti-encroachment drive

Though the campaign to remove encroachments in the district was initiated on a war footing, with the passage of time it is losing momentum as the sites which were freed of encroachments are again being encroached upon. However, the Deputy Commissioner has issued strict instructions to the respective executive officers to ensure the removal of encroachments and to maintain cleanliness.

Girl child’s Lohri

The idea of celebrating Lohri of the girl child got a very good response in rural areas also. The district administration, along with social organisations, has launched a campaign to make people aware that the district has the lowest sex ratio in the country and they should not get sex determination tests conducted. To give a religious touch to the idea, it was stressed that the girl child was worshipped as “kanjak” and it was a sin to go in for female foeticide. This campaign has certainly made an impression on the minds of the people, going by the celebration of Lohri of the girl child.


Probe into PSEB purchases begins
Our Correspondent

Ropar, January 15
The Vigilance Wing of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) has initiated probe into the purchase of over 100 items purchased through proprietary route by officials of the board. These items, include electrical and mechanical components, compressors, transformers, water controlling valves, boltless wedge connectors and repair of high-tension motors. Most of the said items were purchased through proprietary route in the Ropar, Bathinda and Lehra Mohabbat thermal plants of the PSEB.

The sources said on the recommendation of the ADGP (PSEB) Vigilance, Mr Lalit Bhatia, the board has constituted a three-member committee comprising Director (Technical Audit), a representative of the Vigilance and deputy chief accounts officer to submit a report regarding the said purchases.

The PSEB (Vigilance) in its preliminary report has alleged that most of the said items were purchased by officials at exorbitant prices causing huge losses to the board. The officers in most of the cases, taking an undertaking on letterhead that he was the sole manufacturer or trader of the item, had purchased simple items at exorbitant prices. In some of the cases, when concerned officers were transferred and the new incumbents called open tenders for same items, the board saved lakhs.


PSEB staff protest on privatisation move
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, January 15
Hundreds of PSEB employees today participated in a protest rally here against the state government’s move to disband the board into five private companies under the garb of power sector reforms.

Mr M.L. Kapila, a spokesman of the PSEB Employees Joint Forum, while addressing the gathering alleged that the board management was forcing the employees, who had attained an age over 50 years, to opt for pre-mature retirement. “Besides, the Electricity Act 2003 is anti-employee and should be scrapped to save the farming sector, which is going to hit badly after its implementation. We will further intensify the agitation against the policies of the Union and state governments to sell the board to private companies,” Mr Kapila said.

The protesters demanded that the state government should implement already accepted demands including regularisation of services of work charged employees and filling of vacant posts. Later, they handed over a memorandum to the Deputy Commissioner.


Polyclinic for ex-servicemen
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, January 15
On the eve of the Army Day, Army authorities set up a Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) polyclinic at the District Sainik Board Complex at Muktsar today to provide medical aid to the ex-servicemen by charging nominal fee under the contributory health scheme of the Union Government.

Inaugurating the polyclinic, Brig Pawan Kumar, Deputy General Officer Commanding, Western Command, said this clinic would give medical facilities to over 9,000 retired soldiers of Muktsar and its surrounding areas in the district.

The project will work under the supervision of Brig J. S. Bedi. However, if any ex-serviceman finds any difficulty he can contact the concerned officer to make it resolve timely.


Nurses condemn govt decision
Our Correspondent

Patiala, January 15
Members of the Punjab Nurses Association today condemned the state government decision to hand over the Public Health and Education Departments to panchayats.

Association president Jiwan Preet Kaur alleged that the state government decision to hand over these departments to panchayats was anti-employee and anti-people. She added that to provide better health and education facilities to the people the state government should constitute a committee consisting of the sarpanch and officials of the concerned departments.


High Court
Ropar DC, SSP asked to remove encroachments from graveyard
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 15
A Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court today directed Ropar’s Deputy Commissioner and Senior Superintendent of Police, besides other respondents, to remove illegal encroachments on a graveyard at Bhagwant Pur village.

In his petition taken up by the Bench, comprising Mr Justice V.K. Bali and Mr Justice Rajive Bhalla, Roshan Ali had earlier contended that two respondents had “forcibly occupied the land” and were not allowing “anyone to bury the dead”.

Claiming to be a permanent resident of the village, the petitioner had stated that their ancestors were lying buried in the graveyard. He had added that the authorities were expressing inability regarding getting the land vacated.

The Deputy Commissioner had found that the land had been illegally occupied by the respondents after looking into the matter. He had, in fact, ordered the removal of encroachments. But the respondents had filed a frivolous suit. Arguing before the Bench, counsel for the petitioners, Shammi Khan, had added that the respondents were having considerable influence in the area.

Stay vacated on bank poll results

In less than a week after polls were held for electing Fatehgarh Sahib Central Co-operative Bank Limited’s Board of Directors, a Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court today vacated stay on the declaration of election results. The Bench had, on December 20 last year, directed that the results should be kept in a sealed cover till further orders.

Taking up the case this afternoon, the Bench, headed by Mr Justice G.S. Singhvi, however, admitted the writ petition filed by Fatehgarh Sahib Printing and Publishing Co-operative Industrial Society Limited.

The petitioner had earlier contended that the Administrator had enrolled nine societies as bank members for tilting the balance in favour of the Congress candidate. Denying the allegations, the bank’s counsel had asserted that the societies were enrolled in April 1999 when the Akalis were in power.

Pleas challenge PCS exams

A bunch of petitions challenging the examinations conducted for selecting PCS — executive and allied — officers will come up for final arguments before the Punjab and Haryana High Court on March 15. A Division Bench, headed by Mr Justice J.S. Khehar, has already ruled that the appointments will be subject to the decision of the writ petitions.

In one such petition directions have been sought against issuing appointment letters to candidates successful in the examinations. Claiming that the process was marred by gross irregularities, Moga district resident Diljit Singh and three others had submitted that directions should also be issued for re-compiling the results after following the process of “scaling and moderation” of marks.

In a similar application, Charanjit Kaur and seven other candidates had earlier claimed that most of the selected candidates, as apprehended, belonged to the science stream.

The rights of candidates belonging to the humanities stream had been prejudiced, the petitioners had claimed. They had added that the anomaly had occurred as the commission had not adopted the requisite formula for scaling marks.


Shamsher Mehndi’s bail plea dismissed
Our Correspondent

Patiala, January 15
The regular bail application of Shamsher Mehndi, brother of Punjabi pop singer Daler Mehndi, was dismissed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Mr K.C. Puri, who after hearing arguments yesterday had reserved judgement for today.

This is for the second time that Shamsher’s bail application has been dismissed. Earlier, regular bail was denied by Mr P.S Dhanoa, Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate

Shamsher’s counsel contended that his client was not involved in any case of human trafficking and that his name was needlessly being dragged into the affair. He claimed that the Patiala police was hand in glove with the complainants in the case and that the former had involved the two brothers in an attempt to demand a hefty bribe from them.

On the other hand, the Public Prosecutor, Mr S.S. Bhullar, contended that the allegations against Shamsher were serious in nature and that there were enough indications about his involvement in the case. He argued that the ramifications of the case were huge and that the involvement of many influential people in the case could not be ruled out.


13 IAS officers promoted
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 15
The Punjab Government today promoted 13 IAS officers of the 1988 batch in the supertime scale. They are Mrs Ravneet Kaur, Mr Sanjay Kumar, Mrs Anjali Bhawra, Dr Roshan Sunkaria, Mr Satinder Pal Singh, Mr S.S. Rajput, Mr Kulbir Singh Sidhu, Mr Jung Bahadur Goel, Mr Sukhpal Singh Gill, Mr Roshan Lal Kalsia, Mr Narinderjit Singh, Mr Ashok Kumar Goel and Mr Som Parkash.


Nine Bangladeshis arrested
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 15
Nine Bangladesh nationals have been arrested in two separate incidents in Amritsar and Majitha police districts. Seven Bangladeshis were nabbed by the Amritsar police, Two were nabbed by the Border
Security Force when they were trying to cross over to Pakistan.

The Kotwali police here apprehended seven Bangladeshis who were strolling in the Galliara around the Golden Temple. These arrested include Imran, Salim, Jafar, Farid, Didar, Anwar and Kamaal. The accused did not have passports or other documents with them. All have been booked under 3/34/20 of the Indian Passport and 14 of the Foreign Act.

Two other Bangladesh nationals — Mohammad Akil and Mohammad Hussain — were detained by the Border Security Force when they were trying to cross over to Pakistan from Singhoke village side under the Ramdass police station area. The police has registered a case on the statements of Mr Bibek Srivastva, company commander B.company, 49-battalion BSF.


Labourer beaten to death
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 15
A migrant labourer, Kapil Dev, was allegedly beaten to death by four persons over a minor dispute over tobacco here last night. However, the case was registered today as a large number of migrants today demonstrated in front of the postmortom house on the Majitha road here.

According to the SP City-II, the police has arrested two of the accused persons, Jarnail Singh and Sarbjot Singh and has registered a case under Sections 302, 34 IPC at Civil Line, police station.

According to details, Kapil Dev, who was residing as a tenant along with his elder brother Sakal Dev in Dhaka colony on the Fatehgarh Churian road here, had a minor dispute with Sarbjot Singh, a PCO/STD owner adjoining the house over tobacco. About 9.30 pm the accused along with Sukhdev Singh and Mithu forcibly entered into the house and brutally beat up the victim and he died on the spot.

Migrants held a dharna in protest against the alleged police inaction.


Heroin worth Rs 4 cr seized
Our Correspondent

Khasa (Amritsar), January 15
Four kg of high-grade heroin worth Rs 4 crore in the international market was seized in an early morning search operation conducted by the BSF on the Indo-Pak border today.

Four packets containing one kg each were found wrapped in a black shawl in the bushes falling in the border outpost of Pul Kanjri. The packets were sealed by a brown plastic tape and were cloth wrapped in a polythene bag.


IT training centres at city, Jalandhar
Tribune News Service

Mohali, January 15
The Punjab Government is all set to establish two centres for excellence in Information Technology (IT) education and training in collaboration with software giant, Microsoft. While one centre will be located within the Punjab IT Department’s office in Chandigarh, the other will be at the Punjab Technical University (PTU) campus, Jalandhar.

Giving details of the project, the Director-cum-Secretary, IT, Punjab, Mr N. S. Kalsi said the two centres would start functioning from February 2004 and would provide training in Microsoft technologies.

Stating that the setting up of these centres of excellence is part of the MoU signed with Microsoft recently, Mr Kalsi added that the company had agreed to provide DIT, Punjab, its latest set of software technologies free of cost for these centres.


Needy students given shoes
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 15
Mr Sudhir Arora, a social worker of Sirhind, distributed 100 pairs of shoes among the needy students of Government Girls Senior Secondary School, Sirhind, at a function organised by the Parent- Teachers Association of the school today. He also announced to give books, fee and any other sort of assistance to the needy and poor brilliant students. He urged the principal to send a list of such students.

Addressing the function, Mr R.N. Sharma, president of the PTA, called upon the other social organisations also to come forward for extending a helping hand to the needy students for the cause of education.

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