P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Decks cleared for expansion of Punjab Ministry
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 16
After a mammoth rally at Bathinda demonstrating unity in the ruling party, decks have been cleared finally for the much-awaited expansion of the Punjab Council of Ministers as well as restructuring of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee and its frontal cells.

Though the recent Constitutional amendment puts a moral ban on any further expansion of the already bigger than suggested strength of Council of Ministers, the Punjab Chief Minister had been under tremendous pressure for some time now to induct more Ministers and re-allocate portfolios to arrest any further dissension.

At present, Punjab has 16 Cabinet Ministers besides the Chief Minister, eight Ministers of State and five Parliamentary Secretaries.

Interestingly, the Congress high command is caught in a piquant situation as by naming Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal as Deputy Chief Minister, it is worried over the lop-sided division of power with the urbanites and Hindus feeling left out. Of the 30 members of the Council of Ministers, only nine are Hindus. None of the minorities is represented.

The possibility of naming more than two Deputy Chief Ministers to appease both Hindus and urbanites may still be under consideration as the party high command appears to be convinced that it was not the rural area but the urban and Hindu voter which sided with the party in the last Assembly elections.

After their meeting with Mrs Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi last week, the dissidents are now waiting for the “compromise package to unfold”.

The package, the sources reveal, may lead to fresh appointments and changes in the frontal organisations like Punjab Pradesh Youth Congress Committee and the Punjab Pradesh Mahila Congress Committee besides restructuring of the parental Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee.

The entire exercise is linked to the coming Lok Sabha elections. But will these changes and expansions help the party in improving its position remains to be seen.

The success of Bathinda rally may have taken some burden off the shoulders of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh but not relieved him fully of the pressure the dissidents had built for the past more than two months.

The Chief Minister has a tough task ahead of keeping both dissidents as well as loyalists happy. Though 10 to 12 additions to the Council of Ministers are expected, re-allocation of portfolios may be a sensitive area for which the Chief Minister may need approval from the party high command as well as party President Sonia Gandhi.

Many of the existing members of the Council of Ministers may have to shed more than one important portfolios held by them to accommodate new comers to ensure uniform distribution of power between loyalists and so-called dissidents.

The names of Mr Bir Devinder Singh (Deputy Speaker), Mrs Gurkanwal Kaur, Dr Mohinder Kumar Rinwa, Mr Malkiat Singh Dakha, Mr Sadhu Singh, Mrs Razia Sultan, Mr Hans Raj Joshan and a few others are being mentioned for induction in the Council of Ministers. In case Mr Bir Devinder Singh is inducted as a senior minister, a new Deputy Speaker may be nominated.

Initial indications were that Mr Gurkirat Singh, a grand son of late Chief Minister Beant Singh, may be named new Punjab Youth Congress chief. The previous chief, Mr Devinder Singh Babbu, facing a murder charge, has already quit the office.

And since Mrs Gurkanwal Kaur is being tipped as Minister of State, a successor to her as Punjab Mahila Congress chief, may also be named.

Though the party high command had initially denied any move to replace the present PPCC chief, Mr H.S. Hanspal, the indications are that the anti-Hanspal lobby had been working overtime and missing no opportunity to see that he was replaced.


Sonia inaugurates water treatment plant
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 16
The All-India Congress Committee (AICC) President, Ms Sonia Gandhi, inaugurated a water treatment plant and laid the foundation stone of a Rs 14.50 crore sewerage system in the city yesterday evening.

Mr Surinder Singla, MLA, Bathinda, said with the inauguration of the water treatment plant, those belonging to the poorer sections of the society would get 150 litres of water per person per day.

Mr R.N. Kalsia, Director, Department of local bodies, Punjab, said the sewerage project would be completed in one and a half year. He said nearly 45,000 residents would directly benefit from this facility. He claimed that the local municipal corporation had extended sewerage facility to nearly 60 per cent of the population.

Mr D.K. Tiwari, Commissioner, Municipal Corporation, Bathinda, said the new water supply project would increase the availability of drinking water.

Senior Congress leaders, including Dr Manmohan Singh, Ms Mohsina Kidwai, Ms Ambika Soni, the Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh, and the PPCC chief, Mr H.S. Hanspal, accompanied Ms Sonia Gandhi.


Congress leaders fail to project unity
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 16
Punjab Congress leaders dissidents included, did express faith more in the leadership of national president Ms Sonia Gandhi at the state-level rally organised in this town yesterday afternoon than sending a strong message of “unity” to the people.

Though the Congress men failed to project unity prominently, the gathering at the rally, part of which was mobilised, to impress the commoners at a time when Lok Sabha elections were round the corner.

Dissidents and other Congress leaders, including ministers, MLAs and party office-bearers by being present at the rally and mobilising people for it tried to prove that they enjoyed mass base apart from expressing solidarity with Ms Gandhi. Some party leaders had raised their own banners to welcome Ms Gandhi to Bathinda.

During the rally, a section of participants raised slogans in favour of Punjab Rural Development Minister, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, when she addressed the gathering while another section raised slogans in favour of Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh when he addressed. Capt Amarinder Singh and Mrs Bhattal claimed empowerment of panchayats was a big achievement of state government as it had fulfilled the dream of Late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. None of them urged the partymen to unite as Lok Sabha poll was round the corner.

However, suggestion of Ms Gandhi, whose speech was interrupted by slogans by participants, that people would help the Congress in the next Lok Sabha elections only if they were united prompted clapping and sloganeering in her favour by partymen, assembled in large number at the rally organised to initiate the process of empowerment of Panchayats and Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs).

Ms Gandhi mainly, attacked on the BJP-led NDA government and also made a little reference to the previous SAD-BJP government of Punjab for failing to protect interests of farmers.

Apart from Ms Gandhi, Ms Mohsina Kidwai, in charge, Punjab Congress Affairs and General Secretary, AICC, who dealt with the Punjab Congress dissidents and other Congress leaders, who were against Capt Amarinder Singh in the past two months also pointed in her speech that only the united Congress could defeat the BJP while turning her towards Capt Amarinder Singh and Mrs Bhattal, who were sitting on the stage along with other central leaders.

Sarpanches and panchayat members of the state also formed a large section of the gathering. The Punjab government had given powers to panchayats that they could spend part of panchayat funds for meeting the expenses for reaching at the rally from their respective places.

Though the rally was organised in this town-known as heart land of Malwa region. It was chosen as it was in the Akali-dominated belt of Punjab and the participation of urbanites was thin.


YC men allege disrespect, threaten stir
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 16
Youth Congress workers of the district have threatened to launch an agitation in protest against the maltreatment being meted out to them at state government offices and functions.

A few days ago a section of the members of the Congress had also expressed resentment and approached the party leadership in connection with the same. Punjab Rural Development Minister, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, who was camping in the city in connection with Ms Sonia Gandhi’s visit, had assured the workers that they would get due respect from the administration in future.

Mr Paramjit Singh Dhillon, president of Punjab Youth Congress, Bathinda district, alleged that the district administration neither gave passes to the Youth Congress workers for attending Ms Gandhi’s rally nor they were given vehicles to reach the venue. He alleged that even the welcome gates erected by the Youth Congress workers on the eve of Ms Gandhi’s visit were uprooted by the administration.


Takht representative takes up turban issue with France
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 16
Dr Jasdev Singh Rai, secretary on International Affairs, Akali Takht, today took up the issue of turban with French authorities by holding meetings with French Ambassador for Human Rights officials of the Foreign Ministry as well as the Ministry of Interior Cultural Division. Talking to The Tribune on the phone, Dr Rai claimed that the talks were “very positive”.

Dr Rai was deputed by Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti to visit France for first-hand information about the ban on wearing headgears by Sikh students in French schools.

Dr Rai reminded the French government of its commitment made at the UN World conference against racism when it agreed to and signed up paragraph 67 which was introduced by Canada and supported and negotiated by India to prevent discrimination against Sikhs in jobs, schools and other walks of life in western countries. The Sikhs face discrimination due to inadequacies of legal language. The above paragraph affirmed that western countries where words are interpreted very rigidly, the rights of Sikhs to wear turban has to be protected under broader and firmer rights than religious rights.

According to Dr Rai, the French position on religion is that the government has to be positively secular by ensuring that it does not allow anyone wear the symbols of their religion externally in government service or in government schools, if they do so, then it is mistaken that the government is endorsing the religion of the person and that person is being allowed to proselytize.

The Ministry of External Affairs and the Interior Ministry officials of France appreciated the scope of the paragraph during the meeting with Dr Rai. He said that further negotiations would continue.

In the coming day, Dr Rai would meet the Minister for Education and other departments. Earlier the above paragraph was lobbied in the Durban Conference by the Sikh Human Rights Group. A team of 21 members of the group was involved in the year-long lobby in the run-up to the conference in Durban.

Jathedar Akal Takht would issue a statement after getting first-hand information from Dr Rai.

Earlier, Mr Narpal Singh Shergil, an author of ‘Indians Abroad’ had urged the SGPC not to adopt confrontation on the turban issue. He had suggested that the Sikh intelligentsia from all over the world be involved for taking up the issue. He said in the western countries turban was accepted and respected and hence the renowned Sikhs could take up the matter in a better way rather than staging “dharnas” outside the French embassy in New Delhi.


Hold elections to Khalsa Diwan, Vedanti urged
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 16
Sri Singh Sabha today alleged that the controversy of the Chief Khalsa Diwan (CKD) had been complicated following the formation of a five-member committee by the Sikh clergy to resolve the matter.

In a press conference, held here today, the office-bearers of the Sri Singh Sabha urged the Jathedar of Akal Takht, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, to issue directives to hold elections to the Chief Khalsa Diwan in a democratic way. The sabha members alleged that the SGPC had been helping “Mr Bhag Singh Ankhi” group. The sabha members also criticised the role of the National Commission for Minorities for its intervention in the affairs of the Chief Khalsa Diwan which ultimately helped the ‘Ankhi group’. Earlier, the warring groups had given a written undertaking to the Jathedar, Akal Takht, that any decision taken by Sikh clergy would be binding on them. On this, Jathedar Vedanti had directed both the groups not to talk to the press.

Mr Gurdip Singh Bhullar, acting President of the sabha, urged Jathedar Vedanti to reinstate 284 expelled members of the Khalsa Diwan as the district court had also ordered their reinstatement.

Calling the unprecedented incident of dragging Akal Takht into the matter as unfortunate, Mr Bhullar said the smooth functioning of the Khalsa Diwan had suffered as the tenure of the ruling group had ended in December 2 last year.


Populism, corruption part of politics, says scholar
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 16
“Militancy has been the running thread in Sikh community’s working. But in most of the situations it has been non-violent (militancy), having positive features, though it has been militancy with theological fervour.” This was stated by Prof Paul Wallace of University of Columbia Missouri, USA while tracing the history of Punjab politics at the two-day seminar on “Punjab Politics: Different Perspectives” at Guru Nanak Dev University here today.

A scholar and authority on Punjab politics Prof Wallace added violent militancy was not natural to Sikhs but was imposed by external forces. This being the major reason for its short survival for a decade while non-violent militancy has sustained for 500 years.

Enumerating reasons for violent militancy he said it was mainly because of politicisation of issue, rootlessness of youth, assault on Sikh identity, alienation etc.

Prof S.S. Narang, highlighted that politics in Punjab from the beginning of 20th century had been playing around the assimilative fact of ethnic politics. The Sikh community through its various foras like the Singh Sabhas, the Chief Khalsa Diwan, the Shiromani Akali Dal and the SGPC have launched three powerful movements in the last century to establish that the emergence of Sikh community was in “no way an accident of history but was an outcome of deliberate design involving untold miseries and sacrifices.”

Dr Gurnam Singh, a political scientist, noted that ethno-national identity of Sikhs was due to its distinct cultural identity, language, religious markers, origin, shared history in specific geographical settings that became a catalyst for the emergence of the ethno national identity of Sikhs.

On political economy of the state Dr Baljit Singh of Jammu University highlighted populism and corruption becoming the hallmark of public life. Both agriculture and industry, once strongholds of state have suffered. The politics of confrontation has jeopardised the process of economic development and administrative reforms, he added.

Other discussions on politico-religious dimensions, women’s empowerment, Dalit Assertiveness, media role in Punjab politics, factionalism, leadership patterns and many other aspects of Punjab politics were deliberated.

Earlier Prof Paul Wallace, gave keynote address at the seminar organised by the Centre of Punjab Studies of Punjab Politics of Guru Nanak Dev University under political scientist Dr Surjit Narang, Dr S.P. Singh, VC and Pro VC Dr Satinder Singh presented vote of thanks.


Militants blew up Goraya track, says report

Phagwara, January 16
The blast that had ripped apart a portion of the railway track near Goraya on the Ludhiana-Jalandhar section of the Northern Railway on the night of January 5 was engineered by anti-national elements.

This is the preliminary finding of a four-member inquiry panel, constituted to look into the cause of the blast. The 82cm portion of the track was blown up by a high velocity blast. However, the presence of mind on part of the engine driver of the Amritsar-Howrah Express averted a major tragedy. A portion of the fractured track was blown into nearby fields.

The Divisional Manager (Ferozepore) Mr Hukam, Chand Punia, today said following the preliminary report, he had written a detailed letter to the Punjab Home Secretary and the Director-General of Police, seeking adequate security for railway tracks in the state to prevent recurrence of such incidents.

Mr Punia said he had also sought more constables for the Government Railway Police. He said steps were afoot by the Northern Railway to check anti-social elements at railway stations. Metal detectors would be installed at sensitive railway stations, he added.

Adequate security arrangements were also being made to prevent any untoward incident ahead of the Republic Day. — UNI


Plea against Badal, son dismissed
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 16
A petition filed against Mr Parkash Singh Badal, former Punjab Chief Minister and president, Shiromani Akali Dal and eight others including Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, SGPC president, Jathedar Akal Takht Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti was “dismissed” by the Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission chaired by Mr Manmohan Singh and members Mr Ajwant Singh Mann and Mr Amrik Singh Randhawa here today.

The three-member Bench stated that the petition was not “maintainable” under Section 142 of the Sikh Gurdwara Act 1925, as Mr Badal was not a member or an employee of the SGPC nor is he (Badal) a “former” member or employee of the Sikh body. Hence the petition was not maintainable against Mr Badal and is dismissed.

The petition was filed by Mr Jasbir Singh, president Ashutosh Virodhi Morcha, Dalbir Singh and Harmandeep Singh patron and chairman respectively, the Khalra Mission Committee (KMC), Mr Joginder Singh, general secretary Gurmat Prachar Sabha and Virsa Singh convener Sikh Jagriti Morcha.

The other six persons against whom the petition was filed were Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta and Mr Sukhdev Singh Bhaur Secretary and General Secretary, respectively of the SGPC, Giani Puran Singh Head Granthi Golden Temple, Managers of Darbar Sahib, Gurdwara Dukhniwaran Sahib and Gurdwara Nadda Sahib.

In a press note here today the five petitioners highlighted the misdeeds of Mr Badal and the way SGPC members and managers of gurdwaras and Jathedar Akal Takht allegedly flouted “maryada” and presented Mr Badal and his son Sukhbir Badal with siropas (robes of honour) when accused of corruption and had allegedly spent gurdwara funds for the benefit of the Badals.

Mansa councillor alleges ‘revenge’ by police
Sanjay Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 16
A councillor from Mansa has attracted six cases, including those of kidnapping and murder, for allegedly sitting on a six-day dharna to demand the development of a street in his area against the wishes of the then Chairman of the municipal body.

The then inspector of the area, Mr Makand Singh Malli, allegedly picked up councillor Harpal Singh Palli after the dharna and thrashed him in the police station and made him do sit-ups in front of the public at the behest of the then Chairman of the Municipal Council, Mr Pawan Kumar Malli.

The councillor says he is an Independent but a supporter of the Shiromani Akali Dal.

The councillor allegedly has not got any relief despite having complained to the Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC), DGP, DIG Faridkot and SSP of the area. He narrated the story to the PSHRC in a fresh application for the fourth time on January 14, 2004.

The SSP Mansa, Ms V. Neerja, told ‘The Tribune’ on telephone that he had been booked on the basis of the confession statements of those arrested in the murder of Gurpal Singh. She said the councillor had a criminal history and was making false allegations against the police.

A massive crowd laid a siege to the police station and got the councillor released, Mr Palli said here today, showing clippings of newspaper reports.

The councillor then approached a local court for the registration of a case against the then inspector, Mr Malli, for allegedly beating him up and illegally confining him. The case is now in the witness stage.

He alleged that the police pressurised him to withdraw the case against Mr Malli. His refusal to let the police officer off the hook, according to him, led to the registration of revengeful cases, including those of murder, kidnapping, bungling and keeping illegal weapons.

The councillor, who served a term between 1998 and 2003, was on March 8, 2001 declared a registered bad character despite having been acquitted in six cases of gambling and rioting in 1996.

The police booked him for becoming a witness to the identity of a beneficiary of the shagun scheme, saying that he had identified a person whose caste certificate was made fraudulently. Palli claims 18 out of 21 councillors of the Municipal body had accompanied him to seek justice to the then SSP, but to no avail.

He was sent to jail for three months for raising voice against the police atrocities in the shagun scheme case. During this period, Inspector Malli had been elevated and was transferred four times to Mansa. The councillor seems to be popular as his wife had won unopposed in the 2003 elections of the municipal body.

Mr Palli said his case of shagun scheme was transferred to the Patiala Crime Branch on the direction of the PSHRC where DSP Sukhwinder Singh Uppal was investigating it. One of the crucial witnesses in the case, a chowkidar, was allegedly taken away by a police person at the behest of Inspector Malli.

Mr Palli was, however, booked by the Talbandi Sabo police for the kidnapping of the chowkidar on January 7, 2003.

He said Gurpal Singh was killed by a group headed by a councillor for allegedly beating up his son Satish Kumar on September 26, 2001. The councillor’s brother Jaspal Singh was a witness in the case. Mr Palli said his name was included in the case on November 11, 2003.

Mr Palli said he had appealed to the PSHRC to intervene in the case on January 14 against police atrocities.


Khanna announces Rs 1,000 cr projects
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, January 16
With an eye on Lok Sabha elections, member of state for External Affairs, Vinod Khanna announced Rs 1,000 crore sops for the Gurdaspur constituency.

Mr Khanna told reporters today Civil Enclave here would start in April. He announced a cricket stadium also. He also announced four-laning of the Pathankot-Amritsar road and the Pathankot-Kulu road.

The minister also announced the construction of bridges across Ravi and Ujh in the Bamial sector in place of Pontoon bridges.

He also announced health camps from February 6 to February 10 where medicines free of cost would be distributed.


24 lakh kids die annually
Lack of awareness among mothers
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 16
The killer combination of malnutrition, diarrhoea and pneumonia and lack of awareness among mothers, is claiming the lives of about 24 lakh children, aged below five years, in India every year, which accounts for more than 20 per cent of child mortality in the world.

What is even more startling and has been compounding the problem was that about 50 per cent of the mothers were not aware about the basic and early signs of killer diseases, requisite level of hygiene and malnutrition.

Inquiries of The Tribune with the Indian Academy of Pediatrics revealed that out of around 10.9 million childhood deaths in the world, an estimated 24 lakh were occurring in India alone annually. The academy, about 6000 members of which have raised concern over the alarming situation during its weeklong annual conference concluded at Chennai on Sunday, further revealed that most of the childhood deaths of children below five years of age were taking place in rural areas and among the lower strata of the society. “With a view to study and perilous phenomena in rural areas, the academy is planning to set up tribal health-care cells, which will monitor the situation,” said Dr Anil Sud, a local pediatrician and secretary of the Punjab state branch of the academy.

“The basic problem, besides lack of awareness about the importance of breast feeding, oral rehydration therapy and timely immunisation, was the failure of young mothers to identify the early signs of infections like diarrhoea and pneumonia. Moreover, most of them, particularly, in rural areas were not concerned about proper hygienic conditions,” said Dr Sud.

According to Dr Nitin Shah, a Mumbai-based office-bearer of the academy, mortality among the newborns could be prevented if problems were identified at an early stage. “What is more important and what we have resolved is to work for the improvement of atmosphere and environment for children in schools, where there should be less burden on them. The thrust of the academy will be even to encourage school managements to ensure proper furniture so that the sitting posture of kids should be right,” said Dr Shah.

Dr Sarvinder Singh, president of the Jalandhar unit of the academy, maintained that the Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) was the wonder of the last millennium in medical science for it had saved millions of small children from the clutches of death, particularly, for diarrhoea, all over the world.


Punjab BJP meeting tomorrow
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 16
Punjab BJP President, Avinash Rai Khanna, has called a meeting of the party leaders in charge of the Assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies on January 18 to assess the latest political situation in the state in view of the general election.

The BJP is keen on contesting three seats — Hoshiarpur, Gurdaspur and Amritsar — in alliance with the SAD. Reports are that Union Minister, Arun Jaitley and Mrs Sushma Swaraj are keen on contesting from Hoshiarpur and Chandigarh, respectively.

Sources said the Hoshiarpur and Amritsar units of the party have formally conveyed to the state leadership of the BJP that no “ outsider” should be imposed on them. However, top leaders of the BJP say that in case Mr Arun Jaitley decides to contest from Punjab, no one will oppose his nomination. There are reports in BJP circles that former minister Balramji Dass Tandon is interested in contesting from Amritsar. Another former minister, Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, is keen to contest from Hoshiarpur. But party sources said there was no possibility of giving the party ticket to former MLAs and ministers for certain tactical reasons.

The CPI has called a meeting of its executive at Ludhiana tomorrow. The state unit will later put up its viewpoint at the national executive meeting in Hyderabad on January 27 and 28. The CPI had last time won the Bathinda Lok Sabha seat as an ally of the Congress.

About the possibility of an electoral alliance with the Congress, Punjab CPI Secretary Joginder Dayal said though any decision in this connection would be taken by the national body the CPI had some reservations over the policies followed by the ruling Congress in the state. The state government would have to overturn its policies like unbundling of the PSEB and process of disinvestments first, if it wanted to the up with the Left parties. The state government would also have to restore the benefits withdrawn from farmers and employees etc.

The CPM says in case it entered into an alliance with Congress, it would contest one seat. Otherwise, the CPM plans to contest the Hoshiarpur, Phillaur and Sangrur seats. But a tie-up between the CPM and the Congress is likely. CPM leader Harkishan Singh Surjeet is playing a crucial role for forgiving a national alliance of secular parties like the Congress, the CPI, the CPM etc against the BJP-led NDA.

The Punjab BSP wanted to contest all Lok Sabha constituencies. Its President, Mr Avtar Singh Karimpuri, is for following the equi-distance policy from the SAD-BJP and the Congress. However, any decision regarding alliance taken by Ms Mayawati and Babu Kanshi Ram would be acceptable to the party, said Mr Karimpuri.


Akali allegations false, says Cong leader
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 16
Dr Gurbax Singh, President Punjab Qaumi Ekta today said the Akalis, led by Mr Parkash Singh Badal, were trying to disturb the hard-won peace in the state.

Dr Gurbax Singh, who is also a senior Congress leader, while talking to mediapersons said the allegations levelled by Mr Badal and his associates that the Congress government was committing atrocities on Sikhs were baseless. He added that Mr Badal and his associates were indulging in propaganda and trying to exploit people’s sentiments.

He said the Akalis had always raised these issues when out of power.

He appealed to veteran Congressmen who had left the party for various reasons, to rejoin the party.


Indo-Canadian youths visit Fatehgarh Sahib
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 16
A group of 16 Indo Canadians led by Andrew Harington was given a warm reception by the district administration and the people of the area here today. The group visited Fatehgarh Sahib and its surrounding areas under the international group exchange programme arranged by the Indian Red Cross Society Punjab in collaboration with the Society for Promotion of Youths.

The group would visit nine states of northern India. The group interacted with people from different fields at Bachat Bhawan and shared their views and experiences.

Addressing the function, Mr Navjot Randhawa, honorary secretary of the District Red Cross Society, said that such visits instilled confidence among the youths. He said that such exchange visits helped the youths to understand the culture and working of other countries. He said that the youth was the real strength of any country, so it was necessary that for the development of any country its youth was given the right direction, so that it used of its energy in a constructive manner.

Capt Rajdeep Singh, secretary, Red Cross and Mr Ramesh Aggarwal, deputy secretary, who are accompanying the group, stressed the need for promoting social and sports youth clubs in cities and rural areas, which could play an important role in eradicating the social evils. They said that the promising youths of these clubs should be sent to other countries under such exchange programmes. They also presented a cheque of Rs 2 lakh to the District Red Cross Society as a grant from the State Red Cross Society.

Mr Andrew Harington, leader of the group, said that they were impressed by the hospitality of the Punjabis. He said that they had learnt a lot by visiting India.

Later, the group visited the historical Gurdwara Fatehgarh Sahib.


Life no bed of roses in this village
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Ghaniya-ke-bet (Gurdaspur)
Now it is easier to visit Pakistan after the restoration of rail, road and air links than undertaking a voyage to this remote village across the Ravi, which is still under Army control. Outsiders are not allowed to visit the village unless they get permission from Army Headquarters.

This is perhaps the first inhabited village totally cut off from the rest of the world. During the rainy season, the temporary bridge linking this village is removed as a result of which the residents have to depend on two big boats to ferry their tractors or other equipment across the river. The area around the village still has mines.

In the case of a medical emergency, the residents look up to the Almighty as doctors are not able to reach the village in time. While rich farmers were allotted land on the Indian side where New Ghaniya-Ke-Bet village has come up, the poor ones could not do so and had been left to their fate. District officials hardly visit the village. Affluent farmers visit their native village across the river during cultivation or harvesting only.

The only government school in the village stands locked since the retirement of a teacher, thereby jeopardising the future of its students. The village Sarpanch, Bibi Chhinder Kaur, who belongs to the Congress, said teaching in the school had been suspended for the past more than a year. The village remains in the dark for weeks together in the case of power failure as it takes long to get the snag repaired.

Since the village is strategically sensitive, nobody is allowed to take a mobile phone or camera across the Ravi. The boat nakas by India and Pakistan keep a constant vigil to prevent any mischief on either side.

A few villagers said the two big boats, which are the life-line for them in rainy season, are in poor condition, making it difficult to access the village in such seasons. They demanded immediate repair of the existing boats.

The condition of other villages like Rattar-chhattar, Thetherke, Mauladhaula, Gur-chakk, Mansoor, Dharn and Jassowal situated on the embankment of the Ravi is no better. Mr Rachhpal, Singh, a resident of Rattar-Chattar said during the flash-floods of 1988 many houses, especially kutcha dwelling were washed away while most of the area remained marooned for a long time. Most residents of these villages suffered a lot as they had left their belongings across the river and returned empty handed during the Indo-Pak war of 1971. At that time most villagers had settled in Dera Baba Nanak town or Dharmkot. Earlier, these villagers had suffered colossal losses during Partition.

Ladi (23), a servant of the Sarpanch of Ghanya-ke-Bet, said life across the Ravi was tough The villagers were allowed to enter or come out from the village for limited hours, making them think if they are living in a free country.


Probe undertrials' death: PHRO
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, January 16
Criticising the Central jail authorities here allegedly for not providing medicare to undertrial prisoners and convicts, the Punjab Human Rights Organisation (PHRO) today urged Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh to order a probe into the recent death of two undertrial here allegedly for want of treatment and inhuman attitude of jail staff towards them.

Releasing a report on alleged atrocities by the jail staff on the undertrials and convicts, president of the district unit of the PHRO Shashi Sharma alleged that the Central jail had become den of corruption as most of the undertrial were being referred to the local Civil Hospital for better treatment only if the officials were bribed.

The Vigilance Bureau had caught a police man Dheeraj Kumar while accepting bribe of Rs 3000 from a relative of an undertrial on behalf of the jail doctor here on Thursday.

A letter, signed by over 50 undertrials, was also released to the media which stated that the jail hospital staff used to charge bribe ranging between Rs 15000 to Rs 30000 for referring an ailing undertrial to the Civil Hospital on medical grounds. “Keeping in view, the serious nature of the allegations and recent death of two undertrials for want of treatment, we urge the CM to order a high level probe into the matter,” he said, adding that a delegation of the PHRO would meet soon the CM at Chandigarh in this regard.

The superintendent of the jail was, not available for comments. Meanwhile, the VB today seized official records of the jail hospital even as raids were being conducted to nab the absconding medical officer of the Central jail Dr David, who was booked under the Prevention of Corruption Act.


Patiala Diary
Complex yet not transferred to MC
Monica Ahluwalia

Beant Singh Shopping Complex here built nearly 10 years ago by the Improvement Trust is crying for maintenance as no permanent safai karamcharis and staff have been recruited for the purpose.

Although the buildings constructed by the Trust are usually transferred to the municipal corporation within three years of their completion, the complex has not been transferred so far.

The Chairman of the Trust, Mr K.K. Sharma, said since 70 per cent of the building was lying vacant, the complex had not been transferred to the corporation. He said after selling all shops, the building would be transferred.

Asked about the cleanliness of the complex, he said the shopkeepers themselves had to recruit someone to get the area cleaned. He said for the outside area of the complex, safai karamcharis had been recruited.

Adding to the woes of the shopkeepers is the Sunday Market which has become a nuisance for the shopkeepers and residents of the area. Mr Sharma said they had requested the Deputy Commissioner to shift the market.

MC has computerised complaint centre

The municipal corporation has opened a computerised complaint centre at its office. The Mayor, Mr Vishnu Sharma, said the objective of the centre was to provide better facilities to residents of the city.

The residents can now call at 2226494 to register their complaints regarding cleanliness, water supply, streetlights and sewerage facilities. The complaints would be dealt within 48 hours, he said.

Essay writing contest

Pankaj of SDSE Senior Secondary School, Inderpal Kaur of Government Victoria School and Jatinder Singh of Atma Ram Kumar Sabha School have won the first, second and third positions, respectively, in an essay writing competition organised by SDSE Senior Secondary School to mark the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda here on Thursday.

NSS students of nine schools participated in the competition. The Principal of the school, Mr Vinod Kumar Modi, said such competitions helped in spreading awareness among the students and provided them with an opportunity to express their opinions and views on various issues.


Foundation stone of drain laid
Our Correspondent

Patiala, January 16
Mrs Preneet Kaur, MP, laid the foundation stone of a drain being constructed at a cost of Rs 2.34 crore at Sadharnpur village near Shatrana, in Patiala district here today. She was accompanied by Punjab Finance Minister, Lal Singh and state Irrigation Minister Gurchet Singh Bhullar.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Lal Sigh said to save adjoining villages from the danger of floods the embankments of Ghaggar, Tangri rivers and rivulet of Mirapur would be strengthened under the project. He said for this purpose a project of Rs 1.48 crore had already been approved by NABARD. Mr Lal Singh further said a project pertaining to digging up of the Tangri river at a cost of Rs 11.80 crore would be inaugurated by the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh on January 30. Besides, a project to repair 500 km of road would be inaugurated shortly, he added.

While highlighting the achievements of the state government, Mr Lal Singh said nearly 1000 km of new roads would also be constructed in the state. A grant of Rs 261 crore had been given by the state government to provide 24 hours of electricity in various villages of the state. He added that this facility would be made available before June 30 this year.

Besides, a grant of Rs 60 crore would be given to provide pension to old people of the state. On the occasion, he also announced a grant of Rs 10 Lakh to build a stadium at Sadharnpur. He also announced a grant of Rs 5 lakh for Nyal College, Patran.

The Chairman, Warehousing Corporation, Punjab, Mr Hardial Singh Kamboj, the Chairman, Punjab Agro-Industries Corporation, Mr Jasbir Singh Sangrur, the Chairperson, Zila Prishad, Patiala, Mrs Gursharn Kaur, the MLA, Mr Surjit Singh Dhiman, the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Tejveer Singh, were also present on the occasion.


Water treatment plant cleared for Kharar
Our Correspondent

Kharar, January 16
The proposal of setting up a water treatment plant for taking 3 mgd of water from pipeline being laid by PUDA for Mohali was cleared by the general House of the Municipal Council at its meeting held here today. The estimated cost of the project is about Rs 4.5 crore.

The president of the council, Mr Charanjit Singh, told the House that earlier water was being given from Kajauli waterworks to Chandigarh and Mohali.

Now PUDA was lying another 20 mgd pipeline for Mohali. He said he had approached the PUDA authorities and requested them to give 3 mgd of water from the Mohali pipeline to Kharar to which they had agreed. As such a water treatment plant had to be constructed. The council was ready to give 5 acres for the treatment plant and a loan from Hudco would be used in completing the project.

He said the council had applied for a loan from Hudco for augmenting the water supply system in the town, which would now be got attached to this project.

He said the work under the project had to be given a priority as there was inadequate supply of water in the town causing inconvenience to residents. Canal water was the only solution, which would give relief to residents for many years. It was not beneficial to keep sinking tubewells as the water discharge decreased after a few years, leading to wastage of funds.

The House rejected the proposal of taking Ballomajra village within the municipal limits. Mr Om Parkash and Mr Swaran Singh Hira argued that the civic body had already taken a number of villages within its jurisdiction, which was adversely affecting the development of the town. Funds were being spent on the development of villages even when many parts of the town did not have sewerage and adequate supply of water.

Among other items cleared at the meeting was the proposal to purchase garbage containers at a cost of Rs 2.5 lakh, purchase of chlorine, releasing for more funds for the construction of Pucca Darwaja and annual maintenance of tubewells and motors at an estimate cost of Rs 5 lakh.

The House also cleared a table item of reinstating a clerk, Pardeep Kumar, against a pending inquiry.


Rehabilitate migrants: ministers
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, January 16
A group of J&K ministers today emphasised the need to ensure proper rehabilitation of migrants, irrespective of caste and community, and stated that a comprehensive plan for the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits had been sent to the Union Government last year and response for the same was still awaited.

“The undergoing peace process required the participation of migrants, including Kashmiri Pandits, for creating a conducive atmosphere in the valley,” the ministers said adding that they agreed that Kashmiri Pandits were one of the worst victims of militancy.

“Even the Muslim community has been specifically targeted by militant outfits” said J & K Irrigation Minister, Qazi Mohammad Afzal, PDP, MLA from Gandharbal constituency.

He stated that a comprehensive plan had already been dispatched to the Centre last year for the rehabilitation of migrants. However, so far there has been no response from the Union Government on the Rs 35,000-crore plan, which included the construction of new and secured colonies for the migrants, Mr Afzal said.

He said the government had already started the construction of a colony for the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits at Muton township, near Jammu.

The Jammu and Kashmir Agriculture Minister, Abdul Aziz Zargar and PDP, MLA from Jammu Shanti Devi were also present on the occasion.


MP distributes Rs 65 lakh among panchayats, MCs
Our Correspondent

Nawanshahr, January 16
A ‘Janata Darbar’ was organised by the Congress MP from Phillaur parliamentary constituency, Ms Santosh Chaudhary, here at ITI ground on Wednesday, to distribute grants and hear grievances of people with an eye on Lok Sabha elections.

Sarpanches, panches, Municipal Councillors, office-bearers of societies etc, carrying applications seeking funds made a beeline for the ‘darbar’ where Ms Chaudhary with Deputy Commissioner, Harjit Inder Singh Grewal, was present to ‘fulfil’ their demands.

Ms Chaudhary distributed cheques for Rs 65 lakh to panchayats and Municipal Councils under the Nawanshahr Assembly segment for development. She also heard grievances of people.

She laid the foundation stone of ‘Waterworks’ to be set up at a cost of Rs 7.50 lakh. She also laid the foundation stone of ‘Ravidass Dharamsala’ to be constructed for Rs 3 lakh at Ravidass Nagar.

Addressing public meetings at Ravidass Nagar, Pathakan Mohalla and ITI grounds here, Ms Santosh Chaudhary called upon the people to vote for the Congress. Mr Harjit Inder Grewal, Deputy Commissioner, said that the Rahon Machhiwara bridge would be completed up to June 30 and the Ropar-Phagwara road had been completed.


PSEB’s unbundling likely to be deferred
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 16
The process of the PSEB’s unbundling, that has led to agitation by its employees, is likely to be deferred for some months, at least till the Lok Sabha elections are over. According to sources, the party is reviewing the move that was cleared by a Cabinet subcommittee.

The dominating opinion in the ruling party is to keep the issue pending till the end of Lok Sabha elections. As PSEB employees are an organised force and have a forceful network of employee unions, it will be difficult to face them during the Lok Sabha elections, sources said.

The unbundling of the board was supposed to be discussed at the next meeting of the Council of Ministers on January 21. But it had not been enlisted on the agenda of the meeting, sources said.

Sources said the government was planning to issue an executive order to implement the 85th amendment of the Constitution through which reservation in promotions for Scheduled Caste employees would be protected. The reservation in promotions for this category of employees was undone by the Janjua Judgement. By passing the amendment, the Union Government had neutralised the court decision. Punjab had not implemented the amendment. It was expected that the government would implement it before the coming into force of the Code of Conduct for the coming Lok Sabha elections.


Man alleges thrashing by uniformed men
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, January 16
Pankaj Kumar of Jagat Ram Soondh Colony here today alleged that he was beaten and looted by some securitymen in uniform when he was travelling on the Jansewa Express from Gorakhpur to Phagwara on January 14.

He said he was coming with his family when a group of securitymen being in a inebriated condition started checking luggage and asked for tickets. They started abusing passengers. When he objected to their behaviour, he said he was also beaten and some cash snatched from him.

He said he had complained to the railway high-ups.

However, no official version could be obtained.


Daler Mehndi’s aide surrenders
Our Correspondent

Patiala, January 16
Delhi-based property dealer Bul Bul Mehta — one of main accused in the human trafficking case, today surrendered in a court here even as the police has initiated proceedings to get him declared a proclaimed offender (PO).

Bul Bul Mehta, said to be a close aide of Daler Mehndi and Shamsher Mehndi, surrendered in the court of Mr P.S Dhanoa, Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (ACJM) today afternoon and was remanded in judicial custody till tomorrow. Although the Sadar police had set into motion the process of declaring him a PO, Mehta’s counsel H.V. Rai has challenged the same by filing a revision petition in the court.

The Public Prosecutor pleaded for police remand of Mehta which was declined by the court.


Dr Soch hospitalised
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 16
Dr Narinder Singh Soch (100), noted scholar and father of former Vice-Chancellor Harbhajan Singh Soch, has been admitted to a private hospital following an acute respiratory problem.

He is the author of 85 books. He was awarded the Shiromani Sahitkar Award by the Punjab Languages Department. He has also been honoured by the SGPC and many social and literary organisations.


Samjhauta coaches returned
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 16
As part of the Indo-Pak rail agreement that led to the resumption of the Samjhauta Express, 70 of the 224 stranded coaches on both sides of the border were returned today at the Attari railway station.

According to railway authorities here, a Pakistani engine arrived here and picked up a team of the Indian railway staff which went to the Wagah railway station to bring back 70 cargo coaches and vice-versa


Send Lura to juvenile home, says police
Our Correspondent

Dera Bassi, January 16
After a stay of 12 days at Mubarikpur police post, the police has asked the local administration to send Lura, a 10-year-old Nepalese boy, to juvenile home in Patiala.

In this pretext, Mr Manmohan Kumar Sharma, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), has written to Mr D.R. Garg, Subdivisional Magistrate, Dera Bassi, asking him to complete all formalities and make the necessary arrangements prior to sending the boy to the juvenile home.

While talking to Chandigarh Tribune, the DSP said that Lura’s parents had already been called from Nepal. He said, ‘‘The SDM has been asked to send Lura to some good juvenile home in the state. The boy would be kept in the juvenile home till his family members turn up.’’

Lura was rescued by three scooterists from the bank of the Ghaggar after hearing his cries for help near the railway bridge in Mubarikpur, 2 km from here, on January 4 night. The boy was later admitted to Civil Hospital, Dera Bassi, by the rescuers.


Grant for 222 SC families
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 16
Mr Arvind Khanna, the Congress MLA from Sangrur, today asked the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) to contest the Sangrur Lok Sabha seat instead of leaving it to the CPM in case of a Congress-CPM alliance.

Mr Khanna was talking to mediapersons here today after distributing cheques, worth Rs 10,000 each, to 222 beneficiaries, belonging to the Scheduled Castes for repairs and construction of pucca houses under a scheme of the Welfare Department, Punjab. Another instalment of Rs 10,000 each to these 222 beneficiaries will be given later. Villagers from 17 villages, including Bhagwanpura, Fatehgarh Chhana, Akoi Sahib, Bangawali, Lidran, Uppli, and Ram Nagar Sibian, have benefited from the scheme.


Holiday in Sangrur district today

Sangrur, January 16
Mr Sarvjit Singh, Deputy Commissioner, today announced a holiday in Sangrur district on January 17 in memory of the Kuka martyrs.

This holiday has been announced by the Deputy Commissioner under Section 25 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881.

A state-level function in memory of the Kuka martyrs will be held tomorrow at Namdhari Samarak at Malerkotla, Capt Amarinder Singh, Punjab Chief Minister, will preside over the function. — TNS


DC Ahluwalia bereaved
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 16
Mr Avtar Krishan, elder brother of Mr S.K. Ahluwalia, Deputy Commissioner, died this morning after brief illness. His mortal remains were consigned to the flames at the Kulhari Gate cremation ground, Patiala. The cremation was attended by people from all walk of life.

According to Mr Ahluwalia, bhog and antim ardas would be held on January 25.


High Court
Notice to Punjab in cops’ case
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 16
Taking up a petition filed by five police officers challenging “permanent absorption” of para-military personnel in the Punjab police, a Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court today issued notice of motion to the state of Punjab and other respondents for February 19.

The notice was issued by the Bench, comprising Mr Justice J.S. Khehar and Mr Justice M.M. Kumar. Terming the move as illegal, unconstitutional and arbitrary, besides being violative of the principles of natural justice, Mr Jatinder Singh Aulakh and other petitioners had earlier contended that there was no provision for the absorption of persons on deputation under the relevant rules framed in 1959. Moreover, the action was likely to affect their rights and service conditions.

Arguing on the petitioners’ behalf, counsel had asserted that respondents had not been relieved from their “parent service” and still belonged to their “parent department”. This was not all. There was contradiction to the claim of the respondents.

Giving details, counsel had asserted that on one hand the personnel were being absorbed permanently in the Punjab police. On the other hand, it was “stipulated that they would not have any claim on promotion to Indian Police Service”. This condition, he asserted, was illegal and unconstitutional.

Counsel added that directions should be issued to the respondents for “creating ex-cadre posts in Punjab Police Department for absorbing persons belonging to para-military force presently on deputation with the Punjab Police”.

Notice of motion

The high court today issued notice of motion on a petition filed by Punjab’s ex-senior Deputy Advocate-General Suresh Kumar Sharma challenging the rejection of his claim for retrial benefits. The case will now come up for further hearing on April 20.

In his petition taken up by a Division Bench. comprising Mr Justice J.S. Khehar and Mr Justice M.M. Kumar, Mr Sharma had sought quashing of an order issued on December 11 last year vide which his claim was turned down. This, he asserted, was in violation of the law laid down by the high court.

Plea dismissed

The high court today dismissed a petition filed by a naib tehsildar seeking the quashing of an order vide which he was reverted to the post of kanungo.

In his petition against the state of Punjab and other respondents, taken up by Mr Justice J.S. Khehar and Mr Justice M.M. Kumar, Mr Balwant Singh of Ferozepore had earlier claimed that the order issued on December 17 last year was illegal and arbitrary.


4 accused of attacking cops acquitted
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 16
Mr D.S. Malwai, Additional Sessions Judge, Bathinda, has acquitted four residents of Bir Talab village of the district who had been accused of attacking a police party when it raided the house of one of the accused in 1999. Mr Malwai while delivering the judgement on January 14 held that it appeared that the police had some ulterior motive to involve the suspects.

Mr Malwai held that it appeared that the police had registered a case against the accused to settle a score with them by implicating the entire family in a false case.

An FIR was registered against Mr Gurdas Singh, his wife Mohinder Kaur, son Manjit Singh and Nanak Singh, all residents of Bir Talab village, in this regard.

Mr Ajay Pal Singh, Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI), Punjab Police, and the then in charge of the police post, Bir Talab, was the complainant.

In the FIR it was alleged that some members of the raiding team were injured in the attack. Even the uniform of Mr Ajay Pal Singh got torn in the scuffle, it was alleged.

The suspects alleged that a false case was made against them by the police to pressurise them as Mr Gurdas Singh was a witness in a criminal and civil case filed against a police official, Mr Rajinder Kumar, by Mr Nanak Singh.

Mr Malwai further pointed out that a resident of the village, Mr Hakam Singh, who was the witness in the case and was a kin of one of the members of raiding team, Head Constable Jagdev Singh, allegedly injured in the attack, also deposed that his signature were obtained by Jagdev Singh and he was not a witness in the case.


Focus to be on agriculture, social sector
Jan 20 Punjab Planning Board meeting
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 16
At the January 20 meeting of the Punjab State Planning Board focus will be on agriculture and the social sector.

Vice-Chairman, Dr S S Johl of the board said future stress would be on biotechnological research in crops other than wheat and rice. This would adjust the agricultural production pattern for increased productivity and growth and also rectify the fast-receding underground water table.

Dr Johl said revamp of the social sector, particularly primary education and the health delivery system, was imperative and will form part of the agenda. Rural Punjab was far behind in these two fields.

Though Punjab continued to face a financial crunch, there was some improvement. It is learnt that revenue receipts were Rs 473 crore and revenue expenditure Rs 477 crore up to November last as compared to November, 2002.

The faint silver lining was that the revenue deficit reduced from 42.35 in 2001-02 to 33.91 in 2002-03. The board would invite suggestions on how to accelerate development, increase revenue receipts and cut down on wasteful government expenditure. Based on the deliberations the state would frame the Annual Plan for 2004-05, which was expected to be around Rs 3,500 crore’’.

At the last meeting, several MPs had expressed concern over the financial situation. They had stressed on accountability of persons responsible for losses, say in public sector undertakings (PSU), where the returns were Rs 800 crore only against the government guarantees of Rs 1700 crore. Likewise, the returns from sales tax were also low. The board opinion was that this could be increased to at least Rs 5,000 crore per year from Rs 3,000 crore at present.

The MPs had agreed to meet the Prime Minister to request that a special term loan be completely waived, the sugar stock worth Rs 435 crore cleared and agriculture and the allied sector galvanised to jack up the economy.

Dr Johl said priority areas were: infrastructure—roads, transport, communication, market access and connectivity; uninterrupted power supply at reasonable tariff and making the PSEB function as a commercial organisation.

Punjab had the highest percentage (31 per cent) of the scheduled Caste population in the country. The Central 10th Plan aimed at reduction of the poverty ratio by 5 percentage points by 2012. The board would discuss what plans could be framed for this segment of the population for funding by the Centre.


Farmers, call 1551 for free advice
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 16
Advice on crops for farmers of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir will be given on phone from January 21. Farmers in these states can dial a local number free of any charge to seek expert advice on issues related to farming. The Union Ministry of Agriculture has set up a nationwide ‘‘ Kisan helpline’’ which will also have a centre in Chandigarh.

The phone common number is 1551 across the country. This will not require any STD codes. Chandigarh is one of the eight such centres. The scheme will be launched on January 21.

The ministry has outsourced the work of attending to the calls to the Dalmia group. The company will post its people from 9 a.m to 6 p.m from Monday to Saturday. The helpline will be closed on Sunday and national holidays.

Mr Neeraj Suri, in charge of the Chandigarh office, said the company would have nine persons to attend to the calls.

The Chandigarh office will deal with calls from J&K, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Chandigarh and Panchkula. Calls from other places in Haryana will be dealt by the Delhi office. However, the caller will not know the difference as this is just a technical division of the area based on telecom circles.

The Chief General Manager Telecom (CGMT), Mr M.S. Bhatia, said, “We have just provided dedicated telephone lines on 1551. The rest of the work will be handled by the Ministry of Agriculture and its associates.”

Mr Suri explained that the company would involve a system under which calls from a farmer from Punjab will be handled by a person who understands Punjabi and can give advice on agriculture. The same formula will apply to other states. After the office closes down at 6 p.m or on holidays, an integrated voice response system (IVRS) will take over. Farmers can record their queries and the office will get back to them.

The scope of the system is unlimited. It ranges from advice on the time of sowing, dealing with pests, sprinkling of fertilisers and prevention in rain on all crops.

If the query is highly technical in nature, experts will be called over the phone and a teleconference arranged between the expert and farmer. All this will also cost nothing to the farmer.


Coal shortage problem to end soon: Bhalla
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 16
Mr Raman Bhalla Administrative member, PSEB, said today that high-level talks with Central Government agencies were going on with regard to coal shortage being faced by the thermal plants in the state.

Mr Bhalla, who visited the local Guru Nanak Dev Thermal Plant (GNDTP) along with two ministers Malkit Singh Birmi and Joginder Singh Mann, said the problem of shortage of coal would be solved soon. He added that the work pertaining to the stage II of Guru Hargobind thermal plant would start shortly. Earlier, Mr Bhalla addressed a high-level meeting of officials of GNDTP.


2 held for murder
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 16
The district police has arrested two persons who allegedly murdered Suresh Kumar, a resident of Gurdaspur and forcibly took away his car here on Wednesday evening. The police had initially arrested the suspects for stealing the vehicle and added the section of murder after interrogation.

According to details, Baljit Singh and Balkar Masih, both residents of the Malewal village area falling under Fatehgarh Churian police station in Gurdaspur were arrested by B-Division police station during a naka.

The police recovered a car (PB-02-1665) from them. During investigation it came to light that they had killed Suresh Kumar near Gadewali village under Dera Baba Nanak police station and had thrown his body there. The police has registered a case under Sections 302, 201, 379, 411 of the IPC.

In the meanwhile, the body of an unidentified person was found in bushes in the Kathania area on Khasa side. The hands and legs of the deceased had been chopped off. The police has registered a case under Sections 302, 201 of the IPC at Chheharta police station on the statements of Naik Mahinder Singh and Subedar Rajkumar who found the body during patrolling in the area.


Cop held on graft charge
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, January 16
A police personnel of the local Central Jail was caught red-handed today while accepting a bribe of Rs 3,000 allegedly on behalf of a doctor of the jail hospital for referring an undertrial to the Civil Hospital.

The SP (Vigilance), Mr Tulsi Ram stated here that Narinder Kumar, an undertrial, approached Dr David and a police personnel, Dheeraj Kumar, for referring him to the Civil Hospital. Dr David allegedly demanded Rs 25,000 for preparing the requisite documents in this regard. Dheeraj Kumar was given Rs 2,000.

Subsequently, Narinder during his appearance at a local court on Wednesday met his relative Vijay Kumar and apprised the latter about the demand. Vijay informed the Vigilance Bureau officials, who laid a trap in this regard. A case has been registered.


JE held on bribery charge
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 16
The local Vigilance authorities today arrested Rajinder Kumar, a Junior Engineer (JE) with the PSEB, Dhanaula-II circle, for allegedly accepting bribe of Rs 8,000 from Mr Balwinder Singh of Kotduna village for releasing a tubewell connection.

Talking to TNS over phone, Mr Balkar Singh Sidhu, SP, Vigilance, Patiala said the Vigilance had registered a case against the JE under Sections 7, 13 (2) and 88 of the Prevention of Corruption Act for taking bribe from Mr Balwinder Singh.

Mr Sidhu further said a deal had been struck for Rs 16,000 for releasing the connection, but Mr Balwinder Singh paid Rs 8,000 as the first instalment after informing the Vigilance.


PTU faux pas has students missing exam
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 16
The Punjab Technical University (PTU) landed some students who had registered themselves for its online correspondence courses way back in September 2002 in major trouble yesterday.

Many students, who left their homes to take the first ever examination held to the e-courses initiated one and a half years back, lost most of their examination time hunting for the examination centre, which was nowhere to be found because the address mentioned on the admit cards issued by PTU was wrong. Whereas the actual address of the centre was — C-124, Industrial Area, SAS CIT & R, Phase VIII, Mohali, the admit cards of some students mentioned it as S.A.S. C.I.T. & R, Phase III, Mohali, thus causing confusion.

Further trouble arose because PTU did not spell out the full form of SAS CIT & R. For those who had not frequented Mohali, it was a Herculean task to find the location and that too in a phase where it did not exist. The abbreviation stands for Sahibzada Ajit Singh College for Information Technology and Research.

Inquiries by ‘The Tribune’ revealed names of some students who could not take the complete test due to the PTU faux pas. Sector-9 based Samrat Sagar, a B.Sc (computer science) student of the online course, informed that he had received his admit card about a week back. “The examination was scheduled between 2.30 pm and 5.30 pm yesterday, but because I was confused about the location, I left for Mohali at 12 noon. I reached Phase VIII and made inquiries about SAS CIT & R. When no help came, I called up people at Lovely International Trust, Jalandhar, which manages the online courses of PTU. They said the institute was in Phase VIII, but they did not give the correct address. When I still failed in my search, I called up my father who called up the PTU Registrar. We got the address, ie C-124, Industrial Area, Phase VIII, from the Registrar’s office, but by then it was already 4 pm. I had lost most of the time.”

Incidentally, only five students made it to the examination centre in Phase VIII yesterday. Many perhaps kept locating the address.

Ironically, the first examination to PTU’s e-courses, started in September 2002 should have been held in April. But it was held yesterday after a gap of one and a half years. Many students are anxious about their future because they have lost a lot of time.

Said Samrat, “I should have completed two years of the course by now. But there is a serious problem with the courses. PTU hardly updates its website www.ptuonline.com. Even the website mentions the wrong address of the examination centre.”

While students are demanding compensation, Prof K.S. Klair, Controller of Examinations, PTU, when contacted in Jalandhar, said he had asked the aggrieved students to give their complaints in writing. “It was a clerical error. We will see what best can be done to help the students. As for delays in examinations, some vital decisions are pending at the level of the PTU Academic Council. That’s why we have admitted only one batch for e-correspondence. No admissions were made after September 2002.”


Dr Rajan takes over as chief of AICTE programme
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, January 16
Mr Y.S. Rajan, Vice-Chancellor of Punjab Technical University (PTU) has taken over as chairman of the National Initiative on Engineering Experimentation (NIEE), a programme launched by All-India Council of Technical Education.

In a press statement here yesterday, Registrar of the PTU, Dr M.S. Grewal, said that the NIEE was aimed at reinforcing practice with theory instruction of the undergraduate education programme. “With the advent of Information Technology tools, efforts will be made to provide virtual and instrumentation experimentational curricula in the field of technical education. The focus will be on assessing the present experimental curricula, identify the ways to further improve laboratory course work, industrial training and project work”, the statement said.


Johar’s assurance to PCCTU on pension
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 16
Punjab Higher Education Minister Harnam Dass Johar has assured the Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers Union (PCCTU) that the state government would shortly take the necessary steps for making arrangements for the payment of pension and gratuity to the staff members of private colleges.

Mr Johar, who visited the local DAV College late last evening, while talking with a deputation of union said he had already withdrawn the 10 per cent cut imposed on the grant-in-aid to the private colleges.

He said he had been made aware of the problems being faced by the teachers and other staff members of the union and added that Punjab government would redress them.


Inter-school science quiz
Our Correspondent

Patiala, January 16
The local DAV School, Blossoms Public School and Aurobindo International School bagged the first, second and third position, respectively, in an inter-school science quiz contest held at DAV Public School here today.

As many as 14 teams from DAV, Malerkotla, Pehowa, Chanarthal, Rajpura, Patran, Dera Bassi and Jalandhar and local schools including Buddha Dal, Blossoms, Aurobindo International and Army School participated in the quiz contest.

Mr S.K Gupta, Head of the Zoology department of Modi College, donated Rs 2,000 to DAV Public School.

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