P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Amarinder plans dharna in Delhi
Nod to April 8 as holiday
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Awankha (Dinanagar), January 27
The Punjab Government seems to be on a warpath with the NDA government even as Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today announced a dharna to be staged in New Delhi to protest against the non-payment of arrears to sugarcane growers and the non-lifting of sugar stocks worth Rs 570 crore.

The Chief Minister had earlier staged such a dharna in September 2002 for demanding a raise in the minimum support price for wheat.

Addressing a rally in the run-up to the ensuing Lok Sabha elections at this border town today, Capt Amarinder Singh alleged that due to discriminatory policies of the Central government industries in this border state could be shifted to other states where it had given undue facilities at the cost of Punjab.

The Chief Minister accepted the demand of Ms Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder, a former member of Parliament, and Ms Aruna Chaudhary, an MLA from Dinanagar, to notify April 8 as a gazetted holiday in memory of Baba Nabha Dass, a religious figure of the Mahasha community.

All Congress MLAs and ministers of this border district were present while most of them were absent at the rally organised at Gurdaspur by Rajya Sabha Member Ashwani Kumar.

Capt Amarinder Singh announced that he would hold a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart during his proposed visit to Pakistan from January 29. He claimed the meeting would open new avenues for socio-economic ties with Pakistan to promote trade between the Indian Punjab and Pakistani Punjab.

After laying the foundation stones of a Rs 1.70 crore 30-bed Community Health Centre and a Rs 20 lakh Community Hall, he said it was high time relations between the countries were renewed to the advantage of the people.

He said he would attend the World Punjabi Conference at Lahore on January 30 and use the opportunity to make a breakthrough in this direction.

“I and my counterpart in the Pakistani Punjab, Mr Parvez Ilahi, are both confident of developing socio-economic and cultural ties between the two Punjabs,” Capt Amarinder said.

He revealed that wheat here was being sold at Rs 630 per quintal whereas it was Rs 1,260 per quintal in Pakistan. Similarly, the prices of cotton were also better in Pakistan. Our farmers could get better prices for their produce by exporting it to Pakistan, he pointed out.

The Chief Minister announced that with the improvement of the fiscal position of the state, the government was contemplating beginning the recruitment of teachers and doctors due to the paucity of staff. He added that a final decision on the issue of 2 per cent reservation for Christians in recruitment would be taken soon.

Among those who spoke on the occasion were Ms Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder, former Union Minister, Mr Khushhal Behal, Mr Partap Singh Bajwa, Mr Raghunath Sahay Puri, Mr Ashwani Sekhri, Mr Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa (all ministers), Mr Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Ms Aruna Chaudhary, Mr Rumal Chand and Mr Ashok Sharma (all MLAs), besides local party workers and leaders.


Punjab launches Ashirwad Scheme
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 27
The Punjab Governor, Justice O.P. Verma, yesterday launched a repackaged form of the Shagun Scheme of the erstwhile Akali-BJP government as the Ashirwad scheme at the state-level Republic Day function organised at the Polo Grounds here.

While Scheduled Caste girls were eligible for Rs 5,100 under the Shagun Scheme, now under the Ashirwad Scheme they will get Rs 6,100. The new scheme also covers girls from Christian families. Widows remarrying will also be eligible for the benefit and so will the daughters of widows.

About 40,000 persons are likely to benefit from the scheme annually at a cost of Rs 2,400 crore. The Governor gave away cheques to five girls under the scheme on the occasion.

Besides this, the Governor announced that the Department of Welfare had decided to extend the Kanya Jagriti Jyoti Scheme to all Scheduled Caste families with two girl children. Earlier, the scheme covered only families with one girl.

Justice Verma also announced that the state government had restored the distribution of free textbooks and scholarships to Backward Class and Scheduled Caste students. He said textbooks worth Rs 11.64 crore had been distributed to 14 lakh Scheduled Caste students and scholarships had been given to five lakh students.

The Governor also announced that the government had decided to implement Jan Shree Bima Yojna for three lakh Scheduled Caste families living below the poverty line during the current year. The scheme provides for an insurance of Rs 50,000 for each of these families. Children of these families in class IX to XI will be a given monthly scholarship of Rs 300.

Justice Verma said the government had decentralised the powers to allot five-marla residential plots to Dalit families out of the village common lands.

The Governor called upon the people to remain vigilant against anti-national forces who could create communal strife. He said the spirit of brotherhood should be strengthened and incidents like that at Talhan village in Jalandhar district should not be repeated.

Earlier, the Governor unfurled the National Flag and received the salute from a parade by contingents of the Punjab Police, PAP, CRPF and the NCC besides educational institutes.

Ropar: The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, on Monday promised 24-hour electricity in all villages in the state by June this year. Speaking at the Republic Day function here, he said the Punjab State Electricity Board had been given the target to provide electricity round the clock to all villages by June.

He also launched the Ashirwad Scheme under which the government would give Rs 6,100 at the marriage of girls belonging to poor families. He said the grant under the scheme would be released to all deserving applicants by March-end.

The Chief Minister also announced the lifting of the ban on the widow and old-age pensions in the state.

He also announced a grant of Rs 5.70 crore for the Ropar bypass project and Rs 35 lakh for the municipal council of the town.

Earlier, the Chief Minister, along with the Deputy Commissioner, Ropar, Ms Seema Jain, and the SSP, Mr Surinder Pal Singh, took the salute from contingents of the Punjab Police, NCC, and the Scouts. Bands from the local SS Academy and Shivalik School also took part in the march past.

Choreographic presentations on the Kargil war and the Indo-Pak relations and other dances were presented by various schools. Gidda and bhangra was presented by students of the local Government College.


Protocol broken at R-Day function, alleges Mayor
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 27
The Mayor may be the first citizen of the city, but this seems to have been forgotten at the state-level Republic Day function organised in the Polo Grounds here yesterday, with the first citizen being relegated to the very side of the first row of dignitaries.

Mayor Vishnu Sharma, when questioned on this, said the district administration had not followed protocol while seating him to one side of the first row. He said not only him but other politicians, including various chairmen, had been ignored at the function.

Though Mr Sharma did not reply as to where he should have been seated, his supporters said as Mr Sharma is the first citizen of the town, he should have been seated next to the Governor who was the chief guest on the occasion. They said the Mayor was however seated on one extreme of the dais along with other politicians holding posts of chairmen of corporations as well as the Improvement Trust of the city.

According to the seating plan followed by the district administration, the Director-General of Police and the Divisional Commissioner were seated on the immediate sides of the Governor. While on one side alongside the DGP, senior police officers, including the ADGP, the IG, the DIG and the SSP were seated, bureaucrats were seated on the other side, besides the chairman of the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) and the chairmen of two corporations, Mr Ved Prakash Gupta and Hardyal Singh Kamboj, besides Improvement Trust chairman K.K. Sharma.

Deputy Commissioner Tejveer Singh, when questioned, said the Mayor had not been ignored at all and had been seated on the front row.

He said the Mayor was seated before the Sessions Judge. As far as protocol which needs to be followed on the occasion, the Deputy Commissioner said the State Order of Preference did not mention the status to be given to non official appointees. He said it, however, said that non-official appointees should be given a high place according to their importance. “This was done in the case of the Mayor”, he added.


Punjab may raise retirement age to 60
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 27
The Punjab government has a move to raise retirement age of its employees to 60 years from the existing 58 years.

Official sources said that blueprint of a scheme to extend benefits to lakhs of employees had been prepared and formal decision to this effect might be taken in the next cabinet meeting or before that.

The Punjab government has also initiated steps to facilitate its employees to get house loans at a cheaper rate of interest from the banks. The Punjab government will stand as guarantor for the loan taken by its employees.

A senior member of the Punjab government told The Tribune today that the Congress government was concerned about the welfare of its employees and had planned to extend benefits to them when Lok Sabha elections were to be held in March or April 2004. He added, the Congress would reap political benefits from the facilities, to be extended to employees. The Punjab government had already withdrawn 8 per cent Sale Tax imposed on the dhaba owners.

He pointed out that the Punjab government was also making arrangements to ensure payment of leave travel concession (LTC) to its employees. An instalment of Dearness Allowance (DA) could be announced any time. He said that senior Congressmen had been working out strategies to extend benefits to all sections of society before the Election Commission announced the dates of Lok Sabha elections and imposed the code of conduct.

Sources said that the raising of retirement age at this moment would not put extra burden on the government as it would be able to save crores it was bound to pay to the employees in the shape of General Provident Fund (GPF), gratuity and leave encashment, who were to retire in the coming months.

Sources said that the Punjab government had started steps to woo employees as the state Congress leadership had been feeling that state government employees felt alienated from the party after several cuts were imposed on their salaries and a few concessions were stopped for a considerable time after party’s government headed by Capt Amarinder Singh assured office two years ago.

Sources added the Punjab government had also started rethinking over its decision to disband some boards and corporations to keep their employees in good humour. The Punjab government might also take decision to impose ban on the handing over the collection of Octroi to private parties to woo traders.


Eradi panel reopens case
Punjab-Haryana water dispute
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 27
After a gap of about 17 years, the Eradi Tribunal, that was set up to resolve the river waters dispute between Punjab and Haryana, has reopened the case.

Informed sources said today that the Eradi Commission had issued a notice to the Punjab Government to appear before it on January 31 in connection with the dispute. This development has caused a flutter in the state government circles. The tribunal was set up long time ago by the Union Government to decide the share of river waters between the partner states mainly Punjab and Haryana, who have been on daggers drawn on this issue for the past three decades.

Sources said the Punjab Government had got in touch with legal experts to have their opinion regarding the notice issued by the commission. Sources said the experts were of the opinion that the State Government should take the plea on before the Commission that it (commission) had lost its relevance long time ago.

A new commission should be set up the resolve the dispute in place of Eradi Commission. The new commission should hear the case afresh, right from the start.

The Eradi Commission had announced its interim decision in 1987 by allocating 3.5 Maf of water from Ravi and Beas rivers to Haryana. But its decision was never implemented. In fact, Punjab and Haryana have faced several ups and downs on the river waters issue. The Punjab has been insisting that if the Union Government wanted to give a share of waters from rivers flowing in the Punjab basin to Haryana, it should also give share from Yamuna to Punjab which used to be a part of the un-divided Punjab.

The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, has been arguing that the state has more area but less share of river waters as compared to Haryana. He has been outrightly rejecting the Haryana's claim on river water. In fact, Punjab wanted that the quantum of river waters should be reassessed before taking any decision regarding their adjudication. The state government had stated that river waters quantum has come down from 17.4 maf to 15.2 maf in the past few decades.

Already, the state government as well as main political parties have made it clear several times that Punjab had no water to spare for Haryana and any other state. But the Haryana Government has pressing the Union Government to complete the SYL canal, a project that has been hanging fire since 1985, at the earliest to carry river waters from Punjab to Haryana. The Haryana Government had even moved the Supreme Court, which had directed the Union Government to get the canal completed by mid of January last year. The case is still going on in the Supreme court where Punjab and Haryana Governments have filed their claims and counter-claims regarding the dispute.

The construction of the SYL canal had begun under the Rajiv-Longowal Accord. A large part of the canal was constructed in 90s. However, following the killing of several labourers and two top engineers, who were engaged in the construction of the canal, by terrorists, the work on this project was abandoned several years ago. Vast stretch of the canal is now in a bad shape.

In the meantime, the commission had also become passive. A dispute had arisen regarding the appointment of its members. But all of sudden, the commission has now revived the case. Informed sources said at present the commission was headed by Justice Mohammad Iqbal, a Judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The official sources said the latest notice was the first one issued after 1987 when the Commission had gone in deep slumber.


Chahal lobbied for Mittal, says Rana
Our Correspondent

Nangal (Ropar), January 27
A supporter of Captain Amarinder Singh, Chairman of the Punjab Pollution Control Board, K.P.S. Rana, at a press conference here today alleged that Mr Bharat Inder Singh Chahal, media adviser of Capt Amarinder Singh, and Mr Ravi Inder Singh had been protecting former Minister for Food and Civil Supplies and senior BJP leader Madan Mohan Mittal.

He alleged the government could have moved long ago to probe corruption charges against Mr Madan Mohan Mittal but Mr Chahal and Mr Ravi Inder Singh had been saving him till now. Mr Mittal has been lobbying with Mr B.I.S. Chahal and Ravi Inder Singh since the change of the government in the state to save himself from a vigilance probe.

Mr Rana was reacting to the recent statement of Mr Mittal that the Congress government could not find anything substantial against him but he would see to it that he was jailed. He was here to attend the election of the senior vice-president and president in the Nangal Municipal Council.

He added he would soon hold a press conference to expose misdeeds of Mr Mittal when he was a minister in the SAD/BJP government. Asked if other former BJP ministers were also being protected from corruption charges, Mr Rana said that he was levelling the charges with specific reference to Mr Madan Mohan Mittal. Mr Mittal denied Rana’s charges. He met neither Mr Ravi Inder Singh nor Mr B.I.S. Chahal with regard to the allegations against him.

Mr Mittal alleged that Mr Rana was just trying to divert the attention of the people from Congress government’s failure by issuing such statements.

Mr K.P.S. Rana who contested for the first time from Nangal on Congress ticket had defeated Mr Mittal who has represented the area for third time, in the 2002 Assembly elections.


Pirzada admitted to hospital
Tribune News Service

Mohali/Patiala, January 27
Tamil Nadu cadre IAS officer Gurnihal Singh Pirzada, who was arrested by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau in a corruption case, was admitted to the Government Rajindra Hospital, Patiala, yesterday following orders of his judicial remand till February 9 by a Kharar court.

Pirzada was granted judicial remand on the request of the Vigilance Bureau on account of failing health of the accused. Pirzada, arrested on January 22, was sent to police custody till January 26 during which he was kept at the Phase VIII police station lock up. However, according to the defence counsel, Peerzada who is a chronic patient of hypertension, angina and cervical, fell ill following intense questioning lasting over 18 hours in police custody. Following which he was rushed first to the Civil Hospital, Phase VI, Mohali, and then to General Hospital, Sector 16, Chandigarh, from where he was brought back after his condition stabilised.

On Monday morning, Pirzada’s condition seemed to have worsened as the defence counsel informed the court that he vomited blood and was complaining of breathlessness and shivering, following an acute hypertension attack. Pirzada was brought by the vigilance to the court in an ambulance and was not produced before the duty magistrate also. He continued to lie on a stretcher in the ambulance belonging to a private heart institute in Chandigarh.

Duty Magistrate Ranjan Kumar Khullar, while allowing the prosecution request, directed to produce Pirzada before a Special Court in Ropar on the next date.

Pointing out that the police remand of the accused had proved useless, the prosecution pleaded for judicial custody of the accused for the time being on the condition that the custodial interrogation of the accused would be conducted after procuring his production warrant and police remand when his health improved.

According to sources, Pirzada who is now under the supervision of the Superintendent, Central Jail, Patiala, is now admitted in the ICU wing of Rajindra Hospital and had been referred to the hospital when he complained of high blood pressure. The sources said the IAS officer’s condition was stable. Entry into the ICU is restricted with police personnel being posted outside it.


Attack on Zaffarwal: police terms it ‘drama’
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

 Wassan Singh Zaffarwal Zaffarwal (Gurdaspur), January 27
The police here today described the story of “attack” on former militant Wassan Singh Zaffarwal at his village on the eve of Republic Day as “high-level drama” by him to get security.

Zaffarwal, a former self-styled chief of the Khalistan Commando Force (KCF) was arrested from Amritsar on April 9, 2001. People believed that Zaffarwal was brought to India from Switzerland at the behest of a former Akali minister and later shown “arrested” by police.

However, Zaffarwal claimed that nearly 10 persons had visited his house on the eve of Republic Day when he was reciting “path” in a room. He claimed that when he along with his family members chased them, they fled.

He said he immediately flashed this incident to police control room and a team of policemen reached the spot after 20 minutes. He said he had also passed this information to the Dhaliwal Police Station. However, the police has not registered an FIR so far believing it to be a ‘concocted story’. The police believed that Zaffarwal wanted to get arms’ licence which could not be given to him due to his “dubious background”.

However, Mr Gurdev Singh Sahota, DIG (Border) said that the police was investigating the case and further action could be taken only after getting a complete report from the investigating officer.


Pak delegation list sent to PMO
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 27
After the clearance of the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh's visit to Pakistan, another clearance for members of his entourage comprising ministers, MLAs, bureaucrats and businessmen is keenly awaited from the Prime Minister's Office ( PMO).

The visit of the Chief Minister coincides with the World Punjabi Conference to be held at Lahore from January 29 to 31. In fact, the Chief Minister has deputed the Chief Secretary, Mr Jai Singh Gill, to get the list cleared from the PMO. If the list is cleared by tomorrow, the Chief Minister and his entourage will be leaving for Pakistan on January 30 and returning after 3 days on the evening of February 1.

Among the names forwarded are the Higher Education Minister, Mr Harnam Dass Johar; Food and Supplies Minister, Mr Avtar Henry; Public Health Minister, Mr Jasjit Randhawa; Technical Education Minister, Mr Mohinder Singh Kaypee; PWD Minister, Mr Pratap Singh Bajwa, MLA from Bathinda, Mr Surinder Singla and Political Secretary to Chief Minister, Rana Gurmit Sodhi.

The senior officers, who would be accompanying him include Chief Secretary, Mr Jai Singh Gill; Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, Mr Suresh Kumar; Principal Secretary ( Industries), Mr S.C Aggarwal; Principal Secretary ( Public Relations), Mr D.S Jaspal; MD Agro Industries Corporation, Mr Himmat Singh.

The Chief Minister is taking along a number of leading businessmen of the country to make his visit more meaningful and businesslike by organising their interactions with their counterparts in west Punjab ( Pakistan). They are Mr Sunil Munjal, Mr Rajinder Gupta, Mr Harpal Singh, Mr D.S Brar among others.

The Deputy Vice-Chairman of the state Planning Commission, Mr S.S Johl, would also be a part of this delegation. The Chief Minister reportedly has other issues on his agenda, including a meeting with his counterpart Mr Pervez Illahi and top businessmen of that country. The CM, had a few days back had during a one- to- one meeting with the Prime Minister on various issues, including non-clearance of his ( CM) foreign visits. He had protested that while the visits of other CMs were being cleared at the drop of the hat, in his case the clearances were being held up on one pretext or the other.


SAD dilemma over organisational poll
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 27
The SAD had planned to complete the district-level organisational elections by February 20 and to elect the Party President after a week or so by calling a delegate session. However, the party is now in dilemma as a section of the SAD leadership is for postponing the organisational elections in view of the Lok Sabha elections.

Certain senior Akali leaders say the Election Commission of India should be requested to permit the SAD to hold the organisational elections after the Lok Sabha poll as it would not be wise to involve the party’s rank and file in these elections before the general election.

However, Mr Parkash Singh Badal is awaiting declaration of the Lok Sabha poll before approaching the Election Commission. The other view in the party is that if the general election is held in May, the SAD should complete the organisational elections before February-end. However, if the general election is held in April, the organisational elections should be postponed till May.

Mr Badal is supposed to give adequate representation to Mr Tohra’s loyalists in the organisational setup. Mr Badal had promised to give due share to Mr Tohra’s loyalists in the party as a part of the unity formula. However, this has not happened yet.

Sources said Mr Badal had promised to appoint Mr Tohra’s loyalists as the Presidents of the Patiala, Fatehgarh Sahib, Ludhiana (Urban), Khanna and Amritsar district units. There was a pact between the two to appoint the Senior Vice-Presidents from the Tohra camp in the districts where Mr Badal’s men headed the district party units and vice versa.

However, Mr Badal’s confidants were not prepared to allow that much representation to Mr Tohra’s men in the organisation. And this problem can assume serious proportions in the days to come.

Another problem troubling Mr Badal the most is the trouble brewing between the Dhindsa and Barnala groups in Sangrur district. The Barnala group has told Mr Badal clearly that it will oppose Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa’s candidature from the Sangrur Lok Sabha constituency. It would be difficult for Mr Badal to resolve the ongoing tussle between the two groups in the Sangrur belt.

Apprehending the eruption of major trouble in Sangrur, Mr Badal, today directed all party leaders and workers not to make any statement with regard to the coming Lok Sabha elections. Only those capable of defeating the Congress candidates would get the SAD ticket, he added.


Cabinet expansion: govt seeks legal opinion
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 27
The Punjab Government will seek a legal view on the question of Cabinet expansion in view of the recently introduced Anti Defection (Amendment) Act. This was stated by Punjab Agriculture Minister, Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, soon after the Republic Day function here yesterday.

Ms Bhattal said she did not wish to comment on the past incidents in the party and wanted to make a new beginning in terms of her relationship with the Chief Minister. However, she asked the Chief Minister to ensure that the bureaucracy in the state was not politicised by vested interests.

In reply to a question on the working of state Home Secretary, Mr Sanjit Sinha, and the Media Adviser to the Chief Minister, Mr B.I.S. Chahal, Ms Bhattal said, “I have nothing against these officers. It is the prerogative of the Chief Minister to appoint anyone he wishes for the smooth working of the government”. Ms Bhattal said she had objections to the bureaucrats interfering in the internal working of the Congress.

On the issue of jailbreak, she said it was the responsibility of the Union Government, especially the Home Department. But she feels that Pakistan was behind this sensational incident.


Martyrs remembered on Republic Day
Tribune reporters

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 27
Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang, Minister for Animal Husbandry and Sports, unfurled the National Flag at the district level Republic Day celebrations held at Mata Gujri College Stadium here. He took the salutes from the contingents of the Punjab Police, the Home Guards and NCC cades, Mr S.K. Ahluwalia, Deputy Commissioner, and Mr Shiv Kumar, SSP, accompanied the minister.

Mr Kang paid tributes to the martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of the country.

He gave cheques for Rs 6,100 each to the beneficiaries under the newly started Ashirwad Scheme, and cheques for Rs 2 lakh each to 10 panchayats which were elected unanimously. He honoured 15 prominent persons from different fields for their commitment towards their profession. He gave 24 sewing machines and 7 tricycles to widows and handicapped.

Schoolchildren presented a cultural programme.

The tableau of the Horticulture Department was declared first and that of the Health Department second.


Railway overbridge to become reality
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 27
Thirteen years after the project was first put in the railway work programme and nearly two and a half years after its foundation stone was laid by former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, the work on the overbridge over railway crossing No 22 or the “22 number phatak” as it has been made famous in Punjabi songs, is finally going to start taking shape from January 30.

The railway crossing is a menace to free movement of traffic in the city and proposals to construct an overbridge over it have been in the pipeline for almost 15 years. On numerous occasions decisions have been taken to construct the overbridge but nothing concrete could emerge from the proposals.

Now the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, is scheduled to inaugurate the start of the project. This time the government seems to be intent on a time schedule for the project which is slated to be completed within nine months. The work of construction of approaches to the railway overbridge has been allotted to S.P. Singla Construction Company, Panchkula, at an estimated cost of Rs 6.95 crore. The Railways will also put in money for the project.

The railway overbridge is finally coming up after a number of proposals as well as obstacles. Earlier the Punjab Government had proposed to construct an underbridge at the site. However this proposal was struck down by former Deputy Commissioner Jasbir Singh Bir as it would entail establishing facilities to pump out water during the monsoon season as the area is low lying. The Deputy Commissioner, who had called in an expert from Mumbai to make assessment of the project, finally recommended construction of the overbridge to the Punjab Government in 2000.

Though the shopkeepers protested against the construction of the overbridge on the ground that their business would suffer in case the railway crossing was closed, the foundation stone of the project was got laid by Mr Badal in September, 2001. However the project could not be taken up by the Akali-BJP government.

Even after the formation of the Congress government, despite attempts to start work on the project snags delayed the move. The Telecom Department asked for time and substantial money to rework its network which would be disturbed following start of the project. The Railways also delayed the project.

Though the overbridge is expected to be a boon for people of the city who have to wait for long periods on the busy Bhupindra road, the shopkeepers on both sides of the overbridge want that the railway crossing should not be closed for vehicular traffic. According to railway rules, the crossing over which an overbridge is made or that adjacent to it is closed down.


Skeleton attracts devotees
Tribune News Service

Mehraj (Bathinda), January 27
A skeleton claimed to be of a saint in meditating posture along with a fire pot was found during the digging of earth for laying the foundation stone of “Sach Khand” hall of a gurdwara in this ancestral village of Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh.

During digging last evening disc of a tractor hit the skull of the skeleton.

After the tractor disc hit something hard, we came down and noticed a skeleton in a sitting posture. We informed residents of the village, said Mr Sukhdip Singh and Mr Iqbal Singh of ‘Patti’ Sandli of this village.

They added we called Baba Khem Singh who had the digging stopped. Some earthen utensils were also found from near the skeleton, they added.

As news of the skeleton spread villagers started visiting the place and religious ceremonies started. People started offering money and other things to the skeleton. Residents of Kothe Malluana where the skeleton was discovered are feeling blessed.

Baba Khem Singh said the spot where the skeleton was found a hut of saints existed four decades ago.

He said residents had decided to erect a glass enclosure around the skeleton to protect it.


Dalit family alleges police atrocities
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, January 27
A Dalit family here has alleged that officials of the Basroop police post near here forcibly evicted them from their house and axed more than 500 trees on the land of Dalits in alleged connivance with members of a land mafia.

The family alleged yesterday that on December 13, last year, a police party comprising two ASIs and some constables raided their house at Basroop village and forcibly took them to the police station. The policemen abused them and beat them up. They were also forced to remove clothes and were booked in a false case.

On December 16 the matter was reported to a magistrate who ordered of medical examination of one of the victims. During this time more than 500 trees were axed and the alleged mafia forcibly occupied 7 acres and the house of the victims.

Mr Amit Mishra, DFO, stated that no sanction had been accorded for axing the trees.

Police officials posted at Basroop claimed that the victims along with certain others had attacked a police party, injuring some. A criminal case was registered against the victims. They said the victims had planted a false story for the withdrawal of the case.


Dalits seek abolition of SC/ST panel
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 27
Dalits have sought the abolition of the National Commission for SC/ST and demanded constituting of a national judiciary commission comprising acting or retired judges of the Supreme Court or High Court belonging to these communities.

In a press release here Mr Harbhajan Lal, president, National Conference of Dalit Organisation (NACDOR), alleged that earlier the organisation had written to Mr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, President and Prime Minister, respectively, in this regard. However, nothing had been done in this regard.

He said neither the ruling nor the Opposition had bothered to find a solution to their problems.

He alleged that thousands of complaints regarding atrocities on the Dalits had remained only on the files.


Dharna against death in custody
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 27
On the call of the Ravinder Hatiyakand Action Committee, a large number of villagers today staged a dharna in front of the Sherpur police station alleging that the police has failed in arresting the DSP, the Sherpur SHO and other policemen, allegedly responsible for the death of Ravinder Singh (25) in police custody on January 18.

Mr Gobind Singh Kanjhla, MLA from Sherpur, said it was a matter of shame that despite the assurance of the Principal Secretary to the Punjab Chief Minister and the DGP, the guilty had not been arrested so far.

Mr Sukhdev Singh Barri, convenor of the action committee, said the committee was just demanding the arrest of the guilty policemen.

He said as the custodial death was a serious crime, so the guilty policemen should be arrested without any further delay.

He said the committee would organise a big gathering on the “bhog” of the deceased, to be held on January 29 at Kala Bula village.


Trains stranded as power fails
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, January 27
Three trains were today stranded due to power failure on newly electrified track, railways sources said.

They said these trains remained stuck up for about half an hour each.

While 2497 UP Shaen-e-Punjab was stranded at Phagwara Railway Station, 4460 UP Amritsar-Delhi Express was stuck up at Chiheru Railway Station. The third train 2029 UP Shatabdi express halted at Jalandhar Railway Station, the sources said, adding the power failure occurred somewhere on the track between Ludhiana and Amritsar railway section.


1 dies after taking tea

Faridkot, January 27
Week-long celebrations for a seven-member family of Bishnandi village in Jaito subdivision in the district turned sorrow when an elder member of the family died while others fell unconscious after consuming tea at their residence on January 24 at 7 am.

According to reports, they had gone to attend the marriage of a relative at Mastian village near Dabwali in Haryana on January 19. After attending the same they returned to Bishnandi. But after consuming tea prepared by a member they started vomiting. They were taken to a private clinic at Jaito for treatment where Balbir Singh (60) died. Four of them were discharged yesterday while two were still under treatment.

Confirming the incident Raj Singh, a member of the family told mediapersons at the hospital today that he held nobody responsible for it. — OC


One dies in wall collapse
Our Correspondent

Kharar, January 27
A mason-cum-contractor was killed while another mason and a labourer sustained serious head injuries when a wall collapsed here on Sunday night.

It is learnt that the three were constructing a wall at night which fell on them. On hearing the sound, persons living closeby came out of their houses and informed the police about the incident.

The police personnel, along with the help of people, pulled out the three from under the wall. While two of the persons could be pulled out easily, it took quite some time to dig out the third person. All the three were rushed to a nearby private hospital from where they were referred to the Civil Hospital.

The deceased, Hanuman Patel (25), was a resident of Chauri village in Gorakhpur district.

The injured mason, Varinder (24), and labourer, Surinder (21), were also from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh. All the three were living at Kharar.


DIG’s gunman hurt as AK-47 goes off
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 27
Head Constable Ashwani Kumar, a gunman of the Punjab Vigilance Bureau DIG, Mr Ishwar Chander, was injured while cleaning his A.K.-47, which went off accidentally, at Mr Chander’s Old Baradari residence on Monday.

The bullet pierced through the abdomen of Ashwani Kumar as the gun reportedly fell of his hands while he was cleaning it.

Ashwani was admitted to the local Civil Hospital and he was stated to be out of danger.


PF Dept recovers Rs 15 lakh
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 27
The Provident Fund Authority today recovered the PF dues worth more than Rs 15 lakh from Partap Paper Mills, Jaintipura Batala. The authority recovered Rs 1.5 lakh in cash while more than Rs 14 lakh by way of attaching the bank accounts of the mill.

Mr Ajay Kumar Mehra, Regional Provident Fund Commissioner, said today that the amount pertains to the PF dues of the workers of the mill.


High Court
Petitions on ad hoc ASIs disposed of
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 27
A Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court today disposed of bunch of petitions seeking directions for reversion of Assistant Sub Inspectors working on ad hoc basis after state counsel informed the court that all the petitioners had been promoted. Appearing before the Bench, headed by Mr Justice Swatanter Kumar, state counsel Sukhjinder Singh Behl asserted that the only claim of the petitioners for seniority and other benefits with effect from October 1, 2002, would be considered individually. Appropriate orders, he asserted, would then be passed.

Claiming to have initiated the process of reverting ineligible police officials, the state had earlier stated that substantial orders would be passed in the matter after receiving reply of officials to show cause notices issued to them.

The state had further claimed that 28 officials had already been “reverted to their substantive ranks of C-II constables”. In an affidavit, it was asserted that a total of 431 officials were promoted from C-II list as Head Constables, “and further to higher ranks in the Punjab Armed Police.... Out of the 431 officials, 337 were sportspersons and 94 officials were non-sports persons”.

Giving details, it was added that “show cause notices to 47 officials had been issued by Punjab’s Director General of Police. On receipt of reply from them, substantial orders would be passed. Besides this, the remaining 47 officials had also been issued show cause notices by the Additional Director General of Police, Punjab Armed Police.

The petitioners had added that ad hoc appointments were being made at the cost of qualified persons awaiting their turn for promotion despite qualifying the required courses for promotion.

Anticipatory bail confirmed

Confirming anticipatory bail granted to Punjab’s former minister Jagdish Singh Garcha in an alleged cheating and corruption case, Mr Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel of the Punjab and Haryana High Court today directed him against alienating the property.

The former minister was earlier booked in a case registered under Sections 420 and 120-B of the India Penal Code, besides under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Seeking the grant of bail, his counsel had contended that a false case had been registered against him. He had submitted that the Congress government was framing cases against its political opponents. The allegations that the employees recruited by Punjab Technical University were from his constituency were also baseless, counsel had added.

The plea was opposed by counsel for the state of Punjab, Mr Mansur Ali, Arguing before the court, he asserted that the former minister should be directed against alienating the property as it was subject matter of the investigations.

Notice issued

Taking up a petition filed by a Mohali-based organisation — The Generation Saviours Association — seeking directions to the Union of India and other respondents against screening of a song “advising court to honour habitual drinkers”, a Division Bench today issued notice of motion to singer Arvinder Singh and Managing Director of Super Cassettes. In its petition, organisation’s President Amteshwer Kaur had alleged that the song was also urging the government to enact a law empowering the judiciary to punish non-drinkers. It was added that the song had made a mockery of judiciary, advocates, police and the politicians.


Murder of 32-yr-old confuses police
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 27
The murder of a 32-year-old employee of a Jalandhar-based forging factory, who was shot dead by some persons near a sugar mill while he was returning home in this township on Monday night, has shocked residents and confused the police. The police has not been able to pinpoint the reason behind the murder which took place at 8.30 p.m. near the Bhogpur Dasehra grounds.

Victim Lakhbir Singh of Bhogpur was neither rich nor he had criminal background. The victim was taken to a Jalandhar-based hospital in an injured state. He kept talking to people for hours, yet, he failed to provide any lead about those who had shot at him, sources pointed out.

Relatives attending on the victim in the hospital also asked him about the identity of those who had shot at him but Lakhbir told them that he did not know anything as he could not see anybody.


Body of missing youth found from well
Our Correspondent

Kharar, January 27
The body of a missing youth of Desumajra village was found from a well here today.

According to the police, Labh Ram (20) went missing on January 14 from the village though a report with the police in this regard was lodged on January 17.

It is learnt that the body was found floating in the well by a villager. The matter was brought to the notice of the police who reached the village and pulled out the body.

The deceased had gone to a mela in Daon village on January 14 but went missing in the evening.

Following request by the family members of Labh Ram to the SDM the body was handed over the family.


3 held on the charge of killing friend

Hoshiarpur, January 27
The police has identified the body of a young person recovered in the forest area of Chohal village on January 20, 2004 and arrested those involved in the murder.

Mr Lok Nath Angra, SSP said here today that after the recovery of the body a case was registered. The body was identified to be that of Jaspal Singh Palla son of Mr Shri Ram Adharmi of New Professors Colony, Panj Mandri Gate, Phagwara. The deceased was the only son of his parents. The SSP added that friends of the deceased — Naresh Kumar alias Sonu, Rahul Goldi, Ajay Kumar alias Tiwari had been arrested. — OC


25-lakh UGC grant for college hostel
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 27
The University Grants Commission (UGC) has sanctioned a grant of Rs 25 lakh to Mata Gujri College for the construction of a girls hostel. This was stated by Dr Gurmohan Singh Walia, Principal of the college, while talking to The Tribune.

He said last year the college had got a grant of Rs 12 lakh from the UGC for starting vocational subjects like functional English and information technology. He said the college UGC committee, under the convenership of Prof Kashmir Singh and Prof Ramanjit Kaur, was making efforts to get accepted proposals like the construction of houses for the staff and starting of remedial courses.

He said a high-powered team of the UGC had interviewed him thrice for sanctioning other projects. He said work on the girls hostel would start soon and by the beginning of the next academic session, the ground floor would be ready for use.

He said the college had also applied to the Central Government for getting status of autonomous college as well as excellence college. He said the college had submitted project reports in this regard.


Industrial housing applicants face uncertain future
A. S. Prashar
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 27
Thousands of applicants for industrial housing in Mohali face an uncertain future following a renewed move by the Punjab Government to allot the land meant for these houses to a controversial “integrated mix land use real estate development project” promoted by a liquor baron.

The move was put on hold last month by the government following controversy in the press and public over the propriety of giving a 50-acre piece of prime land at concessional rate to a private party which planned to exploit it commercially. The move has now been quietly revived and a meeting of the allotment committee, headed by the Chief Secretary, under the “off the shelf” scheme, has been scheduled for January 30.

The project envisages setting up of an industrial zone, a residential colony, commercial complex and shopping mall-cum-multiplex on the land which is being allotted at a concessional rate of Rs 50 lakh per acre. The 50-acre piece of land would, therefore, cost it just Rs 25 crore. In the neighbouring Haryana, auction of just two shopping mall sites of 7000 sq mt each last week fetched a revenue of Rs 50 crore for Haryana Urban Development Authority. Why is the Punjab Government not following the same procedure of auctioning its prime sites is a mystery.

The Punjab State Industrial and Export Development (PSIEC) under its industrial housing policy has already invited applications for 280 residential plots in Phase VIII A and B at Mohali for allotment @ Rs 3700 per sq yard which received an overwhelming response from the public. The industrial housing policy provides priority allotment of residential plots to the entrepreneurs and their employees who have up their units in the concerned areas. According to official sources, the PSIEC has collected nearly Rs 40 crore from the applicants by way of earnest money. Interestingly, the industrial housing sites are to be provided in the same area which is now sought to be allotted by the government to the liquor baron at a concessional rate.

Also listed for consideration at the meeting of the Allotment Committee on Friday is an application from M/s Quark for allotment of 46 acres of land in Phase VIII-Extension, Mohali, at the rate of Rs 20 lakh per acre for setting up an industrial park. This application for land is in addition to the land already allotted for setting up Quarkgarh on the outskirts of Chandigarh.

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