P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Amarinder for cooperation between two Punjabs
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 31
The Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh today endorsed the initiative of the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) to create a congenial atmosphere between the Indian Punjab and Pakistan Punjab to pave the way for smooth bilateral trade between the two states.

Addressing a galaxy of traders, industrialists and businessmen in Lahore, Capt Amarinder Singh said that peace and development had to go hand in hand. He said that globalisation had posed a number of challenges for developing countries like India and Pakistan. Market competition, technology and skill upgradation were some of the immediate issues facing us. Both of us could transform these challenges into opportunities through the sharing of knowledge, technology and maximise our advantage in trade and industry.

Dwelling on the tremendous potential of agriculture in both Punjabs, the Chief Minister hoped that the region could become a global food basket and hub of the agro-processing industry of the world with proper synergy and mutual efforts and cooperation.

He pointed out that the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) framework was a good beginning to accelerate operation in the core areas of trade, finance and investment to realise the goal of an integrated South Asian economy and hoped that it would come into force in January, 2006.

He said that he had been informed that rice exporters of Pakistan were proposing to hold “Made in Pakistan” exhibition in Delhi and extended an invitation to the LCCI to hold such similar exhibitions in Punjab too.

He said that the exchange of group tours of members of the chamber of industry and commerce and trade amongst SARRC countries, particularly India and Pakistan, should be conducted regularly to strengthen economic ties.

Earlier, welcoming Capt Amarinder Singh, president of the LCCI, Anjum Nisar hoped that this initiative on part of both Punjabs would usher in an era of overall growth and development not only in this region but globally.

He also pleaded for the relaxation in the visa restrictions which was an impediment in the way of free trade and commerce between the two economies. He assured Mr Nisar that he would take up this issue with the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, to relax the visa restrictions.

Referring to the potential of trade between India and Pakistan, Chief Minister said that there was an unofficial indirect trade of $ 2 billion dollars every year between India and Pakistan.

The Chief Minister also urged the members of the LCCI to make a beginning and invited them to set up a Joint Trade Promotion Council with offices in Lahore and Chandigarh, beside setting up an agriculture and agri-business cooperation centre to launch joint research projects on agriculture and agri-based projects.

Capt Amarinder Singh, also called on Chaudhary Mohammad Afzal Shahi, Speaker of the Provincial Punjab Assembly in Pakistan.


Punjab’s fiscal reforms derail
P.P.S. Gill

Chandigarh, January 31
This is official. Punjab is caught in a financial snarl. All revenue receipts, including money available from the Centre, is insufficient to meet even committed expenditure — salaries, pensions, interest payments. Consequently, not only has the development suffered but has come to a virtual standstill.

This is stated in a crisp ‘white paper’ prepared by the Finance Department for internal review. The persistent financial crisis are traced back to 1984-85, when Punjab earned the sobriquet of ‘’revenue deficit state’’. And it terms 2001-02 as the ‘’worst’’ financial year.

Today, borrowings are used as financial crutches to meet even committed liabilities and non-plan expenditure. The financial structural imbalance is so deep that without a strong political will, it will be difficult to pull the state out of the present financial quagmire. The largess, estimated at Rs 250 crore, doled out by way of concession, rollback, dilution or abolition of sales taxes to all and sundry, during the current financial year has already done enough damage.

The following populist measures would show how serious the state has been in the past two years to set its financial house in order.

Sales tax on fertilisers was reduced from 4 per cent to 0, on pesticides it was increased from 2 per cent to 4 per cent and then reduced to 0. On milk sales tax was cut from 4 per cent to 2 per cent. The entry tax on yarn was reduced from 8 per cent to 3 per cent and on paper cut from 4 per cent to 2 per cent. The sales tax on ‘dhabas’, imposed at 8.8 per cent was abolished. Even the Exim forms were withdrawn.

Thus, when these measures could not be sustained, it is not known what would plan resource committee, chaired by Dr S.S. Johl, Vice-Chairman, Planning Board, would suggest. Can the committee overcome the bottleneck of lack of political will?

An official of the Finance Department said, ‘’The bureaucracy cannot battle with the political masters too long to seek a cap on the populist decisions. Even the World Bank has shown its concern over the failing fiscal health and has repeatedly warned that political laxity will derail reforms and permanently impair the economy.”

A comparative analysis of the financial position of 2002-03 and 2001-02 in the ‘white paper’ has revealed that revenue deficit had reduced by Rs 27 crore. If the revenue receipts increased by 24 per cent, revenue expenditure increased by 16 per cent. Salaries, pensions and interest payments continued to consume more than the entire revenue receipts, 112 per cent. The debt stock increased to Rs 36,853 crore at the end of 2002-03, compared to Rs 32,496 crore in 2001-02.

In short, the state continued to be totally dependent upon borrowings, which have increased the debt burden. The ‘white paper’ states, ‘’The marginal improvements during 2002-03 are not at all adequate to pull the state out of the current fiscal crisis’’.

Where is the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act-2003, if the state has continued to slip on fiscal reforms? The Act has not been fruit-bearing. Is Punjab violating MoU it had signed with the Union Ministry of Finance on July 23, 2003? The MoU promises to achieve fiscal sustainability? Will Punjab succeed in reducing the revenue deficit from Rs 3,754 crore in 2002-03 to Rs 3,093 crore in 2003-04 and to Rs 2,777 crore in 2004-05? Not likely, say insiders, as it too seems to be in the ‘’sangat darshan’’ mode of the Akali-BJP government, 1997-2002, when money was frittered away.

On the implementation of the Annual Plan, 2003-04, doubts have surfaced on the assumptions propounded in the ‘white paper’. Thus, despite the revised estimates, targets would not be realised.

Will Punjab achieve a target of Rs 750 crore in stamp and registration fee collection? Will it succeed to increase target of taxes on vehicles from Rs 385 crore to 450 crore and eliminate Rs 90 crore losses of roadways? Yet, it is assumed to have additional resource mobilisation of Rs 210 crore. Can non-plan expenditure up to Rs 400 crore be compressed, as assumed?

In fact, Punjab’s share in the central taxes is continuously decreasing under the award of successive finance commissions.

There are also doubts if Punjab could achieve what it had promised in the MoU, given its political populism. This may even deprive Punjab of any additional Central assistance. The ‘white paper’ indicates that the reform agenda is in disarray. Notwithstanding the lax fiscal policies of the past decades, during the 90s Punjab has grown at an annual average rate of 4.5 per cent, significantly below the national average.


No bird flu case reported in Punjab
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 31
There has been no reported case of bird flu in Punjab and other parts of India, but the Punjab Government has taken certain pre-emptive measures in view of the outbreak of the disease in Pakistan and other South Asian countries. Though a control room has been set up here to monitor the surveillance of this disease, yet certain reports regarding the possible threat the disease poses in the border areas, has caused a setback to the business of poultry farmers in the state and across the country.

Addressing a press conference here today, the Punjab Animal Husbandry Minister, Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang, said though there was no possibility of the dreaded bird flu spreading in the region, yet the state government, as part of the surveillance, had issued instructions and guidelines for prevention and control of the disease in the border districts of Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Ferozepore.

The minister said the officials at the Attari railway station had been asked to remain vigilant and the Samjhauta Express coming from Pakistan was thoroughly checked to ensure that no infected poultry bird or eggs entered the country.

Alarmed by the reports of the disease having been reported from Karachi in Pakistan, the government has already sounded a red alert.

The Secretary of the department, Mr D.S. Bains, and Director, Mr B.S. Sidhu, said they had got the cases of reported deaths of poultry birds examined at one or two places, but it had been confirmed that the birds did not die due to bird flu. They informed that officers had also been alerted and put on duty to keep a vigil on all the migratory birds coming to Harikke Pattan.

Answering a question, Mr Bains said vets had been directed to rush birds with symptoms to the Regional Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Jalandhar as the tests to confirm the disease were conducted there.

The Joint Secretary of the Government of India, Dr K.A Reddy, listed out the preventive steps.

The President of the Punjab Poultry Association, Mr Mahender Arora, who was present at the conference, alleged that reports of birds dying of possible bird flu in the region had caused a major setback to their business. The prices of chicken meat had fallen from Rs 32 per kg to Rs 18 per kg. Similarly, the prices of eggs had also come down from Rs 150 to Rs 110 for 100 eggs.


Punjabis in Dubai asked to invest in Punjab
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 31
The Union Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, has urged the Dubai-based Punjabis to invest in Punjab. He said that Punjabis all over the world had made great progress and were playing a key role in the socio-economic life of the countries of their present settlement.

He was speaking at the three-day International Punjabi Conference organised by the World Punjabi Organisation (WPO) where delegates from England, America, Canada, Singapore, Iran, Australia and even Pakistan attended. Mr Mian Muni Hans, a leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, specially attended the meet to represent Pakistani Punjabis.

The conference was attended from India by Mr Tarlochan Singh, Chairman, Minorities Commission, Bishan Singh Bedi (cricketer), Raj Babbar, (MP and filmstar), Mr Vikram Sahni, President, WPO, Mr S.P. Singh, Vice-Chancellor, GNDU varsity, Mr K.S. Bains and Mr Jagmohan Bhanot.

In his keynote address Mr Tarlochan Singh said that India faced no communal problem barring stray incidents. India was the only country in the world where three Muslim leaders became the President. He hoped that the peace initiative taken by the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, would bring desired results. Punjabis on both sides of the border would be the biggest beneficiaries of peace between the two countries, he added.

Mr Vikram Sahni quoted several writings of Muslim Punjabis to focus on cultural links between East and West Punjab. He also announced the launch of Middle East chapter of the WPO.


Order reserved in Daler case
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 31
The local police today moved an application for discharging pop star Daler Mehndi in the human trafficking case claiming it had not found any incriminating evidence against him during investigations into the case. On objection to the application by the advocate of complainants in the case, the court of the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (ACJM) reserved judgement in the case till February 3.

The court of ACJM P.S. Dhanoa, however, discharged Daler in another case registered against him under Section 543 and Section 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Daler was accused of threatening an Assistant Sub-Inspector, Mr Harinder Singh of the Computer Cell, through his secretary. According to the FIR, Daler’s secretary had rung up the ASI and threatened him with dire consequences as he was allegedly working on a computer said to have the record pertaining to the human trafficking case. Additional District Attorney (ADA) D.S. Dhami said the prosecution did not have any evidence against Daler in the case. The plea was accepted by the court and he was discharged in the case.

However when the ADA made a similar plea in the human trafficking case, the advocate of some of the complainants, who was also present on the occasion, objected to the application. Advocate Gurpreet Singh, while quoting a Supreme Court ruling, said the complainants had the right to a hearing before Daler was discharged in the case. The lawyer argued that a prima facie case was made out against Daler on the basis of the charge sheet filed against him and that the charges were still relevant to the case. He requested that he be allowed to file a written submission on behalf of the complainants in the case.

Daler’s lawyer, Mr Brijinder Singh Sodhi, said the complainants could exercise their right to be heard at the time of closure or cancellation of the FIR and that the present discharge was without any prejudice to the case. He said in case the complainants filed a fresh application at a later stage, the defence would file an appropriate submission.

The Judge, while giving his ruling in the matter, reserved judgement on the application till February 3. Daler, who was present in the court today, requested for further security during his court presence but the court ruled that he was getting sufficient security and that he was not suffering any apparent threat perception.

Daler said it was God’s grace that he had been discharged in one case and that the police had found him to be innocent in the human trafficking case. Daler’s advocate Sodhi said the singer had resumed his professional commitments and had held a show on January 26 in New Delhi. Mr Sodhi said Daler would be coming to Punjab on February 26 to perform at Khanna.


UK Home Secy visits police college today
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 31
The Director-General of Punjab Police, Dr A.A. Siddiqui, will gets PhD degree from the British Home Secretary, Mr David Blunkett, at the Police Training College, Phillaur, tomorrow. Mr Blunkett will, preside over the annual convocation. He will also confer M.Phil and post-graduate degrees on 12 other police officer.

The British Home Secretary on his first ever visit to Punjab arrived at Ludhiana late tonight. He is being accompanied by British High Commissioner Sir Michael Arthur, Political Adviser to the British High Commissioner Kamaljit Rattan and Secretary Press Jeff Wilson, besides support staff.

After the convocation, Mr Blunkett, who is visually impaired, will visit Golden Temple and Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar before going to Lahore. He is expected to sign an agreement with the Indian Government for the deportation of 2,500 to 5,000 Indians living illegally in the UK.

Mr Blunkett dispelled fears about the UK imposing a ban on wearing turbans as has been done in France. On the contrary, he assured Sikhs that the Labour Party supported the cause of the Sikh community.

Envoy’s daughter left behind
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 31
There was a virtual panic among the officials of the British High Commission and the district administration when the British High Commissioner’s daughter Olivia Arthur was reported missing. Olivia, a 21-year-old student from UK is on a private visit and was travelling on coach C5 in the Shatabdi Express. “Olivia’s absence was detected after the Secretary of State for Home and the British High Commissioner reached Hotel Majestic Plaza”. a senior police official said.

While a frenzied administration pushed the panic button and sent out teams to look for Ms Olivia Arthur, none could trace her. Administrative officials heaved a sigh of relief when Olivia arrived at the hotel on her own in an auto. “We were only told that the delegation would be travelling in the executive class, we did not know that the High Commissioner’s daughter was in a separate coach”, an official said explaining the reason for the lapse.


Punjab BJP names special invitees
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 31
Mr Balramji Dass Tandon, Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, Mr Manoranjan Kalia, Mr Daya Singh Sodhi, Mr Brij Lal Rinwa, Lala Rajpat Rai, Master Mohan Lal, Mr Tikshan Sood, Mr Sukhpal Singh Saini, Mr Jagdish Sahni, Mr Ram Kumar Goyal, Mr Bishambhar Nath and Mr Om Parkash Kalia will be special invitees at all meetings of the State Executive of the Punjab BJP. This was stated here today by Mr Raj Bhatia, office secretary, BJP, Punjab. Mr Bhatia said that the state President of the party, Mr Avinash Rai Khanna, had appointed Mr Anil Sareen as Secretary of the state unit.

Thakur Ganpat Rai, Mr Pran Nath Bhatia, Mr D.P. Chandan have been appointed as executive members. Mr Gurinderpal Kaur Mangat and Mr Subash Makra have been appointed as Presidents of Bathinda (Urban) and Barnala respectively. Meanwhile, commenting on the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh's visit to Pakistan, Mr Khanna in a separate statement said that the visit was a result of the “feel good” factor created by the Vajpayee government.


SAD to expose Cong misdeeds, says Sukhbir

Nawanshahr, January 31
Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, general secretary, SAD, while talking to mediapersons here at the office of Mr Jaswinder Singh Anokherwal, district president, Youth Akali Dal, said Congress misrule in general and the style of functioning of Capt Amarinder Singh in particular would prove a boon for the SAD-BJP combine in the ensuing Lok Sabha poll. 

Earlier, Mr Sukhbir Badal addressed a rally at Gurdwara Singh Sabha here with a view to mobilising party workers, especially the youth for the youth rally to be held in Ludhiana on February 16. — OC


BSP names 2 nominees for LS poll

Jalandhar, January 31
Taking a lead in selecting candidates for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections, the Punjab wing of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) today announced names of two candidates, Pawan Kumar Tinu and Man Singh Manhera, for Phillaur and Ropar Lok Sabha constituencies, respectively.

Although the process of selecting candidates for all 13 constituencies in the state is on, the party supremo had already finalised these two names. Both candidates have been asked to strengthen their base in their constituencies. This information was given by Avtar Singh Karimpuri, state president of the party. The decision on alliance with any party in the state would be taken by party president Mayawati by the first week next month, he added. — PTI


NCP (Urban) splits

Amritsar, January 31
Even as 26 executive members of district unit of the Nationalist Congress Party (Urban) have joined Mr P.A. Sangma, MP, the other group of district unit of NCP (Urban) led by its vice-president, Mr Amrjit Singh, along with 11 members has supported the Sharad Pawar leadership. This was informed in a separated press statements issued here on Thursday. — OC


JD (United) office-bearers

Hoshiarpur, January 31
Mr Inderjit Singh Saini, President, Punjab Janata Dal (United) has appointed the following office-bearers of the state unit of the party, according to a press release issued by Mr Gurbachan Singh Kasoorwala, General Secretary of the party here yesterday: Vice-presidents — Ms Amritbir Singh Gulati, Mr Sukh Chain Singh Tuli, Prof. S.S. Chhina and B.S. Gill; general-secretaries — Ms Sarup Agnihotri, Mr Gurbachan Singh Kasoorwala, Mr Ajay Sud, Mr Om Parkash, Mr Khem Karani and Mr Rachhpal Singh, secretary — Mr Sunil Vij; joint secretary — Mr Gurmail Singh Brar and treasurer — Mr Hem Raj Saini. — OC


Trust sanctions 93 lakh for colony
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, January 31
The local Improvement Trust has sanctioned Rs 93 lakh to provide basic facilities like metalled roads, waterworks, sewerage, street lights and parks in Giani Zail Singh Avenue, a residential colony being set up near Government Guru Gobind Singh Medical College and Hospital on the Faridkot-Sadiq road covering an areas of 26 acres here.

All formalities in this connection have been finalised and the work is slated to start shortly. Stating this here today, Mr S.K. Gupta, Chairman of the trust, said 183 plots, ranging from 200 to 500 sq yards, had been carved out which would be sold through a draw system. Applications from prospective buyers were likely to be invited by February 10 and the application forms would be available with the trust office in the next two or three days.

Under the scheme, 10 per cent of the cost of the plot would be charged along with the application and 15 per cent after the draw. The remaining amount would be recovered in five equal instalments in two and a half years along with interest according to the rules of the state government, said the Chairman. Mr Gupta said in the next phase, two more colonies were likely to be taken up on the Faridkot-Talwandi and the Faridkot-Kotkapura roads for further development of the town.


Sikh body flays Chaura’s arrest
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 31
The Khalra Mission Committee (KMC) has criticised the arrest of Narain Singh Chaura, a former head of the Akal Federation, in connection with the Burail jail escape case and alleged that it was a conspiracy against Sikhs at the behest of the Central Government.

In a press note issued here today, Mr Jasbir Singh Padri, Mr Virsa Singh Behla and Mr Balwinder Singh Chhabal, president, convener and general secretary of the committee, respectively, in a joint statement said Sikhs were languishing in jails without trials for years, just as the three accused in the Beant Singh assassination case.


Eradi Tribunal turns down Punjab plea
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 31
Punjab Government’s application challenging the jurisdiction of the Ravi Beas Waters Tribunal was rejected today. While stating this here, the Haryana Government said the state of Punjab had filed an application before the tribunal, popularly known as the Eradi Tribunal, challenging its jurisdiction because of the long gap that had occurred since the interim award was made by the tribunal . Punjab also challenged the appointment of Justice M Y Iqbal as member of the tribunal.

According to a press note issued by the Haryana Government, its counsel explained the delay and argued that application of Punjab had no merit and was only an excuse to delay everything, be it the award of the tribunal or a final judgement of the Supreme Court on the Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal issue. After hearing both sides, the Tribunal rejected the application of Punjab and fixed March 13 as the next date of hearing for the disposal of pending applications of the two states.

The Eradi tribunal, constituted in April, 1986, for fixing the share of Ravi and Beas waters between Punjab and Haryana, made its interim award on January 30, 1987, when it allocated 5 MAF water to Punjab and 3.83 MAF to Haryana. As per provisions of the Inter-State Water Dispute Act, 1956, the two states had filed applications under Sections 5(3) of the Act. The applications had remained pending because one member’s post in the tribunal remained vacant for a long time. The vacancy was recently filled following which the tribunal resumed its proceedings.


PSEB to recover 36 cr from govt agencies
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 31
The Punjab State Electricity Board is yet to recover arrears of over Rs 36 crore, including Rs 10 crore from government agencies from defaulters in its western circle.

Chief Engineer (Operations), Western Circle, R.K. Bains said here yesterday the board hoped to recover 25 per cent of the total arrears by the end of this year. In addition, another Rs 6.5 crore owed to the board is locked up in court cases,

Mr Bains added that in the current financial year, the board had recovered over Rs 14 crore on account of power thefts, undisclosed load and other irregularities within his area of jurisdiction.

He said that the board had generated Rs 508 crore this year compared to Rs 406 crore for the corresponding year. He said that the board’s revenue is expected to go up by 27 per cent this year.

Under the Centre-sponsered Accelerated Power Development Programme, a large number of power houses,new power lines and transformers were set being set up. Mr Bains said that 22 new power houses and 64 new transmission lines were in the process of being set up.

Giving details, he said that under the scheme, Rs 14 crore had been allocated to Bathinda and Rs 13 crore to Moga. Abohar has got a grant of Rs 11 crore, while Ferozepur and Muktsar have got Rs 7 crore each. In addition Rs 1 crore has been sanctioned to improve the condition of power houses.

He said that 24 hour power supply in the state would be available from June.


PSEB gesture to SCs
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, January 31
The Punjab State Electricity Board will provide power to villages having more than 40 per cent Scheduled Caste population without charging the requisite fee.

In a press release here on Thursday Mr H.M. Jain, Chief Engineer (North Zone), said the supply of power on the urban pattern had already been ensured to 2326 of a total of 3446 villages falling under the zone, while remaining 1120 villages would get power supply on the urban pattern shortly. He said villages having more than 40 per cent Scheduled Caste population need not deposit any money as the board had decided to hook these villages to the urban pattern by bearing costs on its own.

He said under the ongoing project to ensure better voltage supply in the districts of Kapurthala, Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur and Nawanshahr, the existing power supply set up was being upgraded.


Nominated PCS candidates’ interview on Feb 19, 20
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 31
The Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) has decided to reconduct interviews of all those candidates who had applied for nomination to the Punjab Civil Service (PCS) during the tenure of ousted Chairman Ravinderpal Singh Sidhu. The candidates nominated to the PCS by the former Chairman had been ousted from their jobs by the Congress government following allegations of money changing hands for nomination.

The PPSC has fixed February 19 and 20 for the interviews of the candidates. Two board members, Mr M.P. Pandove and Mr Amarjit Singh Chawla, have been asked to fix the criteria for the selection of the candidates.

Sources disclosed as the candidates belonged to different fields and cadres, the PPSC wanted a uniform and transparent system for judging them. The commission does not have a method whereby candidates from different departments could be judged according to a uniform system till now. The commission members are expected to propose the system in a weeks time.

Meanwhile, the PPSC has asked the government to submit the supporting record of the candidates. 


Delay in appointment letters resented
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 31
None of the 91 candidates, selected for the PCS and allied services by the Punjab Public Services Commission( PPSC) in November, has got the appointment letter yet.

Some of the candidates said yesterday the Haryana Government had issued the appointment letters within seven days to those selected for the HCS by the Haryana Public Service Commission. In certain cases, only medical examination had been conducted so far.

They pleaded that those who had been reselected should have been exempted from police verification and medical examination as had been done in the case of certain Judicial Officers.


Women cops may be inducted into GRP
Pawan Kumar

Amritsar, January 31
Women cops are likely to be inducted into the Government Railway Police for better policing at the Atari railway station. Mr S.C. Jain, ADGP, Railways, said here on Thursday that a proposal regarding this has been sent to the Union Government.

Mr Jain was here to attend a high-level meeting with officials of the local police, Customs, intelligence, the Railway Protection Force (RPF) and the Government Railway Police (GRP) to review security arrangements at Atari railway station.

He said at present there was no provision for women police at GRP police chowki at Atari for frisking women passengers.

The ADGP said the decision to increase the strength of GRP personnel at Atari would be taken only after a meeting at the highest level. He said at present there were about 25 policemen posted at Atari. The Union Government was considering to induct women police personnel into the GRP for strengthening the security, both at the railway stations and in the trains.

Answering queries about the cause of fire in the Frontier mail, which took a heavy toll near Ludhiana, Mr Jain said forensic experts had submitted in the report in which they had clearly denied the possibilties of sabotage, electric shot-circuit or use of chemicals. However, he said another report prepared by the Commissioner for railway safety was pending with the ministry of railways. 


IOC considering piped LPG in state
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 31
The Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) is studying the feasibility of launching about six projects to supply piped LPG in upcoming housing colonies in the state.

Disclosing this here today, IOC Deputy General Manager (LPG) J.P. Singh said piped LPG was possible only in new colonies where the requisite infrastructure could be in-built as the cost of laying pipes and monitoring equipment in existing colonies was very high. Modalities of the projects would be executed over the next two years.

He was here to launch the Indane Privilege Card, which would entitle consumers of Indane LPG, here to discounts and gifts at select outlets in the city.

On the issue of misuse of domestic  LPG cylinders for commercial purpose by secondary steel industry in Mandi Gobindgarh, he said the IOC was considering introduction of piped supply for the industry there too. He said this would also lead to cleaner environment.

Mr Singh said the IOC had set up a centre at Chandigarh to supply LPG for vehicles. A similar centre was being set up at Ludhiana as well.

Mr Singh said the IOC had registered 24 disciplinary cases against distributors for supplying underweight cylinders. He said new scales would be provided to all delivery agents so that consumers could check the weight of cylinders while taking delivery. 


First library-cum-book store in Patiala
Gurvinder Kaur

It is amazing to see how long-standing notions can simply crumble to pieces by one purposeful stride in the right direction. And when that stride is enthused with the zeal that emanates from following one`s dreams to the exclusion of everything else nothing really seems to stand in the way.

So was it with Samar Dhaliwal, who one fine day decided to take a sabbatical from his lecturer`s job in DAV College, Chandigarh, and establish the city's first library-cum-book store—Biblio—in Patiala much to the annoyance of well-wishers who were firmly entrenched with the mind set that books are probably the last thing to occupy a Punjabi mind. The overwhelming response by numerous bibliophiles of the city to the venture within a few months since its inception has, however, proved the idea wrong that people in this small city are averse to the reading habit.

The library has been planned meticulously , the underlying essence being to cater to the aesthetic sensibilities of its readers by providing a serene yet tasteful atmosphere. However, this allure is rendered irrelevant given the exhaustive collection of books to be found here that can well rival a library of repute in any cosmopolitan city of the country. Especially interesting is the collection of books by great thinkers of all times, Nobel laureates and winners of the Bookers prize, including Hemingway, George Orwell, J.Krishnamurthy, Tommi Morrison and Goethe.

The library contains a comprehensive collection of books on philosophy and a good display has been given to writers like Neitzche, Derrida, Kafka, Edward Said, Will Durrant and Sartre. Its section on popular science has also been well appreciated by the readers, especially students undergoing various professional courses. Again the list here has much sought-after works from Karl Segan, Paul Davies, Stephan Hawking and John Gribbin adorning the racks.

Almost all classics have been stacked here along with books related to literary criticism. Reputed books on varied subjects from management, history, sociology, current affairs, Urdu poetry and occult to self-help, child care, gardening, golf, pet care, interior decoration, cooking and wildlife are available. Of course, the section dedicated to popular fiction deserves special mention as author after author, both Indian and foreign, find place in the library. The children`s corner stacks not just Enid Blytons, Tintin and Harry Potters but a variety of books, including many on learning.

The establishment of Biblio (meaning books in Latin) has made accessible to the public a range of books which conspicuous by their absence in the city hitherto forced book lovers in Patiala to travel all the way to Chandigarh. The couple of gift shops, dubbed as book stores, of the city offered mostly pirated versions of a few best sellers in popular fiction alone. The library also offers a free multimedia package along with the membership.

“As I grew up here I know that this is a city of hard-core readers but a few were as convinced as I was,” says Samar Dhaliwal. Being a bibliophile himself it was Somerset Maugham`s Razor`s Edge, a book about following one`s dream that urged Samar to take the crucial step of keeping aside the weighty consideration of job security in favour of an uncertain future. On the anvil is the addition of a Hindi-Punjabi section here which will feature works of many authors, including winners of the Sahitya Akademi award and Gyanpith Puruskaar.



Safai sewaks gherao councillors
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 31
The councillors of the Bassi Pathana Municipal Council had to face the wrath of the employees of the council, particularly of safai sewaks, during a meeting today. The employees parked a tractor-trailer full of garbage outside the meeting hall. Situation became piquant when they announced that they would not allow any councillors and Executive Officer (EO) to come out of the hall till a promise to release salaries was made. The matter was resolved after hectic consultation around 7 pm and the employees allowed the councillors to come out of the meeting hall.

According to information available, the council president, Mrs Amita Tangri, had called a general monthly meeting of the council to pass certain agendas. The employees of the council had been staging dharnas daily in protest against the non-payment of their salaries for the past six months. When the employees came to know about the meeting they locked the doors of the hall and sat outside it. The employees led by women safai sewaks raised slogans demanding payment of their salaries. They did not allow anyone to come out though the meeting had ended. The hapless EO and the president of the council called the representatives of the employees for dialogue, but they were adamant demanding release of their salaries immediately. Only when their demand was accepted, they allowed them to leave the meeting hall.

Mr Yash Pal, General Secretary of the Class IV Employees Union, said the MC president and the EO, had promised to release one month salary on coming Tuesday, and the rest of the salary on February 15. He threatened if the promise was not kept they would put heaps of garbage outside their houses.

Meanwhile, Mrs Tangri said the safai sewaks had not been paid salaries from the past three months and the octroi staff for six months. She said the council had no source of income and moreover the octroi had not been given on contract. She said earlier the octroi contract was given for Rs 52 Lakh, but in the current year no one took the contract. They had passed a resolution to give the contract for Rs 43 Lakh and sent it to the Director, Local Government, for approval. She also demanded grant from the government for paying salaries and initiating development process.



Tax evasion of Rs 1.35 cr detected
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 31
Senior officers of the Department of Excise and Taxation today raided the premises of five firms dealing in hosiery, automobile parts, medical equipment and automobiles and detected alleged evasion of tax to the tune of Rs 1.35 crore.

The Additional Excise and Taxation Commissioner, Mr Rahul Bhandari, in a press note issued here today said that three teams of the department inspected the accounts of New Bharat Trading Company and Guru Nanak Automobiles. The teams also raided the business premises of Reshma Sales at City Centre and found that they had allegedly suppressed sales to the tune of Rs 51 lakh. The raiding party seized a number of documents for scrutiny.

Mr Bhandari added that the teams also raided the premises of Amritsar Surgical Company and Pandi Automobiles. The officer conducting the raid seized documents showing transactions worth Rs 2.5 lakh that were allegedly missing from the account books. In the case of Pandi Automobiles, stock worth more than Rs 50 lakh were also found to have been suppressed and the firm had not paid tax.

Mr Bhandari said the department would initiate action against the erring firms for recovery of tax.


Tributes paid to Lieut Salaria
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, January 31
Tributes were paid to Shaurya Chakra winner Lieut Gurdeep Singh Salaria on his ninth martyrdom day at Taragarh, near here, today.

A large number of civil and military officials and leaders from various political parties paid homage to the martyr. Col Sagar Singh Salaria (retd), father of the martyr, said he was proud of his son who had sacrified his life while fighting for the country.

Lieutenant Salaria laid down his life in January 1996 at Panjgam in Jammu and Kashmir while fighting terrorists.


Cashier’s brave act lauded
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, January 31
The Ministerial Services Union, PSEB Circle, Hoshiarpur, at its meeting here today condemned the attempt of robbers to snatch Rs 5.50 lakh from cashier Baldev Raj of Bhogpur subdivision No 1 at gunpoint while he was going to a bank to deposit it on January 28.

The meeting appreciated Mr Baldev Raj, who alone foiled the attempt of three robbers, and demanded two special increments to him for his bravery. It urged the authorities of the PSEB to provide security to cashiers while carrying cash to banks.


Rs 40 cr for district’s development

Amritsar, January 31
The District Planning and Development Board yesterday earmarked Rs 40.28 crore for development projects in the district. Chairman of the Board and Minister for Local Bodies Jagjit Singh presided over the meeting and said that the board had already released Rs 21.85 crore for development works. 

The minister said that the board had earmarked Rs 2.68 crore for scholarships to girl students belonging to Scheduled Castes and studying in primary schools. — OC


Two needles removed from girl’s stomach
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 31
Doctors of Guru Nanak Dev Hospital removed two needles from the stomach of Richa Tyagi a resident of Gurdaspur.

The 18-year-old Richa complained of stomach ache 10 days after being operated upon for appendicitis in Gurdaspur civil hospital.

Later the pain became unbearable and she was again admitted in same hospital in Gurdaspur on January 19 said parents of Richa, Mr Ajit and Sudesh Tyagi.

Ultrasound test and x-ray report revealed two needles each four inches and two inches in her stomach. She was referred to Amritsar Civil Hospital where Dr Gurdev Singh, professor of surgery, removed the needles.



Declaration of poll results stayed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 31
A Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court has stayed the declaration of election results of three reserved posts of Dehriwal gram panchayat in Baba Bakala tehsil in Amritsar district.

The orders were pronounced by the Bench, comprising Mr Justice G.S. Singhvi and Mr Justice A.K. Mittal, on a petition filed by Harjap Singh and two others. They had challenged the jurisdiction of the Punjab State Election Commission in issuing the notification on January 19 for reconducting the elections to the three posts of the panch against which the petitioners had already been elected.

Arguing before the court, Mr Gurminder Singh had contended on the petitioners’ behalf that the order dated December 19 last year postponing the elections and the subsequent notification ordering fresh elections were illegal as the petitioners stood duly elected against the posts.

The orders, he had asserted, were without jurisdiction and passed in utter violation of the provisions of the Constitution of India, besides the Punjab State Election Commission Act of 1994 and the Punjab Panchayat Elections Rules of 1994.


Pirzada’s bail plea rejected
Our Correspondent

Ropar, January 31
The Special Judge, Ropar, today rejected the bail application of Mr Gurnihal Singh Pirzada, an IAS officer arrested by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau in a corruption case.

After arguments on the bail application of Mr Pirzada yesterday, the order was reserved for today.


Panchayats to issue birth, death certificates
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, January 31
Panchayats will issue death and birth certificates in the rural areas of Punjab in future and necessary instructions have been issued to the departments concerned.

This was stated by Mr Romesh Chander Dogra, Health and Family Welfare Minister, Punjab, while addressing a gathering at a prize distribution function of rural tournament at Phuglana village, 18 km from here, on Thursday. He said residents of remote villages had to go to the Civil Surgeon’s office at district headquarters to get death and birth certificates for which they had to face inconvenience. Keeping in view this hardship the aforesaid decision had been taken. Officials of the Health Department had been instructed to provide training to Panchayat Secretaries so that there was no problem in issuing certificates. Mr Dogra gave away prizes to the winners of the tournament.


Railway official transferred
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, January 31
The Railway Board has transferred Divisonal Railway Manager, Firozepore division, Mr Hukam Chand Punia, to New Delhi headquarters. Mr Punai said, “He has been relieved of the charge and the new Divisonal Railway Manager, Mr Dharam Singh, has taken over”.


Case registered for dishonouring Tricolour
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, January 31
The Shahpurkandi police has registered a case, under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act 1971 and under other provisions of the IPC for dishonouring the National Flag on Republic Day.

The police has booked six persons in this connection. They include Ashwani Singh, Gurdeep Singh Sethi, Harbajan Singh, Shamma, Sonu and Lucky.

According to the FIR lodged yesterday, Mr Yog Raj Bitta, an activist of the Shiv Sena, stated that the District Magistrate had imposed a ban on the sale of liquor in the district on Republic Day. But despite the ban, liquor vends were open in clear violation of the orders.

He said, he, along with other activists of the Shiv Sena, were peacefully demonstrating for the closure of the liquor vends in Jhandwal village.

When the activists requested the contractor to close his shop, he along with his henchmen, allegedly attacked and assaulted them and also tore the National Flags with which they had decorated their vehicles. The police has not arrested any person in this connection.


34 arrested for playing satta
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, January 31
Thirtyfour persons have been arrested during raids at various places in Kapurthala subdivision on the charge of playing satta under the garb of one-digit lottery.

In a press note issued last evening Mr S.K. Asthana, Senior Superintendent of Police said one-digit lottery results was being announced after every hour. Under the garb of the lottery satta was being run. The gang kingpin, Raman Kumar, has been arrested.

A sum of Rs 54,000 was seized from those arrested.


Varsity’s admission racket: Dang writes to DGP
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 31
Mr Satya Pal Dang, senior CPI leader yesterday urged Director-General of Police Punjab, Mr A.A. Saddique to direct the SP city-I here to complete investigation into the admission racket in Guru Nanak Dev University in which records were allegedly tampered with to save senior professors.

In a letter to the DGP, a copy of which released to the Press, Mr Dang said that the then SP city-I had recommended that the case involving senior faculty members of the department of computer science be handed over to the CBI for proper probe.

However, Mr Dang felt that since it was not done, the DGP should entrust the probe to the SP city-I to unearth the truth.

Mr Dang had taken up the case of Rakesh Kumar who had paid Rs 2.75 lakh as donation to get admission in the MCA seat in Guru Nanak Dev University but was later thrown out of the class, beaten up and also faced a case under Section 420 of the IPC which was dismissed by the court later.


19 schools take part in inter-school contest
Our Correspondent

Kharar, January 31
Students from 19 schools took part in the inter-school cultural contest organised by the Lions Club here today. The programme was organised under the banner of “Nachda Punjab-2004”.

Apart from a turban-tying contest, competitions were held for solo dances, bhangra and giddha. As many as 38 students took part in the turban-tying contest. The participants for this category were divided into two groups — juniors and seniors.

Mr Harsukhinder Singh Badal (Babbi Badal), general secretary of the youth wing of Shiromani Akali Dal, inaugurated the function, while the prizes were given away by Mr Surinder Singh Jeevanjot, Director, Punjab Agricultural Bank.

The winners are: Turban tying (seniors) Beant Singh, Khalsa Senior Secondary School, Kharar, (I); Tarsem Singh, Khalsa Senior Secondary School, Kharar, (II); Harkeerat Singh, Henderson Jubilee Senior Secondary School, Kharar, (III); Varinder Singh, Sant Namdev Senior Secondary School, Kharar, (IV).

(Juniors): Manvir Singh, Minerva Academy, Daon, (I); Amandeep Singh Sodhi, Sacred Bells Convent School, Kharar, (II); Jaspreet Singh, APJ Public School, Mundi Kharar, (III).

Solo dance: (Group A) Amanpreet Singh, Henderson Jubilee Senior Secondary School, Kharar, (I); Gurpreet Kaur, S.N. Public High School, Kharar, (II); Jatinder Kaur, Indian Public School, Kharar, (III). (Group B) Vikas Sethi, APJ Public School, Mundi Kharar, (I); Jaspreet Kaur, Guru Angad Dev School, Kharar, (II) ; Devinder Kaur, Henderson Girls High School, Kharar, (III).

Bhangra: APJ Public School, Mundi Kharar, (I); Dashmesh Public High School, Mundi Kharar, (II).

Giddha: Khalsa Senior Secondary School, Kharar, (I), APJ Public School, Mundi Kharar, (II); Nanumal National Model School, Kharar, (III).


PTU scam suspect Dhaliwal surrenders

Jalandhar, January 31
A suspect in multi-crore PTU scam, J.P.S. Dhaliwal has surrendered in the court of Sessions Judge here. He was remanded in police custody till Monday.

Mr Tulsi Ram, SP (Vigilance), said according to an FIR registered in the multi-crore PTU scam about one and a half years back, Dhaliwal was allegedly favoured by the then Vice-Chancellor of the PTU, Dr H.S. Gurm, by appointing him (Dhaliwal) as a service provider under the distance education programme. Subsequently, Dhlaiwal reportedly sold his company to Parminder Singh Garcha through a power of attorney, which was, however, in violation of the terms of the agreement. Vigilance sources maintained that Dhaliwal was made a proxy applicant to favour Parminder. — OC

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