P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Congress citadel crumbling, says Arun Jaitley
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Phagwara, February 23
Commenting on the affairs of the Congress in Punjab, Union Law Minister Arun Jaitley said it was facing a civil war-like situation following the “strife” between Chief Minster Amarinder Singh and Deputy Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal.

Mr Jaitley alleged that all Congress-led state governments had ended up as “non-performers” and had adopted vindictive attitude towards political rivals.

Addressing the “jan shakti” rally at Hargobind Nagar grounds here today and talking to mediapersons, Mr Jaitley said the Congress citadel was crumbling, particularly in Punjab, where party infighting had come to the streets. Both Captain and Bhattal are asking each other to contest the Lok Sabha elections and development has come to a standstill in the state,” he said, adding that the Congress was a rudderless ship. He said the Congress government in the state had been acting in a vindictive manner and the Chief Minister was acting like a student who was trying to conceal his failures. He said the Central revenue intelligence would investigate the DRI scam in which the Chief Minister’s son was allegedly involved.

“It has virtually turned to be a leaderless party. None of the Congress leaders have the stature that has been acquired by Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he said.

Turning to Ms Sonia Gandhi’s reported remarks that it would be the Congress which would be deciding as to who would be the Prime Minister, he said, “Sonia should stop daydreaming.

Moreover, the NDA was all set to win the poll and form the next government. The SAD-BJP alliance will win all 13 Lok Sabha seats,” he claimed.

Mr Jaitley was accompanied by former SGPC presidents Bibi Jagir Kaur and Kirpal Singh Badungar.

He said there was no difference between the BJP and the SAD over seat-sharing and the basis of choosing candidates would be winnability.

Referring to the sorry state of industry in the state, he said the BJP was serious in solving problems being faced by the industry.


Naidu blames Cong for Operation Bluestar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 23
Mr M. Venkaiah Naidu, President of the BJP, today held the Congress responsible for Operation Bluestar.

Addressing a party meeting here to highlight the “feel good” and “India shining” slogans, Mr Naidu alleged that Operation Bluestar was misconceived. The BJP President held the Congress responsible for the various problems faced by the country in 50 years of its ‘misrule’. He said the LTTE, ULFA, Kashmir, Assam and Punjab problems, including Operation Bluestar, were the ‘gift’ of the Congress as was joblessness, poverty, inflation and illiteracy.

Mr Sarbjit Singh, a former Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar and recipient of the Padma Shri, today joined the BJP. He was posted here during the peak of militancy and authored a book on Operation Black Thunder. In his acclaimed book, Mr Sarbjit Singh tried to expose many senior leaders of the Shiromani Akali Dal and the SGPC. Welcoming his induction, Mr Naidu said people from all walks of life, including Mr Navjot Sidhu, film stars, industrialists, intellectuals, IT professionals, lawyers, engineers and doctors were attracted to the BJP. He said even those from the Gandhi family (Ms Maneka Gandhi and her son) had joined the BJP.

Mr Naidu said the SAD and the BJP would continue to work together and a joint campaign would try to cash in on the anti-incumbency factor of the ruling party in Punjab during the Lok Sabha elections.

Mr Naidu said the Punjab Congress was a divided house. He said instead of fulfilling the promises made during the Assembly elections, the Congress encouraged factionalism at the cost of development.

Accusing the Congress of creating a rural and urban divide during its ‘misrule’, the BJP President said this led to a huge exodus to cities, harming national interests.

Addressing the gathering, Mr Navjot Sidhu said he joined the BJP because of its ideology.

Sukhbir, Brar hit out at each other
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, February 23
Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, General Secretary of the SAD, who lost to Congress leader Jagmeet Singh Brar during the last Lok Sabha elections from the Faridkot parliamentary constituency, yesterday charged the latter with not being able to muster the courage to contest from this seat foreseeing his defeat. Addressing a press conference here, the junior Badal said the Congress had failed to announce its candidates for the 13 seats in the state, which clearly indicated that it had accepted its defeat.

Reacting to the statement, Mr Brar told a press conference that the junior Badal should set his own house in order before making such baseless statements. He alleged that resentment was brewing among senior SAD leaders over the distribution of the party ticket from five constituencies, particularly Tarn Taran, Patiala and Sangrur.

Mr Brar clarified that he was waiting for the decision of the party high command regarding allocation of the party ticket. The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and the state Congress President, Mr H.S. Hanspal, had reiterated their demand to field Mr Brar as the party nominee from this seat and had apprised the party high command of their views.

It is learnt that Mr S.K. Gupta, a veteran Congress leader and chairman of the local Improvement Trust, has shown his inclination to contest from this seat. He met the Chief Minister and Mrs Mohsina Kidwai, leader in charge of party affairs in Punjab, in Chandigarh on February 16 in this connection.

Meanwhile, Mr Ruldu Singh, a member of the PPCC, has appealed the party high command to take into confidence all senior party leaders of this constituency before taking a final decision regarding the party nominee.


Panjoli favours SAD candidate for Amritsar

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 23
Even as the Dal Khalsa has announced that it would opposed the SAD-BJP candidate if the ticket was given to a BJP leader, a senior Akali leader, Mr Karnail Singh Panjoli, a confidant of the SGPC chief, has said that the SAD should field its own candidate as a majority of the voters are Sikhs.

In a letter to SAD President Parkash Singh Badal, a copy of which has been sent to the SGPC chief, Mr Panjoli said it was ridiculous that the SAD wanted to leave this seat for the BJP at a time when Sikhs wanted a Vatican status for Amritsar.

He demanded the fielding of Bibi Kiranjot Kaur, an SGPC member and granddaughter of Master Tara Singh, Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, SGPC secretary, or Bibi Parmjit Kaur Khalra, a senior leader of the Human Rights Organisation.


Bachi’s entry into SAD opposed
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 23
Reacting sharply to the joining of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) by Mr Gurbachan Singh Bachi, a former administrative member of the PSEB, Mr Teja Singh Kamalpur, Chairman of the Sangrur Milk Plant, and others at Malerkotla on Saturday, a large number of supporters of Mr Baldev Singh Mann, general secretary of the SAD and confidant of Mr Surjit Singh Barnala, yesterday held a protest meeting at the rice sheller of Mr Baldev Singh Mann in Dirba. The meeting decided to organise a big gathering of the Dirba Assembly constituency on March 1 at the New Grain Market at Dirba in protest against the joining of the SAD by Mr Bachi, Mr Kamalpur and others, and to pressurise the SAD chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal to oust these leaders from the party.

Besides Mr Mann, the meeting was attended among others by Mr Ajaib Singh Khetla and Mr Kashmir Singh, vice-president and general secretary, respectively, of the district unit of the SAD, Mr Gurtej Singh, Jathedar of Dirba SAD circle, Mr Kirpal Singh, Chairman of Dirba Punjab Agricultural Development Bank (PADB), and sarpanches and panches of the Dirba area.

Talking to TNS over the phone, Mr Mann said Mr Bachi had been expelled from the party forever by Mr Badal for opposing his (Mann) candidature from Dirba during the previous Assembly elections. He said Mr Bachi and others had been taken back into the party fold by Mr Badal without taking him (Mann) into confidence.

Mr Mann alleged that Mr Bachi and his supporters had never voted for the Panth in the past and they had now joined the party just to support Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, SAD candidate from the Sangrur Lok Sabha seat, in the forthcoming parliamentary elections.

Sources said the supporters of Mr Mann had decided that no one would participate in the election campaign of Mr Dhindsa till March 1.


Badal Dal rallies from today

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 23
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has chalked out a programme about the anti-repression rallies to be held in the state.

According to a press note issued by the secretary of the SAD, Dr Daljeet Singh Cheema, such rallies would be held tomorrow at Ferozepore Cantt, Ghanaur on February 25 and big conferences would be held on February 28 at Nakodar. And from March onwards two rallies would be held in a day at two different places.

He said Mr Badal would visit Malout on March 1 and 2 and address the rally at Sunam on March 3. He would participate in the convention to be held at Anandpur Sahib on the occasion of Hola Mohalla on March 7 .

The schedule of the other rallies is Lehra (March 8), Kartarpur and Kapurthala (March 9), Nathana and Rampura Phul (March 10), Tarn Taran and Valtoha (March 11), Raja Sansi and Jandiala (March 12), Mahilpur in Hoshiarpur (March 13), Jalandhar Cantt and Banga (March 15), Budhlada and Sardulgarh (March 18).


Chandumajra raises banner of revolt
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 23
Supporters of senior Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Prem Singh Chandumajra, who has been denied the party Lok Sabha nomination from Patiala, have indicated that they might revive the Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal (SHSAD) or form a similar state-level front to fight against the “injustice” meted out to them.

Thousands of supporters of Mr Chandumajra held a rally at the New Grain Market here in which they clearly said a revolt was imminent in the party in case their leader was not given the party ticket. SAD President Parkash Singh Badal, who had been invited by Mr Chandumajra to listen to the “sentiments” of the people, kept away from the rally.

Leaders at the rally indicated a revival of the SHSAD, minus Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, saying 11 of its former 16 district presidents and most of its youth leaders, including its youth wing president Karnail Singh Panjoli, were present at the rally.

Earlier, Mr Chandumajra, talking to newspersons, said he would get in touch with Tarn Taran MP Tarlochan Singh Tur and Mr Chetan Singh Samao from Bathinda, both of whom had been denied the party ticket.

Even though Mr Chandumajra displayed restraint while speaking about his former mentor and Shiromani Committee President Gurcharan Singh Tohra, only calling him a “liar”, former minister Inderjit Singh Zira, who also attended the rally, had no such qualms.

Mr Zira, who is a candidate for the SAD ticket from Ferozepore, accused Mr Badal of entering into a secret understanding with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to field a “weak” candidate from Patiala. He alleged that the SGPC chief had acted as a “middleman” in this deal.

He also accused Mr Badal of only being interested in promoting his son Sukhbir Singh Badal and said Mr Tohra was promoting the cause of his son-in-law Harmail Singh Tohra.

That Mr Chandumajra and Mr Zira were heading for a broad-based state-level front and not only fighting for the Patiala ticket, was clear from Mr Zira’s statement at the rally: “We do not want to take these issues to the people; but if we do not get justice, we will do so. We will start from Patiala and go to all districts”.

Speaking before the rally, Mr Chandumajra said by March 2 he and Mr Zira would contact other leaders who were also denied the party nomination due to “vested interests”.

It was also decided that 101 party workers from each of the nine Assembly segments of the Patiala constituency would meet Mr Badal to make him realise “his mistake.”


Mann, Dhindsa ready to exchange property
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 23
Refuting the allegation levelled against him by Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, President of the Akali Dal (Amritsar), that he was the second richest politician in the state after Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Union Cabinet Minister and SAD candidate for the Sangrur Lok Sabha seat, today asked Mr Mann to exchange his property with him.

To a question, Mr Dhindsa said: “We had enough matter against Mr Mann with us. This allegation has been levelled by Mr Mann as I am now in the fray from Sangrur. Otherwise, Mr Mann has always praised me in the past.”

Talking to mediapersons here today, Mr Dhindsa alleged that Mr Mann had collected lakhs of dollars from abroad on the pretext of helping families of militants. He said the SAD would ask Mr Mann to present the records of that money at a later stage.

Reacting to statement, Mr Mann told TNS on the phone that he was ready to exchange his property with Mr Dhindsa, including the latter’s properties in West Asia, the UK, the US and Canada.

Mr Mann said if Mr Dhindsa had proof that he had collected money from abroad for helping families of militants, he should initiate steps to get him booked under POTA.

Mr Dhindsa told mediapersons that the FCI would purchase wheat in Sangrur district during the wheat procurement season.

Regarding opposition by Mr Baldev Singh Mann, general secretary of the SAD, over the allotment of the ticket to him, Mr Dhindsa said the former would campaign for him.


Pargat may be Congress nominee from Jalandhar

Jalandhar, February 23
Stunned by the BJP’s sudden move to rope in cricketer Navjot Sidhu, the Punjab Congress may field Olympian Pargat for the Jalandhar parliamentary seat. Balbir Singh MP of the dissolved Lok Sabha has asserted that ‘he will return”. The name of Kapurthala MLA Rana Gurjit Singh is also being considered by the Congress High Command.

Sources in the Punjab Congress revealed that the hockey star, who is currently serving with the Punjab Police, has already been contacted by the high command and the state leadership with this proposal and that he has also responded by giving his nod to it.

While the District Congress Committee had recommended the name of Mr Balbir Singh about 16 days back, a section of state leadership and the party high command was said to be of the opinion that some “young and dynamic” candidate like Mr Pargat Singh or Rana Gurjit Singh should be fielded to counter Mr Naresh Gujral, a son of former Prime Minister, Mr I.K. Gujral, and SAD-BJP candidate.

While Mr Pargat Singh refused to comment on the issue, Mr Balbir Singh asserted that there was “no possibility of development of such a situation” and he was confident that going by his rapport with masses he would definitely be the party’s choice once again.

Meanwhile, it was learnt that Mr Pargat Singh not only contacted on behalf of a senior Punjab Congress leader with the proposal but he was also backed by a powerful lobby of senior sportspersons and even some senior police officers.

Though Pargat Singh’s late father-in-law had won the Jalandhar seat with a margin of about 19,000 cotes, his mother-in-law, who was fielded by the SAD-BJP combine after death of Darbara Singh had lost to Mr Balbir Singh by about 30,000 votes. The family of Darbara Singh was said to be having a strong support base in their home constituency Lohian and even the adjoining Lohian constituency.

At the same time, the name of Rana Gurjit Singh, who had won the Kapurthala seat by about 10,000 votes during last Assembly elections, was also being projected as a strong contender for his being a big industrialist and for his close relations with the Chief Minister, Mr Anil Dutta, Secretary, PPCC, is another strong contender for the party ticket on the grounds that the Jalandhar seat has traditionally been a Hindu seat.


Panthic board to contest poll
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 23
The Panthic Parliamentary Board ( PPB), a new political organisation, is emerging as a cocktail of radical and moderate ideologies.

The PPB, that asserts to provide an alternative of the SAD-BJP combine and the Congress in Punjab, has roped in Mr Jagjit Singh Chauhan, a Khalistan ideologue, Mr Sarabjit Singh Sohal, a Sikh Students Federation activist, Mr Rajinder Singh Khalsa, a top leader of Khalsa Panchayat, and several other former militant, radical and moderate Akali leaders in its ranks.

The board’s chief target in the Lok Sabha elections will be the SAD headed by Mr Parkash Singh Badal. However, strategically it would also position itself against the Congress. Its short-term goal is to hit hard against Mr Badal and the Akali Dal while the long-term target is to remove the control of Mr Badal and Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra from the SGPC. “ We are focusing on short and long term goals at the moment”, Mr Jaswant Singh Mann told TNS today.

Whether such a “ mix” of ideologies will be able to co-exist and keep the party on the move is a separate question but the candidates the Board has shortlisted to put up in the Lok Sabha elections will certainly cause a major flutter as well as political concern in the top echelons of Badal’s party.

The board has the planning to put up Daljit Singh Bittu, a militant student leader, who has been a member of the Panthic Committee, as candidate from Amritsar. Bittu is lodged in jail at present. At Bathinda, the board, has already supported Mr Sarabjit Singh Khalsa, son of late Beant Singh, who was involved in the killing of Mrs Indira Gandhi. At Sangrur, the board has extended unconditional support to Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, another radical Sikh leader. It has decided to put up Mr Kuldeep Singh Wadala, another hawk Akali leader from Jalandhar and Mr Talib Singh Sandhu, a moderate Akali leader, from Ludhiana.

The board is in touch with Mr Gurtej Singh, a former IAS officer, who quit the service in protest against Operation Bluestar, to make him contact the elections from Ferozepore. It has also talked to Mr Atinder Pal Singh, another former militant leader, to make him contact from Patiala, it is learnt.

It would also allocate one or two seats to the former BSP leaders such as Mr Harbhajan Singh Lakha and Mr Darshan Singh Jethumajara. To decide the candidate for Chandigarh it has set up a two-member committee comprising of Mr Rajinder Singh Khalsa and Mr Amar Singh Chahal. The board wanted to score point over Mr Badal by putting up candidates in Haryana (Sirsa and Kurukshetra), Rajasthan (SriGanganagar), Uttaranchal (Udham Singh Nagar) Uttar Pradesh (Pilibhit) and two seats in Delhi ( South Delhi and New Delhi).

The objective of putting up nominees in other states is to project that Mr Badal does not care about Sikh interests in other states and it is the board that is out to watch their interests beyond Punjab. In all the board would contest 21 seats.


News Analysis 
Will ‘Punjab shining’ happen?
by P.P.S. Gill

Chandigarh, February 23
The elections to the Lok Sabha are at the doorstep at a time when serious socio-economic and financial problems confront Punjab. It is wishful to expect key political parties to talk of these or make a commitment to find a solution to them. One can, however, expect them to hold each other responsible for having precipitated these problems, once the election campaign starts.

Nevertheless, Punjab steps into elections expecting political parties will address the issues on which the state has slipped so that once again it can be described as ‘’Punjab shining’’.

The elections have come at a time, when the World Bank is still assessing the pace of implementation of its suggested economic reforms in Punjab. Some of these are, correcting fiscal imbalance, budget management practices, reforming power sector, restructuring the administrative set-up, creating growth and investment climate for agriculture, industry and bringing about gender equity through amendments in the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, Land Reforms Act, 1972 and implementing the PNDT Act that bans sex determination.

Punjab has taken several measures on these reforms, yet the World Bank insists more is required to be done. Only then will it accelerate sanction of projects submitted to it or facilitate Punjab to avail of the structural adjustment loan to tide over its severe financial crisis, stagnant economy and balance income levels and human resource development. At present, two World Bank officials are assessing progress on the reforms agenda.

The World Bank, it is learnt, was not unaware of the political itch to lift the ban on recruitment or raise the retirement age of employees from 58 years to 60 years after the Lok Sabha elections or go slow on certain suggested reforms aimed at right-sizing the government or revising the pension scheme or re-grouping administrative departments or disinvestment in public sector undertakings etc. It is believed that any major deviation from the reform path could see Punjab out of World Bank financial trajectory, including request for structural adjustment loan.

Therefore, Punjab goes to the polls, when the need is to create employment opportunities and improve the level and quality of social and economic services delivered by the state to the people. At present, it is unable to recover even minimum costs for operation and maintenance of these services.

The dilemma before the political executive today is which option to exercise: mobilise additional revenue or compress expenditure. The committed expenditure on salaries, pensions and repayment of loans alone is 114 per cent of the total revenue. The state would have to adopt both options, jack up revenue, lower expenditure. The government is also in a quandary because of the elections, as it has been forced to keep on hold its inclinations to opt for political populism and give pre-election sops to different sections of society.

Elections are there, when the Cabinet approved committee on additional resource mobilisation, headed by the State Planning Board Vice-Chairman, Dr S.S. Johl, is holding its meetings. It held its third meeting today, where revenue collecting options were discussed and debated. The recommendations of this committee will have a bearing on the budget, 2004-05, slated to be presented after the Lok Sabha elections. Now vote-on-account is proposed in the brief session of the Vidhan Sabha likely in the second week of March.

This is election time and the government is daily facing a volley of demands from all sections of society, each clamouring for a share of the financial pie, whereas, Punjab is on the verge of bankruptcy. If sugarcane growers are agitated, as they are still waiting payment of their dues, estimated to be around Rs 90 crore, state employees are keen on central pattern of merging 50 per cent dearness allowance into the basic pay.

The Municipal Corporation Pensioners’ Association and other similar pensioners’ organisations are sore at being denied the benefit of dearness allowance relief instalments, since July 1, 2001 till December 2003. Even the benefit of 4 per cent increase in dearness relief, effective from July 1, 2003, had been denied to them. Pensioners are waiting notification of increase of 5 per cent and 10 per cent in the basic pension after 65 years and 75 years, respectively. The Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers’ Union is demanding implementation of the pension-cum-gratuity, scheme, as promised in the Congress’ assembly election manifesto-2002.

Likewise, the PCS (Executive Branch) Officers’ Association also talks of memorandum it had submitted to the Chief Minister on December 26, 2002, drawing his attention to at least 14 immediate issues, related to their service matters. Out of them only two have, so far, been implemented — grant of scale of Rs 14,300-18,600 after 12 years and posting of PCS officer in the Department of Personnel, as branch in charge.


Kang’s directions to officials
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, February 23
Punjab Animal Husbandry Minister Jagmohan Singh Kang today directed civil and police officers to redress Congress workers’ grievances on priority. Mr Kang, who was here to preside over a meeting of the District Planning Board said that officials should hear elected representatives.

The minister said despite financial crisis due to bad economic policies of the previous SAD-BJP government, penions to the deserving candidates, more financial powers to panchayats and financial help to Scheduled Castes and other backward classes were being given.

He added that Punjab government had earmarked Rs 1000 crore for the repair of roads of the state with the help of Punjab Mandi Board. The government had decided to give power connections to 25000 tubewells by the end of March 31, 2004, he added.


Information kiosks to help tourists
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 23
“Information kiosks” being set up in different parts of Amritsar will provide details about tourist places, hotels and flights before the holy city is declared as a world heritage site by Unesco. E-governance will also help in disaster management in case of earthquake or any other emergency. This will be a first step towards providing total information about the city.

Apart from helping tourists, the information collected by the Centre for Computational Engineering, Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh, will be instrumental in increasing the revenue of the local municipal corporation which has been facing a financial crunch. The mapping of the city, done with the help of satellite, shows that the dwelling units were found to be more in number than showed in the corporation records. This would fetch more house tax to the corporation. Mr K.S. Kang, Commissioner, claimed that the project covered computerisation of city maps to help the authorities in town planning, augmentation of water supply or sewerage and removing encroachments.

He said the income from house tax would be increased from Rs 10 crore to Rs 12 crore as more dwelling units had been identified.

The records had put the housing units in Amritsar at 1.25 lakh only while they came out to be 1.85 lakh during the mapping of the city.

The mapping will also show the difference between the actual number of unauthorised colonies and those in the records.

Tourists or officials could even get information about the member of occupants in each house in less than a minute.

“Live” pictures of the Golden Temple will be supported by shabad.

Mr Rajiv Sehdev from PEC said it took about a year to complete the survey and mapping. The corporation had given Rs 26 lakh for the project to the college.

The computerised mapping had divided the city into 26 blocks which were sub-divided into 216 smaller blocks.

Mr Kang claimed that the Amritsar corporation was the first corporation in the state to have an extensive database of the residents and the city’s resources.


Liquor contractors fear unfair auction of vends
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, February 23
The auction of liquor vends in Punjab may not be a smooth affair and Punjab liquor contractors are apprehending that the liquor trade may be passed on to a particular group which at present has monopoly share of the trade.

These apprehensions were expressed by liquor traders of Punjab who held a meeting with the Punjab Excise and Taxation Commissioner, Mr D.P. Reddy, here on Friday. The ETC was here along with his officials to explain the new excise policy of the state to the liquor contractors. The officials told the liquor contractors plainly that they were not here to receive suggestions, but to explain the new policy. However, they would clear their misunderstandings, they added.

The liquor contractors posed straight questions to the officials. They expressed doubts over the fair auction of the liquor vends.

The Punjab liquor trade earns a revenue of Rs 1,300 crore to the state exchequer annually and at present a particular group has a monopoly control of 45 to 50 per cent over the entire trade, directly or indirectly.

The liquor contractors took an exception to the decision of the state government in reducing the security money from 10 per cent to 5 per cent at the auction. They felt that this was a concession given to the liquor barons to have monopoly on the trade. The liquor contractors wanted to know if the state government would stick to its decision of having groups of contractors with a total value of Rs 15 crore per group or if the groups would go up to Rs 100 crore. The officials assured them that they could have groups up to Rs 100 crore if the situation warranted.

One senior liquor contractor directly asked the Excise and Taxation Commissioner to make a solemn commitment on this. The commissioner promised that the state government would hold a fair and open auction. But the liquor contractors demanded that they be informed about the formation of bigger groups one day before the auction, so that they also could have such groups.

The liquor contractors are planning to build pressure on the state government through the local ruling party politicians for not allowing the formation of monopoly groups and seeking vends for Punjab contractors. They say that some of the oldest contractors have been pushed out from the trade by outsiders due to their clout with the ruling party politicians.

The Punjab contractors are also planning to agitate if the auction is not fair and the local traders are ousted from the liquor trade.

No change in CSD liquor price
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 23
The increase in the excise duty in Punjab will not have any effect on the price of the Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) being sold through the CSD canteens located in the state.

A statement issued by the Excise and Taxation Department said the fee to be levied on the IMFL sold through the CSD canteens had been correspondingly reduced so that there was no increase in the prices.


Apex body for Panth mooted
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 23
Several Sikh organisations met here today and recommended to the SGPC to constitute a global apex body under its aegis and patronage of Akal Takht for the Sikh panth to deal with problems and provide guidance and direction to the community in its march toward progress.

A press note issued on behalf of the meeting on the letter-head of Institute of Sikh Studies, identified some of the key issues that called for immediate attention and remedy. These issues included growing cult of apostasy, existence of chasms, old and new, and unnecessary controversies created to divide and weaken the panth.

The meeting constituted an action committee to liaison with the SGPC and gather more of the Sikh organisations and scholars, both at home and abroad, to give concrete shape and form to the proposed apex body, as in the present set up of the panth it was difficult to change and meet challenges on the identified issues.

The apex body would further help consolidate the hold of the SGPC, an elected representative organisation of the Sikhs, and also uphold the supremacy of Akal Takht from which the Sikhs drew their temporal and spiritual guidance, said the press note.

The action committee would also create awareness among the Sikhs and persuade leaders of various political and religious organisations in India and abroad to take necessary steps to create such an apex body.


100 pilgrims likely to visit Pak gurdwara
Tribune News Service

Khadoor Sahib, February 23
The Centre is likely to give permission to 100 pilgrims to visit the historic Kartarpur Gurdwara in Pakistan for the first time to mark the 500th birth anniversary of Guru Angad Dev, which falls in April. The pilgrims would be allowed to start a religious procession from Pakistan, which would culminate in Khadoor Sahib.

This was stated by Mr Tarlochan Singh, Chairman, National Minorities Commission, at a joint meeting of the SGPC Baba Sewa Singh of “Kaar Sewa Wale” held here on Friday. He said the case had already been moved to the ministry concerned of the central Government. Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, SGPC secretary, confirmed that the government had sent a “positive communication” regarding allowing a jatha to visit Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara which would return to India the same day.


NRIs arrive at Amritsar
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 23
An NRI from England, Mr Jimmy Pooni, was instrumental in bringing a special chartered flight from Europe here today. Boeing 757 Air Slovakia painted with “City of Golden Temple” and carrying 130 NRIs landed at Rajasansi International Airport to visit the Golden Temple.

Mr Pooni said there was a huge potential in Europe and England where NRIs are settled and who wanted to visit places of historical and religious importance of their country.

Mr Pooni was glad that the government of India had shown flexibility with regards to the operation of private foreign airlines. He said the Ministry of Civil Aviation had relaxed guidelines by offering to bring in Indian passport-holders for incoming and outgoing flights. Mr Pooni said he had been flooded with enquiries from Canada and the USA for operating similar flights, especially for north India.

He said his company had urged the British Government to allow scheduled air lines to link London and Brimingham to Amritsar as a stopover.


IT raids on premises of traders, docs
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, February 23
Sleuths of the Income Tax Department conducted raids on various premises belonging to some doctors and businessmen of the region today. According to information, the operation was carried out under the supervision of Mr L.R. Nayyar, Commissioner, Income Tax, Bathinda, who was assisted by Additional Commissioners along with a battery of ITOs, inspectors and other officials drawn from Bathinda, Muktsar, Faridkot and Ferozepore.

About 7 to 8 teams were formed for the purpose. The teams reportedly found certain discrepancies during the raids and additional tax would be levied on the defaulters. Some persons made voluntary disclosures.


Lawyer charges MLA with taking over property
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 23
A local lawyer has alleged that a senior Punjab ruling party legislator has illegally taken over his family property at Ferozepore in connivance with staff of Primary Agriculture Development Bank .

Addressing mediapersons here yesterday, Mr Sarabdeep Singh said employees of the bank, which had been functioning from premises rented out by him, broke open locks in portions of the building in his possession, besides destroying certain belongings and documents kept there. The incident, he claimed, took place on February 9 and a written complaint had been sent to the SSP concerned in this regard.

Alleging that Mr Ravinder Singh Sandhu, Parliamentary Secretary (Home), Punjab, was behind the incident, he added it had been done to pressure him into withdrawing a petition concerning a dispute involving the management of a school adjoining his premises.

Mr Sandhu, however, was not available for comments. Calls to his residence in Ferozepore and cellular phone went unanswered.


Farmers’ dharna throws traffic out of gear
Our Correspondent

Patiala, February 23
Traffic in the city was thrown out of gear with activists of the Bharatiya Kisan Union pitching tents on the Mall road opposite the headquarters of the Punjab State Electricty Board (PSEB).

The dharna, for which activists started collecting yesterday, is expected to last for a week. Today itself there were traffic jams at Lahori Gate, Sheranwala Gate and the Fountain Chowk because traffic had to be diverted due to the blockage of the Mall road.

The farmers, meanwhile, made themselves at home on the road itself pitching tents on one side. A community kitchen was also started for all agitators. The dharna is being organised by the BKU (Ekta) Ugrahan group and the Kisan Sangharsh Committee.

Speaking on the occasion, BKU leader Joginder Singh said the government should provide free water and power supply to the farmers. He added that the state government should also increase the rate of crops. He condemned policies of the state government of open market and contract farming.

While addressing the gathering, BKU leader Kamalpreet Singh further demanded that the state government to increase the rate of interest to 4 per cent on various loans and schemes available for the farmers. He added that the state government decision to privatise the board was ‘anti- farmers’, ‘anti employees’ and ‘anti people’.

The farmers further urged the state government to dismiss the cases registered against the farmers during various agitations. The farmers from Amristar, Bathinda, Ferozepore, Mansa, Sangrur, Moga, Ludhiana and Gurdaspur district participated in the rally.


Power bills of border area farmers waived
Our Correspondent

Jalalabad, February 23
The Punjab State Electricity Board has decided not to ask for payment of electricity bills from agriculture tube-well owners situated along Indo-Pakistan border, whose land was mined during operation ‘Prakarm’, disclosed Mr R.K. Bains, Chief Engineer West Zone PSEB Bathinda.

Mr Bains visited this border belt yesterday to take stock of 24-hour power supply drive, launched by the PSEB in this border belt. The Chief Engineer said that the exemption from the payment of power bills would be effective from the date of levy of agriculture tariff till the removal of mines, subject to authentication by the Deputy Commissioner concerned.

According to an estimate Rs 1.25 lakh is outstanding from the border belt farmers of Ferozepur District alone. The farmers of  the border belt were opposing the recovery of electricity bills as no agriculture activity could be carried out and no electricity consumed  during this particular period.

The Bharatiya Kisan Union has hailed the PSEB decision, Mr Surjit Singh Secretary of the Union, said that the PSEB decision would give relief to the farmers.


Seminar on environment
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 23
Kheti Virasat, an NGO for organic farming, organised a seminar here yesterday at which to protect environment was stressed.

It was pointed out that due to pollution of air, water and food diseases like diabetes, and reproductive diseases had increased. Decreasing number of vultures, peacocks, kites and lowering of age of puberty and menopause were pointed out.

On the need of social forestry and planting of more trees, it was stressed that local trees should be planted to preserve local birds, which had not adapted to ‘modern’ trees like eucalyptus and helianthus.

Experiences on organic farming were shared. Mr Sadhu Ram Kusla, general secretary, Shri Gaushalla, spoke of a herbal insecticide to control the American bollworm. He wanted certification and standardisation of indigenous products. Sale and rearing of earthworms at the state-level was sought. Eco clubs in schools were also discussed.

Mr Upendra Dutt, director of the NGO, said excessive use of pesticides had contaminated the entire food chain. He said that even mother’s, milk had been found to the contaminated by insecticides. The use of millions of tonnes of insecticides at the expense of environment was deplored.

He alleged that the Punjab government’s data on wetlands was inaccurate and policy on growing and export of organic food was lopsided with serious technical faults.

Harvesting of rain water and minimum use of ground water was stressed to allow sufficient time for the recharge the subsoil water table. He said damage to the environment was maximum in the past 35 years.

Mr Avinash Chander Tejpal, Commissioner, Income Tax, the chief guest said that public’s faith should be built on the organic produce. He said that people were conscious about environment and health issues.

People connected with health, education, business, farming and NGOs attended the seminar.


Two labourers buried alive
Our Correspondent

Sohawa (Tarn Taran), February 23
Two farm labourers were buried alive at Sohawa village while digging a well here today. The labourers have been identified as Gurpreet Singh (24) of Burj-Rai-Ke village and Randhir Singh (22) of Bhattal-Bhai-Ke village.

The police has registered a case Under 174, Cr PC. A portion of the well caved in during the digging operation. A large number of villagers came to the spot when residents of a farm house started shouting for help through a public address system from a Gurdwara. However, it took about three hours to pull out the bodies.

Mr Pargat Singh Jamarai, secretary of the Shahid Bhagat Singh Naujawan Sabha, Punjab, has demanded compensation for the labourers’ families.


SC members get financial aid
Our Correspondent

Kharar, February 23
The Deputy Speaker of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, Mr Bir Devinder Singh, distributed cheques under a welfare scheme for the Scheduled Castes here today.

As many as 111 persons were given a cheque for Rs 10,000 each. The payment was the first instalment of the total amount of Rs 20,000 to be paid under the scheme. People, who were living below the poverty line or were houseless, were given the financial benefit.

The Deputy Speaker said that verification was being done at the block level so that no bogus persons availed the benefit. He said that all the applications received so far had been cleared.


Campaign against female foeticide
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, February 23
A five-day campaign against female foeticide was launched in the district by the regional advertisement wing of Government of India by organising a seminar on female foeticide at Bachat Bhavan today. Mr Mohinder Pal Arora, ADC, presided over the function and Mr K.S.Dhatwalia, Regional Director, was the guest of honour. The function was attended by NGO representatives of nursing homes and social organisations.

Mr Arora said that though, female touch was given to our motherland “India”, yet the birth of a girl child was not welcomed here. He said, “Our is a man-dominated society and there is no fault in it, but we should not become murderer by indulging in female foeticide. It is unfortunate that women are the enemy of women”

He said that it was a matter of concern that the sex ratio in Fatehgarh Sahib was lowest in the state. He said that if this trend continued there would be a social disorder. He urged the NGOs to come forward for creating social balance.


Punjab to buy 400 buses
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, February 23
Punjab Transport Minister Tej Parkash Singh declared yesterday that 400 new buses would be added to the government transport fleet in state.

Talking to newsmen here, the Minister, who was here as a Chief Guest at the Rajput Kashyap Mela, said that the bus stands of Patiala, Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Amritsar would be modernised at a cost of Rs 50 crores. The public money was not being squandered like that of Akalis on the so-called sangat darshans, he continued.

The Minister dismissed the much-touted feel good factor of the NDA government as a poll stunt.


39 breeds take part in dog show
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 23
The two-day all-India breed champion dog show, which was held at the local Polo Grounds today, attracted as many as 320 dogs from all over the country.

The show, which was organised by the Patiala Kennel Club and is part of the ongoing Patiala Heritage Festival, saw canines from 39 breeds taking part. All the entries were judged on various counts by judges Partasarthy Chatterjee, M. Sudarshan and Richard Brauch of Germany. The meet was inaugurated by Patiala MP Preneet Kaur.

Results: German shepherd: Fedor Van Steinway Park (Mr Vijay Singh, Mr Abdullah Noor, Mr Harchand Singh).

Labrador: Border’s Bone Vandor Polo (Mr A.J.S Bhinder).

Tibetan mastiff: Himalaya’s Tangoot Saras (Mr Himmat Singh Sekhon).

Pug: Wrinkle World’s Rebel (Mr Bonie Gulati).

Rotterweiler: Iwan Von Backer (Mr Adarsh Chibber, Rahul Chibber).

Labrador: Time after time (Mr A.P.S Mangat).



Punjab’s former Additional-Advocate General and Supreme Court lawyer Jayshree Anand was wrongly mentioned as “Justice Jayshree Anand” in the news report “CJI in Pak for Saarclaw Conference” published on February 20. Ms Anand is not a Judge, but an advocate in the Supreme Court. The inadvertent error is regretted.

— Editor


Pak rock band charms Patiala fans
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 23
There is more to “Junoon” than music. For 13 years now, the three members of South Asia’s biggest rock group have been crusading against fundamentalism and corruption back home in Pakistan. And though they have often been stopped in their tracks by bigots, they continue to charm fans across South Asia by combining secular Sufi lyrics with rock melodies.

In India the band gained greater popularity when filmmaker Pooja Bhatt used its lead singer Ali Azmat’s composition “Garaj baras saawan ghir aayo...” in her directorial debut, “Paap”. For the rest of the world, “Sayonee”, the band’s largest hit, continues to define “Junoon”, which literally means frenzy. Secular even in composition, the band features Salman Ahmad, a Sunni Muslim on guitar, Brian O Connel, a Christian on bass and Ali Azmat, a Shia Muslim on lead vocals.

On their India tour, the members who arrived in Patiala late last night to perform during the closing ceremony of Patiala Heritage Festival, told The Tribune that India, to them, was an enlarged Pakistan. Overjoyed to be in Punjab, Salman Ahmad, founder of the band, said, “Delhi is much like Lahore, Mumbai looks like Karachi, Chandigarh is another Islamabad and Patiala is Rawalpindi. When we drove into Patiala, we felt as if we had come home. In fact, my mother comes from Bassi Pathana in Patiala.”

The musicians were quite exhilarated over the idea of performing on the request of Maharaja Patiala. They hardly referred to Capt Amarinder Singh as Chief Minister, Punjab. Salman confirmed the excitement, “My mother’s joy knew no bounds when discovered we had been invited by Maharaja Patiala.” For lead singer Ali Azmat too, Punjab spells nostalgia because his family hails from Amritsar.

Expressing his fondness for India, he said, “We feel at peace whenever we come here. There is no acrimony in our hearts. We have even shared stage with leading vocalists like Shubha Mudgal, Sonu Nigam, Euphoria and Shankar Mahadevan. We may collaborate with Shubha Mudgal.” As for Brian O Connell, being with Azmat and Salman is like being with anyone back home in New York. He said, “They bother themselves only with music. Music, for them, is a passport into souls of people. That is why our music sells across borders.”

Playing music that meshes rock with cross rhythms of bhangra and other Eastern musical styles, Junoon has often offended the mullahs in Pakistan. Known to be staunch critics of the nuclear bomb, Junoon was even charged with treason when in 1998 they called for diversion of dollars from defence to poverty eradication. Recalls Salman, “It was only after President Musharraf took over that we could officially play in Pakistan. Our videos also took time to find space on Pakistan Television.”

About “coming together as a band story”, founder of Junoon, Salman, says, “Brian was my neighbour in New York. When I returned to Pakistan to study medicine, Azmat was my neighbour. We got together because we thought alike. We are actually a neighbourhood band”.

Junoon, which will also perform in Mandi on an invitation from the Governor of Himachal Pradesh tomorrow, has just released another album, titled “Deewar”. Like the earlier albums of Junoon, this one also blends Sufi lyrics with hard rock, that makes the band truly universal in appeal.

Salman of ‘Junoon’ visits his ancestral house
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 23
The Sandhas of Namdar Khan road were in for a pleasant surprise today. “It was as if our wish had come true”, they said when they saw Salman Ahmed, the star of the ‘Junoon’ group, at their door. Surprise gave way to good old punjabi warmth with the family jostling to get the proverbial “thanda” and showing their VIP visitor all the nooks and corners of the colonial house.

“We did not even know Salman was coming to visit our house”, said its present occupant Sandeep Singh Sandha adding “we went to watch their concert at the YPS Stadium last night and seeing Salman in person was like a dream come true”.

Salman had come visiting the house of the Sandha family because it is the house of his ancestor Namdar Khan who was a prominent courtier in the Patiala darbar. The importance of Namdar Khan can be gauged from the fact that the street in which the house is situated is even now known as the Namdar Khan road. Though one of Salman’s maternal aunts has been to the house around three years back, it was the singer’s first visit. He bought along his younger brother Shahiyar Khan, who is also the manager of the group.

Salman seemed overwhelmed by the occasion. His eyes got misty when asked to tell how he was feeling. “I can only say I feel I am in my own house and cannot express what I am going through emotionally”, he said. Salman was seen feeling the doors and windows of the house over and over again as if he wanted to transmit something into him by doing so.

The lead singer of ‘Junoon’ was keen to interact with the family during the brief visit and even visited most of the rooms of the colonial house which has a front lawn, large verandah, european arches and stained glass doors. Sandeep rued the fact that the visit was a short one. ‘’Salman wanted to sit down and talk with us for a longer time as he wanted to know more details about his family but he was scheduled to visit the residence of the Chief Minister and had to leave after a brief visit’’, he said. Sandeep however takes succour in the fact that Salman has promised to be back with “ammi” next time around.

The house was allotted to the Sandha family, which had come to India from Sheikhupura tehsil in Pakistan, after Partition. Sandeep’s grand father Udham Singh, who was a revenue official, was first given the house on lease and later bought it in an auction in 1964.

Additional Deputy Commissioner Shiv Dular Singh Dhillon, who accompanied the singer on his visit to the house of his ancestors, said Salman was keen to discover his past and was also scheduled to go to the house of his mother at Bassi Pathana tomorrow while on his way to Mandi. The members of the ‘Junoon’ group also visited the New Moti Bagh Palace of state Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh later in the afternoon and interacted with Capt Amarinder Singh. 


Heritage fest ends on a musical note

The Patiala Heritage Festival, which started with a series of soulful classical performances ended with a bang with hundred of watts of foot tapping music forcing a jam packed crowd in Yadvindra Public School stadium to rock all night.

The crowd braced the chilly winds and continued to enthusiastically support Gursewak Mann, Stereonation and Junoon late into the night. While Gursewak Mann presented Punjabi culture in all its glory, Junoon gave a message of friendship and Stereonation presented the fusion of the best of the East and the West.

Immediately after the pop concert started after the lighting of the inaugural lamp by Range Deputy Inspector General of Police Iqbal Preet Singh Sahota and Deputy Commissioner Tejveer Singh, Gursewak Mann presented of the best of Punjabi folk. He started off with the old folk hit “Chann kiththa gujari aayi raat ve” followed by “Sahiba shagan pava ka jholi luk luk rondi ai kalli” and “Kuri kawari” and rounded up with the traditional “Challa”.

The youth seemed to be waiting for Stereonation seeing the reception “Taz” or Tarsem Singh as he was formerly called, got from the crowd. Taz had everyone in raptures when he belted out his favourite hit “O baby don’t break my heart”. Following this the song “Chhad ke na jaayi sub ballia” charged up made the atmosphere. Stereonation kept up the tempo till the end.

Towards the end of the show, it was the turn of the Junoon group to weave magic. The group led by Salman Ahmed is famous for singing sungs which propogate the message of peace and here too they sung songs on the same theme. Their songs seemed to be a fresh ‘’sandesh” and were appreciated by the audience. The all time hit “Saiyonee” had everyone humming with the group. Heritage Festival thus ended on a note of peace between India and Pakistan.


High Court
Government asked not to regularise encroachments
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 23
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has ruled that the Punjab Government “shall not be entitled to regularise encroachments and illegal constructions” in municipal areas all over the state.

The court has held that the restrain orders “would go a long way in discouraging people from making encroachments on public land and raising constructions in the wake of the forthcoming elections”.

Taking up a petition regarding encroachments in Ludhiana, a Division Bench, comprising Mr Justice G.S. Singhvi and Mr Justice M.M. Kumar, further ruled: “If the government has already issued any notification for regularisation of unauthorised encroachments or constructions, then the same shall not be implemented or given effect to”.

In their detailed order, the judges also directed the Commissioners, besides Chief Executive Officers and Executive Officers, along with Secretaries of Municipal Corporations, Councils and Committees, even Nagar Panchayats, to ensure “that no body was allowed to make encroachments on public lands, including those falling in the municipal areas”.

The judges further asked Punjab’s Additional Advocate-General S.S. Behl to immediately forward a copy of the order to Punjab Chief Secretary “so that the government may circulate the same to officers concerned and ensure that further encroachment and illegal constructions were not allowed on public land in any part of the state”.

Going into the background of the case, the Judges added that on February 10 the state government was restrained from regularising unauthorised encroachments and illegal constructions in municipal area of Ludhiana.

Cases transferred

Taking up a petition filed by Barnala MLA Malkiat Singh, Mr Justice Mehtab Singh Gill of the high court on Monday transferred to Ambala two cases registered against him.

Seeking directions for the transfer of cases to the state of Haryana, the MLA had earlier contended that Barnala police was not allowing him to defend his cases at the instance of defeated Congress candidate. He had added that there was was no chance of fair and impartial trial in the state.


Transfer of ‘tainted’ cop raises eyebrows
Pawan Kumar

Amritsar, February 23
The transfer of a “tainted” police officer to a plum post has raised many eyebrows.

In an order dated October 28, 2003, the Director-General of the Punjab Police ordered the transfer of Deputy Superintendent of Police Ashwani Kapur to PAP Chandigarh after serious complaints of “misconduct” against him. The DGP asked the Commandant of PAP to keep a close watch on him for a year. However, the DSP returned in two months after his transfer to the same station (Amritsar).

In a confidential letter, numbering 39275-79/con-SA 6, dated 28-10-2003, the Director-General of Police, stated that “Ashwani Kapur, DSP No TP/42 is hereby transferred from Civil Lines Amritsar to 82 Battalion PAP Chandigarh on account of serious complaints of misconduct against him. He shall be transferred out of Armed Battalion for a period of one year.” The letter further read that during this period his work and conduct shall be closely watched by the Commandant 82 Battalion.

The letter said the DSP should be relieved immediately with the direction to report at his new place of posting. A copy of the letter was sent to offices of district police chief, DIG, IG, Commandant 82 Battalion and ADGP PAP.

Mr Kultar Singh, SSP, when contacted, said the transfer and joining orders were matters of the government.

Mr Ashwani Kapur, who is now DSP (City), claimed that an inquiry had been conducted by the then DIG Mr G.S. Sahota, following which he had been transferred again.


MC still to submit probe report to CM’s office
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, February 23
The functioning to the local municipal corporation has come under cloud following its alleged failure to submit a detailed report into the allegations of amassing disproportionate assets by Mr Somdutt Kalia, personal assistant of the Mayor, Mr Surinder Mahey, to the Chief Minister’s office.

Though the CM’s office had reportedly directed the municipal corporation Commissioner to submit a report into the allegations to submit a report into the allegations about 20 days ago. The matter is still to be entrusted to a senior MC official for inquiry.

In a complaint to the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, a local resident alleged that Mr Kalia had allegedly allowed some private companies to erect advertisement boards and hoardings at several roundabouts in the city in violation of the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

While the Commissioner was not available for comments, Mr Kalia refuted the allegations and said his opponents wanted to tarnish his image.


Tehsil office property auctioned
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 23
A computer, an almirah, three fans and a digital camera of the office of the local Tehsildar were today auctioned for Rs 14,500. The auction was done on the order of the Civil Judge (Senior Division) in an execution proceeding related to the recovery of the arrears of a former employee of the local tehsil office.

This was confirmed by the Tehsildar.


Narcotics smuggling from neighbouring states up
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, February 23
Even as the next Lok Sabha elections are approaching, the smuggling of narcotics to this district from Rajasthan and Haryana has started witnessing an upward trend.

The police has started a campaign against anti-social elements. “We have seized about 50 quintals of poppy husk worth about Rs 20 lakh in the past five days” the SSP, Mr R.S. Khatra, said.

He said the police also seized truck with 100 bags of poppy husk. The poppy husk was being brought from Jawalsar district of Rajasthan situated on the Rajasthan-MP border. Apart from it, two other consignments of poppy husk, and consignments of opium and smack had been seized.

The flow of drugs from Rajasthan, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh of Punjab is a common thing during elections. Hardly any day passes when poppy husk is not seized in Bathinda, Mansa, Ferozepore and Muktsar districts.

Information gathered by TNS revealed that the increase in the quantity of narcotics being smuggled in Punjab from other states was due to the fact that some politicians had started storing them in advance at cheaper rates.

Mr Khatra said some people were trying to store the narcotics so they could earn profit by disposing of the same at higher prices during elections.

The police was under pressure from a section of politicians to “spare” some persons involved in the smuggling of poppy husk. One of the accused was an elected representative of people, information revealed.

When asked if there was pressure, he declined to comment.


Six robbers held, pistols seized
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 23
Six persons allegedly involved in several cases of looting and robberies have been arrested.

Mr Gurinder Singh Dhillon, SSP, said here today that the robbers had been arrested from the Jandali Kalan village area (Ahmedgarh) when they were planning to loot a petrol station. The police seized four pistols and some ammunition from their possession.

The accused have been identified as Harkirat Singh, Hardeep Singh Happy, Angrej Khan, Jagroop Singh, Delawar Khan and Shankar Ram.

The SSP claimed that they had confessed to many incidents of looting and snatching in Sangrur and Ludhiana districts.

A case under Section 399 and 402, IPC, and Section 25 of the Arms Act had been registered.


Spate of thefts in Malerkotla
Our Correspondent

Malerkotla, February 23
There is panic among residents of this area following several thefts during the past 24 hours in which valuable goods worth lakhs were stolen.

A gang of thieves reportedly stole about 50 tyres worth Rs 5 lakh from three different shops here. The shops are located near Sadar police station and the DSP’s office.

In another incident, thieves broke into a television repair shop at Pohir village and stole goods worth Rs 25,000. Electric motors and other equipment were also stolen from a factory in the Industrial Area.

DSP Darshan Singh Mann was not available for comment, but the police has registered an FIR in this connection.


Doctor couple booked
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 23
A criminal case has been registered against Ludhiana-based Dr Amardeep Singh, his wife, Dr Sunita Singh, and three others for allegedly entering Nagpal Hospital here and trying to fabricate documents against Dr Gurinder Singh Nagpal, owner of the hospital.

In a press note issued here today, the police said a case was registered on a complaint of Dr Nagpal. No one has been arrested so far. The suspects also prepared a video of the hospital.

Dr Amardeep Singh and Dr Sumita Singh said they had 50 per cent share in the hospital and added that they were being prevented from carrying out their legitimate business from the premises.


Bank manager held for taking bribe

Moga, February 23
The local Vigilance team today arrested a manager of the Oriental Bank of Commerce, Kot Isse Khan branch, for accepting Rs 4,000 as bribe for sanctioning a loan. 

The manager was arrested after a trap was laid following a complaint by an applicant who had applied for a self-employment loan. — UNI 


Bihari labourer killed in accident
Our Correspondent

Kharar, February 23
A migrant labourer was killed on the spot when a tractor and a truck collided near Daon village today.

According to the police, the deceased, Tulsi Yadav, who was sitting on the tractor, fell down when the two vehicles collided and got crushed under the truck. The tractor was coming from Baroli village and going to Chandigarh.

Tulsi Yadav belonged to Tariya village in Bihar.

The police has registered a case in this regard. The driver of the truck, Didar Singh, fled from the scene.


Demand to implement veterinary Act
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 23
The Veterinary Students’ Association of Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, in a memorandum to the Chief Secretary has drawn his attention to the fact that there had been no follow up on the posts of Veterinary Officer quashed in the Ravi Sidhu job-on-cash case, whereas, interview of lecturers and PCS officers have been held by the Punjab Public Service Commission.

An association spokesperson on Saturday said that the students had also sought implementation of the Indian Veterinary Council Act, 1984, in letter and spirit.

Punjab has 1,500 veterinary dispensaries. These are to be run, as per the Act, by only registered veterinary practitioners. There are over 1,000 vacancies of Veterinary Officer, while 500 veterinary graduates are unemployed. There had been no appointment since 1998.

The memorandum further alleges that in the absence of qualified veterinarians, untrained persons were masquerading as veterinary officers and treating animals.


Symposium on biotechnology held
Our Correspondent

Patiala, February 23
The Bio-technology Department of Punjabi University organised a two-day national symposium on “Advances in industrial biotechnology” here today. The Vice-Chancellor of Punjabi University, Dr Sawarn Singh Boparai, inaugurated the symposium.

In his key note address, Dr Kulwinder Singh Saini said throughout the pharma biotech industry, modern tools of cell and molecular biology were being used to discover new drugs as well as assign therapeutic roles for certain older small molecule drugs.

He added these technologies had helped identify gene and protein targets responsible for the development of disease phenotype, thereby leading towards a more rational drug-design and avoiding symptomatic treatments.

Dr Phillippe Schmitt-Kopplin from Germany, while delivering a guest lecture, said cell density dependent bacterial communication was a rapidly growing field of research in medical, nutritional and environmental microbiology.

The Director, National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research, Mohali, Dr C. L. Kaul, said biotechnology had witnessed a number of developments as one of prime drivers.

Earlier, Dr Aruna Bhatia highlighted achievements and growth of the department.


Registration of students to begin on March 15
Our Correspondent

Kharar, February 23
The registration of students for Government Model Senior Secondary School will start from March 15. A deputy director will be appointed nodal officer for making provisions of staff and other infrastructure for the school, apart from taking care of admissions.

This was stated by Mr Bir Devinder Singh, Deputy Speaker of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, while talking to mediapersons here today after visiting the site where the building of the school is to be constructed. The five-acre site for the school has been given by the municipal council free of cost. The site was approved today by the DPI, Schools, Mr Sohan Lal. The DPI also approved the building of the State Institute of Health and Family Welfare, here, for running the school till the new building gets constructed.

Mr Bir Devinder Singh said the Principal and a head clerk for the school would be appointed in about a weeks time to start the admission process. After that staff would be posted and only dedicated teachers selected for the school. The school would be inaugurated in the last week of March and the classes would begin from April 1. It would be an English medium school.

The management of the school would comprise the local SDM, the president and the executive officer of the civic body and some retired educationists.

The Deputy Speaker said there were also plans to set up an institute for preparing students for competitive exams.

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