P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Party workers give Badal a tough time
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 28
Claims of harmony within SAD notwithstanding, discontentment among workers of the erstwhile Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal (SHSAD) surfaced once again here today at a meeting of Akali leaders where several Tohra loyalists virtually cornered party president Parkash Singh Badal, and accused him of step-motherly treatment. Despite denials of discrimination by Mr Badal, the workers said they were feeling betrayed.

Seeing the mood of the party workers, Mr Badal and Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra jointly appealed to the workers to work for the success of the party in the coming parliamentary elections, assuring them that every party worker would be treated alike. But for former minister Maheshinder Singh Grewal’s timely intervention, Mr Badal would have been in a tight spot with the workers questioning the party president over the choice of candidates, accusing him of ignoring Mr Tohra and party patron Surjan Singh Thekedar’s suggestions in the matter.

The drama took place at the residence of Mr Thekedar, where Mr Badal had gone for the meeting. While Mr Tohra portrayed an image of a helpless man all through, except occasionally, when he came to the rescue of Mr Badal by asking the party workers to remain calm. Workers, mainly supporters of ex-MLA Hira Singh Gabria, virtually forced Mr Badal to name Mr Gabria as Ludhiana District President of the party. “Mr Gabria was never expelled from the party, now that he has rejoined the party, you (workers) must look up to him for all matters pertaining to the work of the party in the district,” Mr Badal said.

Besides Mr Gabria and Mr Grewal, ex-minister Jagdish Singh Garcha and ex-MLA Bikramjit Singh Khalsa were also present at the meeting, but none could do much to appease the workers. At one point Mr Grewal is believed to have walked out of the meeting to protest against the harsh manner in which the workers pointedly addressed and questioned Mr Badal. Mr Gabria had to intervene and bring Mr Grewal back. The workers, in particular, strongly opposed the candidature of party nominee from Ludhiana, M. Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, and said any of the leaders present at the meeting would have been a better choice than Mr Dhillon.

While Mr Badal categorically said there would be no re-thinking on the choice of candidates, Mr Tohra, too, appealed to the workers to sink their difference. Mr Badal tried to dispel all feeling of step-motherly treatment meted out to the erstwhile SHSAD workers, but the workers pointed out that in the recent Youth Akali Dal “Chetna” rally at Bhanor, Mr Khalsa who represents the party in the Dakha assembly area, was sidelined and not consulted for anything merely because he owed allegiance to Mr Tohra.

Later talking to some reporters, Mr Badal said there was no need for any serious concern after today’s meeting, saying that “there is always some discontentment among the party workers that always dies down soon after campaign starts. While Mr Badal tried to put up a brave front, he was visibly upset over reports that the Congress was contemplating fielding former Finance Minister Dr Manmohan Singh from Ludhiana.

Mr Tohra was apparently finding himself in a helpless state, even though he repeatedly told the workers to abide by the decision of the party president, whom the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) of the party had given all rights to decide the party nominees. Mr Tohra also appealed to Mr P.S. Chandumajra to end dissidence and rally his support behind the party’s official nominee.

Gujrals not outsiders: Badal
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Nakodar, February 28
Projecting Mr Naresh Kumar Gujral as a real “son of the soil” and lauding the Gujral family’s contribution towards the development of Punjab and Jalandhar, Mr Parkash Singh Badal today asserted that the Gujrals were not outsiders as was being projected by some Congressmen.

Addressing the “Jabar Virodhi Rally” at Dasehra Grounds here, Mr Badal lashed out at people, who were trying to “dub” the junior Gujral who was also a SAD-BJP candidate from Jalandhar as an “outsider”. “I think such people don’t know the Gujral family’s contribution. Ms Pushpa Gujral, mother of Mr Naresh Gujral, was a Municipal Councillor from Jalandhar and had served destitute women by opening the “Nari Niketan” immediately after the Partition. So, how anybody can say they (Gujrals) are aliens to Jalandhar and Punjab,” said Mr Badal.

“Moreover, everybody knows about Mr I.K. Gujral who was the first Punjabi Prime Minister and who had waived of the Rs 8,500-crore loan of the state during his tenure as Prime Minister. I remember, once I had gone to him with some problems in Punjab and he had sought a month’s time to solve these. After a month, almost all problems were solved,” said Mr Badal.

Referring to AICC chief Sonia Gandhi, Mr Badal said due to her “foreign origin”, people could accept her as a “Bahu”, but not as Prime Minister of India. “After the Congress defeat in the recent assembly elections in four states, the Congress has stopped projecting her as a prime ministerial candidate. Even at the yesterday’s Congress rally at Latala, Mrs Sonia Gandhi’s name was not mentioned by anybody. She does not know politics and administration, how she can run the country. All top posts should go to people of Indian origin,” said Mr Badal. During its 50 years of rule, the Congress had created enemies in neighbouring. But due to Mr Vajpayee’s efforts relations with the neighbouring countries were improving. If Indo-Pak relations improved, Punjab would be the biggest beneficiary said Mr Badal.

Mr Naresh Gujral urged people to remove the Congress government and bring Mr Badal to power.


Barnala kin not promised RS seat: Badal
Our Correspondent

Barnala, February 28
Family members of Mr Surjit Singh Barnala, Governor of Andhra Pradesh and senior Shiromani Akali Dal(SAD) leader, had not been promised the Rajya Sabha seat for giving up the family’s claim on SAD ticket for Sangrur Lok Sabha constituency in the ensuing elections.

It was revealed by Mr Parkash Singh Badal, SAD chief today at the local New Grain Market Complex — the venue of SAD’s Zabar Virodhi —poll rally.

Mr Badal made it clear that SAD was supreme, not individuals, evidently hinting towards senior SAD leader.

Prof Prem Singh Chandumajra’ s discordant notes. He said party decisions must be accepted.


Khanna, Sodhi front runners for party ticket
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 28
Mr Avinash Rai Khanna, President of the Punjab unit of the BJP, and Mr Daya Singh Sodhi, a former president of the party, have emerged as front runners for the ticket to contest elections from Hoshiarpur and Amritsar constituencies, respectively.

SAD, senior alliance partner in Punjab, has allotted three seats — Amritsar, Hoshiarpur and Gurdaspur — to the BJP. For the Gurdaspur seat, actor Vinod Khanna is the only candidate. He is to be renominated.

Though the BJP is silent on names discussed at the meeting of the State Parliamentary Board of the party here today, but informed party sources said that there was hot discussion on the names of certain aspirants for the ticket. Mr Khanna presided over the meeting that was, among others, attended by Mr Brij Lal Rinwa, Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, Mr Harjit Singh Grewal, Mr Rajinder Bhandari, and Mrs Luxmi Kanta Chawla. The panel of names recommended by the State Board for three constituencies would be discussed with the party high command on March 10 in Delhi, it is learnt.

Sources said all emphasis at the meeting was on “clean image”. Senior leaders of the party insisted that no one with even a minor tainted image should be put up in the elections. Only candidates having clean image should be put up. Already, the party has drawn a lot of flak on the issue of Mr D.P. Yadav, who has been since removed following a lot of hue and cry against his joining the BJP a few days ago.

“We would not like that the party election campaign should deviate from the issues such as India shining and development to Mr Yadav etc. Hence, the decision to put up only the best available candidates who have strong chances of winning.

Chances of putting up any former BJP minister, who was part of the SAD-BJP government in Punjab, seems to be remote. “Though there is neither any criminal case or any charges of corruption against any of the former ministers of the party in the state, but we would avoid fielding any of them”, said a senior leader, who was privy to the proceedings of the meeting.

For Hoshiarpur, Mr Khanna, Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, and Mr Tikshan Sud, both former ministers, are in the race for ticket. For Amritsar, Mr Balramji Dass Tandon, Mrs Luxmi Kanta Chawla and Dr Baldev Raj Chawla are also aspirants for the ticket besides, Mr Daya Singh Sodhi. Names of Navjot Singh Sidhu, a cricketer turned commentator and politician and Mr Sarabjit Singh, a former Deputy Commissioner, are also being mentioned for Amritsar constituency.

Even Mr Sarabjit Singh has disclosed to his few close friends that he has joined the BJP on the condition that he would be made the candidate. But there is lot of resistance from the state unit to make new comers in the party as candidates. Sources said neither Sidhu’s nor Mr Sarabjit Singh’s name came up for discussion for candidature at today’s meeting.

An influential section of the state unit is for putting up Mr Harjit Singh Grewal, General Secretary of the state unit from Amritsar. Earlier, Mr Grewal was a contender for the office of the State President of the BJP but he lost the battle because, according to the BJP sources, Mr Parkash Singh Badal did not like the BJP’s proposal to make a “Sikh” as president of the state unit. The influential section wanted that Mr Grewal should be compensated by making him candidate from Amritsar.


Judicial panel moved against Tohra
Misappropriation of gurdwara land
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 28
A case of misappropriation of prime land of Gurdwara Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Dugri (Ludhiana), was filed in the Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission against Mr Gurcharn Singh Tohra and the SGPC executive here today.

The complainant, Mr Baldev Singh, a member of the Dugri panchayat; alleged that Mr Tohra and other office-bearers of the SGPC has allotted 8 acres of prime land on a 99-year lease at a cheap price to the chairman of the Kalgidhar Educational Trust, who was a confidant of the SGPC chief, in gross violation of bylaws of the Shiromani committee.

The petitioner urged the commission to disqualify Mr Tohra and the SGPC executive. The petitioner also prayed to the commission that Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta be restrained from working as honorary secretary.

The deed was cancelled on February 20, 2002, through a resolution (number 252) when Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar was the SGPC chief by the executive committee. However, when Mr Tohra became the SGPC chief again on December, 2003, the decision cancelling the deed was rescinded. The SGPC had directed the local gurdwara committee chief, Mr Harbans Singh, and others to withdraw cases pending in courts.

The complainant alleged that the chairman of the Trust, Sant Hari Singh Randhawa (a confidant of Mr Tohra) had filed a suit for permanent injunction. However, the application was dismissed. The appeal against the order was also dismissed by the Additional District Judge, Ludhiana.

In his application, the complainant alleged that the respondents, in connivance with the chairman of the Trust, passed the resolution through which the previous resolution was cancelled. By passing this resolution, the SGPC executive misappropriated the prime land of the gurdwara Trust thereby causing a huge financial loss.

The complainant prayed that a decree be passed against all 23 respondents. The petitioner has sought Rs 5 lakh as damages from the respondents.


Where non-Sikhs print Guru Granth Sahib
with ‘Maryada’
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 28
True to the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib, the publication of the holy book in SGPC’s Golden Offset Press in the basement of Guru Ramsar here is being managed by machine men and workers who are mostly non-Sikhs from Nepal, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Bihar, UP, Delhi and other states.

With recitation of ‘satnam waheguru’, the workers are seen publishing the holy book round the clock in shifts. Complete ‘maryada’ is maintained by the workers including non-Sikhs who are employees of SGPC during the publication of the holy Guru Granth Sahib. The offset press was imported from Germany at a cost of Rs 75 lakh in the year 1991 and on an average 5000 copies are published annually.

The spirit of worship is best reflected in the fact that loose paper sheets (after printing) are covered with ‘romalas’ (the holy cloth). Then the holy books are wrapped in beautiful ‘romalas’ after their printing. Entry to the press is restricted. This is a five storeyed building where the basement is used for printing. Gurdwara Ramsar is constructed on the first floor where Guru Granth was installed in the year 1604 by the fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan Dev.

Since Guru Granth Sahib is a ‘living Guru’ for the Sikh community, the ‘waste paper’ is also kept with great reverence and then ‘cremated’ at Goindwal Sahib as per Sikh traditions.

All the Hindu employees, working in the press are non-smokers and do not consume liquor.

The visitors, including employees, have to remove their shoes before entering the press.

The senior SGPC officials said that the press workers, having good experience in the field were engaged at higher pay scales so that high quality of printing could be maintained. However, the SGPC has taken a pledge from the workers to maintain complete ‘maryada’.

The SGPC has prepared special bedecked vans to carry 500 volumes of Guru Granth Sahib to various gurdwaras in the country without charging carriage fee.


India must play key role in Central Asia, says Nayar
Tribune Reporters

Amritsar, February 28
Fundamentalists were trying to convert the liberal areas of Central Asia into a terrorist-prone area. This was stated by Mr Kuldip Nayar, former MP and journalist, while delivering a key note address at the inaugural session of a two-day seminar on “Emerging socio-economic and political systems in Central Asia and India’s response” at Guru Nanak Dev University here today. The seminar was organised by the Centre for South Central Asian Studies of University.

He said India would have to play a significant role in the terrorist-affected areas where fundamentalism had taken root and should help establish democracy in the Central Asian region. He appreciated the efforts made by India to develop friendly ties with Pakistan.

He favoured an economic union under SAARC nations to strengthen the economy of the region. He said the gas pipeline should be built across Pakistan from Iran for the benefit of the region.

Prof Nirmala Joshi from the School of Russian and Central Asian Studies of Jawaharlal Nehru University said drug trafficking in the region was posing a danger to its stability. She said 75 per cent of heroin was cultivated in Afghanistan and a majority of it was routed through Central Asian countries to Europe.

Earlier, the Director of the centre, Dr Kuldip Singh, highlighted the importance of this region as the Caspian belt had huge oil reserves.

Mr Nayar also laid the foundation stone of a building of the centre.

He said more than 1,000 Pakistani and Indian folk artistes would perform in Amritsar and Lahore next month.

He said this while laying the foundation stone of Bhai Veer Singh memorial library.

He favoured the setting up of a centre for Punjabi to research its culture, heritage, language and its impact on national and international societies.

Dr Mohinder Singh, administrator of Bhai Veer Singh Sahitya Sadan, New Delhi, made a presentation regarding the endangered Sikh heritage sites in India and Pakistan. He said it was the duty of the SGPC and other organisations to take up the issue.


General Samaj Party announces Bathinda nominee
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 28
With the announcement of its candidate for the Bathinda parliamentary constituency (reserved) at a rally here today, the General Samaj Party (GSP) launched its campaign for the forthcoming elections. Subedar Surjit Singh (retd) has been declared as its candidate for the Bathinda (reserved) constituency. The party will also field its candidates from Faridkot, Patiala, Gurdaspur and Ropar (reserved). The names of the candidates will be declared soon.

Mr Suresh Kumar Goyal, organising secretary of the party, said the GSP would work to end casteism. The party was not against reservation but it should be based on the economic criterion, he said.

Mr Rajbir Singh Sidhu, general secretary of the GSP, said 80 per cent to 85 per cent voters should use their right to franchise as against 30 per cent to 35 per cent in the last Lok Sabha elections.

Subedar Surjit Singh said the benefits of reservation were reaching only a few people rather than a bigger section of the SCs. He said reservation should only be given on the basis of economic criterion.


BJP meeting
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 28
A meeting of the State Executive Committee of the Punjab unit of the BJP would be held at Datarpur, near Talwara, on March 13, according to Mr Rajinder Bhandari, State General Secretary of the BJP. Presidents, General Secretaries of all district units, State Presidents and General Secretaries of various cells of the party have also been invited.


Meeting postponed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 28
The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) has postponed a meeting of the ex-servicemen scheduled to be held at the Punjab Congress Bhavan here on March 1. The meeting of the Freedom Fighters wing of the PPCC had also been postponed, according to Mr Raj Pal Singh, media secretary of the committee.



BSF complains to Pak over hot air balloon
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 28
Even as mystery still shrouds the landing of a hot air balloon in Pakistan territory, the BSF lodged a commandant-level protest with the Sutlej Rangers today.

Mr Darbara Singh, Commandant, claimed that a BSF jawan had spotted the ballon moving from the Indian side and landing in the territory of Pakistan. The jawan had seen three persons get off and rush towards a bungalow.

However, the Punjab police believes that the balloon took off from the Pakistan side and was part of some army exercise. Senior officials of the BSF, police and intelligence agencies rushed to the site at Fatehpur to get a first-hand information. 


Forum holds police responsible for explosion
Ashok Sethi and Pawan Kumar

Amritsar, February 28
The fact-finding report on the explosion that rocked the city on February 19 in which about 30 persons were injured, was held the police department and the judicial system of the district responsible for the incident.

The Lawyers for the Human Right International headed by Mr Parminder Singh Sethi, today demanded that the inquiry should be conducted by a sitting judge of the high court or by the CBI to bring out the truth behind the incident. If the government failed to institute an independent probe, the forum would take legal recourse.

The 13-page report said there was lack of coordination and total mismanagement as no proper account of the deadly explosive material was maintained in accordance with the law. The report said the unaccounted material was allegedly removed and destroyed by the police at a public place without ascertaining the nature of its effect. The police party involved in the removal of the material showed scant regard for the life and property of the public. The report said a low-ranking policeman was allegedly made a scapegoat to save the neck of senior officers responsible for the security of the “Malkhana”.

The report felt that the suspension of “Malkhana” in Charge ASI Dilbagh Singh and four constables was mere eyewash as they were only obeying the order of the top brass. It also alleged that 450 kg of explosives and 300 detonators and anti-tank mines were destroyed near the Beas.

There was clear evidence that if the blast had triggered a fire, it could have destroyed an area within the 3 km radius. The fact-finding team said there was no clear evidence who gave the orders for the removal and dumping of the explosive material in the public place that had resulted in the blast.

The team suggested that the “Malkhana” should be shifted on the outskirts of the city.

The copy of the report has been sent to the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the Chief Minister, Governor and District Sessions Judge. The forum has demanded adequate compensation for victims of the blast. 


PSEB gears up to buy more power
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, February 28
The Punjab State Electricity Board is gearing up to meet power requirements of the state during summer as it is planning to purchase power from different sources.

Enquiries made by The Tribune show that the PSEB authorities are now in touch with the Power-Trading Corporation and the NTPC’s Vidyut Beopar Nigam for purchasing power during June and July when the power requirements would touch the peak. At the same time, the PSEB authorities are conserving power which they are now giving to the states like Himachal, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttranchal under the banking system. The PSEB will get back the power supplied under the banking system during May, June and July. The power needs of the state touch the highest at 1200 lakh units during summer and particularly when the demand for paddy transplantation picks up.

According to Mr Padamjit Singh, Adviser to the PSEB, the annual maintenance of thermal units is also being taken up. At present one unit of the Ropar thermal plant is shut for annual maintenance and Mukerian channel is also closed for 15 days for repairs. The PSEB is losing 25 lakh units of power daily as a result of closure of the Mukerian channel and generation from Mukerian hydel project has come to a standstill. Similarly, one unit of the Bathinda thermal plant is closed for repairs. Unit No. 2 of Bathinda thermal station will be shut down for eight months as it will have complete renovation and modernisation. The boiler of the unit would be replaced at a cost of Rs 25 crore. The Bathinda thermal plant is the oldest in the state and requires some modifications and renovation.

Both the units of the Lehra Mohabbat thermal plant are functioning at present. Mr Padamjit Singh maintains that all annual repairs and maintenance work would be completed by May at all costs.

The PSEB is also negotiating with the authorities of Tehri hydel dam and Naptha Jhakri dam to get additional power supply. Negotiations for nuclear power are also in progress.

Mr Padamjit Singh said that the impact of the recent rains in the state was over and demand for power had increased to nearly 800 lakh units daily from 517 lakh units last year on February 23. There is more demand for water in the rural areas and the farmers have started running the tubewells at night also. The PSEB is ensuring six hours of power supply to the tubewells to meet the water requirements of the agriculture sector. In order to tide over the situation, the urban feeder is subjected to power cuts during the day time.

As regards the water level in the Bhakra and Pong Dam reservoirs, the situation is quite comfortable and level is 25 ft more than the level last year in the two reservoirs.

Water level in Ranjit Sagar Dam is low by 7 metres compared to the level last year and only one unit is generating power.

The coal supply position is better and there is no cause of worry on this front.

The PSEB is not facing any financial problem to meet with coal costs and transportation, claim the PSEB authorities.


Ban liquor in Punjab: Bahuguna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 28
Lauding Guru Granth Sahib as the most practical treatise on life, religion and philosophy, environmentalist Sunderlal Bahuguna today urged Punjab to ban alcohol and revert to organic agriculture for sustained development.

Speaking on the occasion of the 77th birth anniversary of former Indian Vice-President Krishna Kant, Mr Bahuguna asserted that there is turmoil in Punjab due to alcoholism and addiction. “The government should prohibit liquor and other forms of addiction in the state,” he said.

Mr Bahuguna was speaking for the Servants of People’s Society at Lajpat Rai Bhavan, Sector 15, said the lost glory could only be restored by practicing austerity.



Municipal pensioners seek parity
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 28
The Municipal Corporation Pensioners’ Association, Punjab, has said that they are being discriminated against since July 1, 2003, in terms of benefits of dearness allowance and relief instalments, payable to other state pensioners. Earlier, there was parity but for the past two years those who retired from local bodies had not been given the benefit.

Association president Kailash Khanna yesterday said in a press note that the benefit of increase of 4 per cent in dearness allowance, effective from July 1, 2003, had been denied and even the notification had not been issued on the increase of 5 per cent and 10 per cent in the basic pension after the age of 65 years and 75 years, respectively.

The association has appealed to the state government that municipal pensioners be kept in mind as and when there was notification on the merger of 50 per cent dearness allowance in the basic pay of the employees.



Youth Akali Dal burns CM’s effigy
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 28
Members of the district youth wing of the Shiromani Akali Dal, under the leadership of the district president, today burnt the effigy of the Amarinder government in front of the courts complex here in protest against the alleged recruitment scam in the appointments of DSPs. They also held a rally and raised slogans against the government.

The rally was attended, among others, by Mr Rajan Garg, general secretary of the youth wing, Mr Chiranji Lal Garg, former minister, Mr Chamkaur Singh Mann, district general secretary of the youth wing.


Panel to ensure downtrodden SCs get their due
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 28
The Punjab State Commission for Scheduled Castes will ensure that the downtrodden in the state get their due, while making sure that the rights of others are not affected in the process, says recently appointed Chairman Niranjan Singh.

Talking to The Tribune, retired IAS officer Niranjan Singh adds, “Our first priority will be to remove bottlenecks and hurdles in the implementation of recruitment, promotion and other special schemes for the Scheduled Castes. We will also see to it that the victims of atrocities do not suffer harassment”.

In a state where almost 28 per cent of the population is Scheduled Caste, his statement regarding the implementation of steps for “safeguarding the interest of every citizen” is no doubt significant.

As far as the problems faced by them in the state are concerned, Mr Niranjan Singh says, “They are almost the same everywhere. But the government, by setting up the commission, has paved way for adoption of steps to protect their constitutional and legal rights”.

This is not all. The commission will also approach and assist the courts on the behalf of the Scheduled Caste.

Giving details of the powers, Mr Niranjan Singh says, “The commission can suo motu take cognizance of offences or act on complaints regarding the deprivation of rights and safeguards. It can also summon and enforce the attendance of any person and examine him on oath. Evidence can also be received on affidavits. Furthermore, the commission can requisition any public record or its copy from any court or office”.


Applicants throng passport office
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 28
Following efforts by India and Pakistan to improve bilateral relations, the local Regional Passport Office (RPO) is being flooded by aspirants, mostly hailing from the border districts of Amritsar and Gurdaspur and the Doaba region.

The sudden jump in the number of fresh passport applications has been observed since January. The RPO was daily getting on an average 700 to 750 fresh passport applications as against 500 earlier.

Most aspirants from the border areas were not only youngsters who wanted to try their luck for getting a chance to see the Indo-Pak cricket matches, but also old people who wanted to see the other Punjab once again. ‘‘We hope to visit Pakistan and see our old house in Kasoor’’, said Mr Sohan Singh, a resident of a Gurdaspur village.

Mr Amarjit Singh, Regional Passport Officer, Jalandhar, said: ‘‘As compared to 1.49 lakh applications in 2001, we disposed of 1.62 lakh cases during 2003. But there has been a sudden spurt in fresh applications since January’’. Steps had been taken to expedite the disposal of fresh passport applications.


Bhattal not consulted on Pandey’s appointment
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 28
Reacting to her absence at the Congress Latala rally yesterday, Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Deputy Chief Minister, today said that she could not attend the rally as she was busy with regard to her court case.

She indicated that she was not keen to contest from the Sangrur seat, but would follow the party high command’s instructions in this regard.

Addressing mediapersons, Ms Bhattal, who was on her way to Shahpur village to attend the anniversary of Shahid Kishan Singh Gargaj, said there was no scope of any controversy over her absence as she had already informed the Chief Minister about her engagements.

Referring to the recent reshuffle in the police and return of Mr A.P. Pandey as the Chief Director, Vigilance Bureau, she said though she was not consulted, it was the prerogative of the Chief Minister.

Asked about the “compromise” formula struck between her group and the group of the Chief Minister and one of its conditions that the Deputy Chief Minister would be consulted on important issues, she refused to comment.


Grant Pak visas to Hindus liberally, Centre urged
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 28
Ms Laxmi Kanta Chawla, state vice-president of the BJP, yesterday urged the Central Government to liberally grant visas to devotees so that they could visit and renovate their pilgrimages in Pakistan.

Ms Chawla, in a press statement issued here, said Katasraj, the Hindu pilgrimage in Chakwal district of Pakistan, had turned into ruin with the passage of time. She said a “haveli” belonging to Hari Singh Nalwa and art sculptures from the eighth century were still present there which should be protected. She alleged that only a few people from India were granted visas to visit Hindu and other pilgrimages in Pakistan.

The vice-president urged the religious and social organisations to form a new organisation for the restoration of Katasraj and other pilgrimages in Pakistan.


Farm labourers’ rally tomorrow
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 28
The Punjab Khet Mazdoor Sabha will hold a state-level rally in support of its long-pending demands at the Desh Bhagat Yadgaar Hall in Jalandhar on March 1. Several outfits have confirmed their participation at the event where the future course of action will be chalked out.

Dr Gurcharan Singh Gandhi, secretary of the sabha, said they had been at the receiving end ever since the successive government started formulating policies that were against their interests.

At a meeting held here yesterday, those present criticised the policies of the NDA alliance which were against farmers and farm labourers. Employment avenues at the village level, too were negligible as most of the work was being done by machines.

Mr Gandhi said in addition to this, the government should waive off the loans of the “khet mazdoors” as they were not in a position to repay their debts. The state should also allot small houses to them.


Strong infrastructure favoured for farm growth
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 28
Dr S.S. Johl, Vice-Chairman of the Punjab State Planning Board said here yesterday that for balanced agricultural growth, a strong infrastructure was required.

Delivering the first Sardar Iqbal Singh Memorial Lecture on “Growth and Development: how to go about Punjab experience at Guru Nanak Dev University, Dr Johl said although the state had fertile land, plenty of sunshine, power and water, the state was lacking in commitment to grow for achieving allround development.

He said Punjab Agricultural University should be made responsible and accountable to prepare a comprehensive plan to develop agro produce in the state. He lamented that the children of state’s farmers were not taking up agriculture as their profession and turning to other vocations.


In-laws’ hand suspected in woman’s death
Our Correspondent

Nabha, February 28
A newly wed Rajinder Kaur (24) died under mysterious circumstances at her in-laws house at Gunike village, 12 km from here. Her body has been brought to the Civi Hospital for a post-mortem examination.

According to her family Rajinder Kaur was married to Jarnail Singh about a month ago and had been pressured for bringing Rs 50,000 from her parents.


Man murdered
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, February 28
Des Raj (60), a resident of Nawan Pind Gatewala village near the town was murdered allegedly by five persons in the village yesterday.

The police has identified the accused as Sanjeev Kumar alias Neeta, Raman Kumar, Pawan Kumar, Hans Raj all residents of Nawan Pind village and Bobby of Kapurthala.

The police has registered a case under Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code against the accused.


GCG overall champion at youth festival
Our Correspondent

Patiala, February 28
The local Government College for Girls was awarded the overall championship in the inter- zonal youth festival which concluded here yesterday. The Vice-Chancellor, PAU, Ludhiana, Dr K.S Aulakh, was the chief guest.

The Punjabi University team bagged the first prize in the bhangra competition, while the team of Guru Gobind Singh College, Sanghera, Sangrur zone was declared runners-up. Similarly Government College, Malerkotla, Sangur zone, got the first prize in the sami competition and the Punjabi University Campus team from Patiala zone got the second prize.

Dr Aulakh appreciated the efforts of Punjabi University for its commitment to inculcate the habit of healthy competitions in all spheres of life. He added that cultural activities played an important role in developing the personality of the students.

Punjabi University Vice-Chancellor Sawarn Singh Boparai urged the students to participate in cultural activities. Mr Gurbachan Singh Randhawa was the guest of honour on the occasion.


80 papers presented on Indo-US relations

Patiala, February 28
The three-day international conference of the Indian Association for American Studies concluded at the Punjabi University campus here today. The conference had been organised by the Department of English in association with the public affairs section , US Embassy, New Delhi.

As many as 160 delegates participated in the conference, of which 90 came from all over the country. Eighty papers were presented in 14 technical sessions whose focus was on US literature and Indo-US relations.

Eminent scholars, including Prof Bhim Singh Dahiya, former VC, Kurukshetra University, Prof Som P. Ranchan, Prof O.P. Grewal, Prof M.L. Raina, Professor Venkatachalam, Prof Sri Ramamurthy, Prof Manjitinder Singh and Professor Susheela chaired different technical sessions.

Professor Dahiya said such conferences help to strengthen bonds between the East and the West and urge us to think beyond the confines of cultural, racial and national stereotypes. Scholars Rebecca McDuff and Greg Notess from the USA gave a presentation on the use of Internet for US studies and the impact of Internet on society.

At today technical session Dr Rabinder Powar, senior lecturer, English Department, discussed the kaleidoscopic worldview of Jhumpa Lahiri. Dr Rupinder Kaur of the same department presented a paper on the inter-cultural and personal conflicts in the works of three writers of Indian origin based in the USA, Bharati Mukherjee, Chitra Divakaruni and Jhumpa Lahiri. Prof Paramjit Kaur discussed the myth and history related to the works of Joyce Card and Oates while Dr Swaraj Raj of Mohindra College, Patiala, explored the concept of Cyborg, both as metaphor and reality in Bharati Mukherjee’s fiction.


Degrees conferred on 625 students
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 28
Degrees were conferred on 625 students of B.Com, BA and B.Sc by Ms Gurkanwal Kaur, MLA from Jalandhar cantt constituency and daughter of the late Beant Singh and Mr Chander Shekhar, Additional Director General of the Punjab Police, during the annual convocation of B.D. Arya College today.

Addressing the students, Ms Gurkanwal Kaur, appreciated the role being played by women in the development of the society at different levels. “If girls determine to work hard, they can excel in any field,” she said.

A cultural programme was also organised by the students.


Selection of ETT teachers complete
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 28
The Punjab Education Department said today that the entire selection process of the recruitment of 1846 ETT teachers at a consolidated salary of Rs 5,000 per month had been completed.

As reported by The Tribune today, the government statement on this issue admitted that the department had selected the eligible candidate for 1846 posts. In other words, the government authorities have conceded the point that Zila Parishads, which were supposed to be involved in the recruitment of such teachers, have not been involved in the selection process of candidates, which has been the most important aspect.

In fact, informed sources said that only 1846 eligible candidates were available and they all had been selected. Hence, the question of making selection on merit, as claimed by the government in the statement, did not arise at any stage.


School bags given to poor
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, February 28
State Medical Education Minister Santokh Singh distributed 4,000 bags among the poor students of 30 schools at Dayalpur village.

He also announced a grant of Rs 15 lakh to various panchayats for development.

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