P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



SAD demands CBI probe, scrapping of auction
Says deal favouring Ponty caused Rs 400 cr loss
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 8
The Shiromani Akali Dal has demanded a CBI inquiry into the auction of liquor shops in Ludhiana district. It has claimed that certain senior state government functionaries had received at least Rs 100 crore for facilitating the grant of licences for the liquor shops to two particular groups. The deal, the SAD leaders said, had caused a loss of Rs 300 crore to Rs 400 crore to the state exchequer.

The SAD general secretary, Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal told The Tribune that the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, had violated the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court regarding the conduct of the auction for personal gains. He said, “It is an open challenge that if the auction is held again in a fair manner, it will yield at least an additional Rs 300 crore to Rs 400 crore”.

Mr Badal said the state government had “sold the interest of Punjab” after pocketing about Rs 100 crore. “The Congress regime accuses the Akali Dal of leaving empty state coffers. But it is the Congress that is selling the interest and revenue of the state for personal gains, while putting on a mask of honesty”, he alleged.

Demanding an immediate scrapping of the auctions conducted at Ludhiana and Jalandhar, Mr Badal said the liquor shops should be re-auctioned to recover the money that rightfully belongs to the state. “The way the SSP and other senior police officers personally supervised the auction clearly shows the instructions that had been given to the staff”, he said.

He further added that there was enough evidence to suggest that the auction was fake and that the interests of both the groups were secured even before the auctions started. Under such circumstances, he said, a CBI probe should be ordered to uncover the involvement of all accused in the scam.

In what could be termed as a major ‘upset’ in the auction of shops that took place in Ludhiana, a close supporter of Mr Badal and his former Cabinet colleague Jagdish Singh Garcha, who is a force to reckon with in the liquor trade, was shown the door. He was considered to be heading the biggest cartel of liquor contractors in Punjab till the arrival on the scene in the late nineties of Ponty Chadha, the liquor baron from Uttar Pradesh. The Garchas are, staunch Akalis and supporters of former Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. They were outmanoeuvered by the Chadha group and virtually ousted from the trade.

For the past several years, the two groups — Chadhas and Garchas — were sharing the liquor shops in the district between them. After the initial hostility between them, the auction of shops, particularly in this city, has been a friendly match between the two groups. The bids for different places are usually finalised beforehand and the auction reduced to a mere formality.

Mr Mann Singh Garcha and his brother Jagdish Singh Garcha, a sitting SAD(B) legislator from Kila Raipur and former Minister for Technical Education in the Cabinet of Mr Badal, have controlled the liquor trade in the district for a very long time. With their vast resources, they had also been lending financial assistance to the party.

This time, Ponty Chadha, has decided on such a composition of contractors that has left the Garchas high and dry and pushed them out of the trade which they were carrying on for more than two decades.


Dissidents’ ultimatum to Badal
Our Correspondent

Abohar, March 8
Dissidents in the Shiromani Akali Dal today gave an ultimatum to SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal to reconsider and change candidates for Tarn Taran, Patiala, Sangrur, Bathinda and Ferozepore constituencies otherwise they would form a new Akali Dal in the name of Sant Harchand Singh Longowal at a rally to be held on March 15 at Zira.

Stating this Mr Inderjit Singh Zira, a former Health Minister in the SAD Cabinet, said Mr Badal had adopted one-point programme of clearing all possible hurdles in installing dynastic installation of his son Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal as chief of the SAD as well as next possible Chief Minister of Punjab. Union Minister for Fertilizers and Chemicals Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa could have easily been reelected to the Rajya Sabha but the Mr Badal put him to a litmus test by nominating him from the Sangrur Lok Sabha constituency.

Claiming that Capt Kanwaljit Singh was neither willing nor the electorate of Patiala constituency was ready to accept him as SAD candidate for Lok Sabha poll, the SAD chief feared that he was equally harmful for Sukhbir.

Taking strong exception to re-nominating Mr Zora Singh Mann for Ferozepore constituency, Mr Zira said Mr Mann had allegedly been instrumental in victory of the Congress candidates from Abohar, Balluana and Fazilka Assembly constituencies in the last Vidhan Sabha elections. Eight of the nine former MLAs had requested the party chief that any one else, other than Mr Mann, be given the SAD-BJP ticket now but Mr Badal responded in negative.

Reacting to Mr Badal’s remarks made recently here that Mr Zira was not even a primary member of the SAD, he said when his grandfather Jathedar Ujagar Singh participated in the Jaitu Morcha and his father Jathedar Gurdip Singh had been elected a member of the SGPC 25 years ago, Mr Parkash Singh Badal was not aware of the SAD constitution then.

The proposed rally at Zira on March 15 might be addressed by Mr Tarlochan Singh Toor, Mr Prem Singh Lalpura, and Prof Prem Singh Chandumajra also. Mr Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, president of the Lok Bhalai Party, might also be invited, he said. 


Differences in SAD may harm party’s prospects in Bathinda
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 8
While the ruling Congress is yet to announce its candidates for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections, the campaign of the SAD candidate from this reserved seat has not yet picked up due to factionalism among the party rank and file, including sharp differences between the district party president, Mr Sikander Singh Malooka, and the Rampura Phul MLA, Mr Gurpreet Singh Kangar.

Though a large section of SAD leaders say that it will be smooth sailing for Paramjit Kaur, the party’s candidate from the Bathinda (reserve) Lok Sabha constituency, grassroot workers are feeling demoralised due to acute factionalism and groupism in the district unit.

So far, Mr Kangar has not been invited to address any public meeting, organised by Mr Malooka for the election campaign of Ms Paramjit Kaur, wife of Mr Justice Nirmal Singh, Judge, Punjab and Haryana High Court, and daughter of a former union minister, Mr Dhana Singh Gulshan. Mr Kangar was also not informed about the election meeting, which was held in his native village, Kangar, about three days ago.

Apart from it, Mr Kangar has been told by the district leadership not to attend the party’s Bhairupa rally to be held on March 10 and addressed by Mr Badal, party sources said.

“The Malooka-Kangar episode is sending wrong signals to party workers and people. We will try to solve it,” said Mr Manpreet Badal, MLA, Gidderbaha, who had made efforts to bring Mr Kangar back in the party’s fold.

Mr Kangar, who contested as a rebel candidate against the SAD candidate from Rampura Phul, Mr Malooka, in the last Assembly elections managed to get about 41,000 votes and defeated Mr Malooka. A few months ago, the SAD chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, managed to bring Mr Kangar and two other MLAs back into the party’s fold when Mr Badal and his family members were in crisis after the state Vigilance Bureau launched legal proceedings against them for their alleged involvement in corruption.

After joining the SAD, Mr Kangar, using his organisational skills, managed to get maximum crowd at almost all big rallies of the party addressed by Mr Parkash Singh Badal and former union minister Sukhbir Badal.

A large section of party workers, owing allegiance to Mr Kangar, while talking to TNS pointed out that Mr Badal and his family members had got his support when they were in trouble and now Mr Badal was not taking care of his interests. They added that “sidelining” of Mr Kangar would have an adverse impact on the prospects of SAD candidates throughout Punjab as this would demoralise the party’s youth workers.

On the other hand, Mr Sarbjit Singh, son of Beant Singh, one of the assassins of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who has been fielded by the SAD (Amritsar) from this seat and has intensively been touring the rural and urban areas, has started trying to cash in on the situation prevailing in the SAD district unit. He has also been seeking votes from the people on the basis of the “sacrifice” made by his father, for the Sikh community.

Mr Sukhbir Badal, who was touring the Kot Kapura area today, could not be contacted for his comments.


Tur, Lalpura disgruntled, says Sukhbir Badal
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, March 8
Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, general secretary, SAD son of Mr Parkash Singh Badal former state Chief Minister has described Mr Tarlochan Singh Tur, a former MP and Mr Prem Singh Lalpura as disgruntled and selfish leaders.

He clarified that Mr Tur was denied the ticket from the Tarn Taran parliamentary constituency after a survey by the selection committee in his area found that more than 90 per cent voters did not favour him. Talking to mediapersons at the residence of Mr Narinder Mittal, general secretary, district unit of the BJP, here yesterday Mr Badal who had arrived to seek the support to voters by holding corner meetings admitted fighting between two senior party leaders, including Mr Gurpreet Singh Kangar MLA Rampura Phul, and Mr Sikandar Singh Maluka, president, SAD Bathinda unit, yet he fell that this wold not harm the party candidate, Mrs Paramjit Kaur, who is contesting the poll from the Bathinda parliamentary constituency. Mr Badal disclosed that another former MP Prof Prem Singh Chandumajra who had been denied party ticket and adopted a positive attitude..

Terming the anti-corruption programme of the state Chief Minister a poll gimmick to defame senior SAD leaders, Mr Sukhbir Badal demanded a through probe an independent agency into the agency into the multi-crore auction of liquor vends, the illegal recruitment of DSPs related with the senior state officers and the selection of tainted officers in the PCS cadre by the PPSC recently.

He also attended the antim ardas of Dalip Kaur, mother of Mr Manmohan Singh Brar, Chairman Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission, who died here last week.

Meanwhile, criticising, Mr Badal for his anti-Congress tirade, Mr S.K. Gupta chairman, Improvement Trust and a veteran Congress leader, alleged that it was the SAD leader who had lost their credibility following their involvement in a number of malpractices.


No promise to Chandumajra, Mann for support, says Badal
Tribune News Service

Lehragaga, March 8
No promise has been made either to Prof Prem Singh Chandumajra or Mr Baldev Singh Mann for their support to Capt Kanwaljit Singh, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) candidate for Lok Sabha elections from Patiala Lok Sabha constituency and Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, SAD nominee from Sangrur, respectively.

Mr Parkash Singh Badal, SAD chief, stated this today to a question whether Mr Chandumajra or Mr Mann was promised Rajya Sabha nomination or any benefit for securing their support in favour of SAD candidates in Patiala and Sangrur.

Mr Badal was talking to The Tribune after addressing “anti-repression” rally of the SAD in the new Grain Market here today. Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, SGPC chief, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, general secretary of the SAD, Mr Gobind Singh Kanjhla, Mr Parminder Singh Dhindsa, both MLAs, Mr Rajinder Singh Kanjhla, district president of the SAD, Mr Baldev Singh Mann, general secretary of the SAD, and Mr Satwant Singh Punia, district president of the BJP also addressed the rally.

Mr Badal claimed that Prof Chandumajra and Mr Baldev Singh Mann would campaign for Capt Kanwaljit Singh and Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa.

Mr Badal said the SAD in its manifesto would mention that no person of foreign origin should be allowed to become President, Vice-President, Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of India.

Mr Badal lashed out at Capt Amarinder Singh, Punjab Chief Minister, alleging that he did not fulfil promises but stopped facilities, given to the Dalits, farmers, employees and traders by the SAD-BJP Government. He asked people to vote for Capt Kanwaljit Singh.

Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra said the Congress had become old, so it should be discarded.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh termed the contest between him and Ms Preneet Kaur, from Patiala, as a contest between the son of a farmer and representative of a Royal family. He also urged the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court to order a judicial inquiry into the alleged “irregularities” in the recruitment of DSPs recently and auction of liquor vends.


Akali ex-MLA, 9 others join Congress
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 8
Mr Gurdev Singh Sidhu, a former Akali MLA, who represented the Shutrana Assembly constituency, joined the Congress with nine others here today.

Mr Sidhu was garlanded by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and PPCC President H.S. Hanspal. The two Congress leaders said there was a long queue of such Akali leaders, who wanted to defect.

Addressing mediapersons, Mr Sidhu and other defectors said though for generations their families had been ardent supporters of the Akali Dal, all of them were disillusioned of late the way the party President, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, was promoting his son, Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, and ignoring ordinary party workers and leaders. “Mr Badal and SGPC President Gurcharan Singh Tohra have joined hands and formed a “private corporation to run the Akali Dal. This could not be tolerated any longer, hence the decision to quit”. They also supported the anti-corruption drive of the government.

The defection of these Akalis was engineered by Mr Randeep Singh, Congress MLA from Nabha.

Besides Mr Sidhu, Mr Pritam Singh Khanpur, Mr Santokh Singh Sandhu (Senior Vice-President, Akali Dal, Rajpura), Mr Balbir Singh Rai, Mr Jughar Singh and Mr Gurmeet Singh Gill (President, Ranjit Nagar, Akali Dal, Patiala), Mr Harbhajan Singh, Mr Gurkirat Singh Sandhu, Mr Harcharan Pal Singh Randhawa and Mr Gurinder Pal Singh have joined the Congress.

Earlier, Capt Amarinder Singh said the Congress candidates for the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha elections would be announced this week.

About the reports on “tainted” officers getting selected by the Punjab Public Service Commission, the Chief Minister said the procedures for selection were very strict.

However, some time “bad” people get “good” entries in their annual confidential reports. “My government will see that only good people entered the service. Police verification of the antecedents of those selected would be done”.

About the on-going auction of liquor vends, he said Punjab was offered to Mr Ponty Chadha by former Excise and Taxation Minister, Adesh Partap Singh Kairon, son-in-law of Mr Badal, as he wanted to put in place Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal. The auctions had been fair and the state expected a revenue increase of Rs 25 crore.

When Mr Hanspal fumbled for an answer when he was asked if the “questionable” auction of liquor shops would impact the elections, the Chief Minister prompted him to say: “No, these will not.”

The Chief Minister said: “Mr Badal was in the habit of reacting to everything reported in the media while I do not do so”.


PM may intervene for Dhindsa-Barnala patch-up
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 8
Indications are that the BJP high command will intervene for a patch-up between Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and Andhra Pradesh Governor Surjit Singh Barnala. Mr Dhindsa, the official nominee of the SAD from the Sangrur Lok Sabha constituency, is facing the wrath of the Barnala group in that area.

Mrs Surjit Kaur Barnala, wife of Mr Surjit Singh Barnala, is leading the campaign against Mr Dhindsa in that constituency. What has piqued her is that Mr Parkash Singh Badal nominated Mr Dhindsa from Sangrur without consulting the Barnala family and its supporters. Mr Dhindsa tried to make up with the Barnala group last Saturday, with the help of former minister Tota Singh but to no avail.

The hostile posture of the Barnala group has enhanced the worries of Mr Dhindsa, who is pitted against Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, who won from Sangrur last time with a big margin defeating the SAD as well as the Congress-supported CPM candidate. This time also, Mr Mann has started a hard hitting campaign against Mr Dhindsa by levelling serious allegations against him. Mr Mann has the knack for swaying Akali voters by raising emotive issues. The Congress is yet to name its candidate from Sangrur.

The decades-old rivalry between Mr Dhindsa and Mr Barnala has become a thorn in the flesh of SAD president Parkash Singh Badal. The rift cost the party dearly in the Assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies in the past.

In the ongoing power struggle, both senior leaders are trying to derail each other politically. Mr Barnala had lost the last Lok Sabha election because of the rift while Mr Dhindsa was defeated owing to this factor in the Sunam Assembly constituency in 1997. Though Sangrur is a known Akali stronghold, the SAD lost five Assembly seats in Sangrur district in 1997 because of the hostility between two groups.

Sources said Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had appointed Mr Barnala as a Governor at the request of Mr Badal, would ask Mr Barnala to extend all support to Mr Dhindsa. Mr Vajpayee enjoys a good personal rapport with Mr Barnala.

The BJP high command has listed Punjab among the states from where the NDA is expected to make major gains this time. The SAD-BJP combine had won only three seats in Punjab last time. As the SAD is an trusted ally of the BJP, the latter wanted the alliance to win maximum seats in the state.

The top SAD leadership says that it had already accommodated the Barnala family adequately. Mr Gagandeep Singh, son of Mr Barnala won the Dhuri Assembly seat on the SAD ticket. Mr Barnala himself is a Governor. What else does the family want? asked a senior Akali leader.


Gujral campaigns for son, not SAD, BJP
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, March 8
Former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral today predicted that the NDA would form the next government at the Centre. “Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, has run the coalition government in a good way” Mr Gujral told reporters here.

Admitting that the era of coalition governments had come to stay, Mr Gujral said, “In fact the coalition government at the Centre or the state has proved a boon for economic development at the grass-root level”.

On the revival of third front Mr Gujral who once headed the third front government at the Centre, denied any such possibility and said, “as most of the regional parties have joined either the NDA or the Congress-led alliance, there is no scope for the revival of third front in the present political scenario of the country”.

On the issue of foreign origin of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Mr Gujral said that it was people to decide.

On whether he would campaign for SAD-BJP candidates in the state he said, “I am here to campaign for my son Naresh Gujral and neither the SAD nor the BJP asked me to campaign for them”.

Later at a meeting of SAD and BJP leaders he stressed on the importance of minority communities in building the nation.

On his deviation from the Congress, of which he was part once Mr Gujral said “I was part of the Congress due to its ideology but since the party has deviated from the ideology of Nehru, Shastri era, I disassociated from it.

Mr Gujral criticised US moves to ban outsourcing of Information Technology (IT) jobs to India on the pretext that her corporate houses were rendering the locals jobless due to availability of cheap IT services in India.

Mr Gujral said that the USA, a votary of free trade in the world in the past, now had started turning to restrictions which was against the spirit of GATT agreement.

“As India has achieved top slot in IT sector in a short time of one decade, now several countries are facing “outsourcing” a major threat into their local, employment sector even as in free trade after implementation of the WTO”. He said, US attempts in this regard would not succeed in the present global context.

Mr Gujral said developed countries had always favoured free trade in the world due to their domination in scientific and industrial fields. “Now, India has become major IT outsourcing centre in the world due to cheap manpower and difference in time zones. It will be difficult for the USA put ban on Indian companies in this regard as US corporate houses have no option but to depend on Indian software experts,” he said.

Naresh Gujral kicks off campaign
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, March 8
Mr Naresh Gujral, son of former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral and SAD nominee for the Jalandhar parliamentary seat, today formally kicked off his poll campaign from the district BJP office, where he presided over a meeting of local BJP leaders.

“As I am the nominee of the SAD, which has an alliance with BJP in the state, for the Jalandhar seat, I deemed it fit to meet local party leaders, who assured me of their cooperation in the forthcoming parliamentary elections,” the junior Gujral told reporters here.

“I feel very happy after joining the SAD. I fully endorse the agenda of the NDA,” he said, adding that the main issue before the nation was economic development.

Making a scathing attack on the Congress government in the state, he alleged that it had failed to initiate development projects and its agenda was to file false cases against Akali leaders.


Hola Mohalla concludes
Our Correspondent

Anandpur Sahib, March 8
The annual Hola Mohalla concluded here last evening amid a march by the SGPC and a display of traditional marshal arts by Nihang groups. The march began from Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib after bogh of akandh path. The march was led by the Panj Piaras.

Nihangs in traditional attires displayed marshal arts skills. NRI students of the Miri Piri Academy also participated in the march. Volunteers of social organisations chose the march to disseminate messages against the increasing abuse of drugs and intoxicants.

Members of various deras organised langars and distributed ‘parshad’ among devotees. Thousands were baptised at Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib in specially organised ceremonies on the occasion.

The Jathedar of Akal Takht, Giani Joginder Singh Vendanti, the Jathedar, Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib, Giani Tarlochan Singh, the Jathedar, Takht Sri Damdama Sahib, Giani Balwant Singh Nandgarh, the Head Granthi of Harmandir Sahib, Giani Pooran Singh, and the Head Granthi of Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib, Giani Sukhwinder Singh, also participated in the march.

The march, after passing through Anandpur Sahib, reached the Mata Jitoji gurdwara at Holgarh village. After paying obeisance at the gurdwara, the march returned and ended at Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib.

Later, the Nihang groups displayed marshal art and horse riding skills in the Charan Ganga stadium. A jam-packed stadium welcomed the Nihangs with applause.

The Deputy Commissioner, Ropar, Ms Seema Jain, and the SSP, Ropar, Mr Surinder Pal Singh, appreciated the efforts of the team of officials deputed to supervise the mela. They said the mela passed off peacefully but for a few small accidents in which some pilgrims were injured.


Punjabi University VC-Pro VC battle ends
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 8
Last week saw the ouster of Punjabi University Pro-Vice-Chancellor Dr R.N. Pal after more than one-year of verbal duel with Vice-Chancellor Swarn Singh Boparai.

Dr Pal had been accused of many “omissions”, including instigating students and indulging in financial impropriety by the university management. It was a political decision which led to his removal. The state government decided to do away with the post of Pro-Vice Chancellor in all universities in the state.

Though much has been said about whether the post of Pro VC is relevant or not, in Punjabi University here the experiment was definitely not successful. The seeds of discord were laid during the Akali-BJP government itself when the Akalis made Dr J.S. Ahluwalia Vice-Chancellor while Dr R.N. Pal was the BJP’s candidate for the post of Pro VC. Both were pulling in different directions during their terms. Relations between the VC and the Pro VC deteriorated further when Mr Boparai took over as VC.

Academicians in the university feel the ouster of Dr Pal will now put greater responsibility on the VC and his hand picked team. The V C’s camp had all along been claiming that a lot of positive energy was being wasted due to needless controversies which, they alleged, were created due to selective leaks to the press.

Mr Boparai had been accused of being harsh with his detractors. He put several officials, including a former Registrar, under suspension.

CALLING A SPADE A SPADE: Shortly after the Pro-VC was relieved of his charge and when things seemed to be set for normalcy in the University, a one-year-old note written by the Vice Chancellor suddenly came into circulation. The note carries a remark by Mr Boparai stating that one of the 12 members of the advisory committee of the Encyclopedia of Sikhism Department is a “thief” and a “pimp”. The list includes a former Vice-Chancellor Dr J.S. Grewal, present GND University VC Dr S.P. Singh and even National Minorities Commission Chairman Tarlochan Singh besides noted academicians. Though the note has drawn flak, Mr Boparai claims it was not for public circulation and that he had to call a spade a spade.

SCHEME FOR RURAL YOUTH: The University has come out with a unique scheme, the first of its kind in the country, to ensure students from rural areas can study engineering courses. The university has decided to take only rural students in four engineering courses being started by it at its Damdama Sahib Regional Centre. The students will be picked up after the matric level itself, coached while they study upto the plus two level, and directly admitted to the first year of the engineering course of their choice. The students will be charged even less fee than recommended by state government. 



Youth Congress office-bearers threaten to quit
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, March 8
Office-bearers of the state Youth Congress today threatened to resign from their posts if their demand to replace newly appointed Punjab Youth Congress chief Raminder Singh Amla was not accepted.

“Mr Raminder Singh Amla has been booked in an over Rs 70 crore scam involving the Food Corporation of India and expelled from the party for six years for indulging in anti-party activities in the past. He should be immediately replaced,” Mr Amarjit Singh Tikka, senior vice-president of the Youth Congress, told reporters here today.

Mr Amla has been appointed through manipulations of a senior party leader who is a close confidant of the Chief Minister, by ignoring claims of other senior youth leaders, alleged Mr Tikka, adding that the office-bearers would meet senior party leaders, including Ms Mohsina Kidwai and Mr Ahmed Patel, tomorrow at Delhi to apprise them with the ground realities in the state.

“We have discussed the issue with the secretary of Ms Sonia Gandhi, Mr V. George, also, who assured us an appointment with her tomorrow, ” he said, threatening that if their demand was not accepted, they would have no other option but to resign.

“We have also sought an appointment with the Punjab Chief Minister to apprise him with our grievances,” he revealed.

The decision to approach the Congress high command regarding the demand of replacement of Mr Amla was taken at a meeting of the office-bearers in Ludhiana on March 6, which was attended by Mr Gurkirat Singh Kotli, state vice-president, Mr Bobby Sehgal, vice-president, Mr Raminder Sharma, district president (Batala), Mr Sanjeev Bhargav, state general secretary, and Mr Amandeep Cheema, state general secretary.


Police custody boon for undertrials!
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 8
Being in police custody has proved to be the most convenient way to attain freedom by fleeing for undertrials or accused in the Doaba region, comprising four districts of Jalandhar, Nawanshahr, Hoshiarpur, and Kapurthala.

If one goes by the police records, 34 of the 46 undertrials and accused escaped from the police custody in the court premises, where they had come to attend hearings of their cases, or from police stations itself in different townships during the past five years.

Investigations by The Tribune revealed that the most common practice prevailing among undertrials or accused was to either befool the security guards accompanying them during their production before courts or to sneak out from the police custody from police lockups.

While Hoshiarpur district topped the list with 18 prisoners running away to freedom, Jalandhar followed with escape of 15 undertrials, followed by Nawanshahr (8) and Kapurthala (6).

In Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur, escape from hospitals, court premises and police stations proved to be the most favourite platforms among undertrials or accused. In Nawanshahr, of the eight prisoners six managed to escape from police station “hawalaats”.

The most daring escape was reported from Dasuya police station from where Hanif Lukman, Nadim, Sajan, Dharkan, Sattu, and Saleem, alleged members of a “kala kachha” gang who were brought on a production warrant from Batala, escaped while wearing handcuffs, from a makeshift prison inside the police station last year. Similarly, in Nawanshahr district, Paramjit, who was booked under Section 382, escaped by pushing aside the “Naib Court”, who was preparing his “jail warrant”.

Jalandhar’s most daring escape case was that of Gagan Bakshi, a travel agent, against whom 82 fraud cases were registered by the police. He got himself admitted to the local Civil Hospital, from where he allegedly escaped on August 21 last year.


44 artistes leave for Pak
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 8
Fortyfour theatre artistes left for Lahore via Indo-Pakistan joint check post at Wagah yesterday. For the first time, Indian theatre artistes will perform in Pakistan after the Partition. Theatre groups — “Manch Rang Manch” and “Rangtolli” joined from Punjab while theatre artiste Usha Ganguly with others arrived from Kolkatta for performance in Pakistan.

As many as 16 saplings of amaltas, neem, pipal, banyan were presented to Kewal Dhaliwal of “Manch Rang Manch” by artiste Harjeet Singh of ‘Lok Rang Manch’ head Harbhajan Jabbar and Daljit Singh Bedi of the SGPC as gift for Pakistan’s theatre lovers. The artistes have been invited by Ms Madeeha Gauhar of “Ajoka” theatre in Pakistan.

An eight-member troupe of the “Soormein Punjab Dey”, cultural society headed by Ranjit Bhuller performed bhangra at Wagah for the delegation.

Theatre personalities like Usha Ganguly from Kalkotta, Ms Neeta Mohindra, M.K. Raina, Neelam Mansingh Chaudhary from Chandigarh, Kewal Dhaliwal, Mr Gurcharan Channy and others are in the troupe. The seven-day theatre festival will be held at Lahore Art Council.


Society for inviting Pak dignitaries to SGPC functions
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, March 8
The International Bhai Mardana Kirtan Darbar Society, which has played a vital role in the release of Sikh youths from the Pakistan security agencies, has appealed to the SGPC President, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, to invite Pakistan dignitaries during the celebrations, relating to three important events in Sikh history, to be held this year.

Mr Harpal Singh Bhullar, president of the society, said the society had recommended the names of PSGPC co-chairman Sham Singh, Mr Naim Akbar Khan, chairman, Pakistan Kaff Board, Mr Izhar Ul Hassan, additional secretary, Kaff Board, Ms Asma Jahangir, chairperson, Human Rights Commission, Mr Jackoline Texlar, advisor, and Mr Rana Aiyaz, chief advisor to the Chief Minister, Punjab, as special invitees.


Insecurity among Muslims led to Partition, says Talbot
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 8
Sense of insecurity among the Muslims, British policies and riots were main reasons for the Partition of India, observed Prof Ian Talbot of Oxford University, UK. He was speaking at the three-day refresher course in history organised by the History Department of Guru Nanak Dev University here today.

Prof Talbot, who worked on both sides of border, at present is associated with a project on cities of Amritsar and Lahore. He is trying to record experiences of those who were affected and displaced by the Partition.


Womens day celebrated

BATALA: International Women Day was celebrated at the office of the All-India Women Conference under the patronship of Mrs Parkash Kaur Naroo, former president of the Batala unit of the conference. Mrs Naroo lashed out at the political parties that wanted to give 33 per cent reservation but now when the elections were to be held, parties had forgotten reservation.

HOSHIARPUR: A district-level function was organised by the District Red Cross Society and District Literacy Samiti here in connection with International Women’s Day here today.

Mrs Sukhwant Kaur Bhullar, Chairperson, Hospital Welfare Section, while presiding over the function expressed anguish over the decreasing population of girls in the state which could create an imbalance in society.

Dr Piara Lal Garg, Director, Adult Literacy, Punjab, emphasised the need for providing education to women.

PHAGWARA: Various speakers at an International Women’s Day function here today, including Mr Nirmal Singh, general secretary, Categories Welfare Federation, Prof Palwinder Kaur Sohal, and Prof Bhupinder Kaur Jaj, women activists, flayed as retrograde and unconstitutional the Fundamental Rights Bill passed by the J&K Assembly on March 5 denying the right of acquiring immovable property in the state to any girl of J&K who married an outsider.

They demanded that the Bill should not be allowed to become an Act as it smacked of gender bias.

FATEHGARH SAHIB: Justice O.P. Verma, Governor of Punjab, today presided over the Women’s Day function organised by the District Red Cross Society, Hospital Welfare Section, at Bachat Bhavan. He honoured 13 women who had excelled in different fields. He also released a poster prepared by the Hospital Welfare Section on female foeticide, in which an unborn baby makes an appeal to her father and mother.

Those honoured include Dr Manpreet Kaur for excellent work in health services, Mrs Rana Preet in the field of education, Mrs Ramesh Kapila for education, Ms Sukhdev Kaur for settling matrimonial disputes, Inspector Surinderjit Kaur, international player, Ramanjeet Kaur, CDPO, Mrs Harmohan Kaur, education, Ms Gurtej Kaur, education, Harinder Kaur for Hospital Welfare Section, Ms Ravinder Kaur, Ms Nirmal Cheema, Ms Chanchal Sharma and Anita Rani.


Bus operators’ threat to suspend service
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 8
The Amritsar and Gurdaspur Districts Bus Operators Association has threatened to suspend bus service and also not to pay adda fees if the make-shift but stand was not shifted from Mall Mandi to Pataka Market site.

Mr Ram Lal, Secretary of the association at a press conference today urged the government to redress bus operators’ problem of running bus services from outside Mall Mandi which had crowded the area creating hardships for passengers and transporters.

He added that the Deputy Commissioner had assured them that a decision to shift the temporary stand to a more open area will be taken after the Director Transport inspected the site in a few days.

He alleged the make-shift bus stand had no toilets, drinking water, scooter and cycle stand etc.

He said in rainy season this bus stand would breed diseases with garbage and mud around.

He said every year private bus operators gave crores by way of Special Road Tax, Token Tax etc to the government.


Freeway sought to gurdwara
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 8
The Sangat Langah Kartarpur has demanded a freeway to Kartarpur gurdwara located on the Indo-Pak border.

In a press note here today, sangat convener Babishan Singh stated that while Pakistan had offered a visit to the historical gurdwara without the requirement of a passport, the government here was dilly-dallying on the issue.

He stressed that Sikh sentiments were attached with the gurdwara which is connected to the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev ji. Hence, each Sikh wishes to visit the shrine.



Traffic awareness week begins
Our Correspondent

Barnala, March 8
Observing traffic awareness week should not be a sheer ritual but traffic norms must be understood and then acted upon in real and true spirit to avert fatal accidents and bring down the mounting rate of road accidents.

These views were expressed by Mr Amit Prasad, SSP Barnala, while addressing truck operators, drivers and conductors on the local Truck Operators Union Office Complex today after inaugurating the traffic awareness-education week celebrations of the Barnala police district.

Calling upon truck drivers to take care of petty considerations and minor negligences while driving, Mr Prasad regretted that these small lapses were responsible for 98 per cent road accidents. Advising them to be mindful of the Motor Vehicle Act norms, the drivers must be particular about their physical fitness.

Mr Mahinder Singh Teji, SP (Headquarters) Barnala, said it had been decided to select the Barnala Truck Operators Union to be the model truck union in Punjab.

A medical team of Dr Jyoti Kaushal, Medical Officer, Police Lines, Barnala, Dr Subhash Singla and Dr Avtar Singh of the Civil Hospital, Barnala, examined drivers and conductors on the inaugural day of the traffic awareness week.


Environmental council set up in Punjab
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 8
Following directions of the Supreme Court, Punjab has established the State Environmental Council (SEC) for proper management of hazardous waste.

The 26-member committee with be chaired by the Chief Minister, with the Parliamentary Secretary (Environment) as its Vice-Chairman and the Punjab Pollution Control Board Chairman as the member secretary.

The council will act as a think tank on important environmental policy matters and also provide inputs in an advisory capacity to the Department of Science and Technology, Environment and Non-conventional Energy.

Except for ex-officio members, the members will have a two-year term. 


Paucity of funds hits Shahpurkandi project

Pathankot, March 8
The Shahpurkandi Dam Project has been hanging fire reportedly due to paucity of funds. The project is the second phase of the Ranjit Sagar Dam.

Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Prime Minister had formally dedicated the Ranjit Sagar Dam Project to the nation on March 4 and promised financial help for the other co-related projects like SKDP (168 MW), the Upper Bari Doab Project Stage-III (57 MW) and the Shahpurkandi Hydroelectric extension (75 MW).

The sources revealed that due to lack of funds other related projects could not be started causing loss of crores of rupees to the government. Mr P.L. Saini, Superintending Engineer, Ranjit Sagar Dam Project said the total estimated cost of the project was 1324 crore.

He admitted that due to shortage of funds the project could not be started. Mr Saini, however, cleared that the project on completion would act as a balancing reservoir for the project and it could be run on its full potential during peak hours. — OC


Narrow escape for Jalandhar DIG

Hoshiarpur, March 8
Jalandhar range DIG of the Punjab police P.S. Sarao today said he had a narrow escape in a road accident at Adampur while on way to this town to speak on road safety at a local college.

Narrating his experience, he said when brakes of his car failed his driver, showing presence of mind, rammed it into a parked vehicle on the roadside, bringing the car to a halt without any injury to him or the driver. — UNI


20 couples tie knot

Moga, March 8
In a mass-marriage function, organised here on the occasion of the festival of colours, 20 couples belonging to weaker sections of the society entered wedlock.

The mass marriage on Holi was conducted at the expense of Rs 6 lakh and about 600 persons attended the function, Mr Vijay Madan, president of the Rotary Club, which organised the function, said. — PTI


High Court
Bid ignored, says liquor contractor
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 8
If allegations in a petition filed before the Punjab and Haryana High Court are to be believed, liquor vends in Nawanshahr were allotted to liquor baron Ponti Chadha’s firm for Rs 37 crore against an available bid of Rs 40 crore.

This was not all. The entire process of auctioning liquor vends of Hoshiarpur, Nawanshahr and Jalandhar was completed within a few minutes in violation of the licence rules, auction conditions and directions issued by the high court. The process started at 11 am on March 4 and concluded after 10 minutes.

Taking up the petition filed by liquor contractor Sanjeev Bhandari, a Division Bench of the high court, comprising Mr Justice N.K. Sud and Mr Justice Hemant Gupta, issued notice of motion to the state of Punjab and other respondents.

Mr Mohan Jain submitted on the petitioner’s behalf that the auction for vends in Hoshiarpur was closed at Rs 70 crore despite the fact that the petitioner and his associates had offered Rs 72 crore.

Their bid, he asserted, was totally ignored. Mr Jain added that the petitioner was willing to pay Rs 5 crore in addition to the amount paid by Mr Chadha’s firm. Their conduct of the Excise Department officials, he asserted, was illegal and mala fide, he submitted.

The petitioner had earlier claimed that the Punjab Government was encouraging monopoly in liquor trade in favour of Mr Chadha. He had contended that bare reading of an auction notice published on February 29 indicated that the state was bent upon clubbing Hoshiarpur and Nawanshahr circles to create monopoly against the financial interests of the state.

Notice issued

On a petition filed by Dr R.N. Pal seeking directions to the state of Punjab, Punjabi University and other respondents for allowing him to continue holding Pro-Vice Chancellor’s post, a Division Bench of the high court on Monday issued notice of motion for April 1.

In his petition taken up by the Bench comprising Mr Justice S.S. Nijjar and Ms Justice Kiran Anand Lall, Dr Pal added that he had been removed from the post in a highly arbitrary, illegal and mala fide manner.

Giving details, counsel for the petitioner contended that the orders issued by University Registrar on March 1, removing him from the post, were without jurisdiction as the petitioner was appointed by Chancellor on the advise of Council of Ministers.


Another set of MC tenders cancelled
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 8
Close on the heels of cancellation of tenders of the municipal corporation’s operation and maintenance cell, another set of tenders of the civil cell of the corporation worth crores have been cancelled by the Commissioner, MC, Mr K.S. Kang.

Mr Kang said he could not recall the number of tenders, but sources put the number at 178, worth about Rs 9 crore. Mr Kang said the tenders had been cancelled in the civil cell due to “inflated rates” in the tenders.

However, he refused to confirm the names of two councillors allegedly involved in the matter. The tenders, which were to be opened on March 20, had now been postponed, he confirmed. The Commissioner said while proof was obtained regarding the involvement of councillor Rajinder Bhalla in the tenders for the operation and maintenance cell, the responsibility could not be assigned in this case due to absence of proof.

He said he was not aware of inflated fees charged for the allotment of three tenders to a single party. The money was allegedly pocketed by those at the helm of affairs in the department. The Commissioner said a report had been sent to Local Government Department regarding this.

Recently, 133 tenders worth about Rs 5 crore of the operation and maintenance cell were cancelled. A councillor, who was the chairman of the water supply and sewerage works of the corporation, had signed and issued these tenders in violation of rules.


Murder accused arrested
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 8
Raju, a local resident, was arrested by the police today for his alleged involvement in the murder of the second husband of his wife, Rakhi Khan, on May 30, 2003.

In a press note issued here today, Mr Kapil Dev, SSP, said that Vicky, who was working in a music group, was set on fire by Rakhi and Raju on May 30, 2003. Rakhi was earlier married to Raju and later got married to Vicky.

He said on May 30, Raju came to visit Rakhi in her house in the Sirki bazar. In the meantime, Vicky also came to house. An argument took place between Raju and Vicky.

Following this, Rakhi allegedly poured kerosene on Vicky and Raju set him on fire. Vicky, who was admitted to a private hospital in Ludhiana, died on August 7, 2003. A case was registered against Raju and Rakhi in the city police station.

After the registration of the criminal case, both had been absconding. However, a police official, Mr Gulzar Singh, managed to arrest Raju today.

Raju had been remanded to police custody till March 10 by a judicial magistrate.


Murder cases solved, 2 held
Tribune Reporter

Fatehgarh Sahib, March 8
The police claimed to have solved two murder cases in which a man allegedly killed his brother-in-law by pushing him in Bhakra Canal at Bassi Pathana to grab his land.

In the second case, a woman murdered her nephew for his land is reported to have at Sahpur village. The police has arrested the accused.

Addressing mediapersons the SSP said cases had been registered.


Fake bail racket busted
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 8
In a sting operation, the local police along with a local journalist today busted a ‘fake bail racket’ allegedly prevailing in the District Courts here.

According to Mr J.P. Birdi, Inspector-General (Border Range), the racket had been running unchecked for the past about four years. Junior staff of the court used to provide ‘fake bail documents’ with the connivance of three women operators. Mr Birdi said the judiciary was taken into confidence before the operation.

Mr Birdi said that the reader of a judge used to issue bail documents without the court stamps to get the bail against consideration. He has ordered an inquiry by the SP (Detective) into the case.

The sting operation was carried out by a journalist along with a group of policemen. They struck a deal for the issue of bail warrants against Harpreet Singh (fake name) with the reader of the court through his conduit — the three-member female gang — for Rs 20,000. The initial money of Rs 3000 in five hundred denomination notes was given to the reader.

The journalist requested the reader to come out of the court premises. As the police party searched his pockets, the marked notes were found in his possession.

The SSP, Mr Kultar Singh, while confirming the sting operation said the accused had been let off on bail.


Man commits suicide
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 8
An unidentified person committed suicide this morning by jumping in front of a train on the Bathinda-Delhi railway line. The incident took place about 5 km from the local railway station.

Volunteers of the Sahara Jan Sewa took the body to the local civil hospital for post-mortem examination. The deceased had a word “Gora” tattooed on one of his arms.


No ban on loudspeakers despite complaint to DC, claim students
Tribune News Service

Bhikhi (Mansa), March 8
Many students and residents of the town have alleged that no action had been taken on a complaint lodged with the Deputy Commissioner, regarding the misuse of loudspeakers during odd hours.

Ms Rajni Jindal and the students, in a statement issued here today, said the authorities had not intervened to put a stop on the use of loudspeakers at high volumes at religious places and marriage functions.

They said the students were the worst affected during the examination days as loudspeakers started playing at religious places early in the morning and continued till late in the evening.

Ms Jindal said even some shopkeepers and vendors were misusing public address system, causing problems to the students.

She claimed that repeated requests to managements of religious places had fallen on deaf ears and even the Deputy Commissioner had failed to take any action. She said police officials concerned were also not ready to take any action in this connection.

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