P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Rs 224-cr SGPC budget passed
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 15
The SGPC’s Rs 224 crore budget for 2004-05 was passed at the Teja Singh Samundari Hall here today. It laid special emphasis on austerity measures, including slashing of expenses on official cars and mobile bills, etc. The budget for last year was Rs 206 crore.

As per the budget, many historical gurdwaras had suffered financial losses due to recruitment of surplus staff. The expenditure of certain gurdwaras has been found more than the collections through money boxes, which has already raised eyebrows.

The session was attended by 112 SGPC members and five Sikh high priests. Former SGPC chiefs, including Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar and Bibi Jagir Kaur, were conspicuous by their absence. While Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi, former SGPC chief, is not feeling well, Bibi Jagir Kaur did not come due to the Assembly session. The budget was presented by Mr Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, general secretary, SGPC.

Significantly, the SGPC has decided to spend the entire collection from the historic gurdwaras in Haryana in the development of Sikh shrines there. This decision has been taken in a bid to scuttle the move of SGPC members from Haryana to form a separate gurdwara committee for managing gurdwaras in Haryana.

However, the Akali Dal (Amritsar) raised objections over the ‘misuse’ of SGPC funds on advertisements in newspapers in connection with the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.

The press note which was circulated among the SGPC members, stated that the Akali Dal (A) had alleged that after the implementation of the model code of conduct before the Lok Sabha elections the publication of advertisements was gross violation of the rules and funds of the ‘Sikh sangat’. The party asked whether the SGPC had conducted an inquiry into the allegations that a bottle of liquor and a girl were found from the vehicle of former senior vice-president Balbir Singh Pannu after his death in an accident. It also sought a clarification from the SGPC on the procedure about the selection of Sikh high priests.

In the wake of the forthcoming three centennial celebrations the SGPC has earmarked Rs 3 crore for the purpose. For celebrating the 400th anniversary of the installation of Guru Granth Sahib the SGPC has made a special provision of Rs 1 crore from the Darbar Sahib funds.

Though the budget was passed peacefully, some dissenting voices were heard when Mr Jaswant Singh Rajindergarh rose to criticise the ruling group for suffering a loss of Rs 1 crore for not executing the construction of Kalghidhar Nivas, Chandigarh. He asked the house to fix the responsibility of those concerned in this regard.

For Golden Offset Press Rs 3.75 crore have been earmarked. The press has been running round-the clock to meet the increasing demand for the volumes of Guru Granth Sahib. For the 12 educational institutes being run by the SGPC the budget would be Rs 31.78 crore.


SGPC gives 10 pc relief to medical institute employees
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 15
In a significant decision the SGPC has decided to give 10 per cent interim relief to the employees of SGPC-run medical and dental institutes.

According to a press note issued here today, a decision to this effect was taken at a meeting of the Guru Ramdas Charitable Trust held under the presidentship of Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra at Fatehgarh Sahib. The SGPC-run medical/dental institutes include Sri Guru Ramdas Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, dental college and cancer hospital.

For Guru Ramdas Hospital a special grant of Rs 5.50 crore had been sanctioned for installing a CT scan and other modern equipments. In a resolution, the Meeting asked the state government to maintain minority status for the SGPC-run medical institutions.


Prof Gurtej surrenders SGPC title
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 15
Mr Gurtej Singh, a Sikh intellectual and religious scholar, today surrendered the title of “ Professor of Sikhism” conferred upon him by the SGPC in 1982. In a statement issued here, Mr Gurtej Singh, who resigned from the IAS in protest against Operation Bluestar in 1984, said the honour given to him was without any financial benefit.

Mr Gurtej Singh entered into a confrontation with the Jathedar of Akal Takht, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, on various important religious issues recently. Mr Gurtej Singh criticised Mr Vedanti for editing a book — Gurbilas Patshahi 6 — which, the former felt was promoting Brahmanical superstitions. He had called it a spurious text.

On February 5 the five Sikh High Priests had at a meeting held at Akal Takht decided to withdraw the title of “Professor of Sikhism” conferred upon Mr Gurtej Singh.

The former IAS officer said he was unable to react to the withdrawal of the title earlier because his mother was seriously ill.


SGPC dares govt on Nihang chief
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 15
In a unanimous resolution the general House of the SGPC today threatened to launch an agitation if the state government continued to support the controversial Nihang chief, Baba Ajit Singh Poohla, who had ‘illegally’ took the possession of historic Gurdwara Shaheed Bhai Tarooji.

The resolution said the state government would be held responsible for any untoward incident due to the proposed ‘agitation’. Another resolution asked the Punjab Government to complete Guru Angad Dev Marg from Dera Baba Nanak to Khadoor Sahib.


Central scheme falls prey to graft, scandals
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 15
Corruption, scandals and disinterest in the implementation of a scheme have shattered the dream of thousands of houseless poor to own houses in Punjab. It was a Union Government-funded scheme designed to provide plots and grants to make about 10,000 houses available to the poor among Scheduled Castes in the countryside.

The Union Government released Rs 10 crore in 2001-02 and an equal amount in the next financial year to the state government for the scheme. While the money was released, the then Badal Government dithered in framing guidelines to implement the scheme. When the guidelines were framed and the present government started implementing the scheme, scandals and corruption dented the purpose for which it was designed. “It was a good scheme derailed by officials given the responsibility of implement it in the field”, said a senior officer of the Department of Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes.

This department was made the nodal agency. Under the scheme, a beneficiary was to be given Rs 25,000 in maximum for constructing house with one room, a kitchen and a bathroom. To provide plots, Land was to be purchased by the government.

Sources told The Tribune that the department had placed Mr Charan Dass, District Welfare Officer, Mansa, under suspension following serious allegation of corruption against him. The Sarpanch of Alampur Mandra village in Mansa district had in his complaint supported by an affidavit held that Mr Charan Dass demanded Rs 1500 per case to release the second instalment of grant to 11 beneficiaries. A similar complaint was made by the Sarpanch of Mal Singhwala village.

Various scandals have hit this scheme in Moga district. Some villages which did not satisfy the guidelines were selected. Secondly, land was shown to be bought at a higher price in registered deeds. Thirdly, even those who were already having pucca houses were selected. Then “outsiders” were selected as beneficiaries in particular villages violating the norms. At certain places government servants, who were not covered under the scheme, were also picked up as beneficiaries.

In Puranewala village of Moga district, land was purchased for Rs 4 lakh per acre far from the village while it was available at Rs 3 lakh adjacent to it. Two selected persons were not from the village. Five among the selected ones were already having houses. As per norms this village having 35 per cent Scheduled Castes population was not to be picked up in the first phase.

In the first phase, the villages having over 75 per cent SC population were to be covered. In Kapur Singhwala village of Moga district, the officers concerned purchased 15 kanal and three marlas of land for Rs 7.75 lakh as per the registered deed. However, the farmer from whom the land was purchased claimed that he was given Rs 5.68 lakh only. Actually, land was available for Rs 3 lakh per acre there. Government employees were also picked up as beneficiaries.

In Santuwala village of Moga district 22 beneficiaries were already having plots. The situation is no better in certain other parts of the state. Inquiries have been held and those who playing havoc with the scheme identified. But the authorities concerned are dithering to take action against the guilty.


DSP (Jails), other officials accused of taking bribe
Our Correspondent

Ropar, March 15
Another case of alleged corruption in the jails of the state has come to the fore with two Punjab police head constables levelling charges of corruption against officials of the Ropar sub-jail.

A DDR has been registered against these officials at the Nangal police station on the complaint of head constables Ram Pal and Joginder Pal. They have alleged in their complaint that they had gone to the sub-jail, Ropar, on March 12 to hand over an accused, Hari Om, who was remanded in judicial custody by the Sub-Judge, Anandpur Sahib.

Hari Om was arrested by the Nangal police on March 11 on the charge of selling fake Punjab Government lotteries. He was remanded into judicial custody till March 25 by the Sub-Judge, Anandpur Sahib.

When the head constables, accompanying the accused, reached the sub-jail at about 4.30 pm initially, jail officials told them that they had no space and the accused would have to be taken to the Patiala jail. However, soon the gunman of the DSP Jail’s Ropar, Constable Baldev Singh, allegedly asked Arun Kumar, a relative accompanying the accused, to give Rs 2,000 if he wanted Hari Om to be kept at the Ropar sub-jail.

When the head constables accompanying the accused asked Baldev Singh to reduce the amount, the DSP and his gunman allegedly started abusing them and released the orders at 5.20 pm to send the accused to the Patiala jail. However, the head constables and the accused were not allowed to move out of the jail premises.

Ultimately, the jail officials took Rs 1,500 from the relative of the accused and accommodated the latter in the Ropar sub-jail at about 7 pm, the head constables alleged in their complaint. While talking to this correspondent, they also alleged that they were usually harassed by the jail officials who extract money from the accused who did not want to go to the Patiala jail.

The Jail Superintendent-cum-DSP, Mr Jagir Singh at a press conference held here today, however, refuted the allegations of the head constables. He claimed that as there was no space in the sub-jail, the head constables were asked to take the accused to the Patiala jail. However, peeved at having to go to Patiala, the head constables misbehaved with the jail officials. No money was taken from anybody by the jail officials, he maintained.

He also distributed among reporters copies of written statements of the accused, Hari Om, and his relative, Arun Kumar, refuting the allegations levelled by the head constables.

Hari Om and Arun Kumar, endorsing the statement of the DSP, have alleged in written statements that the head constables misbehaved with the DSP as they did not want to take them to Patiala. No money was paid to the Ropar sub-jail officials.

The DSP also released a copy of the statement of the head constables in which they have apologised for their misbehaviour with the DSP as they could not recognise him.

The head constable Ram Pal, when contacted on phone, said they had given no written statement to the DSP. The statement had been fabricated by the jail officials to twist the facts.

The head constables’ complaint against the jail officials has been referred to the DSP, Anandpur Sahib, Mr Varinder Brar, by the SHO, Nangal.


Rs 50 lakh reward for clue on murder accused
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 15
A police team from England, led by Detective Police Superintendent Allen Baits, arrived here to arrest Mahinderpal Kohli, who was allegedly involved in the kidnapping, rape and murder of a British girl, Hanna Hosten, in March last year.

Mr Baits today met senior Punjab Police officials here and sought their cooperation to nab Kohli. He said Kohli had fled England after committing the crime adding that a manhunt was being carried out in Punjab as he was last seen near Chandigarh. Mr Baits said the UK police had announced a reward of Rs 50 lakh to anyone who gave some clue about Kohli. He said the accused, a married person, was a resident of South Hampton.

The local police assured the UK team of their full support to apprehend the accused.


Hindus from Pak allege conversions, excesses
Rashmi Talwar

Attari (Amritsar), March 15
Members of nearly 15 Pakistani Hindu families from Sindh province, who arrived here today on the Samjhauta Express, narrated their tales of woe and the pitiable condition of the Hindus and Sikhs living in frontier provinces of Pakistan.

Family members of Dhian Chand, 86, (name changed) said they could not send their girls out due to fear of abduction.

Dhian Chand, sporting a traditional Hindu “pagri”, condemned the Sindhi Muslims who “pressurised us to convert to Islam.” He asserted that his family would never return to Pakistan despite the fact that they had no valid documents for permanent immigration and legal residency in India.

“Forcible conversion of a Hindu family of six a month ago in Sindh led to a feeling of insecurity among Hindus in Jakbabad”, said Sham Kumar (name changed). He alleged that they threatened to eliminate the family and take away their daughters and then forced them to adopt Islam. The incident shocked all Hindu and Sikh families — numbering nearly 5,000 — in the area, he said.

The system of “hafta” (weekly payments) to area hoodlums was common and the Hindus and Sikhs were insecure about their families, alleged some victims.

The Hindu family said a top Pakistani politician’s son was accused of conversion. A Sikh boy who tried to talk to a journalist about a similar incident had been missing for nearly two and a half months, they added.

However, the family of Inder Parkash Katula, another Hindu from Pir Baba frontier province in Pakistan, said things were better for minorities in his area in President Musharraf’s regime.

Meanwhile, only 10 passengers, including a journalist, Irfan Zabri of the Siyasat Daily, a Hyderabad-based newspaper, left for Pakistan by the Samjhauta Express today. For Mr B.D. Miglani and his son Gobind, the visit would serve a dual purpose. The senior Miglani said he would go to Rawalpindi to refresh his childhood memories and they would also enjoy Indo-Pakistan cricket match.

At the Attari railway station, a woman, Middo of Musafnagar in Uttar Pardesh, was apprehended for possessing a fake passport. She had arrived from Delhi on the Samjhauta Express.

Mr S.L. Duggal, Assistant Commissioner (Customs), said around 1,000 cricket fans would be able to board two special trains that would reach here on March 20 and 23 from Delhi.


BSF, Pak Rangers exchange agendas
Our Correspondent

Wagah, March 15
Officials of the Border Security Force today held a meeting with their counterparts on the Pakistani side of the border and exchanged agendas of the meeting of Directors-General to be held on March 24 in Lahore.

Talking to mediapersons, Mr G.S. Sandhu, DIG, said issues relating to simultaneous coordinated patrolling on the Indo-Pak border, smooth functioning of people travelling across the border, better coordination between the BSF and the Pakistan Rangers and repairing of border pillars would be discussed.

Commenting on the landing of a hot-air balloon on the Pakistani side last month, the DIG said the BSF was investigating the case.

Mr Sandhu said although smuggling of narcotics from across the border declined, the seizure of 4 kg of opium by the BSF was a big catch. He, however, added that the BSF would maintain vigil to thwart any attempt by anti-social elements.

The five IGs of the BSF would be led by Mr G.S. Gill, IG, Punjab, for the March 24 meeting.


FACE TO FACE: Sangrur Lok Sabha Seat
I will make Sangrur a centre of education
by Sushil Goyal

Known for his constant liaison with the people of the Sangrur parliamentary constituency as an MP during the past more than four years and distribution of grants from his MP Local Area Development Fund among all sections of society in a big way, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, president of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), is once again in the poll arena as the candidate of SAD (Mann) from the constituency.

Mr Mann (59), a student of Bishop Cotton School, Shimla, from where he passed his Senior Cambridge examination in 1962, joined the IPS in 1967 and served as ADC to Mr D.C. Pavte, Governor, Punjab, from 1967 to 1969. Later he remained SSP of Ferozepore and Faridkot districts.

The son of former Punjab Vidhan Sabha Speaker Joginder Singh Mann, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann could not tolerate Operation Bluestar at Harmandir Sahib by the Army in June, 1984, and resigned from the IPS. But his resignation was not accepted and his services were terminated in July, 1984. Later Mr Mann went underground but was arrested on November 29, 1984. He spent five years in jail at Bharatpur and Bhagalpur. However, in 1989 the Rajiv Gandhi government withdrew a case relating to conspiracy to assassinate Indira Gandhi registered against Mr Mann.

Mr Mann was elected to the Lok Sabha from Tarn Taran in 1989 when he was in jail. In 1996, he was elected to the SGPC and in 1999 he was elected as an MP from the Sangrur parliamentary constituency.

Talking to The Tribune over the phone, Mr Mann said his main poll plank in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections would be development of this backward constituency as a centre of education. He said he would make efforts to set up a medical college, an engineering college and an agriculture college in the constituency. He would also spend 5 per cent of the MP Local Area Development Fund, if elected, on providing bicycles to poor girls who go to schools in other villages. He said he also wanted setting up of an Arabic, Persian and Urdu centre in Malerkotla.

Mr Mann claimed that the people would surely vote for him as he had disbursed or sanctioned Rs 12.48 crore from his MP funds for various development works in all 604 villages of the constituency. He also got constructed 240 km of roads in the constituency and gave Rs 25 lakh as grants to various gaushalas.

Mr Mann said he would get a direct train from Sangrur to Amritsar for the Sikhs of Malwa areas. He said as a member of the Ghaggar Standing Committee, he got approved a Rs 600-crore project to tame the Ghaggar.

Mr Mann said with the fielding of a candidate by the Congress this time, his vote bank would not be affected in any way.


People of Punjab will vote for SAD

A graduate from the local Government Ranbir College, the 68-year-old nominee of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD for the Sangrur parliamentary constituency, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, started his political career as sarpanch of Ubhawal village, near Sangrur, and rose to various state and national-level positions, including Union Cabinet Minister.

Agriculturist by profession, Mr Dhindsa became MLA four times in 1972, 1977, 1980 and 1985. He joined the SAD in 1973. Since 1992, he has been the secretary general of the SAD and enjoys the second position after Mr Parkash Singh Badal in the party. He served the people of Punjab as a Minister of State in the Badal government from 1977 to 1980. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1998 and since November, 1999, he has been performing his duties as a Union minister.

Mr Dhindsa is one of the close confidants of Mr Badal. This was the reason that Mr Badal announced his candidature as the first candidate of the SAD for the Sangrur Lok Sabha seat, despite strong opposition by the Barnala faction.

Talking to The Tribune over the phone, Mr Dhindsa said he had two poll planks in his hand — first, the “feel good” factor of the Vajpayee government, and secondly, repression by the Amarinder government against SAD leaders and workers and its “anti-people” policies.

Mr Dhindsa claimed that as the Union Minister for Fertilisers and Chemicals he had not allowed any increase in the prices of the fertilisers to benefit the farmers. He also attributed two railway line projects — Chandigarh to Ludhiana and Fazilka to Abohar — to his credit.

Mr Dhindsa also claimed that people of Punjab would certainly vote for the SAD to teach a lesson to the Amarinder government for withdrawing various facilities like pensions and free power supply to tubewells given by the previous Badal government.

The SAD candidate promised railway overbridges in Sangrur, Barnala and Malerkotla. He also promised better motorable roads in the constituency with the funds from the Prime Minister’s Sarak Yojna.

With regard to his opposition in the election by the Barnala faction, Mr Dhindsa opined that it would not make a dent in the SAD vote bank, but he would try to win the confidence of leaders of the Barnala faction. In case they did not relent, then the SAD would have no other option except a direct action against them. He claimed that all the five Akali MLAs of this constituency and all SGPC members were supporting him openly in the campaign. He said even Jathedar Tota Singh, former minister, and Mr Jora Singh Bhagike, MLA from Nihalsinghwala, also campaigned for him on Saturday.


Bajwa’s prime focus farmers
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

The Congress candidates for three Rajya Sabha seats from Punjab are the former Chief Election Commissioner of India, Mr Manohar Singh Gill; the former Minister in Beant Singh cabinet, Mr Dharmpal Sabharwal, and Mr Ashwini Kumar, who is being renominated.

These three candidates, along with the SAD candidate, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, who has been renominated, will file their papers tomorrow, the last day of nominations. The scrutiny will take place on March 17 and the last date of withdrawal is March 19. Polling, if necessary, will be on March 26.

Chandigarh, March 15
Mr Varinder Singh Bajwa today filed his nomination papers as SAD candidate for the Rajya Sabha seat.

Born at Lyallpur on February 15, 1945, he is credited with laying the foundation of the Akali Dal in Hoshiarpur district. His father, late Mr Balwant Singh, was a staunch Congressman, a social worker and a friend of farmers. He also served as Chairman of the Block Samiti.

Though, coming from a Congress family, Mr Varinder Singh, “Balli” to his family and friends, had been active in the Youth Congress during the Emergency. The turning point in his career came during Operation Bluestar at the Golden Temple in 1984. He enabled the Akali Dal strike deep roots in Hoshiarpur.

Talking with The Tribune after filing his nomination papers with the Returning Officer, Vidhan Sabha Secretary, Mr Nachhattar Singh Mavi, he said his primary concern was welfare of the farmers.

He also expressed concern over the future of Punjabi youth, who needed skills, opportunities and jobs. Given the present economic situation of the peasantry, all efforts were needed to increase capital investment in agriculture, he said.


CM asked to come clean on Garcha’s remarks
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 15
Mr Daya Singh Sodhi and Mr Madan Mohan Mittal are likely to be the BJP candidates from the Amritsar and Hoshiarpur Lok Sabha constituencies, respectively. Though no official announcement has been made in this connection, the party had asked both these leaders to be ready to contest the elections.

Mr Mittal, who represents Nagal in the Punjab Assembly, is a former President of the Punjab BJP.

Mr Mittal, a minister in the SAD-BJP Government, belongs to Ropar and is an advocate by profession.

Mr Daya Singh Sodhi, also a former President of the state BJP, has represented Amritsar in the Lok Sabha. But last time Mr Sodhi lost to Mr R.L. Bhatia, a Congress candidate, by over 30,000 votes.

Meanwhile, Mr Avinash Khanna, President of the state BJP, has urged Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to explain the statement made by Mr Ashok Garcha, Chairman of the Improvement Trust, Ludhiana. Mr Garcha has stated that a top member of the Congress high command had asked him to collect Rs 100 crore from Ludhiana as a party fund. Mr Khanna said this statement of Mr Garcha, highlighted today by all major newspapers of the region, had exposed the real face of the Congress.


Cong Sewa Dal to check poll malpractices
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, March 15
AICC member and chief organiser Punjab Pradesh Congress Sewa Dal Rajinder Rasrania yesterday declared that five-member watchdog panels of the Dal activists would be deployed at every booth during Lok Sabha elections to check poll malpractices by the SAD-BJP combine.

A state-level conference of the Sewa Dal will be held at Bathinda on March 21 with workers from 209 blocks of Punjab taking part in it and PPCC President H.S. Hanspal, Sewa Dal’s National leaders Janardhan Diwedi and Ahlad Yadav would address it, he said.

He added the BJP was misleading people by raking up the Ram Mandir issue and the SAD always recalled Punjab issues like waters and Chandigarh only when out of power and during poll, he alleged.

The ‘feel good’ factor of the BJP was not felt by 80 per cent rural population of the country, he continued. It was meant only for 10 per cent rich population, added Mr Rasrania. Mr Surinder Singh Parmer, State Organiser of the Dal was also present on the occasion.


Industrial body seeks 10 seats in LS poll
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 15
The Sangrur District Industrial Chamber (SDIC) today asked the political parties to field at least 10 representatives of the industrialists and traders in the Lok Sabha elections. It said they would otherwise have to enter the poll arena to safeguard their interests on their own.

Addressing a press conference here today, Mr A.R. Sharma, Chairman (Upper House) of the SDIC, said members of the SDIC had held a meeting at Dirba recently. Discussions had been held at the meeting to field a candidate in the Lok Sabha elections. He said a meeting of the SDIC's general body would be held on March 19 here to take a final decision in this connection. He said the name of the candidate may be announced by the SDIC on the same day.

Mr Sharma said no political party was protecting the interests of industrialists and traders, especially in Punjab. The SDIC had, therefore, made up its mind to contest the Lok Sabha elections. He also alleged that the NDA government had "stabbed" the Punjab industrialists in the back by announcing a five-year income tax holiday and Central Excise exemption for new industrial units in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttaranchal. He said due to such facilities, the industrialists of Punjab could not compete with the industrialists of these states.

Mr Sharma lashed out at the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, saying that he had forgotten the issues pertaining to the industrialists and the traders. He said the Punjab Government had not paid any subsidy to the industrial units since 1996. Octroi posts had also been reintroduced in the state.

In view of the full implementation of the WTO policies in 2005, the minimum support price (MSP) of crops would be abolished, he said, adding that as a result the farmers would face problems in selling their produce.


Adampur airport issue high on Gujral’s list

Jalandhar, March 15
The SAD nominee, Mr Naresh Gujral, today stated that his party would take up the issue pertaining to domestic use of the Indian Air Force airport at Adampur with the Defence Ministry soon.

Addressing members of the District Bar Association here today, Mr Gujral said with the availability of the Adampur airport for domestic use the residents of Doaba region in general and of Jalandhar in particular would get benefited.

Reiterating his commitment to ensure early completion of the Pushpa Gujral Science City project, he said the science city would surely boost tourism industry in the state. — TNS


Trinamool Cong faction to contest 13 seats
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 15
The Nationalist Trinamool Congress (Sangma-Banerjee) will contest all 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab. The spokesman for the state working committee of the party, Dr Harbhajan Singh Chhina, said the party had also decided to approach the Akali-BJP combine in Punjab for an alliance.

In a press statement issued here today, he said the NTC would nominate committees in all districts of Punjab before the elections.


2 more succumb to hutment fire burns
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 15
Death toll in the hutment fire incident in the Beant Nagar of the city on Saturday night went up to four as two more persons, who received burns, died today morning in the Civil Hospital here.

Those who have succumbed to burns include, Dalip Ram, his wife Meena Devi, daughter Pooja and son Laloo Ram. Meena Devi and Laloo Ram died yesterday. Dalip Ram and his daughter Pooja, succumbed to their injuries today morning.

Three other members of Dalip Ram’s family who also received burns in hutment fire on Saturday night, are under treatment in the Civil Hospital. They have been identified as Rekha, Sushil and Raj Kumar.

Dalip Ram and members of his family were sleeping in their hutment in Beant Nagar. The hutment was made of ‘Sarkanda’ (dry elephant grass). It caught fire when the earthen lamp, burning in the hutment tilted after a cat hit it. It caused a fire. When family members wake up, the roof of the hutment, in flames fell on them. Two members of the family, who were sleeping near entrance of the hutment escaped with burns. After they raised the alarm, Dalip Ram, on whom the roof had fallen also came out.

Dalip Ram, who had received burns tried to save other members of his family and took out two members. When he went into the hutment to take out other two members one side of the hutment, which was in flames, fell on him. All three members of family, who were in the hutment, were later saved by people residing nearby.

The district Red Cross Society has been providing treatment free of cost to the injured, official sources said.


Publicise bank defaults, say bank staff
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 15
Supporting the letter written by the All-India Bank Employees’ Association to the Chief Election Commissioner, The Punjab Bank Employees Federation has sought the publication of bank loan defaults by candidates contesting the forthcoming general election.

The Delhi High Court had in response to public interest litigation directed the Election Commission to widely publicise the details of electricity, telephone, water bill arrears outstanding against candidates.

Mr N.K Gaur, general secretary of the federation, said they had been demanding that wilful bank loan defaulters should be debarred from contesting and holding public offices till they cleared their dues.


Tohra lays stone of auditorium
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 15
Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, President, SGPC, today laid foundation stone of Guru Hargobind Niwas Auditorium on the Khalsa College premises here.

The Principal, Dr J.S. Dhillon, said the auditorium with a seating capacity of 1,300 would be constructed at a cost Rs 2.50 crore. He said Mr Tohra had assured to give financial contribution for the construction of the auditorium. Later, Mr Tohra honoured Maj M.S. Sohal and Mr Kulbir Singh Sohal, grandchildren of the architect of the college building.


High Court
Punjab denies favouring Ponty
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 15
Denying the allegations of favouring liquor baron Ponty Chadha during the auction of liquor shops at Jalandhar, the state of Punjab today claimed that he was neither the owner nor partner of the firm which secured the bid.

In a written statement filed before the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the state asserted that Mr Chadha’s name did not figure in the list of successful bidders for Hoshiarpur and Nawanshahr shops.

Seeking directions for dismissing the petition filed by liquor contractor Sanjeev Bhandari against the clubbing of Hoshiarpur and Nawanshahr circles, the state had asserted that the auction was carried out in accordance with the excise policy, besides directions issued by the courts. Public interest was also kept in mind.

It was added that all shops of Hoshiarpur had registered an increase in revenue. As such, Mr Bhandari had acted in an unfair manner by claiming that “each circle of these districts could have fetched a revenue of Rs 15 crore.”

In his petition, Mr Bhandari had alleged that liquor shops in Nawanshahr were allotted to Mr Chadha’s firm for Rs 37 crore against the available bid of Rs 40 crore.

Appearing before the court, 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.

He had further alleged that the entire process of auctioning liquor shops 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. The petition will now come up before a Division Bench comprising Mr Justice N.K. Sud and Mr Justice Hemant Gupta, on March 16.

PCS plea hearing on March 16

A bunch of petitions challenging the examinations conducted for selecting PCS — executive and allied — officers will come up for arguments before the court on March 16. A Division Bench has already ruled that the appointments would be subject to the decision of the writ petitions.

In one such petition, directions have been sought to the state of Punjab against issuing appointment letters to candidates successful in the examinations. Claiming that the process was marred by gross irregularities, Moga district resident Diljit Singh and three others had submitted that directions should also be issued for re-compiling the results after following the process of “scaling and moderation” of marks.

In a similar application, Charanjit Kaur and seven other candidates had earlier claimed that majority of the selected candidates, as apprehended, belonged to the science stream.


Area under cotton to be increased
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 15
Dr Mangal Singh, Joint Director, Department of Agriculture, Punjab, today said that the area under cotton would be increased to 5.5 lakh hectares in the coming season from 4.52 lakh hectares last year.

Dr Mangal Singh, while addressing farmers at a kisan mela organised here, said the Punjab Government had fixed a target of producing 14.5 lakh bales of cotton in the coming season against 13.57 lakh bales in the last season.

He said the area under paddy would be reduced by 2 lakh hectares in the coming season.

Mr K.A.P. Sinha, Deputy Commissioner, advised the farmers to follow the recommendations of the Agriculture Department.


Rs 31.5-cr Patiala MC budget approved
Our Correspondent

Patiala, March 15
The city is likely to see more development, thanks to the increased budget of the Municipal Corporation for 2004-05. Under the new budget, funds allocated for development projects are 11.5 per cent more than the allocations made last year. The budget was approved by the general house of the corporation here today.

According to sources, no new taxes have been imposed keeping in view the coming Lok Sabha elections. The corporation has a total budget of Rs 31.5 crore for 2004-05. The major part of the income is expected to come from octroi. Last year, the corporation had a budget of Rs 27.5 crore.

The corporation expected to spend nearly Rs 137 crore on committed and non-committed developments works. A sum of Rs 1.3 crore has been kept reserved for unforeseen expenditure.

The corporation expects an income of nearly Rs 4.5 crore from the house tax, Rs 6.5 crore from the water cess and Rs 2.2 crore from the building application fee.

An income of Rs 20 lakh is likely to be generated from rent of the corporation buildings, besides Rs 1.5 crore from the sale of property. The excise duty is likely generate Rs 3 crore.

Mayor, Vishnu Sharma said the corporation was committed to provide better facilities to all the citizens. He said the corporation had lifted the ban on the approval of maps of buildings in outer colonies. He said the corporation had decided to reconsider the issue of the fee deposited by people during period of ban.


4 PCS officers promoted to IAS
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 15
The Union Government today issued a notification promoting Mrs Amrita Atwal, Mr R.L. Mehta, Mr Megh Raj and Mr G.R. Bansal, all PCS officers, to the IAS.

They have been appointed against the vacancies of the year 2000 with immediate effect. However, they are likely to be given seniority in the IAS from 1995, it is learnt.


Chemist shops raided
Our Correspondent

Kharar, March 15
The District Drug Inspector and the police conducted raids on chemist shops at Kharar and Kurali today. Intoxicants kept in violation of the rules were seized during the raids.

Eight chemists were challaned. Five of them are based at Kurali and three at Kharar and a nearby village, Nawanshahr Badala.

The SHOs of Kurali and Kharar accompanied the drug officials during the raids.


Former SP held gets bail
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 15
Mr Hardeep Singh, who retired as Superintendent of Police (SP) about a year ago, was arrested by the Moga district police today while executing non-bailable warrants issued against him by the court of the Additional Sessions Judge, Faridkot.

Police sources said Mr Hardeeep Singh was arrested by a police party of Moga, led by Mr Balbir Singh, Inspector, CIA police station. The former was arrested, as he was not appearing as a witness in a murder case registered on June 20, 1996, at the Mehna police station of Moga district. When the murder took place, Mr Hardeep Singh was posted as the SP in the district.

After his arrest, Mr Hardeep Singh was taken to court of the Additional Sessions Judge, Mr Fathe Deep Singh, at Faridkot. Mr Fathe Deep Singh granted him bail and then recorded his statement as a witness in the murder case.

Mr Mukhwinder Singh Chinna, SSP, Moga, said the police arrested Mr Hardeep Singh as the District and Sessions Judge, Faridkot, has directed him (Mr Chinna) to execute non-bailable warrants issued against Mr Hardeep Singh by the court of the Additional Sessions Judge.

The SSP pointed out that before raiding the house of Mr Hardeep Singh and arresting him the Moga police informed the police chowki in whose jurisdiction Mr Hardeep Singh’s house fell. An Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) of the Punjab Police. Mr Major Singh, who was posted at the Civil Lines police chowki, Bathinda, accompanied the raiding party.


2 cops held on extortion charges

Pathankot, March 15
The police today arrested two Head Constables of the Gurdaspur traffic police for allegedly extorting money from some transporters of the Sarna area, near here.

A case under Section 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act has been registered against them.

The accused have been identified as Joginder Singh and Yash Paul Singh. — OC


Bankman held for demanding bribe
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 15
The Patiala Vigilance Bureau today arrested a Land Evaluation Officer of the Land Development Bank in the city on charges of demanding bribe for clearing a loan.

The bureau team caught the officer red-handed while accepting a bribe of Rs 5,000 from Sukhwinder Singh of Majhail Khurd village. According to Vigilance officials, the bank officer, Satbir Singh, had demanded Rs 5,000 as bribe from Sukhwinder Singh for clearing a new loan. The complainant had earlier taken a loan of Rs 80,000, which he had returned to the bank.

The bank officer was arrested in the presence of a witness, Karnail Singh, by Vigilance Deputy Superintendent of Police Jaipal Singh. He would be presented for remand in court tomorrow.


Shop burgled, lakhs stolen
Our Correspondent

Patiala, March 15
Lakhs of rupees and dress material worth Rs 2.5 lakh were stolen from Om Text showroom, near Dhillon Residency Hotel, here last night.

The owner, Mr Radhe Sham, said the incident came to light this morning when he came to open the showroom.

Thieves entered the showroom by breaking the exhaust fan installed in the showroom. A case has been registered at the Civil Lines police station.


6 copying cases detected, invigilator removed
Tribune Reporters

Jhunir (Mansa), March 15
In a significant development, which could expose the arrangements made by the Punjab School Education Board to check the copying, six cases of copying were detected at a single examination centre set up in the town bordering Haryana.

A flying squad team of the education board Led by Mrs Rakshawati, Principal local Government Senior Secondary Girls School, detected copying cases at the local examination centre when the math exam of Class X was going on in the morning.

Talking to TNS, she said when she started searching the students, pocket books were found from them. She added that an unfair mean case against these students was registered immediately.

She added that the District Education Officer (DEO), Dr Sehgal, who also reached the examination centre, removed one of the invigilators from exam duty. Apart from it, he also issued a warning to the centre superintendent that (DEO) would remove it from the list of the examination centres.

If any body was found indulging in copying during the next exams.

Mrs Rakshawati pointed out that unfair mean cases were registered against three students yesterday evening at examination centres at Government Senior Secondary School, Bahini Bagha and local Gandhi Senior Secondary School.

She added that so far she has registered 10 such cases against students of plus two and Class X.

Faridkot: Mrs Hardayal Kaur, Vice-Chairperson, Punjab School Education Board, while talking to the reporter at the local MRSD Senior Secondary School on Monday as part of special checking of Faridkot and Bathinda districts schools expressed satisfaction over the conducting of the examination. Expressing concern over the alleged stripping of a student by some in vigilators following his refusal to give his answersheet to a son of a VVIP in Bathinda last week, she stated that the guilty officials would be taken to task after the completion of the inquiry.

She said the board was planning to start open schools, who had left after passing matriculation.


Sarbat Vikas Utsav opens
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 15
The five-day Sarbat Vikas Utsav, an exposition of eco- friendly technologies by Kheti Virasat, Punjab in collaboration with the Department of Botanical and Environmental Sciences, Guru Nanak Dev University, was inaugurated by Mr V. Murlidharan Director General, Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan, at the university today.

Mr Murlidharan said the index of development nowadays had become synonymous with the quantum of consumption, but today’s society could not progress until there was sustainable consumption.

Mr Umendra Dutt, Kheti Virasat, Punjab, also spoke on the occasion.

The festival is sponsored by the Council for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technologies, according to a university press note here today.


Stripping case: Dang for exposing VVIP-teacher nexus
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 15
Referring to the stripping of a student who refused to cooperate with a VVIP ward for copying in examination at Bathinda reported in the press a few days ago. Mr Satya Pal Dang, senior CPI leader has written to the Chief Minister and the Education Minister, Punjab. Mr Dang has demanded that the nexus between teachers and the VVIP be exposed.

Mr Dang has said that action against teachers was not enough, the VVIP ward and the use of money power used to influence such teachers for ‘help’ in copying should also be made public. 



J.P. Khanna heads petro dealers’ body

Amritsar, March 15
Mr J.P. Khanna was re-elected president of the Punjab Petroleum Dealers Association for the next three years at the annual meeting of the association.

The meeting was attended by more than 300 dealers from all districts of the state along with delegates from Haryana, Rajasthan and UP, according to a press note issued here today. — OC

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