P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Badal wants CM to come clean on refinery issue
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 21
Shiromani Akali Dal chief Parkash Singh Badal said here today that Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh was disgracing his office and the state by choosing to speak like a chartered accountant of the Reliance Group of Industries to help it snatch the Bathinda oil refinery from Punjab.

In a statement issued, Mr Badal asked Capt Amarinder Singh to come clean on his “overzealous concern” for the interests of the Reliance Group in the Guru Gobind Singh Oil Refinery at Bathinda. “The fact is that Capt Amarinder Singh had been in league with big business houses, which had funded his 2002 election campaign, to scuttle the refinery project. Having failed to achieve that, he is now out to misuse his position as Chief Minister to help the cause of his benefactors. This is alarming and disgraceful.”

“Capt Amarinder Singh must tell the people of Punjab why he is so worried about the implications of the terms of government’s tax waiver on the refinery for the Reliance Industries. What compulsions have forced him to bring in the name of the Reliance Group as a possible replacement for the HPCL, especially as the entire cost of setting up of the refinery is being borne by the oil corporations with no liability whatsoever for the state government?” Mr Badal said.

The Akali leader ridiculed the Chief Minister’s claim that the state stood to lose Rs 15,000 crore from the setting up of the refinery. “This reveals a shocking ignorance of economics on the part of the Chief Minister. Does he really not know that the tax waiver promised to the refinery flows not out of the state exchequer but, on the contrary, has been factored into the actual revenue that the project would contribute to the state exchequer?” Mr Badal asked, adding that this revenue would work to nearly Rs 2,000 crore annually over and above the waiver. “That would be in addition to the revenue that the state would get from various ancillaries of the project.

Besides, the refinery would give a huge boost to the state’s economy by opening up avenues for direct and indirect employment for nearly 1,00,000 persons annually. The spiral impact of the project on various other sectors of economy such as transport and trade would be beyond the wildest imagination of the Chief Minister?” If the refinery project is such a losing proposition, why were Capt Amarinder Singh’s friends among the big business houses so keen to take it over," asked Mr Badal.

“No less a person than Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had gone on record to clarify that the refinery would be kept out of the disinvestment process. The same assurance had been repeated by both Mr Arun Shourie and Mr Ram Naik. Perhaps the Chief Minister believes that the people of Punjab know as little about the refinery as he himself does. The only other explanation for the Chief Minister’s strange statement on the refinery was that he was deliberately telling lies on its actual status," Mr Badal said.


Poll scenario no different than in 1999
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 21
Even as the mercury rises and the parliamentary election fever slowly firms its grip, it seems that Punjab today is not much different from what it was at the time of the 1999 Lok Sabha election in terms of the financial, economic and socio-political situation.

If paucity of funds had stalled all development works then, so has it now. If the BJP-led NDA government was unresponsive to the state's 32-point agenda of outstanding demands like grant of greater share in the central taxes then, so is it now to Punjab's demands for more funds for sustainable development. If the issues like Chandigarh, territorial adjustment and sharing of the river waters, raised by SAD leaders since 1966, had remained unresolved then, so are they today.

There is, however, a change in the political scene in Punjab. If there was an atmosphere of conflict and confrontation within the SAD factions over religio-political issues, which cast a shadow over governance as well as affected the outcome of the Lok Sabha results then, competitive politics and political vindictiveness has resulted in bitter estrangement between the Akalis and the Congress now. It is likely to affect the outcome of the Lok Sabha results.

In all there are 13 Lok Sabha constituencies. The deciding factor of the outcome, as in 1999, will again be the seven Lok Sabha constituencies in the Malwa belt, while Doaba and Majha have three constituencies each. In Malwa there are 11 districts out of 17 and 65 assembly segments out of 117, while the remaining are in Doaba (25) and Majha (27).

The then ruling SAD-BJP combine had won just three Lok Sabha seats in 1999, while the Congress bagged eight, followed by the CPI and the SAD (Mann) winning one seat each. The Akalis had won the Tarn Taran and Ferozepore seats, the BJP Gurdaspur, the CPI Bathinda and SAD (Mann) had got Sangrur. The remaining seats of Amritsar, Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Phillaur, Ropar, Ludhiana, Patiala and Faridkot were won by the Congress.

Therefore, the ground situation today is not much different from what it was in 1999. If the anti-incumbency factor had played a major role as did the internecine religio-political war in the Akali Dals then, a united Akali Dal, is today whipping up emotions by recalling the ''excesses'' committed by the Congress in the past two years it had betrayed the vital interests of the state and was focusing on the non-performance of the Congress. They are also euologising the achievements of the BJP-led NDA government.


Seva dal to expose Advani’s yatra
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 21
Mr Parhalad Yadav, chief organiser, All-India Congress Seva Dal said today that their activists would organise parallel shows in villages to expose the real design behind the “Bharat Uday Yatra” being taken out by Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani.

Mr Yadav, who was here today to preside over the state-level conference of the seva dal being organised by its district unit here today at a press conference claimed that the yatra could trigger communal violence.

He said the yatra was also being used to attack Ms Sonia Gandhi on the foreign origin issue.

He said through the parallel shows they would take the message of Ms Gandhi to the grassroots level.

He pointed out that under the NDA government the problem of unemployment had acquired alarming proportions on one hand while on the other a large section of industries were facing economic hardships as the government had imposed heavy taxes on the same.

When asked whether the seva dal would contest the Lok Sabha elections, Mr Yadav stated that they had sought five seats for and so far the party high command had given only three.

Meanwhile, Mr H.S. Hanspal, president, Punjab Pardesh Congress Committee, who was supposed to attend the function, failed to turn up.


Akalis are with BJP: Tohra
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 21
The Akalis are committed to the Bharatiya Janata Party. This is evident from the election speeches in various parts of Punjab where the alliance is contesting.

This was stated by Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, while talking to mediapersons at the party office of the BJP in Sector 33 here today.

Mr Tohra, a senior member of the SAD, said there was no confusion about the election pact.

He said a formal announcement to re-confirm the alliance would be made shortly by the party high command. Addressing the rally of the Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha, Mr Tohra said the voter should cast his or her vote after seeing the potential of each candidate. Mr Satya Pal Jain was the most suitable candidate from the city, he said. The BJP had ensured a remarkable development in different fields during its tenure and it should be given another chance, he added.

The statement of Mr Tohra, however, was not acceptable to Mr Gurpratap Singh Riar, the president of the local unit of the SAD. He said, “I respect Mr Tohra and will do any work for him in all matters other than politics. In the case of a political development, only Mr Parkash Singh Badal can order me directly or the matter should be taken up by the PAC. I am willing to follow the orders”, he said.

High-level sources in the local unit of the BJP said the party would get a formal order confirming the alliance from Mr Badal within a few days.

Mr Riar, who attended a press conference along with Mr Satya Pal Jain, the BJP candidate, some time ago, had accepted the alliance with the BJP. However, he changed his statement a few days later. When questioned why he kept away from the election campaign and rallies, Mr Riar said he had not received any communication from the party high command.

City SAD chief disagrees

Meanwhile, the local unit of the Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha organised a “yuva matdata sammelan”, an awareness programme for youth voters, at the party office of the BJP in Sector 33 here today.

The sammelan was addressed by Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, Mr Satya Pal Jain and Mr Davesh Moudgil, president of the local unit of the BJYM.

Mr Tohra said BJP and SAD workers would work unitedly to make the Bharat Uday Yatra of Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, arriving in the city on March 24, a big success.

A rickshaw yatra was flagged off from the Nehru Ground, Sector 22, early morning by Mr Yash Pal Mahajan, president of the local unit. Party flags were installed on the rickshaws.


Govt fails to release subsidy on khadi products
Tribune News Service

Ropar, March 19
The Congress Government in the state has withdrawn 5 per cent subsidy on the khadi products sold in the ‘Khadi Bandars’. The khadi products that are generally hand made by the village artisans across the country are marketed in the Khadi Bhandars.

To promote and financially support the village artisans the Union Government provides 20 per cent subsidy on these products. Five per cent subsidy was provided by the state government and another 5 per cent by the Khadi Gram Udyog taking to total subsidy to 30 per cent. However, for the entire 2003-2004 financial year the state government has not released its 5 per cent share on the khadi products.

Sources in the Regional Punjab Khadi Mandal said the hand-made khadi products were costly than the machine-made products. The 30 per cent subsidy makes them viable in the market. However, now that the Punjab Government has failed to release the state share of 5 per cent subsidy, the khadi products in the state could only be sold with just 25 per cent subsidy.

The reduction in the subsidy of khadi products had hit their sales. Data collected from the Khadi Bhandars in the district reveals about 20 or 30 per cent reduction in sales of the khadi products after the increase in price.

The sources said if the subsidy was not restored by the state government, the khadi products would lose edge in the market and the move would hit the village artisans in the state. Still many village artisans are earning their livelihood by making hand-made products in villages.


2 booked for running illegal stock exchange
Tribune News Service

Mohali, March 21
Following instructions issued by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to the Chief Secretary Punjab, the Mohali police has booked two persons on charges of running an illegal stock exchange from their Mohali residence and working for the Northern India Stock Exchange (NISE), Chandigarh, declared illegal by SEBI.

On a complaint filed by a Chandigarh resident Mr Pritpal Singh Sodhi, an FIR was registered by the Superintendent of Police, Mohali, Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh, on March 13, against Mr B.L. Bansal and Mr N. Bansal, both residents of Phase 3B1 who are running the Sikkim Stock Exchange from their home and are also members of NISE. Members of both these exchanges, according to SEBI, have not obtained permission in this regard.

The matter was brought before SEBI by Mr Sodhi who had, following certain investment deals conducted through these exchanges in 1989, alleged that the Bansals had cheated him of his invested money. According to the FIR, Mr Sodhi had invested over Rs 60,000 with Mr Bansal to buy certain shares but was allegedly cheated and now they owed him over Rs 982 crore. After running from pillar to post in the Chandigarh Administration and the UT police, Mr Sodhi went to Mumbai and complained to SEBI.

SEBI issued a letter in 2000 to the then Chief Secretary, Punjab, Mr R.S. Mann, instructing him to initiate criminal proceedings against those running the Northern India Stock Exchange which was illegal. According to the letter written by Mr P.K. Bindlish of SEBI to Mr R.S. Mann, Chief Secretary, Punjab, ‘Section 19 of the SC (R) Act 1956, prohibits establishment of a stock exchange except with the prior permission of the Central Government. Clause (c) of sub section (1) of the Section 23 of the Act provides that any person who contravenes the provision of Section 19 shall on conviction be punishable with imprisonment which might extend to one year with fine or with both. The North India Stock Exchange has not obtained any permission under Section 19 of the Security Contract Regulation Act (SCRA) 1956 nor are these recognised under Sections 3 and 4 of the said Act. Therefore, Northern India Stock Exchange members or promoters Mr B.L. Bansal and Mr N. Bansal appear to be guilty of violation of Section 19 of the SC (R) A and liable to be proceeded under Section 23(10 read with Sections 26 of the SCRA’.

A separate letter was also, according to Mr Sodhi, issued by SEBI for the Sikkim Stock Exchange being run from the residential premises of Mr Bansal.

Following the receipt of this letter the Home Affairs Department, Punjab, wrote to the SSP, Ropar, to investigate the matter. After a large amount of correspondence between the police and the Home Affairs Department and SEBI, finally the case was registered under various sections of the SCRA and 406 and 420 of the IPC by SP, Mohali, on instructions of the SSP, Ropar.

When contacted Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh said that the case was under investigation but no arrests had been made as yet.


Board makes changes in datesheets
Tribune News Service

Mohali, March 21
The Punjab School Education Board today announced some changes in the new datesheets of Classes X and XII.

The Class X social studies paper for both regular and compartment candidates, that was to be held on April 4, will now be held on April 7. For Class XII, the elective Punjabi (204)/Hindi (205)/elective English (206)/Urdu (207), Bengali, Gujrati, Kannad, Marathi, Malyalam, Manipuri, Oriya, Assamese, Sindhi, Tamil and Telegu papers scheduled for April 4 will be held on April 12 and the music instrumental paper, that was to be held on April 2, will now be held on April 15.

The board officials clarified that the blind, deaf and mute students who had appeared for their papers in lieu of the mathematics paper (later cancelled) need not appear again in these subjects.


BKU non-committal on support to any party
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 21
Describing the Punjab Chief Minister’s threat on sugar in the state as a “dramebaji” state Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) president Ajmer Singh Lakhowal asked the farmers, how does the Chief Minister proposes to sell the sugar stocks while 85 per cent of it is pledged for loans. After paying interest on the loan, “how much will he pay us”, he asked hundreds of BKU activists and workers at the 34th annual kisan sammelan here today. He added that it seems it was the CM’s ploy to get private parties to ‘loot’ the farmers. In a hard-hitting tone the farmers leader warned that when politicians entered villages for votes they would give them a welcome they would not forget easily!

The farmers’ union remained non-committal on its support to any party in Lok Sabha elections its national president Chaudhary Mahinder Singh Takait taking a dig at politicians said farmers had remained ‘hungry and angry’ while money was siphoned to banks in Switzerland. Lashing out at ‘India shining’ and ‘feel good factor’ slogans of the BJP he said the BJP alone could be feeling good while the farmers suffered.

Hundreds of farmers, wearing green and white caps, green turbans, holding unions flags, from as far as Karnataka, Bihar, Kerala and neighbouring states of Haryana, Himachal Pardesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pardesh etc participated in the sammelan today.

Taking a stand against Sugarfed floated by the government state general secretary Manjit Singh Qadian said it was proving to be unnecessary and huge burden on the sugar mills which could otherwise had made payments to farmers. “A mill in Badowal Ludhiana and one in Nawanshahr was ready to pay the farmers but was told not to release money by state government.” They demanded waiver of farming loans of Rs 10,000 crore besides free electricity and water.

The farmers were perturbed over the government’s apathy over stray and old milch animals that destroy standing crops. The menace was worst in the Malwa belt, Doaba’s Kandi area and Amritsar-Gurdaspur belt. They demanded that owners of gaushalas undertake care of cows while the rest of the wild animals would be taken care of by government. Mr Lakhowal said their next vital issue would be to fight corruption which had assumed alarming proportions after an initial drive by the CM. For this the block presidents would form teams to unearth hidden and other properties accumulated in the past 10 years by politicians and bureaucrats. He said the BKU would announce its support to a political party on April 1.

A song on a social theme and prevailing evils of female foeticide, drugs, apostasy in society described the aftermath of these acts. SGPC member and BKU activist Tirlochan Singh gave a call to boycott socially those who indulged in female foeticide. There should be no relation of ‘roti-beti’ with those who indulged in this heinous crime, he added.


Bairagis seek Cong ticket
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 21
Mr Krishan Kumar Bawa, national president of the All-India Bairagi Vaishnav Mahan Mandal and member of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC), has asked the Congress High Command to allot at least one ticket to the Bairagi community in Punjab for Lok Sabha elections as the Bairagis had more than six lakh voters in the state.

Mr Bawa told The Tribune yesterday these six lakh voters would help the Congress party in a big way in different Constituencies, if a Bairagi candidate was fielded by the Congress.

Mr Bawa also asked the Congress High Command to allot ticket to the Bairagi community from Sangrur constituency as this constituency had one lakh Bairagi voters.

He also claimed that in 1992 Lok Sabha elections, Bairagis had worked for the Congress. He stated that in 1992 Lok Sabha elections, he was only voter in his village Rakba, the last village of Raikot Assembly Constituency of the Sangrur Lok Sabha seat, who cast his vote at 3.30 p.m. despite a threat from militants.

Mr Bawa also said Ms Kuldip Kaur Bawa had been elected state president of the women wing of the Bairagi Mahan Mandal Punjab at a meeting, held under the presidentship of Dr Rajinder Pal Bairagi, secretary-general of the Bairagi Mahan Mandal Punjab, here the previous day.


SAD submits representation to CEC on ads
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 21
Objecting to certain advertisements that have appeared in some newspapers, senior leaders of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) yesterday urged the Chief Election Commissioner to stop the publication of such advertisements as these are in “clear violation of the mandate of the Election Commission and further constitute a corrupt practice.”

In a representation to the commission through Mr Vishal Munjal, an advocate, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, President of the SGPC, and other Akali leaders have stated that unfounded statements have been made against the party President, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, and his son in these advertisements. “Nothing was known about the organisation or persons who have got these advertisements issued,” says the representation. The Akali leaders have alleged that these advertisements appear to be the handiwork of Punjab Congress government, which was finding it hard to withstand the public wave in favour to the SAD.

The Akali have sought action against those responsible for these “scandalous advertisements”.


YC chief admits differences in party
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, March 21
Punjab Pradesh Youth Congress president Raminder Singh Amla today admitted there were differences in the youth body but declared these would soon be resolved.

Trying to play down the opposition of one faction to his appointment, Mr Amla told mediapersons, differences will be ironed out and I feel no danger as 21 out-of 22 district Youth Congress presidents are with me”.

To a query about his involvement in the Rs 70-crore rice seller scam, Mr Amla asserted he was not involved and allegations were being levelled by vested interests backed by Akalis, I am shocked by these canards and had brought the issue to the notice of high command. I would quit if the allegations are proved, he added.

When asked to comment upon the fresh controversy in the Congress in the wake of nomination of Mr M.S. Gill, to the Rajya Sabha, Amla declared it was the prerogative of the party leader and the high command to nominate members to the Rajya Sabha and decide candidates for the Lok Sabha.

Defending the party high command over the issue, Mr Amla made it clear that the Youth Congress would stake its claim for tickets to the Lok Sabha.


Cong leaders back Preneet
Our Correspondent

Dera Bassi, March 21
To express their solidarity with Ms Preneet Kaur, Congress candidate for the Patiala Lok Sabha constituency, members of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee held a meeting here today.

Chaired by Mr Hardyal Singh Kamboj, district president Congress, the meeting was attended by Mr R.R. Bhardwaj, Chairman of the Punjab Planning Board, Ms Sheelam Sohi, Member of the Punjab State Electricity Board, Mr Sahibjit Singh Sandhu and Mr Krishan Pal Sharma, both members of the PPCC, Mr Amrit Pal Singh, president of the Dera Bassi Municipal Council, and many other local Congress leaders.

Mr Kamboj said Mr Satwant Singh Mohi, a former MLA, had been appointed coordinator for the Banur assembly constituency.

Ex-servicemen join PPCC
Our Correspondent

Patiala, March 21
A number of ex-servicemen joined the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee in the presence of the state Chief Minister Amarinder Singh here today.

Discussing the problems of ex-servicemen and the general apathy towards the families of martyrs, Capt Amarinder Singh condemned communal politics and said these divisive forces would destroy the country. He criticised the “Rath Yatra-Babri Masjid” politics of the fascist forces led by BJP supremos and said the country could grow and progress by fuelling fundamentalism.

Highlighting the achievements of the state government, he said it had taken a number of steps for their uplift and to provide recruitment avenues for them.

Lt-Gen M.M Lekhera, chairman, AICC Ex-Servicemen Cell, Maj-Gen KMKS Waraich and Capt Praveen Davar, secretaries, AICC Cell, referred to various demands of the ex-servicemen which they had submitted to the Congress high command to be included in the party manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections.


Pak delegation to study historical buildings
Pawan Kumar

Amritsar, March 21
A 22-member delegation from the National College of Arts, Lahore, headed by its Principal, Ms Sajida Vandal, today arrived here to study historical buildings in Punjab.

The delegation, including faculty members, will visit Ram Bagh, Khalsa College, Kila Gobindgarh, buildings in Patiala and historical gardens.

Mr Sajjad Kausar, Associate Professor, Architecture Department of the college, while talking to The Tribune, said condition of histornical buildings and landscapes, including Shalimar Bagh, related to legendary Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Pakistan, were not so good.

However, he said, restoration work on many such buildings was going on and the Pakistan Government was showing keen interest in preserving histonical buildings. He said the delegation was looking forward to study architectures in Punjab.

Mr Kausar, who is also working on a project to restore Tollinton Market of the British era in Pakistan, said on the first look Khalsa College looked similar to the National College of Arts, Lahore. But Khalsa College seemed bigger than the Lahore college. However, he said it would be too early to comment as he had not seen the entire structure. He said they would do comparative study of buildings during the Sikh period.

He favoured increasing interaction between architects and builders of both countries. This, he said, would generate new ideas and help in the preservation of historical buildings.

Ms Vandal said they had done research on works of Bhai Ram Singh, the architect of Khalsa College, here, the National College of Arts, Lahore, the Central Museum in Pakistan and other famous buildings. She said they had made efforts to locate structures made by Bhai Ram Singh as there were no records available. She said they were making efforts to highlight the works of Bhai Ram Singh, fourth Principal of the college in Lahore.


Named on panel six years after death
Raj Sadosh

Abohar, March 21
The first recipient of the Indira Priyadarshini Environment Award, Sant Kumar Bishnoi, who died on January 24, 1998, has been nominated as a non-official member of the Punjab State Environment Council reconstituted vide a notification by the state government on February 27, 2004, according to information received at the Wild Life office here. The council is headed by the Chief Minister, with the Parliamentary Secretary for Environment as its secretary.

According to information the Akhil Bharatiya Jeev Raksha Bishnoi Sabha had to struggle hard for getting the clearance from the state government then headed by Mr Parkash Singh Badal to instal the statue of Bishnoi, founder of the sabha, at Seeto Gunno Highway Chowk, near Assumption Convent School, here. The proposal was reportedly opposed by a lobby of SAD workers who had been taught a lesson by the Bishnoi sabha as they tried to defy the ban on hunting of the black buck in the wildlife sanctuary located on Seeto Road here. Finally Ms Maneka Gandhi, then Minister of State in the NDA government, had to intervene. The sabha headed by Mr Ram Singh Bishnoi, a minister in Rajasthan, had reportedly warned to take the matter to the Supreme Court if the SAD-BJP government did not relent. The government yielded but Mr Badal and his colleagues had abstained from the unveiling ceremony performed by Ms Maneka Gandhi.

The grudge of the disgruntled forces, however, did not subside. They removed the statue two years ago. Again the sabha had to fight to get the FIR registered. The SAD workers were reportedly annoyed with Sant Kumar Bishnoi on another pretext; he had opposed construction of a drain, fearing that it would divide the sanctuary and soften access of the hunters to the animals worshiped by the Bishnoi community.

Every police officer, during his maiden police-public meet in Ferozepore Division had said that the miscreants responsible for the theft would be nabbed “very soon” but there had been no breakthrough after the assurance. Interestingly none of the district or divisional police officer had held second police-public meet during his stay in the office.

The Supreme Court had authorised the state government to form a high-powered committee on environment and wildlife protection while deciding writ petition (657(C) 1995). The government has reconstituted the 26-member council by nominating environmentalists from different social organisations, universities, corporations and included the name of Sant Kumar Bishnoi, although scores of senior officers had visited the Bishnoi family at Dutaranwali village here to condole his death.


BDPO told to recover 20 lakh from ex-sarpanch
Our Correspondent

Dera Bassi, March 21
The Director of Rural Development and Panchayat, Punjab, has issued directions to the Block Development and Project Officer (BDPO), Dera Bassi, to recover Rs 20 lakh from a former sarpanch of Saipura village.

The Director has asked him to recover the money from the former sarpanch, Ms Gian Kaur, within a month. On failure, the officer would be held responsible in the case.

It may be recalled that Chandigarh Tribune on January 22 had highlighted a case of alleged embezzlement of funds by the sarpanch.

In a letter to the Rural Development and Panchayat Minister the Saidpura panchayat members, including Mr Jaspal Singh, sarpanch, had alleged that Ms Gian Kaur, a former sarpanch, had misappropriated lakhs of rupees sanctioned by the government for various development works.

The complaint states Ms Gian Kaur misused interest money received on an investment of Rs 38 lakh.

Taking serious note of the complaints, the BDPO, after conducting inquires into some projects had found huge embezzlement. The BDPO had sent a comprehensive report to the Director, Panchayats.


Fate of women volunteers uncertain
Anirudh Gupta

Ferozepore: Women volunteers who were selected by the Punjab Home Guards and Civil Defence Department for deployment at fencing gates along the Indo-Pakistan border to frisk women who accompany farmers to the fields situated across are a dejected as their fate hangs in balance.

These 78 women were selected for deployment at 26 border gates along with BSF kisan guards but now nothing is clear whether they would be ever actually deployed or not.

Ironically, the Home Guards Department without any written request from the BSF started the process of selection for which a board was constituted. Sources said that a large number of women belonging to the villages situated close to the border turned up for the selection out of which 78 were finally selected. These women most of whom belong to the economically weaker section had to spend a lot of money towards documentation, medical check-up and travelling despite their status. However, they do not know what to do now.

When contacted BSF officials revealed that initially there was a proposal to deploy these volunteers from Home Guards to frisk the women going across the cobra gates to assist their men fields and other allied jobs but realising certain difficulties, the idea was dropped.

It is pertinent to mention that the BSF sleuths had started frisking women accompanying farmers after reports of women being used for smuggling and other anti-national activities came to the fore. Later, when the border farmers protested the frisking of women, the BSF authorities decided to deploy women volunteers from Home Guards but the proposal never materialised.

BSF officials said they were generally taking assistance from local women with sound antecedents near a particular gate for frisking women and still, the same practice was being followed.

BSF officials also revealed that if at all the women volunteeers were deployed, certain administrative and financial problems may also arise and these women may become conduit for anti-national agencies to carry out their sinister designs.

However, what may happen to the 78 women selected remains unclear.


Jal Mahal — a picture of neglect
Balraj Mahajan

BATALA: Batala, one of the oldest towns in the erstwhile province of Lahore, even older than Amritsar, still preserves in itself as many as 14 old monuments of religious and historical importance. Of these, five are mosques, two temples, two gurdwaras (rebuilt in recent times preserving the old portion of the buildings), three monuments related to Sikh history and two associated with the history of Mughal period.

Jal Mahal stands just in the middle of a big tank of Shamsher Khan, an administrator (Karori) of Batala during the reign of Jalalludin Mohammed Akbar.

Jal Mahal and the palace of Maharaja Sher Singh as referred to “In The Bylanes Of History” by J.S. Grewal, were built by Maharaja Sher Singh. The palace is presently under lease to Baring Union Christian College, Batala, and the administrative offices of the college are housed therein. The building is maintained by the college authorities. Jal Mahal is said to be under the control of Archaeological Survey of India. Jal Mahal and the palace were interconnected with an underground tunnel, which could be seen till 1950. A story goes that the maharaja used to hold secret meetings of his courtiers in Jal Mahal.

Jal Mahal has eight doors in the lower part and four in the upper storey. The inner walls contained beautiful glass carvings and wall paintings. The signs of these, though faded, are still visible in parts. A major parts of these frescoes has been erased by visitors over the years.

On one side of Jal Mahal is situated Brid Ashram run by Dainik Prarthana Sabha, whereas on the other side just opposite Baring Union Christian College is Subhash Park maintained by the Municipal Council in which Shahidi Samadh of police martyrs is situated. All these are in bad condition at the moment.

Till early 1980, the tank used to be full of water drawn from a well of the Municipal Council. The 25 BHP motor and a pump seem to have been taken off. Jal Mahal had about eight-foot deep water around it and the only approach to it could be possible with a boat or by swimming across. Over the time many schemes for the beautification of this monument were prepared but none was put into action. At present the buildings is in a dilapidated condition.

In the name of beautification, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has only fixed iron grills on the boundary wall of Jal Mahal to avoid stray cattle.

On a recent visit to the building this correspondent noticed that no repair seems to have been carried out by the ASI. A part of the upper storey on southern side has already fallen. Wild growth was seen inside the building. The tank, being dry, has sufficient grass to attract stray cattle to graze unchecked.

Citizens demand that the ASI should repair this baradari and convert it into a tourist site.


A feast for theatre lovers
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 21
It was a stunning effort and a feast for the theatre lovers, as they were made to relish the candid and wonderful world of Ismat Chugtai’s observations of the world around her by Naseeruddin Shah through his directorial venture, “Ismat Apa Ke Naam,” a three-act play in Hindustani, dedicated to the memory of eminent author late Ismat Khanum Chugtai.

The beauty of the play, which kept the audience spellbound, was the solo enactment and presentation of three different stories, “ “Chhui Muee”, “ Mughal Bachcha,” and “Gharwali’— all revolving around women, their different layers and shades of behaviour in different situations by Heeba Shah, Ratna Pathak Shah and Naseeruddin Shah. Naseeruddin Shah said absence of makeshift sets and parade of actors made the play different. Each of the three stories of the play was essentially based on the acumen of the story-teller, who justified his role as the person who was narrating all aspects of a story through shades of his or her expressions.

“Chhui Muee” depicted the frivolities exhibited by upper-crest of Muslim womenfolk through narration which shows the contrast between a rich Muslim woman, who had repeated terminated pregnancies despite best of care and facilities, and another poor woman, who, not only gives birth to her child in a running train, but also comes out of the painful moments without making much hue and cry.

Similarly. “Mughal Bachha” is a story which took the audience to the world of dilemma of successors of great Mughal families of Uttar Pradesh who had zealously retained their ego and failed to come to terms with realities of the life, generated by poverty.

The last story, “Gharwali”, was presented by Naseeruddin Shah. It was about the contrast between two characters of young and spontaneous “Laajo”, and her master-turned husband, Mian Irfaan Mirza and his bubbling chauvinism. The best part of Naseeruddin Shah’s presentation was his ability to deliver dialogues.

The play was organised by the Chandigarh-based Durga Dass Foundation and was jointly sponsored by the Spice telecom and the Tribune group of newspapers.


Illuminating Deepak
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 21
“Dekh to saare rahen hain”, but why do I write, is the continuous lament of Swadesh Deepak, the man who gave us the acclaimed play “Court Martial” recently released his autobiography “Maine Mandu Nahi Dekha”.

Calling a spade a spade has been Deepak’s calling card in life. He has even shattered his own image as a hero in his own eyes in his autobiography while writing about his stay in hospital.

Deepak, was in Punjabi University here to attend a seminar on “Novels of Yashpal”. “ I gave myself a period of four years to find out whether I was honest enough to speak the truth”, he says adding that “I realised I could be free from myself if I spoke the truth”.

“I cannot write on issues in a round about way “, says Deepak adding that he took up the sensitive issue of court martial proceedings of the Indian Army in his play by the same name. An army brigadier provided me with the details, says the writer. “They even wanted to book me on sedition charges”, he adds. The play, which was a runaway hit, also resulted in offers for a film on the issue but Deepak refused to play along when he realised the director had no clue of the subject.

Similarly Deepak has also written a play concerning the struggle of the Peoples War Group (PWG) titled “Sabse Uadas Kavita”. He says the play tries to focus on why the people were forced into it.


PSEB demand can’t be met, say pole makers
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 21
Concrete pole manufacturers today claimed that the sudden huge demand of poles by the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), which wanted to take up the electrification of 4,000 villages by June this year, could not be met due to the lengthy manufacturing process.

In a press note issued here, the pole manufacturers said the non-availability of raw material, including high carbon wire and cement, had forced many manufacturers to close down their units. They said a major reason behind the problem being faced by the board as far as supplies were concerned was the cancellation and deferment of the running orders of various firms for the month of February, 2003.

The manufacturers also alleged that the PSEB had accepted poles which were not as per the specifications and had been rejected by the Punjab Mandi Board. They demanded that a third party should be given one responsibility of accessing the minimum rates fixed by the PSEB.


500 doctors participate in medical conference
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, March 21
The Punjab State Medical Conference of Indian Medical Association (IMA), PIMACON-2004, was inaugurated by Mr Ramesh Chander Dogra, Health and Family Welfare Minister, Punjab, here today, in which more than 500 doctors from various parts of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Chandigarh, Kerala and West Bengal participated. The conference was presided over by Dr P.V. George (Kerala), National President of the IMA. Dr Sudip Roy (Kolkata), Honorary Secretary of the Indian Medical Association, was the guest of honour.

Dr Amrik Singh, honorary state secretary, read the annual report of the IMA, Punjab, highlighting its various activities and its 56 local branches located in different parts of the state in regard to continuing medical education (CME) programmes and the role of the IMA in implementing various national health programmes.

Dr George, said the medical fraternity had launched a professional protection scheme at the national-level on March 13, under which any member of the scheme would be provided with legal assistance and the compensation to the tune of Rs 5-10 lakh if the court so orders while deciding any criminal / CPA complaint against the doctor.

Mr Dogra, while speaking on this occasion, said the Punjab government was fully conversant with various problems of the medical professionals and assured that the government would look into their problems.


24 poor girls married off
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, March 21
As many as 24 couples belonging to the weaker section of the society from Muktsar and Faridkot districts including one from Rajasthan were married at a simple function organised by the Bharat Vikas Prishad unit of Faridkot at Mahatma Gandhi Senior Secondary School here today.

The marriages were performed according to Sikh traditions in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib. All brides and bridegrooms were provided with household items, clothes, sewing machines, wrist watches and beds worth rupees four lakh on the occasion. Meals were also served to all guests and the members of marriage parties.

Earlier reaching the place of marriage the couples and their parents, guardians and other members were accorded warm reception by respectables of the town and the members of the Parishad.

Blessing to the newly-married, Mr R.P. Sharma, national working president of the Parishad disclosed that the society had decided to make the mass marriages function a regular feature in the country. Many states including Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra had already adopted the programme and Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu were following it shortly.


14 couples tie the knot
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, March 21
The local Rotary Club today organised a mass marriages function at Subash Palace on the Sultanpur Lodhi road where 14 couples from poor families tied the knot.

The club served breakfast and lunch to members and relatives of brides and bridegrooms.

Mr Manjit Singh Dhillon, president of local Rotary Club said the club had given gifts of about Rs 10,000 every couple. The gifts included silver ornaments, furniture, beddings, clothes of bride and bridegrooms, fans and utensils.

Mr G.S. Bawa, District Governor, Rotary Club, was the chief guest on the occasion and blessed the couples.


Anganwari workers hold protest
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, March 21
Anganwari workers and helpers from different parts of Punjab today held a demonstration in the home constituency of the Minister of Social Security. Led by Ms Hargobind Kaur, president, Anganwari Mulazam Union, Punjab, protestors held a state-level rally in the local Municipal Park. They raised slogans against the Punjab government for not granting the promised Rs 300 hike in pay as announced by the Social Security Minister on March 8. They also protested against the decision to handover anganwari centres to panchayats, “victimisation” and retrenchment of workers and shielding of “corrupt” CDPOs.

The protestors threatened to resort to direct action in April in case the government did not accept their demands.

Besides anganwari leaders, several other unions leaders, including Mr Dharam Singh Patti, chief organiser, Coordination Committee, Para Medical, Punjab, Mr Harinder Singh Dosanjh, state secretary, PSSB, Mr Piara Singh Parkh of the Government Teachers Union and Mr Onkar Singh, PWD Field and Workers Union, addressed the rally.

A memorandum was later presented to minister. They also demanded the regularisation of services, a grant of Rs 2500 and 1500 to workers and helpers till revision of pay scales and fixed TA and DA for attending circle meetings.


Probe paper leak scam, says Bhaur

Phagwara, March 21
SGPC general secretary Sukhdev Singh Bhaur said today that a government which could not even conduct matric and plus two exams or keep question papers in safe custody should not be expected to govern Punjab properly.

Addressing an election rally of Akali activists at nearby Palahi village in support of SAD-BJP candidate from Phillaur Lok Sabha seat Charanjit Singh Atwal, Jathedar Bhaur demanded a high-level probe by an impartial agency into the paper leak scam.

Shiromani Akali Dal national adviser Jarnail Singh Wahid, district president Raghbir Singh block president Gurmukh Singh, Youth Akali Dal general secretary Gurjit Singh Khalsa also spoke on the occasion. Jathedar Bhaur was honoured with a siropa by the village panchayat led by Sarpanch Surjit Ram and Akali leader Jatinderpal Singh Palahi.


Demand to exempt women from poll duty
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 21
The Amritsar Vikas Manch (AVM) sought exemption for women from election duties. In a letter to state chief electoral officer here yesterday. Mr Hari Singh secretary the AVM, said the DCs of Ludhiana, Ropar and Gurdaspur had exempted women from duties in the last election due to reasons of hardships faced by them especially on outstation assignments where they required to be away from homes.

In Many cases where both husband and wife were government servants, children were left alone. The manch also requested that teachers of government schools be exempted from these duties as study of student suffered.


Vote for Tur, says Bhai Ranjit Singh
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, March 21
Bhai Ranjit Singh, a former Akal Takht Jathedar, who claims to be the “real” Jathedar of Akal Takht, has urged Sikhs to be united to free of Akal Takht from the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925.

Bhai Ranjit Singh was addressing a gathering here today at a seminar organised dedicated to the 500th birth anniversary of second Guru Sri Guru Anged Dev ji by the newly formed Akal Council condemned Mr Parkash Singh Badal for ruining the Sikh traditions for his ends. He called Sikhs and other voters to cast their vote in rebel SAD candidate Tarlochan Singh Tur. Mr Prem Singh Lalpura, the former MLA from here and others spoke on the occasion.


Threat to boycott poll
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, March 21
Residents of swimming pool area of Lamini road have threatened to boycott Lok Sabha elections if their demands for the improvement of civic amenities and re-reconstruction of the road was not done before the polling.

Mr Mohan Lal, a resident of the area regretted that roads in the area in very bad shape for the past two years. Big potholes have aggravated the problems of road users especially students coming on bicycles from far-off places.

The claims made by Municipal Council president Sharvan Kumar appeared to be hollow on the development of the city. He asserted the council has failed even to acquire land for dumping waste.


Pammi Bai not to join politics
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 21
Noted Punjabi folk singer, Pammi Bai said today that he would not enter politics. Pammi Bai, who was here to perform at a cultural evening organised at Khalsa college, was addressing a press conference at Khalsa College for Women here.

Talking to newsmen he said his father was a freedom fighter and was active in politics but he never thought of joining politics.

The folk singer lamented that the government was not taking steps to check vulgarity which had invaded the Punjabi culture and was being shown in Punjabi songs. He said he was against vulgarity in Punjabi songs. He called upon the new generation to start a movement against this. He said the youth should not forget its rich traditions and culture.

Mr Rajmohinder Singh Majitha along with Pammi Bai inaugurated the conference hall at Khalsa College for Women.


AISSF (Majha) formed
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, March 21
One more AISSF, All-India Sikh Students Federation (AISSF) with a suffix Majha, has been formed. Mr Kashmir Singh Sangha, a former general secretary of the AISSF’s district unit in Amritsar (rural), has been elected president of the new federation.

This was declared at a workers’ meeting in Sangha village 6 km from here today.

The federation has condemned the other AISSF, calling it the mouthpiece of one or the other political party.

Mr Sangha, addressing the meeting, announced that the new federation would oppose the Badal faction and the AISSF (Gill).


Jathedars to attend Chicago function

Chandigarh, March 21
Jathedars of all the five Takhts of the Sikhs will participate in the 500th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Angad Dev to be organised by the Chicago-based Gurdwara Gurjot Parkash from April 22 to 25, Baba Daljit Singh, chairman of the Guru Nanak Mission announced today. TNS


Lawyers’ fake degrees: Bar Council to probe
Our Correspondent

Jalalabad, March 21
Mr Chander Mohan Munjal, the newly elected Chairman of the Punjab and Haryana Bar Council, said cases of advocates practising with fake law degrees were being investigated at  the bar council level. Hundreds of advocates were practising with fake degrees and most of these degrees were obtained from Kanpur Lucknow and Magdh universities, he said while addressing members of the local Bar Association.

He said a law bhavan was being constructed in Chandigarh for the convenience of advocates visiting the city. He said a law college would also be set up where 50 per cent seats would be reserved for the wards of member advocates.

Mr Munjal said the council had also introduced a group insurance scheme for the welfare of its members. In case of a mishap the council would provide Rs 1 lakh as relief to the victim’s family and Rs 50,000 relief to a seriously ailing member.

Later, Mr Parmod Chaudhry, president of the local Bar Association, and Mr Gavinder Jindal, a senior advocate, thanked Mr Munjal.


Bt cotton seed units fleecing farmers in North
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 21
Cotton growers of the northern region comprising Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan are allegedly being fleeced by the companies supplying Bt cotton seed which is meant to be sown in other regions of the country.

The Bt cotton varieties meant for the northern states have not yet been approved officially by the Union Government despite their testing for suitability in this region and suitability.

Cotton experts of the Punjab Agricultural University have expressed concern over the exploitation of the cotton growers of this region as they feel that this seed may be spurious and may not give the yield according to their expectations.

The experts informed this reporter that the representatives of the seed companies had fanned the villages to finalise advance contractors for the supply of Bt cotton seed for Rs 1200 to Rs 2500 per packet of seed for one acre. The seed weight is tated to be around 450 gram of each packet. Under the normal course, the rate of approved Bt cotton seed should not exceed Rs 1000/- per packet. They said that the packets of hybrid cotton seed varieties are available for Rs 500 to Rs 600 per packet.

Dr G.S. Chahal, Additional Director of Research, Punjab Agricultural University, warned that the price so claimed may not be unjustified for a genuine Bt cotton seed but it would prove to be disastrous if non-Bt or seed of varieties unsuitable for Punjab given under the garb of Bt cotton.

He called upon the farmers not to buy spurious seed of Bt cotton or of dubious integrity as it might vause heavy losses and create new problems for cotton crop of the state.

Inquiries made by The Tribune show that after about half a decade of devastating cotton failure, high yields of 25-30 quintals per hectare have been harvested during the current crop which has arrived in the mandis.


Stress on diversification at agriculture camp
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 21
Under its diversification programme, the Punjab Agriculture Department will make efforts to persuade farmers to replace conventional crops of wheat and paddy with pulses, cotton and maize.

Stating this at an agriculture camp at Jandila village near here yesterday, Dr Ajmer Singh, Director, Punjab Agricultural Department, said the department had planned to ensure that more area was put under these three crops this time. “Our effort would be to reduce the area under paddy cultivation and bring it to 24 lakh hectares this time and use the rest of area for cultivation of pulses, cotton and maize,” said Dr Ajmer Singh.

Dr Gurdev Singh Gill, Joint Director of the department, said since wheat on about 2.14 lakh hectares was cultivated with the help of zero tillage technique, farmers of the state were able to earn more profit of Rs 42.80 crore.

Dr Baldev Singh Kahlon, Chief Agriculture Officer, said the Punjab Agriculture Department’s Jalandhar office had won first prize of the National Productivity Council and this was an outcome of coordination among farmers and agriculture experts.

Farm experts of the department and of PAU, Ludhiana, informed farmers about the latest farming techniques on occasion.


Cheaper device to test seeds, pesticides

Moga, March 21
Punjab Agricultural University experts developed a ‘Nitrogen’ Card, a device useful to farmers for testing seeds, pesticides and other chemicals at a low cost.

With the help of this device farmers need not visit laboratories for minor problems.

The Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA), Faridkot, decided to procure the device on large scale for Farmers Information Advisory Centre, Kotkapura. This centre will provide the device at 50 per cent subsidy. Each device with subsidy assistance by the ATMA will cost Rs 20 only.

This was announced by Deputy Commissioner Hussan Lal at a meeting of the ATMA on Friday.

He directed the agency officials and the Agriculture Information Advisory Centre to organise camps to educate farmers on the use of the device. — PTI


Kheti Virasat for saving water
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 21
Mr Umendra Dutt, Director, Kheti Virasat, today urged the state government to review decision on new power connections to tubewells as it would harm state’s ecology in future. Mr Dutt also urged the government to remove the encroachments from Wetlands which conserve water.

Mr Dutt who was explaining various recommendations made after the Sarbat Vikas Utsav organised by the Kheti Virasat in collaboration with the Department of Botany of Guru Nanak Dev University and was sponsored by the Council for the Advancement for People’s Action and Rural Technologies (CAPART) here. He said there should be a public debate on the state’s water policy, water conservation in which NGOs and various departments should be included. He said there was need a people’s movement for water conservation.

He said the government should prepare a report on environmental health diseases.


Three of marriage party killed

Sangrur, March 21
Three members of a marriage party, including a child, were killed and two others, including the bridegroom, injured when their car overturned and fell into a nullah near Bahadurpur village, 9 km from here, this morning.

According to the report received here, a stray animal came before the car in which the marriage party was travelling and to save the animal the vehicle overturned.

Two of the three deceased were identified as Gaga Singh and Surjeet Kaur, while the injured were identified as Devinder Singh and Sher Bahadur Singh, who were later admitted to Civil Hospital here. — UNI


Married woman gangraped
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, March 21
A married woman of Nonne village was gangraped by five residents of Bhaini Sidhwan village last night. A case has been registered under various sections of the IPC in this regard.

Police sources told the correspondent that the suspects had been identified as Bagga Singh, Manga Singh, Virsa Singh, Sabi and Panna Singh.

The victim in her complaint to the police stated that she had gone to the fields for answering nature’s call when the mishap took place.


Suicide by Armyman
Our Correspondent

Batala, March 21
An Army man committed suicide by hanging himself. He had come on leave at his Bhatti village. His relatives said today that he was depressed.

Harjinder Singh (23) son of Mr Ram Singh was posted at Pathankot these days. He was on leave since March 15, 2004. On Friday he committed suicide at a tubewell shed near his residence. His relatives noticed it Saturday morning.


Migrant woman found murdered
Our Correspondent

Nawanshahr, March 21
Veena (45), a migrant toy seller, of Sitran village in Moradabad district (UP) presently living in Santoshi Nagar, Jalandhar was found murdered at nearby Ranewal village. The deceased reportedly had come there along with his son Sham Babu (20) and another migrant — Raju (25), Jhulewala, Meetu and Rajesh to set up shops at a mela. They were living in a tent there.

The police has registered a case under Section 302 of the IPC on the complaint of Mr Pyara Lal, Mela contractor.


3 unnatural deaths reported
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, March 21
Three unnatural deaths were reported here today. Body of Ninder was recovered by the police from pond at Piparangi. The deceased was in his thirties and in construction labourer. He reportedly accidentally fell into a pond. Scooterist Avtar Singh was knocked down to death on the GT Road by a three-wheeler. He belonged to Birkan village. Cyclist Ratan Chand was killed by a car at byepass near Khalwaragate “puli”. He was in arhtiya business.

HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | National Capital |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |