P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



State may get representation at Centre, says CM
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, May 24
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today asserted that he was sure that Punjab would get representation in the Union Cabinet in the second round of expansion by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Talking to the TNS at the PAP helipad on the city outskirts today, he said he was hopeful that Dr Manmohan Singh would grant some special package or relief to Punjab.

Capt Amarinder Singh said since it was the decision of the Congress chief, Ms Sonia Gandhi, that no state should be left out without representation in the Union Cabinet, he was sure that Punjab would get due representation in the Union Cabinet soon. “Since there is a possibility that about 50 per cent of the newly elected representatives getting Cabinet berths, so we hope and are looking forward to the second round of Cabinet expansion,” said the Chief Minister.

Asked what were his hopes for Punjab from the Prime Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh said he had already talked to the former on a number of issues relating to the state. He added that he would meet him soon after the formation of a new team to run the government.

Referring to possible action against Punjab Agriculture Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal for her public utterances against him and for openly holding him responsible for party’s poll debacle, the Chief Minister said the ball was in the court of the high command now. “ We have already apprised the high command of our viewpoint and we have also sent the requisite material and evidence. It is now for the high command to decide.”

Asked whether there was any possibility of restoration of sops of free power and water to farmers after the Congress defeat in the recent Lok Sabha poll, he said it was for the newly formed Bhinder Committee to examine the matter and take a decision according to its finding.

On the possibility of yet another reshuffle in the state bureaucracy, Capt Amarinder Singh said he had already posted back those officers who had been shifted by the Election Commission during the poll. “It was unfair so I have put them back,” he asserted.

He added that his council of ministers would be reorganised after the Assembly Budget session to reduce the size to 15 per cent of the total House strength in compliance to the recent constitutional amendment in this regard.

He said the performance of the sitting ministers in their respective Assembly segments during the recent Lok Sabha elections would not be the sole basis of dropping or retaining them.

The Chief Minister was accompanied by Divisional Commissioner Dr Swaran Singh, Deputy Commissioner Ashok Gupta, Punjab Ministers Avtar Henry and Chaudhary Jagjit Singh and Improvement Trust Chairman Tejinder Singh Bittu.


Check drug abuse, cyber crime, says CM
Tribune News Service


There was no proper seating arrangement for a large number of delegates and mediapersons as well. Most of the audience even delegates and other police officials, were seen standing around or chatting with each other and disturbing the speakers.

As soon as the address of the Chief Minister concluded, policemen encircled mediapersons with ropes to make way for the CM. This was resisted by mediapersons, who complained to the Chief Minister and the DGP about the harassment caused to them by policemen on such occasions.

As the traffic movement towards Radisson Hotel, where the congress was being held, was stopped even before the arrival of the Chief Minister by traffic police, hundreds of vehicles got stranded at the BMC chowk. The situation remained chaotic for about half an hour.

Policemen were even seen stopping and making enquiries from female two-wheeler drivers on one pretext or the other.

No passes were issued to certain mediapersons by the public relation officials of the PAP, which was hosting the event, and passes were given only after repeated requests by mediapersons.

Jalandhar, May 24
Emphasising the need to evolve a multi-pronged, result-oriented and effective strategy to check the growing menace of drug abuse in the state, particularly, in Malwa region, the Punjab Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, advocated a national policy to check drug abuse and save youngsters from falling in drug abuse trap.

At the same time the Chief Minister also suggested the setting up of a regional facility to check cyber crime with the help of private participation and IT professionals.

Addressing delegates from all over the country after inaugurating the 35th All-India Police Science Congress here today, the Chief Minister said, “The new generation is bringing new crime. I read a report which said 70 per cent of boys and 50 per cent of girls were hooked on to drugs. This is a challenge for us and our police force to save the youth. We must take up this issue with the centre to check infiltration of drugs in to Punjab, especially, in view of the fact that the trade of poppy husk was permissible in the neighbouring states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh,” said Capt Amarinder Singh.

Showing his concerns about the growing cyber crimes, he exhorted the police force to equip itself with the latest knowledge to check it, “A regional facility can be set up to prevent such crimes for which we can extend possible help,” he added.

Stressing the need for modernisation of the state police, the Chief Minster said since Punjab was facing a financial crisis it was not in a position to contribute a matching grant of 50 per cent to the Centre for the Government of India’s modernisation scheme for the police force. He urged the centre to bear the entire cost of modernisation of the Punjab Police as a special case and in the same breath added that the state might have a new police Act and rules in the near future.

Mr Sarbjit Singh, Director-General, Bureau of Police Research and Development, said the congress was a unique forum at which police officers, social scientists and forensic scientists from all over the country converged to discuss important issues concerning the society and the police. He said with a steep rise in crime, law and order problem and cyber crime, it had become highly important to have more qualified officers. “Some times due to their social background, constables and other such lower-rung officials have difficulty in communicating with people,” said Mr Sarbjit Singh.

Mr A.A. Siddiqui, Director-General of the Punjab Police, said, “To tackle cyber crime, one needs knowledge of certain pre-requisites of investigation such as technical and legal knowledge, art of evidence collection and knowledge of computer forensic.” He also stressed the need for required changes in the Indian Penal Code and the Evidence Act, besides, modification of the Indian Police Rules.

Earlier, Mr D. R. Bhatti, the ADGP (PAP) and the chairman of the organising committee, welcomed the chief guest and delegates, while Mr R.L. Bhagat, organising secretary, proposed a vote of thanks.


Punjab begins Budget exercise
PPS Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 24
The current year Annual Plan of Punjab is yet to be approved. It is pegged at Rs 3,500 crore. Its approval was deferred by the State Planning Board because the state did not have resources to fund its part of the Plan. Consequently, the Chief Minister constituted a plan resource committee under Dr S.S. Johl to suggest ways to provide a breather to the ailing economy. This committee’s report has now been submitted in the form of a memorandum to the council of ministers for consideration. The Council of Ministers is scheduled to meet here on May 27.

Punjab has sought $ 800 million under the World Bank’s structural adjustment fund to get financial breather etc. Even as the final report is awaited from the World Bank, Finance Department has asked the Chief Minister to write to the Union Ministry of Finance to recommend to the Bank to expedite the long-term loan.

The Finance Department has also requested the Chief Minister to take up the issue of waiver of a special term loan totalling Rs 3,772 crore, which is the principal amount that the state is to repay. It was taken to fight terrorism. The five-year moratorium on repayment of the loan ends on March 31, 2005.

The Budget session is likely to be held from June 14 to 25. The Chief Minister’s Office has already written to all concerned to submit proposals, both for the state budget and also list issues that could be taken up with the Centre. Beginning Wednesday, the Chief Minister is scheduled to hold consultations with the officers concerned on these issues and also with MLAs on district development plans.

In the backdrop of a deteriorating financial situation, the committee has made suggestions to mop up additional resources to the tune of Rs 2,555 crore per annum. If approved this could mean raising the Annual Plan outlay from the proposed Rs 3,500 crore to Rs 4,500 crore.

The state is committed to the merger of 50 per cent DA into the employees’ basic pay. Calculations showed that this would mean an additional annual burden of approximately Rs 500 crore.

The Finance Department’s worry is will the Council of Ministers accept the recommendations of the plan resource committee or not. In specific terms, its calculations showed an additional revenue of Rs 831 crore, per annum. These terms include, a lumpsum sales tax on lotteries, textiles, brick kilns, certain additions and deletions in the sales tax rules, entry tax on sugar, increase in the rate of sales tax on dyes and chemicals, levy of sales tax on ‘’halwai’’ goods etc.

The report has given specific recommendations in respect of higher education and also on how to save while still giving 100 per cent grant-in-aid to private colleges against 95 per cent at present. On sales tax the report talks of introduction of ‘’electronic cash registers’’ and ‘’accountability’’ of the department officials. On the payment of non-practicing allowance to doctors, it has suggested ‘’evening clinics’’ where doctors could do private practise but the rider was that in return doctors should contributed 30 per cent of their earnings to the hospitals where they are posted for better facilities and infrastructure.

The Chief Minister has a busy schedule of engagements ahead. His time frame includes deliberations on the shortlisted nine-point charter for priority to the social and economic sectors to rejuvenate Punjab’s finances and economy.


Is Punjab’s Planning Dept dormant?
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 24
The failure of the Punjab’s Planning Department to put in place district development plans and initiate action on the State Development Report submitted to the Planning Commission more than six months ago may deprive it of deriving any initial advantage from the new Congress-led United Progressive Alliance Government at the Centre.

Though from Punjab, Dr Manmohan Singh is known to be thorough, meticulous and knowledgeable about systematic development process. As such, the planners expect that only those states which have done their homework well in planning would benefit from the new schemes of his government.

While many other states, including Kerala, Maharashtra and Karnataka, have been making public their development reports for a debate, no such thing has been done in Punjab so far. The State has not been responding to the Planning Commissions’ initiatives. The mobilisation of resources and improving the quality of governance are pre-requisites for adjusting to the changing scenario.

Because of its poor fiscal health, Punjab needs some revolutionary measures to revamp its economy and redefine development plans by focusing more on the development of infrastructure and human resources. The state has to rise to the changed economic scenario to avoid repetition of the Lok Sabha elections political fallout with 11 of 13 seats going to the Opposition. But with the Planning Department lying dormant, it appears to be an uphill task to stem the downfall of this once prosperous state.

So much so that the state has failed to benefit from many of the Planning Commission schemes which make the matching contribution up to 50 per cent of the total cost. Rather, the state had been criticising the previous NDA Government for its apathy towards Punjab.

Whosoever becomes the new Deputy Chairman and Member-Secretary of the Planning Commission, benefits will start flowing only to those states who have their Planning Departments ready with action plans on both State Development and Human Development reports.

In Punjab, senior functionaries of the Planning Department have mostly remained away from the state for one reason, including official duties, or the other. The Secretary of the Planning Department remained out of state for several weeks after being put on duty as an observer by the Election Commission.

Mr K.C. Pant had introduced the concept of asking states to get their State Development and Human Development reports done by independent agencies. The Human Development report of Punjab, prepared by an independent agency of New Delhi, is ready for submission to the commission.

In fact, the idea of getting the State and Human Development reports done by independent agencies was originally mooted by Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia when he was a member of the Planning Commission.

When the Punjab’s State Development report was being finalised, Dr Manmohan Singh had taken personal interest in it and interacted with those entrusted the responsibility of preparing it. He had visited Chandigarh more than once to make sure that the State Development report was participatory, reflected all important segments of the economy and the uniform growth of both farm and industrial sector was projected.

When the State Development Report was presented to the Planning Commission, Mr Pant had reportedly spent more than four hours on discussing its salient features which had focused on financial, human resource and infrastructure constraints of the state. The interest shown by the Deputy Chairman of the Commission notwithstanding, the files have been gathering dust in the Civil Secretariat here due to inactivity of the Planning Department.


Major administrative reshuffle soon, says Bir Devinder
Tribune News Service

Ropar, May 24
The Punjab Government should effect a major administrative reshuffle in the state. The total administrative failure was one of the major reasons for the defeat of the Congress in the recent Lok Sabha elections in Punjab. People-friendly officers should be deputed so that the schemes of the government reach the common people. The Punjab Government was considering the proposal of a major administrative reshuffle that could be effected within one month.

Mr Bir Devinder, Deputy Speaker, Punjab Vidhan Sabha, said this while talking to mediapersons here today. He was here to attend a meeting on fixation of rates in the land acquisition case of the Kharar area. The matter of fixation of rates has been pending for the past 10 years due to the apathy of certain officials, he alleged.

While responding to a query, Mr Bir Devinder said he was not comfortable on the post of Deputy Speaker. Initially, the Chief Minister had offered him the post for just two months. Having the constitutional post of the Deputy Speaker, he could not fulfil his duties for the party. The Congress was due to face byelections in three Assembly constituencies. “I want to campaign aggressively for the party in the byelections after quitting the post of Deputy Speaker,” he said.

When asked if he was aiming for the ministerial berth, he said he had no such intension. Expressing his support to the Chief Minister, he said he was with Capt Amarinder Singh and the matter of change of state leadership was beyond his purview to comment. He said though it was a matter of pride that Dr Manmohan Singh had become the Prime Minister of the country but the Sikhs should be humble.

On the allegations levelled by the trustees of the Institute of Engineering, Bhaddal, against him, Mr Bir Devinder said he never interfered in the working of the institution. He had just helped the college authorities with issuing grants for the infrastructure leading to the college.

About the allegations levelled against him by Mr Gora Kang, brother of Minister for Sports, Mr Jagmohan Kang, the Deputy Speaker said he respected the Kang family and did not want to say anything against it. He, however, added that nobody could level even a single charge of corruption against him.

Bir Devinder to meet Sonia

Fatehgarh Sahib, May 24
Senior Congress leader and Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Bir Devinder Singh today said he would soon meet All-India Congress Committee president Sonia Gandhi to request her to relieve him from the Deputy Speaker’s post. 

Speaking to mediapersons at Bir Bhamrasi village after attending the bhog ceremony of father of senior Congress leader Maluk Singh, Mr Bir Devinder Singh said by working on his present post he could not justify the sentiments of Congress workers. — UNI


Silt delta in Gobind Sagar lake
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Ropar, May 24
A huge silt delta has been discovered in the Gobind Sagar lake, 12 km from the Bhakra dam. The delta that was noticed due to low water level this year may affect the life of the dam.

The delta is spread in the lake over an area of about three square km. It looked like a desert in midst of the lake.

When this correspondent visited the site with the help of fishermen the water was flowing just as a stream at the corner of the lake eroding the silt of the delta towards Bhakra.

Local boatmen said that they had to suspend their trips to Bilaspur and other areas due to the delta in summer. In some parts people cross the lake on foot in summer. The delta was spreading every year towards the dam, they said.

The delta is reducing the water storage capacity of the Bhakra dam that ushered in Green Revolution in North India. The dam was inaugurated in 1964 with a huge water storage capacity to meet the irrigation requirements of the plains of North India.

Earlier it was estimated that the silt delta was about 18 km from the dam structure. It was seen deposited near Ghalua and Challela villages, 19 km from the Bhakra dam. Now it has been discovered just at a distance of 12 km from the dam structure.

According to the official estimates of the BBMB, the delta is moving at a speed of about 400 to 500 feet per annum towards the dam structure. Its height ranged from 100 to 150 feet.

However, experts, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, feel that due to the continued deforestation in the catchment areas of the dam and increased inflow of silt, the delta is moving at a speed about 1,100 feet per annum towards the dam. Once the delta reaches the dam structure, its storage and generation capacities would almost be finished under the present technological conditions.

Besides the deforestation, sources also blame the former BBMB authorities for deposition of silt delta in the storage area of the dam structure. They opine that the former BBMB authorities had been heading up water in the dam even beyond the prescribed limits that led to the formation of the delta. At times water stored in the dam up to 1688-foot level against the maximum recommended level of 1680 feet.

Now that the delta has been formed the heading up of water has become a compulsion for the BBMB. If the water level goes down, as it went this year, the delta would get dragged towards the dam structure.

The recent deposition of the muck along the Sutlej basin by the NTPC authorities that were undertaking the construction of the Kol dam has further raised the silt concern of the BBMB. The authorities in the BBMB, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the loose muck deposited along the Sutlej would flow into Gobind Sagar in the coming monsoon and increase the siltation problem of the Bhakra dam.

The BBMB authorities have, however, prepared a report regarding the impact of the recent silt deposition along the Sutlej on the Bhakra dam.


Vice-Chairman, official of Rayat college held
Tribune News Service

Ropar, May 24
The police today arrested the Vice-Chairman, Mr Gurinderjit Singh and the Administrative officer, Mr Jasbir Singh, of Rayat Engineering College. Both have been arrested for trying to forcibly stop the SHO, Ropar city, from discharging his duty.

The police sources here told a tiff between the SHO and the authorities of the college started this afternoon. The ASI picked up a student, Harman Dingra, who was wanted in an attempt to murder case from the college campus. The student had come to the college to appear in the sixth semester examinations.

Since the student was picked up without the information of the college authorities it caused ruckus in the institution. The Vice-Chairman and the Administrative Officer of institution followed the police Gypsy in which the student was being taken to police station.

They allegedly stopped the police Gypsy near Ambedkar Bhavan in Ropar.

They tried to rescue their student from the police custody on the plea that the Ropar police cannot pick up him without their permission. The college was situated in Nawanshahr district and the police had no jurisdiction in the area, they maintain.

The SHO city also reached the spot. Heated arguments were exchanged between the college authorities and the police officials over the release of arrested students.

Peeved police officials then arrested the Vice-Chairman and the Administrative Officer of the college. A case under Sections 353, 225, 511, 186, 341 and 34 of the IPC was registered against the arrested officials and the Sonata car (PB-65-V-9204) in which they were travelling was also impounded.

Till the filing of this report, the Vice-Chairman and Administrative Officer of the college were still in police custody. However, the sources said they would be released on surety given by important persons.


Akalis to seek apology for Bluestar
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, May 24
SAD MP and former Punjab Assembly Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal today declared that all eight Akali MPs would raise issues related to Punjab and the Panth in Parliament and press for an apology for Operation Bluestar in the House.

Talking to newspersons at Gurdwara Akalian here, Mr Atwal said Dr Manmohan Singh was an intelligent person, but asserted he had been made Prime Minister, under compulsion.

When asked if AICC President Sonia Gandhi had deprived Akalis of anti-Congress issues by elevating a Sikh to the high office, Mr Atwal disagreed and declared the Congress continued to be “enemy No. 1” of Punjab, especially Sikhs.

Mr Atwal said the Congress had not yet tendered an apology in Parliament for Operation Bluestar, not transferred Chandigarh, left-out Punjabi-speaking areas and the control of water headworks to Punjab. We would raise all these issues in the Lok Sabha.

The Congress had also revived the memory of the 1984 riots by first allotting the party ticket to Mr Jagdish Tytler and Mr Sajjan Kumar and then giving a ministerial berth to Mr Tytler, he said. That was why the SAD had decided in its two-day Chail meeting, which concluded yesterday, to boycott Mr Tytler in Parliament.


Sweets distributed as Manmohan Singh takes over
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, May 24
The celebrations over Dr Manmohan Singh becoming the Prime Minister of India continued even yesterday. Office-bearers of the Sarab Sangat Gurdwara, Congress councillors, trustees and rural area Sikhs led by Mr Harjit Singh Parmar, Chairman, Improvement Trust, Phagwara, yesterday celebrated the assumption of the office of the Prime Minister by Dr Manmohan Singh. Ladoos were distributed outside the old Paradise cinema near the GT road.

Mr Inder Duggal, trustee, Mr Hardip Singh Bhamra, Mr Ramesh Jordan, Ms Anita Kaura, councillors-cum-Trustees, Mrs Sita Devi, Mr Padam Dev Sudhir Nikka, councillors, Mr Manmohan Sharma, block Congress president, and Mr Ram Kumar Chaddha, block Congress general secretary, were among those who addressed the function.

Earlier, Congress activists led by Punjab Social Welfare Minister Joginder Singh Mann and Mr Sulakhan Singh Johal held different celebrations and distributed ladoos.

A meeting of the Northern India Exporters Federation also welcomed Dr Manmohan Singh’s becoming the Prime Minister.


New PM urged to look into Majha’s problems
Tribune News Service

SAS Nagar, May 24
Retired officers of the defence forces, NRIs, doctors, lawyers and other prominent persons belonging to the border district united under the umbrella of the Majha Club have expressed the hope that the new Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, will pay special attention to the problems of farmers, particularly those belonging to the border districts.

Welcoming the elevation of Dr Manmohan Singh, who also hails from Amritsar, they said at a meeting here that the Majha area had remained neglected ever since the death of former Chief Minister Pratap Singh Kairon.

Hoping that the new government at the Centre would waive the remaining part of the Punjab loan, they said Punjab in general and the Majha area in particular, needed a special package for gearing up the pace of development.

In a statement signed, among others, by Dr S.S. Chhina, Mr J.P.S. Dhillon, Dr H.S. Sandhu and Mr C.S. Randhawa, they appreciated the gesture of Congress President Sonia Gandhi in selecting an economist of international repute like Dr Manmohan Singh for the post of Prime Minister. Although Dr Manmohan Singh’s selection as PM was not because of his being a Sikh, the Congress President’s decision has been widely hailed by the Sikh community, both within and outside the country.

The water problem in the area, they added, had become very serious. Villages along the tail-end of canals were not getting water for irrigation. The underground water level had also fallen significantly. Despite loud talks of diversification of agriculture and pleadings to farmers not to grow paddy, its sowing was in full swing.

Alma mater remembers Manmohan
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, May 24
Sharing his memories, Dr S. N. Bhardwaj, a former teacher of the local Government College, from where Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister, did his MA in economics and later taught for two years, said he was an extraordinary student and a cheerful person ever ready to help his colleagues and poor students.

Dr Bhardwaj was speaking at a function organised at the college in connection with Dr Manmohan Singh’s taking over as Prime Minister.


Non-release of grants irks NGOs
Pawan Kumar

Amritsar, May 24
Grants-in-aid under the Central National Child Labour Project has not been released for last one year. Under this project the child labourers are given free primary education for three years. There is resentment among non-government organisations (NGO) running special schools in the district under the project. They had to spend from their own funds for providing education to the children.

The organisations have threatened to hold a protest dharna in front of the Deputy Commissioner’s office. The Deputy Commissioner is the Chairman of the Child Labour project while the Assistant Labour Commissioner is the project officer.

Launched in 2001, the project is being run in three districts of the state, including Jalandhar and Ludhiana. There are 120 schools in Punjab, 40 in each district. At least 50 students are reportedly studying in each school. At present six central trade unions are also running schools under the project. The children, who do labour for making their both ends meet were provided education, books, school bags and one-time refreshment. It costs about Rs 2 lakh annually for each school. Under this project, two teachers, one vocational teacher, and one peon is provided in each school. Each student is provided Rs 100 a month as scholarship.

Mr Amarjit Asal, Secretary, Textile Mazdoor Ekta Union, which is running three schools and Mr Baldev Raj of Sanja Manch, said the DC was not releasing the grant due to reasons bests known to him.

When contacted Mr Raminder Singh, DC admitted that he had stopped the release of grants. He said he got complaints of embezzlement of funds and the progress of certain schools were also not up to mark. He claimed in certain schools only five to six children were getting education. He said after serious complaints, he had marked an inquiry under an SDM and grants would be released after getting the inquiry reports.

However, Mr Asal said most of the schools had over 60 per cent result. He said the organisations were giving refreshments to children from their own pockets while salaries to teachers and other staff had not been disbursed.

NGO to promote Punjabiat
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, May 24
Punj Panian Di Virasat, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), has decided to launch a series of programmes in the state to inculcate the spirit of Punjabiat among the youth by apprising them of the rich culture and heritage of Punjab.

Expressing concern over the state of the youth in Punjab, a large section of which was virtually not aware about its traditions and culture, the Commissioner, Jalandhar Division, and president of the NGO, Dr Swaran Singh, while presiding over an executive meeting here, said a comprehensive plan to promote the cause of Punjabiat had been outlined.

“It has been decided to set up a cultural centre near Jalandhar, where, we will replicate a traditional Punjabi village to give first-hand information to visitors, particularly children of NRIs, about the living style of villagers and the rituals and traditions they follow. Besides, the centre will promote Punjabi music and poetry. The funds for the entire project will be collected by way of donations,” Dr Singh said.

He informed the meeting that overseas units of the organisation had been constituted in Canada, the USA, the UK, Hongkong, the UAE, New Zealand and Germany. “We will provide support material regarding Punjabiat to the overseas units through V-sat, videoconferencing and the Internet.

Mr Karampal Singh Dhillon, convener of the youth wing, said in the first phase, it had been planned to enrol 10,000 members from all parts of the country, who would act as emissaries to impart knowledge about Punjabi poets, celebrities, sportspersons, bureaucrats and gurus through a series of programmes. He said the NGO had launched its website www.punjabvirasat.com.


World Punjabi Conference from May 28

Chandigarh, May 24
A large number of delegates from India and Pakistan are expected to attend a three-day World Punjabi Congress to be held here from May 28.

Announcing this here today, Mr Avtar Singh Paul and Dr Deepak Manmohan Singh, co-coordinators of the Congress, said that in the past conferences, the Congress had focussed on the cultural traditions of Punjab, East as well as West, Punjabi and Punjabiat in the firm belief that these must form the bedrock of Indo-Pak friendship.

This conference aimed at broadening its thematic scope by bringing together not ony artists, writers and media but also academics, businessmen, entrepreneurs, scientists and social activists from the East and West Punjab to systematically explore avenues of friendship, cooperation and affinity between the people of India and Pakistan. — TNS 


Meeting on Golden Temple environs held
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 24
Ahead of a visit by a UNESCO team to study the environs and other features of the Golden Temple, a preliminary meeting of Intach , the administration and the municipal corporation here today took stock of the surroundings of the shrine for the proposed status of a world heritage site .

Mr Tushar Chakravarty of Intach, Ms Gurmeet Rai, Director, CRCI (Cultural Resources, Conservation Initiative), the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Raminder Singh, and the Commissioner of the corporation, Mr K.S. Kang, discussed topics relating to parking space around the shrine, traffic management, conservation of heritage buildings and changes in building bylaws in walled city areas.

A high-level meeting regulating the visit will be held on May 26 in Chandigarh, which will be attended by the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and the Intach Chairman, Mr S.K. Mishra.


Medicos gherao minister, block traffic
Chander Parkash and Romesh Gupta

Faridkot, May 24
Students of the local Guru Gobind Singh Medical College (GGSMC) today gheraoed the Minister of Medical Education and Research, Mr Santokh Singh, to lodge their protest against the intrusion of an unidentified person in the girls’ hostel on Friday night and injuring a student with a knife.

The students also staged a dharna and blocked traffic for several hours in front of the city police station, forced the closure of the out-patient department of the GGSMC hospital and raised slogans against the authorities for their failure to nab the attacker.

The students lifted the gherao only after Mr Santokh Singh gave them an assurance that the matter would be probed by the Additional Deputy Commissioner, Mr Darshan Singh. He said the inquiry report would be received within a week and responsibility would be fixed for the lapse in security at the hostel. He also promised the attacker would be arrested within two days.

Talking to The Tribune, the minister, who was accompanied by civil and police officials, said students had pointed out to him that the college authorities had been threatening them to stop the agitation, else they would face “serious consequences.” He said he had assured the students that the authorities would take no such action. Work on raising a wall around the hostel would start today itself, he added.

On Friday night, a student was attacked in her hostel room with a knife by an unidentified intruder. In trying to save herself, her hands were injured.


Bathinda district in grip of gastroenteritis
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 24
Even as the district health authorities have been taking measures to check the spread of jaundice and gastroenteritis hundreds of patients suffering from these diseases have been reporting daily in various private and government hospitals.

According to a survey carried out by The Tribune, most of the patients prefer private hospitals over government hospitals and dispensaries.

Apart from an increase in hepatitis-A and gastroenteritis patients over the past one week, the number of hepatitis-B cases has also been rising.

According to private medical practitioners, in summers the number of patients suffering from these diseases always goes up, but it is unusually high this year.

Dr Mohan Lal Garg, who runs a private hospital, says that for the past one week, all beds in his hospital have been occupied.

Another private practitioner, Dr Surjeet Singh Kalra, says on an average every day his hospital has been receiving six patients suffering from hepatitis-A.

However, medical practitioners point out that the diseases have not acquired an epidemic proportions. They say an intensive health education programme should be launched and a blanket ban should be imposed on the sale of cut and over-ripe fruit and vegetables and uncertified soft drinks, ice candies and ice creams.

Though no data on the patients suffering from hepatitis-A and Hepatitis-B is available from the district health authorities, Civil Hospital sources said today six gastroenteritis patients had been admitted to the hospital while 13 had reported at the OPDs in various hospitals and dispensaries in the district.

Dr A. S. Sekhon, District Health Officer, said out of 50 samples of water taken from various pockets, 21 had failed. He said about 40 slum areas had been identified in this area, where health education was being given. Chlorine tablets were also being distributed among the residents of these areas.

Dr S. K. Goyal, Civil Surgeon, claimed the hepatitis-A and hepatitis-B cases were sporadic and the situation was under control.

Gastroenteritis deaths to be probed
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, May 24
In view of the five deaths in a week due to suspected gastroenteritis in the areas of Bhargao camp, Ekta Nagar and the Chapali chowk areas of the city, the Deputy Commissioner today ordered on inquiry into the causes of the deaths and announced Rs 50,000 as ex-gratia grant to the families of deceased out of Red Cross funds.

The Deputy Commissioner, Mr A.K. Gupta, along with the Additional Deputy Commissioner, the Civil Surgeon, the Additional Commissioner today visited the affected areas. Last week five persons identified — Chanda (10), Rakesh (17), Rahul (9), Dhan Devi (70) and Kamla (40) — were killed due to suspected gastroenteritis.


Children hit by gastroenteritis discharged
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, May 24
Gastro-enterities-affected children admitted in various hospitals were discharged as their condition improved today. The children of the Baba Peer colony in Sirhind, after consuming ‘kulfi’ yesterday, started vomiting and complained of loose motion.

Meanwhile, a team of the Health Department, led by Dr K.C. Goyal, District Health Officer, and Dr K.P.S. Sandhu, a child specialist, visited the colony and other slum areas today. The team reported that the same vendor was selling kulfi in the area. The team also took samples of ‘kulfi’ and of potable water. 

The team told The Tribune that living conditions in the colony were unhygienic, the drainage system was chocked with stagnant water and sewerage overflowing in streets. They said they had written to the Deputy Commissioner to direct the municipal council to make arrangements for the proper disposal of stagnant water as well launch cleanliness campaign.

They said no fresh case of gastro-enteritis was reported in the colony. The District Health Department had also launched a campaign to educate people as well as to destroy substandard eatables. 

The team today destroyed under-ripe, over-ripe and uncovered fruits and vegetables and sweets to prevent spread of water-borne diseases. The department urged the residents to report such cases on phone numbers 232135 and 9814135654.

Mr S.K. Ahluwalia, Deputy Commissioner, held a meeting of the District Health Department and municipal council officials. He directed both departments to launch a campaign to control water-borne diseases.


Tributes paid to Jassa Singh

Moga, May 24
Tributes were paid to Jassa Singh Ramgarhia, a great Sikh general and founder of the Ramgarhia misl, on his 280th birth anniversary at a special congregation here yesterday. Bhog of a path of Guru Granth Sahib and langar were organised.

Members of the Ramgarhia community, on this occasion, thanked Congress President Sonia Gandhi for making Dr Manmohan Singh Prime Minister. They urged the SGPC to include the birth anniversary of Jassa Singh as holiday in the Nanakshahi calendar. — UNI


Protest against killings
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 24
Activists of the All-India Anti-terrorist Front today demonstrated in front of Qila Gobindgarh to register their protest against killing of 33 persons, including BSF personnel and their family members in Jammu.

Decrying Pakistan for not stopping its terrorist activities senior vice-president of the front Mohinder Singh Sidhu condemned the killings as one of the most brutal face of terrorism of Pakistan-based terrorists.

He appealed to the new Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, not to adopt a soft approach towards Pakistan but give a befitting reply.


Association seeks Net telecentre
Our Correspondent

Abohar, May 24
The Railway Passengers Welfare Association in a letter faxed to the new Railway Minister sought an internet telecentre at the local railway station, the Survey for which had been conducted six months back. 

The station receives six mails and an equal number of passenger trains daily. Despite occasional monitoring the Udyan Abha Toofan Mail and Hardwar Intercity train run late by several hours and no message in this regard is available at the railway enquiry office here. This causes inconvenience to passengers. So internet connectivity was essential for this commercially and strategically important railway station here, the letter said.


Convene meeting, BKU urges govt

Chandigarh, May 24
The Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta) has urged the Punjab Government to take decisions on various long-standing demands of farmers by convening a meeting by the end of this month.

Speaking at a conference held at Minia village, near Moga, yesterday, BKU leaders also gave a call to farmers to prepare themselves for a long drawn battle as the new United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre may target the subsidies and revamp the existing foodgrains procurement system.

Addressing the rally, Mr Joginder Singh Ugrahan and Mr Kanwalpreet Singh Pannu, both leaders of the BKU (Ekta), said one-time amnesty on areas of power bills, reduction in fees of motors from Rs 4200 to Rs 3000 per horse power, payment of arears of sugarcane, are among the major demands which should be discussed at the meeting.

Other major demands of farmers, including free supply of power, 50 per cent subsidy on the supply of canal water as well as diesel, payment of bonus on paddy and waiving of all types of loans of farmers and farm workers and reduction in the interest rate to 4 per cent. — TNS


Civic staff hold protest
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, May 24
Employees and safai workers of the Sunam Municipal Council, who are on a strike, took out a protest march, through the town today at Sunam. 

The employees are demanding the registration of a case against those persons who had allegedly removed the inauguration plate unveiled by Ms Gita Sharma, president of the Sunam Municipal Council, on May 20 to mark the inauguration of a tubewell in Ward No. 1. They are also demanding immediate arrest of the suspects. The inauguration plate was found missing on May 21 from the tubewell site.

The employees alleged that the police had not taken any action against the persons, mentioned by Ms Gita Sharma in her complaint.


Asstt lineman electrocuted, dies
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, May 24
An assistant lineman of the Punjab State Electricity Board, Ram Chand, got electrocuted today on the Karrial road, Dirba, when he was repairing an electricity cable there. 

He died on the spot.


14-day judicial remand for MC Executive Officer

Kharar, May 24
A local court today remanded Hoshiarpur Municipal Council Executive Officer Gurvinder Goindi Randhawa to 14-day judicial remand in a case of corruption registered against her by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau at Mohali on May 21. Duty Magistrate Ranjan Khullar ordered to produce the accused before Special Court in Ropar on next date.

Ms Randhawa was produced before the court here this afternoon after the expiry of her two-day extended police remand. On May 22 evening, a local court had extended her police remand till today after the expiry of her one-day police remand granted on May 21 late night. She was arrested by the Vigilance bureau from Hoshiarpur MC office for allegedly accepting Rs 5,700 as “bribe”.

The prosecution today again sought a four-day extension in police remand for the accused on the grounds of further interrogation and investigation. It was submitted that details about the movable and immovable assets besides bank accounts of the accused were yet to ascertained.

Prosecution informed the court that some construction contractors working with Hoshiarpur Municipal Council had approached Ms Randhawa regarding their outstanding bills amounting to over Rs 1 lakh. Ms Randhawa allegedly told the contractors that until and unless they paid her 5 per cent commission of the total bill amount, she would not clear the bills, submitted the prosecution, while revealing that the deal was clinched at Rs 5,700 and no sooner the contractors handed over the money to Ms Randhawa, the Vigilance Bureau sleuths, who on prior information were standing outside the MC office, swooped on her, catching her “red-handed” in the presence of two official witnesses.

A case under Section 13 (2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act has been registered against Ms Randhawa on the statement of a contractor Narinder Kumar of Hoshiarpur. — UNI


Provide more Benches for consumer disputes, state told
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, May 24
Keeping in view the rush of consumer complaints, the National Consumers’ Dispute Commission of India has recently instructed the Punjab Government to provide three more Benches to the State Consumers’ Dispute Commission to speed up the disposal work. This was disclosed by Mr Justice H.S. Brar, president of the state commission, while talking to mediapersons here today.

He said the state commission had sent a proposal to the Punjab Government in this connection earlier, but it had rejected the same. He said as many as 14,092 cases had been instituted by the state commission since its inception in 1992, out of which 10,487 had been settled till date and 3,605 cases were still pending. Similarly, 78,044 cases had been instituted by 17 district consumer disputes redressal forums of the state, out of which 71,575 had been settled and 6,519 cases were still pending in these forums.

Justice Brar said five posts of President of the district consumer disputes redressal forums were lying vacant in Punjab since long. The state commission had already selected four presidents and sent the case to the Punjab Government for its final approval about five months ago. But it had not given the approval so far.

He said the state commission was strictly watching the working of all members and presidents of the district consumer disputes redressal forums to ensure their impartial attitude towards the cases.

Replying to a question, he said work from one of the member of the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum Amritsar, who was a retired Chief Engineer, had been withdrawn due to his partial attitude.

Mr Joga Singh, president of the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Hoshiarpur, who was accompanying Justice Brar, said 3624 cases had been instituted by the forum since its inception, out of which 3,180 cases had been disposed of, and 444 cases were still pending. Dr S.K. Narad and Ms Manjit Walia, both members of the forum, were also present.

Earlier, Justice Brar inspected the court of the local forum and reviewed its working and pending cases.


PSEB promises 8-hr supply to farms
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 24
After a meeting with representatives of various factions of the Bharti Kisan Union here today, the Punjab State Electricity Board authorities assured uninterrupted power supply for eight hours daily to the farming sector during the paddy season.

The Chairman of the board, Mr Y.S. Ratra, presided over the meeting in which representatives of all leading unions were present.

Though agriculture experts say that the eight-hour power supply should start from June 10, the PSEB authorities may start it from June 5, as farmer unions have demanded.

In fact, there was difference of opinion among union leaders over the date. While the PSEB was for June 10, farmer leaders proposed different dates.

In support of its contention the supply should start from June 10, the PSEB authorities took the help of experts from Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, who were invited to the meeting.

The experts tried to educate the leaders that evaporation of water was the maximum during May, up to 35 per cent. However, the evaporation started decreasing in the first week of June and came to 10 or 12 per cent by the last week. The experts advised farmers that the best period to transplant paddy was the second week of June. It should not be done before June 10 in any case, as it was not in the interest of the farmers.

Giving reasons against early transplantation the experts said huge amounts of water were required to nurse paddy during May. It lead to excessive withdrawal of sub-soil water through tubewells, affecting the water table. Moreover, tubewell operations put extra burden on the power transmission system.

Though the farmer leaders were convinced with the reasoning, they insisted that the fixed-hour power supply should start much earlier.

Meanwhile, Mr Ratra has asked all top officers of the board to start visiting various parts of the state from the first week of June to fix the transmission system to ensure uninterrupted power supply. He has told the officers to hold meetings with panchayat leaders.

He appealed to the farmers to help the board check the misuse of power.

At the meeting, the farmer leaders also demanded compensation for farmers whose crops were burnt because of short-circuits in transmission lines. They also sought reduction in the charges for increasing the power load.


Govt orders probe into DIG case
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, May 24
Even as the district police authorities are tight-lipped about the action being taken by them in connection with a criminal case registered against the DIG, Ferozepore Range, Mr Hardish Singh Randhawa last evening for his alleged involvement in embezzlement of money, sources said that the Punjab Government had ordered an inquiry into this case.

Information gathered by TNS revealed that the IG (Border Range) had been asked to conduct the inquiry. The inquiry into this case had been ordered after Mr Randhawa met the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh and the DGP, Punjab Police, Mr A. A. Siddiqi, at Jalandhar today.

Yesterday a criminal case was registered in the city police station against Mr Randhawa and two other junior police officials on the direction of the then SSP, Mr Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh under Sections 409, 342 and 344 of the IPC. The case was registered against these three police officials when it was established in the inquiry conducted by the DSP, Mr Balwinder Singh, that these officials were involved in keeping an accused in illegal confinement for more than one month and also embezzling the money worth Rs 94,000 which was recovered from that accused.

The inquiry report of Mr Balwinder Singh was converted into the FIR on the directions of Mr Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh, who was shifted out from here yesterday only. The matter pertaining to the embezzlement of money recovered from the accused Ramesh Kumar Laddi came to light when a surprise checking of the city police station was conducted on April 29.

Mr Randhawa, when contacted on his mobile phone, said he had explained his position to the Chief Minister and the DGP at Jalandhar today. He said he did not want to make any comment whether the case registered against him was a right or wrong action. He first said an inquiry would be conducted by the IG (Border Range) but later pointed out that it was upto Punjab Government to take decision to whom the inquiry should be entrusted.


Ex-councillor among eight booked
Our Correspondent

Abohar, May 24
Eight persons, including a former Congress member of the municipal council, were today booked for allegedly detaining and torturing the lessee and a manager of a local marriage palace.

Mr Gurdev Singh Brar claimed that he was a lessee of a marriage palace located on the college road here . There was a plan to renovate the palace and earth filling was needed.

They reportedly contacted a “partner” of an octroi contractor firm for lumpsum payment of the octroi duty instead of paying Rs 35 per tractor-trailer as per rules. According to them on Friday another “partner” of the firm reportedly objected to this practice.

Mr Ramesh Kumar Soni, the manager of the marriage place, was allegedly summoned to the office of the contractors. Later Mr Brar also went there and both of them were allegedly beaten by some persons, including a former municipal councillor.

The city police recorded Mr Soni’s statement and booked Surender Singh, Sarabjit Singh, Pawan Kumar, Balwinder Singh, Vinod Kumar, Ashok Kumar, Manjit Singh all “employees” of the octroi collection firm and a former councillor Surender Vij under Section 365, 342, 323, 506, 148 and 149 of the IPC. It was not however, immediately known whether all these persons were really connected with the contractor’s firm, sources said.


18 hurt as buses collide
Our Correspondent

Abohar, May 24
Eighteen persons, including six women, were injured when a Punjab Roadways bus collided head-on with a private bus on the Abohar-Sriganganagar road yesterday. The roadways bus was badly damaged and its glasspanes had to be broken to rescue injured passengers. All 18 passengers were shifted to the district hospital, Sriganganagar. Others were discharged after first-aid.

Those admitted to the emergency ward, included Sita Ram, his wife Bimla Devi and daughter Rajni of Choohriwala village near here, Hakam Singh son of Kartar Singh of Kikkarkhera village, Ram Chand and Som Nath residents of Balluana village, Sohan Singh son of Darshan Singh of 7 SGM village, Bal Raj Singh son of Didar Singh and Mota Singh son of Darshan Singh of Beenjhawala, Basant Kaur wife of Mukand Singh of Fazilka, Mr Tara Devi wife of Babu Ram of Moga, Sarla Devi wife of Tara Chand, Sriganganagar, Satwinder Singh driver of Ludhiana, Ankush son of Sanjay Sihag, Raajanwali, Rameshwer son of Harbhagwan Khajuwala, Bhagirath and his wife Banarasi of Sabuana, Darshan Singh son of Piara Singh and Kartar son of Khanu Ram residents of Fardisar village. Driver Satwinder Singh, Basant Kaur, Sohan Singh and Sarla Devi were in a serious condition, doctors said. A case has been registered.


Mediation proves fatal
Our Correspondent

Abohar, May 24
A person who allegedly attempted to kill his father killed the man who tried to rescue the father yesterday. According to the information, Sushil Kumar of a village near Sriganganagar bordering Abohar told the police that Subhash Chander came in a Tata Specio vehicle along with uncle Sohan Lal and maternal-Uncle Pappu Ram and had heated exchange with father Prithvi Raj. 

The three entered into an argument with Prithvi Raj outside his residence. Sushil Kumar alleged that Subhash chased them in his vehicle after leaving with the uncles in another street. The vehicle reportedly hit Prithvi Raj, Sushil and Ram Chand. Sushil was thrown at a distance but the other two were injured.

Meanwhile, the uncles allegedly appeared and attacked Ram Chand and Prithvi Raj with lathis and sharp-edged weapons killing Ram Chand on the spot. They escaped after the incident. The condition of Prithvi Raj was described as serious. The police arrested Subhash Chander this morning, reports received here said. 


Three robbers arrested
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, May 24
The Moonak police has arrested two alleged robbers Ajay Singh, alias Kala, resident of Ratia village in Haryana, and Vinod, alias Lala resident of Chhapra district in Bihar, during a naka laid on the Chotian-Bareta road, near Chotian village. Two motor cycles, one .303 bore pistol, three live cartridges and two television sets were recovered from their possession. The police has registered a case under Sections 307, 353 and 34 of the IPC and Section 25 of the Arms Act at Moonak police station against Ajay Singh, Vinod and Paramjit Singh, who fled away from the scene under cover of darkness.

The SSP giving this information here today said a police party under the supervision of Mr Baljit Singh, SHO Moonak, had laid a naka on the Chotian-Bareta road on Saturday when it saw three youth coming from Bareta side on a motor cycle and signalled to stop them. But they fled away by throwing the motor cycle on the ground. When the police party chased them one of them opened fire on the police party. The police succeeded in nabbing two youths while the third Paramjit Singh of Jojepur village, managed to flee.


Nigerian arrested

Amritsar, May 24
Oliver Goddi Ugoc Hukwv (35), a Nigerian national, was arrested at the Attari railway station while boarding the Samjhauta Express for over-writing in his visa.

He has been booked under the Passports Act. Oliver said his passport had no fault and he had come to India after visiting several countries. He revealed that an agent in Delhi had issued him a visa for $ 140. — OC


Youth commits suicide in Kharar
Our Correspondent

Kharar, May 24
A youth allegedly committed suicide here today after a quarrel with his mother.
It is reported that Ram Chander (22), a resident of Balmiki Basti, consumed some poisonous substance in the evening.

Ram Chander, who works as a safai sevak with the Municipal Council, went to see a relative admitted to a private hospital near Mohali. He is reported to have had a quarrel with his mother who was attending on the sick relative.

He returned home here later and committed suicide. He was take to a nursing home here from where he was referred to the PGI, Chandigarh.

The police is investigating.


Children have fun at workshops
Our Correspondent

Patiala, May 24
Holidays are fun through workshops, hobby classes and camps parting from classes but not parting from learning. This was the expression of many children who attended such programmes at DAV Public School here today. 

The venue echoed with chanting of vedic mantras as a yajna was performed by students and teachers. Around 50 students are participating in this ‘charittar nirman camp’. They are under the care of 10 school teachers. A teacher of the school, Mr Bijender Shashtri, is the in-charge of the camp.

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