P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Furore in Vidhan Sabha over TV coverage
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 19
SAD-BJP members raised slogans against the Speaker, Dr Kewal Krishan, in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, accusing him of denying an “equal opportunity” to the Opposition, and walked out in protest.

The trouble arose in the Zero Hour, when Mr Parkash Singh Badal stood up seeking TV coverage of his speech on Governor’s Address, as the speech of the Leader of the House, Capt Amarinder Singh, had been covered on the TV when he replied to the discussion on Governor’ Address.

Dr Kewal Krishan maintained that SAD-BJP government had set the conventions and practices, and the same were being followed. There were protests from Opposition benches maintaining that TV coverage was only for the presentation of Budget and not for reply to Governor’s Address by the Leader of the House. Thereafter, Dr Kewal Krishan suggested: “Let the matter be referred to the general purpose committee of the House to decide”. The Opposition, however, said since he was the custodian of the House he should take a “judicious decision” rather than letting the House decide. At this Capt Kanwaljit Singh remarked: “Denying equal opportunities to members was like depriving them of their democratic and constitutional rights”.

Since the matter remained unresolved, SAD-BJP members raised slogans against the Speaker and walked out in protest. To this the Speaker said: “Let slogans go on record. Let people know what their representatives do inside the House”.

This led to a cross talk between the treasury and Opposition members with the Speaker maintaining that the House alone could decide on the issue. “I am servant not master of the House”. Treasury benches said the SAD-BJP government, which too had had TV coverage during its tenure, had then denied “equal opportunity” to the Leader of the Opposition (Congress).

Among those who joined the debate on the issue were Capt Amarinder Singh, Mr Manpreet Singh Badal, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, Mr Avtar Henry, Mr Lal Singh, Mr Khushal Behal and Mr Tikshan Sud.

As the debate hot up, Mr Partap Singh Bajwa, said the House should adopt a resolution condemning the action of SAD-BJP members. The Speaker said he could consider the suggestion, if a resolution was sent to him.

Thereafter, the Deputy Speaker, Mr Bir Devinder Singh, took the chair. He succeeded in defusing the situation and appealed the Leader of the House and Leader of the Opposition to show “wisdom and magnanimity in guiding the House”. But Mr Badal neither “apologised”, as demanded by Capt Amarinder Singh, nor expressed “regret”, as desired by Mr Bir Devinder Singh.

Thereafter, Mr Bir Devinder Singh, quoting Rule 102, said: “Now, the situation is that the House is to be guided by the mature wisdom of the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition. Let’s see expression of the latter. Then I would have no choice but to put the resolution to vote.”

After some interruptions from the members, he finally ruled: “Whether it is the treasury benches or the Opposition benches, abuses and slogans have been shouted against the chair, I expect some expression of regret.... I personally feel that the Speaker is very hurt and he is at pain, when slogans were shouted against the chair. This is uncalled for. The slogans raised against the chair were most objectionable, unbecoming and painful.... The Speaker had decided not to suspend the members from today’s sitting.... However, the slogans raised by the SAD and the BJP had caused some damage to the sanctity, discipline and decorum of the House and this act is highly condemnable.”

At this point, Capt Amarinder Singh stood up saying: “Their conduct is condemnable but pardon them.”

Shortly before the House adopted a vote of thanks on the motion on Governor’s Address, the Speaker, Dr Kewal Krishan, who was back in the chair, read out the “amended” resolution and concluded, “...in view of the fact that the act of the members of SAD-BJP has definitely caused damage to the sanctity, discipline and decorum of the House, the act is highly condemned.... They are advised not to indulge in such acts in future, so as to ensure decorum and discipline in the House and to maintain its sanctity.”

Thereafter, Mr Badal delivered his one-hour speech on Governor’s Address. When Capt Amarinder Singh rose to speak on the motion of thanks to the Governor for his March 15 address, several TV cameramen trooped into the House. SAD-BJP members sprang from their seats and walked out of the House for the second time in the day. Dr Kewal Krishan and Capt Amarinder Singh urged the agitated members to stay on but to no avail. The Chief Minister finally remarked: “Hurry up, clear out, so that we can proceed.”


Question Hour
No free power to farmers: CM
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 19
The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh today told the Punjab Vidhan Sabha that there was no proposal to give free power to the farmers for agricultural purposes.

This reply was given in response to a question by Mr Manpreet Singh Badal.

At the same time, the Deputy Chief Minister, Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, informed another member, Mr Randeep Singh, about the ‘’successes and failures’’ of the diversification and contract farming schemes introduced by the government in 2002-03.

This question consumed lot of time of the House with members putting several supplementary questions and making suggestions like framing of a proper law to govern the contract farming concept and protect rights of the sellers, the farmers. She was also asked about the losses suffered by those farmers who sold basmati on their own and not under any contract system and later found to their dismay that they were fetching a low price.

To all such questions, Ms Bhattal replied that the scheme was being periodically reviewed and all contracts would be honoured and suggestions made by members kept in view in the interest of the farmers.

Capt Amarinder Singh intervened to say that the S.S. Johl Committee report on crop adjustment scheme was now due for discussion with the Planning Commission. The Union Minister for Agriculture, Mr Sharad Pawar, was impressed by that.


The Chief Minister laid on the table of the House a detailed statement on the corruption cases registered against 10 former Akali ministers, including Mr Parkash Singh Badal, in response to question by Mr Jugal Kishore Sharma.


The Food and Supplies Minister, Mr Avtar Henry, told Mr Tarlochan Singh and Mr Sadhu Singh that the government would disburse the remaining Rs 20 per quintal promised bonus on paddy during the current financial year. This would mean disbursement of Rs 223.40 crore. The state had already paid one instalment out of the promised Rs 30 per quintal bonus for kharif 2001-02. The total liability was to be Rs 335.10 crore. The first instalment had cost the state Rs 111.70 crore.


Earlier, the Chief Minister replied to a calling attention motion by three members on resentment among the people due to death of a Dalit youth of Rakran Dhahan village in Nawanshahr district because of torture by the police.

The motion was by Chaudhary Nand Lal, Mr Des Raj Dhugga and Mr Tikshan Sud.

The Chief Minister gave a detailed reply and chronology of the events.

The House adjourned at the end of a stormy day till Monday when the Budget, 2004-05, will be presented.


Social welfare to get priority: CM
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 19
Winding up the discussion on the Governor’s Address in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today decried the churlish behaviour of the Opposition and said he had failed to find any traces of ‘’constructive criticism’’ of his government.

On the charge of Mr Parkash Singh Badal that his government believed in the policy of ‘’confrontation’’, the Leader of the House remarked that if pursuing corruption cases against the Badals and 11 of his erstwhile ministerial colleagues meant ‘’confrontation’’ then let that be so. ‘’Our drive against corruption will continue, as promised in our election manifesto and on whose wings we came to power in 2002. It is just sacasm’’, he said, referring to the ‘’emotive’’ outburst of Mr Badal, who had spoken before him on the Governor’s Address.

Capt Amarinder Singh committed his government’s resolve to work in the interests of the state and people and reiterated that social welfare would get priority. With the Opposition having boycotted his address and walked out in protest, though some steam had gone out of the Chief Minister, he nevertheless gave a spirited reply to the wild allegations levelled by the Opposition and defended his government all on issues, reforms, development, financial stabilisation, diversification and contract farming, crop adjustment scheme to break the wheat-paddy nexus submitted to the Centre and efforts to industrialise the state.

He also spoke at length on devolution of powers to the Panchayati Raj institutions, turnaround in the performance of the Punjab State Electricity Board, efforts to start construction of the second phase of the Lehra Mohabat Thermal Plant, starting work on the Shahapur Kandi project, assured eight-hour supply of power to tubewells for paddy sowing, expected financial help from the World Bank on several projects, including one on drinking water, infrastructure etc.

Capt Amarinder Singh assured the House that his government would take all steps to rejuvenate the economy and to generate employment, improve education and health delivery systems and take care of welfare of the employees. He explained at length steps taken on the Bathinda refinery, defended appointment of consultants for various development projects, steps on the anvil for improving basic civic amenities in urban Punjab, checkmate pollution in the Sutlej, providing economic succour to three lakh-odd families living below the poverty-line in the state, giving regular pensions to the identified categories, and welfare of the defence personnel, etc.

Warming up to the issues raised by members in the House, Capt Amarinder Singh sought to give details why certain actions were taken or not. Say in respect of the crop insurance scheme, the Centre had proposed, Punjab examined all aspects and had concluded that this was not in the interest of the state and its farmers, already reeling under huge debts and with large many having committed suicide due to the diminishing returns from agriculture and debt burden.

He defended the excise auctions this year and reminded how revenue had dipped in Ludhiana during the Badal government due to tussle between Mr Badal’s son and son-in-law. Rebutting criticism of having given huge sums of money to a particular TV channel, Capt Amarinder Singh asked how come Mr Sukhbir Singh was interested in buying a channel?

He pointed out that though the Akalis claimed to be farmer-friendly, the fact was that they did precious little to improve their income during their five-year rule run with friendly NDA government in New Delhi. ‘’We have in just three years and five crop seasons later ensured additional Rs 3,000 crore being pumped into the rural economy. Now we are working on introducing quality BT cotton’’. The state could have done much better, had the SAD-BJP government not adopted scorched-earth policy in the past two years of their government that had given a severe setback to the economic development.

On the Akalis’ cooperation on the SYL, the Chief Minister said they had no choice, knowing it was the Congress government in New Delhi and in Chandigarh and the issue was vital to the survival of agriculture and sustenance of 15 lakh families. ‘’We appreciate their participation but they cannot escape their own moral responsibilities to the state and its people’’.

Towards the end of his presentation, the Chief Minister regretted that the Opposition had walked out of the House on a frivolous issue. He again condemned their unbecoming behaviour in raising slogans against the Speaker and wished they had stayed back to listen. ‘’That would have added to their learning and knowledge’’.


Farmers block traffic
Tribune News Service

Moga, June 19
Agitated over the unavailability of power for agricultural operations, farmers of Bir Rouke village blocked traffic on the Moga-Barnala road for about two hours today.

Addressing the protesters village sarpanch Joginder Singh said there had been no power supply for the past three days, which had hit the paddy crop. Later, the SHO, Badhnikalan, and Punjab State Electricity Board officials persuaded the farmers to end the protest.


Punjab Budget: no new taxes likely
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 19
Political exigencies will form the backdrop when the Finance Minister, Mr Lal Singh, presents his third successive Budget for 2004-05 at the Vidhan Sabha on Monday.

Pre-Budget discussions held by the Chief Minister with his colleagues and officers indicate that the Budget may skip additional resource mobilisation proposals, at least for the time being. What lends credence to this view is the non-acceptance of all recommendations made by the Plan Resource Committee Report submitted to the government by the Punjab State Planning Board Vice-Chairman, Dr S.S. Johl, in March. The committee proposals had quantified that additional annual revenue mobilisation would fetch the state Rs 2,555 crore, if its recommendations were to be accepted. No new tax proposals, however, are likely to be included in Monday’s Budget. These may have been reserved for a later period. Therefore wait for post-budget time when political will may become more evident to enable Punjab stand on is own feet, say sources.

Indications are that even proposals on taxation in the report were a subject of debate and dissent at the meeting of the Cabinet-sub committee, where some of the ministers had raised objections. Eventually, it was decided to place the entire issue before the Cabinet.

Thus, the task before Mr Lal Singh is difficult. He may have pegged the Annual Plan at Rs 3,500 crore, against Rs 3,200 crore for 2003-04, though the same was slashed to Rs 2,822 crore by the Planning Commission. And the state has no resources of its own to fund the next Annual Plan and performance of last year’s Plan was reported to around 60 per cent.

The Budget is being presented at a time when the World Bank report is expected any time. Its interactions with the state and its assessment of performance on reforms is not very impressive, despite steps taken to improve economy, financial situation, administration, agriculture, social sector, gender equality etc., say sources.

It is leant that in the absence of concrete additional resource mobilisation proposals in the Budget, Finance Minister’s speech would most likely reflect the continuing “stress” under which the state finances are operating and it would also show signs of improvement. This claim would be backed by the Budget estimates for 2004-05, as compared to revised estimates of 2003-04. The Budget strategy is likely to follow the already enunciated mid-term fiscal strategy focusing on agriculture, power sector reforms, social welfare, decentralisation of powers to panchayati raj institutions etc.

As on date, major fiscal indicators showed that state’s total debt would rise to Rs 40,300 crore, against Rs 39,200 crore in 2003-04. In terms of percentage of the GSDP (gross state domestic product) it is expected to be down to around 44 from 48. The projected dip in the revenue deficit is around Rs 98 crore. The GSDP it is expected to be down to 3.82 per cent in 2004-05 from 4.36 per cent in 2003-04. The gross fiscal deficit may be around Rs 6,117 crore up from Rs 5,860 crore in 2003-04.

Salaries, pensions and interest repayments as percentage of revenue receipts are expected to be down to around 69 from 75 per cent. This improvement is attributed to debt swap among other factors. The revenue deficit as percentage of revenue receipts is being projected at 21 against 25 in 2003-04, whereas, revenue deficit as percentage of fiscal deficit is likely to be down to 56 against 60 in 2003-04.

The immediate political concern is pruning of the Council of Ministers, though the prerogative rests with Congress high command. This is to be done in the first week of July. By then, new Rajya Sabha MPs too would have been elected. Given the severe beating the Congress had received in the Lok Sabha elections, when it lost 11 seats to SAD-BJP and won just two, post-Budget period is crucial because three by-elections to the state Assembly are due.

Therefore, worries of the government are different from mere Budget presentation on Monday. Already, Capt Amarinder Singh is in a thinking mode, as to how to reinvent his government, post-Budget and show his performance, hold over administration and will to implement reforms. One of the suggestions given to him is to adopt Central pattern of Cabinet committees to reduce or eliminate inner party pressures or circumvent obstructionist colleagues.


Badal lists govt’s failures
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 19
Mounting a sharp attack on the Punjab Government, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, today said in the state assembly that the government had opened “counters of corruption” at various places in Patiala and Chandigarh. The Chief Minister ‘s office itself had become an “adda” of corruption.

Speaking against the Motion of Thanks on the Governor’s Address, Mr Badal said that the level of corruption had gone so high that even, Capt Amarinder Singh had stopped talking about it now. Quoting from a filmi song, Mr Badal said that “Badle, badle se sarkar nazar aate hain”. The CM’s drive against corruption was nothing but settling of scores with political opponents in the SAD. Vigilance officers chased Akali leaders like hounds.

He even did not spare the CM’s adviser, Mr B.I.S Chahal, and his another confidant, Mr Sanjit Sinha. Mr Badal said that the auctioning of liquor vends was a big scandal that had muddied the state’s politics. The government had done “pontykaran” of liquor trade, he said, naming a particular contractor.

Speaking about law and order, Mr Badal said that gangs were operating openly and looting and mugging had become order of the day. The police stood politicised. Several persons had been either killed in police custody or in police firing. “The police do not treat people as human beings. Even curfew had to be imposed on Nawanshahr recently. Women and girls have become unsafe in the state,” he added.

The government had done nothing for farmers except resorting to firing on them. It even failed to implement the insurance scheme for them. Free power had not been given to farmers though promise was made to do so.The government failed to lobby for a better MSP for farmers. Crores of rupees had been wasted on advertisements given to certain television channels and on hiring consultancy firms but farmers were given no relief. About 86 per cent farmers were under debt worth Rs 18,000 crore, Mr Badal added.

Economy of the state was in a shambles. The growth rate, which was near 7 per cent during the SAD-BJP government, had come below 2 per cent. The industrial growth had become negative. Octroi had not been abolished. Life had been made miserable for traders and businessmen by introducing various sales tax forms, etc. Capital and freight subsidy worth over Rs 100 crore remained unpaid. The government had abrogated the installation of the oil refinery project near Bathinda, Mr Badal said.

As many as 15 schemes meant for SCs and BCs had been closed, and promise made to give five-marla houses and 150 free units of power to them had not been fulfilled. Only meagre funds had been allocated for schemes meant for SCs. Employees were feeling dejected as their pension schemes had been drastically altered. About 50,000 vacant posts had been abolished and promise regarding assured promotion after four, nine and 14 years of service also remain unfulfilled, asserted Mr Badal.

Asking the government to avoid politics of confrontation, Mr Badal warned that consequences of such politics would be dangerous.


Cong behind candidates’ disqualification,
says Badal

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 19
The SAD President, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, today described the disqualification of some senior Akali leaders from the SGPC elections as “part of a grand design of the Congress to snatch control of the Sikh shrines from Sikh sangat and put their own stooges in control in order to erode Sikh identity”. He told the Chief Minister to “keep his and his party’s hands off the Sikh religious shrines or else be ready to burn his fingers”.

In a strongly worded statement, Mr Badal said the Punjab Government was openly interfering in the SGPC elections. Mr Badal said that he had definite reports of Capt Amarinder Singh personally ringing up at least two returning officers in the Majha area to get the candidatures of three senior Akali leaders cancelled on the ground that they were defaulters to the SGPC in the matter of their wards’ admission to the institutions run by the SGPC.

Mr Alwinder Singh Pakhoke, Mr Sucha Singh Langah and Mr Sewa Singh Sekhwan had been disqualified on flimsy pretext of default in payment. The clause of the Sikh Gurdwara Act in this regard refers only to “undischarged insolvency” and not “default in payment”.


Bhai Ranjit Singh seeks Pakhoke’s resignation
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 19
Bhai Ranjit Singh, a former Jathedar, Akal Takht, the Khalra Mission Committee and various Panthic organisations today sought the resignation of Mr Alwinder Pal Singh Pakhoke, working President, SGPC, following the rejection of his candidature on being declared a defaulter.

In a press note issued here today, Bhai Ranjit Singh sought an explanation from Mr Parkash Singh Badal, President, Shiromani Akali Dal, as to why he had allotted ticket to persons who were defaulters of the “guru ghar”.

The former Akal Takht Jathedar alleged that Mr Pakhoke had himself admitted that there were at least 10 candidates who had failed to clear outstanding payments.

He said Mr Pakhoke, Mr Sucha Singh Langah and Mr Sewa Singh Sekhwan had tried to hoodwink the SGPC authorities by not depositing the huge amounts which were outstanding against their wards who had got admission under the NRI quota.


SGPC poll: 3 SAD members set to be re-elected
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, June 19
With the decision of the District Returning Officer to uphold the rejection of nomination papers of two candidates from the Doda (general) and the Doda (SC) seats and to allow the complaint of SAD candidate from the Muktsar (women) seat, all three SAD sitting members from these seats are all set to be elected unopposed for the SGPC elections in Muktsar district.

The three candidates, whose election has now become a formality, are — Mr Navtej Singh Kauni from Doda (general), late Punjab minister Sujan Singh’s wife Mukhtiar Kaur from Doda (SC) and Manjeet Kaur Chrewan from Muktsar (women) seat.

The Deputy Commissioner-cum-DRO B.R. Banga has upheld the decision of the Doda returning officer Rajiv Prashar in which he had rejected the papers of Mr Balkaran Singh and Mr Pritam Singh from the Doda (SC) and Doda (general) seats, respectively.

Similarly, by allowing the complaint of SAD candidate from the Muktsar (women) seat, Ms Manjeet Kaur Chrewan, the DRO considered Ms Paramjit Kaur for the Muktsar (general) seat instead of women reserved seat.

In her complaint, Ms Chrewan stated that Ms Paramjit Kaur had not mentioned in her papers that she wanted to contest elections from reserved seat, so her candidature should either be rejected or be considered for the Muktsar general seat. Earlier, Ms Chrewan’s plea was rejected by the Muktsar SDM-cum RO J.C. Sabharwal. Following which she had filed her complaint with the DRO.


SAD leaders challenge rejection of candidature
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 19
Issuing notices on petitions filed by three Shiromani Akali Dal leaders — including two former ministers — challenging the rejection of their candidature for the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) polls, Justice J.S. Sekhon of the Gurdwara Election Commission today summoned the records. The matter will now come up for further hearing on June 21.

In their petitions, former ministers Sucha Singh Langah and Sewa Singh Sekhwan, along with SGPC's working President, Alwinder Pal Singh, asserted that the same was illegal and in violation of the provisions.

The candidature of the three leaders was cancelled as huge amounts were allegedly outstanding against their wards admitted in SGPC-run Guru Ram Dass Institute of Medical Sciences and Dental College under the NRI quota.

Challenging the orders, they asserted that owing money to the trust did not make them liable for disqualification. They asserted that a specific procedure had to be followed for disqualifying candidates from contesting the elections.

Giving details, they asserted that a candidate had to be declared "undischarged insolvent" for debarring him from contesting the polls. This, they asserted, was something which only the courts could do.

Deputy Commissioners (DCs) had no powers in this regard. By proceeding against the candidates, the DCs had tried to assume the powers of the courts, the petitioners asserted.

They added that the parents could not be held liable for the actions of their major children. The youngsters could be penalised in case of default. In fact, they had been debarred from attending the classes. As such, the fathers should not have been proceeded against.

The three leaders, it may be recalled, had on Friday claimed that the action against them was arbitrary. They had further alleged that their candidature was cancelled even though SGPC's secretary had given them no-dues certificates.


Arrest of 2 SAD candidates, 3 others stayed
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, June 19
Mr B.J. Nangli, Additional District and Sessions Judge, today stayed the arrest of five accused, including two SAD candidates for the SGPC poll, booked under Sections 307, 323, and 148 of the IPC on the complaint of Mr Iman Singh Mann. The judge, in his order, issued a notice to the state for June 25 and stayed their arrest till then. The police had impounded their vehicle and conducted raids to nab the five accused.

On the other hand, Mr Kirpal Singh Libra, Mr R.S. Cheema, Mr Didar Singh Bhatti and Mr Ranjit Singh Cheema, SAD leaders, addressing a press conference at Sirhind today, criticised the action of Mr Iman Singh Mann.

They alleged that Mr Mann had done this at the behest of the government as he was related to the Chief Minister. They said pain had been mentioned in his medico-legal report and no serious injury had been reported but the police had registered a case under Section 307 of the IPC under government pressure.

They said Mr Mann had no right to stop the SGPC vehicle, and if he had noticed any irregularity, he should have complained to the Election Commission.

Tempers flew high yesterday during the opening of the election office of SAD candidates for the SGPC elections from Fatehgarh Sahib at Bassi Pathana. Mr Iman Singh Mann, son of Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, objected to the alleged misuse of an SGPC vehicle for electioneering in favour of SAD candidates. Mr Iman Singh alleged that he objected to the presence of the SGPC vehicle and the driver of the vehicle, Jasbir Singh, on provocation, tried to run him over.


Elect SGPC men on merit, says Vedanti
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 19
Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar, Akal Takht, today appealed to the Sikh sangat to elect SGPC members on merit, rising above factionalism . The only criterion should be that the SGPC candidates must observe maryada as laid down by Akal Takht and the SGPC, he said.

In a press note issued by the Akal Takht secretariat here today, Jathedar Vedanti expressed concern over the rising trend of drug addiction. He said Akal Takht had received a number of complaints against candidates who had been indulging in violation of the maryada.

Earlier, Jathedar Vedanti had issued a religious code for selecting candidates for the SGPC elections, which was ignored by the SAD.


Jathedar ‘beats up’ man for misusing ‘bir’
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, June 19
Bhai Balwant Singh Nandgarh, Jathedar, Takht Damdama Sahib, along with his associates, today allegedly beat up a local resident, Des Raj, for keeping a “bir” of Guru Granth Sahib in his house for fortune telling.

Des Raj, who was admitted to the local Civil Hospital after he sustained injuries, demanded that a criminal case should be registered against Jathedar Nandgarh and his associates.

Meanwhile, Mr Kiranjit Gheri, president, Dalit Sena, Punjab, claiming that the organisation had taken up the matter with the district police, alleged that the incident took place due to laxity on the part of the police authorities. He alleged that Jathedar Nandgarh had tried to give religious colour to the enmity of Des Raj with another person living in his neighbourhood. He said Jathedar Nandgarh and his associates had beaten up Des Raj on a complaint of that person.

Mr Kapil Dev, SSP, said the matter was being investigated. He said the medico-legal report in connection with the injuries suffered by Des Raj was awaited.

Des Raj, who lives behind the local bus stand, had been keeping a “bir” in his house for the past many years. He has also been keeping a beard and hair as per Sikh traditions. He had enmity with a person living near his house and a few months ago, Des Raj got a case registered against him under Sections 307, 342, 34 and 452 of the IPC.

Jathedar Nandgarh, alleged that Des Raj had been acting as a fortune teller by keeping a “bir” in his house for the past many years. He said Des Raj had been urged a number of times to stop such activities as these were an insult to Guru Granth Sahib.

He said Des Raj agreed in writing to stop such activities and deposit the “bir” at Takht Damdama Sahib when the Panj Piaras came to persuade him not to indulge in anti-Sikh activities a few weeks ago. However, Des Raj kept pursuing his profession. The Jathedar said a team went to his house today and took away the “bir”.

When asked whether he and his associates had beaten up Des Raj, he said Des Raj could go to any extent to tell a lie. He said the Dalit Sena had nothing to do with this religious matter.


Ludhiana, Muktsar students bag top positions
in Sr Sec exams
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Mohali, June 19
Students from Ludhiana and Muktsar have scored majority of the top positions in the Punjab School Education Board Senior Secondary School Examination. The merit list consisting of the top 30 positions in the state was released by the board here today.

The maximum number of students who were able to pass the examination are from district Ferozepore where the pass percentage is 73 . On the other end, only 61 per cent of Mansa students were able to pass the examination.

This year too, girls have outshone boys in the overall performance. While 76 per cent of the girls who appeared in the examination have passed, only 59 per cent of the boys were able to pass it. Girls of district Nawanshahr have performed the best in the state where 82 per cent of them have passed the examination. Interestingly, only 57 per cent of the boys from Nawanshahr were able to pass the examination bringing the overall pass percentage of the district down. However, Mansa boys have performed the worst in the state as only 53 per cent were able to pass the exam.

In Ludhiana, six students of Sanmati Vimal Jain Sr. Sec. School, Jagraon, and BCM Sn. Sec. School, Focal Point, share the top positions in the state with another set of six students of G.T.B. Khalsa Senior Secondary School, Malout, Muktsar. While Shaina Singla of Sanmati Vimal Jain Sn. Sec. School, Jagraon has topped Punjab and her district, with 92.22 per cent marks, Anandvir Kaur Saini of GKSM Government College, Tanda Urmar, Hoshiarpur, is II in the state and first in her district with 91.77 per cent marks. Sharing the third position at 89.55 per cent marks are Ramanjeet Kaur, Supriya of G.T.B. Khalsa Senior Secondary School, Malout, Muktsar and Shimpa Garg of Sanmati Vimal Jain Sn. Sec. School, Jagraon. Supriya is first in district Muktsar.

Davinder Kaur of Shakti Public Sn. Sec. School Machhiwara, Ludhiana, is fourth in the state while Parminder Kaur of Sri Mahavir Jain Model Sn. Sec. School Phagwara and Umangdeep Kaur of G.T.B. Khalsa Senior Secondary School, Malout, Muktsar, share the fifth position. Parminder Kaur is first in district Kapurthala.

Simmy of BCM Sn. Sec. School, Focal Point, Ludhiana, is sixth in the state. Parminder Kaur and Divya Bhardwaj of G.T.B. Khalsa Senior Secondary School, Malout, Muktsar, share the seventh position in the state with Vandana Singh of BCM Sn. Sec. School, Focal Point, Ludhiana. Vinek Nanda of Hindu College, Amritsar, is sharing the eighth position in the state with Komal Deep Kaur of G.T.B. Khalsa Senior Secondary School, Malout, Muktsar, Priyanka of BCM Sn. Sec. School, Focal Point, Ludhiana, and Jagnandan of Khalsa Sn. Sec. School Bathinda. Vinek Nanda is first in district Amritsar.

Hapreet Kaur of G.T.B. Khalsa Senior Secondary School, Malout, Muktsar, is ninth is ninth and Gurjit Kaur of Teja Singh Sutantar Memorial Sn. Sec. School Shimlapuri, Ludhiana, is 10th in the state.

Monika Batra of W.L. Arya Girls Sn. Sec. School Nawanshahr, is 11th in the state and first in her district. Rajwinder Kaur Nandha of Sri Mahavir Jain Model Sn. Sec. School Phagwara, shares the 11th position. Also on 11th position is Nidhi Jain of GGSSS, Nabha, Patiala, who is first in the district. Salochna Rani of Teja Singh Sutantar Memorial Sn. Sec. School Shimlapuri, Ludhiana, is also 11th in the state.

Charanjit of Sanmati Vimal Jain Sn. Sec. School, Jagraon, is 12th in the state while the 13th position is shared by Mandeep Kaur of Dashmesh Girls Sn. Sec. School, Badal, Muktsar, Jyoti of RS Model Sn. Sec. School Shastri Nagar, Ludhiana, Arshdeep Kaur and Sushila of BCM Sn. Sec. School, Focal Point, Ludhiana and Amandeep Kaur of Master Tara Singh Memorial College for Women, Ludhiana.

Hina Sandhu of BBK DAV College for Women , Amritsar, along with Ankur luthra of AVM Sen Sec School, Batala, and Amanpreet Kaur of JS Khalsa Girls Sn. Sec. School share the 14th position in the state. Ankur Luthra is first in district Hoshiarpur. Aanchal of S.L.B.S Arya Mahila College, Barnala, is 15th in the state and first in district Sangrur. She shares her position with Nisha Rani of G.T.B. Khalsa Senior Secondary School, Malout, Muktsar. Shilpi Bansal of Sanmati Vimal Jain Sn. Sec. School, Jagraon along with Manpreet Kaur of GNN College, Doraha, are 16th in the state.

Geetika of G.T.B. Khalsa Senior Secondary School, Malout, Muktsar, Rahul Sharma of SDSE Sn Sec School, Patiala, and Priyanka Aggarwal of RS Model Sn. Sec. School, Ludhiana, are 17th in the state. Mandeep of SPJ College of Fine Arts, Jalandhar, is 18th in the state and first in the district. He shares the position with Sheenu Garg of Sanmati Vimal Jain Sn. Sec. School, Jagraon, Daljit Kaur of Teja Singh Sutantar Memorial Sn. Sec. School Shimlapuri, Ludhiana and Navneet Kaur of Shakti Public Sn. Sec. School Machhiwara, Ludhiana.

Gurwinder Singh Khatra of Paragon Sn. Sec. School, Sector 71, Mohali, is 19th in the state and first in district Ropar. He shares his position with Babita Rani of R.S. Model Sn. Sec. School, Shastri Nagar, Ludhiana. Nitika Malhotra of Arya Girls Sn. Sec. School, Pathankot, shares the 20th position with Rajdeep Kaur of G.T.B. Khalsa Senior Secondary School, Malout, Muktsar, Amandeep Kaur of Teja Singh Sutantar Memorial Sn. Sec. School Shimlapuri, Ludhiana and Amandeep Kaur of Guru Nanak Girls College, Mullanpur.

Raj Kumar, of SD Sn. Sec. School, Fazilka, is first in district Ferozepore while he has obtained 23rd position in the state. Khushbu of Saraswati Sn. Sec. School, Jaitu, is first in district Faridkot but is placed on the 26th position in the state.


Gujarat riots not behind NDA debacle: Shiv Sena
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, June 19
Beleaguered Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi today got support from an unexpected quarter when Mr Ravinder Arora, president, Shiv Sena Bal Thackeray, Punjab, said that the events of Gujarat had no role in the defeat of the NDA in the Lok Sabha poll.

Mr Arora was talking to this correspondent after addressing a Rashtriya Ekta Divas function, held to observe the 16th “Balidan Divas” of Prof Rama Kant Jalota, founder president of the Hindu Shiv Sena Punjab, and his close associate Vinod Gupta, who were gunned down by terrorists.

When his attention was drawn to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s statement, who had attributed the defeat of the NDA to the Gujarat riots and Mr Modi, Mr Arora said it was an internal matter of the BJP and he won’t like to be drawn into it. I attribute the NDA defeat to its wrong decision of alliance in Tamil Nadu and the over-confidence of its Andhra Pradesh ally, asserted Mr Arora.

He took to task the Congress party for branding as fake the June 15 Ahmedabad gunning down of four Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists. Mr Arora cautioned the Congress against giving fillip to terrorism with its irresponsible statements. On one hand, the Congress was rewarding anti-Sikh Delhi rioteers with ministerial berths, while on the other, it was calling the Ahmedabad incident fake, he wondered.

He alleged that the Congress was raising a hue and cry over the Gujarat riots for appeasing Muslims, but it was keeping silent over the killings of Hindus and Sikhs in various parts of the country and armymen in Jammu and Kashmir.


Nahar’s men quit BSP
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, June 19
Senior Dalit leaders of the region and supporters of Mr Devi Dass Nahar, who had been recently expelled from the BSP for alleged anti-party activities, today resigned from the primary membership of the party to register their protest against his removal.

Addressing a press conference here, the secretary of the district unit of the BSP, Mr Gujjar Mall and Mr Bishan Dass Sahota, alongwith other senior leaders of the unit, alleged that the state unit of the BSP had deviated from its mission for the upliftment of the downtrodden.

Mr Sahota alleged that the in charge of the state unit affairs, Mr Narinder Kashyap, and the state president, Mr Avatr Singh Karimpuri were working to suit their vested interests. “The Balmiki community is being sidelined by the state BSP.


10 drinking water samples found contaminated
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, June 19
Out of 31 fresh drinking water samples taken by the district health authorities from various water supply sources in the district, water of 10 has been found contaminated and unfit for human consumption. This was disclosed by a spokesman for the district Health Department here today.

He said water samples taken from water supply sources of the local DAV College, Government College, S. D. College, Railway Station, Jagi Pehlwan da Dhaba of New Grain Market, Vinod Kumar Walia Soda Water Factory, New Vegetable Market and Committee Park of Mukerian, Pandori Bibi and Manna villages had been found non-potable. The chlorination of water at all these sources was being done and chlorine tablets were being distributed. He advised those persons who are using water from these sources to only take boiled water.

As many as 33 fresh cases of gastroenteritis have been reported in the local Civil Hospital during the last 24 hours. Eleven patients have been discharged. As many as 37 are under treatment in the hospital now. The spokesman said 48 gastroenteritis cases had also been reported in private clinics of the city since June 9. A total of 509 gastroenteritis cases had been reported in the local Civil Hospital since May 23. The maximum number of patients are from Bassi Khwaju and Kamalpur Mohallas of the city. Water samples from water supply sources of these localities were also taken today.

Dr S. K. Sharma, District Health Officer, along with Mr Sukhwinder Pal Singh, SDM, Mr Vijay Sharma, Executive Officer, municipal council along with sanitary staff inspected various localities, including new vegetable market, today to check cleanliness. Heaps of garbage were removed from the vegetable market.


26 hospitalised after food poisoning
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, June 19
As many as 26 residents of a slum area in the Vishal Nagar locality of this town were hospitalised after they fell ill after eating rice pudding this morning.

Out of 26 residents admitted to the local civil hospital, 12 are children. Their condition is stated to be stable.

Information gathered by TNS revealed that residents of the slum area, who are mostly rag pickers, got the pudding from a nearby house where a religious function was organised last night. After consuming the pudding, they started vomiting. Some even vomitted blood.

Volunteers of the Sahara Jan Seva, a non-governmental organisation, took the patients to the local civil hospital and made arrangments for their treatment.

Those who are under treatment in the civil hospital are Pooja, Bimla Shanker, Chandni, Raj Kumari, Meena, Pathani, Rajni, Mumtaj, Bittu, Sharda, Jawri, Noori, Lachhman, Saka, Chandra Mukhi, Ram Dyal, Roshan Parhlad, Lachhman Shanker, Thakri, Sunita, Anita and Shrivati. The name of three other patients could not be known.

The hospital authorities said an ambulance had been pressed into service to bring more patients if the need arose.


Parrots die after consuming jamun
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, June 19
At least 10 parrots and other birds were found dead on the premises of the Mini-Secretariat and district courts here today. Sources said the birds died after eating jamun sprayed with chemicals.

The jamun trees on the premises were given on contract to an Amritsar-based party. Employees of the contractor sprayed chemicals on the fruit to make it ripe quickly, the sources said. The dead parrots were spotted this morning by employees of lawyers. Later, a few other birds were seen falling from the trees.

The Subdivisional Magistrate, Mr Mohan Lal, said he had directed the Animal Husbandry Department to conduct a post-mortem examination on the birds to find out the cause of their death. He has also asked the Horticulture Department to conduct an examination.

Meanwhile, the press secretary of the Tarksheel Society, Punjab, Mr Jaswant Jass, has demanded an inquiry into the incident and sought action against the guilty.


60 Central Jail employees shifted
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, June 19
Taking a serious note of the recent clash between two groups of jail inmates, which rendered 34 injured, the state government has ordered shifting of 60 staff members of the Central Jail here to different jails in the state.

According to sources, the action was necessitated following the alleged failure of the jail staff to properly handle the conflict.

Though no senior official of the jail was transferred or suspended, it is learnt that the state government will take action against erring officials following the receipt of an inquiry report, which is likely to be submitted to the District Magistrate, Mr Ashok Gupta, by the SDM-cum-inquiry officer, Mr Mohinder Pal, by tomorrow.

The Deputy Superintendent of the Jail, Mr Satpal Singh, termed the transfers as a routine exercise.


Caste-based reservation policy flayed
Our Correspondent

Nawanshahr, June 19
The General Category Welfare Federation, Punjab, organised a seminar on the caste-based reservation policy, at Jadla, 10 km from here, today.

Mr Shyam Lal Sharma, state president of the federation, said that the caste-based reservation policy had hit all sections of society, including Dalits, as the benefits of reservations policy had been grabbed by the privileged section of Dalits only.

The reservation policy had divided the society on caste lines instead of bringing social harmony. He condemned the proposed move of the UPA government for reservation policy in the private sector also. The federation would mobilise private entrepreneurs and industrialists against the move, said Mr Sharma, adding that strengthening the federation was the need of the hour so that it could be converted into a powerful pressure group.

Mr Man Mohan Singh Nagra, general secretary, Science Teachers Association, Punjab, said the reservation policy was meant only for getting electoral benefits. Besides, it was against the basic spirit of the Constitution, he added.

Prof Baljit Singh Dhillon of Government Medical College, Amritsar, said the reservation policy had sabotaged social harmony. He said political leaders, even belonging to the general category, had been hesitating to raise their voice against the reservation policy.

Mr Jasbir Singh Bhullar, secretary, Punjab Sahitya Academy, Chandigarh, said a system should be evolved in which the poor and needy, irrespective of caste, should only get the benefit of reservation.


Probe sought into ‘false’ implication of reporter
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, June 19
Members of the Press Clubs Federation of the district, condemning the ‘false’ implication of a press reporter, Mr Harinder Balli, in a criminal case by the Rampura police, today urged the district police authorities to conduct a probe into the matter through a high-ranking police official.

In a press note issued here today, Narpinder Singh Dhaliwal, general secretary of the federation, alleged that Balli had been falsely implicated into the case pertaining to the death of a Dalit youth, Baljinder Singh Babbi. He said before registering a case in connection with the death of Babbi, the police had not verified the facts.

He said Mr S. K. Verma, SP (Headquarters), and Mr Ajay Maluja, SP (D), whom the members met today, had assured that a fair probe would be conducted into the incident.


Pak PM writes to Ambassador on detainees
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, June 19
Pakistan Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali has written to the Indian Ambassador in Islamabad , seeking a verification list of the Indian detainees in Pakistan jails.

Mr Harpal Singh Bhuller, President, Bhai Mardana Yaadgaar Kirtan Darbar Society, said here today that Mr Gian Singh, the only Sikh member of the national assembly of Pakistan, had told him about this during telephonic communication with him.


Right to go abroad a fundamental right ?
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 19
Is the right to go abroad a fundamental right? The vital question of law will be decided by the Punjab and Haryana High Court while dealing with a writ petition filed by Youth Akali Dal's local wing President seeking directions to the Union of India and other respondents to issue a passport. The case will come up for hearing on July 16.

In his petition, Davinder Singh — convicted and sentenced under the Anti-hijacking Act — has claimed that the denial of a passport amounted restricting his liberty "guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India".

Going into the background of the case, the petitioner submitted that he applied for a passport in 1998 after his release, but his prayer was declined by the authorities concerned on January 4, 1999.

He further submitted that an appeal was filed challenging the orders denying him the passport. It was rejected by the Chief Passport Officer "by passing a non-speaking order". Moreover, he was not given an opportunity of hearing.

The petitioner asserted that all the facts were disclosed in the application for the passport, including the fact that he was convicted vide order dated April 12, 1993, by an Ajmer court. The authorities were also informed about his release and "commutation" of his sentence by the central government under the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Mr Davinder Singh added that he had always "believed in the sovereignty and integrity of the country" and was an Indian national by birth. In fact, he was born in Chandigarh and continued to stay here "except for the period he stayed in jail".Claiming to have never gone abroad, he asserted that the holding back of his passport by the respondents was "unfortunate".


NRI shot
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, June 19
A non-resident Indian (NRI), who was having a matrimonial dispute with his wife, was shot dead last night in Raipur Rasulpur village near here.

The murder took place when Manmohan Singh, a relative of the deceased’s wife, came to the residence of the victim, Balbir Singh, along with an unidentified person, police sources said. As soon as Balbir opened the door, the person fired at him and fled away.

The victim was taken to a nearby hospital where he was declared brought dead.

An FIR has been registered at the Sadar police station on the complaint of the uncle of the deceased, Jagir Singh, who was present at the site when the murder took place, sources said.

The complainant alleged that the Balbir was murdered at the behest of his wife Satvinder Kaur, with whom he had been having a dispute for the last few years.

The couple had got married in 1986 and a case of a matrimonial dispute was pending before a court in the USA.


Unable to bear grief, brother ends life
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, June 19
A sister’s agony prove too much for brother. Deepak Chaddha (28) of the local Katehra Bazar committed suicide last night by jumping before a running Shatabdi Express near Sapror village.

The badly mangled body of the youth was found today near Chiheru village as the train had dragged him up to a distance of 3 km. The deceased was an RSS activist and a son of BJP leader Rajinder Chadda.

The sister of the youth was reportedly to be married on June 22. However, his would-be brother-in-law, Devinder Kumar of Kaulsar Mohalla, Kartarpur, allegedly committed suicide over some money dispute.

Unable to bear the anguish of her sister he went out of the house on a scooter yesterday and never returned.

The post-mortem examination of the body was done today. His cremation was largely attended.


Cosmo Club raided, sealed
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, June 19
A 300-strong party, including the SP (Detective), the SDM, SHOs of city police stations and the Duty Magistrate raided the Cosmo Club at Gandhi Ground late last night and sealed the club.

The party also searched many persons, including women, who had come along with their families to the club. Today, records were seized and cupboards opened in the club. Club office-bearers were, however, not allowed in.

It is learnt that the raid was the result of political rivalry between Arun Kumar Bittu, brother-in-law of a councillor, Ms Parveen, and an MLA, Mr Harjinder Singh Thekedaar, both of the ruling party.

Bittu alleged that the MLA was trying to grab prime land for a sub-station worth crores on Lawrence Road.

He said the MLA used his political connections to force a raid on the club, where he was the president.

Mr Thakedaar, however, denied any hand in the raid. He said the club was running illegal activities like gambling. The MLA said hundreds of liquor bottles were seized from it. He alleged that several cases had been registered against Mr Bittu.

However, Mr Bittu said the club had a valid bar licence and was registered since 1933. He denied any illegal activity.

The Deputy Commissioner said the club was running illegally on 600 sq yards of government land without any licence. He confirmed that the club was sealed and closed in public interest under Section 14 of the CrPC.


Rs 1.20 lakh fake currency seized, one arrested

Ferozepore, June 19
The Punjab police here today seized fake currency notes amounting to Rs 1.20 lakh from a car and arrested one person in this connection.

District police chief M. S. Chahal told mediapersons here that during routine checking, a police party intercepted the car near Shahbukar village and arrested its owner, Kuldip Singh. These notes were in the denomination of Rs 500.

Mr Chahal said Kuldip confessed that a four-member gang was operating in Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Hoshiarpur and Ferozepore districts. The gang members procured fake currency notes from a gang in Delhi which was engaged in printing fake currency notes. — UNI


One gang member held for stealing foodgrains
Tribune News Service

Rampura, June 19
The police has arrested one member of a gang involved in stealing foodgrains from godowns owned by the state government agencies and businessmen here and adjoining Tapa area.

Police sources said that 170 bags of rice, stolen from the Alike area of the Tapa police station area, were recovered from Nanna Ram belonging to the gang. The bags were recovered from the tractor-trailer used by the gang comprising about eight members.

Mr Devinder Attri, Station House Officer (SHO), Rampura, police station, said that on the night of June 17, members of the gang stole many bags of rice from a godown of the Punjab State Warehousing Corporation (PSWC). The accused did this after tying the watchmen deployed at the godown with ropes and beating them up. A case has been registered under Sections 392 and 395 of the IPC.

Nanna Ram, who belonged to Hisar district of Haryana, confessed that some bags, which were stolen from the Alike godown on the night of June 17, had been unloaded by other members of the gang.


Man beaten up
Tribune News Service

Kharar, June 19
Balkar Singh (35), a resident of Majatri, Kharar was allegedly beaten up by the musclemen of a liquor shop owner in Jhanjeri village, last night. He was rushed to the Kharar Civil Hospital with serious injuries.


BA/B Sc (III) exam results today
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, June 19
The results of the BA/BSc (part III) examination of Guru Nanak Dev University held in April-May this year will be declared tomorrow. The results will be available on the university website (www.gnduonline.org).


Elementary teachers’ stir
Our Correspondent

Fazilka, June 19
Unemployed elementary teachers held a rally in the local Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Park. Later, the teachers blocked traffic in the town at various places.

The teachers resolved to continue their struggle until they were provided jobs by the government.

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