P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Bir Devinder has spat with VC, stages dharna
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, June 26
Punjab Deputy Speaker Bir Devinder Singh, who is a member of the Punjabi University Syndicate, staged a dharna in front of Vice-Chancellor Swarn Singh Boparai’s office today after a spat with the latter on the issue of reducing marks of Punjabi and English languages to facilitate the introduction of computer application as a compulsory subject in colleges affiliated to the university.

The Deputy Speaker marched out of the Syndicate room after a heated exchange of words with the Vice-Chancellor and staged a dharna in the porch in front of the building. Minister Jasjit Singh Randhawa and legislator Surinder Singla, members of the Syndicate, defused the situation by requesting the Vice-Chancellor to come out and request the Deputy Speaker to share a cup of tea with him.

Mr Bir Devinder Singh later claimed that he had ended his dharna after Mr Boparai expressed regret for the incident in the Syndicate room. The Vice-Chancellor said he had not expressed regret on any issue to the Deputy Speaker.

The confrontation started after the Syndicate meeting, when all Syndicate members were having tea. Mr Singla lauded the efforts made earlier by the Vice-Chancellor to introduce computer application as a compulsory subject. Following this, Mr Boparai started briefing Mr Singla on the earlier proposal of the university on the issue.

Mr Boparai stressed that the proposal had not been objected to by even Akalis, saying probably they had a better perception on the subject. This infuriated the Deputy Speaker who asked the Vice-Chancellor to stop politicking on the subject. The Congress leader claimed that the issue should not be discussed as it was not on the agenda and was a closed matter after a directive by the government that the status of Punjabi should not be diluted.

At this juncture, Mr Boparai maintained that the Deputy Speaker could not stop him from talking on the issue. Mr Bir Devinder Singh claimed that the Vice-Chancellor had said he (Bir Devinder) was nobody to stop him (Boparai) from speaking. The Congress leader walked out of the room and staged a dharna. The situation was defused by Mr Randhawa and Mr Singla. Mr Bir Devinder Singh said he would apprise the Chief Minister and the Speaker of the treatment meted out to him. “They have to take action against the Vice-Chancellor”, he said.

Mr Boparai said as Mr Bir Devinder Singh occupied a high public office, it would not be appropriate for him to comment on latter’s behaviour. He said as far as he was concerned, there was no misbehaviour.


Punjabi varsity Syndicate clears D Litt for Sonia
Tribune News Service

Patiala, June 26
The Punjabi University Syndicate today approved a proposal to confer the degree of Doctor of Literature (honoris causa) on Congress President Sonia Gandhi.

The proposal was read out by Vice-Chancellor Swarn Singh Boparai at the meeting and was endorsed by all members. The meeting was attended by senior Congress leaders, including Deputy Speaker Bir Devinder Singh, Minister Jasjit Singh Randhawa and legislator Surinder Singla.

The Vice-Chancellor, when contacted on the matter, said Mrs Gandhi had singlehandedly brought together all unifying forces in the country after the Lok Sabha elections. He said by giving up the office of Prime Minister she had set an example similar to that of Mahatma Gandhi.

Mr Boparai said Mrs Gandhi had further strengthened the Indian polity by giving the prime ministership to a man who exemplified the highest standards of honesty and integrity in public life combined with simplicity in personal living.

The Syndicate also approved a panel of experts for Selection Committee meetings in various subjects for the period July, 2004, to June, 2005.

In another decision the Syndicate approved a proposal of the Standing Committee of the Academic Council for redesignating posts in the Department of Physical Education and Sports as Director and Assistant Director in Physical Education and Sports in the non-teaching wing and Professor, Reader and Lecturer in the teaching wing of the department.


Gurdwara panel countermands poll in 3 constituencies
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 26
Blaming the electoral machinery for “frustrating the process of holding free- and-fair gurdwara elections”, the Chief Commissioner, Gurdwara Elections, tonight ordered countermanding of elections in Taran Tarn, Dhariwal and Gurdaspur. Elections in the remaining constituencies will be held as scheduled, it was announced.

Countermanding of elections has brought to the surface a stand off between the Commission and the state government which had been simmering ever since the nomination papers of three Shiromani Akali Dal leaders — Mr Alwinder Pal Singh Pakhoke, Mr Sucha Singh Langah and Mr Sewa Singh Sekhwan — were rejected.

Only yesterday, a delegation of SAD led by its President, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, met the Prime Minister and complained to him about “alleged interference of the state government in the gurdwara elections.” Though the Prime Minister promised to seek a report from the Punjab Government as well as from the Home Ministry, no communication to that effect has been received by the former so far.

The commission also waited until late this evening before taking the decision to countermand the three elections. This decision may have far reaching implications as it will give a lever to Akalis to project the Congress as “anti-Sikh” holding that even the authority of an independent Gurdwara Commission has been belittled.

Though the commission set aside the orders of the Deputy Commissioners and

allowed them to participate in the elections as SAD candidates, the Returning Officers of Tarn Taran, Dhariwal and Gurdaspur refused to allot them the election symbols.

The conduct of Deputy Commissioners of Amritsar and Gurdaspur in not complying with the directions of the commission and failure of both the state government and the Union Government to act on the recommendations made by the commission to them were the reasons given by the commission for countermanding these elections.

“Elections in these constituencies will be held only after congenial conditions are restored,” said the Chief Commissioner, Gurdwara Elections, Justice Jai Singh Sekhon.

“The electoral machinery is on deputation with the commission. We cannot initiate any action against any official on deputation with us. We have to recommend action, if any, to the parental department,” Justice Sekhon said while revealing that though the commission had sent its recommendations against the Deputy Commissioners of Amritsar and Gurdaspur to the Punjab Government, “nothing has been heard from the state government so far.There has been no communication from the Union Home Ministry either.”

Justice Sekhon said the commission had been forced to follow these steps over the reticent attitude of the government for not responding to the recommendations of the commission over the transfer of two Deputy Commission-ers and three SDMs. “On the other hand, the Chief Minister in a press conference on June 25 stated that there was no question of transferring these officials on the recommendations of the commission as it had no business in demanding so. It was the state government which had to decide.

“For the purpose of conduct of elections, these officials are on deputation with us under Section 47 of the Gurdwara Act. And under Rule 58, the Chief Commissioner has the final say in any dispute arising out of the orders of the Returning Officers and Deputy Commissioners.

“The crisis started when the Deputy Commissioners, who are subordinates to the Chief Commission refused to produce the record in case of the three candidates. Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar said in writing that he cannot produce the record on administrative reasons,” he said.

While talking about changes in the election schedule, Justice Sekhon said that under Rule 13, he has the discretion to rearrange dates or extend dates to avoid any unsavoury situation. “We were waiting for the government to act and help us complete the process in free and fair manner. But now we are left with no choice but to countermand these three elections,” he reiterated.

Justice Sekhon said though the commission could go to the High Court to get its recommendations implemented, but there had been no convention. “ The aggrieved candidates can go to the court,” he added.


Panthic Morcha’s conditional offer to SAD on SGPC poll
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 26
The conditional offer of the Panthic Morcha to withdraw candidates against Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) working President Alwinder Pal Singh Pakhoke and former ministers Sewa Singh Sekhwan and Sucha Singh Langah is likely to put the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in a spot.

The unannounced foreign visit of Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar of Akal Takht, has surprised Panthic leaders as there was no competent authority to take any decision on the complaints that poured in from different quarters at the Akal Takht secretariat regarding violation of the religious code, issued by him for the general elections of the SGPC. Jathedar Vedanti would return to Amritsar on July 8, three days before the SGPC poll. The meeting of the Sikh clergy, expected to be held this month to take certain steps to implement the religious code, was unlikely to be held before the SGPC poll. The Akal Takht secretariat had received a number of complaints, but there was nobody to dispose of serious matters.

Bhai Ranjit Singh, a former Jathedar of Akal the Takht and Baba Sarbjot Singh Bedi had said if the SAD cleared the amount of Rs 2.50 crore outstanding against wards of Mr Pakhoke, Mr Sekhwan and Mr Langah, the Panthic Morcha would withdraw candidates from Tarn Taran, Gurdaspur and Dhaliwal. They said by sacrificing three seats, the Panthic Morcha would be the gainer as the move would help clearance of the outstanding amount belonging to Guru Ghar. They said Mr H.S. Matewal, a former Advocate-General, had given his legal opinion that those who had got admission to MBBS from the NRI quota should immediately clear their balance fees.

Bhai Ranjit Singh said it was a matter of shame that SGPC members who were trustees of Shiromani Committee had failed to deposit the amount despite repeated resolutions passed by the Guru Ram Dass Medical Trust. Previous SGPC chiefs had directed the Director–cum-Principal of the medical college to recover the amount from the defaulters.

The Panthic Morcha leaders said it was a matter of concern that the SGPC elections had become the last priority for Jathedar Vedanti and other Sikh high priests. They said Jathedar Vedanti had failed to direct the defaulters of the SGPC-run medical college to clear the outstanding amount.


SAD candidate’s charge against rival
Tribune News Service

Mohali, June 26
The Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) candidate from Mohali for the coming SGPC elections, Mr Maan Singh Sohana, today alleged that his main contender, Mr Hardeep Singh, was misusing the name and photograph of Punjab's leading Kirtani Bhai Jasbir Singh Khannawale.

Mr Sohana alleged that Hardeep Singh was using Bhai Jasbir Singh's name and photograph in his campaign pamphlets. He added that Bhai Jasbir Singh Khannawale was in fact out of the country and Hardeep Singh was taking advantage of his absence. He further claimed that Bhai Jasbir Singh Khannawale had tried to dissuade Hardeep Singh from contending elections but he had decided to go ahead as an Independent candidate.

Mr Hardeep Singh was elected as SGPC member from Mohali in 1996. This year, he was first given ticket by the SAD (B) again but the ticket was revoked at the last minute. The SAD (B) then chose Mr Sohana as its candidate. Mr Hardeep Singh is now reportedly drawing the support of both Mr Simranjit Singh Mann of the Akali Dal (Amritsar) and Prem Singh Chandumajra of the Akali Dal (Longowal).

Mr Rajbir Singh Padiala, local SAD leader, told media persons that Hardeep Singh had won elections due to the efforts of Mr Sohana who was his election agent in 1996. ‘‘But when it came out in the open that Hardeep Singh had filed an FIR against him on charges of looting, we stopped supporting him,’’ said Mr Sohana.

Mr Padiala alleged that the third candidate in the fray for the Mohali seat, who also named Mr Sohana, was in fact a scapegoat. ‘‘A day before the elections Hardeep Singh would tell voters that Mr Sohana had decided not to contend elections in order to confuse voters.’’ he said.

Mr J.P. Singh President, Kalgi Dhar Seva Jatha, along with Municipal Councillors, Mr Manjit Singh Sethi and Mrs Manmohan Kaur, were present in support of Mr Sohana.


SGPC to approach Centre for stamp
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 26
The SGPC today decided to approach the Union Government for releasing a postal stamp on the occasion of the fourth centenary celebrations of the “parkash gurpurb of Sri Guru Granth Sahib”.

A meeting of the SGPC’s sub-committee, set up to prepare for the celebrations, was held here today, according to Mr Dalmegh Singh Khatra, secretary of the SGPC. He said that design of the stamp would be got prepared by Prof Prithipal Singh Kapoor, former Pro Vice-Chancellor of Guru Nanak Dev University.

Mr Khatra said that the SGPC would also release memorial coins of gold and silver as part of the celebrations.

The sub-committee also approved the opening of a religious training institute in memory of Gurcharan Singh Tohra at Fatehgarh Sahib. At the institute “granthis” would be imparted education with regard to the Sikh religion.

The sub-committee has also set up a committee to shortlist scholars to write books regarding the philosophy of Guru Granth Sahib. It has also approved the design of “Gurmukhi park” which would be set up as part of the 500th birth anniversary of Guru Angad Dev.


Punjab Assembly — Roundup
Shortlived unanimity
P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 26
The Punjab Vidhan Sabha Budget session took off with a unanimous resolution over the river waters issue and the SYL Canal on June 15.

But, as the session progressed etiquette of members hit a new low. Even the Speaker, Dr Kewal Krishan, was not spared. For the first time, the Opposition walked out in protest against him. The Speaker allowed slogans against him to go on record.

It started over the TV coverage that focused on the Leader of the House, Capt Amarinder Singh, and ignored the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, who had raised the issue. Opposition blamed the Speaker for it. However, both Dr Kewal Krishan and the treasury benches maintained that “the House was only following the tradition set by the SAD-BJP government”.

Incensed at the opposition’s attack on the Chair, it was left to the Deputy Speaker, Mr Bir Devinder Singh, to shut off the TV cameras. The treasury benches moved a resolution to “censure” and “suspend” the Opposition for the day. Capt Amarinder Singh wanted Mr Badal to tender an “apology”. But Mr Badal didn’t oblige. Responding to Mr Bir Devinder Singh’s broad hints, the Chief Minister remarked: “I condemn their act and pardon them”.

As the session moved on members remained careful with their words. The old sarcasm gave way to satire.

Throughout the discussions on the Governor’s Address or Budget, majority of the members appeared to be going through motions. On June 23 the discussion started on the Budget. There were just four speakers. Mr Birdevinder Singh disappointed at the level of discussion and unpreparedness of the members adjourned the House much ahead of the scheduled time. This forced the Congress Chief Whip, Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi, to issue a three-line whip asking party members to be present on the last two days, June 24 and 25.

On June 24, Mr Badal raised the issue of interference by the government in the SGPC elections. His comments and protest were placed on record. The reply by the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Mr Partap Singh Bajwa, made the Opposition raise slogans, sit-in in the well of the House. The House was adjourned before the Finance Minister could reply to the discussion on the Budget.

On the last day, the entire Opposition went missing from the House. The Congress members on the treasury benches showed little enthusiasm in the formal business listed for the day. The reason was not far to seek. All ministers had submitted their resignations to the Capt Amarinder Singh, at a dinner he had hosted at his residence on Thursday.


All parties to meet PM in July on river waters
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 26
An all-party delegation from Punjab, led by Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, will meet the President, Mr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, and the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, on the SYL canal and river waters issue in the first week of July. The delegation may get the appointments for July 3 or 4.

The Principal Secretary, Irrigation, Mr K.R. Lakhanpal, has been asked to draft a memorandum. To finalise the contents of the memorandum, a meeting was convened by Capt Amarinder Singh. Besides his Cabinet colleagues, including Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Mr Gurchet Singh Bhullar, senior officers of the Irrigation Department also attended the meeting.

The memorandum would state that various agreements and awards on the sharing of river waters among Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan had become invalid. Even the Rajiv-Longowal accord had become redundant.

The Rajiv-Longowal accord was signed in 1985, superseding all previous agreements. It would be great injustice with Punjab to implement its other clause dealing with the construction of the SYL canal. Moreover, Punjab had asked for the setting up of a new tribunal replacing the Eradi Commission to assess the availability of water and to examine other related issues.

Neither Haryana nor Rajasthan was part of the basin of Punjab rivers. The two states had been given river waters in violation to the riparian principles.


Villages without power, water
We live in ‘kala pani’, says oldest resident
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Kajle (Indo-Pak border), June 26
About 100 families of seven villages in Lassian Enclave across Ravi and Ujh rivers seem to have been living in medieval period as they are still without power, water and other basic amenities.

The approach road to the villages is unthinkable due to meandering rivers which confluence at the enclave here thereby causing colossal damage, especially during torrential rains. Anybody who wish to visit this area near the international border, has to use big Army boats which ferry even tractors, carts and two-wheelers across the rivers. In case of emergency, the villagers have to look to the Almighty as nobody could think of timely medical help in these villages. Hawk eyes of Army men keep strict vigil on the visitors who visit the enclave due to security reasons.

Mr Narain Singh (75), oldest resident of Kajle village, described the cluster of village across Ravi and Ujh rivers as ‘kala pani’. Mr Mukhtiyar Singh, a panch of the village, said due to changing course of rivers, many houses were demolished in the past. The condition of Asmailpur, Shahpur, Jainpur Kucher and Rajpur Jattan in this enclave is no different. The school-going children of the area could not think of higher education. The only government employee seen in the area during the visit by The Tribune team was Mr Ajay Mahajan, a junior engineer of the Drainage Department. The villagers alleged that hardly any government official visit the area.

Another resident Mohinder Singh alleged that there was no dispensary in any of the villages and many persons had died on their way to hospitals in the past. Most of the residents of these villages belong to lower strata of society. They are not in a position to shift to some other place as they don’t have much money for this venture.

Moreover, the villagers have been facing constant danger to their lives. Flash floods during rainy season could finish their existence any time. Another danger is from Pakistan which has been waging ‘proxy war’ by diverting course of rivers which zig zag in Indian and Pakistan territories as well. The residents had already suffered huge damage during floods of 1988 when at least seven residents of the area were washed away.

Though the state and the Central governments had been making efforts by constructing studs and protection bundhs, these could not match with the protection bundhs made by Pakistan due to lack of funds.

It is learnt that due to the sensitive and strategic area, the senior Army officers and the Drainage Department had made a number of requests to the state and the Union Government but no funds had been released in the past three years.


Board's Class X exam results today
Tribune News Service

Mohali, June 26
The Class X examination results of the Punjab School Education Board (PSEB) will be declared tomorrow. According to the information made available by the board, this year 66.17 per cent of the total students who appeared for the examination have passed.

According to the board's Secretary, the Class X merit list will be released tomorrow but the complete result gazettes will be available for the public at the board's textbook sales depots in district headquarters from 4pm onwards on June 28. The school principals or their authorised representatives can collect the result cuttings of their respective institutions from these depots.

A total of 344532 candidates had appeared in the examination this year out of which 227976 have passed. While 70 per cent of the regular candidates have passed, only 51 per cent of the private candidates have passed.

The results will be available on the internet at midnight between June 28 and June 29 at websites www.indiaresult.com, www.schoolnetindia.com and www.ilfsets.com. Individual schools can view the complete result of their school by entering the school code on the same websites.

Besides these, the result will be available on R-world of Reliance India Mobile and SMS of Spice, Airtel and BSNL. Reliance infocom will post the result on R-World. Users will be able to view the result anytime anywhere on Reliance mobile telephones free of cost.

Mobile users, to view the result, will have to type MA and type their roll number after a space. The SMS will be sent at 1012 for Spice, 234 for Airtel and 333 for BSNL.

The results will also be available through automated result enquiry system on telephone number 1250112, dialed locally from Ludhiana and for all other places in Punjab, dialled after prefixing the Ludhiana code 0161. The results will be available on the system for a week after the declaration of the result.


Two murdered ‘by in-laws’
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, June 26
Two persons were murdered allegedly by their respective in-laws at two places in the town today. Maggar Singh, a resident of Mehna Basti, was murdered allegedly by his in-laws when he went to his in-laws house at Chunnu village in Muktsar district to bring his wife back. Tinku was murdered allegedly by his in-laws when he went to their house in the Partap Nagar area of this town to bring his wife to his house.

Police sources said as per preliminary information, Maggar Singh, went to his in-laws’ house today. Due to his differences with his in-laws, he was beaten up by his mother-in-law, father-in-law, wife and an other resident of the village.

Maggar Singh fell unconscious. The accused bundled him into a jeep and brought him to his house here. The accused told the next of kin of the deceased that he was running high temperature and so they had brought him here.

When the next of kin of the deceased looked at him, they found him dead. The next of kin of the deceased overpowered the accused and handed them over to the police.

Unconfirmed information revealed that two of the accused were Bhagwan Kaur, mother-in-law of the deceased and Laxmi Kaur, wife of the deceased. The names of other two accused could not be known.

Police sources said Tinku went to his in-laws’ house last evening and asked his in-laws to send his wife, who was pregnant, with him. The in-laws of Tinku reportedly refused to send his wife with him.

This morning, Tinku, who was an electrician and the only son of his parents, again went to the house of his in-laws and asked him to send his wife with him. The in-laws of Tinku —brothers-in-law Suraj Kumar and Parveen Kumar and mother-in-law Radhe Rani — reportedly started beating him up with a cricket bat.

The accused kept hitting him on the head. Tinku, who was seriously injured, reached his house. His condition started deteriorating and he died after some time. A case under Sections 304 and 34 of the IPC was registered. The arrest of the three could not be confirmed.

The police authorities were of the view that the Maggar Singh murder case should be registered at the Lambi police station in Muktsar district as the incident took place at Chunnu village. The statement of the next of kin of Maggar Singh was being recorded.

In another case, the police arrested a smuggler of narcotics, identified as Satpal Singh, alias Satti at its naka on the Doomwali drain. One of the accomplices of Satti, identified as Lakhbir Singh alias Dhakkar, managed to escape. About 315 kg of poppy husk was recovered from the car being used by the accused. A case was registered.


Kainth accuses Mayawati of back stabbing

Phagwara, June 26
The BSP President, Ms Mayawati, should have given us a hearing before expelling us from the party, Satnam Singh Kainth, who was the chief coordinator of Punjab BSP but expelled later on charges of disobedience, said here today.

Kainth said the Dalit interests in the state were being ignored and non-Dalit programmes were being followed by the state BSP leadership. — PTI


Unauthorised shopping complexes demolished
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, June 26
Despite efforts of Mayor Surinder Mahey to scuttle the drive to demolish unauthorised shops and shopping complexes in residential areas, including that of the Editor of a local Punjabi daily Ratnesh Singh Sodhi, the municipal corporation (MC) authorities led by Commissioner T.R. Sarangal today demolished multi-storeyed shopping complexes and buildings being built in violation of building bylaws.

Owners of most such shopping complexes argued with the MC officials that they should have been served with notices before the demolition. The officials maintained that around 25 such complexes had been identified for demolition.

The MC team demolished a major portion of a double-storeyed building near the official residence of Mr Mahey in the Model Town locality. They then moved to the Model Town market and demolished the front portion of a shopping complex in possession of Mr Sodhi, Editor of Akali Patrika, a Punjabi newspaper. Mr Sodhi entered into a verbal dual with Additional Commissioner Satwant Singh Johl.

The MC team razed two shops in Model Town without resistance. A major portion of a triple-storeyed shopping complex on Mall Road was also demolished. The owner of the complex, Mr Sunil Khanna, along with his supporters, reached the spot and confronted Mr Sarangal. Mr Mahey phoned up Mr Sarangal and asked him to stop the demolition drive. The request was turned down by the MC Commissioner. There were heated arguments between the duo over phone.

Mr Sarangal later went to the official residence of the Mayor, where a meeting was held for more than two hours in the presence of Congress councillors, who argued with Mr Sarangal. Mr Mahey allegedly tried to intimidate Mr Sarangal and ordered him not to go ahead with the demolition drive, but the latter refused to budge. A building material store built on the land of Lyallpur Khalsa Senior Secondary School on the Nakodar road was also razed.

When contacted, Mr Mahey said the MC could not demolish buildings in such a fashion. He added that he did not intimidate any MC official from discharging his duty.


Bridge unsafe for heavy traffic
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Ropar June 26
The over 100-year-old bridge on the Sirhind canal in Ropar is too old to be safe for heavy traffic. It was declared unsafe by the state government about 10 years ago. However, still heavy traffic is plying over it despite the directives of the Deputy Commissioner, Ropar.

The bridge was declared unsafe following a technical report of engineers of the local municipal council and the Irrigation Department. According to the report the thickness of the slab over the bridge has been eroded, making it unsafe for the heavy traffic. It has also developed holes at many places that have been unsafely plugged with sand bags by the local authorities.

After it was declared unsafe many times the local council erected iron barriers on both sides of the bridge to check the plying of heavy traffic . However, the vested interests uprooted the iron barriers and continued plying the heavy traffic on the bridge.

The local authorities are busy passing on the blame on each other rather than taking any concrete step. The district administration officials claim that directives have been issued to the local municipal council authorities to stop the plying of heavy vehicles. The council authorities, on the other hand, said that they had erected barriers but the people had uprooted them and so they were helpless.

The cash-starved local municipal council authorities also maintain that they have no funds for maintaining the bridge. The report regarding the unsafe bridge has also been sent to the state government long ago. However, no funds have been received for repairs or strengthening of the bridge, they said.

Since the old bridge was the easiest and the shortest way to asses the main Ropar town markets, most of the heavy traffic meant for the town passed over it. The Ropar bypass project that has been hanging fire for more than a decade now could be a possible solution for diverting the heavy traffic from the unsafe bridge.

The case of Ropar bypass project is now lying with the PIDB. Despite the announcements of the local ministers that Rs 5 crore have been sanctioned by the government, no headway has been made in this regard.

It seems that the government or the local administration may wake up when a mishap takes place for, so far, various warnings have fallen on deaf ears in this regard.


20 stone pickers of RTP still untraceable
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Ropar, June 26
About 20 stone pickers of the Ropar thermal plant who were allegedly kidnapped by a contractor yesterday were still untraceable. The Ropar police had also failed to register an FIR in the matter despite a complaint filed by the contract labour union of the plant.

The president of the Contract Labour Union Mr RK Tiwari, when contacted said the five of labourers who escaped the attack of the henchmen of the contractor yesterday at the Indore railway station are likely to arrive here shortly. The future course of action is likely to be adopted after the arrival of the labourers.

Meanwhile, the thermal plant authorities are also facing problems in the absence of the expert stone-pickers. The stone-pickers who generally come from Tamil Nadu are specialised in the job of quickly picking stones from the moving conveyor belt carrying coal to the kiln of the plant. If the stones are removed dexterously from the conveyor belt, there are chances of the plant getting damaged due stone mixed with coal.

Since the job is specialised the thermal plant authorities are facing problems in managing the job in the absence of the expert labourers who have been allegedly kidnapped by the contractor. They are presently managing the job with the few labourers who managed to escape and managed to stay back at the plant. The contract labour union of the Ropar thermal Plant in a complaint lodged with the Ropar police today alleged that many labourers of the plant had been kidnapped by the contractor.

In the complaint it was alleged that the proprietors of the Ms Prince and Company kidnapped the contract labourers for the fear of losing their contract in the thermal plant.

The company had earlier been allotted the work of stone-picking in the coal handling plant of the thermal plant.

The PSEB on the directions of the Supreme Court had, however, decided to abolish the contract labour system in the thermal plant. Due to it the thermal plant management gave offer to labourers of the contractor to come on rolls of the PSEB. The contractor fearing that he might lose the contract if his labourers were absorbed as PSEB employees, allegedly thrashed and forced his old employees to leave the plant. He then brought in new labour.

Forced by ruling of the Supreme Court the thermal plant management once again gave offer of permanent jobs in PSEB to 24 new employees of the contractor.

The officials of the Prince and Company were not available for comment despite repeated attempts to contract them on the phone.

The names of the labourers who have been allegedly kidnapped include M Perumal, V Mariappan, V Sandeep Kumar, V Kanan, P Ramesh, A Sarvavan, P Priya Swami, P Hari Raman, S Ganeshan, G Lakshmanan, S Perumal, S Ramraj, M Murgan, S Siladurae, S Gurgaon, TPutia Swami, C Murgan and M Anthony.


Music royale at city royale
Ravi Dhaliwal

PATIALA: High profile performance platforms may be at a premium for him in this city royale, yet 72-year-old Pt Jawaharlal Sharma, an exponent of classical vocal music, has been producing endearing fare for the past six decades in his own imitable way.

Inheriting the legacy of the famous Patiala Gharana, Pandit Sharma’s style of singing is a beautiful blend of the traditional and the modern. The veteran has no illusions in saying that music has a very soothing influence on his life.

His eldest son, Vijay Sharma, is a renowned sitarist and has given scores of high class performances in foreign lands with kathak exponent Birju Maharaj. While listening to the master one thing that becomes amply clear is that his vocalism definitely exudes the characteristic flavour of Patiala Gharana musicians, besides being so assured and infallible. This is also reflected in his rendition of “madhur swar”, which presents a mix of power and tenderness. Every move of this virtuoso suggests that he is a highly perfected artist with ragas on his tips. Pandit Sharma learnt the basics of vocal singing from a highly respected musician of the gharana, Ustad Abdul Azeez Khan.

Hundreds of disciples have been taught the finer nuances of rendering vocal music by Pandit Sharma at his Triveni Chowk residence located in old Patiala. Prominent among them are Gurdas Mann, Pt Durga Dass, Jaspal Jassi, Preet Mohinder Tiwari and Shilpy Walia.

After Pandit Sharma completed his graduation from Mohindra College, he looked up to Ustad Abdul Azeez to teach him the finer nuances of vocal music.

What adds sparkle to his musical acumen is the fact that the domestic environment during his childhood days yielded little encouragement to his pursuits. It was only in the pre-Partition days as a strapping youth did he uncover the beauty of singing.

One of the fundamentals among the primary six ragas of the Hindustani style of music, “Shree” is the toughest to handle, feels Pandit Sharma. To it our shastras impute the power to “melt the stones”.

“Shree’s” melodic constitution is as complex as its pervasive appeal and it presents a queer blend of power and tenderness, opines Pt Sharma. During the recent Patiala Heritage Festival, Pandit Sharma gave an almost perfect performance of “Shree”.


Soldiers’ families visit Amritsar
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, June 26
A total of 125 family members of Junior Commissioned Officers and other ranks posted in border areas of the country visited Amritsar today.

The visit was organised by 91-Sub Area under the aegis of Vajra Corps. They visited Jallianwala Bagh, Golden Temple and Durgiana Temple and enjoyed the retreat ceremony at the Wagah border.

Ms Gurjit Kaur, wife of Havaldar Gurmukh Singh, posted in the Dras sector of Jammu and Kashmir, said her husband has been posted in the inhabitable terrain for the past two years and had visited the family thrice in this period. Welcoming the efforts of Vajra Corps, she said it had given a chance to all families to come together to this religious place.

Major Bahadur Singh, leader of the group, said Vajra Corps had been organising events for families of men posted in field areas, who could not devote time to their families.


Anti-Drug Day observed
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, June 26
Dr Phulinder Kaur, Project in charge, Drug Awareness Counselling Centre, Bathinda, today said the evil of drug addiction could be curbed only though educating people about its hazards.

Speaking at a function organised in Mashana village of the district on the occasion of International Anti-Drug Day, Dr Phulinder Kaur said addiction was a “family disease” as it affected not only the addict but also ruined the entire family.

She said drug addiction always led to other social evils and trapped addicts in a vicious circle, adding children should be educated about the ill-effects of drug addiction as part of their academic curriculum.

A rally was organised in the village. An exhibition to focus on the ill-effects of drugs and alcohol was also held. The United Welfare Club, the Tarksheel Society and Brahma Kumaris also participated in the function.

Another function in connection with Anti-Drug Day was held at the Red Cross Drug Deaddiction Centre here.


Milk quality checking centres to be set up
Tribune News Service

Ropar, June 26
There has been a tremendous increase in complaints of adulteration of milk products in Punjab. Owing to this the Department of Animal Husbandry has decided to provide milk checking facilities in the rural and urban areas of the state. At present there are about 3 lakh milkmen in the state. An elaborate programme has been drawn up to check the quality of milk being supplied by these milkmen.

The Minister for Animal Husbandry, Sports, Fisheries and Youth Affairs, Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang, gave this information at a public gathering in Chatamli village near Kurali, today. He was here to inaugurate a model dairy training and extension centre.

Mr Kang said the facility to train 2,000 youth in modern dairy farming techniques was available.

He said in order to boost dairy farming in Ropar district 24 villages were being provided with bulk milk coolers.


Farmers begin ‘padyatra’ to Delhi
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, June 26
Five farmers from Haryana of different farmers’ organisations today started a ‘padyatra’ from Jallianwala Bagh here to New Delhi to register their protest against the alleged anti-farmer policies of the Centre.

The farmers, Mr Mangal Singh Khareta, president of the Vishava Bharati Kisan Jagrati Sangthan, Mr Om Prakash of the Kisan Karj Mukat Andolan, Mr Dalbir Singh Tahla, Mr Ranvir Singh Shivach of the Vishava Bharati Kisan Jagrati Shikshan Sansthan and Mr Randhir Singh, started their journey after performing ‘ardas’ at Golden Temple. A number of persons from farmers’ organisations turned up to show their support.

Mr Khareta said a large number of farmers were reeling under debt as they were not getting dues from selling crops. He said the aim of their march was to arouse the government from its slumber and to urge it to do something constructive to save farmers.


Sangrur SSP clarifies
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 26
Sangrur’s Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), in a written statement has clarified that neither he, nor any of his Station House Officer, had demanded bribe of Rs I lakh or any other amount for release of a boy, Pankaj Gupta.

Refering to a news report, the SSP claimed that the allegations levelled by the boy’s father, Satpal Gupta, were false and conncoated. He added that Mr Gupta’s son, along with a dozen other boys, were accused in a case registered on June 6. Legal opinion was being sought for taking action against Mr Gupta, while a reply in the form of an affidavit would be filed in the High Court in due course, he added.


Bollywood stuntman dies in mishap
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, June 26
Kulwant Singh Gill stuntman of yesteryear, died in a road accident at the Hussainpura crossing when a truck hit the rickshaw in which he was travelling last evening. He had performed in films like ‘Satte Pe Satta’, ‘Sharabi’, ‘Nasseb’, ‘Karan Arjun’ and ‘Karma’ and the serial ‘Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi’. He was a resident of Ranjit avenue.

He is survived by his wife and two daughters. He had gone to pay his electricity bills at about 11 am when the accident occurred. Relatives and fans turned up at the cremation today.


Freedom fighter cremated
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, June 26
Freedom fighter and founder of the Gandhi Forum Rajinder Wadhera (70), popularly known as Mahant Shah, who died here last evening, was cremated yesterday.

A large number of people gathered at the cremation ground and paid tributes. The deceased person’s son, Gaurav Wadhera, lit the funeral pyre.

Mr Sarwan Kumar, Mr Raman Behal, presidents of the local MC and Gurdaspur, were among the others who attended the cremation.


Residents lock liquor kiosk
Tribune News Service

Patiala, June 26
Residents of the Bhupindra road area, close to railway crossing No. 22, today locked a liquor kiosk near their house, which had been opened last night. They then marched to the Model Town police station to register their protest in this regard.

Residents said in the morning when they went to the shed they found the workers there adjusting liquor bottles. Ms Satwinder Kaur Sidhu, a resident of the area, said when she asked the employees to show the permission to sell liquor in a residential area, the latter could not show anything. “However they told us that the Excise Department had given them the permission to establish a liquor kiosk at the site.


Ramandeep surrenders in court
Tribune News Service

Patiala, June 26
The kingpin in the immigration scam, Ramandeep Singh, who is accused of duping 47 youths of lakhs of rupees by giving them fake job offers, has surrendered before a local court and been sent to judicial custody.

Disclosing this here today, the SP (City) said the police would apply for Ramandeep’s production warrants on June 30, following which it would move an application seeking his police remand in the case.

He said it was necessary to interrogate Ramandeep, who used to run an Immigration Company, Cherry Immigration Services, to verify the allegations against him. He added that information about how the money was taken, recovery of documents and even knowledge of the property of the accused was important for the prosecution.

Earlier, the police had moved an application in the court seeking orders from the court to stay the sale of property by the accused. It had also claimed that in case the allegations against Ramandeep were proved it would apply for seizure of his properties so that the proceeds could be distributed among his victims.

The scandal had first come to light when nine persons submitted a complaint against Ramandeep, his wife Cherry, and relatives Harnek Singh Gill, Amardev Singh Gill and Dimple Walia. The complainants had claimed that they had been duped by being supplied with fake job offers from a company in Canada, besides being given false immigration clearance certificates of Manitoba State of Canada. The complainants submitted the papers along with details of cheques given to Ramandeep.

A few days back, 38 more complainants had approached the police in the same connection and levelled similar allegations against him. Following this, two more persons, Manpreet Singh and Harpal Singh, who are also relatives of Ramandeeep, have been made accused in the case.


Proclaimed offender remanded in police custody
Our Correspondent

Kharar, June 26
A man arrested by the Economic Offences Cell of the Ropar district yesterday on charge of cheating was remanded in police custody till June 29 by a court here today.

The police had arrested Balbir Singh Kalsi from Delhi yesterday. He had earlier been declared a proclaimed offender by a local court.

A case under Section 420 of the IPC had been registered against Kalsi 
at a Mohali police station in 1997 on a complaint made to the police by Mr Charanjit Singh, a resident of Majri village, and others.

The complainants had said that Kalsi had set up a company, along with members of his family, to send those interested to Dubai.

They alleged that nearly 20 persons had deposited Rs 33,000 per head for the purpose. They were neither sent to Dubai nor was their money returned. Kalsi allegedly amassed lakhs of rupees by defrauding people.


Farmers being encouraged to up sugarcane yield
Tribune News Service

Mohali, June 26
Sugarcane growers of Punjab are being encouraged to adopt ring or pit plantation to improve yield. This was stated by Mr P.S. Kaunta, Chairman, Sugarfed, during the first meeting of the Board of Directors of Sugarfed held at its new office here today.

The Board of Directors thanked the state government for its timely intervention and financial help to Sugarfed to the tune of Rs 500 crore. The Directors also appreciated the efforts of Mr K.S. Sidhu, Managing Director, Sugarfed, in helping to control the damage and bringing Sugarfed out of crisis. Mr Sidhu told the House that the Punjab Government had asked the Centre to enhance the release of quota of sugar to the state to help clear the piled up 30 lakh quintal stock of sugar.

A meeting to review the position of ring and pit plantation of sugar will be held tomorrow in Chandigarh. It will be attended by Mr A.K. Dubey, Financial Commissioner, Punjab; Mr S.K. Sandhu, Registrar, Cooperative Societies; Mr K.S. Aulukh, Vice-Chancellor, PAU, Ludhiana; along with other agricultural scientists.


Archival records to be shifted to old DC office
Tribune News Service

Patiala, June 26
Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh today directed that archival records, presently being kept at Rajindra Kothi, to be shifted to the old Deputy Commissioner's office and the Commissioner's office after renovation of the same.

Presiding over a meeting of the Patiala Development Authority at the Mini- Secretariat here, which was attended by Chief Secretary Jai Singh Gill and Chief Administrator, PUDA, A.S. Chhatwal, the Chief Minister said efforts should be taken to conserve the records in a scientific manner.

The Chief Minister said the buildings should be renovated in accordance with the national standards. He said they should be well equipped as far as fire and humidity control were concerned.

He also ordered that development works be started in the Baran integrated township area on the outskirts of the city. As much as 330 acres had been acquired by PUDA for the township, which will have information technology and biotechnology parks.

The Chief Minister also reviewed the work regarding the construction of chambers for advocates and booths for stamp vendors and deed writers at the Mini-Secretariat. He said these should be completed in a time-bound manner so that the general public could be benefited.

It was also suggested at the meeting that to avoid traffic congestion at the Fountain chowk in the city an alternative route should be planned so that the traffic could come directly to the Mall, bypassing the chowk. The Chief Minister also reviewed the project for augmentation of water supply and sewerage in the city.

The Patiala Development Authority (PDA) also approved the plans and estimates for the redevelopment of the Baradari Gardens. Development works of the park on the Bhupindra road, construction of snacks bar at Sheesh Mahal and Habitat Centre were also reviewed by the PDA.


Kharar Sanitary Inspector suspended
Our Correspondent

Kharar, June 26
A Sanitary Inspector of the Municipal Council here has been suspended for failing to maintain proper sanitation in the town. Action has also been initiated in this regard against the Assistant Municipal Engineer of the civic body.

Though the orders to this effect had not been received at the council office till this evening, they had been passed by Mr R.L. Kalsia, Director, Local Government, Punjab, about a day or two ago.

Mr Kalsia told The Tribune today that he had passed the orders of suspension of the Sanitary Inspector of the Kharar civic body, Mr Om Parkash. He said some action had also been initiated against the Assistant Municipal Engineer of the council, Mr Mukesh Kumar.

The Director said action in this regard had been recommended by the Deputy Director, Urban Local Bodies, Ludhiana, Ms Sarojini Gautam Sharda, who had twice visited Kharar this month.

Mr Kalsia said sanitary inspectors of the civic bodies at Jagraon and Ferozepore had also been placed under suspension after recommendations from Deputy Directors concerned.

During her visit to Kharar on June 14, the Deputy Director had pointed out that sanitation was in a state of neglect in many parts of the town and the supply of water was also not satisfactory. She had visited various areas, including Mundi Kharar, Dusehra Ground, KTM Colony.

Mrs Sharda had sent a report to the government in this regard recommending action against officials concerned.

During her visit, she had directed the Executive Officer of the civic body to start a special sanitation campaign on June 15.

She had suggested that sanitation employees should be divided into teams for better performance and a daily report in this regard should be sent to the council president.


‘Tantrik’ held for rape; victim hospitalised
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, June 26
A case of sexual abuse of a 16-year-old was registered here today. ‘Tantrik’ Karam Chand of Bahadurpur village was arrested in this connection.

The rape victim was admitted to the local civil hospital. The doctor on duty said she was 34-weeks pregnant.

The mother of the victim, a resident of Jammu and Kashmir, said eight or nine months back, her daughter, who was suffering from some problem, was sent to the ‘tantrik’ for treatment. Known for ‘magical’ treatment, he had advised them to leave her there for a few days.

The father of the victim, an unskilled labourer earning about Rs 50 per day, could not afford private treatment. The victim was allowed to stay with the ‘tantrik’ for the treatment. The mother of victim said the ‘tantrik’ was a distant relative.

The victim used to stay with ‘tantrik’ at his ‘dera’. He raped her a number of times and she became pregnant. The victim stated that whenever she raised the alarm or objected she used to be beaten up mercilessly. Two days back, when her parents came to see her, they noticed that she was pregnant and maintaining silence on account of fear of the ‘tantrik’.

The medical officer said due to complications, it was impossible to terminate the pregnancy at this stage. The hospital authorities provided the patient with medicines. The mother of the victim was worried about the fate of her daughter and the child to be born.


Dacoits loot Rs 17 lakh from bank
Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, June 26
In one of the most sensational bank dacoities, three armed youths today looted Rs 17 lakh in cash from the newly opened branch of Bank of Rajasthan Limited on the highly congested Majitha Road of the city.

According to information, the three armed dacoits entered the bank at around 12.40 pm and ordered all five employees to hand over the keys of the strong room and locked them in the room while decamping with cash.

The incident of looting become public only when a brother of one of the employees, Mr Ashok Gupta, came looking for him at 7 pm. He found the bank open. He immediately informed the police. The police team managed to get duplicate keys from the other bank and opened the strongroom. The bank staff had been in the room for more than 7 hours.

The police thereafter launched a massive manhunt to trace the culprits whom the bank employees described as men in the age group of 35 to 40 years. According to initial investigation, the three-member gang had done their homework well as the bank had not appointed any security guard nor activated its alarm systems.


Deceased’s father claims it’s murder
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, June 26
The death of a local truck driver, Sarabjit Singh, alias Lalli, under mysterious circumstances about three months ago on the Bathinda-Dabwali road has triggered a controversy. Mr Jagdev Singh, father of deceased, in a complaint lodged with the police, alleged that his son had been murdered, but the Sangat police had claimed that he had died in a road accident, which took place near Gurthari village on the Bathinda-Dabwali road. He alleged that the Sangat police had got him cremated through a social organisation by dubbing him as unclaimed.

Taking action on the complaint, district police chief Kapil Dev ordered an inquiry. The police rounded for questioning three persons of the four whom Mr Jagdev Singh had reported to be the murderers.

Mr Jagdev Singh had come to know about the death of his son a few days back. He had started searching for his son when his son did not return to his house for about three months. When Mr Jagdev Singh went to the truck union, at Raman Mandi, where his son was working as driver, he came to know that his son had died under mysterious circumstances about three months ago. He had confirmed about the death of his son from the clothes and photograph of the deceased at the Sangat police station. He alleged that the accused, who had murdered his son, and the policemen had destroyed the body by dubbing the same as unclaimed.

During the questioning, those who had been rounded up had confessed that they were aware of the death of Sarabjit Singh, but did not inform the next of kin of the deceased. In another case, a 35-year-old man was found from dead on the Bathinda-Sirsa railway track today. The Sahara Janseva, a non-government organisation, took the body to the civil hospital for postmortem examination.

In yet another case, a body was found from a distributary near Gobind Pura village in this district and the police sent it to the civil hospital for postmortem examination.


665 kg poppy husk seized
Tribune News Service

Patiala, June 26
Nineteen bags of poppy husk were seized from a mini-truck after it was intercepted here, according to the police yesterday. The bags containing 665 kg poppy husk were being transported in the truck by two persons, one of whom was later nabbed by the police.

According to sources, a police team led by ASI Rajesh Malhotra, chowki in charge, New Officers Colony, intercepted the truck on Wednesday afternoon. The occupants of the truck, Surjit Singh of Tarn Taran and Rustam, alias Raju, of Narwana, Haryana, fled the scene. But after a chase, the police arrested Raju. Interrogation revealed that the kingpin, Surjit, had been living in a rented accommodation in the New Officers Colony area for some time.

The police has booked the two under Sections 15, 8, 25 and 60 of the IPC.


BEd entrance test centres raided
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, June 26
All BEd entrance examination centres here were raided today following the receipt of information that some persons had been indulging in impersonation. The raids were conducted at four examination centres by joint teams of police and civil officials led by senior officials of the Revenue Department.

Though no case of impersonation was detected, photocopies of the records of all four examination centre were taken into possession to examine irregularities. The raiding teams verified the credentials of those candidates who were under suspicion. The students were not allowed to leave their respective examination room till 1 p.m. by the raiding teams.

The four examination centres were set up at Government Rajindra College, DAV College, SSD Girls College and SSD School. About 2,700 candidates appeared in the BEd entrance test conducted by Guru Nanak Dev University. The district police authorities had got information that some persons running coaching centres had appeared in the test in place of their students. The police authorities had also got information that some candidates who had cleared the entrance test were appearing in place of other students. The police authorities had also got information that a number of government and private school teachers were appearing in the test in place of students.

The city coordinator appointed by the university authorities was reluctant to hand over photocopies of the records pertaining to the candidates who took the entrance test today. He later handed over the records to the raiding teams after getting permission from the university authorities.


Panchayat won’t allow school to reopen
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, June 26
Strange are the ways of the working of the Education Department, the recent decision of Mr Gian Singh DPI (S) to stay the orders of the outgoing DPI, Mr Sohan Lal, regarding the transfers of teachers of Government Elementary School Lattour, out of district, has forced the village panchayat to revolt against the decision of the DPI(S) and they have declared that the panchayat won’t allow to open the school till the decision of staying the transfers orders of the controversial teachers are withdrawn.

The village panchayat of Lattour had locked the school gate and the students had also joined hands with panchayat and started agitation against the staff and head of the school all efforts of the police, village panchayat and of the officials of Education Department had failed to sort out the difference among warring groups.

The panchayat had alleged that a majority of the teachers remained absent from school for two or three days and when they were asked by students they were beaten up and the panchayat had to interfere in the affairs.

The then DPI(S) had ordered an inquiry to be conducted by DEO(S) and after getting the enquiry report of DEO(S), the Education Department had ordered the transfer of five controversial teachers.

Interestingly the DEO(S) office today got a copy of the orders of the present DPI(S), who stayed the earlier orders of the then DPI. He had also marked a fresh inquiry to be conducted by ADPI on July.1 in the school premises. The DEO(S) has implemented the orders and had informed the both parties and has allowed the transferred teachers to join again.


Students polish shoes in protest
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, June 26
Students of BCA and BBA courses of colleges affiliated to Punjab Technical University (PTU) today polished shoes of candidates seeking admission and their parents on the third day of counselling here today.

They raised slogans and alleged that the university authorities were denying them the third attempt to clear supplementary examinations on the pretext of the Punjab and Haryana High Court judgement.

The agitating students stated that since there was no scope for getting better job opportunities, it would be better if they started polishing shoes to earn money.

PTU Registrar Dr M.S. Grewal asserted that the court had announced its verdict in this regard and instructed the university not to allow these students any chance to clear their supplementary examinations.


Traders fear fresh Army ban on mandi
Rashmi Talwar

Vallah (Amritsar), June 26
Tension was in the air as the new fruit and vegetable mandi opened here today with infrastructure still lacking in the area. The scene was reminiscent of the day when the Army imposed a ban on any new construction within 1000m of the ammunition dump a year ago and most construction work was left incomplete.

Many persons, including arthiyas, pheriwallas, farmers and others, who arrived here today expressed fear over the continued threat of ban by the Army if they settled here.

Mr Harish Taneja, who along with Mr Charanjit Singh and Jialal underwent preventive custody yesterday and were later let off, said the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Raminder Singh, had lifted the imposition of Section 144 under the CrPC but had given no written assurance about the Army’s intentions on a ban on construction in future.

Their fears were not unfounded as the Deputy Commissioner told The Tribune that Mandi owners had been given three months to complete their construction, after which a ban would be imposed.

Meanwhile, Mr Ratan Chand Sharma, president of the Fruit and Vegetable Association, talking to The Tribune, said the Mandi lacked required amenities. There was no connection to the main sewerage and only single-phase electricity was being provided.

No security had been provided despite assurances. Arthiyas, traders and farmers also faced banking problems. Lack of covered area here was a threat to perishable items, he added.

Sufficient platforms too had not been provided for auction. The Deputy Commissioner, however, said out of the four platforms the two meant for grain had also been given for fruit and vegetables.

Meanwhile, Dr Dalbir Singh Verka, a former MLA who pursed the matter of the shifting, said the 104 acres of Vallah mandi were much more than the six acres of space earlier. In a press conference in Amritsar today, he said the Deputy Commissioner had manipulated the matter; there were no army orders. He said the ammunition dump near the mandi was a threat to the safety of the mandi and they would take up with the Defence Ministry the issue of shifting the dump to a safer place.

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