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Central team visits drought-hit areas
To submit report on Friday
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, July 28
The three-member Central team, led by Dr Joginder Singh, Additional Commissioner, Crops, New Delhi, today visited the drought-hit areas of Sangrur district to assess the loss and damage to crops due to drought-like situation.

He was accompanied by Mr Rajbir Singh, Assistant Commissioner, Crops; Mr G.K. Chaudhary, Director, both members of the Central team; Dr Ajmer Singh, Director, Agriculture, Punjab, and Dr Paramjit Singh Sandhu, Chief Agriculture Officer, Sangrur.

The Central team visited Chotian, Bakhora, Gurne, Kotra, Jawaharsinghwala and Lehra villages in Lehragaga block; Fatehgarh, Falera and Dolewala villages in Sunam block; and Shahpur Kalan and Longowal villages in Sangrur block. The team members also met farmers in the fields and villages and listened to their miseries.

Dr Paramjit Singh Sandhu, Chief Agriculture Officer, Sangrur, told The Tribune after the visit of the Central team that the team today made an assessment of the damage to the crops in the villages. He further said the team would submit its report to the Government of India after touring the entire state, on the basis of which the government would take a decision, with regard to declaring drought-hit areas of the state.

Chander Parkash adds from Mansa: Dr Joginder Singh, Additional Agriculture Commissioner, Government of India, who has been heading a three- member team, touring Punjab to assess the loss suffered by farmers due to drought-like conditions, today said the team would submit its report to Mrs Radhe Singh, Secretary, Agriculture, on July 30.

Talking to The Tribune, Dr Joginder Singh, who along with other members, Dr Rajbir Singh and Dr R. K. Chaudhary, went to paddy, cotton and other crop fields in Mansa and Sangrur districts, admitted that farmers were really in bad shape on account of eluding monsoon. He added that farmers had been fighting against all odds to save their crops.

“The cotton, paddy and other crops have started withering because of an acute shortage of water. The situation at the moment is not good but it can change if the rains come,” he pointed out and added that he was really surprised that Punjab could witness such a situation in the agriculture sector.

“We are here to see the ground situation. We are not supposed to make any recommendation in connection with compensation to the farmers who have been suffering losses. We are to see what will happen to agriculture in Punjab if rains fail,” he said. After the team submitted its report, the Ministry of Agriculture would prepare a contingency plan to deal with the situation.

He pointed out that he had never seen such a situation where in the month of July, a crucial period for kharif crops, the rains failed absolutely in Punjab. For the first time in the past few decades, the rains did not lash the Hisar and Sirsa regions of Haryana and the Malwa region of Punjab. He added that he was of the view that the prevailing situation in the month of July was unprecedented.

He pointed out that the Ministry of Agriculture was genuinely worried about the situation which had developed in the agriculture sector in Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, eastern Uttar Pardesh and Vidarbha area of Maharashtra. He added that about six teams had been touring these states presently.

Meanwhile, the members of team gave suggestions to the affected farmers to save their crops. They advised the farmers to use canal water as the underground water was unfit for agriculture purpose.



 

Centre must be generous towards Punjab
PPS Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 28
The present failure of the monsoon is a reminder of a similar drought situation that Punjab had faced in kharif season,2002. Then Punjab had declared all 17 districts as ''drought-affected'' and had calculated that the approximate loss suffered by the agriculture sector alone was Rs 2,190.38 crore.

The total loss or extra burden borne by Punjab was Rs 6,372 crore, as a consequence of the drought in the kharif season, 2002. Against that the state had sought from the Centre relief of Rs 3,529 crore. In return it had got a small sum despite Punjab facing a financial crisis. The same financial stress persists even today. And this time the loss to the economy was expected to be much higher.

Looking at the mocking grey clouds in the sky and at the parched fields, once again a similar drought situation is evolving now. With each passing day, one gets reports of more farmers ploughing their paddy fields and investing more in purchasing diesel to save the kharif crop. Even the state is making efforts to

supply power for longer duration to run tubewells, paddy being a water-guzzling crop. It has ordered several austerity measures, as well, to save on electricity. The Centre has also promised more power.

Even as all these measures are on board, a Central team is making an assessment of the ground situation vis--a-vis crop position.

What really worries Punjab is whether the Centre would respond positively to its demands for adequate relief or compensation to the farmers for the loss suffered on account of drought. The conventional norms and parametres that define drought cannot be made applicable to the state, where farmers are progressive and agriculture is capital intensive. In view of the ploughing-in of heavy finances by every farmer by way of farm inputs, he tends to go beyond his means, even selling his household silver to save his crop, notwithstanding the heavy debt he may incur in the process.

Thus, the Punjab plea to the Centre was simple. It was inappropriate to adhere to the present norms and parametres like 50 per cent loss to crop before any area could be declared 'drought-affected'.

There are confirmed reports that the water level in the three hydro-power project

reservoirs has gone down, affecting power generation. This has put additional heavy burden on farmers who were forced to buy diesel for operating tubewells.

The state, therefore, has reasoned with the Centre that while damage to the crop may be small and fall in yield may be less than 50 per cent or may be 25 per cent, how about the extra cost per acre that has increased on running the tubewells or in several cases on their re-boring or deepening? In fact, the phenomenon of saving crop by incurring large additional costs is peculiar to drought only. Drought has a cascading impact and dents the economy. Whereas, in case of other natural calamities, fire or flood, the damage is sudden and can be reduced by human efforts, it is not so in case of drought.

Therefore, as in case of the kharif,2002, crop season, Punjab farmers, despite their other woes and worries, are today making a determined effort to save their crop. Yet there was urgent need to give them support by changing definition or parametres governing the declaration of an area ''drought-affected'' to make them eligible for relief.

As such, when Punjab declared all 17 districts ''drought-affected'' in 2002, it took into account lesser than normal rainfall, excess expenditure on diesel and electricity consumption, fall in water table, damage to crops and area left unsown and wells, tubewells gone dry, deepened or re-bored etc. The same symptoms are discernible again, much to the consternation to rural Punjab.

The drying up of food, fodder and feed will eventually affect milk production. In south-west districts, where underground water is brackish, salts have surfaced and are cause of concern, as these will burn crops and make cattle fodder injurious to their health.

To sum up, norms or parametres to grant relief to farmers in case of natural calamity, approved by the state Cabinet in 1995, are meagre. Going by those the total relief admissible to farmers was over Rs 63.32 crore in 2002. The quantum of relief now admissible was expected to be much more if Punjab were to revise those norms. This, however, may be difficult due to the state's own financial crunch. Therefore, the Centre will have to be persuaded to loosen its purse strings. Isn't Punjab different? 


 

Failure of rain, power shortage push up
prices of foodgrains
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar/Hoshiarpur, July 28
Delayed monsoon and acute power shortage has led to 5 per cent to 20 per cent increase in the prices of foodgrains, pulses and oils in the Doaba region of Punjab.

Enquiries in markets of Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur revealed an upward trend of prices since past one month. Delayed monsoon in the Northern region and shortage of electricity are said to behind this increase. Main factor behind the hike of the price of “atta”, according to market sources, was the non-release of wheat to flour mills. Traders revealed that a 15-litre tin of vegetable oil was available in first week of June for Rs 690, but current price of the commodity was between Rs 730 and Rs 745, varying from market to market. Also a quintal price of mustard oil, according to sources, had jumped from Rs 4250-Rs 4300 to Rs 4900 in one month. A quintal of sunflower oil was available for Rs. 3700 in June, it was priced between Rs 4600 and Rs 4700.

Hike in the price of wheat flour has also started hitting consumers as price of a 90-kg bag of it has risen from Rs 640-Rs 650 to Rs 730-Rs 750 and corn prices have increased from Rs 550 a quintal to Rs 640-650 in different markets in one month.

Price of different varieties of “Parmal” rice has increased from Rs 950-Rs 1100 to Rs 1050-Rs 1300 a quintal in past one month. Same was the case with pulses. A quintal of “Dal Mah” in June was between Rs 1600-Rs 2000, now it sells between Rs 1750 to Rs 2100. “Black gram price has shot up from Rs 1500-Rs 1800 to Rs 1750-Rs 2100 a quintal. The price of “dal chana” has increased from Rs 1750-Rs 1850 to Rs 1850-Rs 2100 in one month.



 

Badal wants loans written off
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 28
The SAD president, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, today demanded a complete waiver of interest and a proportionate writing off of farm loans for the beleaguered farming community. He asked the Punjab Government to immediately order fresh girdwaris to assess the damage to the standing crops because of drought.

Mr Badal said that both the Centre and the state governments have displayed a shocking degree of indifference to the alarming situation prevailing in the state because of the failure of the monsoons. There is an utter lack of executive response to what threatens to take the form of a human tragedy of massive proportions. “We are yet to hear of any evidence of the government according the problem anywhere near priority it deserves. No high-level meeting has been called so far by either the Union or the Punjab Governments, leave aside announcing concrete measures to meet the challenge. Such shocking apathy in the face of a major national crisis is unheard of,” said the Akali leader. Mr Badal also came down heavily on the so-called austerity measures announced by the Punjab Government to save electricity by ordering drastic changes in the timings for official and commercial establishments. But the damage done to the already battered economy has clearly not been taken into account while announcing such steps. Instead of bringing official and commercial activity in the state to a screeching halt, the government should have gone in for liberal purchases of power from alternative sources.

The SAD president said that the present crisis should also serve as an eye-opener to those who had been active in down-playing the magnitude of river water crisis faced by the state. “The first real shortfall in monsoon has been enough to drive home the gravity of the situation in the state. This coupled with the already plunging water table in Punjab should awaken to bitter reality those who reckon only with misleading data gathered from headworks during the floods.”

Commenting on the Union Government’s much publicised concern for the social sector and “reforms with a human face”, Mr Badal said that official claims to this effect have fallen to pieces at the very first challenge posed to its efficiency. This is incredible coming as it did from a government headed by the country’s leading economist.



 

Kisan sabha seeks relief for farmers
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 28
The Punjab Kisan Sabha has impressed upon the state government to modify the existing rules to give immediate financial relief to the farmers who have taken loans. It has demanded that repayment of loans be deferred for a period of at least two years, rate of interest lowered and individual loans converted into institutional loans. In a statement, sabha general secretary Bhupinder Sambar has suggested that those farmers who had been forced to replough paddy fields in the wake of drought should be given financial help to sow alternative crops as well as buy diesel etc.

To discuss the repercussions of the prevailing drought conditions, he said an emergency meeting of the Kisan Sabha has been convened at Ludhiana on July 31.

Mr Sambar said it was time that the government focussed its full attention on saving the kharif crop and meet the evolving serious situation, which is having a cascading impact not only crops but also on milk production in the wake of wilting fodder. At the same time, the farm labour had got jobless. To meet the exigencies of the situation it was looking for alternative employment, while farmers were selling their silver to buy diesel to operate tube wells.



 

Small farmers become paupers
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Nawanshahr, July 28
Havoc wreaked by the drought has virtually broken the financial backbone of the farming community in the countryside.

Small and marginal farmers have been reduced to paupers by the fury of nature that has come to them in form of drought . Distressed farmers have postponed marriages of their daughters and other social ceremonies at various places. " It is hard to even survive, what to talk of marriages etc", says Gurdev Singh of Tonsa village.

A majority of farmers, who have been battling hard to save their crops from the curse of nature, have raised their hands leaving everything to the " wish of God". " We have sustained the fight against drought for five weeks but it is difficult to continue in the same manner now", says Malkiat Singh, a farmer of Fatehpur Tajowal, near Balachaur.

Commission agents have refused to give money to buy fuel for operating diesel-sets to run tubewells. There is no surety of power supply. Water tables have been going down continuously rendering most of the tubewells redundant.

The government has been only expressing " lip sympathy" by making statements in the media to help the drought-hit farmers and other sections of society. " In such a situation, for how long could we continue our fight", says Charan Singh, a former sarpanch of Singh Bhagwantpur village, near Ropar.

" Farmers need the government's help now when they are short of cash and in distress. There will be no use helping them when their crops lie destroyed," says Joginder Singh of Chupki Santpur village.

In fact drought has affected not only farmers but other sections, especially poor in various ways. Poor people, who have been surviving by working as daily wage workers in fields, have become jobless." We have no work to do in fields. Earlier, farmers used to engage us to pick up peas and other vegetables. Even our hand -pumps have gone dry", says Swarani of Nai Majra village, near here. People are facing the problem of drinking water in rural areas.

Crops have started withering. Majority of farmers have abandoned their paddy crops. " We had transplanted 38 acres of paddy. However, now we have planned to water only 10 acres, leaving other fields to wither", says Malkiat Singh. " We have already spent over Rs 1 lakh to save the paddy crop. Money was taken as loan from the commission agent. But now he has refused to give money", he adds. " Earlier one drum of 200 litres capacity used to cost Rs 3,600, and one now has to spend Rs 5000 on it because of the rise in diesel price," he said. And one hears almost the same story from any farmer one comes across.

The most affected is the livestock, especially milch cattle. Kashmiri Lal, who belongs to Gujjar community of Malewal village, has 30 cattle heads. " I have no means to feed my cattle stock now", he says.

Earlier, the rate of green fodder was only Rs 40 per quintal in villages. Now it has shot up to Rs 100 per quintal. In fact, there is no availability of green fodder, he claimed. Price of milch cattle( buffaloes) has come down to Rs 6,000-7,000 from Rs 20,000. Milk yield of milch cattle has been severely affected because of scarcity of fodder. There has been a large scale distress sale of milch cattle because of the drought in this belt.

" Earlier, Fatehpur Tajowal milk society used to collect about 3 quintals of milk daily for supply to the milk plant at Mohali but now the daily collection has come down to 60 kg", says Mr Lehmbar Singh, secretary of the society. ''You can imagine the fall in milk yield in the past few weeks from this figure", he said.

Parmajit Singh, a farmer of Mehtpur village, has every reason to have a dig on met officials. " After going through newspaper reports got published by met officials in May and early June predicting good rainfall, I enhanced the area under paddy at the cost of maize crop . But now I am the biggest loser because of paddy crop sown by me", he said. " In fact, neither am I able to save paddy crop, nor sugarcane and maize crop. I have committed a big blunder by following the Met Department- sponsored weather prediction reports", he said with pain clearly reflecting on his face.



 

Failed monsoon: Central team to
visit Rajpura today
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 28
The Central team, which has been deputed to check the effect of the failed monsoon on Punjab, will visit areas in Rajpura sub-division of the district tomorrow.

Sources disclosed that the team will visit villages in Rajpura, where the groundwater had gone down by forty to fifty feet in the past few years. It will interact with affected farmers.

District Chief Agricultural Officer Kesar Singh, while confirming the visit, said paddy was not planted in nearly 33,000 hectares in the district because of scanty rainfall in the area. He said, as compared to 2.45 lakh hectares of land under paddy cultivation in the past year, this year only 2.15 lakh hectares of land was under paddy.

Meanwhile, the area under maize cultivation was also reduced this year. As against 5,000 hectares in the past year, only 2,000 hectares were under maize cultivation this year.

However, 12 per cent of the total area of the district was being used for fodder cultivation, which had not been affected so badly as paddy.



 

Sarpanch alleges torture
Police wanted to frame deceased’s son
Tribune News Service

Kolianwali (Muktsar), July 28
Mr Phoola Ram, Sarpanch of this village, and five others, including Gurmeet Singh, a son of murdered Congress worker Mr Gurcharan Singh, alias Sharda Singh, were allegedly tortured by the Muktsar police during illegal confinement.

Mr Phoola Ram said today that they were picked up by the Muktsar police and the Malout police separately from their houses on June 13 and kept at different places in confinement and tortured forcing them to confess to the murder of Mr Gurcharan Singh.

Mr Phoola Ram added he was given electric shocks, and others were hung upside down besides being tortured.

Others included Jarnail Singh, Kulwant Singh (both brothers) and Surjeet Singh and Lakhwinder Singh (also brothers), Mr Phoola Ram said adding that others were released after a couple of days, Gurdeep, Surjit and Kulwant were framed in a murder case for which the SSP held a press conference at Malout on June 16.

Talking to The Tribune, deceased Gurcharan Singh’s wife Ms Sukhwinder Kaur and other picked up man Jarnail Singh also charged the Muktsar police with torture. However, Muktsar SSP R.S. Khatra denied these allegations.

Gurcharan Singh was found murdered on the night of May 11 within a day of a clash between SAD and Congress workers on the Lok Sabha polling day on May 10. Three bullets were extricated from Gurcharan’s body.

Before the Ferozepore Range DIG H.S. Randhawa, Mr Phoola Ram had alleged that a piece of four acre land had become the cause of murder of Congress worker Gurcharan Singh alias Sharda Singh. Mr Randhawa was probing the murder on Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s directions.

Mr Phoola Ram said that Mr Kolianwali had given this four acres of panchayat land to his supporter, Didar Singh, for cultivation for two decades.

When post of sarpanch became reserved, SAD candidate Shobhat Ram lost elections and he became the sarpanch, said Phoola Ram adding, cultivation of land was withdrawn from Kolianwali’s supporter and given to Mr Gurcharan Singh.

Mr Phoola Ram said that Kolianwali taking it as an insult threatened to settle the scores. Blaming Kolianwali for the murder, he said that Mr Kolianwali had conspired to kill Mr Gurcharan Singh and his four supporters had shot him dead when he was sleeping outside his house.

Gurcharan Singh’s wife Ms Sukhwinder Kaur and former nambardar of the village Santokh Singh, also made similar statements to the DIG.

Mr Sukhwinder Kaur also alleged that Kolianwali’s exoneration and implication of her son for murdering his father had been done under Mr Badal’s pressure. She also alleged that the Muktsar police had been bribed for doing so.

Mr Kolianwali denied these accusations.

The DIG told The Tribune the inquiry would be completed by first week of next month. Earlier, he had claimed that the probe would be completed after SGPC polls.



 

Kohli’s brother suspended
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 28
The Punjab Police has reportedly placed under suspension constable Ishtpreet Singh, accused of harbouring and monetarily assisting his brother Maninderpal Singh Kohli, while he was on the run after allegedly raping and murdering British school girl Hannah Foster.

The sources in the Punjab Police headquarters revealed that he might even be dismissed from service once the allegations against him were proved to be correct.

They added that the Punjab Police was in touch with the UK Police as far as the case against Kohli was concerned.

Punjab’s Director-General of Police A.A. Siddiqui, when contacted, said Kohli was being “questioned on many issues”.

He added that a report would be prepared on the basis of his interrogation.

The accused would be handed back to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) after the expiry of his remand period, the DGP asserted. Kohli was remanded to police custody till August 5 by a Kharar court.

Ishtpreet Singh and another brother Amritpal Singh were remanded to police custody till July 31. While the former was posted at the Punjab Police Headquarters as a computer operator, Amritpal Singh was working as a Junior Engineer with Rajpura’s Municipal Corporation.

The first information report (FIR) in the matter was registered by Mohali’s former Superintendent of Police (SP) Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh.

The officer, when contacted, refused to comment on the issue. But sources in his office revealed that the SP would not be interrogating the accused until or unless the DGP wanted him to do so.

They added that the FIR was registered to secure his presence in the area. They added that the same would not be a hindrance in his extradition. In fact, senior Punjab Police officers were in favour of his early extradition in the interest of justice.

The sources further claimed that the legal system in UK was “faster” compared to India. The trial was not likely to take more than a month-and-a-half to conclude even though the same would have continued for years in this country, the sources asserted.



 

Pakhoke summoned for ‘back-door entry’ of staff
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 28
The Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission has ordered summoning of Mr Alwinderpal Singh Pakhoke, working president, SGPC through ‘Munadi’ (by beat of a drum) in connection with the recruitment of 111 employees allegedly violating the bylaws of Sikh Gurdwara Act 1925.

The order of the commission reads, “summons could not be issued to respondent (Mr Pakhoke) as ‘Munadi’ fee was not deposited. Fresh summons be issued through ‘Munadi’”. The next date for the appearance of the respondent is fixed for August 24 on the petition filed by Mr Jaswant Singh, of Khalchian village (Amritsar).

The petitioner alleged that as acting president of the SGPC, Mr Pakhoke and Mr Harbeant Singh, the then SGPC secretary, made 111 appointments from July 21, 2003 to July 28, 2003 in violation of the bylaws of the Shiromani Committee. He pleaded that before the appointment the posts should be advertised in newspapers inviting applications for recruitments on merit and in a transparent manner.

He said as per rules the appointments should have been made with the permission of the SGPC Executive Committee. The petitioner added that the president was competent to made the appointment only in case of leave absentee of an employee .

The petitioner alleged that the above said appointments were ‘back door entries’. He said these appointments were made to accommodate his ‘near and dear’ ones thereby. So Mr Pakhoke committed acts of malfeasance, misfeasance, breach of trust, neglect of duty, abuse of powers violating the Gurdwara Act. The petitioner further pleaded the SGPC Executive Committee on October 10, 2003 passed a resolution that due to financial position of the committee, all appointments made after February 2, 2003 were ordered to be annulled. Hence the services of unnecessary, excess temporary employees were terminated from the evening of October 11, 2003.

During their service, temporary employees received salaries which needed to be recovered from their employer with interest. The petitioner also sought removal of Mr Pakhoke from the SGPC Executive Committee and he be disqualified to be a member of the SGPC or a Committee of a notified Sikh Gurdwara for five years from the date of such removal.



 

SGPC, CMC not to accept Majithia panel report
Maneesh Chhibber
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 28
While the management of the Christian Medical College, Ludhiana, has already decided not to follow the orders of the Justice G.R. Majithia-led Committee for Overseeing the Entrance Test Conducted by the Association of Private Professional Colleges, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee has also decided to go against the committee's judgement.

The committee had taken away the right to conduct its own admission test from CMC, Ludhiana, it had revoked the minority status granted to two medical colleges managed by the SGPC in Punjab.

"The judgement is in direct contradiction with the Supreme Court judgement in the case in which the committee was ordered to be constituted. We have been conducting our own admission process for the past over 53 years. How can the committee take away this right from us?" asks a top official of CMC.

The management of the Christian-minority college has also written to the Punjab Chief Minister, informing him that as per his assurance, the CMC will hold its own admission test.

Stung by the decision of the Majithia Committee to take away the minority status granted to two medical colleges in Amritsar run by it, the SGPC has also decided to approach the Punjab Government on the issue.

"How can the committee take away the minority status? This was never its mandate. Moreover, even if for the sake of argument we accept that the committee had the power to deal with this issue, on whose representation did it pass the order? Where's the complaint/representation challenging the minority status to these two colleges?" asks a SGPC spokesperson.

Interestingly, Trustees of the Guru Ram Dass Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, Amritsar, held a meeting recently and decided to represent to the government to not accept the judgement.

They also point to the fact that two engineering colleges run by the SGPC continue to be minority institutions.

The affected institutes are hopeful that the "wrong" judgement will not be implemented.

Meanwhile, the Punjab Government is slowly veering around the view that the minority status of the SGPC-run colleges should not be disturbed.

"I have sought the opinion of the Legal Remembrancer on whether the Justice Majithia Committee was within its right to decide the matter of minority status of these colleges. His report should come in a couple of days. However, till then, the status will continue till as earlier," Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, who also holds the portfolio of Medical Education, told The Tribune.



 

We can’t afford to have more
bloodshed in Punjab: CM
P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 28
During the period between June,1984,and December, 1994, as many as 777 personnel of the Army, paramilitary forces and Punjab Police were killed in the three police districts of Majitha, Amritsar and Tarn Taran. The number of security personnel alone killed in Punjab during internal disturbances was about 1,850.

There is no denying the fact that excesses were committed during the decade of terrorism when the security forces and other agencies were engaged in combating insurgency and fighting a proxy war on behalf of the nation that was thrust by Pakistan.

With the return of peace in the early 1990s, instigated by human rights organisations, interest groups, under and over ground radical outfits, courts and commissions were flooded with complaints of police excesses. Going by the quantum and nature of complaints, investigation into several cases was entrusted to the CBI. Consequently, if the aggrieved victims and families were granted compensation, some cops too were punished, some acquitted; and several more are still facing trial. And, as per police record, over 2,000 writs against cops were discharged by the Punjab High Court!

Sources said the state intelligence agency had observed a “pattern” in the filing of complaints of police excesses and had concluded that this was part of “civil disturbance” operation conceived by Pakistan’s ISI and executed through such complaints, ever keen to keep Punjab on the boil.

The government now maintains that public perceptions and apprehensions were

that attempts to reconstruct the past happenings through such ads could affect the peace and stability in the region. And this was repeatedly conveyed to the NHRC when it had first insisted on the publication of the ad. There is still a lingering feeling if “something genuine” would emerge.

Here is an interesting comparison of the role of the police. Crime chart of the three infamous districts, Majitha, Amritsar and Tarn Taran, shows there were 13,719 incidents of crime from January 1, 1984, to December 31, 1992. This crime included murder, attempt to murder, dacoity, robbery and kidnapping. Cases were also registered under the Arms and the Explosives Acts. Look at the weapons and explosives recovered in these three districts during the same period, January, 1984, to December, 1994, when cremations were done by Punjab Police. The same police and security forces, now in the legal dock, had recovered 34 general purpose and light machine guns, 46 assault, self-loading light rifles and Draganoff, 160 assault rifles, 14 rocket- launchers, 353 kg explosives, 46 grenades, 24 stick bombs etc. Yet, known terrorists are listed among 693 identified persons, who were killed in police encounters or by the public, along with innocent civilians.

Sample this. In the summary of “identified” persons submitted to NHRC are 26 security personnel who were killed, besides 92 killed were ones who had known criminal history and had figured in FIRs or were among hard core terrorists at that time. At least 12 were killed in encounters with the public, while 90 were killed in “long drawn day-night encounters” with security forces. As many as 21 were killed in encounters with the Army alone, while 17 terrorists had consumed cyanide.

In this backdrop, the police has submitted to the Chief Minister, Capt. Amarinder Singh, a report on the current “striking potential” of Punjab militants, active groups etc. analyzing the consequences of NHRC advertisement. In fact, the police has given the viewpoint of the radical groups on the current “water disturbances” in the wake of June 4 order of the Supreme Court on SYL construction and weaved it into the feed-back on the impact of the NHRC ad list on state’s security, law and order, social and political life

The intelligence report cogently recaptures the terrorism-decade, which it says, had its roots in the 1981 tripartite agreement on water sharing “forced” on Punjab, as also the cod-breaking ceremony of SYL in 1982, eventually ending in the Operation Bluestar followed by the anti-Sikh riots in 1984 and the terror-turmoil, thereafter.

Thus, when Capt. Amarinder Singh speaks on Punjab Termination of Agreements Act-2004, he does so in this context to stress that “we cannot have more bloodshed in Punjab.”



 

Amarinder refutes reports on terrorism
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 28
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today strongly refuted news reports attributed to him by a section of the press that terrorism would return to Punjab if the Supreme Court rules against the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act-2004 passed by the state Assembly on July 12.

He, however, said that he had only mentioned that water was an emotive issue in Punjab and any decision thereon had to be taken keeping in view of the events that had happened in the state since 1973.

Reiterating his firm faith and respect for the judiciary, Amarinder Singh said that a workable solution to the water problem could be found after examining the whole gamut of issue and considering the socio-economic upheaval which can be caused by taking a decision, not commensurate with the ground realities and changed circumstances.



 

Dr S.S. Johl resigns
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 28
The Deputy Chairman of the Punjab State Planning Board, Dr S. S. Johl, has submitted his resignation.

The reason given by him for quitting this post in his resignation letter addressed to the Chief Minister, dated July 8, was that he did not find himself ‘’relevant to the system of your governance’’.

It is ironic that till date no one from the Punjab Government has bothered to contact Dr Johl who had the rank of Cabinet Minister.

An eminent agricultural economist, Dr Johl was recently awarded the Padma Bhushan. He is currently president of the prestigious All-India Society of Agricultural Economics. Interestingly, he was elected president unanimously in absentia at a conference in Bhubaneshwar in December last.

At that time Dr Johl was heading an international team of experts in Iran, where he was on FAO assigned to frame policy for sustainable agriculture in Iran.

When contacted at his Ludhiana residence, Dr Johl was first reluctant to say anything on his letter of resignation. He, however, did say that he had felt “slighted’’ as he was seldom consulted on important matters, including ones that directly concerned agriculture. He was not invited to important meetings. So much so that he was not even informed about the recent visit of the 12th Finance Commission, though his report on “Agricultural Production Pattern Adjustment Programme in Punjab for Productivity and Growth’’ was discussed.

“I have worked closely with the Chairman, Dr C. Rangarajan, when he was Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. I could have proved very useful in putting across my report in proper perspective’’. In fact, there were a number of instances and occasions, when he was “ignored’’.

Nevertheless, during his honeymoon with the present government, since 2002, besides report on crop diversification he also headed the Plan Resource Committee on finding ways and means to raise resources for the cash-strapped state. He is likely to relinquish his charge around August 1.



 

Kanwaljit blames govt for power crisis
Our Correspondent

Patiala, July 28
Former Punjab Finance Minister, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, has demanded a special package from the Central Government for Punjab, saying the state had suffered badly due to drought like conditions.

Blaming Amarinder Singh’s Government for the present power crisis, he said the government had not purchased power in time. The SAD-BJP Government had prepared a perfect plan for power purchase from other states much in advance of the peak load period, he added.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh said the state government was ordering closure of shops at that time which was the main earning period of the day. He alleged farmers of the state had suffered heavily due to the administrative incompetence of the government. He demanded a compensation of Rs 10,000 per acre for farmers and said that compensation should be paid to industrialists and shopkeepers of the state.



 

Indo-Pak seminar flays hike in defence budgets
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 28
Expressing deep anguish over the steep hike in the defence budgets by both India and Pakistan, a seminar on “Indo-Pak peace process: possibilities and challenges”, organised by the Folklore Research Academy today called for waging a joint war against poverty, eradication of illiteracy and unemployment. They also emphasised the need for creating permanent thaw in the region.

Instead of spending huge budgets on defence, people of both the countries should force their respective governments to uplift them economically. They also sought arrangements for issuing visas at the Wagah joint checkpost so that citizens of both India and Pakistan could visit each other’s country without any hassle. They also demanded plying of buses between Amritsar and Lahore with a view to strengthening composite Punjabi culture.

Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmad and Mr Zulifkar Gondal (both members of the National Assembly) of the Pakistan’s People Party and Begham Shakila had specially arrived here to participate in the seminar. The guests from Pakistan declared that Didi Nirmala Deshpande, Rajya Sabha member, would be honoured with the “Bulleh Shah peace award” during folklore festival proposed to be held at Kasur (Pakistan) from August 27 to 29 for promoting peace and harmony between India and Pakistan. Bulleh Shah is a Sufi saint who is considered the epitome of composite Punjabi culture.

The one-day seminar was organised here to bring East Punjab and West Punjab closer, which was inaugurated by CPM supremo Harkishen Singh Surjeet. Addressing the gathering, Mr Surjeet hoped that holding of such seminars would help in creating permanent peace in the region. He said joint efforts by the well-meaning persons of both the countries would defeat the nefarious designs of those forces which had been working to create tension in the region.

Nirmala Deshpande said that India should take the initiative in curtailing the defence Budget and Pakistan should follow suit.

Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmad said that it was a matter of great concern that instead of development, politicians of both the countries preferred to increase the defence budgets. He said such a step must be viewed with suspicion. He said he would raise the question of relaxing visa hassles on the floor of Pakistan’s Parliament. He said that it was a matter of sorrow that the vexed Kashmir problem could not be solved amicably.

Ms Shakila from Pakistan emphasised the need for resolving all the bilateral issues through dialogue. She said this people of both the countries were facing problems and hence they should come on a common platform to resolve them. She said politicians would complicate the situations instead.

In a significant statement, Ms Shakila opined that maintenance of Sikh shrines in Pakistan should be given to the community (the Sikhs). She said only Sikhs could restore proper “maryada” in the gurdwaras.

Mr Mohammad Salim, a CPI Member of Parliament from West Bengal, said that it was a hard fact that both India and Pakistan could not become one country again, yet efforts should be made to strengthen relations between them.

Mr Abdul Shahin, a Member of Parliament from Baramula (Kashmir), asked as to why Kashmir had been converted into a battleground by politicians having vested interests? He said killing of innocent persons must be stopped.

Mr Jasdev Singh Jassowal, Mr Amarjit Singh Asal, Mr Ramesh Yadav, Mr Talwinder Singh, Mr Raminder Singh, Deputy Commissioner, and Mr Bhupinder Singh Sandhu were among those who spoke on the occasion.


 

Posing as Sonia’s PA, he took leaders for a ride!
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, July 28
He took both administration and ruling party leaders for a ride. He posed as a personal assistant of Ms Sonia Gandhi, AICC President and enjoyed VVIP hospitality for three days. He walked into offices for checking, authoritatively enquired about the law and order situation but vanished just before he could be caught.

He had introduced himself as Aman when he came to Phagwara on Sunday. He was reportedly accompanied by the Anandpur Sahib Tehsildar and was received here at the guest house by the local Naib Tehsildar deputed by SDM Pritam Singh. Accompanied by police escorts, he visited the local Civil Hospital and summoned SMO Subhash Sharma to enquire about the welfare of the patients. He even got his blood group checked. He was kept in a cosy posh hotel. Interestingly, a Congress leader was even given an assurance by Aman that he would be made PPCC secretary.

However, the beans got spilled when the VVIP asked one Congressman to get his vehicle filled with fuel. The Congressman suspected the veracity of the VVIP and promised to do so later. This created suspicion in the mind of Aman who disappeared last evening.

When contacted today, Mr Manmohan Sharma, Block Congress Committee (urban) president, said he kept on looking for the VVIP but could not meet him. Senior officials, including the SDM and DSP Jaspal Singh, showed ignorance about the visit of any such person.

Kapurthala SSP S.K. Asthana today ordered an inquiry into the case of a VVIP claiming to be Personal Assistant to Mrs Sonia Gandhi, and enjoying hospitality for three days at Phagwara, checking offices, getting police escort, but slipping away mysteriously yesterday. DSP Jaspal Singh had been asked to probe the case and submit the report to Mr Asthana at the earliest.



 

Rise above party politics, DC asks villagers
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, July 28
All state and Central government-sponsored schemes will be implemented at the grassroot level in the district. It will be ensured that the benefits of these schemes reach the real beneficiaries, said Mr S.K. Ahluwalia, Deputy Commissioner, while implementing the Rajiv Gandhi Gramin Yojna in the district by laying the foundation stone of 125 latrines to be constructed at Nabipur village, 10 km from here, today.

He called upon the rural people to rise above party politics for the overall development of their respective areas. He said whenever any development activity was started, rival groups levelled allegations of corruption and demanded inquiries, which consumed a lot of time and affected the development of the village. He called upon the people to ensure their participation in a large number in the commemoration of 300 years of supreme sacrifice of the Sahibzadas. He said various activities would be initiated.

He said the state government had decided to construct four memorial gates, in the memory of those who had laid down their lives during the martyrdom of the Sahibzadas. He said the Shaheedi Jor Mela would be organised in the religious spirit and political parties would be persuaded not to initiate any political activity.

Mr Surjit Singh Sahi, sarpanch of the village, highlighted the development activities initiated in the village. He said cases of those who could not pay Rs 1,000 as token money would be referred to the Deputy Commissioner to get sanction for this amount being borne by the village panchayat. The Deputy Commissioner donated Rs 5000 to a needy person from the Red Cross fund.



 

CIIP plans focus on legal research
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 28
Working in Punjab since 1988 on the issue of state atrocities, besides the lack of accountability and culture of impunity, the Committee for Information and Initiative on Punjab (CIIP) today declared that the organisation would no longer associate itself with the tasks of documenting cases pertaining to those who disappeared in the state.

The committee is petitioner in a case before the National Human Rights Commission pertaining to mass disappearances in Punjab. Addressing a press conference this morning, its members added that they would now “focus on legal research, besides building of clarity and solidarity on the issues like the principles of liability, in understanding aggregated violations, which the matter of cremations encompasses, and in developing standards to legally capture and quantify suffering, damages and losses for the purpose of evolving standards of reparation”.

Member Ram Narayan Kumar asserted, “We have done the work of documentation all these years with the objective to ensure that the matter of police abductions leading to illegal cremations proceed on a factual basis. The matter must also conclude in terms of fundamental human rights guarantees available to the victim of abuse of power within the domestic and international human rights law framework. That requires a clear division of work and sharing of responsibilities. We expect the Association of Families of the Disappeared in Punjab, formed in January, to the guide the victim’s families in Punjab in filing their complaints and claims in a prescribed format”.

The committee, he added, “will not get involved in the details of discussions about the compensation, and will concentrate on assisting the Association and the NHRC in the other remaining issues”.

He and another member Ashok Aggarwal also appreciated the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) for the publication of a list of 2097 persons, who were illegally cremated by the security forces between 1984 and 1994 in the state.

They added that “more than seven-and-a-half years after the Supreme Court order’s, the NHRC prevailed on the state of Punjab to publish a notice inviting the victim families to come out with their grievances. It is a small, but an important step forward”.

The Punjab Government, on the NHRC directions, had on July 19 published a notice in several newspapers eliciting complaints and claims from 2097 families of those who got illegally cremated by the security forces at three cremation grounds of Amritsar district during the period.

“We are happy that the spirit of perseverance in truth that guided our efforts at documentation, advocacy and litigation in this matter all these years has not been in vain,” said Mr Kumar.



 

Teacher attacked by student
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, July 28
Mr Harinderjit Singh Marok, a computer programmer at Government Polytechnique here, was allegedly attacked by a student of the mechanical department along with two other unidentified persons when he was returning home.

The accused were armed with sharp edged weapons and thrashed him brutally.

In a complaint to principal of the polytechnique and the police, he alleged last evening when he was returning home alongwith the Laboratory Assistant, Mr Surinder Singh, the accused and the two other persons, who covered their faces, stopped and beat him. He alleged the accused also snatched his gold chain and threatened him with dire consequences.

Mr Marok said the accused used to come his computer laboratory and harrass the girls. When he stopped them from doing so, he threatened him . He urged the concerned authorities to registered a criminal case and take necessary action against him.



 

5 rag pickers killed, 2 hurt in explosion
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, July 28
Five rag pickers were killed and two injured, one of them seriously, when an explosive device they were trying to disintegrate went off here today. While one of the rag pickers, Dalip, died on the spot, the other four died in the hospital due to excessive blood loss.

Besides Dalip, the other two who died in the explosion were Binda and Santosh, both 16-year-old migrants. The other two deceased could not be identified. The two injured were 10-year-old Rajiv, who was stated to be out of danger, and Ajit whose condition is serious. The Senior Medical Officer, Mr Ravi Dogra, said Ajit was in a state of shock.

The incident took place in Rara locality within the municipal limits of Pathankot around 1.15 pm in a plot used by a dealer to store junk. Eyewitnesses told The Tribune that they heard an explosion that shook windowpanes of the nearby houses. When they came out they saw some rag pickers lying soaked in blood. The injured were shifted to the local Civil Hospital with the help of the police and local administration.

The Deputy Commissioner, Mr Harjit Singh, and the SSP, Mr Narinder Bhargav, visited the spot. The Deputy Commissioner announced an ex gratia of Rs 10,000 for those injured and free medical aid for them from the Red Cross.



 

Report sought on liquor vend in school
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, July 28
The Excise and Taxation Department has sought a detailed report from the Divisional Excise and Taxation Commissioner (DETC) concerned regarding the operation of a liquor vend from the building of Cantonment Board Elementary School, near Rama Mandi chowk, here.

According to sources, higher authorities have taken a serious note of the violation of the State Excise Policy, 2004-2005, which stipulates the location of liquor vends at a reasonable distance from educational institutions or religious places.

It is to mention here that a former Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Mr Vinay Bublani, during an inquiry, had found the vend as a public nuisance and termed it as a traffic hazard. The Excise Department had ordered the closure of the liquor vend on the recommendations of Mr Bublani about two and half years ago.

But, the liquor contractor had lately opened the vend in one corner of the school building as the department concerned had reportedly authorised the location for the purpose.

Sources maintained that no liquor vend could be allowed to operate from the educational institution premises and a detailed report had been sought from the DETC concerned. The report with recommendations would be submitted to the Excise and Taxation Commissioner (ETC) for action.



 

Doctors sit on dharna
Our Correspondent

Batala, July 28
Doctors and paramedical staff of the local Civil Hospital sat on dharna today for two hours to demand arrest of Harpreet Singh Goldy, the P.A to the former minister Punjab, Mr Ashwani Sekhri. The protesters gave in writing to the Senior Medical Officer, Civil Hospital, Batala, Dr J.S. Sudana, that the members of the staff would continue to sit on dharna till Goldy was arrested.

Talking to this correspondent, the doctors said, on Monday night a group of people led by Goldy entered the emergency ward demanding medical certificate from Dr Jagdev Singh Chahal, who was on duty, for some persons who had been injured in a clash at Chahal Kalan village.

He also asked the doctor to mention in the medical certificate that a patient was missing from the Civil Hospital. When Dr Chahal refused to issue the certificate Goldy and his supporters threw furnitures and tried to assault the doctor.

The police was informed about the incident but has not taken any action. Goldy was also accused in tampering with one electronic voting machine at Purana, village 5 km from Batala during the Lok Sabha elections. The police, however, has not taken any action in this matter too. When contacted, Mr Narinder Bedi, D.S.P, said the police had gone to the Civil Hospital, for the verification of facts.



 

Workers’ union flays transport authorities
Our Correspondent

Patiala, July 28
The Pepsu Road Transport Corporation (PRTC) Workers’ Union today alleged that the PRTC was facing a loss of Rs 100 crore per annum due to without-permit plying of private buses in the state.

Speaking on the occasion, General Secretary of the union, Mr Nirmail Singh Dhailwal, alleged that the district transport officers had a under-the-table dealing with the owners of the private buses.

He added that despite several requests, the state government was not filling the posts lying vacant in the corporation.

The members of the union said they would continue to hold demonstration against the “anti-employees” policies of the state government if it failed to accept their 
demands.



 

26 booked for blocking drainage
Our Correspondent

Kharar, July 28
A case was registered on charges of causing obstruction to public drainage against 26 persons here last night.

Mr Charanjit Singh, president of the Municipal Council, told mediapersons here today that the civic body had retrieved nearly 2 acres, belonging to the Central Government, from illegal possession on July 19.

He said he got information last night that some persons were again trying to fill the land falling in the nullah area. He said he rushed to the spot where the police was called.

The police then registered a case against Mr Gurbhajan Singh and 25 others under Sections 147, 149 and 432 of the IPC.



 

Traffic seminar for PSEB staff
Our Correspondent

Patiala, July 28
The traffic police organised a seminar at the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) Headquarters here yesterday to create awareness about the need to obey traffic rules.

The seminar was attended by hundreds of board employees.

Board Secretary Jaspreet Talwar laid emphasis on the need to drive cautiously. She later thanked traffic police officials for organising the seminar.



 

Yajna to please rain god
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, July 28
To please the god of rain, people of the Kandi area performed “Vishnu maha yajna” at Daulatpur Gillan village, 20 km from here, today. Hundreds of men, women and children participated in the yajna, performed pooja and offered prayers to Lord Indra to seek rain showers. Later a langar was served.



 

High Court
Punjab Bill

Chandigarh, July 28
The High Court on Wednesday adjourned sine die the hearing of the public interest litigation (PIL) challenging the Punjab Termination of Agreements Bill 2004.

Today, the Division Bench of Chief Justice Mr Justice BK Roy and Mr Justice Rajive Bhalla adjourned the case sine die.

The Presidential reference to the Supreme Court on the legality of the Punjab Act is pending.

The PIL has been filed by Mr Naresh Kumar Kadian of Rohtak in Haryana, questioning the validity of the Act passed recently by the Punjab Assembly. He has sought quashing of the Act.

Badals' case

The hearing in the petitions filed by former Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son, Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, questioning the jurisdiction and sanction of Ropar Special Judge S.K. Goel in hearing the disproportionate assets case involving them was on Wednesday adjourned to August 10.

In their applications, Mr Badal, his son and others have claimed that the notification issued by the Punjab Government on November 17, 2003, appointing Mr Goel as the Special Judge to hear their case, was issued without either consulting the High Court or seeking its concurrence.



 

Nepalese implicated in false case released
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, July 28
The Napalese national, Sudheman Kami, who was allegedly chained and kept in illegal detention and later booked for possessing illicit liquor by the Civil Line police here, has been released by the police here today.

He was presented in the court of Ms Harpreet Kaur Randhawa, CJM and later released. Mr Harmanbir Singh Gill, SP City-II confirmed his release while talking to this correspondent.

Sudheman was brought from Nepal last month following a theft allegedly committed by his son and two others in a house near posh Lawrence road area.



 

950 tubewells go dry in Mansa,
reports Central team
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Jatana (Mansa), July 28
Two to three years ago the entire stretch of agriculture land of this village and its surrounding villages was waterlogged about two to three years ago. The fields had become unfit for cultivation.

Now the situation has taken a reverse turn due to absence of rains. The farmers are now fighting with drought-like conditions to save their cotton, paddy and fodder crops, which have been drying up due to lack of water. The same situation prevails in this district where a section of farmers have started ploughing up their dried up paddy crops.

Mr Janak Singh, a farmer of Jatana village who has a landholding of four acres, has installed a tubewell. Mr Chet Singh, a farmer of Fatta Malo Ka village having 2.5 acres has also installed tubewell to save his cotton crop.

To save their crops a large number of small and medium farmers of this area, who were earlier dependent on the canal water and rains, have started installing the tubewell by borrowing money from all available sources with them.

Official sources said so far about 950 tubewells out of total 50,000 tubewells in this district had gone dry in the current crop season as the water table in the paddy belt had gone down by five to six feet on an average.

Though the water table had been going down and underground water had been declared unfit for agriculture purposes, new tubewells were being installed in large number by the desperate farmers to save their crops.

These facts came to light when officials of the state Agriculture Department made a tour to some of the villages, including Jatana, Fatta Malo Ka, Cherianwali, Banawali and Jhunir of this district along with the members of central team which has been visiting Haryana and Punjab to get first-hand information in connection with the loss drought-like conditions.

The central team is being headed by Dr Joginder Singh, Additional Agriculture Commissioner, Government of India.

The other members of team include Mr Rajbir Singh and Dr R. K. Chaudhary, Assistant Commissioner and Joint Director (Crop Division) respectively, Union Ministry of Agriculture. Dr Ajmer Singh, Director, Agriculture, Punjab also accompanied the central team.

The entire paddy crop sown in 66,000 hectares of area and cotton crop in 97,000 hectares of area in this district was wilting due to acute shortage of water. Even the fodder crop had started drying up, said Agriculture Department officials.

Talking to TNS, Dr Ajmer Singh pointed out that there was no doubt that Punjab had started experiencing drought-like conditions.

The cost of cultivation of those farmers, who had been trying to save their crops by drawing water for irrigation by using diesel operated generator sets, had been increasing.

Rainfall this month was less as compared to the rainfall in the corresponding period during previous year.

He said the Central team would visit Sangrur and Ludhiana districts of Punjab before leaving for Delhi on July 29. He said the central team would assess the ground situation in Punjab.



 

Angry farmers gherao SDO
Tribune News Service

Moga, July 28
Angry over the delay in the replacement of a transformer, members of the Kirti Kisan Union today gheraoed the SDO of Dagru subdivision of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB). Addressing the gathering, the union leaders said while on one hand, the nature was playing havoc with the farmers’ crops, on the other, the electricity board was “deliberately harassing” the farmers.

They said for providing 16-hour power supply to the farmers, the government could have bought power from states like West Bengal earlier, but it did not pay attention. They demanded that the state be declared drought hit. The SDO, after talking to the Executive Engineer, assured them of replacing the transformer. The union lifted the gherao after giving the electricity board one-day ultimatum.

Earlier farmers of Ghal Kalan village had alleged yesterday that a transformer near their fields had not been replaced for the past 45 days, owing to which they were running motors with the aid of a generator.



 

Farm labourers held rally
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, July 28
A large number of farm labourers held a rally and staged a dharna in front of the public distribution system and block development and panchayat offices in the Rayya block, about 32 km from here, yesterday.

The agitating farm labourers led by Mr Jagtar Singh Karampura, district president, Dihati Mazdoor Sabha, Punjab, presented a memorandum to the authorities concerned. Speaking on the occasion, Mr Gurnam Singh Daud, state general secretary, said the state government had failed to fulfil its promises which forced them to pursue the agitational path.



 
ADMINISTRATION

Shop sites fetch 4.5 cr
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, July 28
The authorities of the Punjab Urban Planning and Development Authority (PUDA) auctioned sites for 10 shops and 10 booths for about Rs 4.50 crore in Banasar Enclave (old qila site) here today.



 

Woman commits suicide, 4 booked
Tribune News Service

Moga, July 28
A married woman committed suicide by consuming some poisonous substance at Bedi Nagar here yesterday. However, the victim’s brother has alleged that her in-laws poisoned her to death.

Sources said that the deceased, Rashvinder Kaur, was married to Tarsem Singh of Moga about nine years back. It was the second marriage of Tarsem. The victim’s brother also alleged that Tarsem had concealed actual number of children from his first marriage. He said the number to be two, while he had four children. After four years of marriage, Rashvinder gave birth to a disabled girl. He alleged that since her birth Rashvinder’s in-laws started harassing her and they used to pressurise her to kill the baby. He further alleged that her in-laws made his sister drink milk laced with some poisonous substance.

The police has handed over the victim’s body to her family members after a post-mortem examination. A case of abetment to suicide has been registered against Tarsem Singh, Amarinder Singh, Kulwinder Kaur and Mukhtiar Singh, under Section 306 of the IPC.



 

Man murdered
Our Correspondent

Patiala, July 28
A 38-year-old man was found murdered in a minor garage near Hotel Godwin here today.

The deceased, Om Parkash (38), had a juice rehri near the district courts and was working as a watchman at Krishna Motor Garage. The incident came to light this morning when the owner of the garage, Mr Bunty, opened the shutter of the shop and found him lying in a pool of blood.



 

Medical Education Dept to supervise PMT
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 28
The Punjab government will take the PMT examination to held on August 1 for admission into Medical Colleges in the State, outside the purview of the Baba Farid University. The government has decided to be supervise the examination process — from the holding of the test to the evaluation of the answer sheets to fail manipulation.

The Research and Medical Education Department decided this today following a report in The Tribune that consultancy firms were promising clearance of the test to candidates for Rs 14 lakh.

Secretary, Research and Medical Education Satish Chandra held a meeting in this regard with Baba Farid University Vice-Chancellor, Dr J.S. Gujral. The government told the Vice-Chancellor to instill faith in the candidates taking the examination that everything was being done in fair manner. Sources said that the Research and Medical Education Department had received complaints regarding consultants offering seats for a price to PMT aspirants. Mr Satish Chandra confirmed this. He said the department had not been successful, earlier, in persuading the Baba Farid University to conduct the test under its supervision but now the university had agreed to the move.

Secretary said the department would supervise the test from the distribution of question papers to the evaluation of the answer sheets at Faridkot. He said government representatives, including Medical teachers of various colleges would be present at the time of opening of the question papers at centers. He said department representatives would sign all blank answer sheets to thwart any manipulation. The department representatives would also be involved in the sealing of the answer sheets and transportation thereof to Faridkot where the papers would be evaluated under supervision, he added.

Mr Chandra said though the department could not influence the question paper which had already been set, it would check on the entire system under which the question papers are set and evaluated by the Baba Farid University to identify lapses if any. Baba Farid University Vice-Chancellor, Dr J.S. Gujral and Registrar, Dr A.S. Sekhon, could not be contacted for comments on the issue despite calls.

Meanwhile, the Punjab PCMS Association has demanded a CBI or judicial probe into what it claimed was a “multi crore scandal”.



 

Panel fails to fix MBBS tuition fee
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, July 28
Though the Medical Council of India (MCI) has directed the medical institutions in the country to complete the admission to MBBS first year by July 31 and start the first semester from August 1, but PMET in Punjab will be conducted by Baba Farid University Of Health Sciences on August 1.

No date for counselling has been fixed as yet, according to Dr Daljit Singh, Principal, Dyanand Medical College and Hospital. The delay in the attributed to the Lok Sabha elections held in February.

In Punjab, the state government issued a notification regarding the constitution of the fee fixation committee under the chairmanship of Justice G.R. Majithia (retired) on June 18 and the date for the PMET was fixed first for July 25 and later on it was changed to August 1.

Justice Majithia Committee is also supposed to fix the tuition fee for 2004-2005. Last year too, the tuition fee was not fixed and the medical colleges had to accept provisional fee at the rate of Rs 1.50 lakh for MBBS and Rs 1 lakh for the BDS courses per year. This year again, the Majithia Committee has not yet fixed the fee and asked the medical institutes to accept the provisional fee at the rate of Rs 75,000 for MBBS, Rs 55,000 for BDS and Rs 35,000 for BAMS and BHMS course, respectively.

This year, the management of Guru Ramdas Institute of Medical and Dental Sciences has fixed Rs 2.5 lakh for the MBBS and Rs 1.50 lakh for the BDS course.

The management of Dyanand Medical College and Hospital had given a fee structure of Rs 3.85 lakhs for each student each year. 


 

Quota notification agitates aspirants
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, July 28
A sudden notification by Guru Nanak Dev University of 15 per cent quota for “management seats” led to angry protests by B.Ed. aspirants who had come from various parts of the state for counselling this morning. Agitated aspirants said the university had suddenly announced the management quota or “paid seat” of which 18 unaided private colleges would be beneficiaries.

The colleges include two from Jalandhar, three from Ludhiana and one each from Phagwara, Raipur, Dhariwal, Rajpura, Ropar, Sangrur, Dhudike, Gobindgarh, Barnala, Kauli (Patiala), Nawanshahr and Dalewal.

Students from the “general” category who were awaiting their counselling alleged of injustice, as the seats would be drawn out of their quota of 51 per cent while the “reserved” categories were free from this “encroachment”.

Many students who had come from far off places pointed out that the university prospectus had also been misleading in some respects. On page 22 of the prospectus, the combinations included economics with computers and computers with a language, which were not available in any of the colleges of the state.

Notices on notice boards for counselling session were also unsigned. While a college in Barnala was holding its second counselling without having held the first, students alleged that the counselling staff was deliberately keeping this information away from them to benefit some others.

Dr Surjit Singh, Coordinator of counselling, said the Punjab Government’s notification was issued in the midst of counselling and they had to adhere to it. He said since counselling for only “reserved” category (code No. 1 and 2) had been finished, the 15 per cent management quota had to be filled from the remaining seats, including 10 from other “reserved” categories.



 

Pbi varsity VC to appear in admissions’ case
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 28
Punjabi University’s Vice-Chancellor Swarn Singh Boparai will plead the case of under-privileged residents of Talwandi Sabo, Bathinda district, with regard to admission to Yadvindra College of Engineering there before a Talwandi Sabo sub-judge on July 30.

A university press note said here that the VC had decided to plead the case as those affected were not in a position to defend themselves due to paucity of funds.

Mr Boparai will appear before the sub-judge in connection with a case filed by residents of the area who want Punjabi University to remove a clause whereby only students who have not paid more than Rs 500 as school fee are eligible for admission in the engineering college.



 

VB arrests Principal on graft charge
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, July 28
The Vigilance Bureau (VB) yesterday caught a government school Principal red-handed while accepting a bribe of Rs 5000 each from two teachers for clearing their files regarding the issuance of no-objection certificate (NoC).

Mr Tulsi Ram, SSP, Vigilance Bureau, stated here yesterday that Mr Jaspal Singh and Mr Satnam Singh, in a joint complaint to the VB alleged the Principal of Government Senior Secondary School, Phagwara, Ms Harbhajan Kaur, was demanding a sum of Rs 10000 each from them for the issuance of an NoC, which was required to be submitted to the British High Commission, for grant of a visa.

They alleged that the deal was finally struck for Rs 5000 each. Subsequently, a trap was laid and Harbans Kaur was caught red-handed by the VB sleuths. 



 

Varsity ignores order on power
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, July 28
Even as Dr S.P. Singh, Vice-Chancellor of Guru Nanak Dev University, ordered university staff, including teaching and non-teaching, to adopt austerity measures in view of power crisis, counselling staff of the ongoing B.Ed counselling and principals of some colleges who had arrived here in the early morning were in cool environs air-conditioned halls today. The conference hall and the committee room, both large halls, with a number of ACs were very cool as this correspondent took a round. When counselling coordinator, Dr Surjit Singh, was asked about the austerity measures in view of the government notification, he said since a large number of persons were working here so there was a need for ACs. Sources revealed that the AC had been on since the start of counselling at about 8.30 am.

However, hundreds of B.Ed aspirants thronged the garden near the counselling hall as they felt hot in the closed halls which had few fans. There was even shortage of drinking water and glasses.

According to orders of the Vice-Chancellor all three campuses of the university in Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Jalandhar were ordered to keep the ACs off.


 

DEO checks fire safety steps in schools
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, July 28
District Education Officer, Muktsar, S.K. Mehta visited a number of private schools here yesterday and directed them to follow the directions issued by the Deputy Commissioner a few days ago regarding fire safety steps.

Mr Mehta checked Saravhitkari, DAV, Little Flower, Mithan Lal Kalra Senior Secondary and Baghwala Primary Schools and found none of them had fire safety arrangements. He asked the heads of these schools to install fire safety equipment by July 31 failing which stern action would be taken against them.

The Deputy Commissioner, Mr B.R. Banga, had issued written directions for ensuring fire safety measures to the District Education Officer and directed all heads of different educational institution to install two fire extinguishers and three sand buckets at each floor of the schools in the district.

However, no direction was issued regarding exits to the schools in the slum areas which lacked adequate exits in case of emergency.

Further, directions were also issued to all SDMs concerned and government officers to adopt such fire safety measures in all government offices and public places within 10 days. The Deputy Commissioner also issued directions to make proper fire safety arrangements at marriage palaces, hospitals, clubs, hostels and hotels.



 

Unemployed teachers block traffic
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, July 28
Hundreds of members of the Berozgar Elementary Teachers Union, and members of DIET Students Welfare Association, Punjab, today jammed traffic for about two hours on the bridge on the Bathinda branch of Sirhind canal on Bathinda-Malout road to lodge their protest against the state government’s policy to recruit teachers on contract basis.

Mr Jaswinder Singh Sidhu, president of the union, said that if the state government did not drop its policy of recruiting the teachers on contract, the union would gherao ministers.

He said that members were agitated over the state government’s move to privatise education and recruit teachers on contract basis. He added that on the one hand the Congress-led UPA government had decided to make law to do away with the system of recruitment on contract basis in its Common Minimum Programme, on the other, the Punjab Government had been promoting the same.



 

Irregularities in PTA funds alleged
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, July 28
Mr Manmohan Sharma, President of the PTA, Govt Senior Secondary School for Boys, Phagwara and local Block Congress Committee (Urban), today demanded a high-level probe into the alleged financial irregularities in the PTA fund and the funds related to students welfare by the Principal of the school Ms Harbhajan Kaur. She was allegedly caught by the sleuths of the Punjab Vigilance Bureau while accepting a bribe of Rs 10,000 from two school teachers, Mr Jaspal Singh and Mr Satnam Singh for giving them NOCs for renewing their passports.

In a representation to Punjab Education Minister Harnam Das Johar, Mr Sharma today alleged that the principal had misused the PTA funds and a thorough probe was required. Mr Sharma also apprised the minister of various irregularities committed by the principal.

He also urged the minister to post a separate principal for the boys school as due to the additional charge to the lady principal for the past one year, the working of the boys school had suffered, leading to poor results.



 

Punjab to set up wood markets
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 28
The Punjab Forest Department has decided to set up “lakkar mandis” (wood markets) in all important cities and towns of the state to encourage agri-forestry as a means of diversification.

Disclosing this here today while talking to newsmen, State Forest Minister Hansraj Josan said the Punjab Mandi Board would organise the running of the wood markets. He said this was being done to eliminate middlemen in this trade.

Detailing the steps being taken to make this possible, the Minister said applied forest research technology would be transferred to farmers quickly to ensure enhanced productivity, development of suitable tree-crops combination for better economic returns and developing modern wood seasoning and treatment facilities.

Mr Josan said a massive tree plantation drive was being started in the state from July 31 which would be inaugurated by Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh. He said 1.64 crore saplings would be planted in the state during the current financial year. Out of this, 68 lakh saplings would be planted by the department, 36 lakh by people and 60 lakh saplings by non government organisation agencies.

Mr Josan said the tree plantation drive would ensure generation of 44 lakh mandays in rural areas. He said besides this the department would work in the Kandi areas of the state to conserve and augment water resources by reviving old ponds and other old water harvesting structures. He said in 250 villages of the Kandi region, common utilities for repair of roads, culverts, wells and school buildings would be undertaken with an allocation of Rs 1 lakh per village.



 

Shopkeepers extend closing time

Fazilka, July 28
A meeting of the Beopar Mandal, Fazilka, was held here last night. Representatives of 24 traders’ bodies also participated. At the meeting it was resolved that the Punjab Government decision asking all business establishment to wind up their work by 6 p.m. due to power crisis is unilateral, arbitrary and thoughtless. They said though the traders were ready to co-operate with the government with regard to the power crisis, the government seem to care little.

It has been decided at the meeting that the shopkeepers will not close down their shops at 6 p.m. but will switch off their power supply and shall work with candle light or lamps. The traders today apprised Mr Upjeet Singh Brar, SDM, here of the decision.

They reiterated their resolve to co-operate with the government and shall close their shops at 7.30 p.m. They have threatened to resort to agitation if any government official tried to get the shops closed forcibly or a fine is imposed upon them. — OC



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