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World Bank blows hot, blows cold at state functioning
P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 5
A World Bank team today presented top bureaucrats with a graphic account of Punjab's economic development slowdown and possible crash-landing, if the state did not move from policy to implementation on administrative, financial and social sector and farm industry plans.

The participating administrative secretaries, sources said, were passive listeners, by and large. Responding to the World Bank critical assessment of the performance of the government and lack of political will to perform, the Chief Secretary is believed to have assured the World Bank of an ''action plan''. Some bureaucrats were reticent when asked to comment on the World Bank ''class'' they had attended.

World Bank experts talked of ''shrinking job opportunities, fiscal distress and slow service delivery outcomes'' and also factors responsible for growth slowdown. These ranged from low and declining productivity in agriculture and manufacturing sectors to deteriorating quality of infrastructure, moderate quality infrastructure, low public investment and impact of civil strife of the1980s.

Even on power front, despite the best of efforts put in by the PSEB Chairman, Mr Y S Ratra, and his team, the World Bank expressed concern over high percentage, 30, energy deficit , rationing of power to agriculture sector and its poor financial health despite partial recovery of finances in 2002-04 and blueprint for reform.

The bureaucrats, who are expected to act, were told that deteriorating infrastructure in irrigation required attention as surface irrigation system irrigated 70 per cent less hectares today than in 1990-91, while 87 per cent operation and maintenance cost of this infrastructure went into salaries. Also, canal net-work system was neglected, thereby, increasing reliance on ground water. Consequently, the area irrigated by ground water had increased by 0.83 million hectares between 1990-91 and 2001-02, causing rapid depletion of ground water resources.

Capt. Amarinder Singh told the World Bank team that his government was prepared to undertake administrative or fiscal reforms or other suggested corrective measures, but he must also have ''fiscal space'' to operate. The World Bank must also sanction some projects that have already been submitted so that he could tell the people his government meant business, as much to ensure holistic development as putting its own house in order.

Therefore, before Punjab actually went down the precipice, the World Bank suggested ''revitalising agriculture'' through research, extension, water management, marketing, storage and an alternative subsidy delivery system. Same way, to improve investment climate, experts wanted Punjab to focus on ''policy and institutional'' reforms to make governance ''transparent in regulations, simplification of procedures, focus on inter-state trade, build quality infrastructure, bring up legal framework, make flexible labour laws and set up an independent labour regulatory authority, promote public-private partnership and develop human resource through vocational training and curriculum. To overcome fiscal distress, World Bank experts pointed to the ''weak Budget-making and executing capacity'' and stressed on tax collection, which was lower than estimated capacity, as the extent of ''under-taxation'' was 25 per cent to 50 per cent.

On ''critical challenges'' in governance, the World Bank identified ''over-staffing, administrative fragmentation, frequent transfers, lack of managerial and policy-making capacity, not getting full value for money spent in service delivery and reducing corruption''.


 

Interest on loans to terror victims waived
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 5
While the Punjab Council of Ministers here today confirmed the status of Cabinet Minister granted to Mrs Jaswant Kaur, widow of the late Mr Beant Singh, Chief Minister, it waived the principal interest and penal interest on the loans advanced by the Punjab Finance Corporation( PFC) to the persons affected by terrorist violence, riot victims and misguided youth.

The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, presided over the council's meeting held here today. Mrs Jaswant Kaur has been given Cabinet status for life. She would be entitled to all the facilities available to a Cabinet Minister in the state.

A government spokesman said that the waiving of interest on loans given to victims of terrorist violence etc would require an adjustment of Rs 388.11 lakh by the state government against the loans advanced by the corporation and a waiver of Rs 874.07 lakh by the corporation itself as interest etc.

In another significant decision, the council approved the revised norms fixed in respect of damage to the horticulture crops due to the natural calamities. In case of damage in the range of 26 to 50 per cent, the compensation would be Rs 2100 per acre, and in case of damage ranging 51 to 75 per cent and 76 to 100 per cent, the compensation would be Rs 3000 and 5000 per acre, respectively.

The council also approved the enhancement of remuneration for village watchman from Rs 400 to Rs 600 per month with effect from January this year. The transfer of three kanal of land on a leasehold basis for the construction of an NRI bhavan in the office complex of the Commissioner, Jalandhar division, has also been approved. The council also cleared the draft notification to be issued to notify the Punjab Dowry Prohibition Rules-2004, thereby repealing the Punjab Dowry Prohibition Rules, 1999, in view of the orders of the Supreme Court.

The council abolished the post of Pro-Vice Chancellor in Punjab Technical University by approving the amendment to be made in the Punjab Technical University Act, 1996.


 

CM conducts aerial survey of flood-hit villages
Tribune News Service

Khanauri (Sangrur), August 5
Before landing here around 6 pm today, Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh conducted an aerial survey of the flood-affected villages in the Khanauri and Moonak areas. This included Mandvi, Makror Sahib, Baopur, Shahpur Therri, Banarsi, Andana and Moonak.

He also visited RD 460, near here, where the Ghaggar water was touching the gauge at 752.2 foot mark. He listened to the grievances of residents of there villages.

Five breaches occurred in the banks of Ghaggar between Andana and Chandu villages in the morning. Due to these breaches, water entered the fields in nearby villages. As per reports, water has affected crops in about 3,000 acres, including 500 acres at Andana, 400 acres at Makror Sahib, 800 acres at Mandvi and about, 1,000 acres at Baopur, Chandu and Shahpur Therri villages.

Talking to reporters at RD 460, he said the first priority of the government was to protect and provide food to those trapped in the Ghaggar water. About 250 villages had been badly affected by flood in Patiala district, he said.

The breaches would be plugged after the water level in the Ghaggar came down, he added. He said the government would also send a proposal to the Union Government for the repair of the Bhakra Main Line (BML). He assured the people that the affected families would be compensated after girdawri of fields and assessment of losses.

Mr Husan Lal, Deputy Commissioner, Sangrur, said the district administration had arranged a column of the Army, comprising about 80 officers and jawans, for Khanauri and other affected villages as a standby arrangement. He said the administration had divided flood-affected villages in the Khanauri and Moonak areas into five sectors. Medical and veterinary doctors had been deputed in each sector.


 

Admn sends food for people of Ghanaur area
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, August 5
The administration today started sending langar (food) for the rainwater-affected people of the district. Mr S.K. Ahluwalia, Deputy Commissioner, today flagged off vehicle carrying food for 4,000 people. The food would be served in the Ghanaur area. Maharani Parneet Kaur, MP, and Mr Jasjeet Singh Randhawa, Cabinet Minister, had urged the district administration to extend as much help as they could for rainwater-affected people.

The Deputy Commissioner while addressing members of the Rotary Club, Sirhind, urged all social organisations to come forward for helping the affected people. Mr Rupinder Puri, president, Mr R.N. Sharma, secretary, assured the Deputy Commissioner that the club would provide langar and fodder to the affected people.


 

SAD MP for relief to flood-hit farmers
Tribune News Service

Moga, August 5
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MP for Faridkot Sukhbir Singh Badal said today that the Punjab government should give compensation to flood-hit farmers in the state. He wanted the Prime Minister to visit the state to assess the flood situation. He was addressing a press conference here.

He demanded financial assistance for the state from the central relief fund. He said that the central government was also ignoring Punjab. He said that farmers of the state had suffered loss of crores. He said that if the state government didn’t act till August 16, the SAD MPs would take up the matter in Parliament.

Asked if Mr Amarinder Singh’s recent decision on SYL canal would raise his popularity he said that Mr Amarinder Singh might be thinking so. He said that the Shiromani Akali Dal would not allow Punjab water to flow out. On Punjab CM’s statement that he was ready to talk with neighbouring states on the water issue, the Akali MP said that there was no question of talks, as the state had no surplus water.

He said the SAD was not in favour of giving water to neighbouring states. Asked if he was challenging federal structure of the country, he said, “According to riparian law, when a state is reorganised its water is not divided.”

He said that after annulling all agreements on water the Punjab government should have fresh look on the water scenario in the state.

He said that during his tour of villages in the past few days he saw burnt motors of waterworks and bad roads. The SAD leader said that he was getting development in his constituency with the MP’s fund. He said the government officials didn’t hear people’s grievances.


 

Irate villagers vow not to allow canal repair
Tribune News Service

A bridge on the Ghaggar near Sarala village, which was washed away due to floods.
A bridge on the Ghaggar near Sarala village, which was washed away due to floods. 
— Photo by Neeraj Chopra

Lachhru Kalan (Patiala), August 5
Another crisis is in the offing for the Punjab Government, with residents of more than 10 villages threatening that they would not allow the government to repair the two breaches in the Nirwana branch of the Bhakra canal taking water into Haryana unless syphons are constructed at both spots to save their villages from flash floods. The death toll in the flash floods has risen, with 10 persons feared killed.

Incensed villagers, who are also sore with the state Drainage Department, which, they claim, did not carry out any flood-protection works this year, stated this to the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, also when he came to comfort them here. The Chief Minister assured them that the matter would be looked into at a later stage.

However, the villagers are in no mood to relent on this issue. SGPC member Jasmel Singh said the embankment of the Nirwana branch near this village had caved in slightly even before the recent rain. He said after the excessive rain, villagers were forced to make a breach in the canal to allow flood waters to flow. He said now the villagers would not allow this breach as well as another near Majri Fakiran village to be repaired unless syphons were constructed at the spots. Meanwhile, villagers complained that the Drainage Department had failed them completely. They alleged that even before the recent rain repair work could not be carried out on the Nirwana canal because of infighting in the drainage staff as to which contractor would execute the work.

The Chief Minister told mediapersons that there was no truth in the statement of Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala that Punjab was responsible for flooding in Ambala. The Chief Minister also disclosed that he had met the Army Commander and that the Army was likely to put two more choppers at the disposal of the civil administration for flood-relief work. He said the state government had reports of four confirmed deaths while five persons were missing after being swept away by floods. He said more than 125 pucca houses had been damaged during the flash floods in Dera Bassi and 283 in Rajpura subdivision. He said crops in around 1700 acres had been destroyed in Dera Bassi subdivision.

Meanwhile, the danger has now shifted to the Khanauri area in the district. The Ghaggar has breached at three places in Dwarkapur, Rasuali and Sagarpada villages. At present, the Ghaggar is flowing much above the danger mark at 552 ft at Khanauri and is carrying around 40 lakh cusecs of water. Similarly, the Dakala constituency is also affected, with the Tangri flowing above the highway on the Patiala-Pehowa road. The road has been closed to traffic and is in danger of being washed away at one place, according to Additional Deputy Commissioner Shiv Dular Singh Dhillon. Here also, around 10 villages have been marooned and are being provided rations from the air.


 

Provide canal water to all farmers: Ravi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 5
The president of the new Shiromani Akali Dal, Mr Ravi Inder Singh, yesterday urged the Punjab Government to provide canal water to all farmers in the state.

Addressing a press conference here yesterday, he said that the irrigation through tubewells was playing havoc with the sub-soil water table, that had been going down every year, in the state. Moreover, thousands of crores of rupees had to spent to buy power for farmers. He said that this factor had ruined the state financially.

Mr Ravi Inder Singh said that because of the fall in the sub soil water table, farmers need funds in lakhs of rupees to convert their tubewells to submersible system. For replacing all over 9 lakh tubewells to the new system, several hundred crore rupees were required. The State could not afford to make such a huge investment on tubewells as agriculture had become totally a non profitable venture for small and marginal farmers.

He said that his party would start a campaign to press the government to take steps for arranging canal water supply to farmers. He said that the river waters issue, his party was with the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh and had supported the Termination of Agreements Act passed by the Punjab Assembly. He said that non riparian states should not be given share from Punjab river waters.

Mr Ravi Inder Singh said that the SAD president, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, was not the sole leader of Sikhs. It had been proved in the recently held SGPC elections when Panthic Morcha won a significant number of seats and also got a good share of votes in the state and elsewhere.


 

Malwa farmers cry for water despite rain
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, August 5
Despite a heavy downpour and floods in Patiala and Ropar and some other parts of Punjab, farmers in the Malwa belt, who largely depend on canals for irrigation, will continue to face an acute water scarcity.

After the delayed monsoon, which had pushed the state on the brink of a water and power crises in the state, the farmers were happy that the rain gods had finally smiled on them but the joy was shortlived as there was scanty rainfall in most parts of the Malwa belt. Moreover, the catchment areas of the Beas and the Sutlej have not had the required rainfall resulting in low water levels at both the Pong and Bhakra Dams.

Officials admit that the water level at Bhakra Dam today was nearly 90 feet lower than the corresponding period last year.

The sudden increase in the volume of water in the Sutlej due to the heavy rains forced the authorities at Ropar Headworks to release the excess water into the river sending a red alert in all downstream areas. Out of this water, estimated to be about 70,000 cusecs, only 22,000 cusecs could reach Harike headworks late last night because the rest was soaked by the completely dry river bed.

Officials said that the flow of 22,000 cusecs was maintained for only four to five hours and it had reduced during the intervening period and was further reduced to about 16,000 cusecs at about 6 p.m. today. This morning, the authorities at Ropar could maintain their daily flow of about 3,000 cusecs.

The canals emanating from Hussainiwala and Harike barrages were flowing at peak capacity but this situation would be reversed after midnight tonight. The reason was that the water flow from Ropar would revert to the previous level.

The cause for worry was that only 10,300 cusecs of water would be available for five canals which supply water to Punjab and one which carried water to Rajasthan. The breakup was: 2,500 cusecs of water from Ravi which reaches Harike through Thein dam, 4,800 cusecs of Beas water which come through Pong dam and 3,000 cusecs from Ropar.

Out of the 10,300 cusecs available at Harike, 8,300 cusecs had to released to Rajasthan as first preference. Only 2,000 cusecs would be available for the five canals which meet the needs of the Malwa belt.

Officials said that they would be hard pressed to meet the requirements of the other canals as the Sirhind feeder alone had a capacity of 4,762 cusecs.

The same was true for the Sirhind Canal system, which receives water from Ropar at its Maanpur headworks near Doraha. Against the demand for 11,500 cusecs, only 7,200 cusecs was available following which its Patiala branch had to be closed. The Abohar and Bathinda branches were also flowing at reduced capacities. Only the Sidhwan canal was getting its full supply.


 

2 weeks needed to plug Narwana breaches
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 5
While the Punjab Irrigation Department authorities today invited their counterparts from Haryana for a joint inspection of the breaches, which occurred in the Narwana branch of the Bhakra mainline canal on August 3 owing to floods, Irrigation officials concerned say that it would take at least two weeks time to plug the breaches provided the sky remains clear.

Intimation regarding breaches in the canal, which is known as the lifeline of the Haryana agriculture economy because it carries a major part of water to that state from Bhakra irrigation network, has been given to the authorities concerned in Haryana. In fact the Haryana Government would like to see that the work to plug the breaches is taken on a war-footing by the Punjab Irrigation Department authorities concerned. Haryana has 88 per cent and Punjab has 12 per cent share in the canal. So, bulk of the funds to carry out the repairs will be provided by Haryana.

"We are prepared to the take up the repair job on top priority basis but it would depend on Haryana as to how much urgency is shown on its part", said a senior officer of the Punjab Government. Water is expected to recede in the canal by tomorrow, thus enabling the officials concerned to make a proper assessment of the damage caused to the canal near Lachhru village in Patiala district. There are more than two breaches in the canal bank, it is learnt.

Officers concerned of the Haryana Irrigation Department are expected to visit the breach sites tomorrow. In fact, the flood water has also caused a lot of damage in Haryana also and officials are busy there. What caused the damage to the canal were the gushing flood waters of the Ghaggar. Official sources said that flood waters flowed far above the danger level of the pucca works of the Ghaggar, thus causing huge damage not only to the Ghaggar works but also breaching the Narwana branch in the process.

On the evening of August 3, the Ghaggar overflowed at several places, thus causing huge devastation to crops and human settlements. Even loss of life has been reported at certain places in Patiala district. Besides breaches in the canal, the Irrigation Department authorities concerned have a lot of work at hand in the coming days to set the water bodies on the right course.

Once the plugging of breaches starts, other minor repair works which required to be carried out would also be taken up on the canal. Otherwise, in normal course, there is no time available to carry out such works. All sort of minor repairs have to be done in the running water in the canal, say officials sources. In the normal course, the canal is rarely closed for repair work.


 

For a change, media taken for a ride
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 5
The phone calls from the Punjab Information and Public Relations Department to accredited correspondents and photographers this morning created excitement when invited to join Chief Minister Amarinder Singh aboard a bus to visit some flood-affected villages in Sangrur and Patiala districts. The assembly point was Punjab Bhavan. Time 11.30 a.m.

Mediapersons got busy making calls to colleagues to confirm if they were joining the unusual trip to have a “feel” of the things at first hand and “opportunity” to interact with the elusive Chief Minister enroute.

With the sun deciding to disperse grey clouds and make its presence felt, humidity and excitement made an exciting and exacting heady mixture. As time clicked away and media-persons began to converge at Punjab Bhavan, where a luxury bus awaited with several PROs at hand to help, the word spread that Chief Minister was “flying” to three destinations around 2.30 p.m. The Media Adviser had tough time talking his way out of the tight spot and make media-persons to stay on!

The meeting of the Council of Ministers was over by 12.30 p.m. Since the absence of the Chief Minister from the bus trip got confirmed, some media-persons starting leaving Punjab Bhavan, rather frustrated, while several stayed on and some were offered a ride up to Patiala. Eventually, many drove to a club for lunch and ‘what have you.’

Some mediapersons, who were to accompany Capt Amarinder Singh and later met him, as he came out of the Council of Ministers meeting, were surprised to learn that there never was any programme of his to travel by road, given his hectic schedule. So much for a trip that was not to be. PR took the media for a ride!


 

Illegal fishing by Bangladeshi nationals
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

HARIKE (Amritsar), August 5
Despite a blanket ban, a large-scale illegal fishing in Rajasthan Feeder, near Harike barrage, is being done, especially by Bangladeshi nationals, in alleged connivance with officials concerned.

The fishing is banned in July and August, which are peak breeding months. Poachers could be seen fishing during broad daylight near the confluence of the Sutlej and the Beas.

When a TNS team approached poachers on the pretext of purchasing the fish they quipped, ‘you could purchase as much fish as you can through the local contractors, including Ranjit Singh’.

When this correspondent visited the fish shop of Ranjit Singh , a large quantity of fish was being loaded into the tempo for transporting it to New Delhi . Mr Ranjit Singh said that all types of fish varieties were available at his shop . He quoted rates for different species of the fish.

Interestingly, Mr Gurinder Singh, who introduced himself as Fishery Officer was sitting at the shop. He said that the rates quoted by Mr Ranjit Singh were extremely reasonable.

When questioned that fishing was banned these days, Mr Gurinder Singh said that it was allowed with ‘kundis’ (long line and huck) while it was banned with ‘fishing nets’. He, however claimed that he had come to the fish market for checking whether the fish sold here was caught with ‘kundis’ or by net ? However, when asked that the fishing was being done with nets , he said it must be in canals which was the responsibility of the Irrigation Department. However, he failed to give a proper reply when asked that the Fishery Department could check the sale of fish caught with net . He , however, said that there were four contractors, including Makhan Singh , Mangal Singh and Devinder Singh who sold the fish .

Mr Ominder Dutt , Director, Kheti Virasat, who was an eyewitness to the fishing with nets expressed shock that the illegal fishing was going on unabated on a large scale. He said it was a threat to aquatic life and there was need to conserve flora and fauna on priority basis.

The fishing is basically being done by Bangladeshi nationals who have been living in at least 30 huts which dot the Rajasthan Feeder . The presence of Bangladeshis near the Harike barrage is a considered security threat too. They told this correspondent that fishing was done between seven and eight in the morning and four to six in the evening .

The Fishery Officer said that the contract for fishing had been finalised for Rs 38 lakh which would be implemented from September 1 only .

Ranjit Singh said that Harike fish was popular in Delhi and even West Bengal . He said consumption of fish in Punjab was less during breeding season while the demand from other states, including Delhi, was still high.


 

Doctors, cops helped me escape, says gangster
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, August 5
Satnam Singh, alias Satta, a notorious gangster facing a number of criminal charges, who had fled from the local government hospital, today confessed to the involvement of doctors of Amritsar Central Jail here and policemen guarding him in his escape. He had given Rs 8,000 to them for this.

He was brought from Gurdaspur jail and taken into remand by the Majitha police in a criminal case registered against him at the Kathunangal police station.

Satta presented himself in a Batala court on July 19 following extreme pressure on his family members.

The gangster said he, along with Sant Parkash Singh Raju and Dilbagh Singh Bagha, both gangsters, gave Rs 2,800 for admitting him to hospital through the ‘munshi’ of the security jail canteen. He said he was admitted to Guru Nanak Dev Hospital on the recommendation of doctors. Policemen on duty demanded Rs 5000 for his release, he added.

Mr Rupinder Singh Bajwa, SSP, Majitha, said on the pretext of treatment, he got the required money from his mother Jaspal Kaur. He said the Head Constable in charge sent two policemen on duty home while two including the Head Constable, remained in the hospital on June 13, the day he escaped. The SSP said they consumed liquor and later the cops left the hospital. Taking advantage, Satta also fled from the hospital.

Since his escape, he remained on the run and presented himself before the Batala court on July 19. Satta said due to fear of being eliminated, he presented himself in the court through a lawyer.

Satnam Singh was arrested by the Majitha police on April 12 and was wanted in 13 cases, including three-murder cases. He, along with his gang members, was responsible for a large number of looting incidents in Amritsar, Majitha, Tarn Taran and Batala.

Head Constable Guljar Singh and three constables — Gurmej Singh, Paramjit Singh and Daleep Singh — have been suspended for negligence.

The then Minister of Jails, Mr M.S. Birmi, had placed Mr Sardool Singh and Mr Satwinder Singh, Deputy Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent, respectively, under suspension and the then Jail Superintendent, Mr Kuldip Singh, had been transferred to Nabha jail. Mr Birmi had also placed two head constables and eight constables under suspension for showing laxity.

The SSP said the erring policemen and doctors were likely to be arrested.


 

Scouts leave for England, land in Korea!
Tribune News Service

Jaito, August 5
In a goof-up of sorts, eight scouts from Punjab had left some to take part in international scouting jamboree, to be held in England but four of them returned home while the rest landed in Korea.

Mr Dharamjeet Vicky and three other scouts from Bathinda returned home on Monday night.

The event was scheduled to be held in England from July 31 to August 8 and eight scouts from Punjab were to participate in it.

On July 28, three local scouts and five scouts from Bathinda had left for Delhi along with the group in charge Sanjay Chugh, who is also the Principal of a local DAV school.

Mr Vicky said on reaching Delhi they were unable to get visa from the British Embassy even after trying for two days. The embassy sought the proof of their parents’ source of income.

The group leader, Mr Sanjay Chugh then asked them if they wanted to go to South Korea or Sri Lanka, as the venue of the jamboree had been changed, which was now to be held in South Korea from August 4 to 11.

Mr Vicky then sought his parents’ view who asked him to return. Three scouts from Bathinda also accompanied him back. Thus, out of eight scouts from Punjab, only four, including two from Jaito, left for Korea on Tuesday night.

A management official of the DAV school, Mr S.R. Latika, said Vicky didn’t have required documents and there was no fault of Mr Chugh in the matter.


 

Punjabi novelist teaches English to Canadians
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Mr Iqbal Ramoowalia
Mr Iqbal Ramoowalia

Chandigarh, August 5
For Mr Iqbal Ramoowalia, his first novel in English -- The Death of a Passport -- is a dream fulfilled. Settled in Canada since 1975, Mr Ramoowalia has a come long way not only to become a teacher of English on an alien land but also to get a special grant from Canadian Art Council to promote his first novel in India.

Needless to say, the novel is about an Indian girl, who gets into Canada as an illegal immigrant and is exploited physically, mentally and financially.

Interestingly, when Mr Ramoowalia left India, he was a lecturer in English at Khalsa College, Sudhar, in Ludhiana. But once he was in Canada, he had to struggle, work as a labourer, a dish- cleaner, a security guard and a taxi driver.

His Indian degrees were not recognised. So he had to do it again. He did his Masters in English literature from Waterloo University. It was during his course while studying Commonwealth literature that he thought of writing a novel one day.

After his Masters from Waterloo, he did his Bachelor of Education course from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.

"After working as a teacher in the Peel Board of Education in Greater Toronto for almost three decades , I have my dream fulfilled. My second novel, also about India, is in the pipeline. It is about the Kanishka air crash and story of a girl," he says, revealing that he has six books in Punjabi poetry to his credit.

His brother, Mr Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, a former MP and a Union Minister, now heads the Lok Bhalai Party.

Mr Iqbal Ramoowalia now lives in Brampton with his wife - a teacher - and twin daughters where, besides teaching, he also brings out a weekly newspaper in Punjabi -Khabarnama. "I always try to raise issues objectively," he says, holding that the new generation of Punjabi-Canadians have started making their mark in the political set-up there.

"Two of our new Punjabi MPs elected to the House of Commons are young, promising and thorough professionals. The community has pinned high hopes on them," he says.


 
COMMUNITY

Plans to celebrate 400th anniversary of
Guru Granth Sahib
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, August 5
A high-level meeting, chaired by the Principal-Secretary, Mr D.S. Jaspal, charted out a beautification and infrastructural plan to mark the 400th anniversary celebrations of the installation of Guru Granth Sahib here on Tuesday.

Mr Jaspal revealed that the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC, USA had agreed to undertake and collaborate in the conservation and preservation of precious Sikh religious manuscripts, artifacts and other historical memorabilia.

The director of the Smithsonian museum would be arriving shortly in the holy city to make an assessment of the art and historic work housed in the Sikh library, museum and elsewhere, which was a long standing request of the American museum, disclosed Mr Jaspal.

Meanwhile, the meeting finalised short and long-term plans to providing civic amenities to over 25 lakh devotees expected to participate in the three-day celebrations starting on August 30.

Mr Jaspal said the government would work in tandem with the SGPC to make the historic event a success. To mark the occasion the approach road leading form Gurdwara Ramsar to the Golden Temple would be widened and renamed Guru Granth Sahib Marg.

Mr Jaspal said a national committee had been formed under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, and in pursuance of this occasion, had recommended a national institute for Guru Granth Sahib Studies with five chairs to be established.

Besides, the committee had also recommended a stamp to be released to commemorate the occasion and a Rs 5-lakh children’s national award for the best original writing on Guru Granth Sahib.

Apart from this, the government would also be taking up the popular demand of a visa-free corridor to the historical Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara on the Indo-Pak border. Special programmes would also be aired on TV and radio to mark the occasion.


 

Restore traditional Takht ‘maryada’, says jatha
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 5
The Akhand Kirtani Jatha International (Prabandhki Pehchan) today at a meeting appealed to the Akal Takht to restore the old, traditional “maryada’’. This requires that bhog of the akhand path at Akal Takht must end with shabad of "Mundavani", and not at "Ragmala", as the practice was for quite some time now.

A spokesperson of the jatha, Mr Satnam Singh, told TNS that the Jathedar of Akal Takht was appealed to restore the old practice.

The Jatha meeting reiterated that it had always accepted, acknowledged and abided by any edict issued by Akal Takht . Any religious or Panthic issue before any other Takht, on which there was difference of opinion, must also be adjudicated by Akal Takht in conformity with’’ panch pradhani’’, it added.

Mr Satnam Singh giving an example of such a controversial issue, quoted the case of Sikh scholar Giani Gurdit Singh’s book, "Mundavai", which is being currently debated at Takht Patna Sahib. "Such matters should be handled by Akal Takht, as it is an important issue".


 

Cops fail to arrest BKU men booked on judge’s complaint
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 5
The police has failed to arrest some members of a kisan union despite the fact that a case was registered against them in Kot Fathe police station on June 24, 2004, on charges of beating up of the bidders (mostly commission agents) at the auction of a piece of land held at Chathhewala village on June 16, threat to gherao the revenue officials and snatching of camera of videographer.

The police had failed to arrest any of the accused, 17 of which had been identified and had been name in the FIR registered in the Kot Fathe police station under Sections 379, 341,323, 506, 148 and 149 of IPC. The auction was to be held on the order of Mr N. K. Gaur, Additional Civil Judge (Senior Division), Talwandi Sabo. Mr Gaur had also ordered the auction to be videographed.

The auction of piece of land belonging to Balwant Singh, a farmer, was to be held in connection with the execution of a decree passed against him by the local court. The decree was passed in favour of Mr Harcharan Dass, who was to take about Rs 3.40 lakh from Balwant Singh.

“First the police official concerned deliberately delayed the registration of criminal case against the accused. When the case was finally registered after a delay of about one week, the police is now trying to avoid the arrest of the accused,” said a cross-section of commission agents, who also met SSP, Mr Kapil Dev today and urged him to arrest the accused. They added that the Punjab Government should make it clear whether the police was for the protection of law abiding citizens or for the protection of those, who had been indulging in criminal activities at their whim.

Though the police officials had failed to arrest the accused, including Gurcharan Singh, President, BKU (Ekta), Talwandi Sabo block, and Harpal Singh, an employee of Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) and others as they had obstructed the auction and prevented the government officials from performing their duties, Mr Gaur himself lodged a complaint in the local police station and got a case registered against those, who had obstructed in the execution of warrants issued by his courts in connection with the auction of a piece of land.

On the complaint lodged by Mr Gaur, a case under Sections 184,186, 189 and 353 of IPC was registered against a number of members of the BKU on July 29, 2004. However, the local police failed to arrest any one in this case also so far.

Mr Manjeet Singh, Station House Officer (SHO), police station, when contacted, said that no accused involved in the FIR registered in the local police station, could be arrested so far as the local police station was having no jurisdiction of registering this case. He added that he had also discussed this matter with Mr Gaur, on whose complaint the FIR had been registered.

Mr Gurpreet Singh, SHO, police station, Kot Fathe, where the first case was registered against the members of BKU (Ekta), when contacted, said that no accused was arrested as the report of local commissioner, appointed by Mr Gaur in connection with the auction where the bidders were allegedly beaten up, was being awaited. He added that now the report had come, the action was being taken in connection with the FIR registered in Kot Fathe police station.

Meanwhile, a section of commission agents alleged that “partial” approach of some policemen proved that in the present set up, the law was protecting those, who were breaking it.


 

Needle removed from woman’s lungs
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, August 5
In a rare four-hour-long ‘operation’ — sans surgery — about two-inch-long needle, which had got stuck in the middle of two airways of lungs of Kamlesh Rani, a housewife hailing from Panam village of Hoshiarpur district, was successfully removed manually with the help of broncoscope at a local private hospital today.

Kamlesh Rani, wife of a scooter mechanic, had accidentally swallowed the needle when, according to her, she was trying to use the needle as a toothpick to clean her upper teeth and was suddenly pushed by her small daughter on Tuesday evening. After this, life became a nightmare for her for next two days, and till the needle was removed from her lungs by a team of doctors led by Dr H.J. Singh, at the local Ranjit Hospital with the help of forceps and broncoscope.

“It is a rare incident wherein such a foreign body had been swallowed by somebody. The removal of the needle involved a lot of intricacies for it was extremely sharp and comparatively long. It could have ruptured lungs,” said Dr H.J. Singh.

“It was extremely painful to carry the sharp object in my body for over two days. Thank God, I am safe,” said Kamlesh Rani, who stuck to her stance that swallowing of the needle by her was accidental and was an outcome of sudden push, by her daughter.


 

90,000 await pension in Gurdaspur
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, August 5
Rajeshwar a septuagenarian resident of Ram Nagar village near here is being forced to eke out a living by breaking stones on roadside. He has been forced to do so at this age as the Punjab government has failed to pay him the old-age pension, his only source of livelihood for the past two years.

Similar is the story about 90,000 social sector pensioners in the district. These pensioners include 70,000 old-age pensioners and 20,000 handicapped, widow and widow dependent pensioners.

All these pensioners have been paid pension for just the first quarter of 2003-04, extending from April 2003 to June 2003. Even this pension was paid just before the Lok Sabha elections in March this year. The total amount disbursed to them was Rs 5.40 crore.

In the current financial year also, no money has been received by the Department of Social Security to pay pension. Currently the department was conducting meetings in villages to identify the real beneficiaries of the pension scheme. In these meetings objections are invited from sarpanches to weed out the non-deserving beneficiaries. However, sarpanches are not raising any objections to the existing list of pensioners.

Entangled with the lists of pensioners are the salaries of the Panchayat Secretaries recruited on a contract basis. After the empowerment of the panchayats, they are being asked by the department to get the clearance certificate from the sarpanches concerned before getting salaries.

One of the old-age pension beneficiaries said though the amount of pension was meagre it helped buy medicines or some other item of necessity.

District Social Security Officer Ram Singh refused comment saying that they are only supposed to distribute pension among the beneficiaries.


 

Localities sans water pipeline, roads, streetlights
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Baghapurana (Moga), August 5
They have been given voters’ identity cards, but are deprived of basic amenities like drinking water, roads, sewage line, and streetlights. The residents of Avtar Nagar, Hargobind Nagar and the slum area on the Mudki road in Baghapurana are a harried lot, especially in the wake of three diarrhoea deaths in the neighbouring Mari Mustafa village last week.

Localities like Hargobind Nagar and Avtar Nagar are being given step-motherly treatment by the Notified Area Committee (NAC). Leave alone drinking water supply, these colonies don’t even have water pipeline despite being under NAC limits for the past three years. Residents of these areas were also consuming hand pump water like the villagers of diarrhoea-hit Mari Mustafa. These hand pumps were installed on 60 to 70 feet deep bores, while it should be over 110 feet deep for getting clean water. The hand pumps too were installed near their toilets and there were no proper arrangements for sewage disposal. A 10-year-old boy had died after showing diarrhoea-like symptoms in Hargobind Nagar a few weeks back. Bikar Singh, the father of the deceased, told The Tribune that they had been drinking this water for years and nothing was done to lay pipelines in their locality. The NAC had done little to maintain cleanliness in the locality and it seemed to be facing neglect all fronts. There had been a proposal in the past for sewage disposal, but it remained on paper only. Open sewers serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes, and heaps of garbage could be seen inviting stray cattle. The absence of streetlights makes it nearly impossible for elderly to move out at night.

The slum area on the Mudki road, which is under NAC limits since its inception in 1978, is no better, with people bathing, washing clothes and drinking water at a single hand pump, which is surrounded by sewage, garbage heap and cow dung. The slum area has a “gaushala” just next to it. Surprisingly, this road leads to the local Civil Hospital and the tehsil complex and the government officials like the SMO, the SDM and the CMO pass through the road, but nobody has noticed what might be a source of various diseases.

Ruparam, a resident of the area, said that they had told the NAC staff to lift the garbage, but they were demanding Rs 300 for the job. He said that they themselves had lifted the garbage on rehris many a time.

When contacted, the Baghapurana SDM, Mr Harcharan Singh Sandhu, said that the matter had been brought to the Deputy Commissioner’s notice and some action would soon be taken in this regard.


 

Think twice before lending cellphone
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 5
Watch out while lending your mobile phone to friends lest its chip gets stolen or the programme gets tampered with.

This is what has happened to a local resident, Mr Pankaj Goyal, who lent his Samsung mobile phone activated on a Reliance chip to his friend Pali few months ago. Pali, who was also possessing a non-functional mobile set of the same make, activated his mobile phone by stealing the programme from Mr Goyal’s chip.

Pali, kept on using his phone for weeks together. Mr Goyal had no idea that both the phones were working on same number.

Mr Goyal came to know about this fact when the outgoing and incoming calls on his phone were stopped due to some reasons. When he received the printout of the calls made and received by him, he was shocked to find that he had been charged for calls, he neither received nor made.

Mr Goyal took up the matter with Pali saying that he had been receiving inflated bills and ever since he lent his phone to him and the incoming and outgoing calls were also stopped on his mobile phone, which was a post paid connection. Mr Goyal also lodged a complaint with the police .

Mr Shiv Kumar, SP (H), who conducted the inquiry said that after finding Pali and another person guilty in this case, which was first of its kind in the district, a case under Sections 420, 379 and 34 of IPC had been registered.

He added that no arrest had been made in this connection so far. He said that Pali had managed to steal the programme of the chip with the help of some one, dealing in the repair of mobile sets.


 

Dream of Canada cost her dear
Tribune News Service

Moga, August 5
The police has arrested a person for duping a farmer of Rs 16 lakh under the pretext of sending his daughter to Canada. Police parties have been sent to various parts of the state to arrest other persons involved in the case.

Complainant Kiranpal Kaur in a complaint to the SSP, said her father had contacted Jagmeet Singh alias Jeeta who was running a marriage bureau at Sandor village in Sangrur. The accused had first demanded Rs 20 lakh for getting her married in Canada, but later the deal settled for Rs 16 lakh. Jeeta then introduced the complainant to Shashi Bala of Jandiala who was running a marriage bureau in Phagwara and Raja Ram, a resident of Dhulkot. Both these persons got Kiranpal married on July 20, 2002 with a Hoshiarpur resident, Gurjeet Singh Parmar, telling him to be a resident of Canada.

The complainant alleged that after a few days of her marriage the accused told her that her husband was not the “right” person and she had to be married again to another resident of Canada. She alleged that they got her married to another person and took Rs 16 lakh and 100 gm gold from her father. The complainant said they had paid them money by selling their 5-acre land. Later, she was told that her husband would get her papers ready after reaching Canada and she would also be there within six months. Later she came to know that it was a fraud.

Taking a serious notice of the complaint, the SSP asked the Economic Offences wing to probe the matter. The police registered a case against the accused under Sections 420 and 120B of the IPC. The police then arrested Jagmeet Singh alias Jeeta, while his associate Shashi Bala could not be held as she got stay order from the high court. Three other accused were absconding in the case. Jagmeet was today produced in the court and he was remanded to the police custody till August 7.


 

PSEB engineers protest sell-off move
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 5
Members of the Council of Junior Engineers of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) today held a rally to protest against the move to privatise the PSEB.

Mr Baldev Singh, secretary of the Council, said the Council had come to know that the PSEB management was contemplating privatisation of the board once the paddy season was over. He added that the Punjab Government had been going ahead with this move despite the fact that the Central Government had decided not to privatise profit making public sector units.

He said the Council was agitated over the fact that when the PSEB had earned a profit to the tune of Rs 162 crore in the last financial year, why the state government had been making continuous efforts to privatise the board and was trying to cheat the people.

He said the Council, along with other unions, would intensify its agitation, if the state government did not stop its move to privatise the PSEB. 


 

Breast-feeding ‘benefits’ child as well as mother
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, August 5
Breast-feeding babies up to six months and then up to two years with complementary foods reduce and childhood morbidity (disease) and mortality.

Dr Surinder Singla, president of the Lions Club, here stated this at seminar on “Breast Feeding” at Kanjhla village about 10 km from here yesterday. The seminar was organised by the Sangrur Lions Club and the Breast Feeding Promotion Network of India (BFPNI).

Dr Singla stressed on the need of good health of pregnant and lactating mothers, so that they could breast feed babies.

Dr Vijay Kumar Ahuja, coordinator BFPNI, said breast feeding for six months gave protection to new-born babies from diarrhoea and pneumonia and protected mothers against ovarian cancer and Osteoporosis etc.

Dr Vijay Gupta, SMO, Sherpur, said only 40 per cent new born babies were succeeded.

Dr Shakuntla Singla, Medical Officer-Incharge of Kanjhla village Health Centre, and Mr Suresh Garg, Secretary of Lions Club, appealed to lactating mothers to look after their health for the sake of their new born.


 

Diploma engineers stage dharna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 5
Supported by various organisations of employees, the Diploma Engineers Association of the Irrigation Department today staged a dharna here to urge the Punjab Government authorities concerned to withdraw the “ false” criminal case registered against Jagdev Singh Bhatti, junior engineer of the Irrigation Department posted at Gidderbaha.

The association has threatened that if the case was not withdrawn, canal water supply would be stopped by junior engineers from various headworks in the state. It has urged the state government to make necessary amendments in the Canal Act to allow junior engineers to issue challans on the spot to those involved in the theft of canal water in the countryside.

The association said that in future no junior engineer would dare to perform duty if the authorities concerned treated them the way Jagdev Singh Bhatti had been booked in a police case.

Junior engineers and other employees, who participated in the dharna here today, said that the government should ensure proper protection to all those employees who were to perform sensitive duties.

Addressing the participants in the dharna, Mr Pritam Singh Dhuria, Mr Pargat Singh, Mr Sukhmander Singh, Mr Brij Lal, Mr Sarabjit Singh, Mr Krishan Chand and other leaders said that they would intensify the agitation in case Government failed to take action on their demand regarding Bhatti’s case.

The Chief Engineer (Canals), Mr V.K. Mant Rao, today assured agitating junior engineers and other employees that he would take up the issue with the authorities concerned.


 

Kanshi family’s charges baseless
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, August 5
Terming the allegations of the family members of the BSP’s leader Kanshi Ram against Ms Mayawati as baseless, the national general secretary of the BSP, Mr Narinder Kashyap, today alleged that the former was playing in the hands of UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav to defame Ms Mayawati.

“Since the Delhi High Court has already rejected the writ petition filed by Kanshi Ram’s family on the basis of the statement given by Kanshi Ram that he would like to stay with Ms Mayawati for better medical facilities. It seems that Mr Mulayam Singh is promoting Bishan Kaur, mother of Kanshi Ram, to tarnish the image of Ms Mayawati,” Mr Kashyap told reporters here.

Kanshi Ram’s statement was recorded in the presence of the Registrar appointed by the High Court, he said, adding that people had now understood the conspiracy behind Kanshi Ram family’s allegations against Ms Mayawati.

Mr Kashyap, in charge of party affairs in Punjab, issued an ultimatum to the state government to take action against those who were involved in the firing in Kamalpur village in Sangrur leading to the death of two Dalits, or face agitation. “In case, the government fails to take action within a week, the state BSP unit will organise a protest march at Chandigarh on August 12.”


 

IG visits slain Dalits’ families
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, August 5
The Inspector General of Police, Zone-1, Patiala, Mr Rajinder Singh today visited the families of two Dalits, Gurjant Singh and Harminder Singh, who were shot dead allegedly by a group of landlords at Kamalpur village on August 3, in village Kamalpur village near Dirba, and expressed his sympathies with the bereaved families. He also met 10 injured persons at the health centre at Kohrian village.

Mr Rajinder Singh said he would recommend to the state government to grant a relief of Rs 1 lakh each to the families of both deceased and would also recommend Rs 15,000 grant each for the injured persons.

The IG also said all 12 accused in this case had been identified. Three had already been arrested by the police.

Mr Gurinder Singh Dhillon, SSP, Sangrur, and Mr Sushil Kumar, DSP, Sunam, also accompanied Mr Rajinder Singh.


Dalits seek Vedanti’s intervention
Our Correspondent

Amritsar August 5
A massive procession of Dalits of Bathinda’s Bhuchan Kalan village headed by Dalit Sena head Kiranjit Singh Gehri reached Akal Takht today to protest against the discrimination against them. The procession passed through Bathinda, Kotkapura, Faridkot, Jira, Talwandi, Makhu and Tarn Taran before reaching here.

Mr Gehri presented a memorandum to Jathedar Akal Takht, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, seeking his intervention.


 
COURTS
 

Challan presented against ex-Cong minister
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 5
The police has presented a challan in a local court here against a former Congress minister, Mr Harbans Singh Sidhu and others in a criminal case registered against them in the city police station on August 20, 2002.

Police sources said challan had been presented against Mr Sidhu, former Congress minister, Mr Devinder Pal Singh, Banwari Lal, advocate, Inder Kaur, Nar Singh, Rajinder Kaur, Ram Sarup Bishnoi and Mr Nardev Singh, advocate when they were found guilty of commission of the offences under which the FIR was registered against them in the city police station.

Information revealed that a case under Sections 420, 419, 465, 467, 468, 471 and 120-B of the IPC was registered against Mr Sidhu and other seven persons in connection with their involvement in acquiring a piece of land located in this city on the basis of fake documents including the will of its genuine owner.

The sources added that the case had been registered against them on the directions of Mr Surinder Mohan, the then Chief Judicial Magistrate while disposing of the complaint moved in his court by Mr Mohinder Singh and Mr Surjeet Singh in connection with a dispute over the ownership of a piece of land situated in the Ganesha Basti locality in the heart of this city.

The sources said the accused were trying to possess that piece of land allegedly on the basis of a fake will of its real owner Saraswati which was got prepared by them from Sriganganagar town of neighbouring Rajasthan state despite the fact that Saraswati was a resident of Tilak Nagar of New Delhi. The main point raised by the complainant was that why the accused prepared the will from Sriganganagar in the name of Saraswati when it could have been prepared at New Delhi easily.

When the accused tried to possess that piece of land, the people residing in that colony stopped them and took the matter to the court. The accused tried to get an injunction against those people from stopping them from possessing that piece of land, which was not given to them.

Ms Saraswati, who became owner of that piece of land in 1953, prepared a power of attorney for disposing off the same in the names of other in 1963. After that she started living at Delhi. She never made a will for giving that piece of land to the accused, police sources added.


 

Notice served on Transport Department
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 5
Taking a serious note of the poor transport services in the state, the Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) has served a notice on the Transport Department.

Acting on a complaint filed by Mr Arvind Thakur, a human rights activist, the commission has sought a report from the Transport Secretary and fixed December 9 as the next date of hearing.

In his petition, Mr Thakur had alleged that the maintenance of Punjab Roadways buses and the facilities at the bus stands in the state left much to desired which amounted to the violation of human rights under Section 12 of the Protection of Human Rights Act,1993.

Crores of rupees spent on the maintenance of bus stands seemed to have gone down the drain with hardly any improvement in the facilities such as toilets and sitting arrangements. This was despite the fact that the fares were being hiked at regular intervals and the government functionaries, including the ministers and the bureaucrats, had promised to set things rights.

It may be recalled that the petitioner had been a regular traveller in government buses for his work in the field of human rights. The condition of the buses and the bus stands had given rise to scuffles between the passengers and the roadways staff.

Terming the deficiency in transport services as a gross violation of human rights, the petitioner urged the commission to order the government to provide such service as urinals, first-aid boxes and ambulances.


 

High Court
Arrest stayed
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, August 5
The High Court on Thursday stayed the arrest of former Punjab minister Nirmal Singh Kahlon in a case registered on May 11 by the Gurdaspur police.

The former minister had been booked in an attempt to murder case by the Fatehgarh Churian police on the day on which polling was being held for election of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee members.

In his petition, Mr Kahlon, who was a minister in the previous Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP government, has alleged that the action of the police in booking him was politically motivated.

After hearing his counsel, Mr Justice Jasbir Singh issued notice for August 28 and also stayed his arrest.

Record sought

A Division Bench of the High Court comprising Mr Justice S.S. Nijjar and Mr Justice A.K. Mittal has directed the Gurdaspur Deputy Commissioner to send some responsible officer to the court on the next date of hearing in a writ filed by a minor boy through his mother.

Petitioner Manavjit Singh has sought directions to the respondents to grant him the benefit of ex-gratia as is granted to the children and dependents of terrorist affected families as per the instructions dated June 21, 1991 and May 26, 1992.

In its order, the Bench also directed that the relevant record of the matter be also brought to the court.

Noting that the office of the Deputy Commissioner has displayed an attitude of callousness, the Bench said that it was not expected from somebody in the office of the Deputy Commissioner dealing with compassionate matters such as grant of relief on humanitarian grounds.

The Bench also noted that counsel for the respondent had submitted that the claim of the petitioner had been considered and payment sanctioned. However, the file was later said to have been misplaced due to which the amount was not released.


 
AGRICULTURE





 

Bhatti seeks CBI probe into wireless scam
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 5
Adding a twist to the controversy pertaining to the purchase of wireless sets by the Punjab Police, Additional Director-General of Police (ADGP) D.R. Bhatti has sought probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the matter. Mr Bhatti and Superintendent of Police (SP) Malwinder Singh Sidhu were recently issued chargesheets by the Punjab Home Department in the matter.

In an affidavit submitted before the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the ADGP has stated that they were willing to face “the consequences” in case the CBI came to the conclusion that there was any misconduct on their part.

The officer also referred to a letter written by the Director-General of Police (DGP) to the Principal Secretary (Home) recommending a CBI probe into the purchases. He claimed that the recommendations were made after examining the final report by ADGP R.K. Gupta “and in the light of the orders made by the High Court” in a writ petition pertaining to the matter.

Quoting the DGP’s letter, the ADGP said “examination of the report showed that the conclusions had been drawn in haste and in a biased manner by selectively referring to the facts available on record”.

The ADGP also asked the High Court not to permit the state government to make them scapegoats “in an effort to bury the truth”. The ADGP also refuted the allegations that they were responsible for any loss to the government. The allegations that the sets were purchased “without required financial sanction” were also denied.

He asserted that the purchases were approved by the Director-General of Police (DGP) and they were being “victimised due to factionalism in the department”. The affidavit filed by the state of Punjab in the matter was aimed at “sweeping the entire matter under the carpet” and to save the guilty in the process.

It may be recalled that a public interest litigation was filed before a Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. In their petition, two advocates Ashok Chaudhary and R.K. Kwatra — members of social organisation Lawyers’ Initiative — had sought “comprehensive inquiry by an independent agency into the embezzlement of approximately Rs 2.58 crore”.

They had alleged that “out of the purchase price of Rs 2.77 crore, only equipment worth Rs 18.5 lakh was purchased” by another ADGP and two Inspectors-General of Police “without the constitution of a purchase committee” as mandatory under the relevant rules.

Giving details, they had added that wireless equipment worth only 8.3 per cent of the purchase money was made between July 20, 2000, and December 14, 2001.

Meanwhile, Mr Sidhu was handed over the copy of the chargesheet this afternoon. It stated that in 2002-03 Mr Sidhu was SP (Telecommunication) and that he had recommended the purchase of sets.

The case will come up for hearing on Friday.



 

Pepsu staff threaten stir against GM
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 5
Four different unions of workers of Pepsu Roadways Transport Corporation (PRTC), Bathinda Depot, while condemning the discrimination being done to the employees by the general manager (GM), Mr S. S. Mander, said that they would launch an agitation to protest against it.

In a meeting held under the presidentship of Mr Ganda Singh, general secretary, INTUC, representatives of different unions, including Karamchari Dal, SCBC union, CITU and INTUC, alleged that Mr Mander had posted his favourites on those posts which were required to be handled by the responsible employees. They also alleged that Mr Mander had been using derogatory remarks against the employees while writing their annual confidential reports (ACRs).

They further alleged that a cut was being made in the salaries of drivers and conductors without valid grounds and no receipt was being issued to them in lieu of the cut made in the salaries. They added that new buses were allotted to those drivers and conductors who were his favourites by violating the instructions given by the higher authorities in same connection. Apart from it, Mr Mander was not making payment of overtime charges to the driver and conductors in the scheduled time and not according to the payments being made in other depots.

Mr Mander, when contacted, said that all the allegations levelled by the representatives of employees unions were not true. He added that ever since, he joined in the Bathinda depot, he had not posted any employee on any post. He said that he had not allotted new buses to any one so far.

He said that payment of overtime charges were being made to the employees as per the instructions given to him by the higher authorities of the department. He said that remarks in the ACRs of the employees were recorded as per the previous service record of the employees.


 
CRIME
 

Woman burns minor daughter to death
Tribune News Service

Kapurthala, August 5
In a bizarre incident, a mother allegedly burnt her 16-year-old daughter to death by throwing acid on her.

The deceased, Manpreet Kaur, was a resident of Santpura colony, The mother of the victim, Harminder Kaur, was making a brisk business by running a flesh trade racket. When her daughter got an inkling, she opposed her mother. The mother got infuriated at this and allegedly threw acid on her, charring her to death.

Last month, the father of the girl, Kesar Singh Adharmi, had also died under mysterious circumstances. He had hung himself leaving behind a suicide note. The residents of the area said he had committed suicide as he was heavily indebted and was finding it difficult to repay his loans.

The police has registered a case against the accused mother, Harminder Kaur, and brother, Harpreet Singh under Section 302. The body of the girl has been sent to Civil Hospital for the post-mortem examination.

In their statement to the police, the accused have said the incident was simply an accident.


 

Cousin held for murder
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, August 5
The police today claimed to have solved a blind murder case by arresting a prime suspect and recovering a sharp-edged weapon, allegedly used in the crime. The arrested person is a cousin of the deceased.

Talking to mediapersons here today, Mr Narinder Kaushal, DSP (Rural), Sangrur, said Nirbhey Singh (28), a resident of Bahadurpur village, had been murdered by an unidentified person with a sharp-edged weapon on the night of July 30 when he was sleeping in the verandah of his house.

During investigations, the needle of suspicion pointed towards Ranjit Singh, a son of the deceased’s uncle. The police arrested him from Bahadurpur village and recovered a sharp-edged weapon, used in the crime.

Ranjit Singh confessed to the crime and said that a land dispute between the families and illicit relationship between the deceased and a woman of the village which earned the family a bad name, were the reasons behind his committing the murder.


 

Woman strangled, gold, cash looted
Tribune News Service

Kapurthala, August 5
A 58-year-old woman was strangled and jewellery and Rs 30,000 was looted from her residence near Markfed Chowk here today.

Veena Rani, the victim, was alone at her home as her husband, Mr Charan Das, had gone out.

At around 11 a.m., when he returned home to deliver some vegetables that his wife had asked him to purchase, he saw that all rooms of the house were bolted from outside.

Thinking that his wife must have gone nearby, he opened the door and went inside.

A maid came home to clean the rooms. While she was sweeping the floors, she saw the body of Veena Rani lying in a room.

She informed Mr Charan Das, who called the police.

During investigation, it was found that some gold bangles and Rs 30,000 were missing from the house.

The police has registered a case under Section 302 of the IPC.


 

Two held for inter-state sale of pesticide

Muktsar, August 5
The district police today seized about 10 quintals of pesticides being used for cotton plants, which was being transported to New Delhi from Muktsar by a local business firm without having permission for carrying out the inter-state transactions of the same.

Mr R.S. Khatra, SSP, said pesticide worth more than Rs 3 lakh, was being transported to Delhi from this city and it was detected by policemen posted in the Killianwali police post. He added that it was found that the business firm, which was transporting the same, was doing business having valid permission.

Mr Hargobind Singh, DSP, who had been handling this case, said the main aim of the business firm was to sell the same pesticides in the Haryana markets as cotton was not cultivated in the Delhi area. He added that accused was trying to sell the pesticides in Haryana markets at higher rates by procuring the same from Punjab at cheaper rates and thus was trying to mint money.

He said that two accused namely Tipal and Darshan, both residents of Haryana, were arrested in this case. A case in this connection had been registered under Section 420 of the IPC. — TNS


 

Five held for forgery
Our Correspondent

Patiala, August 5
The CIA staff has arrested a gang of four allegedly involved in forgery of documents of a piece of a land here today.

Naseb Singh, a resident of Alipur Jattan village, Sukhdev Singh of Khuddan, Joginder Singh of Alipur Jattan and Dilbagh Singh of Nangava have been arrested. Another member, Gursharan Singh of Khuddan, had absconded.

The police has recovered a number of government rubber stamps allegedly stolen by the gang from the tehsil office of Patiala two years back.

According to information, Gursharan Singh prepared illegal documents of the land belonging to Dilbagh Singh, Sukhdev Singh and Joginder Singh and applied for a loan from the HDFC.

However, Joginder Singh and Sukhdev Singh had both already taken a loan of Rs 3 lakh each from the corporation.

A case has been registered against the accused under Sections 379, 420, 465, 467, 468, 471 and 474 of the Indian Penal Code at the Sadar police station.


 
 

Schools or cattlesheds?
Lalit Mohan

Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, August 5
Seventeen out of 50 primary schools of the Dhar block, the most backward area of the district, have been closed down due to the lack of staff.

Most of these schools have been closed down during 2000 to 2004. The schools that have been closed this year were located in Moran (Sukret), Batwan, Darban, Brichili, Naloh, Jallala, Dhariari villages. Sources here said these schools were being run by only one teacher each.

During the recent transfers most of them got themselves transferred to stations of their choice leaving the schools without any teacher that forcing their closure. In spite of that the government built primary school in Mangni and Magret villages of the Dhar block.

The teaching, however, could not be started in these schools as no teacher was posted there. Now the schools were being used by villagers to keep their cattle. The Department of Education has formed six centres for primary schools in the Dhar block. However, the posts of centre head teacher were lying vacant. Besides, there are posts of 18 head teacher out of which 10 are vacant.

The sources also said the Sarva Sikhya Abhiyan that was launched to boost the primary education in the rural areas was instead taking a heavy toll on primary schools. Under the programme five primary school teachers have been shifted at the district headquarters for special training to run the Abhiyan.

With this, in Gurdaspur alone, 110 primary school teachers have been taken under the Sarva Sikhya Abhiyan. These teachers will further call teachers from their blocks at district headquarters for 20-day training. This will paralyse the teaching in primary schools that were already reeling under the shortage of staff.

The president of the Government Teachers Union of Gurdaspur, Mr Dalbir Singh, alleged that the government was spending an additional Rs 2,000 crore on primary education under the Sarva Sikhya Abhiyan. However, in the process the existing system was collapsing.


 
BUSINESS
 

Singla lays stress on self-employment
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 5
Emphasising on the need to become self-reliant, the Punjab Finance Minister, Mr Surinder Singla, urged people, especially youth and women, to develop resources within themselves and pick up skills and training for self employment.

He said this while addressing over 150 young people from the Sattowal and Jalaldiwal villages of tehsil Raikot, Sangrur district in Punjab, during the signing of an MoU between CII and the Sadbhavna Society, Raikot, for setting up “stitching training centres” in the two villages.

Mr Singla also distributed 20 sewing machines, donated by CII members, to young women from the villages as part of the self -help initiative. “The government can’t be giving jobs. Its role is more of a facilitator in creating a conducive environment for development,” he said. The MoU signed between CII and the Sadbhavna Society supports a project to form self-help groups to promote savings, micro credit and small entrepreneurship among rural women. The society proposes to establish “stitching training centres” in 15 backward villages of Raikot for providing skill development training to rural women. The sewing machines given by CII would be installed at the training centres located in both the villages. In the first six months of the project, approximately 300 women, particularly from SC/ST families, are expected to be trained. The minister also impressed upon the corporates to empower every citizen with the resource of education.

Dr A.K. Banerjee, president, Sadhbhavna Society, Raikot, said that initiatives such as these would help rural women generate some income, which they could them use to educate their daughters.


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