P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Booked SGPC member sings ‘vaars’ at Akal Takht
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, September 12
Baldev Singh, SGPC member who was booked on the charges of molesting a woman, was spotted singing ‘vaars’ (ballads) in front of Akal Takht along with his jatha here today.

Interestingly, the alleged accused participated in the fact-finding sub-committee meeting which recommended the sacking of at least seven and re-instating of eight SGPC employees who were earlier placed under suspension on various charges. The sub-committee, which took up 26 cases of the suspended employees, was constituted by the SGPC’s working president, Mr Alwinder Pal Singh Pakhoke. However, when contacted Mr Raghbir Singh, SGPC secretary, said all these cases would be taken up in the executive meeting of the new SGPC House for taking any final decision.

The complainant, wife of a blind raagi, and one Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) had urged Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar Akal Takht to take suo motu action against Baldev Singh. Sources close to the Jathedar, Akal Takht, confirmed that a written complaint was received by the Takht Secretariat. On the other hand, the 31-member dhadi jatha had also written to the Jathedar, Akal Takht in favour of Baldev Singh to hold independent inquiry.

When contacted, Baldev Singh said his Jatha would be holding a ‘dhadi darbar’ in front of Akal Takht for the next fortnight. He said the charges levelled against him were under a deep-rooted conspiracy, hatched by his political rivals. He claimed that he had met Mr S.K. Sharma, Inspector-General (Border Range), and briefed him about his ‘innocence’. He said Mr Sharma had also written to the SSP, Amritsar, to re-investigate the case.

Baldev Singh said he had also talked to Mr Parkash Singh Badal, president, Shiromani Akali Dal, twice. He claimed that Mr Badal had given him a clean chit as he was convinced that the registration of the case was a part of political conspiracy.

In yet another significant development, Baldev Singh wrote to Bhai Ram Singh, general secretary, SAD (Amritsar), to call him before completing inquiry against him. He alleged that the SAD (Amritsar) candidate who contested the SGPC election against him was badly defeated and allegedly nursed grouse against him and the proposed inquiry could be biased against him.

Mr Baldev Singh, however, said some were trying to bring about his rapprochement with the alleged victim.

Meanwhile, Sikh circles are amazed over the silence maintained by the Shiromani Akali Dal, SGPC and Akal Takht regarding booking of an SGPC member on charges of molesting a woman even after five days of the registration of the case. On the other hand, the SAD (Amritsar) has already constituted a two-member committee to inquire into the whole matter.


Sukhbir’s visit may cast shadow on Chautala’s protest
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 12
The visit of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MP Sukhbir Singh Badal along with the Haryana Chief Minister, Mr Om Prakash Chautala, to Lahore may cast a shadow on what is being touted as Mr Chautala’s symbolic protest against the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh’s refusal to share water with Haryana.

On the agenda of the Haryana Chief Minister’s tour of Pakistan is bringing water to the state from the birthplace of Bhai Kanhaiya in Sialkot district for celebrating his 300th birth anniversary.

Mr Chautala’s spin doctors have linked his trip to Pakistan to the Punjab Chief Minister’s resistance to the construction of the SYL Canal despite the directive of the Supreme Court telling the state government to complete it.

The inclusion of Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal in Mr Chautala’s entourage has put a big question mark on Mr Chautala’s protest. Mr Sukhbir Singh, who is an accused in a corruption case along with his father, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, went to Pakistan along with Mr Chautala after obtaining special permission from the court.

Mr Chautala’s close personal ties with the Badal family have on countless occasions prompted Mr Chautala’s opponents to criticise him. They have been accusing him of sacrificing the interests of Haryana to protect the interests of the Akali leader. Ironically, the criticism has been most strident on the issue of the SYL canal.

Mr Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Lok Sabha MP from Rohtak and a former chief of the HPCC, says.

“The whole thing was a farce”. He was referring to Mr Chautala’s symbolic protest. “When the Supreme Court first gave its order about the completion of the SYL canal, Mr Badal was the Chief Minister of Punjab and Mr Chautala of Haryana and both were supporting the BJP-led central government. But nothing was done for the construction of the canal”, Mr Hooda said and claimed that the SYL canal was a baby of the Congress and only a Congress regime in Haryana could ensure its completion.

Mr Hooda said while the Badal family’s opposition to the SYL canal was well-known, Mr Chautala’s entourage to Pakistan also included Rajya Sabha member Tarlochan Singh who allegedly attended a meeting of all parties of Punjab which was convened to oppose the court verdict on the SYL canal.


Chautala’s Pak visit ‘politically motivated’
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 12
The Panthic Morcha convener, Mr Ravi Inder Singh, today criticised Mr Parkash Singh Badal and his son, Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, for endorsing the Haryana Chief Minister, Mr Om Prakash Chautala’s oblique reference to the SYL and the sharing of river waters with a mix of “sacred” water from Sadaura, the native village of Bhai Kanhaiya in Pakistan.

In a statement, he said Mr Chautala was on a politically motivated visit to which the Badals were a party by letting the neighbouring Chief Minister draw political mileage for his “narrow and vested interests”.

Mr Ravi Inder Singh charged Mr Parkash Singh Badal with double-speak on the waters issue and termed the act as a “religious sacrilege” as well as “betrayal” of Punjab.


Chautala visits Nankana Sahib
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 12
Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala and the members of the delegation being led by him, visited Gurdwara Nankana Sahib, 75 km from Lahore, in Pakistan today, and paid obeisance.

Mr Chautala offered ‘rumala sahib’ and ardaas and also attended the special kirtan darbar for an hour organised at Nankana Sahib Gurdwara.

The members of the delegation also accompanied Mr.Chautala. Mr Chautala was presented with a saropa at Nankana Sahib.

Earlier, Mr Chautala and the delegates visited the Mazar of Waris Shah in Sheikhupura, where Mr Chautala offered a chaddar. While speaking on the occasion, Mr Chautala said Waris Shah would be remembered as long as people remembered Heer and Ranjha. He expressed gratitude to the people of Pakistan for their love and affection. A cultural programme of ghazals was organised by the Waris Shah Memorial Committee of Jandiala Sheikhupura to mark the occasion. 


Chautala’s brother-in-law joins BJP
Our Correspondent

Abohar, September 12
As Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala was away to Pakistan on a sadbhawna mission along with SAD youth wing president Sukhbir Singh Badal, his bother-in-law, Mr Aad Lal Jakhar, president of the state unit of the party in Punjab, today rejoined the BJP here today. Mr Rakesh Gupta, Fazilka, president of the youth wing of the INLD, also found a place on the dais at the district convention of the BJP. This virtually eliminates the party from Punjab as it had most of the state-level office-bearers in Abohar and Fazilka. Mr Chautala and his brother were married in the same family at Panjkosi village, near here.

The INLD leaders in this region had extended support to the Congress candidate, Dr Mohinder Rinwa, in the Fazilka constituency but had opposed Mr Sunil Jakhar, Congress candidate from the Abohar Assembly constituency. Mr Aad Lal Jakhar, a farmers leader had unsuccessfully contested the Assembly elections from Fazilka thrice as a Jansangh/Janta Party candidate, but later joined the INLD. He and Mr Gupta were welcomed by Mr Avinash Rai Khanna, state president of the BJP.

Mr Khanna said the SAD would field its candidate from Kapurthala and the BJP from Garhshankar in the coming byelections. The candidates would be decided during a meeting on September 14 in Chandigarh. The high command was expected to take a final decision on September 16.

Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Uma Bharti would visit Punjab on September 24 to conclude her yatra on September 25 in Amritsar.

Mr Harjit Singh Grewal, state BJP general secretary, had been nominated convener for the yatra in Punjab. 


Water sources depleting
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur September 12
Water sources in Punjab are depleting fast and the BBMB has failed to increase generation despite repeated requests from the state. Due to the current power crisis being faced by Punjab, the state requested the BBMB to increase power generation at Bhakra. However, due to intervention of partner states Haryana and Rajasthan, the BBMB has till date been declining the request of Punjab.

As a result, Punjab has been forced to increase generation from the Ranjit Sagar Dam project. Everyday, about 9,700 cusecs of water is being released from Ranjit Sagar Dam. In peak hours, the discharge in the dam is increased to about 12,000 cusecs. Due to the pressure of generation of power for the past three months, the PSEB authorities have not been able to stop its UBDC system power project for the past three months for maintenance.

Sources said if the situation continued like this for some more time, Punjab might face an irrigation crisis through the UBDC canal system next year.

Punjab has a major share of about 50 per cent in the power generated at the BBMB installation. However, due to low inflows this year, the BBMB has decreased outflows to a bare minimum, affecting power generation. Low generation at Bhakra is hitting Punjab the most since it is a major shareholder in the organisation.

As per the data collected today, just 117.38 MW is being generated at Bhakra against an installed capacity of 1,250 MW. The inflows in the Bhakra reservoir as of today were 21981 cusecs. However, the outflows have been kept by the BBMB at a bare minimum of 15,250 cusecs. The BBMB is also diverting 8,507 cusecs from the Beas into Gobind Sagar.

The generation in other power houses of the BBMB — Ganguwal, Kotla, Pong and Dehar — has also been low. The low inflows from the Bhakra are adversely affecting the generation at the Ganguwal and Kotla power projects of the BBMB.

The sources said the BBMB has not yielding to the request of Punjab, which was an indication of the state losing control over the most vital irrigation and power project of North India.

Over a period, Punjab has failed to retain its 55 per cent employee quota in the BBMB. The number of Punjab cadre officers in the BBMB has been decreasing. Earlier, the post of the Chief Engineer (Irrigation) at Nangal and Secretary in the organisation were generally occupied by Punjab cadre officers. However, the post of the Chief Engineer (Irrigation) at Nangal is occupied by a Rajasthan cadre officer while the post of Secretary is with a Haryana cadre officer. The overall strength of Punjab employees in the BBMB has been reduced to just about 30 per cent of the state quota.

The sources said that had Punjab maintained its quota in the BBMB, its employees would have protected the interests of the state in the organisation and it would not have faced a similar situation.


More airlines set an eye on Amritsar
Ashok Sethi

Raja Sansi (Amritsar), September 12
After Singapore Airlines announced its intention to start Amritsar-Singapore direct flight from October 1, Indian Airlines, Malaysian Air Service, Thai and Cathay Pacific airlines have conducted a preliminary survey to operate flights for Punjabis settled in South Asian countries.

The Director, Airport, Mr V.S. Mulekar, told The Tribune that a marketing team of Malaysian Air Service visited the airport to look at the facilities and other arrangements to plan a direct flight from Kaula Lumpur from next January. He added that during the past years the passenger traffic had increased manifold and was now three lakh annually making the local airport one of the busiest airports in the country.

Commenting on the lack of facilities to passengers in view of heavy traffic, the Director said the construction of the new modem terminal building with a outlay of Rs 18 crore was delayed due to some legal wranglings but with the settlement the work on to complete the building was going on a warfooting.

The General Manager, Engineering, Mr Choudhry, confirmed that in all probabilities the terminal building would be ready by July next year and passengers would be provided all international class facilities, including duty-free shop, round-the-clock restaurant and coffee shop, besides offices of various airlines operating from the airport.

The Director said the entire work on Rs 80 crore upgradation project was going to be completed by next year keeping in view the passenger and cargo potential from the airport.

He said the state government must prepare a vision document to promote the airport as a major import and export destination for the benefit of the northern region. He added that the airport authority had already completed a huge cargo complex but due to lack of government notification on import/export, it was not properly used. He urged businessmen to use the complex to enhance their businesses.


Punjab facing deep crisis, says economist
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 12
Punjab is in deep crisis. Yet, no one seems to be paying any attention to save it; not even the government. Neither politicians nor bureaucrats have either time or inclination to salvage the state from total disaster.

Punjab’s annual economic growth rate is less than 2 per cent. Its annual employment growth rate is less than 1 per cent. The school dropout rate from the primary class up to 10 plus two is 84 per cent.

The state spends more on security forces than on education — against the 22 per cent Budgetary allocation to education in 1980-81, it was just 12.5 per cent in 2002-03. Punjab is at number 16 among all states in education. There are over 20 lakh jobless youths who are either falling prey to drugs or taking to crime, resulting in social divisions and tensions.

Punjabi University economist, expressing these views, Dr Sucha Singh Gill said: “In spite of hardworking Punjabis and a good pace of economic development in the past, the state is today slipping into a precipice with no one having concern for its future”. In an interview to Tribune News Service today, he said financially Punjab was where it was five years ago. There was neither any visible effort nor change in the fiscal situation.

Dr Gill said: “Availability of various reports and recommendations are of no consequence to the policymakers. May these be in respect of tax reforms, resource-mobilisation, raising agricultural productivity and nursing industry. No one seemed to be interested in helping Punjab move forward. There appears to be strong in-built resistance in the politico-administrative system, which has developed immunity to change, reform and evolve. The politicians lack the will and the bureaucrats commitment,” he added.

On agriculture, Dr Gill talked of the “mismatch between policy intervention, both of the Centre and the state, and field demands”.The 10th Plan document has suggested agriculture research and extension being entrusted to the private or the corporate sector. In practice, ordinary dealers and arhtiyas have become nodal agents on behalf of absentee private-corporate companies even on “contract farming”.

These dealers, in the name of “contract farming”, supplied spurious seeds to farmers at a high cost and offered low procurement price for what little was produced. Farmers had burnt their fingers. Though the corporate sector had been entrusted with this responsibility, it did not have requisite basic infrastructure, like seed-testing labs. Otherwise, how come winter maize did not grow?

Dr Gill said farmers were being arm twisted by the state Agriculture Department into signing contracts on the dotted lines, which had no legal sanctity. Farmers were also penalised with high “administrative charges” — Rs 150 per acre to Rs 400 per acre.

In fact, in the absence of scientific crop-mix corresponding to ground or surface water, much could not be expected. Punjab Agricultural University was supposed to be flush with funds to undertake research using bio-technology for crop productivity improvement. This was not happening. The result was low yields and unremunerative returns, particularly to small or semi-medium and medium farmers, who formed bulk of 12 lakh farming families.

There was a visible shift of farm workforce to non-farm jobs. This migration was a serious issue. Small farmers were being crowded out because of denial of low-cost credit to them or marketing facilities. In fact, credit at 9.5 per cent for tractors was far higher than even the car loans! In the absence of agro-processing, value addition was done and missing organic linkages gave rise to suicides by farmers and unemployment among rural youth. “My experience of interaction at different political and administrative levels is that in the government there is scant concern for Punjab,” he added.

Dr Gill said it was in tax reforms, widening of the tax net in view of the upcoming service economy and tax compliance which alone could mean additional resources to the tune of Rs 2,500 crore. Political exigencies, populism and please-all decisions would have to be sacrificed. 


Released Iraqi hostage gets Rs 1 lakh aid
Kiran Deep
Tribune News Service

Makrona Kala (Morinda), September 12
Sukhdev Singh, one of the hostages released by militants in Iraq after 42 days of captivity, today got Rs1 lakh financial help from the state government. A cheque was given to Sukhdev Singh by the Parliamentary Secretary (Industry and Commerce), Mr K.P.S Rana, at Gurdwara Baba Balka Singh, Makrona Kala village, about 25 km from Ropar. Mr Rana also assured him a job. Hundreds of villagers from all over the district, senior government officials and politicians of various political parties participated in akhand path organised by Sukhdev’s family members at the gurdwara .

Various leaders also expressed concern about hundreds of other truck drivers who were still working in Iraq.

While addressing the gathering, his family members expressed gratitude to district officials, politicians and mediapersons for extending help during their difficult time. 


Research still on linking cancer with pesticide use
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 12
The interim report of the research conducted by the PGI here has given enough pointers in establishing a linkage between the use of pesticides and the occurrence of the dreaded disease cancer in some of the villages in Punjab.

The extensive research was carried out by the Department of Community Medicine at the PGI, (the final findings of which are yet to be submitted), after the Punjab Government had asked the Punjab Pollution Control Board to inquire into the increasing number of cancer cases in Talwandi Saboo more than one and a half year ago.

The interim report has found that among the most common cancers that were found among the villagers in the Talwandi Sabo were breast cancer, leukaemia, oesophagus, skin and ovary. Moreover, the number of cancer cases are found more among women than in their male counterparts as 80 cases of confirmed cancer were reported among the females. Also, 80 per cent of the villages in Talwandi Sabo had problems due to polluted water, as compared to 20 per cent in Chamkaur Sahib.

The head of the Department of Community Medicine, Prof Rajesh Kumar, however, says that as the final round of the results of the sample have yet to arrive, the exact linkage between the cancer and the use of pesticides cannot be established with certainty. 


Slumless township planned near Ropar
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 12
The Environment Planning Unit (EPU), a Delhi-based representative group of over 500 professionals from different walks of life, has proposed Anandghati — a “slumless and pollutionless” township on the Punjab-Himachal border near Ropar.

“A survey of the land had already been undertaken for the proposed township which would address the architectural shortcomings of India’s best city —Chandigarh, “Mr Jeet Malhotra, an associate of Le Corbusier and a moving force behind EPU project, told The Tribune here today.

Mr Malhotra, who was here to participate in a seminar on “Towards sustainable architecture” organised by the Saakaar Foundation, said the “slumless and pollutionless” human settlements should be the main focus of the architects and policy makers.

In fact, the appropriate use of energy in the architecture would avoid pollution at the micro and macro levels, he said, adding that the “comprehensive planning project” would take care of structural flaws in the designing of Chandigarh.

Giving details, Mr Malhotra said a blueprint of the new township would be submitted to authorities concerned soon. The agriculture, industry and trading activities would be in perfect balance in the township aimed at integrating haves and havenots of society.

In the planning of the City Beautiful, the havenots were basically ignored and it was a mistake on the part of the planners, said Mr Malhotra, who worked with Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret.

Meanwhile, during his presentation, Mr Malhotra said India was lucky to have plenty of sun on its surface. If we tap the solar energy, rural India would gain more from “urja shakti as it can be decentralised to each and every village of the country,” he argued.


Cong still undecided on Kapurthala candidate
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Kapurthala, September 12
While the battle of supremacy in the forthcoming byelections for this prestigious constituency has already taken off with the announcement of its candidate by the Shiromani Akali Dal, the Congress is seemingly a confused lot for its failure to decide its candidate in the wake of internal pulls and pressures.

The Kapurthala seat, which was held by Rana Gurjit Singh, has become a prestige issue for the Congress and the SAD and both parties are likely to spare no efforts to win it.

While the SAD has already pitched in and has opened its cards by nominating a former Transport Minister Mr Raghbir Singh, as its candidate three days ago the Congress has been lagging behind on this front so far.

On the other hand, party sources maintained that since Rana Gurjit Singh has been staking claim over the seat and wants to get the party ticket for his “Bhabi” Sukhi Rana, the fight for the party ticket has intensified as the other contender, Mr Sukhpal Singh Khaira, who contested from the adjoining Bholath seat against the SAD heavyweight, Bibi Jagir Kaur, has approached the party high command with his claim. Mr Khaira, it is learnt, has been camping in Delhi for the past several days where he has been trying to convince the party high command that he was not an “outsider” unlike his rival and his claim carries more weight since he has been fighting for the party on a “weak” seat like Bholath.

Meanwhile, party sources reveal that in view of Mr Khaira’s claim and in accordance with the wishes of the party high command, the state unit of the Congress has sent a panel, comprising two names of Ms Sukhi Rana and Mr Khaira to the high command for consideration and the matter would finally be decided even as Rana’s position was seemingly more stronger in view of the apparent support of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, to the Rana family. “The final decision would be taken by Ms Sonia Gandhi after consulting leaders like Mr Pranab Mukherjee and Ms Ambika Soni,” said a Congress leader.


Shivaliks under threat
Vishal Gulati
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH: The Shivaliks are dying a slow death. Rich in biodiversity, human interference is eating into their flora and fauna. The Shivaliks, spread over Ropar, Hoshiarpur, Nawanshahr and Gurdaspur districts, cover 2.6 per cent of the total area of the state.

According to a report prepared by the Punjab State Council for Science and Technology, Biodiversity in the Shivalik Ecosystem, industrialisation in and around the Shivaliks is posing a major threat.

The report, jointly funded by the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the state government, says engineering and pharmaceutical firms and paper mills in Ropar and Hoshiarpur districts and stone crushers in Gurdaspur district are posing a serious threat.

It says the introduction of exotic fish species like common and silver carp has adversely affected native fish fauna. The plantation of exotic species like poplar and eucalyptus has also resulted in the neglect of native species.

Similarly, the invasion of lantana and parthenium has resulted in the decline of flora. A hardy flowering shrub, lantana grows faster in comparison to the indigenous species. Its growth can choke all natural vegetation, including trees. It can also catch fire quickly, thus posing a threat to forests. However, the Forest Department has planted lantana in those areas where no other species can survive.

Hyacinth and hydrilla, both exotic weeds, have degraded water bodies, says the report. The vast green carpet of hyacinth prevents light for fish culture.

The construction of roads in the Shivaliks has resulted in loss of biodiversity and the introduction of predators such as rats.

Over-exploitation of flora by local people and Gujjars has led to the degradation of forests. Soil erosion is also a serious threat to natural vegetation. Nearly 100 choes crisscrossing the Hoshiarpur and Nawanshahr areas are creating more problems.

However, the Shivaliks have the areas which are rich in biodiversity. These are the Guru Gobind Singh nature reserve, Sadavarat forest, Kahanpur Khuhi forest and the Ropar wetlands in Ropar district; Dholbaha-Kukanet forest, Nara forest, Chohal forest, Talwara forest, Manguwal forest and Takhni-Rehmapur Wildlife Sanctuary in Hoshiarpur district; and Dhar and Dunera forest in Gurdaspur district.

Biologists and environmentalists are worried. The reason is obvious. The Shivaliks are home to 390 species of birds, 135 species of moths, 74 species of butterflies, 63 species of beetles, 19 species of mammals, 55 species of fish and 27 species of reptiles.

Red ant, which is eaten as a condiment with curry in Myanmar, is also found in the Hoshiarpur and Dhar areas.

The Shivaliks also have 214 plants of economic importance, including 132 medicinal plants, besides khair, amaltas, shisham and simbal.

The report points out that bio-rich areas should be brought under a protected area network. The Ropar and Dholbha wetlands and other water bodies be scientifically managed. Biodiversity in degraded areas like Jaijjon and Talwara in Hoshiarpur district, Rel Majra in Nawanshahr district and Mirzapur in Ropar district should be restored, it says.


No funds to renovate tourist complex?
Kiran Deep
Tribune News Service

Ropar, September 12
While the Punjab Tourism Development Corporation, has decided to organise three day state-level function on World Tourism Day at Ropar, the authorities concerned did not have funds required for the renovation of the tourist complex where the function is be held from September 27 to 29.

Even many employees of the corporation have expressed resentment over the PTDC decision, stating that a large number of employees have not got their salaries for the past 10 months and that the function will put more burden on the PTDC.

Sources informed that the Tourism Minister, Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang, had visited Pincassia complex at Ropar last month and directed the authorities concerned to get it renovated in view of the forthcoming function.

The sources said that about Rs 3 lakh were required for the renovation, an amount at present not available with the department. In a letter sent to the Managing Director of the PTDC, a senior official of tourism complex stated that they did not have the funds required for the renovation. He added that the department would make a fresh estimate and funds would be soon released. But till date, he had not got any reply from the department.

Talking about the problems being faced by the employees of the Tourism Department, the president of the Punjab employees Federation, Mr Sukhdev Singh, said that there was no justification for organising the World Tourism Day while at many places in Punjab the employees have not got salaries for the past 10 months. Even those who got VRS are waiting for the funds to be released by the government.

After attending a meeting with several officials of the Tourism Department at the Pincassia Tourism complex here on Friday, the Director, Tourism, Mr Jagjit Puri, said that the state had enormous potential to generate revenue from tourism as more tourists visited Punjab than Agra. If we went by statistics, every year 230 million tourists visited Punjab and among them 65 lakh visited Amritsar.

“The PTDC would generate revenue from the function as a number of institutions and companies will put up their stalls during the three-day function. That will meet our expenditure,” he added.

He further said that the PTDC had decided to increase the tourist inflow in three ways. The department will motivate the tourists to visits rural areas, besides starting adventure games for them. In the rural areas the PTDC had decided to make arrangements for the tourists so that they should have a feel of the village life. Then, they will also take visitors to various historical gurdwaras and 92 monuments in the state. He said that besides the declared 17 festivals, the PTDC had decided to celebrate three state festivals at Amritsar, Kapurthala and Patiala.

Despite many efforts Mr Jagmohan Kang was not available for his comments.


Documentary on Guru Granth Sahib screened
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, September 12
Mangal Dhillon, a Bollywood actor, who had produced a documentary, “Prakash Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji”, said his desire of screening it during the 400th year of celebrations of the installation of Guru Granth Sahib came crashing as the Dharam Prachar Committee (DPC) of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) allegedly did not see it on the pretext that it was busy in making arrangements for Parkash Utsav.

He was addressing the gathering before screening of the documentary in Sir Sunder Singh Majithia Hall of Khalsa College here last evening. He said the documentary was specially produced and being dedicated to the 400th Parkash Utsav of Guru Granth Sahib.

More than an hour-long documentary depicts the history of Guru Granth Sahib and along with the spiritual history of Sikh Gurus, sants, bhaktas and Sufis belonging to that era whose verses are enshrined in the holy book. The film also showcases ethnic architecture of that period and historical gurdwaras related to Guru Granth Sahib. Dhillon has played the roles of producer, director, narrator and writer of this documentary.


Anti-social elements misleading media, says SSP
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, September 12
Mr Gurkirpal Singh, SSP, Tarn Taran, in a press statement issued here today said that some anti-social elements were misleading the media by stating that Didar Singh, alias Dari, an alleged activist of Babbar Khalsa, was falsely implicated in various criminal cases and, thus, giving clean chit to him.

The SSP said that Dari had given arms to Jagtar Singh, alias Jagga, of Bhagowal village and Baljinder Singh, alias Deputy of Chogawan village. Both had killed the chief of Akal Dera, Baba Jagtar Singh, and his companion Manjit Singh.

He said both the accused had admitted at a press conference held by the SSP, Majitha, Mr R.P.S. Bajwa, that they had killed Baba Jagtar Singh. They had also admitted that the arms were supplied to them by Didar Singh Dari.

Mr Gurkirpal Singh said that when the arms were given by Dari to the killers, he was not in judicial custody in any case and the police had arrested Dari in cases of murder, attempt to murder and arms Act registered at Tarn Taran city police.

He said about nine such criminal cases had been registered at various police stations of Tarn Taran, Majitha and Amritsar police districts. The SSP said the police had also recovered an AK-47 rifle, two magazines and 30 live cartridges. Dari had admitted to the police that he had got the arms from hardcore terrorist Sarabjit Singh, alias Shaba, a resident of Chachowali village.


Keep level crossing open, demand residents
Tribune News Service

Patiala, September 12
Even as the overbridge at the railway crossing number 22 is inching towards completion, residents and shopkeepers of the area have again raised the demand to keep the crossing at the site open. The railway authorities have already closed the crossing and intend to keep it closed once the overbridge is constructed.

While this is normal practice at all places where railway overbridges are constructed, the demand for keeping the crossing open is now receiving support from unexpected sources. Even Patiala MP Preneet Kaur and Deputy Commissioner Tejveer Singh have requested the Railways to keep the crossing open as a special case.

The case does seem to be special. A number of schools are situated on both sides of the crossing. A large number of students commute to the schools on bicycles and rickshaws. As the railway authorities have already made it clear that the crossing would remain closed, the students will first have to ascend the bridge and then take a U-turn to go to their schools.

Mr Narjeet Singh Oberoi, a shopkeeper, says while this will result in inconvenience to the students, it will also cause traffic problems.

He says in addition to around 400 commercial establishments, there are seven schools and three colleges situated close to the crossing.

He says it is being suggested that traffic could be diverted through colony roads but the ground reality of the area is such that none of the colony roads are broad enough to carry the traffic.

The president of the Railway Crossing Number 22 Market Association, Mr Narinder Singh Bedi, while talking to TNS says till the construction of side bridges, the crossing should be kept open for small traffic, including two-wheelers and rickshaws. He says if this is not done the bridge will create more problems.

Meanwhile, Ms Preneet Kaur has approached Union Railway Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav and the Deputy Commissioner has approached the Divisional Railway Manager, Ambala.

Both of them have requested that part of the level crossing be kept open.


Saragarhi episode for Punjab history books
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, September 12
The saga of bravery of 21 Sikh soldiers who died fighting against heavy odds while defending the Saragarhi post against an attack by nearly 10,000 Afridis and Pathans is one of the most daring and calculated feats of gallantry and devotion to duty in history.

Stating this, Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi, Chief Parliamentary Secretary (Sports and Youth Affairs) to Punjab Government said an account of the bravery of the Saragarhi martyrs would be included in the history textbooks of schools in the state so that the younger generation can get motivation from the chivalrous deed of these Sikh soldiers.

Mr Sodhi was here to preside over the ex-servicemen’s rally organised to pay homage to these gallant soldiers of the 36, Sikh Regiment who attained martyrdom while defending the Saragarhi post of Fort Lockhart in Afghanistan on September 12,1897. Each one of these 21 men were awarded the Indian Order of Merit (IOM) for their valour.

Earlier, Mr Sodhi paid obeisance at the historic Gurdwara Saragarhi which was built in 1904 in the memory of the Saragarhi martyrs by Sir Charles Montgomery, the then Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab. He was accompanied by Brig. J S Jaiswal (Retd)Vir Chakra, Director Sainik Welfare Punjab, Mr. Ranjit Singh, Deputy Commissioner, Mr Anumeet Sodhi, Mr Gurnaib Brar ex MLA, Group Captain R S Manaise, Mr Desh Deepak ADC, Mr Ravi Sharma and hosts of other senior Congress leaders and district officials.

Addressing the huge gathering of ex-servicemen, Mr Sodhi said the state government had initiated several measures to ameliorate hardships of ex-servicemen and efforts had been made to provide them all the necessary facilities. He said adequate reservation has been made in various government departments and educational institutions for ex-servicemen. He said the Chief Minister, who himself was an ex-servicemen had assured that the kith and kin of ex-servicemen would be provided government jobs on priority basis.

Mr Sodhi distributed blankets, household items besides extending financial help to the tune of Rs 45,000 to families of ex-servicemen. He also announced a grant of Rs 2 lakhs for the repair of the Sainik Rest House, Ferozepore from his own discretionary quota. 


Sterilisation method approval doc couple’s aim
Gurvinder Kaur

Patiala, September 12
Female sterilisation has long been a contentious issue, and it is the only permanent method of contraception. Those who have taken up cudgels for one or the other “controversial” method of sterilisation in the past have received more than their fair share of brickbats. However, this fact seems to dwell lightly upon the minds of a doctor couple of Patiala, who have decided to dedicate their lives to getting a ban on Quinacrine sterilisation reversed in the country.

Gynaecologist Ashi R. Sarin, former Head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Government Medical College, Patiala, and her husband, Dr Raj K. Sarin, who now run Aastha Medical Centre, are determined to get the ban revoked.

Convinced of the efficacy and safety of Quinacrine non-surgical sterilisation (QS), as opposed to the surgical method, the couple is determined to advocate for the cause even in a courtroom. Her study based on the results of 134 QS cases, which was published in the International Journal of Gynaecology and Obstetrics 83 Suppl. 2 (2003), has been appreciated in medical circles.

QS was launched in the country through the Indian Council of Medical Research in Baroda and Chandigarh on an experimental basis in 1992. However, in 1997 it was hastily declared a failure based on the outcome of a total of only eight cases, out of which five turned out to be successful. According to Dr Ashi Sarin, the decision was also the result of mass hysteria whipped up by feminist groups after the screening of a documentary titled “The Yellow Haze”, which alleged coercion in a Delhi medical college study, leading to severe media criticism.

She asserts that the ban was prompted by emotional reasons and not rational. Subsequently, the ban came into effect in 1998 by a government notification consequent to a public-interest litigation by the All-India Democratic Women’s Association and others.

QS, says Dr Ashi Sarin, “has everything in its favour. It is safe, easy, efficient and cost effective and non-surgical. In a country like India, where the population continues to grow at the rate of 2.1 per cent, a non-surgical method of sterilisation is a necessity.” She cites the example of 134 patients who were administered QS during the trial period between December 1993 and July 1998 at Government Medical College, Patiala. The was specially designed for women who are at high risk with the surgical procedure. The scheduled cut-off date for the analysis was fixed for March 2003. After follow-up studies for as long as 10 years, Dr Sarin had to conclude that the results were staggering: no failure or major complication came to light during the study.

Claims Dr Sarin, “The study vindicates my stand. QS is a reasonable option and is particularly practical alternative where abdominal surgery is not technically feasible. In India a majority of women are anaemic; their lives are equally endangered by another pregnancy or serious complications of a surgical sterilisation. Women suffering from cardiovascular diseases, bronchial asthma, obesity or other problems have the right to be offered QS as a permanent birth-control method.”

In QS, a drug called Quinacrine is inserted into the uterus, which causes inflammation of the lining of the fallopian tubes, which in turn heals over a period of 6-12 weeks to plug the tubes following the formation of scar tissue.

Dr Ashi Sarin is busy mobilising public opinion in favour of the procedure. Renowned gynaecologists of the city are coming out openly in favour of the procedure. “I shall not rest till I succeed in getting the ban revoked,” she sums up.


Punjab to tie up with Bengal for fish breeding
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 12
Punjab will have collaboration with West Bengal in the breeding of ornamental fish, boneless fish (pangus) and fresh water prawn with technical assistance from that state which has already proved its mettle in the fisheries sector, says an official release.

Deliberations in this regard were held by Punjab Fisheries Minister, Jagmohan Singh Kang with his West Bengal counterpart, Mr Kiran Moy Nanda, who has been the Fisheries Minister of that state for the past 23 years. Mr Nanda informed that of the total export of ornamental fish, 70 per cent was done by his state, which was a leader in ornamental fish and aquarium technology. 


Aid for border districts sought
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 12
The PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI) has sought an economic package for the three border districts of Punjab — Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Ferozepore — on the lines of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttaranchal.

In a press note issued here yesterday, the co-chairman of the Punjab committee of the PHDCCI, Mr R.S. Sachdeva, said this would help promote industrial growth in the state and also prevent existing industrial units from fleeing to the neighbouring states which offer special incentives.

A copy of the draft agenda containing the details has been submitted to the Secretary, Industries, Punjab, Mr Sanjay Kumar. The issue would be taken up in the next meeting of the Industrial Advisory Council to be held shortly.

Advocating the case for balanced regional development, he said the special incentives package given to HP should be amended and extended only to those industries which were either situated 100 km away from the Punjab border or at least at a height of 4000 ft to put a check on the shifting of industry to these places only for tax benefits and other concessions. 


Potato cultivation brings prosperity
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Kararwala (Bathinda), September 12
While a large number of villages of the Malwa region have been facing poverty and farmers have been committing suicide due to repeated crop failure, Kararwala has been witnessing unprecedented prosperity for the past many years.

The village with a population of 6000 and situated on the Bathinda-Barnala road has witnessed so much prosperity that its residents have managed to buy more than 500 acres in the neighbouring villages, purchased more than 80 trucks, set up four cold stores, including one in the village, and set up five private schools.

Not only this, the village where potato cultivation was started in 1970, has now a gurdwara where the residents have set up an airconditioned hall.

The residents have also built a gurdwara in a poor locality. The village is also having a jewellery shop, a beauty parlour, a chemist shop, a studio and a vehicle repair shop.

The prosperity is due to several residents switching over to potato cultivation.

The village which has made a mark in potato production in the state has started getting three crops a year instead of two.

Crime in the village has become negligible. Not a single farmer has failed to repay any loan. Except on one or two occasions, the residents have been electing the sarpanch and panchayat members unanimously.

Another unique tradition is that all wedding parties, which come to the village, first go to the gurdwara where a reception is hosted for them by the villagers and “Anand Karaj” are performed.

After that the parties go to the place of wedding. Almost all youths have stopped taking dowry. Anybody using a loudspeaker is fined Rs 500 by the panchayat. Illicit distillation is alien to the residents.

Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhillon who was born here and later became the Health Minister of Punjab, was a pioneer in potato cultivation in this village, which has been facing the problem of declining water table. Mr Dhillon also initiated other residents into potato cultivation by arranging seeds from Lahaul-Spiti and abroad.

Mr Baldev Singh, sarpanch said though the village had been witnessing prosperity, it had also been facing shortage of teachers and doctors in the government-run school and dispensary, respectively.

Mr Dhillon said efforts were being made by the residents to reach an agreement with the food processing industrialists so that their potato produce could fetch them more profit. He added that Pepsi had been purchasing potato being produced in this village.


IMA to honour scientists
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, September 12
The Punjab unit of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) has decided to honour the scientists involved in discovering a new anti-tubercular molecule for effective treatment of tuberculosis in just two months, against the existing duration of between six and eight months.

These scientists will be honoured with the Punjab IMA Ratna Award at the state-level function of the Punjab IMA. The date for organising this function will be finalised soon.


Shakti Kapoor gets best actor award
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, September 12
Bollywood actor Shakti Kapoor was awarded the best actor award at the 24th Mohammad Rafi annual awards function organised by Mohammad Rafi Memorial Society at Guru Nanak Stadium here today.

Agam Nigam, father of playback singer Sonu Nigam, was given the Mohammad Rafi best singer award while Vandana Vajpayee got the Mohammad Rafi Best Female Singer award. Shamsher Sandhu was bestowed with the best lyricist award. Punjabi folk singer Surinder Laddi was given the best folk singer award while Sabar Koti was adjudged best sufi singer. Navjot noor, TV anchor, was given the best comperer award.

A special award has been instituted in the memory of founder president of the society late Rana Jaspal Singh. It was given to Mr P.S. Purewal, managing director of a magazine, for promoting art.

Prof Darbari Lal, Deputy Speaker, Punjab Vidhan Sabha, was the chief guest on the occassion. Dr Rajkumar, Parliamentary Secretary, Education, presided over the function while Mr Sunil Datti, Mayor, inaugurated it.

Mr Jugal Kishor, MLA and Chairman, Amritsar Improvement Trust, were also present.

Earlier, Shakti Kapoor paid obeisance at the Golden Temple. 


PSEB drive to check power theft
Tribune News Service

Moga, September 12
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) has launched a crackdown on those stealing power.

The Executive Engineer, Mr P.S. Sangha, the SDO, Mr Jaspreet Singh, and 50 other board employees raided about 300 houses in Lopo village yesterday. The raid continued for about five hours. The board staff caught 26 house owners stealing power.


Man gets life term in murder case
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, September 12
The Additional District and Sessions Judge, Mr Hardayal Singh, has sentenced a person to life imprisonment in a murder case, while acquitting three others.

The convict, Balbir Singh, was a resident of Dharamkot in Moga. Sources said that Balbir was a habitual drunkard and he often had altercations with his neighbours, Rajinder Pandit, and his brother, Baljinder. On the fateful day, Balbir and his friends were drinking liquor while sitting on the terrace. They were abusing Rajinder and pelting stones at his home. When Rajinder stopped him, he took out his rifle and shot at him, but the bullet hit Baljinder. Balbir’s friend again shot at them and this time the bullet hit Rajinder’s wife, Nisha.

Hearing gunshots, Rajinder’s niece, Tarsem, rushed to rescue the injured, but Balbir shot him dead.


Remand of terrorists extended
Our Correspondent

Pathankot September 12
The police remand of five terrorists allegedly involved in reviving terrorism was extended till September 18 by Mr Ranjit Singh, Duty Magistrate, here today.

The police had recovered 15 kg of RDX, 2 AK 56 rifles and a huge quantity of fake currency notes from a group of five terrorists on Sunday last. All the accused were produced before the Duty Magistrate, Mr Ranjit Singh, who remanded them in police custody.


Student held for assault
Our Correspondent

Batala, September 12
The Civil Lines police has arrested a college student, Jagdeep Singh, of Rai Chak village under the Kotli Surat Malli police station for allegedly injuring Simrat Singh of Mustrapur village in a clash.

Jagdeep Singh, along with three companions, had allegedly attacked another group of students on the Jalandhar road on Friday. In the clash that followed, Simrat Singh was seriously injured. Jagdeep’s three companions are still at large.


7 booked for assaulting Editor’s sons
Tribune News Service

Kotkapura, September 12
The police has registered a case against seven unidentified persons who had attacked the Editor of a local daily, Mr Sardari Lal Kapoor.

The police has also recovered the Ford Ikon car used in the incident. 


Principals disburse salaries, but can’t draw them
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, September 12
A section A section of principals of a large number of government schools of Punjab are facing a peculiar situation wherein they are empowered to draw and disburse salaries to their subordinates but not for themselves.

As per a letter dated August 31, the principals of some senior secondary schools, have been given powers of Drawing and Disbursing Officers for giving the salaries of staff working under the non-plan category. However, as these principals have been working under the plan category posts, they have been denied their salaries, as the Punjab Government has not sanctioned the annual budget for the same.

Also the government has failed to sanction the continuation of their posts which is done annually.

The principals of these schools and the subordinate staff under the plan and non-plan categories had got their salaries in June. After that, neither the principals nor the subordinate staff members have been paid the salaries.

Now the principals have been empowered to draw and release the salaries of their subordinates, even as they would not be able to draw their own salaries. A section of lecturers and other employees who are working under the plan scheme category, have also not got their salaries.

Ms Gurmeet Kaur Dhillon, DEO (Secondary), said she was not aware of such thing but said if the principals had not got a sanction of the government for their respective posts, arrangements would be made to get the same at the earliest so that they could get the salaries shortly.

No senior official of the finance and education departments could be contacted for comments.

Sources said around 500 schools all over Punjab had been facing this problem. All administrative officials of the Education Department, including DEOs, had been working on non-plan posts and had been getting their salaries regularly.

Information revealed that there are about 27 senior secondary schools in this district where the principals and some lecturers had been facing this problem. These schools include, Government Senior Secondary School (Lehra Mohabat), Mehraj (girls), Jassi Pau Wali, Jhumba, Deon, Gulabgarh, Chak Fathe Singh Wala, Bhokhra, Kot Fatta, Rai Ke Kalan, Gehri Butter, Mehta, Phul (boys), Kothe Guru, Salabatpura, Dhipali, Ghuman Kalan, Kalyan Sukha, Jagga Ram Tirath, Talwandi Sabo, Sheikhpura, Raj Garh Kube, Killi Nihal Singh Wala, Ballianwali, Ram Nagar and Dhade.


Seminar on Internet
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, September 12
A seminar on “Internet and Education” was organised by the Techno Club, of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Engineering College, Fatehgarh Sahib. College students presented papers on three topics — E learning, virtual classroom and online education.

The Principal of college, Dr D.S. Hira, who presided over the seminar said Internet was an ocean of knowledge and every teacher must keep themselves informed of the latest developments in technology on the Internet. Prof Gurpal Singh, Head, Department of Computer Engineering of the college, said in the era of e-learning lectures of the teacher should be of global standards as they can access any book, journals and latest development in the world. He said all teachers of the colleges had already been allocated space on the file server of the college network which would help them to deliver online lectures.

President of the Techno Club, R.S. Uppal said in the near future the education system would shift to e-learning.

Mohit Sharma of computer department won first prize on the topic of On-line Education and Ranjit Singh’s presentation on Virtual Classroom was adjudged the best and e-learning presentation of Navkiran Kaur was judged as the best. Principal gave away the prizes to the winners.


Strike affects brick-kiln workers

Ghal Kalan (Moga), September 12
Strike by brick-kiln owners has affected the livelihood of thousands of people, (albeit for sometime,) associated with this sector in Malwa region. They have been now forced to look for other jobs.

“Many of our colleagues have returned to their native places in UP and Bihar as the work has been off for the last couple of months”, rued Ram Sahay, a labourer. — TNS

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