P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Govt not to allow ‘rail roko’ stir by BKU (Ekta)
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, October 28
Perceiving itself cornered by activists of a faction of the BKU (Ekta) on the issue of maintenance of law and order after they (the activists) “forced” the postponement of auction of a piece of land in Chathewala village of the district, the Punjab Government has stared contemplating a tough stand against them to scuttle their agitations in future.

Though a formal and a concrete decision in this connection may be taken after a month or so, the Punjab Government has decided not to allow the activists of the BKU (Ekta- Ugrahhan group) to organise their ‘rail rokos' agitation in the cotton belt of Punjab on November 3 to lodge their protest against the falling prices
of the cotton crop. So far, the BKU (Ekta) leadership has disclosed three places where it would organise the agitation.

Though senior police officials are tight-lipped, sources told The Tribune that the Punjab Government had given a nod to the district police authorities to start preventive arrests to scuttle the agitation.

Though the auction of a piece of land in Chathewala village, which was to be held on October 26, was postponed to January 20, 2005 by the Judicial Magistrate of Talwandi Sabo on an application moved by the SDM, Talwandi Sabo, thousands of activists of the BKU (Ekta), who descended on the village to stop the auction, claimed that it was their victory and announced that they would not allow the auction to take place on January 20 also.

Though virtually bowing before the activists of the BKU (Ekta) on October 26, the Punjab Government decided not to allow them to take the law into their own hands and to make its presence felt. Criminal cases were registered against about 100 activists including leaders of the BKU (Ekta), Ugrahhan group, for their alleged involvement in violating Section 144 of Cr PC. imposed by the SDM, Talwandi Sabo, from October 25 to October 28.

On October 26, when the auction of the piece of land belonging to a farmer, Mr Balwant Singh was to be held, thousands of BKU activists had virtually sealed all entry and exit points of the Chathewala village. Hundreds of activists forced their entry into the village on October 25 by breaking a police naka laid in the Maur Mandi area.

Earlier, three major agitations of different BKU factions in the district in the past few years have claimed the lives of three persons and left many injured including policemen. Due to frequent agitations launched by the BKU, the relations between the farmers and the commission agents have been becoming sour.

Mr Shiv Kumar Verma, SP (Headquarters), said the BKU (Ekta) activists had so far not announced their plan to organise the rail roko agitation in the district. 


Spurious fertilizer plant unearthed, three held
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Malout, October 28
The police has unearthed a spurious fertiliser manufacturing unit and another unit from where spurious and damaged fertilisers were being sent to various parts of the state after repackaging it in bags of a reputed fertiliser company.

While three persons who were arrested for running the illegal fertiliser manufacturing units - Raja Crushing and Fertiliser Mills and Raja Organics at Enna Khera village of Muktsar district - three others were arrested in connection with the sale of damaged fertiliser.

Information gathered by The Tribune revealed that Ram Assra, his son Lachhman and manager Satpal were arrested in connection with the manufacturing of spurious fertiliser in a factory. Baljit Singh, Albel Singh and Sarup Singh were arrested in connection with the repackaging of the damaged fertiliser in the bags of a reputed.

Mr Hargobind Singh, DSP, Malout, said a case pertaining to manufacturing of spurious fertiliser was registered under Section 420 of the IPC and Section 7 of the EC Act and under Fertilizer Control Order-1985 at the Sadar police station while another case in connection with the repackaging of damaged fertiliser was registered at city police station under Section 420 of the IPC and Section 7 of the EC Act.

The accused used to crush animal bones, leather waste powder and potassium to make organic fertiliser without having a license. The accused had also given advertisements for their dealership at various points in Punjab and other states. The accused had been supplying the spurious fertiliser to shops in every part of the country.

Mr Hargobind Singh, DSP, revealed that during the raid at the factory yesterday, a number of bags filled with spurious fertiliser were seized. It had been operating for 26 years. He said hundreds of tonnes of raw material was still lying in the factory.

He said Mr Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Parliamentary Secretary, Agriculture, Punjab, had been monitoring these operations to check the sale of spurious fertiliser, he added.

As regards the packaging of damaged fertilizer, the accused used to crush the damaged fertiliser and sieve it. In the past about four months, the accused had sold around 40,000 bags of such fertiliser in various parts of Punjab.

Mr Ranbir Singh Khatra, SSP, said around 10,000 empty bags of a reputed fertiliser company, a tractor-trailer, two mesh and documents pertaining to illegal transactions were also seized.

The accused, along with their owner, who was yet to be arrested, were running the operations of the unit from Bathinda town. 


Rs 40 lakh grant to develop Punjabi software
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 28
Punjabi University's aim to bring Punjabi on the computer screen globally has been given a major shot in the arm with the University Grants Commission (UGC) allocating a grant of Rs 40 lakh for this purpose to the institution's Advanced Centre for the Technical Development of Punjabi.

The centre had been established in February 2004 in the Department of Computer Science to give a boost to research in the development of Punjabi language, expand the network of usage of the language, make e-learning of Punjabi language available globally and help overcome the limitations imposed by Gurmukhi and Shahmukhi scripts while reading the Punjabi literature of the other side of the border. Dr Gurpreet Singh Lehal was appointed Professor and Director of the centre.

Giving details of the activities of the centre, Dr Lehal said the centre had already developed software of international standards like conversion of Gurmukhi script into Shahmukhi (Urdu) besides creating other facilities for Punjabi users. He said the centre had been working in coordination with the Department of Computer Science.

The UGC has appointed Dr Lehal as Coordinator of the project for five years from 2004 to 2009. Dr Lehal said the thrust area of research would be to develop a Punjabi speech synthesis system and Gurmukhi Online and hand printed optical character recognition systems. He said a software would also be developed for automatic reading of Punjabi text in which the computer would speak like a human being.

The Professor said this would benefit the illiterate masses also. He said the problem of proof reading, spell checking, use of Punjabi as medium of e mail, public broadcasting systems and a number of other fields would also be revolutionised by this. He said the software would enable reading aloud a book or newspaper in Punjabi and if combined with English-Punjabi translation would enable reading aloud of a text typed in English or Punjabi.

Dr Lehal said the centre would also carry out research to automatically recognise hand-printed manuscripts of historical importance. He said this would help in the conservation of priceless documents of Punjabi literature, history and culture in the soft form.

Vice-Chancellor S.S. Boparai said he hoped the centre would revolutionise the development of use of Punjabi language and diminish the superficial boundaries in the area of academic exchange among Punjabi lovers as the language had suffered a lot due to non-availability of a common platform which would be provided by the centre.


Harassment galore in liquor searches
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 28
If you travel by car or bus on the Chandigarh-Patiala highway in the evening, yet do not face harassment and humiliation in hands of "mysterious" looking search parties, then you are doubly blessed.

Frisking of those travelling in such vehicles and search of their belongings in the evening has become a norm rather than exception.

Harassment caused to public in the process has crossed all limits.

"It reminds the old days when terrorism was at its peak and buses and other vehicles were searched and passengers were frisked on all main routes", says Ram Lal (name changed), who daily travels to Patiala.

Now buses and other vehicles are stopped mostly on a stretch of the road from Zirakpur to Banur. Four or five persons in plain clothes rush into the bus. They appear in a tearing hurry and frisk passengers and inspect their briefcases and baggage etc. They never disclose their identity. At certain times even passengers, impatient to return home after day's tedious duty, are asked to get off the bus.

These search parties look for bottles of liquor. Those who daily travel from Chandigarh to Patiala in the evening say that such searches are held at the behest of liquor contractors. Most of the time neither policemen nor officials of excise department accompany such parties.

"We fail to understand that under what law search is conducted by these private parties. And why those holding searches do not disclose their identity to passengers.

Even if we accept that it is their legal right to conduct searches and frisk passengers, it is also the right of those subjected to frisking to know who these 'gentlemen' are", says a passenger.

When contacted, Mr S.K. Rahlan, Additional Excise and Taxation ( Excise), told The Tribune that these searches were held by officials of his department to check the smuggling of liquor from Chandigarh, where it is cheaper, to Patiala and other.

However, passengers say that searches are conducted by " musclemen" hired by liquor contractors." We are educated enough to make out that whether those conducting search belonged to the Excise Department or they are private people", said a passenger, preferring to remain unidentified obviously because of the influence wielded by liquor lobbies in corridors of power.

Only on rare occasions, these parties are accompanied by policemen. In case, they find any bottle of liquor, they take it away.

Mr A.S. Rai, Senior Superintendent of Police, Patiala, said that the Excise Department had its own police force. The district police had nothing to do with such searches, he added. Legal experts say that their is no law that authorises liquor contractors to hold such searches. Only law enforcing agencies could hold such searches by following the laid down procedure.

"In the evening, even the stopping of the bus for a few minutes for search purposes, creates a lot of tension among passengers because they are always in a hurry to reach their home.

Even, a large number of women employees travel in buses in the evening . For them, it becomes more difficult to bear with such delays late in the evening", says passengers.

"We are not opposed in any manner to stop the smuggling of liquor from Chandigarh to Patiala and elsewhere. But we should not be harassed in the process. Excise and the police should devise ways to check such smuggling", say passengers.

Moreover, liquor contractors should not be allowed to become a " parallel state" in itself, they add. Besides Patiala, earlier a lot of complaints had come from Majha and Doaba region regarding the " barriers and nakas" set up by liquor contractors to check the smuggling of liquor.


Thekas: Flexing muscles to check smuggling
Maneesh Chhibber
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 28
Living almost on the border of Chandigarh and Mohali, one gets almost a weekly dose of "surprise checks" by musclemen employed by liquor contractors.

The checks are meant to catch liquor smugglers. The definition of smugglers from these musclemen is people bringing liquor, even if it is just one bottle, from Chandigarh to Mohali or any other area of Punjab.

All passing vehicles are forced to stop by these musclemen, the drivers and other occupants are frisked, the vehicle is searched, and if liquor is found, the same is confiscated.

The perfect occasion to see these people on work is when poor farmers, who come to Chandigarh to register their protest against the government, are returning after a day of rallies.

If anyone of them is caught with liquor, the bottle is confiscated without the poor man being given any receipt. Sometimes, senior officials of the Punjab Excise and Taxation Department present on the spot will show benevolence and tell the persons carrying liquor to drink the whole stock and then proceed!

However, if you protest and ask for the authority that allows these musclemen to put up "nakas" on the road, you are either threatened or, if you are unlucky, even physically hit.

And, what do the police personnel, who are supposed to guard you, do when you are attacked? Nothing! They remain mute spectators.

Some of them will tell you that they have instructions from the top to "assist" henchmen of liquor contractors in their drive.

The humiliation is all the more grave when one travels in a night bus from Chandigarh to Jammu or elsewhere.

At a secluded place near Ropar, the bus is stopped and the occupants are told to get their belongings searched.

Rudely woken up in the middle of night, the passengers have no option but to alight from the bus and silently face the humiliation. Cops from the local police station are also generally present to provide support to these persons.

There have been many instances where these musclemen have attacked people who tried to question their strong-arm tactics.

A recent incident is the one that took place at Dhariwal town in Gurdaspur district.

A woman who approached the workers of liquor vend, requesting them not to supply liquor to her husband, was brutally thrashed by them and later striped naked.

Following the incident, Advocate Ranjan Lakhanpal, president of the World Human Rights Protection Council, filed a case in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The petition is still pending.


Don’t use honorific Padma Shri, VC told
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

An invitation card issued by Punjabi University for a function being held to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Prakash Divas of Guru Angad Dev being held on Friday still carries the honorifics “Padam Shri” and "Kirti Chakra" as suffixes to Mr Swaran Singh Boparai's name.
An invitation card issued by Punjabi University for a function being held to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Prakash Divas of Guru Angad Dev being held on Friday still carries the honorifics “Padam Shri” and “Kirti Chakra” as suffixes to Mr Swaran Singh Boparai's name.

Patiala, October 28
The Union Home Ministry has asked Punjabi University Vice- Chancellor Swarn Singh Boparai to stop using the honorific “Padma Shri” either by prefixing or suffixing it to his name or in any other form of official communication.

These directions were given to the Vice-Chancellor a few days back. Earlier, the Home Ministry in a letter on August 31 has asked him to explain the factual position with regard to use of the “Padma Shri” as a prefix of suffix with his name on his letter-heads, visiting cards and invitation cards issued by him or on his behalf.

In his response to the directions, Mr Boparai told TNS that he had replied that even though everybody else was using the national decoration with their names.

While replying to the letter in which he was asked to explain his stand on the issue, the VC had earlier claimed that the entire matter needed to be looked into with a fresh perspective. He wrote to the ministry saying the situation had changed since the Supreme Court ruling that national awards did not amount to titles and could not be used as such.

“Now even ordinary citizens have been allowed to fly the national flag atop their houses,” he said.

Mr Boparai said he had written to the Home Ministry that since he was an individual recipient of the award, he should be allowed to use it with his name.

On August 31, a Home Ministry communique had informed the Vice-Chancellor that a writ petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which had impleaded the Union of India, had claimed that he was using the award of Padma Shri as a title in disregard of the orders of the Supreme Court.

The Vice-Chancellor was told that the constitutional validity of the awards had been challenged in two writ petitions following which the Supreme Court had adjudicated that these could not be used as titles and also declared that in case this was done, the defaulter would forfeit the award conferred on him.

The communique said the orders passed by the Supreme Court had been conveyed to the Padma awardees from time to time and they had been requested to abide by the order.

Following the contention of the Vice-Chancellor on the issue, The Home Ministry has now again written another letter, asking him not to use the awards with his names on letter-heads or any other official invitation or communication.


PWD Minister returns from Pak
Our Correspondent

Wagah, October 28
Around 10 artistes of Pakistan, including Iqbal Bahu, Jat Brothers and a nephew of Pakistani sufi singer and qawwal late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, will participate in two-day Virasat Mela to be held in Jalandhar on November 19.

This was informed by Mr Partap Singh Bajwa, Public Works Department Minister, who returned from Pakistan today after inviting famous Pakistani artistes, writers and intellectuals to the festival.

Mr Bajwa said, "the Panj Dariavan Di Virasat, a society, is organising the festival which is a joint venture of western Punjab (Pakistan) and eastern Punjab (India)." He said the government of Western Punjab had offered to bear all expense on Pakistani artistes.

The minister said both Punjabs had common heritage and it was the need of the hour to create awareness among the younger generation regarding that. He said he had met Cultural Minister of Western Punjab.

He stressed the opening of Wagah and Hussainiwala borders which would help in overall economic development of both Punjabs. He said after an improvement in the relations of India and Pakistan, the rates of lands nearing the border had been increasing. It had also boosted the domestic tourism, he added.

He said the rate of wheat in Pakistan's Punjab was Rs 1,200 per quintal and it could get wheat for a price as minimum as Rs 700 per quintal from the Indian side. They could even get latest machinery for agriculture, he added.


Badal opposes ordinance
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 28
SAD President Parkash Singh Badal has sent a telegram to the Governor urging him not to approve the proposed ordinance to amend the Punjab State Legislature (Prevention of Disqualification) Act, 1952. The ordinance was meant to declare that the post of Chief Parliamentary Secretary was not one of “profit”.

Commenting on the media reports on the approval of the Council of Ministers to amend the Act, Mr Badal said that this was a serious matter and was wholly illegal, unconstitutional and a colourable exercise of power, contrary to public interest and designed only to shield the action of the Chief Minister, who had appointed three Chief Parliamentary Secretaries.

There was also a writ pending in the High Court on the appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries after the downsizing of the Council of Ministers to 15 per cent of the total strength of the members of the State Assembly, as per the 91st Constitutional Amendment. Therefore, such an amendment in the Act at this stage was uncalled for and improper.

“Please return the ordinance to the government”, the telegram pleaded with the Governor, Justice O P Verma (retired).


BSNL to upgrade mobile network
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

The BSNL started GPRS services without any fanfare last Monday. This enables its subscribers to use the internet while connecting mobile to the computer through a data cable. If the mobile phone is blue tooth enabled, even the data cable is not required.

Chandigarh, October 28
Public Sector telecommunication giant, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) is upgrading its mobile network to allow 10 lakh more mobiles in Punjab Telecom Circle by March. Also the network will be upgraded to the level of the latest technology level that is "G-3".

This is aimed at enhancing voice quality and coverage of the network.

To meet the demand of these 10 lakh additional mobile lines, the Punjab Telecom circle is setting up 1000 mobile towers all across the state and out of this 90 will be in Chandigarh, Mohali and Panchkula. The last city is in Haryana, however, it is a part of the Punjab Telecom circle. Sources in the BSNL said this was part of the strategy to be in step with other mobile service providers as the future lies in value addition. With the augmentation, the indoor coverage of mobile will improve. This was required if GPRS was to be offered.

More towers will be required as more subscribers will mean more calls and this will generate the need to have capacity to carry calls, thus the requirement of towers.

BSNL already has 3.5 lakh mobile connections in Punjab and there is scope and also demand for much more, said officials.

The Punjab Telecom is also gearing itself to offer broadband services.


Dalits have discarded BSP, says Kainth
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, October 28
A majority of Dalit voters have discarded the BSP due to the style of functioning of its leaders. They tilted towards the Congress during the recent Garhshanker and Kapurthala byelections. It proved to be a disaster for the state unit of the BSP in Punjab.

This was stated by Mr Satnam Singh Kainth, former MP, who had been expelled from the party by state BSP leadership, while talking to mediapersons here today. He said the Dalits had high hopes from the BSP. They thought it would make sincere efforts for the uplift of the downtrodden. But going by the style of functioning of its national and state leaders, all their hopes were belied.

Mr Kainth said party had secured only 1,000 votes in the Kapurthala segment and 4,000 votes in the Garhshankar segment. Demand for repolling in both the segments by the state BSP leadership had made it a laughing stock in the public.

He said Ms Mayawati, President of the BSP, had promoted factionalism in the party by patronising some of her henchmen who had no base among the Dalits. He pointed out that the BSP had fielded 272 candidates in the recent Maharashtra byelection of which 250 had lost their security deposits. The claim by BSP leadership that the party had secured 3.4 per cent votes in these elections was far from true. The party had failed in even opening its account in Maharashtra.

Replying to a question, Mr Kainth said for the present he would shun active politics and launch a social movement under the banner of Dalit Jorawar Virodhi Front to get justice to the poor classes of society. He pointed out that at some of the religious places Dalits were not allowed to pay their obeisance. He said Dalits had been stopped from visiting Dera Romiwal in Bathinda district even after 57 years of Independence, which was against the principles of the Sikh panth. He said he had made representations to the President, the Prime Minister, the Governor and the Chief Minister of Punjab in this connection, but nothing had materialised so far.


Parents deny trying to sell daughter
SSP says can’t give security to complainant
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Moga, October 28
The Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) has asked the Moga police to provide security to Jaswant Singh and Ramandeep Kaur, married recently. Ramandeep had alleged that her father wanted to sell her due to poverty. But her parents today denied the allegation.

Speaking to The Tribune at Fatehgarh Korotana village, Ramandeep’s father, Gurcharan Singh, denied reports carried in a section of the media that he had tried to “sell” her to an alcoholic of Charik village for Rs 5,000 a month.

He said he would rather than sell his daughter. He said he had five acres of land and a tractor. “I was thinking of marrying her into a good family and giving her a car,” he said.

Her mother, Daljit Kaur, admitted that they had initiated talks with a Charik family for Ramandeep’s marriage a few months back, but said they could not think of selling their daughter. On the contrary, the financial state of those levelling such a serious allegation against them was bad and they had only a small piece of shamlat land.

Her grandmother, in a state of shock, said nobody from the family had a police record before “Ramandeep’s abduction by Jaswant”. She asked this correspondent whether the case against the “abductors” would weaken due to the complaint to the PSHRC.

The family said Ramandeep had eloped with Jaswant on September 24 and after negotiations through the sarpanch of Dalla village, they had got her back after three days.

Both parties decided that they would get the couple married after two months. Later, they sent her to her aunt’s home at Rajeana village.

On October 9, Jaswant along with six armed men reached there in two vehicles and “abducted” Ramandeep after firing shots in the air.

On her aunt, Swaranjeet Kaur’s complaint, a case was registered against Jaswant Singh, Kuldip Singh, Kulwant Singh and some unidentified persons under Sections 452, 336, 507, 323, 148, and 149 of the IPC at the Baghapurana police station.

When The Tribune visited Jaswant’s home at Bhindar Khurd village today, only one of his brothers, Darshan Singh, was sitting outside on a cot. The house was locked.

He reiterated the charges levelled by his brother against Gurcharan Singh in his complaint to the PSHRC. He claimed that Gurcharan was financially sound but was not happy with his daughter’s affair with Jaswant and hence, had tried to sell her.

He alleged that Ramandeep was brutally beaten up by sons of her aunt and she had injury marks around her neck.

Sources said Jaswant and his other family members were at large as the police was looking for them.

When contacted, the SSP, Mr M.S. Chhina, said he had received orders from the PSHRC, but there was no question of providing security to the complainant, Jaswant Singh, as he had absconded.

He denied the charges of police harassment and illegal confinement. He said the complainant had not told the PSHRC about the manner in which he had “abducted” the girl from Rajeana village and the FIR registered against him at the Baghapurana police station in this connection.

He said action would be taken against Jaswant as per the law and a detailed report sent to the PSHRC before November 18. 


‘Gadhri Babean da mela’ takes off
Day one dedicated to women
's issues
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, October 28
To commemorate the sacrifices made by martyrs of the Gadhar Movement, a five-day “Gadhri babean da mela” began at Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Hall here today with the lighting of lamp by the trustee of the Yaadgar Committee, Ms Surinder Kumari Kochhar.

The day was dedicated to a discussion on women. Students from several schools and colleges participated in a declamation contest on social upliftment of women.

Ms Kochhar said in today’s commercial world, a woman had been reduced to a saleable product.

She expressed satisfaction over the fact that the mela organisers had dedicated the very first day to women.

The declamation contest continued for six hours. The speakers discussed various women-related problems such as female foeticide, dowry, sati, male-domination and sexual harassment at work.

Shifali of Government College, Jalandhar, was declared first. Rajni Sharma from Guru Nanak Khalsa College, Sang Dhesian, stood second and Kamalpreet from Kanya Maha Vidyalaya, Jalandhar, was declared third.

Special prizes were given to Sandeep Kaur from Government Senior Secondary School, Jandiala, Amarjeet Kaur from Noormahal, Sarabjot Kaur from SD College Jalandhar, Paramjeet Kaur from Lyallpur Khalsa College, Jalandhar, Reena Sehajpal from Noormahal, Anuradha from the regional campus of Guru Nanak Dev University and Reena Gulati from the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication of the same campus.

The judgement was pronounced by Prof Kamaljeet Kaur, Prof Kulbir Kaur and Prof Balbir Kaur. Baba Bhagat Singh Bilga, veteran freedom fighter and president of the Yaadgar Committee, was also present.

Various publishers organised an exhibition of books in English, Hindi and Punjabi.


50 pc patients at medical camp turn out
to be drug addicts

P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 28
At village Kot-Ise-Khan on the Moga-Amritsar road, over 50 per cent of the 700-odd patients who attended a medical camp recently, turned out to be drug addicts. And among the team of doctors invited to the camp for medical, paediatric and gynae patients was a psychiatrist, Dr Rajeev Gupta, who runs, Manas, a de-addiction centre at Ludhiana.

For him, it came as a shock to discover the rising drug addiction and growing poverty in villages. During the day-long camp, he had come across poor, illiterate, malnourished or undernourished, impoverished patients — both young boys and girls — emerging from the dark shadows of rural Punjab. Much to the disbelief of Dr Gupta and his colleagues, ‘’poverty and pain’’ seemed to be writ large on the faces of the drug-taking patients, who urgently needed de-addiction therapy.

Talking to TNS, Dr Gupta yesterday said in the course of examination of patients, he learnt that the most common villain was ‘’Bhuki’’ followed by capsules, tranquilisers, cough syrups, ‘’bhang’’, opium and morphine injections. He saw addicts with needle prick marks all over their arms and legs — some of them self-administering 40 to 50 shots a day!

Dr Gupta said: ‘’The patients’ deadly looks and shrunken eyes conveyed everything. Their families had lost hopes of their sons, daughters and fathers ever recovering from the habit. In fact most of the victims were small time labourers. If a labourer, on an average, daily earned Rs 60 to Rs 70, he spent Rs 40 to Rs 60 on procuring drugs.’’

From the village panchayat members and social activists, the visiting psychiatrist learnt that bulk supplies of ‘’Bhuki’’ were regularly trucked from Rajasthan at night and the “maal’’ was distributed in villages around Kot-Ise-Khan. With freely available supplies and couldn’t careless enforcement agencies, the problem got further accentuated, he added.

Dr Gupta’s observation from his first-hand experience in Kot-Ise-Khan made him conclude that ‘’use of intoxicants has ensured that people are constantly driven to extreme poverty, depression and sickness. The people have become victims of a malicious vicious cycle — shrinking land holdings and falling returns from agriculture, particularly small and marginal farmers and farm labourers. High joblessness and heavy debt burden was also pushing rural people into the world of intoxicants. No household was free from the drug menace’’.

Further enquiries revealed that mushroom opening of chemist shops in rural and semi-rural areas were contributing to sale of intoxicants, as were “karyana’’ shops and “unchecked quacks’’, who used a combination of “herbs’’ and “allopathic medicines’’ to “cure’’ addiction. Largely, with negative results!

Dr Gupta also said migrants from other states too were a contributing factor, as they were taking over most of the skilled and unskilled jobs from the Punjabi youth, who were losing interest in traditional agriculture and rural life. On the other hand, education system did not provide desired employment opportunities and avenues.

Frustration due to soaring desires and sagging means also pushed the youth into drug consumption, as depression was a natural corollary of such a state of mind. “The travails of youth desiring to go abroad and tough socio-economic conditions at home, too, added to the youth being pushed into the vortex of drugs’’, he added.

“Are these happenings part of a conspiracy somewhere to destabilise Punjab and its people’’? This simple question by a village school teacher at the medical camp put to Dr Gupta says more than what it sought to know.

Dr Gupta wonders what has happened to Punjab, once known as the ‘’grain basket and a bowl full of opportunities and prosperity’’.


Vatican status for Amritsar sought
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 28
The Sikh Nation Organisation has sought the granting of world heritage status to Harmandar Sahib and reiterated its demand for a Vatican City status to Amritsar and Nankana Sahib.

It maintained that such a status would ensure that maryada of these historical sites was upheld. The organisation also appealed to Sikhs to participate in Divali congregation at Golden Temple by wearing kesri dastars.

Dr Manjit Singh Randhawa, President of the organisation, maintained that Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of the founder of Sikhism, stood for unity of mankind.

Harmandar Sahib was the unique and the only temple of its kind in the world which was built by Sikh Gurus and its foundation was laid by a Sufi Saint Sai Mian Mir.

He said this was done to spread the message of unity of mankind and Akal Takht was built by Guru Hargobind Sahib symbolising the order of love, peace and equality.

The organisation maintained that Vatican-like status to both places by the governments of India and Pakistan would preserve these unique monuments and would also ensure a permanent solution to their preservation. It would also ensure that the Sikhs could safeguard their identity, ideology and culture which were facing serious threats in France and many other countries of the world.


Centre releases Rs 20 cr for Valmiki Society
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, October 28
The Central Government has released Rs 20 crore to provide free houses and other civic amenities to the Valmiki Society on the auspicious occasion of the Parkash Utsav of Maharishi Valmiki.

This was revealed by Mr Sardul Singh, Excise and Taxation Minister, who presided over a state-level function to mark the Parkash Utsav of the maharishi here today.

He exhorted the people to create a just and graceful social order, which aimed to upgrade the educational and health standards of under-privileged section of society.

Speaking on the occasion, he said a collective effort was needed to bring these people on par with the society.

He said under the Jan Shree Bima Yojna, implemented during the financial year 2003-04, 2.50 lakh persons in the age group of 18 to 60 years, who lived below the poverty line were covered with an initial premium investment of Rs 2.50 crore.

The scheme will be continued during the year 2004-05, he added. He said the government had decentralised the powers to allot five marla residential plot to Dalit families.


Valmiki Jayanti celebrated
Our Correspondent

Kharar, October 28
Valmiki Jayanti was celebrated with enthusiasm in the town and its surrounding areas here today.

Religious functions were organised at different places. Speakers focused on the line of the Maharishi Valmiki. The main function was held at Balmik Bhavan here.

The council President, Mr Charanjit Singh, was the chief guest on the occasion. He asked the gathering to follow the path shown by Maharishi Valmiki.

The Valmiki Committee organised a function at Khanpur village. Mr Balbir Singh Sidhu, member PPCC, was the chief guest there.


Freedom fighter remembered
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, October 28
The first death anniversary of freedom fighter Mr Jagdish Chander was observed under the presidentship of Dr Kewal Krishan, Speaker, Punjab Vidhan Sabha, at a function here today. Freedom fighters, educationists, writers, journalists and social workers attended the function.

Paying tributes to Mr Jagdish Chander, Dr Kewal Krishan lauded the services rendered by him in the freedom struggle. He also assured the gathering that he would write a letter to the Punjab Chief Minister to name the local Civil Hospital after the freedom fighter’s name to keep his memories alive among the masses.

On the occasion, Dr Kewal Krishan also released Hindi version of the autobiography of Jagdish Chander, translated by his son Mr Balraj Oberoi Baazi, from the original book in Punjabi.

Dr Kewal Krishan also honoured Ms Suresh Rani, wife of Mr Jagdish Chander, besides Mr Ganda Singh, Mr Tek Chand Diwana and Mr Faqir Chand and all freedom fighters from the Sangrur district. Dr Kewal Krishan was also honoured by Mr Balraj Oberoi Baazi on behalf of the family.

Among others who also paid tributes to Mr Jagdish Chander included Mr Subhash Grover, district president of the Sangrur Congress Committee; Mr Pawan Sharma, Chairman, Puncofed, Punjab; Ms Krishana Mittu, secretary, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee; Ms Sudarshan Bhatia, daughter of Mr Jagdish Chander; Prof Udey Partap, a social worker; Dr Tejwant Mann and Dr Charanjit Singh Udari, both Punjabi writers.

On the occasion Mr Gurtej Singh, SDM, Sangrur, was also present on behalf of the district administration.


Cotton prices may stabilise soon
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, October 28
Cotton growers in Punjab have been agitating against the steep fall in prices of cotton, but the captains of the textile industry feel that the prices will stabilise soon and there will be no further crash of the same. Their optimism stems from the fact that prices of acrylic fibre and polyster fibre have witnessed a hike because of the steep rise in oil prices in the international market and this will result in more demand for the cotton to substitute the polyster and acrylic fibers. The prices of cotton have fallen because of expected bumper cotton crop in the country and overall fall in the prices of cotton in the international market due to the higher estimated cotton crop in the world.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Bharati Kisan Union (Ekta) has held a demonstration in Delhi to protest against the fall in cotton prices in the Punjab circle comprising Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. The BKU (Ekta) has further planned to continue the agitation to seek higher prices of cotton. Trade sources maintain that the cotton prices have not fallen below the minimum support price in the circle.

Enquiries made by The Tribune show that the cotton production in the Punjab circle comprising Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan is expected to be between 37 lakh to 38 bales this year against 28 lakh bales last year. Punjab alone is expected to have a production of 16 lakh bales this year against 10.5 lakh bales last year. Similarly Haryana is expecting cotton production to the order of 15 to 16 lakh bales this year.

The cotton prices started at Rs 2200 to Rs 2300 per quintal when the new crop started arriving in the first week of October.

The prices of narma cotton last year averaged between Rs 2400 to Rs 2500 per quintal. The maximum was to the order of Rs 2800 to Rs 2900 per quintal. The arrivals of cotton in the mandis of Punjab circle are estimated at 23,000 to 24,000 bales daily. Mandis in Punjab are receiving more than 10,000 bales daily with Abohar Mandi having the highest number of bales (2000) daily. Mansa is receiving 1000 to 1200 bales while Malout is receiving 800 to 1000 bales daily. The prices of narma cotton in these Mandis range between Rs 1850 to 1950 per quintal. Enquiries further show that in Punjab more than 40 per cent area is under Bt cotton and Hybrids.

The Cotton Corporation of India is also buying cotton from the Mandis at the prevalent rates.

The country as a whole is expected to have a record production of 200 lakh bales this year against 177 lakh bales last year. Gujrat may have the maximum production of 60 lakh bales followed by Maharashtra.

Cotton crop in Pakistan is good this year and the production is likely to be around 135 lakh bales. Cotton prices in Pakistan have also fallen from Rs 3200 to Rs 3500 per quintal last year to Rs 2000 to Rs 2300 (Pakistan currency) per quintal this year.

According to Mr D.L. Sharma, president, Vardhaman Spinning Group of Industries the cotton prices will stabilise soon as the crude oil prices in the international market have touched an all time high at $ 55 a barrel.


SAD to raise issue of declining cotton prices in Parliament
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, October 28
The SAD (B) has decided to raise the issue pertaining to the declining cotton prices in the coming winter session in Parliament and to file a PIL in the Punjab and Haryana High Court to get a criminal case registered against the Punjab Chief Minister’s son, Mr Raninder Singh, for his alleged involvement in “hawala transactions”.

Disclosing this at a dharna staged by SAD (B) workers in front of the office of the Deputy Commissioner to lodge their protest against the sharp fall in the prices of raw cotton as compared to last year, Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, MP and general secretary, SAD (B), pointed out that this issue would be raised in the winter session of Parliament.

Apart from it, the SAD (B) would leave no stone unturned to get a criminal case registered against Mr Raninder Singh, who was involved in “hawala transactions” despite the fact that efforts were being made by the Chief Minister to hush up the matter by setting up a commission headed by his friend Justice Nehra to probe into the issue. He said on one hand Capt Amarinder Singh had been implicating SAD (B) workers in false criminal cases and on the other, he had been promoting the corruption by his near and dear ones. He demanded that CBI should be asked to probe into the hawala scam.

He said Capt Amarinder Singh should tell people why his government had failed to appoint a Lok Pal in Punjab so far. Why mega oil refinery project was being scuttled under the ‘diktats’ of a private industrial house? Why the Chief Minister did not stage a dharna in front of the Prime Minister’s house in Delhi to urge the Central Government to stabilise the prices of cotton as was done by him during the NDA government led by Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Alleging that the Congress government at the Centre has allowed the private traders to loot farmers by purchasing their cotton crop at throwaway prices in the absence of the state and central procurement agencies, he said the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, should intervene and fix Rs 2,500 as minimum support price (MSP) of raw cotton.


SAD (L) demands agriculture panel
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, October 28
Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra, former MP and president, SAD (Longowal), today demanded that the central government should set up an agriculture commission to work out an strategy to make agriculture profitable venture.

Mr Chandumajra, who was here to address the dharna-cum-rally organised by party workers in front of the Deputy Commissioner’s office to lodge their protest against the falling prices of the cotton, said that the Central Government should ask the commission to make its recommendations at the earliest. Apart from it, the Central Government should also make arrangements to introduce the crop insurance scheme in Punjab.

He alleged that the prices of raw cotton had come down to Rs 1,600 per quintal from Rs 2,400 per quintal in the markets as the government at the centre did not send its agency, Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) in the markets to procure the same. In this way the cotton growers had suffered at the hands of private traders. He said Punjab Government was not concerned with the plight of farmers and hence it did not build any pressure on the Central Government, so that it could direct CCI to procure cotton from markets to stabilise prices.

The Akali leader alleged that due to sharp decline in prices, the farmers lost crores of rupees, while the traders benefited from it. He demanded that the Central Government should immediately fix Rs 3,000 as minimum support price (MSP) for cotton.

Those who attended the dharna included former minister Mr Baldev Singh Mann, president, Youth Akali Dal, Mr Randhir Singh Rakhra and Mr Amrik Singh Khaipur, president, Kisan Dal.

He alleged that the Punjab Government had failed to give any compensation to those farmers whose crops suffered heavy losses due to drought and floods. He said that the state government did not ensure adequate supply of fertilisers to farmers.


Adviser makes survey to check MSP of cotton
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, October 28
Ms B. K. Teja, Adviser, Commission for Agriculture Cost and Price, Ministry of Agriculture, yesterday carried out a survey in this region to find out the fact that whether cotton growers had been getting prices of their produce as per minimum support price (MSP) or less than that.

Ms Teja, who was accompanied by senior officials of the state Agriculture Department and senior district officials, including Mr D. P. S. Kharbanda, Additional Deputy Commissioner (Development), also enquired about the fact that whether any farmers had committed suicide after he failed to repay his debt.

Ms Teja, who visited Sandhoa, Lehra Dhurkot and Harkishanpura villages, asked a section of the farmers whether they had been getting the MSP of their cotton and other crops or not.

Though Ms Teja declined to talk to mediapersons, information gathered by The Tribune revealed that she had made a visit to the cotton belt of Punjab when the farmers and various political and other organisations raised a hue and cry over the fact that farmers had been suffering huge losses on account of a sharp decline in the prices of raw cotton.


Funds not released for upgrading jails
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 28
The Punjab Government has failed to release Rs 3.72 crore for upgrading 12 district and central jails in the state. Even though the Central Government has already handed over Rs 11 crore to the Police Housing Corporation for improving the condition of prisons in Punjab, the state government is yet to respond.

The sources in Punjab police headquarters claim that the corporation has already commenced work with the help of Central finances. But the progress is likely to be affected due to the state government's failure to act on time.

A senior officer in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs in Delhi reveals that a meeting was today held between Inspector-General of Punjab Police (Prisons) S.K. Dutta and an Additional Secretary.

But Mr Dutta was reportedly told by the Additional Secretary to get the funds released from the Punjab Government before discussing plans for modernising the prisons in the state. Mr Dutta refused to comment on the issue.

Giving details of the modernisation plan, the sources say that the authorities are working out modalities for renovating the existing jails. They are also looking into the feasibility of constructing ultra modern high security prisons, besides setting up new barracks in some of the over-crowded jails.

The sources add that occupancy rate in some of the jails in the state is as high as 150 per cent. The problem of overcrowding is worse in the district jails.

The sources claim that the authorities also have plans to set up barracks for staff members, besides improving sanitation facilities in the jails. They add that inmates in several jails are being forced to live in sub-human conditions due to want of adequate sanitation facilities.

Some of the prisons require “urgent attention”. In a few jails, even the walls require repair. Citing an example, the sources assert in Ferozepore three inmates — including two sentenced to life imprisonment for murder — managed to escape recently after making a hole in the toilet wall.

The sources add that the Punjab Government has constituted a five-member committee for the purpose. The committee, headed by Prisons' Advisor A.P. Bhatnagar, is looking into different aspects pertaining to the welfare of convicts and undertrials. The other members include Additional Director-General of Police (Prisons) J.P. Birdi.


Anti-encroachment drive in villages from today
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, October 28
An anti-encroachment drive will be launched in rural areas with the aid of panchayats and youth clubs from Friday. This was decided in a meeting of the sarpanches of Faridkot block.

The Deputy Commissioner, Mr Alok Shekhar, chaired the meeting that was called to find out a permanent solution to encroachments on link roads and government land, besides stray cattle menace in villages.

The drive would be carried out in the presence of concerned patwari, panchayat secretary, and local people.

After marking the road, soil would be laid on both its sides. Farmers having their agricultural land on the roadsides would carry out this work, strict action would be taken against their who failed to do so.

Earlier, sarpanches of Sikhawala, Kabalwala, Hariewala and other villages complained that people had encroached upon roadsides and government land on large scale and there was an urgent need to get them vacated.

They also appealed that encroachers should not be spared. They demanded that once begun the drive should not be stopped midway, as it would encourage groupism among villages.


Sites earmarked for cracker sale
Our Correspondent

Kharar, October 28
The District Magistrate, Ropar, has ordered that crackers would be sold at only two sites in the town. The sites, were recommended by the SDM.

According to the orders, crackers would be sold near the Dasehra ground and outside the police station. No person shall store, exhibit or sell crackers except at the earmarked sites.

The orders to this effect have been issued under Section 144 of the CrPC.

The orders said the SDM was to ensure that provisions of the Explosives Act, 1984, and the rule of 1983 were strictly adhered to and permission for use of open spaces was given on the first come, first served basis. Space for stalls would be allotted on rental basis.


Bank manager arrested on graft charge
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, October 28
The Punjab Vigilance Bureau (VB) has arrested Mr Major Singh, manager of the Bareta branch of Central Cooperative Bank, Mansa, while accepting a bribe of Rs 1,000 from Mr Satpal Singh, a resident of Dharampura village in Mansa district.

According to a press release issued by the Vigilance authorities here this evening, Mr Satpal Singh had lodged a complaint with the bureau that the manger of the bank was asking for a bribe of Rs 1,000 for sanctioning his loan case. After receiving the complaint the bureau laid a trap on Tuesday, and caught the manager red-handed while accepting the bribe.

A case under Sections 7, 13 (2) 88 of the Prevention of Corruption Act has been registered at Bathinda Range Vigilance Bureau police station.


6 quintals of poppy husk seized
Tribune News Service

Moga, October 28
The police seized six quintals of poppy husk and arrested one person, while two other accused absconded.

According to information available, last night the police received a tip-off that three poppy husk smugglers were heading towards Baghapurana.

The SHO, Mr Satpal Singh, sent a police party led by SI Jugraj Singh to nab the smugglers. A naka was set up near Rajeana village. After some time the police spotted a white Matador van coming from Kotkapura and signalled its driver to stop the vehicle, but he sped away.

However, at the next naka, the Matador driver lost control and the vehicle dashed against a road divider. The police arrested one of the smugglers, while two others escaped. The arrested person has been identified as Surjit Singh, a resident of Shahkot. Those who escaped are Kuldip Singh and Sarpanch.

The DSP, Mr Raghbir Singh Sandhu, said the smugglers used to bring poppy husk from Rajasthan and supply it in Shahkot.


Punjab schools all set for computerisation
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 28
By initiating the process of recruitment of 1,500 computer teachers and award of a contract to HCL Infosystems to supply 18,200 PCs, servers, printers and UPS to the state, the Punjab Government has set the ball rolling for the introduction of Information and Communication Technology in its schools from the current academic year.

The supply of desk top peripherals, servers, printers and UPS (uninterrupted power supply) systems would cost the state Rs 76 crore. Besides, each of the 1500 computer teachers to be recruited on contractual basis would be paid between Rs 4,000 and Rs 5,000 a month.

Though the entire process will be in place by the end of December, classes on the new subject would be possible only for a couple of months during the remaining part of the current academic year.

While the recruitment of the computer faculty and teachers has been entrusted to NOIDA-based educational consultants India Limited, a Government of India enterprise, the purchase of hardware was done by inviting bids.

The recruitment process is likely to be completed by the end of December this year. By that time work on the supply and installation of peripherals would also be completed by the HCL Infosystems.

The HCL, India’s premier information enabling company, will supply, install and maintain the Infrastructure in 1,287 government schools, both in rural and urban areas across the state as a part of Centrally-funded project which envisages to provide information and communication technology (ICT) education to school students.

To begin with, students from class VI to plus two, in the current session, will be targeted through the project and helped to become IT literate. The course curriculum would be based on NCERT guidelines and the CBSE syllabus.

Mr George Paul, vice president, Marketing , HCL Infosystems, said, “We have always asserted our commitment towards increasing computer literacy in the country and it is projects like this that give us a chance to prove ourselves.”

The Department of School Education of the Punjab Government has initiated this first of its kind, innovative and path breaking project. This project would ensure that the students of the 1287 schools are digitally enabled to face tomorrow’s global competition. It would also open up new vistas of learning to these young minds and would expose them to the diverse form of learning.

Similar plans introduced earlier fell through for one reason or the other. Even an ambitious project launched for computer education in colleges of the state also failed because of red-tapism and legal wranglings.

More than 1600 state-of-the-art Infiniti servers would be deployed for this school education project. HCL Infosystems has a large direct support and installation infrastructure to roll out such mega projects.


Grant for non-government colleges released
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, October 28
The Punjab Government has released the second quarter grant of Rs 18.68 crore for non-govt colleges, bringing some cheers to the college staff going without salaries.

Prof S.S. Hundal and Dr Jagwant Singh, president and general secretary respectively of the agitating Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers Union said here last evening that this grant would cover months of June, July, August. Its draft would be available to colleges early next week, they disclosed.

However, the stir programme of the PCCTU will stand as earlier, declared union leaders. Campus rallies will be held in all colleges of Punjab and Chandigarh on November 8, they said. Protest march from the DPI (C) office to Matka Chowk in Chandigarh will be held on November 17.


UDEF wins staff body poll
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, October 28
The University Employees Democratic Front (UDEF), led by Mr Rabinder Singh Bath, made a clean sweep in the annual elections of the Guru Nanak Dev University (Non-teaching) Employees Association by retaining all the 15 offices of the association.

Mr Suwinderjit Singh, the sitting president of the association, retained his post. Mr Bhagwant Singh became the vice-president

Mr Surjit Singh Cholia won the secretaryship, Mr Hardip Singh Nagra (joint secretary), Mr Surjit Singh Manan (treasurer) and the executive members included Mr Kuljit Singh, Mr Gopal Singh, Mr Gurmit Singh, Mr Balwinder Singh, Mr Harbans Singh, Mr Nirmal Singh, Mr Dhian Singh, Mr Jagtar Singh, Mr Gurcharan Singh Hira and Mr Manjinder Singh.


Rise in income from state lotteries
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 28
Punjab is set to witness a handsome increase in income from the state lotteries this year.

This was indicated here yesterday by Punjab Finance Minister Surinder Singla while presiding over a function to give away prizes to winners of the Punjab State Rakhi Bumper-2004 lottery. He said the department earned a total of Rs 87.04 crore during the previous financial year. This year the income from state lotteries had already touched the Rs 55 crore mark as against Rs 43 crore during the same period last year. The funds so generated helped the state in undertaking developmental work.

Mr Ujjagar Rai of Moga, the first prize winner of the Rakhi Bumper-2004, and 20 other persons received bank drafts of the prize money from the minister who announced that the Punjab state Maha Lakshmi Diwali Pooja Bumper-2004 would carry a prize of Rs 2 crore.

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