P U N J A B    S T O R I E S




Give us back ‘chuna wali diwar’, say devotees
Tribune News Service

Fatehgarh Sahib, December 25
The ‘darshan’ of the ‘bhaura’ (basement room in the gurdwara here) in which the young sons of Guru Gobind Singh were bricked alive is a must on the itinerary of 70-year-old Amrik Singh of Sultanpur village during the three-day Jor Mela.

However, it is a ‘darshan’ which is twinged with pain. Pain at the manner in which the original character of the ‘bhaura’ has been changed beyond recognition by successive ‘kar seva’ conducted by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC).

“The walled enclosure in the basement of the gurdwara here is nothing like it was when I first came here in 1955 after my matric examination,” says Amrik Singh. “The stress on modernity and flashiness has robbed the shrine of its original character,” he says.

Marble hides the lower part of the wall as well as the upper part, where decorative floral patterns have been made. Some parts of the wall have been painted with a dark shiny paint.

“Wheras the entire room glitters of gold and marble, it was not always like this,” say devotees. Amrik Singh claims when he first saw the wall it has a two-inch crack on one side. Others like Swarn Singh of Gopalan village, near here, said he remembered the wall for its small “Sirhindi” bricks which had been joined with lime mortar. “We referred it to as ‘chuna wali diwar’ or ‘suki diwar’ because it was difficult to make out the lime mortar.”

Swarn Singh says the first changes took place in 1971 when during a “kar seva” part of the wall was repaired with cement. “After that there were many additions on the wall, including painting it red and the latest being a horrific shiny paint which hides the character of the original bricks.”

Swarn Singh says the ‘kar seva’ in the shrine has not only changed the character of the original wall, but also led to uprooting of a huge tree which Moti Mehra used to climb to offer milk to the sahibzadas, when the latter were incarcerated in the ‘thanda burj’.

Though many other devotees are ‘pained’ at the development and want that all “add ons” in the walled enclosure be removed, others are not surprised.

“We have a history of doing away with heritage,” says Hargopal Singh Fatehgarh Sahib. “See what has been done at Machhiwara, Patna Sahib, Damdama Sahib and other historic gurdwaras,” he adds.

The Sikh ‘sangat’ seems to be somewhat steering towards protecting whatever is left of its heritage after decades of enthusiastic ‘kar seva’ under the late SGPC President Gurcharan Singh Tohra.

Mr Badal said kar seva heads would be told in future not to demolish old structures. “It is to be seen whether Mr Badal moves to restore the character of the ‘bhaura’ here,” says Hargopal.


Mann appeals for boycott of French goods
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Simranjit Singh Mann Fatehgarh Sahib, December 25
In a welcome change, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) did not indulge in Congress bashing at Shaheedi Jor Mela here today to announce a two-year intensive ‘dharam parchar’ movement aimed at bringing youngsters back into the Sikh fold in coordination with the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC).

Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) President Simranjit Singh Mann, at a separate conference, called for boycott of French goods as well as its flights to protest against the treatment being meted out to Sikh students there. He also released a list of 100 persons who had betrayed the “Panth”.

Mr Parkash Singh Badal shakes hand with former Chief Minister of Delhi Madan Lal Khurana at a rally in Fatehgarh Sahib on Saturday.
Mr Parkash Singh Badal shakes hand with former Chief Minister of Delhi Madan Lal Khurana at a rally in Fatehgarh Sahib on Saturday. — Tribune photo by Manoj Mahajan

SAD President Parkash Singh Badal and his partymen were the only ones on stage erected by the SGPC, despite an offer to everyone to collect on one stage by its President, Bibi Jagir Kaur.

The function saw the announcement of the opening of schools in the name of Mata Gujri and the sons of Guru Gobind Singh.

Mr Badal said these would offer quality education along with religious education. The SAD President also announced that multi-millionaire NRI Darshan Singh Dhaliwal had been taken on the advisory panel of the proposed Sikh University, which would be established at Fatehgarh Sahib.

The function saw nearly all leaders, including Bibi Jagir Kaur, talking about youngsters not supporting long hair. Leaders like Mr Tota Singh and former Union Minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa said the paradox was that though Sikhs outside Punjab were preserving their unique identity, those in the state were cutting hair.

The leaders said salvation for this could only be a prolonged ‘dharam parchar’ movement in which it was felt that SAD legislators and prominent leaders should also be involved, besides the SGPC.

Former Rajasthan Governor Madan Lal Khurana, the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid and Aziz Ullah Khan, who is here along with “Ganga Sagar” given to his ancestor by Guru Gobind Singh, spoke at the function, which was coordinated by former Minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh.

At the conference organised by the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), its President released a list of 100 persons who had betrayed the ‘Panth’.

These included Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi to Parkash Singh Badal and Surjit Singh Barnala and old party colleague Suchha Singh Chottepur.

Mr Mann announced that his party could not share a dias with the SAD as the latter had betrayed the aspirations of the Sikhs repeatedly.

“They have ignored the Anandpur Sahib resolution and did not bring in a resolution in the Assembly on Operation Bluestar, despite promises,” he said.


Warm welcome for Sikhi Sidak March
Our Correspondent

Patiala, December 25
The Sikhi Sidak March, which entered Patiala town yesterday, was accorded a warm welcome by thousands of followers of former MP, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann.

A cavalcade of nearly 700 cars and other vehicles entered the town from Sangrur where followers of Mr Mann spent the night. The march was led by Panj Piaras. Traditional items like gatka was performed by youngsters as the march, comprising Hindus and Muslims in large numbers, made its way through the town.

According to Mr N.P. Singh, Press Secretary of the SAD (Mann), the welcome was accorded by a committee comprising Mr Harbhajan Singh Kashmiri, Prof Mohinder Pal Singh, Mr Jaskaran Singh and Mr Kabul Singh Jhill, president, executive member, general secretary and senior vice-president of the Patiala unit of the SAD (Mann), respectively.


Dal Longowal guns for Badal
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, December 25
The SAD (Longowal), at its political conference held here on the occasion of tercentenary observance of the martyrdom of the Sahibzadas, has declared that it will observe 2005 as a “struggle year” to uphold human rights, self-respect and protect religion.

The Sikh Students Federation and the Shiromani Khalsa Dal of Bhai Daljit Singh Bittu at their conference, declared to continue their struggle till they attained a sovereign Sikh state. The Dal Khalsa also organised a convention and passed a resolution stating that Sikhs were a nation and needed their own sovereign state.

Without a sovereign state, the aspirations of Sikhs could not be fulfilled, nor their religious and political rights safeguarded.

The political conferences were well-attended and Mr Badal was targeted at the conferences of the SAD (L) and the SAD (A). Interestingly, Bhai Ranjit Singh former Jathedar, Akal Takht, shared the stage at the SAD (L) and at the SAD (A) conference.

Prof Prem Singh Chandumajra, President of the SAD (L), said his party along with other Panthic forces would observe 2005 as a “struggle year” as people were fed up with the policies of the present Congress government, the Shiromani Akali Dal and the SGPC. Both supreme organisations of the Sikhs had been “hijacked” by the Badal family and had become puppets in its hands. He said when all Panthic forces joined hands and made it a people’s movement, only then would it be possible to rid politics of the Badal family and literate the Khalsa institutions.

Mr Ravi Inder Singh and Bhai Ranjit Singh, former Jathedar, Akal Takht, Nayar Awas, Professor, Aligarh Muslim University, also lashed out at Badal and spoke along similar lines. They criticised the SGPC for spending lakhs just to promote Mr Badal and his family.

Addressing the Dal Khalsa conference, Mr Harcharanjit Singh Dhami, acting President, said the mushrooming of dera culture was damaging the traditions and principles of Sikhism. Most of these deras practise maryada which was contrary to the Sikh ethics and principles. Mr Dhami demanded that the SGPC should raise a memorial in the memory of Sikh martyrs of June 84. Bhai Naraien Singh, president of the Akal Federation, S Rajinder Singh, elder son of Bhai Kehar Singh, assassin of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, mother of Harjinder Singh Jinda, assassin of General Vaidya, were among those who were honoured on Dal Khalsa stage.


From Jor Mela to Shaheedi Jor Mela
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 25
From the Jor Mela which it has been for years, the three-day affair held annually to mark the martyrdom of the Sahibzadas of Guru Gobind Singh today took on its earlier mantle of a Shaheedi Jor Mel, signifying a meeting to commemorate the martyrs.

This has come about over a two-year period and it needed an administrator to make this possible as the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) was earlier auctionings its space to people who put up stalls and shows to entertain the people coming to the gurdwara. While last year all kinds of shows and circuses were banned, this year even shops and ‘rehris’ which used to spring up on both sides of the road to the Fatehgarh Sahib gurdwara have disappeared. And so have loud speakers that were being used by kar sevaks to advertise their wares, including hot ‘pakoras’ and ‘jalebis’.

Surprisingly, these steps have brought about a cleaner atmosphere and have had no bearing on the number of people coming to the gurdwara on the occasion. Lakhs of devotees today braved the extreme cold to arrive on trolleys and trucks to Sirhind and then walked a 5-km stretch to reach the gurdwara. Though a shuttle bus service had been put into operation for the infirm and women and children, its timings were very sketchy.

Youngsters shop for baseball clubs

Youngsters will be youngsters. They have to take back something to their homes and they had limited choices as only licensed shops outside the Mini Secretariat were open on the occasion. Baseball clubs competed with cricket bats as the top sellers. A salesman at a local store said baseball clubs were selling like hot cakes as rural youth found the game just right for them. Sadly hockey sticks, even though on display, found little takers.

Bir Devinder does not sit in Cong pandal

It is difficult to keep Bir Devinder Singh away from a speech. He felt the pinch at the Congress conference at Chamkaur Sahib where he was not asked to speak. A promise of a repeat performance today kept the former Deputy Speaker away from the Congress conference. The leader preferred to sit out the function at the Mini Secretariat and watch the proceedings of the SAD conference on ETC channel.

Talking to TNS, he said no legislator from Ropar was allowed to speak at the conference at Chamkaur Sahib and he felt that he should not attend the conference here as he suspected the same procedure would be followed.

He said another reason was that the ‘maryada’ had not been followed at Chamkaur Sahib as speeches were made in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib. He was, however, all praise for the SAD which he said held a completely religious function to mark the martyrdom of the Sahibzadas of Guru Gobind Singh.


College rally against drug addiction
Our Correspondent

Barnala, December 25
Hundreds of NSS volunteers of SD College, Barnala, today took out a rally against female foeticide and drug-addiction to mark the tercentenary of the martyrdom of Sahibjadas and Mata Gujri.

The NSS volunteers started this rally from the college and passed through College Road, Sadar Bazar and Handiaya Bazar. Prof Shoab Zafar, Prof Gurkirpal Singh Sidhu, Dr Rajesh Gupta, Prof Anchala Rupal, Prof Bahadur Singh, and Prof Rajan Garg, and college teachers also took part in the rally along with their respective NSS units.


Human trafficking-5
Another batch of broken and battered youths arrives
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 25
While efforts are afoot for early repatriation of 76 Indian youths, mostly Punjabis, stranded here, another batch of eight Punjabi youth, broken, battered and bruised, landed at Teheran gurdwara yesterday to the great dismay of officials of Indian Embassy.

“The problem is gigantic. It is multiplying everyday,” says Mr Pervinder Singh Chandhoke, an Iranian Sikh and a social worker. “Unless some massive awareness campaign is launched back home in India in general and Punjab in particular, we will continue to be flooded with such shattered people.”

After a lot of criticism in the media and government agencies getting active, the agents have now launched an alternate route, using Teheran as the transit point for smuggling Indian Punjabi youths to neighboring countries. Revelations made by members of the new batch are startling.

Badly beaten by Turkish guards and the immigration authorities, 23-year-old Shiv Shankar of Balachaur has a lot to tell of his misery and suffering. He was so tortured that his ribs appear to be fractured.

Shiv Shankar and seven others had come to Teheran by Mahan Airlines, the official airline of Iran on valid visas where they were put up in a small hotel. Later they were escorted to Makau border before they were made a part of a “donkey” to Turkey. Unfortunately, they were caught before they could cross over to Turkey.

They were shifted to a deportation centre and denied consular services. Instead , they were sent to prison and kept in poor and inhuman conditions. Subsequently, they were dumped on the Iranian border with bull terriers chasing them. Luckily “Kurds” took them over and in exchange of shelter and help, negotiated with their parents to get them safely back to Teheran on payment of US $ 1000 each . The money was paid to the agents operating in Greece.

Two of these eight boys — Amandeep Singh (25) and Tejinder Singh (32), — have again disappeared. The remaining — Sukhdev Singh (28) of Bhattian Kalan in Malerkotla, Charanjit (30) of Nawanshahr, Sodhi Kumar (27) of Balachaur and Tejpal Singh (32) of Balachaur — are now keen for their early return to India.

As of today, after the departure of 21 of 94 stranded Indians, the remaining are still at Teheran gurdwara which is fully congested , says Mr Pervinder Singh Chandhoke. “As the winter advances, we will have more and more of such youths. Some of them are suffering from highly infectious diseases like Herpes Zoster, chickenpox and skin allergies. We have limited resources and the procedures for completion of their travel documents are long and cumbersome,” he adds, revealing that in many cases, it takes several months for a stranded person to get on board a flight to India.

It would be fair for the Embassy of India and Indian community to ensure that the Teheran gurdwara is not put to risk by the continuous flow and refuge for illegal Indian Punjabi youths, avers the Indian community in Iran.

Interestingly, nowhere else such a large number of stranded youths make a gurdwara their temporary home for months together.

A few days ago, five out of the 13 youths who were preparing for departure and exit clearance from the Iranian authorities were ordered to be re-arrested and put behind bars by a local court in Teheran. They were to leave for India today.

To be concluded


Malta tragedy victims’ kin hold protest
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, December 25
Anguished over the Union Government’s decision not to become a party to any of the court cases pertaining to the 1966 Malta boat tragedy, family members of hundreds of missing Punjabi youths today held a demonstration against the former for its indifferent attitude.

The family members, who were led by the chairman of the Malta Boat Tragedy Probe Mission, Mr Balwant Singh Khera, while raising slogans against the Union as well as the state governments, said the aggrieved families should be given monetary relief in lieu of the precious lives lost on the night of December 25 eight years ago.

Earlier, some of the aggrieved families participated in a peace prayer organised by the Hoshiarpur-based Sarv Dharam Sadhbhavna Committee at Nehru Gardens here. The families, who were carrying black flags, also lit candles for the peace of the departed souls. The convenor of the committee, Mr Anurag Sood, said they would hold peace prayers for the departed souls in different parts of the state.

“Even if the government has decided not to become a party to any of the court cases, the least it could do is to help the families in retrieving the mortal remains of the victims. Besides, the government must come out with an official list so that it could become clear as to how many youths had actually died in the accident,” said Mr Sood.

Though the chances of survival were quite remote, there are many families who believe that their wards may return home sooner or later. “We agree that the youths were being ferried to Greece and Italy illegally but since they were Indians, it becomes the duty of the government to at least procure correct information from the authorities concerned as many families are still hoping against hope,” added Mr Khera.

Mr Khera demanded that since the Union Government had directed the state government to issue death certificates to the kin of the deceased, it should be done at the earliest.

Rajwinder Kaur, who came along with her 10-year-old son from Batala township, said her husband, Malkiat Singh, was also on board on the same boat that got wrecked after it was hit by a sea vessel. “My son keeps asking me when his father is going to be back. What should I tell him when I am myself not sure of his fate,” rues Rajwinder.


A nostalgic visit to BUC College of Batala
Balraj Mahajan

BATALA: Baring Union Christian College, Batala, had a cosmopolitan character with several American and European missionaries on its teaching staff until disturbed conditions in Punjab made the stay of foreigners difficult. However, foreign friends of BUC College kept visiting the place from time to time, bringing with them their vast experience and wide knowledge to share with the staff and students of the college.

The most recent visitors have been Ms Jamila Alias Gavin, a British citizen, and her elder brother, Mr Philip Inderjit Singh, an American citizen, along with the latter’s son. Justine Neville Kaushal. Ms Jamila and Mr Singh, the daughter and the son, respectively, of Mr Khushal Singh, the first Principal of B.U.C. College, spent their early childhood at Batala in the environs of Anarkali where Maharaja Sher Singh’s palace still stands, housing the administrative office of the college.

In an interview with The Tribune Ms Jamila said that her father, Mr Khushal Singh, a third generation Indian Christian, had met and married Jessica, an English woman in Iran. Jamila was named so for her parents hand an Iranian Connection. Mr Khushal Singh later became the Headmaster of Mission School, Narowal (now in Pakistan) from where he was sent to Batala by Church Missionary Society (CMS ) to work for the transition of Baring School to Baring College. A hitch that stood in the way was Mr Singh’s B.A degree, which disqualified him for the Principal’s office. However, the hurdle was overcome as Mr Singh happened to be M.A in history from Cambridge.

It was not easy in those days to motivate people for higher education in a missionary college in a small town like Batala, said Mr Philip. But Mr Khushal Singh’s simple idealism, dedication and boundless energy laid the foundations of the college. Mr Singh was a Gandhian and regularly spun the “charkha”.

Ms Jamila said that the biggest test of Mr Singh’s mettle and virtues came in 1947 when displaced Muslim refugees in transit to Pakistan found a safe haven in the premises of B.U.C. College, with considerable risk to the safety of the Principal. Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan were also sheltered in the college Mr Singh had set a glorious example of Gandhian spirituality, secularism and service which earned him tributes from as high as the Mountbattens.

Ms Jamila and Mr Philip said that Batala and Punjab had considerably changed since 1940s. The college was surrounded by open spaces in those days but now buildings had sprung up everywhere, causing congestion and crowding. Brought up on the Gandhian values of honesty, transparency, simplicity, accountability, the Khushal Singh siblings find the present-day atmosphere degrading.

The trio visited the Achaleshwar Temple, 5 km from here, which they described as “extraordinarily beautiful”. They were also all praise for Punjabi hospitality accorded to them in a couple of villages they visited.


Budha Dal School books berth in the final of space design competition
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 25
An 11-member team from the Budha Dal School, Patiala, has bagged a place in an International Space Settlement Design Competition being organised by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), by beating eight other schools in Asia during the competition's semi-finals held in Delhi recently.

Organised by the Aeronautical Society of India (AeSI), this was for the first time that preliminary rounds for the competition, being held for the past 20 years, were held outside the United States. The finals are scheduled to be held in Florida in June, 2005.

Vice-Chairman of AeSI's Chandigarh Chapter, who had organised the preliminary rounds, said here today that the society had written to about 800 schools in 28 countries in Asia to participate in the Asian leg. Of these 80 schools had responded and finally eight schools competed in the semi-finals, held at the American Centre. The semi-finals were conducted by Anita Gale and Richard Edwards, US-based co-founders of the competition who had flown in specially for the purpose

The eight teams, Budha Dal, Patiala, Sekolah Sri Garden, Malaysia, Calcutta International School, St John's High School, Chandigarh, Aitchison College, Lahore, Modern School, Lucknow, St Paul's, Hyderabad, and Amity International, New Delhi, were grouped into four fictitious aviation companies for the competition.

They were required to work on a design of a space settlement capable of accommodating 5,000 individuals in the year 2034. They were given the topic at 11 am on December 21 and were required to submit a 50-page report by 7 am the next day. There after each company was required to give a 45-minute presentation followed by a 10- minute question and answer session with the judges, which included experts in the field from the USA and India.


Buddha Dal students excel
Our Correspondent

Patiala, December 25
Students of Budha Dal Public School have once again brought laurels to the city by clearing the Asian phase of a global contest held to design a space settlement its final phase will be held in Florida, USA, in June 2005.

The team from the school had earlier cleared in the first phase of the 12th International Space Settlement Design competition with flying colours In the second round of the competition which was conducted on December 21 at the Space Settlement American Centre, New Delhi, the students topped the Asian Zone. The other two schools that have cleared the round include a team each from Atchinsons College, Lahore (Pakistan) and Sahola High School, Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia).

The team faced a tough competition in the latest round where as many as 28 schools presented their projects. Stating that the students deserved their win as they had worked very hard on their presentation, the Principal of the school, Dr Amrit Aujla, was all praise for the team. The President of the management committee of the school, Mr Udai Singh, gave away a cash prize of Rs 5,100 to each student of the team. 


Grand musical rendezvous
Minna Zutshi
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, December 25
Illuminated temple minarets half-concealed in a thick blanket of fog, December chill spreading through the dark of the night and strains of music lifting the night to the sublime.

It was a grand musical rendezvous at the 129th Shree Baba Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan organised at the Devi Talab Mandir here.

The soulful rendering of shehnai by Ustad Ali Ahmed Khan, who received his training from Ustad Nazir Hussain and Ustad Imdad Hussain, took the audience into the realm of pure raga. The sheer force of his presentation gave the programme a touch of spiritual dynamism.

As the night deepened and the wintry sharpness intensified, it was dhrupud maestro Uday Bhawalkar, whose forceful “gamaks” and beautiful “meends” warmed the hearts of music aficionados.

Moving his voice effortlessly from mandra to “taar saptaks”, he kept the audience riveted. His “Naath Shiv Parvati” bandish in raga purya was equally remarkable.

With Ustad Shahid Parvez’s sitar, it was as if music had pervaded the whole cosmos creating a magnificent harmony. Classical vocal rendition by Pakistani vocalist Ustad Hussain Bakhsh Khan was the piece de resistance of the night.

The sammelan had a fair representation of young artistes too. Pakistani vocalists Chand Khan and Suraj Khan were able to strike an instant rapport with the gathering. Fifteen-year-old Canada-based tabla player, Master Rohan Bhogal, too, mesmerised the audience.

Music lovers braved the chill to attend the sammelan. Though the gathering was by no means phenomenal, yet the discerning audience made for the lack of numbers.

The winners of Shree Baba Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan competition open to amateurs were announced during the programme. Among the winners were Pankaj Sharma, Subhash Chander, Anu Bala, Dewakar Sharma and Sandeep Singh.

It was the sanctity of music that came shining through the sammelan that continued well past the midnight.


Their lives revolve around music
Tribune News Service

Kalaapini Komkali and Vasundhara Komkali, both vocalists, are in Jalandhar to perform in the 129th Shree Baba Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan in Jalandhar on Friday.
Kalaapini Komkali and Vasundhara Komkali, both vocalists, are in Jalandhar to perform in the 129th Shree Baba Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan in Jalandhar on Friday. — Photo by S. S. Chopra

Jalandhar, December 25
It’s difficult to think beyond music for Kalaapini Komkali, a vocalist who is an heir to a rich legacy. Daughter of the late Pandit Kumar Gandharva, she has her childhood memories suffused with musical notes.

“Our family was different. Unlike other families, where mornings mean quick-to-office routine and evenings are for unwinding-to-the-hilt, our days were scheduled according to riyaaz. Being moored to music, our family has had a unique togetherness,” she says.

Kalaapini’s mother, Vasundhara Komkali, too, is a vocalist of renown. Like Kumar Gandharva, Vasundhara also had her training under Prof B.R. Deodhar of the Gwalior gharana. Her rather interesting theme concert “Aayee Badariya”, based on “clouds”, was an innovative concept.

Echoing her daughter’s sentiments, she says their life revolved around music. “Just give a thought to it. Aren’t our emotions closely associated with music? Perhaps, we Indians are, in essence, music-bound. At least, I can say that about myself. If I am sad, my sadness manifests itself in a mournful song. My joys, too, find expression in music,” she muses.

Kalaapini feels both her parents have influenced her, though she makes no bones about having been in awe of her father. “We are not even a patch on him. It is difficult to measure up to what he had achieved at a very young age,” she says.

Kumar Gandharva’s daughter gave her first solo performance after his death in 1992. The Gandharva family stays at Devas, near Indore. Running Kumar Gandharva Academy, giving stage performances, trying to preserve the Kumar Gandharva legacy is no mean job.

In city for Shree Baba Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan, the mother-daughter duo believes that music is divine.

“Life, sans music, would be an agony. Probably, it’s hard to imagine ‘music-strapped’ world,” Vasundhara signs off.


Badal flays govt for doubling power duty
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 25
The Shiromani Akali Dal chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, today criticised the Punjab Government for doubling the electricity duty and increasing the stamp duty from 6 to 9 per cent.

In a statement Mr Badal said that his government had reduced the stamp duty from 12 per cent to 6 per cent. He said that the decision to raise electricity duty and stamp duty was anti-people as it would put extra pressure on a common man.

He advised the Congress Government to reduce its wasteful expenditure.


Water supply once in 3 days!
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, December 25
Villages in Dhar area (kandi area) of the district are being supplied drinking water just once every three days the reason being that rural water supply schemes are not function at due to shortage of power.

Sources in the Public Health Department say they have to depute their employees in remote areas to operate the pumps whenever power is available. Even the villagers are not getting adequate water due to power shortage.

Under 30 schemes, generators have been installed on border areas. However, the authorities here are not in a position to operate these as there is no provision for diesel or fuel.

The generators installed have been without diesel for the past seven years. In some cases, generators have not been used for a single day.

Sources in the Department of Public Health say that due to non-operation and absence of maintenance, most generators have become non-functional. Batteries have worn out and the other parts are rusting.

If the government does not provide diesel to run these, what is the point in spending lakhs on buying generators, ask the villagers.

Besides the 30 non-functional generators in Pathankot division, five such generators are also lying unutilised in Gurdaspur division due to non-availability of funds for buying diesel.

Most water supply schemes here are tubewell based. Generally, motors used for tubewells for pumping water to overhead tanks get damaged. The government has not provided funds for the maintenance of these motors.

Department officials are required to get these repaired at local markets on credit.


They live in govt houses at own risk
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 25
Surinder Singh thanks his stars that it was only his double bed that gave way when a slab of concrete disengaged itself from its holding in his P-type government house in the Rajpura Colony recently. “I would not be standing in front of you had I been lying there at that time”, he adds.

Falling concrete is something a large number of households are living with for quite some time now. Jano Devi, another resident, shows a patch of the lintel that fell off on her bed some months back. She says the same thing had happened in the other room in the house. “We got it repaired”, she says. Her husband, a Class III employee, plans to save money for other repairs that would have to be undertaken in the coming months, she adds.

Around 70 houses in the colony that houses 500 government quarters are officially not fit for human dwelling. These have been declared unsafe. People like Surinder Singh and Jano Devi have been asked to submit affidavits stating they would be responsible for their own well-being if they want to continue living in these. As a large number of residents are either in Class III or Class IV government jobs and have nowhere else to go, they find it difficult to give up these houses.

The residents are a bitter lot. “Why can’t the government take up needed repair of the houses instead of handing us letters stating these are unsafe”, says a resident. Others are quick to point out that the overbridge is being painted with “Snowcem” but not a single penny was being spent on maintenance of their houses despite the fact that they were paying house rent to the government.

Nearly all residents are paying house rent between Rs 1,200 and Rs 1,500 for these small government accommodations with the government netting in Rs 1 crore from them. No funds have been earmarked for maintenance of these houses. The PWD Department has a stock answer.


Road mishap deaths went up
Tribune News Service

Ropar, December 25
The number of persons killed in the road accidents this year were more in comparison to the past year’s. However, there has been a decline in the cases of murder, rape, dacoity, theft and narcotics drugs in the city and its surrounding areas. As many as 55 persons lost their lives in the road accidents while 36 sustained serious injuries this year in comparison to 48 deaths last year.

The reason for the rise in the accident deaths is attributed to the rash and negligent driving by drivers of the heavy vehicles, congested roads and lack of implementation of traffic rules. Most of the deceased were two-wheeler riders who were not wearing helmets at the time of the accidents.

Going by the police records, the total number of crime this year were less than the last year. A total of 250 cases of various crimes were registered this year while last year 281 cases had been registered.

There was a decline in the murder and rape cases this year. So far two murder cases were registered in comparison to three murder cases last year. Similarly, two cases of rape were registered this year as compared to four cases of rape last year.

There was also a decline in the cases of theft and petty crimes this year in comparison to the last year. In all 15 cases including three of theft and 12 of petty crimes, were registered in comparison to 25 cases last years.

Dowry death and harassment cases also declined this year. There was no dowry death case registered this year whereas two cases were registered last year. Only one case of dowry harassment came to light this year whereas six cases of dowry harassment were registered last year.

Cheating cases also declined this year as only 17 such cases came to light in comparison to 23 cases registered last year.

There was also a rise in the cases of the Excise Act. This year a total of 30 cases were registered whereas last year 28 were registered.


Federation comes to defence of gen secy
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 25
Taking serious note of the case registered against their general secretary, the General Categories Welfare Federation yesterday said the case was registered at the behest of vested interests who were trying to malign the image of the federation.

Mr Harbans Singh Sidhu, district president of the federation, in a statement last evening, said a section of so-called Dalit organisations and some government officials had connived to get a case registered under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against Mr Nirmal Singh, working as a lecturer at Phagwara.

"False cases under this Act had been got registered against some other office bearers and members of the federation in the past also.

That is why the federation was pressing for the repeal of the Act," claimed Mr Sidhu.

He pointed out that even Dalit students of the school had said that Mr Nirmal Singh was an excellent teacher and that he (Mr Nirmal Singh) had never used derogatory remarks against any Dalit student.

Teachers of the school had also given statements in favour of Mr Nirmal Singh and had submitted a memorandum to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate in his support.

Despite these facts, the authorities had registered a case against Mr Nirmal Singh. He demanded that the case be withdrawn and those who had given false statements brought to book.

He also claimed that the federation would launch an agitation against the misuse of the SC/ST Act. 


‘Politicians not interested in peace’
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 25
Politicians across the border are not allowing permanent peace between the two countries even though the people are strongly inclined for opening of borders and putting an end to hatred and killing of innocent persons.

These views may be the voice of the common man but when a politician makes such an observation, it merits attention. This is what exactly Rana Sarfaraz Ahmed Khan, a Member of Pakistan’s Punjab Provincial Assembly, feels after spending couple of weeks in India where he interacted with leaders, journalists and common man apart from nostalgic meetings with residents of his ancestral village, Gumthala in Kurukshetra, Haryana, and with old family friends like Mr S.K. Moudgill, who is settled here.

‘‘We share the same civilisation, problems and aspirations. We can develop faster and become a strong force if we stop contacting or trading each other through a third party’’ he told The Tribune in the house of Mr Moudgill, with whose family, Rana Sarfraz’s father had brotherly relations. Both families were torn apart by the Partition.

Rana Sarfraz, who left for Pakistan today said he was so bowled over by the hospitality showered on him by people in India that he did not call up his family back home. 


Medical officer complains of harassment
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 25
Dr Inderjit Singh, medical officer at Sri Guru Ram Dass (SGRD) hospital being run by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), today complained to member secretary of the SGPC of mental harassment by Dr Shakeen Singh, Deputy Medical Superintendent (DMS), officiating Medical Superintendent of the hospital.

However, these allegations were refuted by Dr Shakeen Singh.

In the complaint, Dr Inderjit Singh alleged that he was being mentally by harassed to leave the job by the “authorities” after his complaint to the Medical Superintendent about “sale of blood from the blood bank” of the hospital.

He said “since then I am being subjected to misbehaviour and abusive language by the Deputy Medical Superintendent, Dr Shakeen Singh, and the administration of the hospital did not come under his (Dr Shakeen’s) jurisdiction”.

He alleged that the DMS had started making written complaints against him “in a doctored way” to misguide the hospital authorities and prepare the ground for his removal from the job.

Dr Shakeen Singh said he was the officiating Medical Superintendent of the hospital and Dr Inderjit was notorious for not being regular in his duty.

He said Dr Inderjit Singh was transferred from the blood bank of the hospital to the emergency ward for reasons best known to the authorities. He said he was found absent from his department on a regular basis.


Trains cancelled due to fog
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, December 25
The Northern Railway today cancelled Amritsar-bound 3049 UP Amritsar-Howrah Express and Darbanga-bound 4650 DN Amritsar-Darbanga Flying Mail.

Railway sources said here today that this step had been taken to regulate the trains running several hours behind the schedule due to poor visibility caused by thick fog in the region.

The sources said most of the trains were running 2 to 23 hours behind the schedule due to thick fog. The 3006 DN Amritsar-Howrah Mail was running indefinite hours late. Its corresponding train 3005 UP Howrah Mail reached Amritsar 14 hours late today.


Former minister bereaved
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 25
The mother of former Health Minister and SAD General Secretary Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal died at a city hospital this morning following a brief illness.

Ms Sukhdev Kaur, 81 was a graduate from Sohanlal College, Lahore. She was the elder sister of Major Shivdev Singh, who was killed in the Goa liberation movement.

Her cremation will take place at Model Town Extension Cremation Ground tomorrow at 1.30 pm.


Sidhu urges people to fight poverty

Moga, December 25
The BJP MP and cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu today called upon the people to fight against poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and take steps to control the increasing population if the countrymen wanted to make India a stronger nation.

Addressing a conference of Bharat Vikas Parishad (BVP) workers from Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Chandigarh here today, Mr Sidhu said it was unfortunate that even 58 years after the Independence the country could not adopt an education policy.

He called upon the people to follow the teachings of the great Gurus. "We should learn a lesson from the sacrifices made by the Guru Gobind Singh, his four sons and Mata Gujri. — PTI


BKU defers dharna plan
Our Correspondent

Abohar, December 25
The Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) has deferred its dharna that was to be staged at the Market Committee complex here from Monday.

A decision to this effect was taken at a meeting convened by Mr Jaskiran Singh Sub-Divisional Magistrate.

The meeting was attended by the Secretary of the Market Committee, representatives of the Commission Agents Association and nominees of the Cotton Corporation of India.


Rly station to get IVRS facility
Our Correspondent

Barnala, December 25
The local railway station will soon be equipped with interactive voice response system (IVRS). Disclosing this here today Mr Manohar Lal, Station Superintendent, Barnala Railway Station, said the decision to install the system had been conveyed by the Senior Section Engineer (Telecom), Northern Railways, Bathinda.

The Station Superintendent said the IVRS would facilitate public to dial No 133 to make enquires about rail reservation, PNR status, arrival as well as departure of the trains.


Notice against accused on hospital wall
Our Correspondent

Abohar, December 25
A notice of proclamation, under Section 82 of the Cr.P.C., was pasted on the walls of the Nehru Memorial Civil Hospital here, yesterday against the six persons booked for allegedly abetting daughter of an employee of the hospital to commit suicide.

Ms Dimple Walia, Sub Divisional Judicial Magistrate, had passed an order observing that non-bailable warrants of the accused had been received back with the report that their houses were found locked.

Mr Jagdish Kumar, an employee of the same hospital, had alleged that his daughter Deepmala had to commit suicide due to regular mental and physical intimidation by the family of the Head Constable Mukhtiar Singh who had their house in the same colony. Deepmala had left behind a handwritten suicide note narrating the episode stating that she could no more face such humiliation.

The sources said the accused had been pressurising Jagdish Kumar’s family to change statement in the criminal case and had threatened them of dire consequences.

A number of trade unions had launched an agitation to press the police to arrest the accused but could not succeed. The Health Department had not conceded demand for cancelling allocation of residential quarters for staff nurses.


Farmer shot over land dispute
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, December 25
A farmer Pal Singh (55), was today murdered at Bhakhriana village falling under the Sadar police station. He sustained a bullet injury in his chest, he was rushed to the Civil Hospital, here which referred him to Ludhiana but succumbed to his injury on the way. A case under Section 302 and other provisions of the IPC and Arms Act has been registered. Pal Singh had a land dispute with Sarabjit Kaur of the same village. He had called for a panchayat meeting. When panchayat members were examining the disputed site, Sarabjit Kaur, her son Sahbhi and one Jaswinder came there on a scooter.

Jaswinder challenged Pal Singh, opened fire at him and sped away. The village elders were left dumb-founded. Pal Singh slumped on the ground. Profusely bleeding Pal Singh, was brought to Phagwara and then taken to Ludhiana, but could not be saved.

Balihar Singh, the brother of the deceased, lodged a complaint after which the assailant and the mother-son duo were booked.


Physiotherapists’ association writes
to Vice-Chancellor
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 25
The tussle in Guru Nanak Dev University over the headship of Sports Medicine and Physiotherapy Department today took a new turn when the Indian Association of Physiotherapists (IAP) wrote to the Vice-Chancellor, Dr S.P. Singh, and threatened to review its recognition of the programme.

Meanwhile, the students threatened to observe a fast, hold road blocks and perform self-immolation to protect their rights and future. The students along with their parents continued to protest against the appointment of Dr G.S. Kang as the head of the department, which, they claimed, could affect their careers.

Dr B.S. Desikamani, general secretary of the association, stated that the minimum standards for the conduct of an undergraduate course in physiotherapy, laid down both nationally and internationally, clearly indicate that the head of the department must be a physiotherapist. Therefore, the appointment of an individual with a non-healthcare background was against the norms of professional growth.

He said the IAP would have to review its position regarding the recognition of the programme offered by the university and this would put the careers of graduates of physiotherapy under strain.

However, Dr G.S. Kang, who will be the next HoD as per the university’s statutes, said the IAP was not a statutory body and hence its affiliation was not necessary at all.


Hike commission, say LPG distributors
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar December 25
The All-Punjab HP Gas Distributors Association today urged the Central Government to hike the distributors’ commission on supply of gas cylinders to customers.

This was required due to the steep hike in prices of diesel and petrol during the past one year.

Mr Amrik Singh Chawla, patron-in-chief of the association, talking to the media here, said the prices of petrol and diesel had increased manifold during the past one year, even as freight charges, which was part of the distributors’ commission, had remained the same.

He demanded the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas should decrease the period of refilling of gas cylinders in view of the steep increase in the demand for LPG cylinders.

A delegation of the association held a meeting with the Chief Regional Manager of the HPCL, Mr Chattar Singh, who assured to resolve their problems at the earliest.

Meanwhile Mr V.K. Tandon was elected president of the association. Others, elected unanimously were patron-in-chief Amrik Singh Chawla; senior vice presidents A.S. Mann and Dr Narinder Singh, general secretary Sukhbir Singh Goldy; treasurer Arvind Kumar Choudhary, legal adviser Narinder Khurana and executive member Kanwal Nain Singh. 

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