P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Travel agents, touts flourish as law is silent
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 26
Emigration controls on skilled and unskilled manpower for developed countries notwithstanding, there is no law which can directly or indirectly supervise and control the activities of agents and touts who have flourishing business in human smuggling.

Instructions by various Ministries to State Governments to tighten the noose against human smugglers are only diversionary tactics as no serious attempt or effort is made to get them followed and implemented.

The police feels handicapped as in the absence of any complaint made to it, it cannot take any action. It has little or no preventive role to play. “Action arises only when some one is cheated, harassed or deprived of his travel documents makes a complaint to the police,” says a senior police official of the state holding that “newspaper reports highlighting plight of the victims are perhaps not enough to deter youth from choosing this illegal route to immigration to developed nations.”

“We do not have money to even insert advertisements in newspapers against the activities of travel agents and touts,” reveals another police official. “The Central and State Governments need to sit together and work out a plan which can screen unemployed youth going abroad. Otherwise this exploitation would continue bringing not only a bad name to a State or a community in particular but also to the nation as a whole.” Horrifying tales of victims have no deterrent effect on those gambling for career abroad.

Studies have revealed that not only illiterate and unskilled workers but a substantial percentage of skilled and educated youths, including those with professional qualifications, have been victims of this illegal human smuggling racket.

Though there has been no authentic report or study to reveal the exact size of this trade, yet unofficial figures put it at Rs 1000 crore a year. Of this amount, more than 70 per cent goes to agents overseas. Only 10 per cent is spent on travel and initial board and lodging of the ultimate victims and another 20 per cent goes in bribes to officials at various levels.

Soliciting clients by luring them jobs overseas is still not an offence. Even today, there is neither a legal bar nor any licence required before one starts soliciting clients with promises of getting them either to Europe or North America or even Down Under on payment of the promised fee.

In most of the cases, 50 per cent or even up to 70 per cent fee is charged in the first phase and the remaining fee is charged as and when the “prospective candidate” gets abroad a ship or aircraft on his way to the “promised destination”.

In less than five per cent cases, money is refunded to the victim in case of operation remaining unsuccessful. In rest of the cases, the agent or tout concerned disappears leaving no clues behind.

Though most of the advanced countries have promulgated strong legislations, threatening huge penalties and sentences on those soliciting trade in the name of immigration, no such law has been made in India so far.

While Canada, the USA and even some European Union nations have strong laws to prosecute those indulging in human smuggling, no registration is required even when these agents open a shop here in India. There are no guidelines, instructions, requirement of a licence or any other governmental control on the activities of travel agents and touts sending people abroad. Laws are limited only to export of skilled and unskilled manpower to certain developing nations, especially to West Asia and Africa.

The Protector of Emigrants, which comes under the Union Ministry of Labour, too, has a limited role in this gigantic operation which needs not only large scale awareness but also stricter controls and checks at all levels, including ports of embarkation and disembarkation.



Efforts to install Isher Singh as Baba’s successor?
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Chowk Mehta (Amritsar), December 26
A section of Damdami Taksal is lobbying hard to install Bhai Isher Singh, son of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhinderanwale, as acting Jathedar of Damdami Taksal, against the traditions of this 300-year-old Sikh seminary.

As per the tradition, only those who were taught and brought up in the Damdami Taksal itself were appointed to the coveted post in the past. Instead, Bhai Isher Singh is in active business. Secondly, Bibi Pritam Kaur, his mother and widow of Sant Bhinderanwale, is reportedly averse to the very idea of his son being nominated as the head of the Damdami Taksal.

However, it will be difficult for the Damdami Taksal, which was called the ‘fountain head of militancy’ during the time of Sant Bhinderanwale, to find a non-controversial person to succeed Baba Thakur Singh who died yesterday. The formal nomination of the head of Damdami Taksal would be announced on January 2 to mark the antim ardas of Baba Thakur Singh. The remains of Baba Thakur Singh were consigned to flames at the headquarters of the taksal here. A large number of religious, social and political leaders, including Mr Jagmit Singh Brar, a former Congress Member Parliament, and Mr Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, a former Akali minister, participated in the cremation of Baba Thakur Singh. Baba Sarbjot Singh Bedi, Baba Daya Singh, Baba Makhan Singh, Baba Jagtar Singh and Giani Gurbachan Singh, Granthi of the Golden Temple, lit the pyre of Baba Thakur Singh amid chanting of ‘Satnam Waheguru’.

The main contenders for the coveted post of Jathedar, Damdami Taksal, could be the families of Sant Kartar Singh Bhinderanwale and Sant Jarnail Singh Bhinderanwale. Among those whose names could be considered to head the Damdami Taksal included Bhai Jasbir Singh Rode, a former Jathedar of the Akal Takht, Bhai Ram Singh, a former priest of the Golden Temple, Baba Sukhdev Singh and Bhai Tarlochan Singh, grandson of Sant Kartar Singh Bhinderanwale.

Both Bhai Isher Singh and his mother were present at the time of cremation of Baba Thakur Singh while Bhai Jasbir Singh Rode conducted the stage.

It is yet to be seen whether the Damdami Taksal nominates anybody as acting Jathedar or a regular Jathedar on January 2. The controversy whether Sant Bhinderanwale is dead or alive would be finished forever if a regular head is appointed. Baba Thakur Singh had not taken over as the regular head of the Taksal during his two decade long tenure, as he was a believer of the theory that Sant Bhinderanwale would come back one day.


‘Harassed’ by SGPC, scholar releases
TV serial in book form

Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 26
A television serial in a book. This is true in the case of a Sikh scholar, Gurmukh Singh Sehgal. The writer has recently got four episodes of a proposed television serial, which was to be produced by Cinevista, published in a book form. The reason: the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) failed to approve the script of the proposed serial since the past five years.

Gurmukh Sehgal’s odyssey to get his television script approved by the SGPC started in 1999. He wanted to write on the Guru Granth Sahib as he feels that it has a universal message which transcends religious barriers.

The writer said he was lucky when a Director of Cinevista, Krishan Sethi, became interested in the subject. “But he wanted a script on the pattern of the Mahabharata a with the aim of creating a magnum opus. I, however, explained that this was not possible as Guru Granth Sahib represented a philosophy of life.

Sehgal said he was elated that Guru Granth Sahib would be the focus of attention through a television serial. “Little did I know that my travails were only starting.” Cinevista owner Sunil Mehta requested me to get the script of the first four episodes of the serial titled “Sach Ki Bani Nanak Akhiya”. I, landed up at Amritsar on August 25, 1999, and submitted the script of the four episodes of the serial to the SGPC. On August 25, 1999, I, received a note from the SGPC saying his script had been sent to the principal of the Sikh Missionary College, Amritsar, for comments.”

“Later on September 25, 1999, when Bibi Jagir Kaur took over as President of the SGPC, I, received a note saying the comments of the missionary college Principal on the issue had been received and that the matter would now be placed before a sub-committee.”

The SGPC subsequently kept telling him for years that the matter was under consideration. Fed up Sehgal decided to get the script for the four episodes published in the book form. The treatment at the hands of the SGPC is, however, hard to bear and has been written in detail in the foreword of the book itself.


Steps taken to maintain eco-balance in wetland
Tribune News Service

(Katli) Ropar, December 26
With a view to maintaining ecological balance in wetland at Harike in Amritsar, at Kanjli in Kapurthala and at Ropar, the Punjab government has initiated a project with help of Punjab State Council for Science and Technology. The Minister of Animal Husbandry and Fisheries, Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang, informed this while inaugurating fishery farming project at Katli village here on Thursday.

He said wetlands were a major sources of fish production. But there was regular decline in fish population due to increase in pollution level. This had disturbed the eco-system of the wetland.

“The fisheries department has initiated a programme to maintain the ecological balance of these wetlands with a cost of Rs 75 lakhs. The Ministry of Environment had sanctioned the project and money has already been submitted with the Punjab State Council for Science and Technology “ he added.

He said an amount of Rs 17 lakh had been released for the development of Kanjli wetland. This amount will be utilised for creating new infrastructure at fish seed farms at Kapurthala. Similarly Harike and Ropar wetland would also be developed as and when the funds available, he added.

Giving details about fish production the state he said the state, had already earned a place in the fisheries map of the country by achieving the highest average per hectare fish production, Farmers of all income groups have been involved in fish farming and hundreds of families from weaker sections are engaged in the marketing of fish for their livelihood.


Soul-stirring music strikes cord with audience
Minna Zutshi
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, December 26
Déjà vu. And its roots extending right up to a century. This is what most of the musicians, who have come to perform at the 129th Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan being organised here, are experiencing.

Ustad Tafoo Khan, the renowned tabla player, from Pakistan, recalls the days when his father, Ustad Khaidam Hussain, told him stories about the sammelan.

“My teacher, Ustad Mian Kadar Bakhsh, too, had fond memories of the sammelan. I feel that it is by the grace of Baba that I have been able to come for this great music sammelan,” he says, adding that boundaries etched out on land cannot drive a wedge among artistes.

It was at the insistence of Hans Raj Hans and the nostalgic-pull of the sammelan that he took time out from his chock-a-block-with-music schedule, reveals this Pakistani music director, whose tabla-playing expertise has been widely acclaimed.

Almost similar past-peppered memories make the sammelan a special event for Meeta Pandit, the great-granddaughter of Pandit Shankar Rao Pandit from the Pandit family of the Gwalior Gharana.

Her father, Pandit L.K. Pandit, too, remembers the days when his father would come to the city for his favourite Harballabh Sammelan.

“Our family’s association with the sammelan dates back to at least 100 years or may be even more,” he says. He feels “specially blessed” that his daughter, whose forte is khayal, has the “honour” of performing at the sammelan where once her forefathers performed with élan.

Meanwhile, it was music to match different shades of mood on the second day of the 129th Shree Baba Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan being organised at Devi Talab Mandir here. The jugalbandi between sitar exponent Manu Seen and violin player Dr S.K. Nahar was enthralling.

As the programme progressed, the flautist Ronu Majumdar cast a hypnotic spell over the audience. Starting with alaap in Raga Raageshwari, he concluded with a soul-stirring rendering of “Paayo ji maine Ram ratan dhan paayo”. Sudhir Pandey accompanied him on tabla, while Pandit Durga was the accompanying Pakhawaj player.

The atmosphere became wistful when vocalists Kalaapini Komkali and Vasundhara Komkali sang bhajans that were among Kumar Gandharva’s favourite. They began their performance with Raga Maaru Vihag. Kalaapini’s touching rendition of “Ud jayega hans akela” was not only thought-provoking but also ecstatically inspiring.

Vocalist Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan’s performance touched the entire gamut of human emotions. The veteran vocalist started with Raga Baageshwari and went on to sing Raga Darbari and Pahari in his engaging style, which belied his over 70 years. 


Rodrigues expresses shock
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 26
The Punjab Governor and UT Administrator, Gen S.F. Rodrigues (retd.), has expressed his deep shock over the colossal loss of lives due to tsunami in Tamil Naidu, Andhra Pradesh and some other parts of the country. He conveyed his sympathies to the state governments concerned and the members of the bereaved families.

He appealed to the NGOs, social activists and philanthropists of the region to pool their efforts and rush the relief material, including food articles, medicines and clothes, to the people of the affected areas.


BJP to identify more seats to contest

Jalandhar, December 26
In charge of BJP’s affairs in Punjab Jaskaur Meena yesterday said the BJP would identify more seats in Punjab to contest in alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in the next Assembly elections.

“Although we had contested 23 Assembly seats in the state during the last elections with little success, to strengthen the party’s base in Punjab, state leaders have been instructed to identify more seats where party’s winnability is expected, she said while addressing a state working committee meeting here today.

Making a scathing attack on the state government, she said the Congress government had failed on every front and proved “anti-people”. — PTI


Badal ‘misusing’ gurdwara funds
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, December 26
Former Punjab Chief Minister and Shiromani Akali Dal president Parkash Singh Badal was misusing the funds of Sikh religious places for “putar parchar” instead of “dharam parchar”, alleged Punjab Youth Congress president Raminder Singh Awla while talking to mediaperson at the residence of former nagar council chief Parmod Kumar here on Sunday. He said Parkash Singh Badal wanted to project his son, Sukhbir Singh Badal, by spending huge amount of gurdwara funds. While commenting upon the demands of the Akalis to transfer Ropar SSP, Awla said they could not tolerate any honest officer.

Replying a question about the forthcoming assembly elections in Haryana, Awla said Punjab Youth Congress would participate actively in the election campaign in support of the Congress candidates.

While commenting upon the increasing trend of drug abuse and use of intoxicants by the youth, Awla said, the Punjab Youth Congress would organise a campaign against use of intoxicants by youths throughout the state from first week of January and would hold seminars and meetings in various educational institutions.


Year of political upswings and surprises
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 26
Upheavals in the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) in general and the Punjab Congress Legislature Party (CLP) against the leadership in particular which started late last year, gradually evaporated as the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, strengthened his control and position on the government during 2004.

Though, the Congress government could not prevent a run-through win by the Shiromani Akali Dal in the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee elections. yet the Punjab Congress could look back at political events in the State with satisfaction, thanks to resounding wins in both the byelections held at Kapurthala and Garhshankar.

Not only that, the Congress was successful in bringing the entire Opposition to unanimity on Annulment of Water Agreements Acts of previous years. This not only made Capt Amarinder Singh hero of the masses on an emotive issue of rivers water, but also gave the Congress a head start in breaking the Akalis stronghold in rural Punjab.

The Annulment Act may have cost the Governor, Justice Om Parkash Verma, dearly for appending his hasty approval to it, yet it made Punjab Congressmen hold their heads high in an area in which they had been a constant target of the Opposition for trading away interests of the State.

Rivers water dispute in general and Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal in particular, which had at the beginning of the year the major issues confronting the State, are now on the back bench with the Apex Court directive of starting work on completion of the remaining part of the canal held in abeyance.

At the end of this year, both the Chief Minister and the PPCC chief have little or no dissidence to handle as they look firmly on control of their positions. Stabilisation in Punjab Congress politics may not be well reflected in the visits and support from the Congress-led UPA Government at the Centre.

The year was not without major reverses. The Congress Government suffered several reverses in legal battles. The worst was the recruitment of seven Deputy Superintendents of Police against sports quota. The appointments were not only set aside but the High Court almost passed severest strictures against the manner in which these appointments were hurriedly made.

Liquor auctions also brought the government on the mat.

Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal’s case and corruption case against the Badals saw the Apex court intervention to the dismay of the State Government.

Even in the case of posting of non-cadre officers against cadre IPS posts, the State had to eat a humble pie and relent. Gurdwara elections, too, did not bring any good credit to the government and its machinery.

Individual politicians, especially those who suffered humiliating defeats in the last Lok sabha elections, may have been rehabilitated with key positions, including gubernatorial posts, yet the Punjab Government as a whole did not get the financial and other support it expected from its “own Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh.”

The Prime Minister visited the State only once and that too to participate in the 400th Parkash Utsav of Guru Granth Sahib. The Congress chief, Mrs Sonia Gandhi did not come to Punjab at all.

Even the Union Defence Minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, made in charge of Punjab affairs, has been postponing his visit to the state.

For the Congress high command, the ensuing assembly elections in Haryana are more important as it hopes to sweep to power there also. It is why the Congress has been keeping itself away from Punjab after the July Annulment of Waters Agreements Act.

The Congress has been constantly trying to beat Akalis on their home turf of religion by promising to do things which the previous SAD-BJP government could not do. Declaration of Chamkaur Sahib as a subdivision, announcement of setting up of a children’s hospital at Fatehgarh Sahib, research centre and sports training centre at Chamkaur Sahib, steps to complete work of Galliara scheme in Amritsar and Anandpur Sahib heritage projects are some of the issues on which the Congress has tried to score over the Akalis and the SGPC.

The Congress has also been able to handle the issue of downsizing the size of its Ministry well by adjusting some as Parliamentary and Chief Parliamentary Secretaries.

Others were adjusted in Boards and Corporations. Even legislations were enacted to declare office of the Parliamentary Secretary to be non-profit office.


Jor Mela concludes with massive nagar kirtan
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, December 26
Lakhs of pilgrims from across the country and abroad participated in the three-day Shaheedi Jor Mela which concluded here today.

Three-year-old Harleen Kaur takes part in a nagar kirtan procession which commenced from Gudwara Fatehgarh Sahib; and (right) Nihangs display martial arts on the concluding day of the Shaheedi Jor Mela in Fatehgarh Sahib on Sunday.

Bole So Nihal: Three-year-old Harleen Kaur takes part in a nagar kirtan procession which commenced from Gudwara Fatehgarh Sahib; and (right) Nihangs display martial arts on the concluding day of the Shaheedi Jor Mela in Fatehgarh Sahib on Sunday. — Tribune photos by Pradeep Tewari

A nagar kirtan was taken out which commenced from Gurdwara Fatehgarh Sahib and culminated at Gurdwara Jyoti Saroop. More than 10 lakh devotees accompanied nagar kirtan which covered the distance of about 1 km in four hours.

The procession was accompanied with Guru Granth Sahib which was kept in a golden palanquin donated by sangat from London this year.

Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Akal Takht Jathedar, Giani Tarlochan Singh, Jathedar, Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib, Giani Balwant Singh Anandgarh, Jathedar, Takht Sri Damdama Sahib, Giani Iqbal Singh, Jathedar, Takht Sri Patna Sahib, and Giani Puran Singh, Head Granthi, Golden Temple, accompanied the nagar kirtan. Bibi Jagir Kaur, president of the SGPC, and all five jathedars addressed the gathering and urged the sangat to follow in the footsteps of the Gurus and principles of Sikhism.

The main attraction of the mela was Ganga Sagar which Guru Gobind Singh had gifted to the Nawab of Raikot. Devotees had a glimpse of the Ganga Sagar which was placed on a rotating pedestal on a specially-designed wagon in front of Gurdwara Fatehgarh Sahib.

A light and sound programme “Sirhind Ki Dastan”, organised by the Punjab Public Relations Department, though attracted large number of devotees but due to poor sound quality, it failed to leave any impression.


Ganga Sagar reaches Patiala
Our Correspondent

Patiala, December 26
Ganga Sagar, a metallic urn of religious and historical value for the Sikhs was brought to Patiala today. It was received at Gurdwara Dukhniwaran Sahib by former chairman of the State Subordinate Board, Mr Tejinder Pal Singh Sandhu, and other Sikh leaders.

The urn, which was gifted by Guru Gobind Singh to the erstwhile rulers of Raikot, was slated to be taken to the residence of Samana MLA, Mr S.S. Rakhra, later in the evening.

It may be recalled that the urn was brought to India from the UK after nearly five decades by Rai Azizulla Khan, a member of the Lahore national Assembly.


Christian body demands separate
state minority commission

Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 26
Mr Munawar Masih, President, All-India Christian Dalit Front, demanded the formation of a separate minority commission in the state to safeguard the rights of about 25 lakh Christians living in Punjab.

Addressing a press conference here today, Mr Masih, a close associate of Mr Parkash Singh Badal, President, Shiromani Akali Dal, said majority of the Christians, residing mainly in border districts of Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Ferozepore, were living below poverty line. Therefore, he said, they as dalit Christians must be given the status of Scheduled Caste.

He sought from the Central Government to raise a battalion in the Army as ‘hristian Regiment’. He said these demands had been pending for the past nearly five decades but no government had paid a heed towards them.

Mr Masih said the front would organise a state-level function to celebrate Christmas on December 28 at Ajnala where he hoped that nearly 2,5000 persons would turn up. He said Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu, MP, and Mr Badal along with several senior Akali leaders would participate in it.


Pak to open gurdwara Mata Sahib Kaur
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 26
In a significant development, the Government of Pakistan has decided to open Janamasthan Mata Sahib Kaur, wife of Guru Gobind Singh in Qila Rohtas, Jehlum, today to mark the tercentenary of the martyrdom of sahibzadas. The dilapidated gurdwara has been locked for more than 150 years.

This was stated by Dr Pritpal Singh, president, American Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (AGPC), while talking to The Tribune from Lahore yesterday. He claimed that the AGPC had been trying to get the gurdwara opened for the Sikhs for a long time.

The gurdwara was locked since the regime of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Mata Sahib Kaur was born at Rohtas village located within Rohtas Fort. The janamasthan is visible from a distance of 100 steps from the entrance of the locality. It was repaired during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The old building was demolished and the new structure was built but that too is now withering away.

Dr Pritpal Singh said the descendants of Nawab Malerkotla, Nabi Khan- Ghani Khan and Rai Azizullah, a member of Pakistan’s National Assembly, would be honoured by the Sikh sangat at Gurdwara Dera Sahib, Lahore, on December 25. He said a jatha led by Mr Parmjit Singh Sarna, President, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, would reach Lahore to mark the occasion.


International conference of Ahmadiyas begins
Tribune News Service

Qadian (Gurdaspur), December 26
The 113th annual international conference of the Ahmadiyas started here today. Thousands of delegates from across the world have thronged the streets of small and elusive town of Qadian to attend the conference.

The delegates from 44 countries which include 2,300 Ahmadiyas from Pakistan have arrived here to take part in the conference, the sources said. All streets of Qadian have been lit up with colourful lighting. The versus and holy teachings of Quran and Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam are pouring form loud speakers.

In the three-day conference the delegates would take part in the religious session in which speeches would be made on varied subjects as the existence of God, life of Prophet Mohammad, the concept of triple talaq and rights of women in Islam.

In the release circulated among the delegates today it was stated that divorce was the most hateful of all lawful things in the sight of Allah as per the saying of Prophet Muhammad. In the discourses to the delegates the speakers stressed that all religions were true and, therefore, one should always uphold he dignity of religions.

On the concluding day of the conference i.e. on December 28, leaders of all religions would attend the conference and create an atmosphere of religious harmony. The delegates also deplored the Pakistan government for declaring Ahmadiyyas as non-Muslims. They alleged that the Ahmadiyyas were not being allowed to undertake the Haj pilgrimage allegedly under the influence of certain fanatic Muslim leaders.

The Ahmadiyya movements was founded in 1989 by Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian.


Namdharis plan yatra
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 26
To commemorate the tercentenary of martyrdom of Mata Gujri and four Sahibzadas of Guru Gobind Singh, the Namdhari Darbar has decided to take out a “shradhanjali yatra” from its headquarters at Bhaini Sahib in Ludhiana district to Fatehgarh Sahib on January 1.

According to Mr Dalip Singh Namdhari, Secretary of the Darbar, the yatra would touch Sherpur Chowk, Sahnewal, Doraha, Khanna, Mandi Gobindgarh and Sirhind before reaching Fatehgarh Sahib.

He said that all members of the Darbar would sport white namdhari dress and recite Gurbani during the yatra.


No easy task for BSF manning Indo-Pak border
Our Correspondent

Along the zero line (Ferozepore), December 26
When the dusk falls, the silent fields along the cobra fencing are set ablaze by thunderous galloping of horses, as BSF commandos set out to patrol the 553-km long Indo-Pakistan international border under the Punjab Frontier. The task of the BSF commandos to man the international border becomes increasingly arduous during winters as the visibility is reduced to a few metres only and the fog engulfs the entire region. Keeping in view the hostile weather conditions, the BSF has to intensify mobile and horse patrolling, and launch special operations to thwart any attempt by anti-national elements and ISI agents to sneak inside the Indian territory, taking advantage of the inclement weather.

The BSF sleuths have not only to protect the border from external aggression of the enemy but also keep a hawk’s eye on the intruders and cross-border smugglers, commonly called as “snakes” in this area who become active during this foggy season.

Although after the cobra fencing all along the Punjab border, the infiltration has been tremendously reduced, still sporadic incidents of infiltration bids do come to fore.

According to BSF sources, during the year 2003, the BSF troops apprehended 66 Indian nationals, 47 Pakistani nationals, 91 Bangladeshi nationals and 3 others near the Indo-Pakistan border, whereas during the year 2004, till date 56 Indian nationals, 48 Pakistani nationals, 65 Bangladeshi nationals and 2 other persons have been apprehended. Apart than this, 30 persons have been gunned down by the BSF during last two years in this frontier near the border, revealed a senior BSF official.

BSF officials said that certain pockets and riverine gaps measuring 58.18 km where the cobra fencing has not being done due to topographical restraints, special boat nakas are laid and round-the-clock vigil is kept by BSF troops. BSF official disclosed that several operations like Operation Tiger, Operation Roar and Operation Panther have been planned in recent times, especially for the 557-km-long Punjab Frontier bordering Pakistan. In the condition of heavy fog and inclement weather, more manpower is added to the normal BSF deployment to form a physical barrier along the borders. The entire battalion headquarters is virtually shifted to the frontier with only bare minimum strength is left behind during the peak winter season, said another BSF official.

At a few places near the riverine gaps, BSF sleuths sporadically resort to speculative fire at night in order to keep the intruders away. The nakas, which are considered sensitive, are opened and interlocked with other adjoining nakas to form a human chain. BSF officials said that the troops deployed along the zero line are provided with “hot tea” at least four times at night from 10 pm to 4 am these days to keep them alert and the vehicles used to supply tea also patrol the border from one post to another.

About the problems being faced by BSF jawans during winters and foggy days, Mr A K Surolia, DIG, told The Tribune that the BSF was in the process of procuring most modern equipments like thermal and IR imagers, and other ground sensor equipments from countries like Israel to further reinforce the BSF and reduce the stress under which BSF sentinels were working. At present, the BSF troops have to depend on night vision devices and binoculars, which at times are unable to penetrate heavy fog and thick sirkanda growth near the border in absence of any moonlight. Working on the “zero crime rate” in this area, BSF has also launched Operation “Sukha” during daytime and Operation “Nagpal” during the nights, to thwart any attempt by intruders to sneak inside the Indian territory taking advantage of inclement weather conditions.


Pensioners flay govt for withdrawing
health allowance

Jalandhar, December 26
Flaying the UPA government for the withdrawal of health allowance, the All-India Central Government Pensioners’ Association expressed their resentment here on Thursday.

Stating this in a statement, Mr V.S. Jolly, general secretary, said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had also given them a jolt by backtracking from his earlier statements given to them.

He alleged that the Union Health Ministry had withdrawn the facility to nearly 28 lakh of the Central Government pensioners, issued on August 30, 2004, a copy of which was made available to them recently.

Mr Jolly alleged that the policy decision taken vide the Union Ministry of Health on June 5, 1998, had been withdrawn after six years in the garb of a clarification of the original order. He said this had been done to circumvent the numerous judgments of the courts of law.

The association had sought the immediate intervention of the PM and urged for the cancellation of government orders of August 30 as he said the pensioners deserved sympathy and compassion from the government. — TNS


Players suffer as funds for
stadium remain unutilised

Deepkamal Kaur
Tribune News Service

Kapurthala, December 26
Development work at the Guru Nanak Stadium on the Jalandhar Road seems to have been stalled for strange reasons.

A grant of Rs 25 lakh released by the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, for infrastructure and beautification of the stadium has not been utilised by the district authorities for the past nearly one year.

Besides preparing the grounds and courts afresh for players, the grant was meant for the installation of floodlights in the basketball court, construction of a track along the boundary of the stadium for athletes and beautification of the stadium.

The stadium which draws a number of school and college students who get training and are selected for representing teams of the Rail Coach Factory, the Punjab Armed Police, Punjab and Sind Bank and the Surjit Academy does not have even a single motor in working condition for watering the grounds. The plush lawns have turned dusty and grounds, are unfit for playing. The track meant for athletes is in bad shape and the basketball court has developed cracks.

The stadium ground which is often used for district level functions has a number of holes, making it unfit for hockey and other games. A wall and a broken gate at the back of the stadium have not been repaired for past few months.

The stadium spread over 14 acre has a few groundmen taking care of it. Under such circumstances, the players themselves clear the grounds of the pebbles and water them using buckets. “We had bought a long pipe to water the ground by pooling Rs 1,500 but it has developed cracks now. The ground has become so uneven that many of us develop sprains as we play the game,” said the hockey trainees.

Even the students practising basketball said they had to themselves broom and sweep the court before playing the game. They said they had urged the sports authorities to get the cracked floor repaired but to no avail.

Interestingly, the stadium is unfit for training girls for gymnastics as there is no equipment available for the purpose. There are no horses, beams or bars used by the girls for the sport. The players said they had heard that the funds were not being used as leaders wanted to get the money used in their own way. Mr Hira Lal Dhir, District President of the BJP, said he too was surprised at the working of the authorities who were not ready to utilise the available grant.

Ms Harpreet Kaur, hockey coach, said the players were disturbed over the condition of the grounds and they had been demanding its maintenance since long. Mr H.L. Sharma, District Sports Officer, said he was busy with various tournaments held at Bathinda, Ludhiana and Ferozepore recently but now he would definitely take up the matter seriously.

Repeated attempts to contact Mr Rakesh Kumar Verma, Deputy Commissioner, failed as his phone was not answering. Mr Paramjit Singh, ADC (Development), said he would have to look into the matter as he did not remember the details.


Birth anniversary of Udham Singh celebrated
Our Correspondent

Abohar, December 26
The birth anniversary of Shaheed Udham Singh was celebrated here today by the Punjabi Sabhyachar Manch. A large number of people, led by a former SDM and chief patron of the manch Mr B.L. Sikka assembled at the Shaheed Memorial, opposite the Municipal General Bus Stand, here.

Traffic came to a standstill for some time as the crowd, including members of rickshaw and tempo unions made a queue to pay their obeisance to the martyr by garlanding his life-size statue amidst beating of dholak and raising of slogans.

Dr Harbhajan Singh Kamboj, press secretary, Punjab Kamboj Sabha, Mr Ramesh Bajaj, former president Fellows Club, Mr Darshan Lal Chugh, scouting trainer, Mr Om Parkash Juneja of Seva Bharti and transporter, Mr Sudesh Kumar Chaudhry were also present on the occasion.

Mr Gurcharan Singh Gill and Mr Ravinder Dhaka, president and vice-president respectively of the manch led a rally to bring awareness among the people about the sacrifices made by freedom fighters.

Later a meeting was held at the playgrounds of Navyug Senior Secondary School located in Indira Nagri.

Mr Sham Lal Arora and Mr Abhishek Kataria spoke on the importance of contribution made by the revolutionaries in achieving freedom for India.

They emphasised on the need for strengthening national integration and maintaining communal harmony. Teachers and students joined the dignitaries in paying floral tributes at the portrait of the martyr. 


Four members of family asphyxiated
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, December 26
Four members of a family died due to asphyxiation at their New Jawahar Nagar residence here this morning.

According to the police, the victims were identified as Amarnath (25), his wife Suneeta (23), his son Sunny (3) and nephew Dharminder (10). The police maintained that the family was putting up at one small room of the residence of a UK-based NRI in the New Jawahar Nagar locality here for the past one month.

Amarnath, according to the police, ignited an “angeethi” to reduce the impact of winter and closed the door late last night, which resulted in asphyxiation. The incident came to light when Amarnath’s niece came to his house this morning and no body opened the door.

She then approached her father, who broke open the door to find all the four dead. Amarnath, who originally hails from Rai Barailey district of UP, was working at a tailor shop and had shifted to this residence about a month ago.

The matter was reported to the police which has registered a case. The bodies have been sent to the Civil Hospital for post mortem.


BKU stops auction of farmer’s land
Tribune News Service

Jaito, December 26
The district general secretary of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugraha), Mr Nachhatar Singh Ransinghwala, claimed to have stopped the auction of a farmer's land at Sarawa village, near here, yesterday. Mr Nachhatar Singh stated that no bidding took place for the land belonging to Mr Mukhtiar Singh following an appeal by the union leaders. The BKU also held a rally in the village in which union leaders from nearby villages participated.

Addressing the rally, Mr Nachhatar Singh said that Mr Mukhtiar Singh had borrowed Rs 40,000 from one Baldev Singh of the village and in lieu of it had given him four acres. He alleged that despite having a piece of his land Baldev Singh continued to add interest on the loaned amount and made it to Rs 5.9 lakh.

He also got the auction orders for Mukhtiar's land. The union leaders alleged that after Muktair's family came to know about the huge interest payable on the debt his wife tried to commit suicide.

They said that Baldev would be held responsible if any such incident was repeated in Mukhtiar's family in the near future. The leaders pledged that under no situation they would allow the auction of Mukhtiar's land.


Killed farmers’ kin get relief cheques
Our Correspondent

Abohar, December 26
Dependents of all the five farmers, killed during the use of force by the police during farmers' agitation for canal water last month, were given Rs 50,000 each from Kisan Seva Fund launched by the Indian Farmers Fertilisers Cooperative Ltd. (IFFCO) yesterday.

Mr Surender Kumar Jakhar, chairman, IFFCO, handed over the cheques to Mrs Saraswati Devi, Mrs Parvati Devi, Mrs Suman Devi, Mrs Manjit Kaur and Mr Gurdev Singh at a seminar held at Rawla, 73 km from here last evening. He also gave cheques for Rs 10,000 each to Mr Sukhdev Singh, Mr Sukhjit Singh, Mr Jitender Singh, Mr Lalu Ram, Mr Subhash Chander, Mr Raju Ram, Mr Rakesh Kumar and Mr Raja Ram who had been injured due to the lathi charge or firing by the police during the agitation.


Three booked for fraud
Tribune News Service

Kotkapura, December 26
Three persons have been booked for showing a married woman as widow and claiming widow pension for the past 13 years. The accused include the sarpanch of Romana Albel village and a panchayat member, Baldev Singh.

According to sources, complainant Harnek Singh in his complaint to the Deputy Commissioner stated that the village sarpanch and Baldev Singh had been claiming pension in the name of Jarnail Kaur for the past 13 years.

The DC asked the Social Welfare Department to probe into the matter. Investigations revealed that Baldev Singh in connivance with the village sarpanch used to withdraw her widow pension from the account no. 60377 of Oriental Bank, Faridkot, by forging her signature.

It was also revealed that Jarnail Kaur's husband had died 15 years back, but just after a couple of years she was remarried at Mari Mustafa village in Moga. Her pension (account No. PLA 3884) was started 14 years back.

Jarnail Kaur has also been booked for keeping the authorities in dark about her second marriage. The police has arrested Baldev Singh. All three accused have been booked under Sections 419, 420, 467, 468, 406, 471, and 120B of the IPC.


Two booked in dowry case
Tribune News Service

Moga, December 26
Two persons, including the husband of a woman have been booked for harassing her for more dowry.

According to sources, the victim’s brother, Simarjeet Singh of Baraj village, in his complaint to the SSP, said that they had spent more than they could afford in the marriage of his sister. Amandeep Kaur, with Charanjeet Singh. But her husband and father-in-law Arjan Singh started harassing her for more dowry soon after the marriage.

They allegedly threw her out of their house on August 26 and asked her to either bring Rs 5 lakh or a new car from her father. Mr Simarjeet said he went to her in-laws’ house at Gidderbaha along with some panchayat members, but their attitude remained the same.

Following a probe into Simarjeet’s complaint by the DSP, a case has been registered against Charanjeet Singh and Arjan Singh under Sections 406 and 498 of the IPC.


ITO held for taking bribe

Sangrur, December 26
A special CBI team raided local Income Tax office and nabbed Income Tax Officer Sham Sunder Sharma red-handed when he was accepting a bribe of Rs 30,000 from a cement store owner.

The ASP, Mr Surinder Pal, while confirming the arrest of the ITO here on Friday said the accused was demanding Rs 50,000 from the owner but later the deal was struck in Rs 30,000.

Mr Subhash Mittal, cement trader, contacted the CBI office at Chandigarh on Friday and complained against the ITO. After receiving the complaint Mr Surinder Pal along with 15 other officers of the CBI conducted the raid. — UNI


Man duped of Rs 4.5 lakh
Tribune News Service

Moga, December 26
Two residents of Nathuwala Garbi village have been booked for duping a person of Rs 4.5 lakh under the pretext of sending him to Germany.

Sources said the complainant, Jang Singh had stated that his son, Jagrup Singh, who lived in Singapore was willing to migrate to Germany.

Jang Singh came in contact with Jaspal Singh of Nathuwala Garbi village, who promised him to get Jagrup immigrated to Germany through his son, Surinder Singh, who also lived in Singapore, and demanded Rs 4.5 lakh for the job. According to Jang Singh, he paid the money to Jaspal Singh in presence of the ex-sarpanch of Alkara village (Sangrur), Mahinder Singh, on November 11,2002, but he didn’t send his son to Germany.

On the other hand, Surinder also took money from his son for the job. After dilly-dallying for a few days both father and son went back on their words.

On the basis of Jang Singh’s statement, a case has been registered against both the accused under Section 420 of the IPC.


Girl killed, five hurt in mishap
Tribune News Service

Kotkapura, December 26
A girl was killed and five others were injured when a Maruti car collided with a stationary bus at Ajit Gill village, near here, yesterday.

According to sources, the accident occurred when Deepak Kumar, a resident of Bathinda, and his family members were on their way back home after visiting their relatives at Harinau village.

While a 10-year-old girl died on the spot, the injured where rushed to the local Civil Hospital from where they were referred to the Guru Gobind Singh Medical College and Hospital.


National symposium on physics begins at GND varsity
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 26
Dr S.K. Sikka, Scientific Secretary to the Government of India, said the country must collaborate with other nations to develop the costly scientific infrastructure and to gain know-how of the new advancements in the field.

He was here today, to inaugurate the five-day National Symposium on Solid State Physics being hosted by Guru Nanak Dev University.

While speaking to the correspondent on the sidelines of the symposium, Dr Sikka said the pace of development in science and technology was very fast and it involved high costs too. In order to keep in fray, the nation had to open its door for other countries, especially developed ones, to develop infrastructure.

Expressing concern over the meagre number of scientific institutes of international repute in the northern region, he opined, the Central and state governments as well as NGOs should come forward to establish an international-level scientific institutes in this part of the country.

He said the objective of research in this field should only be for the benefit and welfare of the people and the scientists must strive to gain this end.

He drew attention of the gathered scientists over the decline of publication of research papers in India and asked them to carry out solid research work. He emphasised that more research papers should be published and suggested that all 400 papers to be presented during the symposium should be published in a book form.

Dr S.K. Sikka, while presenting his inaugural address, said the year-2005 had been declared as the International Year of Physics by the UNO. This was done to commemorate the centenary of the publication of three papers of the great scientist, Einstein.

He exhorted the young scientists to join the Indian Physics Association (IPA) to celebrate this international year by spreading the message of science and creating scientific temper among the masses.

The symposium was organised by the university under the aegis of its Department of Physics and sponsored by the Board of Research in Nuclear Sciences, Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India.

The distinguished scientists were unanimous that Solid State Physics dealt with the understanding of a variety of phenomena, which in turn led to the growth of new ideas and new devices. They felt that India had made pioneering contribution in several areas of the study and had established itself as a leading country in the fields of Solid State Physics and allied sciences.

Dr V.C. Sahni, Director, Physics Group Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Mumbai and Director, Centre for Advanced Technology (CAT), Indore, introduced the theme of the symposium.

To give impetus to the scientific experiments in the country, Dr Sahni said the new accelerator Synchrotron and the Indus Machines were being setup at CAT, Indore.

He said one of its applications would be to help early and more efficient detection of cancer. “In fact there is a proposal to use the X-rays for mammography to detect breast cancer and this approach could pickup very tiny modules with size of millimeter”, he said and added that this accelerator would be among the few in the world.

Dr R.K. Bedi, local convener of the symposium, gave introduction about the aims and objectives of this national symposium. He said that interactions with scientists from USA, France, Japan, Germany and South Korea would provide opportunity to a number of young physicists of the country. 


Teachers’ body threatens dharna
over headship issue

Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 26
Now the Guru Nanak Dev University Teachers Association (GNDUTA) and students of the Sports Medicine and Physiotherapy Department have crossed swords over the headship issue of the department.

While the teachers association has threatened to hold dharna and boycott Vice-Chancellor, the students have announced to resort to ‘extreme step’ if the university authorities appoint an unqualified and non-physiotherapist as head of department.

Dr Davinder Singh, president of the GNDUTA, said there would be no education, no exams and no administrative work if the university failed to appoint Dr G.S. Kang as head of department by December 29. They also expressed their dissatisfaction over the Vice-Chancellor’s attitude towards the case. He also criticised the state government for interfering in the university matters and said the association would boycott the state ministers in protest against the interference of the government in university matters.


Varsity propagated Punjabi
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 26
There were two great debates in Punjabi University this year. One concerned the status being accorded to Punjabi by the institution which was specifically created for the propagation of the language. The other was how the student agitation, which rose out of the first issue, was to be treated. Was discipline to be considered all important or should the authorities be ready to give chances to student leaders to reform themselves.

While the first issue has been answered by the state government with Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh maintaining that a balance needed to be struck between the need to propagate Punjabi and ensuring that the students of the state do not lose out in the international market because they do not know top class English.

The Chief Minister endorsed the line being followed by the university, which has expanded by opening two engineering colleges and is also giving importance to research in Punjabi.

The second issue is more ticklish. Though Vice-Chancellor Swarn Singh Boparai has had his say till now, it is to be seen if he can be made to bend by the government. The Chief Minister on his part has refused to intervene to solve the issue which for the agitating students means revoking the suspension of four student leaders.

Capt Amarinder Singh, however, gave mixed signals by saying that the university is an autonomous body headed by the Vice-Chancellor but simultaneously meeting agitating students at his residence. With the Vice-Chancellor making it clear that he would not take the students back more is likely to be heard on the issue next year.

Casting aside these two issues, the year has been one of tremendous growth for the Punjabi University. The institution has managed this without government support. The experiment of the Vice-Chancellor to solicit private funding has been very successful. As much as Rs 1 crore was received from a NRI philanthropist, Dr Tarlochan Singh Aujla, to complete Kala Bhawan on the campus. Guru Gyan Prakash Foundation headed by Jasbir Kaur Khalsa has committed Rs 2.5 crore for the establishment of Gurmat Sangeet Bhawan on the campus, work on which has already started.

Work is also likely to start soon on the University College of Engineering on the campus for which the institution plans to spend Rs 25 crore, without government support. The money is being taken on loan from banks. The university chipped in from its own funds to create the Yadvindra College of Engineering at its Regional Centre in Talwandi Sabo. The college is open only to the rural poor, again a first in the country. The Vice-Chancellor has added another feather to his cap by ensuring that the studies of as many as 140 out of the 160 students have been financed by philanthropists.

Other highlights of the year included the hosting of the World Punjabi Conference at the fag end. The conference, which was attended by delegates from Pakistan Punjab, also saw the establishment of World Punjabi Centre on the campus. The Punjab Government has committed Rs 3 crore for the building of the centre and Rs 2 crore to create a corpus aimed at developing Punjabi the world over.

The year also saw the establishment of the Advanced Centre for Technical Development of Punjabi on the campus. The centre released a software package by the name of “Sangam” which can transliterate Gurmukhi into Shahmukhi at the press of a button to benefit Punjabi readers in Pakistan Punjab. On the development side the campus got a coat of white paint which made it look ethereal at night.

A large scale landscaping has been done besides the creation of parking spaces away from the teaching departments. Information and Inquiry Centre has been created near the main gate ensuring that the outsiders do not have to trudge to various offices in the campus. A counselling cell has been opened for students and retiring employees.

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