P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Home Dept seeks Rs 3.72 cr for upgrading jails
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 27
Punjab’s Home Department has reportedly asked the Finance Department to allocate Rs 3.72 crore in the revised budget of 2004-05 for modernisation of prisons in the state.

In all there are seven central jails in the state at Patiala, Bathinda, Ferozepore, Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Jalandhar and Ludhiana. In addition, there are five district jails and 11 sub jails. The prisons have authorised accommodation for 9484 prisoners. The daily average population of jails is around 8200.

Sources in the State Prison Department reveal that the money as and when released by the Punjab Government — combined with Central finances — will be utilised not only for repair of existing jails, but also for construction of “ultra modern high security prisons” in the state. The Central Government has already handed over its share of Rs 11 crore to the Police Housing Corporation for the purpose.

The sources in the Punjab Police headquarters claim that the corporation has in fact commenced work. They add that the entire operation pertaining to the repair and upgradation of jails — including the ones located at Jalandhar, Bathinda and Sangrur — has to be completed by March end next year.

Giving details of modernisation plan, the sources say that besides renovating the existing jails, the authorities are finalising plans for setting up new barracks in some of the over-crowded jails. The sources add that occupancy rate in some of the jails in the state is as high as 150 per cent. The problem of over crowding is worse in the district jails.

The sources claim that the authorities also have plans to set up barracks for staff members, besides improving sanitation facilities in the jails. They add that inmates in several jails are being forced to live in sub-human conditions due to want of adequate sanitation facilities. They further assert that some of the prisons require “urgent attention”. In a few jails even the walls require repair.

The sources also reveal that a five-member committee has been constituted by the state government to finalise the modalities. The committee is headed by Punjab’s Prisons Advisor A.P. Bhatnagar. The other members include Additional Director-General of Police (Prisons) J.P. Virdi, Inspector-General (Prisons) S.K. Dutta, along with Punjab Urban Planning and Development Authority’s Manager, Projects, S.S.Gill, besides Secretary (Home).

As of now, the jails in the state have flush latrines. Ceiling fans have also been provided in all the barracks and cells. This is not all. Radio and television sets have also been provided. Newspapers, books and periodicals too are available. Then there are canteens in the jails. Gurdwaras and mandirs have been established.


No one backed Virk’s extension, Patil tells CM
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 27
Union Home Minister, Shivraj Patil has conveyed to Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh that on the file no officer of the Union Home Ministry has supported the extension of deputation of ADGP S.S. Virk in Punjab.

During his visit to Fatehgarh Sahib on December 25, Mr Patil, according to sources, told Capt Amarinder Singh that he had carefully gone through the case of Mr Virk and had found that no one from the Home Ministry had written on the file to extend the deputation. In fact officers noted on the file that extension would be against rules because Mr Virk had already exhausted his deputation period allowed under rules.

Sources said that though Mr Patil assured Capt Amarinder Singh at Fatehgarh Sahib to reopen the case of Mr Virk, it would not be possible for him to overrule what his ministry officers had already written on the file. In fact a few months ago, the Chief Minister had met Mr Patil to request him to sympathetically consider Mr Virk’s case. During that meeting Mr Patil had assured to do the needful. But Mr Patil was unable to support Mr Virk because of the remarks put on the file by his ministry’s officers.

“Rules would have to be changed to extend the deputation of Mr Virk and there is no other alternative”, say sources. “ It is not clear yet whether Mr Patil would go to the extent of proposing a change in Central rules for deputation to help Capt Amarinder Singh in getting Mr Virk’s deputation extended or not”, say sources.

An officer can be on deputation out of his parent cadre for a period of eight years as per the existing Central Government rules. And for changing the rules, first the case would have to be put before the appointments committee of the Union Government. Then the case to change the rules would go to the Union Council of Ministers for its nod. “ It is a difficult procedure. Moreover, change of rules for a single case is a remote possibility”, says sources.

However, what goes in favour of Mr Virk is that Capt Amarinder Singh wanted to retain him in Punjab by all means. He had tried hard to plead Mr Virk’s case with the Union Ministry. He is still continuing. It has been reported that Capt Amarinder Singh is determined to elevate Mr Virk to the rank of Director General of Police, Punjab, after the retirement of the present incumbent, Mr A.A. Siddiqui, shortly.

Capt Amarinder Singh has been saying that Mr Virk has done exemplary work in Punjab to help in wiping out militancy. He served Punjab when it was passing through a most difficult time. It would not be the right approach to send back such an officer to his parent cadre Maharashtra at the peak of his professional career. In fact even in the present police set-up, Mr Virk is said to be among the police officers who are considered close confidants of the Chief Minister. However, a strong section of IPS officers of Punjab is discreetly opposing the extension to Mr Virk.

Meanwhile, sources said that the Punjab Home Department had advised Mr Virk to hold on for some more time as the state government had again taken up his case with the Union Government for extension in deputation. Following a charge sheet, Mr Virk, according to sources, has sought advice of the Home Department in this regard.

The Union Home Ministry had recently issued a charge sheet to Mr Virk asking him to explain why he did not go back to his parent cadre state, Maharashtra. In fact in April this year Mr Virk was asked by the Union Home Ministry to report back to his parent cadre state by April, 30.

However, Mr Virk was not relieved by the Punjab Government.


Punjab to give all possible aid to southern states
Tribune News Service

Moga, December 27
Punjab Food and Civil Supplies Minister Avtar Henry today said the state government would offer all possible aid to the southern states, which were hit by devastating tsunami waves yesterday.

The minister stated this while interacting with mediapersons here.

Replying to a query regarding handing over midday meal scheme to village panchayats, Mr Henry said the exercise was a part of empowering village panchayats. He expressed hope that panchayats would be able to handle the scheme well.

Regarding the dues of cane farmers, the minister said the state government was paying their dues as and when its financial condition allowed them to.

He said the government would also try to pay the remaining Rs 20 per quintal bonus to the paddy growers of the state.

Earlier, the minister presided over the monthly meeting of the District Grievances Committee, in which the issue of urea shortage was taken up. The minister asked the officials concerned to make sure that there was no shortage of urea in the district.

He also issued directions for cleaning up of a drain in Langeana village. Prior to start of the meeting, a two-minute silence was observed in the memory of former PM Narsimha Rao and president of Moga NRI Sabha Maninder Singh Gill.

The Deputy Commissioner, Mr Mandeep Singh, SP (H), Mr Surjeet Singh, and other officials were also present at the meeting.


CM, Badal express grief
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 27
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, former Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, in separate statements have expressed deep grief over the death of thousands of people in the tidal wave tragedy in India and abroad.

The Chief Minister has promised to extend all possible help to the grief-stricken families and others affected by the tragedy at coastal towns and cities.


Bibi Jagir Kaur expresses shock over earthquake
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 27
Bibi Jagir Kaur, President, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee today expressed her deep shock over the death of thousands of people in the South Asia due to devastation by Tsunami waves and massive earthquake.

In a press statement issued here, she appealed to the Government of India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, International Red Cross and volunteer organisations to extend all possible help for the rehabilitation of affected people. She also appealed to the managing committees of all gurdwaras situated in the affected areas to organise langar.


Dhumma’s nomination causes split in Damdami Taksal
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Chowk Mehta (Amritsar), December 27
The 300-year-old Sikh seminary — Damdami Taksal — witnessed a split once again following the nomination of Baba Harnam Singh Dhumma (36), a US citizen, as the successor of Baba Thakur Singh, six days before Baba Thakur Singh’s antim ardas.

Baba Dhumma had settled in the USA in early nineties when militancy in Punjab was at its peak.

Baba Ram Singh, a former priest of Golden Temple, however, claimed that he was the “real Jathedar”, as Baba Thakur Singh himself had given him “Dastar” (turban) and nominated him as the 15th Jathedar of the Taksal on June 17 last year in the USA. Baba Ram Singh and family members of Sant Kartar Singh Bhinderanwale (predecessor of Sant Jarnail Bhinderanwale), including Bhai Manjit Singh and Bhai Tarlochan Singh, president All-India Sikh Students Federation, openly supported Baba Ram Singh. They said a parallel antim ardas would be held at Gurshabad Parkash Gurdwara, at Sangrai village, Batala, instead of Chowk Mehta, as they don’t want any confrontation.

The gurdwara would be the parallel headquarters of the breakaway group of the Taksal. The ideological difference between both would be that the breakaway group believed that Sant Bhinderanwale had died in Operation Bluestar, as stated by Akal Takht and the SGPC, while the Taksal (Chowk Mehta) would continue to keep the myth of Baba Thakur Singh that Sant Bhinderanwale was still alive for some more time.

The split in Damdami Taksal has come after 35 years. Earlier, after the death of Sant Gurbachan Singh, his successor Sant Kartar Singh had shifted from the actual headquarters — Bhindera to Chowk Mehta in 1969. Though Sant Mohan Singh was given “Dastar” by the family of Sant Gurbachan Singh, the Chowk Mehta became the mainstream Taksal. Baba Ram Singh and his supporters claim that Gurdwara Gurshabad would become “real headquarters” of Damdami Taksal as in the past.

He showed pictures of Baba Thakur Singh presenting “Dastar” and his signed statement. The eyewitness to this ceremony when “Dastar” was presented to Baba Ram Singh in the USA, including Baba Dharm Singh, Bhai Mukhtiyar Singh and Raagi Sarwan Singh (all from USA) who had specially flown here, said that Baba Thakur Singh had never backed out from his decision. They alleged that certain Taksal leaders, having vested interests, had held Baba Thakur Singh in “captivity” and spread a rumour that he (Bhai Ram Singh) was never nominated as his successor .

The decision to nominate Baba Harnam Singh as successor of Baba Thakur Singh, even before the antim ardas has raised many eyebrows. Sources pointed out that this step had to be taken in the wake of moves of certain lobbies. Baba Ram Singh and his supporters alleged that the “back door” nomination of Baba Harnam Singh had created suspicion in the minds of Sikh Sangat, as no Sikh institution was taken into confidence.

Today, “Dastar” was given to Baba Harnam Singh Dhumma by the “five beloved ones” including Bhai Jaswant Singh, Bhai Mal Singh — both priests of Golden Temple, Bhai Mohkam Singh, Bhai Gurdip Singh and Bhai Gurjit Singh Jagadhri. Bhai Jasbir Singh Rode, a former Jathedar of Akal Takht was also present on the occasion.


Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan ends on melodious note
Minna Zutshi
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, December 27
Sonorous notes of sitar, vigorous beat of tabla, sheer melody of santoor, mellifluous lilt of sarod, rich inflection of ragas rendered in unique styles — it was a complete musical fare at the third and concluding night of the 129th Shree Baba Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan organised at Devi Talab Mandir here yesterday.

Pakistani tabla maestro Tafoo Khan, with his puckish wit and amazing tabla-playing skills, made the programme memorable. Young sitarist Prateek Chaudhuri’s sitar vadan regaled music lovers, as his performance gave ample glimpses of his father Debu Chaudhuri’s genius. Gwalior Gharana’s scion, Meeta Pandit, demonstrated her virtuosity right from the start when she rendered Raga Durga. Her bandish “Sanya Moray” in Raga Gaur Malhaar was equally engaging.

For sarod player Tejendra Narayan Majumdar, Raga Darbari was the take-off point from where he went on to charm the much-impressed audience. Vocalist Madhav Gudi, whose style was reminiscent of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, rendered beautifully “Pag lagan do maharaj”. He signed off with thumri that was well-received by the audience.

Earlier during the day, Balwant Singh Namdhari’s santoor presentation reminded the audience of the melodic call of shattantri veena (hundred-stringed veena) from the picturesque vale of Kashmir. Kolkata-based vocalist Anjana Nath, in her well-rehearsed voice, rendered Raga Bhatiyaar and presented thumri in Raga Jogiyaa.

The night was an ode to harmony, though there were a few jarring notes like the interruption in Meeta Pandit’s performance to facilitate former Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, to deliver his homilies on music and sangeet sammelan.

It was the scintillating rendition of Bahaar by the noted vocalist Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty that marked the end of the sammelan. Pandit Chakraborty first sang Bilaskhani Todi followed by Bhairvi. As the sammelan reached its close, the musical notes had already wafted from the deep of the night to the dawn of today.


Gag order served on The Tribune
Furnishing of groundwater data
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 27
Instead of taking corrective measures to project the right picture of the groundwater level in the state, the Agriculture Department has reportedly chosen to issue a gag order on the release of such data to the media.

The Tribune had on August 4 highlighted that the data compiled from the villages did not paint an accurate picture of the grim groundwater situation in the state since the figures forwarded by the field officials were way off the mark. And this data was used by the state government to buttress its case before abrogating all water accords in wake of the SYL issue.

The then Director of Agriculture, Dr Ajmer Singh, had said he would get the matter investigated but did not do so before superannuating on October 31.

Sources in the department said they had been asked not to entertain any queries in this context or handover the latest data to mediapersons. The gag orders were allegedly issued recently after the department failed to release revised figures recorded in October, the sources pointed out.

For example: Mr Hardev Singh Sandhu, president of the Kirti Kisan Union, said in his village, Manuke, in Ludhiana district, the officially recorded average fall in the water table was 1 foot 3 inches while in fact it had gone down by over 11 feet. Similary, the figures for Leelan Megh Singh village were eight inches while in reality the fall is more than 10 feet, he alleged.

Activists of the Bharti Kisan Union (Lakhowal) too have smelled a rat when the department refused to release the figures recorded in October.

BKU chief Ajmer Singh Lakhowal said the faulty recordings were the norm in other districts as well. At a time when the state is trying to plead its case in the court and among the people, such lapses were criminal and the guilty officials should be taken to task. Till that is done, the entire record pertaining to this issue should be sealed and a fresh survey should be ordered by the government, he added.

The standard practice is that Agriculture Department officials visit specific villages in June and October every year and record the fall or rise in the watertable by examining old wells or gadgets installed at various places. The entries are then compiled and submitted to the government for assessing the actual groundwater position.

This data not only plays a pivotal role when planning water management policies are drafted but also formed the base of the SYL imbroglio wherein Punjab had pleaded that it does not have any spare water since the groundwater situation has reached critical proportions.

A perusal of the entries recorded by the field staff and the figures collected by The Tribune team in mid-July from the same villages had revealed that there were differences of several feet between both the figures. In specific instances, the actual fall in the watertable is many times more than the officially recorded entry.

Dr Rajinder Singh Pandher, District Chief Agricultural Officer, confirmed that they had been directed by the authorities to refrain from answering any queries in this context or supply the figures, as was the practice earlier.


NGO demands inquiry into boat tragedy
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 27
Eight years after 300 youngsters perished in the Malta boat tragedy, a non-government organisation (NGO) today sought inquiry into the incident after meeting Punjab Governor Gen. S.F. Rodrigues.

The NGO, Malta Boat tragedy Probe Mission, also demanded the establishment of a memorial, besides the retrieval of remains of young men from the deep seas. Compensation for the bereaved families was also sought. They also demanded that the list of the deceased should be released, along with the death certificates.

The members claimed that they had already visited Malta, Greece, Italy and other countries in an attempt to collect facts and were of the opinion that the Central Government should become a party in the on-going cases. They added that the cases were currently being heard in Italy, Greece, Malta and Italy.


New portents in Punjab politics
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, December 27
Punjab politics has witnessed interesting ups and downs during the past few months. While the Akalis have been feeling the pain of departure of Jathedar Gurcharan Singh Tohra and have been vying with each other to fill the vacuum created by his death in Akali politics, the Congress has witnessed dissidence within its ranks.

Contrary to Congress traditions, this time, the ministers as well as those associated with the establishment of the party and the Government have been vocal. Political observers were anticipating change in the leadership of the government. But all conjectures, hopes and prophecies were belied. Captain Amarinder Singh remains at the centrestage. He has since consolidated his position thanks to the World Punjabi Conference held at Patiala followed by the first Indo-Pak Punjab Games. The visit of Mr Parvez Elahi, Chief Minister of Pakistan Punjab, proved quite helpful. The gestures on both sides were positive and all the deliberations remained within the parameters of decency and diplomatic norms.

The Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal also patched up and sunk their differences.

The Akalis during this period got busy in organising the function in connection with the 300th anniversary of the martyrdom of four sons and mother of Guru Gobind Singh although was the concern of the SGPC to organise the celebrations being the apex religious body of the Sikhs. But Mr Parkash Singh Badal, president, Shiromani Akali Dal who holds the lever of power in Sikh politics, remained visible and appeared exercising his authorities at every level. The president of the SGPC and other functionaries only played second fiddle. Although it was maintained by the SGPC that the celebrations would conform only to religious norms the overbearing presence of the Akali Dal hierarchy made it look otherwise. These celebrations were organised at two places — Chamkaur Sahib and Fatehgarh Sahib. It was for the first time that Chief Minister Amarinder Singh took the initiative to galvanise his position by shrewdly organising a separate religious function at both the places... which were intended to show that there was a sizeable number of Sikhs who did not like the Akali dominance in the religious affairs, their victory in the SGPC elections notwithstanding. Although the function at Fatehgarh Sahib was marred by unsavoury remarks by the PPCC president, Mr H.S. Hanspal, against the Akalis, Capt Amarinder Singh did not fail to drive home the point that he was a devout Sikh and was anxious to pay homage to the martyrs as reverently as the Akalis. On this occasion, he declared the creation of a subdivision at Chamkaur Sahib. This was a long pending demand of the area and the same was raised a number of times during the Akali regime. He also announced the establishment of state-of-art paediatrics hospital at Fatehgarh Sahib in memory of the Sahibzadas.

The Akalis also raised their voice against social evils in society.

By and large, devotees participated in the function at two places with great enthusiasm. It has been gathered that the offerings at Chamkaur Sahib were to the tune of about Rs 20 lakh this year against Rs 2 lakh in a normal year. Similar must have been the case in Fatehgarh Sahib where the participation was much larger.

But it was quite surprising that the people this time kept themselves away from the conferences organised by the Akali and the Congress. The gathering at Chamkaur Sahib were very poor at these conferences. However, at Fatehgarh Sahib, the Conference organised by the Punjab Government which was addressed by the Chief Minister and the Union Home Minister attracted a good crowd as compared with the Akali conference addressed by Mr Badal. This shows disenchantment of the people with state politics who are losing their credibility. The Akali politicians seem to be conscious of this fact.

The other Akali factions also organised their separate conferences on this occasion. Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, president, Akali Dal (Amritsar) organised a Sikhi Sidaq March from Damdama Sahib which attracted a good crowd. He also highlighted the failures of the Shiromani Akali Dal on all fronts and was emphatic about the protection of Sikh interests.


Khurana has tough time at meeting in Jalandhar
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 27
Former Delhi Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Madan Lal Khurana faced a lot of hostility from senior BJP leaders of Punjab at a party meeting in Jalandhar yesterday.

Mr Khurana, who was recently made zonal general secretary of the party and given charge of party affairs in Punjab and two other states, had presided over the meeting. Sources said that a lot of bad blood was created at the meeting. It witnessed an exchange of hot words among senior leaders of the BJP. There were serious difference among senior party leaders over the continuation of the political alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) headed by, Mr Parkash Singh Badal in Punjab.

There is an influential section of the BJP leaders in Punjab that wanted the severing of political ties with SAD and to adopt an independent political line on various issues concerning the state. Such section of leaders strongly argued for expanding the base of the party by freeing it from the political clutches of SAD and its leader, Mr Badal.

They gave the example of Haryana where the BJP had decided go it alone in the Assembly elections and to severe political ties with Haryana Chief Minister, Om Parkash Chautala. Mr Badal had tried his best for an electoral alliance of the BJP and Mr Chautala’s party in Haryana.

Sources said that the RSS was also supporting the view that the BJP in Punjab should establish its independent political identity and should not play as political tale carrier of SAD.

However, Mr Khurana, according to sources, adopted a pro- Akali line at the meeting and advocated the continuation of political strong ties with SAD. Sources said that Mr Khurana was of the view that the party was not in a position yet to expand its political base on its own in the countryside and it could only capture political power by playing as active partner of SAD. Mr Khurana is known to be close to the akalis.

Mr Khruana asked senior BJP leaders of the state why representation of the party had come down to two in the Punjab Assembly. However, leaders like Mr Brij Lal Rinwa had heated arguments with Mr Khurana on this issue. In fact Mr Rinwa, according to sources, asked Mr Khurana to use polite language while discussing the party issues. Mr Rinwa, sources said, told Mr Khurana in clear words that the BJP in the state would go by the advice of the RSS and none else.

Mr Khurana asked senior leaders why did certain leaders, who had made a tremendous contribution for the party, quit the BJP in the recent past. He specifically named leaders like Mr Partap Inder Singh Phoolka and Mr Daya Singh Sodhi, sources added.


PSEB launches welfare schemes for employees
Our Correspondent

Patiala, December 27
The Punjab State Electricity Board today launched several schemes for the welfare of its employees even as the board Chairman, Mr Y.S. Ratra, distributed cheques among about 100 dependents of the deceased employees from all the five operational zones of the board at a function held here.

Taking into consideration the financial hardships faced by the dependents of the deceased employees, Mr Ratra issued instructions to the senior field and other officers to ensure immediate compliance of the schemes to expedite payment of cash compensation ranging between Rs 3 lakh and Rs 5 lakh. It has also been decided to release the liberalised pension equivalent to the last basic pay drawn by the deceased employee plus daily allowance as applicable from time to time till the actual date of superannuation, in lieu of compassionate employment.

According to an official press release, so far 1,200 cases had been completed and payments in future will be made in phases which will be distributed during similar ceremonies to be organised at all the operational zones of the board.

Mr Ratra said that the remaining cases were likely to be completed shortly and added that the board had to bear the financial liability of Rs 43 crore to pay for the scheme.

Meanwhile, the board has appealed to the legitimate dependents of the deceased board employees to contact the office where the deceased employee was last working to complete the formalities.

The others who attended the function were Mr Raman Bhalla, Administrative Member (AM), Mr H.S. Sohi, Member (Finance and Accounts), Mr H.S. Sood, Member (Distribution) and Mr H.M.Jain, Member (Generation)


Billing complaints against Reliance
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, December 27
Complaints have been received against Reliance India Phone (wireless services) here over the payment of bills.

This reporter was today told by at least three customers that even though they had paid the telephone bills much before the due date of payment, they were shocked to find that their connection had been discontinued abruptly yesterday. Since it was Sunday, they were left high and dry, as the office was closed. A customer even threatened to knock at the doors of the District Consumer Court against deficient service and unnecessary harassment caused to him by the company.

Mr Hirdepal Singh, having telephone no 01824-394154, alleged that he had paid the bill of Rs 619 on December 7 but even then his telephone service was discontinued yesterday. Perturbed over this, Hirdepal today declared in the Hargobindnagar office of the company in the presence of the staff that he would drag them to consumer court.

Another customer, having telephone no 01824-309503, told this correspondent that he had paid the bill of Rs 650 on December 3 even though its due date was December 13. But his telephone was discontinued yesterday. It was restored today afternoon only after he protested in the office of the company this morning.

An employee of the Messrs Indian Steel and Building Material said that though they had got the telephone no 01824-309949 cut off on April after clearing all previous dues, they had got a bill of Rs 3539 on November 11 with due date of payment falling on December 10.

Another customer lamented that even though he had not received any bill so far for his telephone no 01824-309932, his service was discontinued yesterday without any intimation.


Watershed project approved
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, December 27
The Government of India has approved a project, namely “Lehragaga Watershed”, submitted by the District Rural Development Agency, Sangrur, costing Rs 2.22 crore. Out of this amount, Rs 203.50 lakh will be released by the Central Government, while Rs 18.50 lakh will be provided by the state government.

According to official information here today, the project will be completed in five years. Sixty two villages in Lehragaga and Andana blocks of the district will be covered to undertake soil and water conservation works.

The project will be implemented through gram panchayats with technical guidance of the Soil Conservation Department as the project implementing agency.

User groups of farmers and self-help groups of below poverty line families will be formed to carry out the works and maintenance.

Farmers of the area have been advised to associate in the implementation of the project.


DC presented siropa
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, December 27
Various religious and social organisations led by Mr Subegh Singh, manager and Bhai Baldev Singh, Head Granthi of Gurdwara Fatehgarh Sahib, today honoured Mr S. K. Ahluwalia, Deputy Commissioner, and presented siropa for commemorating the tercentenary of the martyrdom of the Sahibzadas in a purely religious manner and not allowing anybody to indulge in the playing of loudspeakers, putting up amusement, circus, gambling and dance stalls.

The SGPC President, Bibi Jagir Kaur, Mr Bir Devinder Singh, former deputy speaker and all SGPC members from district also appreciated the steps taken by the administration to convert this mela into Saheedi Jor Mela.

Mr S.K. Ahluwalia thanked everybody for co-operating in commemorating the tercentenary in true religious spirit.

He said it had been made possible with the cooperation of the every section of society.

He thanked Chief Minister for sanctioning enough funds for the occasion. He said that it was for the first time that no untoward incident was reported. He appreciated the role and arrangements made by the district police.


Revenue officers to resume agitation
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, December 27
The Punjab Revenue Officers Association today decided to resume and intensify its agitation. It also decided that the circle revenue officers of Jalandhar Division comprising Kapurthala, Jalandhar, Amritsar, Nawanshahr, Hoshiarpur and Gurdaspur districts would resort to mass casual leave on December 30 and 31.

They further decided to hold a demonstration and rally outside Parliament House on December 31 to demand arrest of Mr P.S. Passi, president of the All-India Anti-Corruption Forum and his six aides for using a caste specific language against the Naib Tehsildar-cum-Executive Magistrate, Phagwara, Mrs Seema Singh, in her office on December 6 and threatening her with a pistol.

Disclosing this here, Mr Gurmit Singh Nadala, association general secretary, declared that the protesters would also call on the Chairman of the SC and ST Commission and submit him a memorandum at New Delhi on December 31. The meeting flayed police for dilly-dallying over the arrest of Mr Passi and other culprits. It wondered that the Punjab police had failed to arrest the culprits even 21 days after the incidence.

It was on the assurance of the Deputy Commissioner given on behalf of the Commissioner that revenue officers and other revenue and ministerial staff had suspended their 10-day-old agitation.


Ramoowalia protests against toll tax
Tribune News Service

Kotkapura, December 27
The Lok Bhalai Party chief and member of National Commission for Minorities’ Educational Institutions, Mr Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, has protested against the toll tax being charged by the state government and termed it as “loot” of the people. Mr Ramoowalia said this while addressing a press conference here last evening.

He alleged that the vehicles passing through Shambhu, Doraha, and Karnal barriers were being “looted” openly.

He said that about 47,000 vehicles pass through this road daily and if the government spent even a small amount of what was being charged as toll tax, their condition would improve. Mr Ramoowalia lashed out at some farmer’ bodies and said on one hand they said they were fighting for farmers’ interest, while on the other hand they had joined hands with the Akalis at the time of elections.

He said that to redress farmers’ grievances he was going to form an all-India kisan sabha.

Mr Rachhpal Singh would head the party, while Mr Lahembar Singh Tagar would be its general secretary. The party would fight for the farmers’ cause, he added.


Protest by MC workers
Our Correspondent

Patiala, December 27
The Safai Majdoor Federation, Municipal Workers Union, Nagar Palika Workers and Technical Employees Union held a demonstration in front of the Municipal Corporation office in protest against the deputation of the Health Officer, Dr. Karamjit Singh.

The union leaders here informed that the Health Officer had misbehaved with the safai workers. They also demanded that funds for the family members of the dead workers should be released apart from demanding jobs for the next of the kin of the deceased.

The union leaders said they would hold their next meeting on January 4 to protest against the behaviour of the Health Officer and also to protest against the non-redressal of their other demands.


Annual credit plan progress reviewed
Our Correspondent

Patiala, December 27
A meeting of the District Level Consultant Committee (DLCC) under the chairmanship of Mr M.K. Rastogi, Deputy General Manager, State Bank of Patiala, was held at Red Cross Bhavan today to review the progress of annual credit plan for 2004-05 and implementation of government sponsored schemes.

Mr J.K. Jain, lead district manager of the bank, said various banks had distributed Rs 768 crore as loans against a target of Rs 645 crore under priority sector by September this year.

Mr Rastogi urged banks to make efforts to enhance credit flow to agriculture sector and form self-help groups.

Mr C.M. Tripathi, Assistant General Manager, Reserve Bank of India, Chandigarh, briefed the house about latest developments under the lead bank scheme and measures taken by the RBI to increase credit flow to agriculture and SSI sector.

Mr J.P.S. Bindra, Assistant General Manager, NABARD, discussed the progress of the District Rural Industrial Project.


Cold claims life in Jalandhar

Jalandhar, December 27
The toll due to the ongoing cold wave in the northern region was increased today when the body of an aged man was found lying in the Buta Mandi area.

It seems that the deceased has died due to bitter cold as he was not wearing appropriate cloths, police sources said, adding that the body had been sent for post mortem.

The identity of the deceased was yet to be ascertained. — PTI


Improvement Trust Chairman dead
Our Correspondent

Barnala, December 27
Mr Prem Chand Aggarwal, senior Congress leader and Chairman, Improvement Trust , Barnala, died today following heart failure. He was 62.

He is survived by three sons and his wife. He was also chairman of the Punjab Pradesh Beopar Mandal. He also served the city as president of the municipal committee for five years. He was also associated with various social organisations.

Former Union Minister, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, ADC, Mr N.S. Walia, SDM, Mr Jora Singh, SSP, Mr Amit Prasad and many others paid their last respects to the departed soul.


Govt forcing farmers to follow crop cycle: BKU
Tribune News Service

Moga, December 27
The Bharatiya Kisan Union (Punjab) today alleged that the state government was forcing the farmers to follow the traditional crop cycle. The state union president, Mr Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, stated this while addressing mediapersons here.

Mr Lakhowal said the state government had failed to pay the dues of cane farmers and they were being given a price of Rs 70 per quintal regularly which ultimately compelled them to sow paddy and wheat. He alleged that this year too the state government wasn’t announcing the price of sugarcane so that the rest of the farmers leave cane farming.

He demanded that a price of Rs 154 per quintal as per the price index be declared and farmers should be encouraged to sow sugurcane. He also asked the government to pay Rs 20 per quintal as bonus to paddy growers of the state. He said the state government had only paid Rs 10 per quintal as bonus out of Rs 30 per quintal announced.

The union leaders demanded that the state government should write off the loans of farmers to get them out of financial crisis and be given loan at 4 per cent annual interest. They termed the present rate of interest of 11 to 13 per cent as injustice to the farmers.

They also urged the government to formulate norms for taking debt from ‘arhtiyas’, and ‘arhtiyas’ should give passbooks to the farmers. They asked the government to make it sure that a farmer’s land, tractor, home, and jewellery be not allowed to auction to recover his loan and instead of auctioning his property, one fifth of his profit be charged from him, they demanded.

The general secretary (Press), Mr Bhupinder Sing Mahesari, said the Congress government had failed to provide free power and water to farmers despite promising the same in the party’s manifesto.

The working union president, Prof Manjeet Singh Kadian, said an executive meeting had been called at the union’s Ludhiana office on January 10 to intensify ‘Jamin Bachao-Kisan Bachao’ campaign in the state. The union leaders said they would hold village and block level meetings next month, following which they would stage protests in all districts in February.


BKU (Ekta) activists protest against arrest of two farmers
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, December 27
A large number of farmers and activists of the Bharatiya Kisan Union-Ekta (Sidhupur), led by Mr Manjit Singh Dhaner, district president of the union, today staged a dharna in front of the office of District Manager (DM), Housefed, here. They were protesting against the arrest of two farmers, Mr Harmel Singh of Shahpur village and Mr Mann Singh of Takipur village, who could not repay the instalments of loan taken from the Housefed to build their houses, and demanded immediate release of the arrested farmers.

Mr Manjit Singh Dhaner, said both farmers had taken Rs 1 lakh each as loan from the Housefed, but could not repay the loan instalments due to financial crisis. The officials of the Housefed arrested both farmers in the second week of this month and sent them to jail despite the assurance given by the Chief Minister that no farmer would be arrested in case he failed to repay the loan. He said with the arrest of these two farmers the government had failed to keep its word.

He said they had chalked out a programme to gherao the DM, Housefed, in his office here today, but he could not turn up in view of their protest. He said they would continue to gherao the DM in the days to come till the release of farmers.

Mr Dhaner said a deputation of farmers had met the DM, Housefed, and the local SDM recently to get the farmers released, but both officers did nothing for their release.

The dharna was addressed among others by Mr Manjit Singh Dhaner, Mr Ruldu Singh Mansa and Mr Hardev Singh Sakrodi, president, senior vice-president and secretary, respectvely of the BKU-Ekta (Sidhupur).


Arrested ISI agent sent to police remand
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 27
The ISI agent held by the Intelligence Bureau in a joint operation with the district police has been sent to five-day police remand. He would be presented in court on December 30.

It may be mentioned that Rashid Masih, a resident of Sialkot, Pakistan, was arrested by the police at a cyber café near Guru Nanak Dev University when he was sending secret information regarding Army positions in Amritsar. He was sent to India by Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan through Nepal border.

A case under Section 14 of the Foreigner Act and 3/9 of the Official Secrets Act, has been registered against him. The accused had given information regarding positions of the Sikh, Bihar regiments and Air Force in Amritsar to their accomplices in Pakistan.


PTU to begin academic auditing scheme
Bipin Bhardwaj

Dera Bassi, December 27
Punjab Technical University (PTU), Jalandhar, has decided to introduce an academic auditing scheme for tightening the noose around different private technical colleges that have been functioning with inadequate infrastructure and teaching staff and having poor job placement services. This scheme would be enforced from the next academic session, claimed Dr SK Salwan, Vice-Chancellor of Punjab Technical University, Jalandhar.

Dr Salwan was chairing the 19th Academic Council meeting organised by PTU officials at Sri Sukhmani Institute of Engineering and Technology, Dera Bassi. More than 70 principals of various engineering and management colleges, affiliated with the university, attended the meeting.

In an interview with The Tribune, Dr Salwan disclosed that the team will comprise prominent technical educationists and some members of the Academic Council of the technical colleges. The team will visit different colleges, affiliated with PTU and inspect infrastructure, educational qualifications of the teaching staff, besides placements being provided to their respective products.

The team would be directed to submit comprehensive reports of every college regarding the norms laid down by the government for running an engineering institute and technical college.

Dr Salwan said that the colleges found functioning in violation of the guidelines laid down by the government would lose their affiliation with PTU. The VC also asked the owners of various private engineering colleges, saying that their aim should be to prove quality education for budding engineers and not to earn money.

The VC also claimed that out of 12,510 seats in 40 engineering colleges, affiliated with the university, over 4,000 seats have been lying vacant. Six new engineering colleges have been opened in 2004, following which the number of vacant seats in different colleges have gone up as compared to the previous year.

Dr Salwan claimed the university had received information that 15 engineering colleges, with 30 to 40 enrolled students in various courses in each college, have been imparting technical education with inadequate infrastructure and teaching staff as per the guidelines of the government.

Apart from the principals of the engineering colleges, Dr Ms Grewal, Registrar of PTU, and Deans of various department of the university also attended the meeting. 


12 papers presented on second day of symposium
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 27
More than one dozen research papers were presented on the second day of the five-day National Symposium on Solid State Physics being held at Guru Nanak Dev University here.

Prof V.N. Bhoraskar from Indore highlighted the availability of various facilities under the University Grants Commission and Department of Atomic Energy. In his paper, Prof Bhoraskar said a large number of researchers were carrying out work in various fields such as synthesis and characterisation of multiplayer thin films, nano-structures, composites, thick films, devices, novel materials, alloys etc; applications of laser, nuclear techniques and particles beams in material sciences.

He said though there was no dearth of new ideas and approaches, but the researchers from universities had to struggle hard to work in the frontline areas and also for maintaining the level of work on par with the international standards.

Prof Bhoraskar said this was mainly due to the limited research facilities available in the university setup.

Prof M. Tokumoto from Japan in his lecture on carbon nanotubes said electronic property of carbon nanotubes depended crucially on their structures. He presented emerging applications of carbon nanotubes which had been known to demonstrate many interesting properties. Prof Sung Ik Lee from Pohang University, South Korea, presented novel properties of new super conductor materials, which could stand to high transmission temperature.

Prof Lov K. Grover from Bell Labs, Murray Hill, USA, discussed recent developments in the field of quantum computing, a futuristic concept for data storage.

Prof Ravi Mehrotra of National Physical Laboratory, New Delhi, explained the existence of different periodic patterns in nature such as convection in fluids biological patterns.


Beopar Mandal threatens stir
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, December 27
The Punjab Beopar Mandal has threatened a statewide agitation, if the government could not reviewed its policies regarding imposition of value added tax (VAT).

This was stated by Punjab Beopar Mandal president Amrit Lal Jain while talking with newspersons here today.

Mr Jain said the traders of the state would initiate a district-level awakening campaign in all districts of the state on January 15 and will wear black badges on January 17 at all district headquarters of the state. Mr Jain threatened that traders would observe one-day “Punjab bandh in February. If the government could not reviewed its decision till then.

He also condemned the octroi policy of the state.

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