P U N J A B    S T O R I E S




PM plans debt relief for states
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 30
The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, is preparing to announce a big financial package in shape of financial relief to lessen the burden of various central loans and debt on the states.

Informed sources said the relief would come to the states from the Centre in the wake of the recommendations made by the 12th Finance Commission. The report of the Commission is already with the Prime Minister. Sources said various aspects of the deal are being examined by the Prime Minister’s office before sending it to Union Finance Ministry and further to the Cabinet for approval.

Weeks ago, the Commission had submitted the report to the President of India, who forwarded the same to the Prime Minister. Almost, all states are virtually groaning under heavy debt. For instance, the burden of various loans on Punjab is over Rs 50,000 crore. Punjab has to pay a large part of its revenue to return the loan and interest on it. In certain states like Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra etc the loan money is in the range of Rs 1,00,000 crore.

The Finance Commission has been specifically asked to take a comprehensive view of the debt problem of the states. Besides it, the states had also submitted representations to the Commission, which interacted with the state government, before finalising its report.

Informed sources said the period of maturity of the central loans would be extended. For instance, the loan money, which earlier states have to return in 15 years, now may be asked to return in 25 years. It would provide a big relief to the states. The loan amount would be spread on a larger period and the instalments to return the loan would become smaller.

The Union Government is also considering to drastically reduce the interest on Central loans. The sources said the Union Government wanted to rationalise the interest on loans keeping in view the availability of money from various international institutions on marginal interest rates. With the reduction of interest on loans, the state would start breathing easy and would be able to spare more money from its revenue for development. At present, most of the states are exhausting most of their revenue to pay salaries, in returning loans and other fixed social obligations such as payment of pensions to old aged persons etc.

Another big step, which is being planned, is to increase the white money in circulation in the country. At present, black money is ruling the roost especially in property and other big deals. Compared to black money, people have less of white money in their hands. Sources said the Union Government is considering that the income tax rates should be lowered further to enable people to pay income tax to generate white money. High rates of income tax forbid people to pay the tax on the money earned by them.

There is an estimate that about Rs 2,500 crore could be collected as stamp duty in Punjab keeping in view the transaction of money on property deals in the urban areas of the state. But most of the money for such deals is given as black money on which no stamp duty is paid.


A missing family hailed from Ropar
Kiran Deep
Tribune News Service

Tajpura (Ropar), December 30
Ten members of a family, hailing from Tajpura village, 25 km from Ropar, have been missing from Nicobar Island since Sunday’s disaster.

Despite repeated attempts, their relatives here could not trace Mr Parkash Singh and his family members. They were living in Campbell Bay. The family was among Sikh ex-servicemen from Punjab who had settled in Nicobar Island in 1970s.

“My brother, who was a member of the Azad Hind Fauj, had been allotted 18 acres for farming by the government,” said Mr Saroop Singh (70), a brother of Mr Parkash Singh.

Mr Saroop Singh, who hardly moves outside, has been making telephone calls to his brother continuously since he came to know about the disaster.

Sitting outside his house, he keeps on asking every passer-by about the whereabouts of Mr Parkash Singh and his family members.

“My brother is living along with his three sons, Paramjit Singh, Harvinder and Mandeep Singh, all of them married. Parkash is the only hope for us. I have three daughters, all of them married. There is no one here to take care of my wife, Surjit Kaur, and me. My brother and his family members have been meeting us regularly. Even his grandson was got married in Ropar district last year,” said sobbing Saroop Singh.

“I visited Nicobar Island in 1976. Last week, I talked to my brother on the phone as he was unwell for quite sometime. He expressed his desire to meet us soon,” said the old man.

Ms Surjit Kaur (60), wife of Mr Saroop Singh, said some of the household items belonging to Mr Parkash Singh were kept here as they occasionally visited this village.

“We have tried to contact them on the phone, but all our attempts have been futile. We have now decided to approach the district administration,” said Mr Harmeet Singh, a former sarpanch of the village.


Contribute liberally for tsunami victims, says CPI
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 30
The Punjab unit of the Communist Party of India ( CPI) has made a fervent appeal to the people of the state, its own members and those of various other mass organisations to donate liberally to help the tsunami victims in various parts of the country.

They have also decided to collect relief material and money to contribute in the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund, Dr Joginder Dayal, secretary of the Punjab State Council of the CPI said after the meeting of the state secretariat held here today.

They have also urged the state government to set up state relief committee so that joint efforts could be made to help the victims in distress.

The deteriorating economic, financial, social and administrative situation in the state was also discussed. It was pointed out that due to the so-called new policies and reforms, the growth of the state has come down to 2 per cent compared to 5 per cent in the last decade. 


CBI frames charges in 6 Punwire cases
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Mohali, December 30
Field investigators of the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) have completed their probe into the multi-crore Punjab Wireless Limited (Punwire) scam. The CBI has filed charge sheets in six of the 24 FIRs it was investigating regarding Punwire and would be filing charge sheets in the remaining cases at the special court in Patiala within the next month.

The CBI charges, based on the various FIRs registered by the Punjab police in 1999 and 2000 have sealed the fate of former Managing Director of the company Gurpal Singh, who has been on the run since the scam came to light, and 20 others accused in the case, including Ved Prakash, the executive director, Ashok Jerath, the AGM, and R.K. Gupta, the accounts manager of the company.

The charge sheets filed till now have revealed that misappropriation of company’s money had been going on unabated for many years. The largest amounts of money were siphoned out in the name of “business promotion” leading to “fake” deals. Similarly, large amounts of loans were taken from financial institutions by the company by hiding the true picture from them. This further led to bad debts and by 1999 the financial condition of the company was irreparably damaged leaving crores of rupees unaccounted for.

Sources added that all this was taking place with the knowledge of the MD and the executive director, both of whom are the main accused in almost all the FIRs that the CBI has investigated.

The CBI was handed over investigations into the scam in May, 2002, and had limited itself to 24 of the 37 FIRs lodged in the scam by the Punjab police on complaints given by the Punjab State Industrial Development Corporation (PSIDC). In 2002, the police had filed charge sheets in 12 of the FIRs and five cases had been closed following investigations.

The majority of the accused, including Ved Prakash, had been arrested and are now out on bail. However, Gurpal Singh, the company’s MD from 1985 to 1999, is evading arrest. He was declared a proclaimed offender on August 8, 2000. The police suspects that he was hiding in the USA. A notice was also sent through Interpol to trace Gurpal Singh there and arrest him.

The Punwire scam came to light in 1999. Gross misappropriation of funds by the management was believed to have caused a Rs 400 crore loss to various public and private institutions, apart from costing its 1000 employees their jobs.

A profit-making company for over 20 years since its establishment in 1975, the company with its expertise in wireless communication technology , had shot into limelight for the establishment of the prestigious communication link between Dakshin Gangotri (Antarctica) and New Delhi. The operations of the company came to a grinding halt in 1999 following the unearthing of the scam. The company was locked for liquidation in July, 2000, and the final winding up orders were passed in February, 2001, by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Currently under liquidation by the court, the Punjab government is however considering reviving the company with help from private investors.


Punjab may have Umbilical Cord Blood Bank
Poonam Batth
Tribune News Service

What is UCB

UCB is the blood that remains in the umbilical cord after the baby is born; this blood is rich in hematopoietic stem cells, a building block of our immune system, nervous system, skin, endocrine organs and other body tissues. Collection of cord blood is safe and poses no risk to the donor, as there is no general anesthesia or blood replacement and the procedure causes no discomfort.

Histo compatible stem cells from Cord blood do not require immune suppressive drugs, unlike most other therapies and transplants.

Chandigarh, December 30
Punjab is all set to stake its claim for the prestigious Umbilical Cord Blood Bank research, development and therapy centre, proposed to be set up in the state by Hitostem Inc, a US-based company. Mike Shen, CEO of the company and Robert C. Rosen, Attorney at Law, during their exploratory visit to India a few days back had zeroed down on Mohali as the most probable place for setting up this mega project worth millions of dollars.

With Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh assuring all possible support to the project, the company officials are keen to make a beginning by setting up the facility at the multi-speciality hospital Fortis before setting up an independent infrastructure in the Industrial area here. Talking to TNS, Secretary and Director, Industries, Mr Sanjay Kumar said, “this would bring in foreign direct investment, spur technology, and provide jobs in healthcare, laboratory and research sectors, while opening doors for local participation and investment.’’ While hospitals and pharmaceutical companies can join hands in research, investment bankers can fund a rapidly growing domain, he added.

The proposed project will have a blood bank for collection of umbilical cord blood, research and development facilities in stem cell technology and therapy centre for treatment of rare diseases. Patients from other countries will come here for treatment as facilities provided here for critical cardio, ortho, neuro, besides various types of cancers would be comparable to the world’s best. The cord blood cells can be used in the treatment of certain cancers, diabetes, osteoporosis, besides other rare diseases.

This treatment is currently available in Korea and the procedures are preliminary priced at Approx $ 40,000 to $50,000 per treatment. But once the facility is in place, patients from the USA, Canada, Europe and Arabic countries will be able to avail the same at somewhat lower prices. This in turn would promote medico tourism in the countries, besides revolutionising health services and giving a boost to biotechnology in the state, said Mr N.S Tiwana, Executive Director, Punjab State Council for Science and Technology.

The research on the cord blood samples obtained here would be done at the centre as the government is learnt to have turned down the company’s request for marketing it globally for research purposes as the state is capable of providing qualified clinicians and talented lab supporters from day one.. The company aims to accumulate a minimum of 1,00,000 units of UCB within 2 years, which would make India a global leader in this business.


Hoardings galore despite HC ban
Pawan Kumar

Amritsar, December 30
The rules are framed to be flouted and orders passed to be violated. This is perhaps the philosophy on which the district administration and political leaders work.

A number of hoardings have been erected at city chowks having pictures of Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, Congress President, Ms Sonia Gandhi, Chief Minister and his ministerial colleagues, local MLAs, Mayor and chairman of Amritsar Improvement Trust, Mr Jugal Kishore, claiming developments and suggestions on various issues.

This is rampant in the city despite the fact that the Punjab and Haryana High Court had banned erecting of such hoardings along the national and state highways, railway tracks and roads within the municipal limits as it distract the attention of people thereby putting their lives at risk and causing accidents.

The hoarding put up in front of the Nehru plaza not only marred the view of the complex, but it also obstruct the view of main Lawrence road from the police post situated in the shopping complex.

Another hoarding put up at the corner of new shopping complex-cum-multi-storey parking complex adjoining Nehru Shopping Complex is more than 40-feet long. The hoarding having the huge pictures of Mayor and Chairman of Improvement Trust wishing New Year is sponsored by a private heart care and speciality hospital.

The illuminating boards were given electricity connections either through generator sets or by taking electricity through main power line. The civic authorities are turning a blind eye towards all these illegal activities.

Mr Charanjit Singh Gumtala, former president of Amritsar Vikas Manch said despite the ban, the hoardings had come up near Kachahri Chowk, outside Hall Gate, bus stand, and other main roads of the city. He said the religious hoardings put up for the centenary celebrations were not yet removed.

Mr Brij Bedi, president of the citizen forum and a social worker alleged that not only hoardings but posters also had defaced the government and public properties all over the city.

Mr Sunil Datti, Mayor, when contacted, said the corporation had recently removed many hoardings. However, due to New Year Eve, few hoardings had come up which would be removed after the celebrations. He said the Nehru shopping complex comes under Improvement Trust building and hoardings must have come up after its approval.

Mr Jugal Kishor Sharma, Chairman of the Improvement Trust, said that hoardings were put up by the permission of the trust. He said the sponsors had paid the trust for this and this was on record.


Sleuths seize 107 blank summons from cop’s house
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 30
Less than 48 hours after a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) was nabbed on the allegations of accepting bribe, Punjab Vigilance Bureau today recovered 107 blank summons from the Mohali residence of a traffic police official. He was caught “red handed” while “accepting” Rs 1000 bribe from a truck owner in Mohali.

The cop, deployed as Muharar Head Constable (MHC), has been identified as Amarjit Singh. Along with the summons of Kharar’s Subdivisional Judicial Magistrate, registration certificates (RCs) have also been recovered from his house.

In another trap case, the sleuths nabbed Darshan Singh posted as the Branch Manager of Punjab and Sind Bank in Channalon Khurd village in Ropar district. He too was arrested while “accepting” a bribe of Rs 1600 from a complainant in the case Kuldeep Rai.

The manager had reportedly demanded money for sanctioning a loan of Rs 80,000. A vigilance team, headed by Superintendent of Police Chaman Lal and DSP Jaspal Singh caught the accused “red handed” and recovered the amount from his possession. Both the operations were carried out under the supervision of Additional Director-General of Police-cum-Vigilance Chief A.P. Pandey.

Going into the background of the case involving the cop, a Bureau spokesman said the accused had demanded the amount for returning the RC after the vehicle was challaned by Assistant Sub-Inspector Jasbir Singh. He was accompanying the accused when the challan was issued.

Giving details, the spokesman said the accused asked the owner to step aside. He then told the owner to call him up on mobile number 9815317247 before demanding the money.

After receiving the information from the complainant, a party under the supervision of DSP Paramjit Singh Khaira was sent to conduct a raid. The accused came in his Zen car and allegedly accepted the bribe from the complainant before returning the truck’s RC. The accused was caught “red-handed” and the amount was allegedly recovered from his possession.

The spokesman said 34 driving licences of different persons and 13 RCs of various vehicles were recovered from his house, along with copies of challans and three national permit licences of different vehicles. A Zen car and a scooter were also recovered.

He added that a case under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, besides Sections 409, 468, 471, 197 and 206 of the Indian Penal Code, had been registered against accused Amarjit Singh.

The accused had joined the police service as constable in 1992 and was posted in the traffic police for last 3 years. A senior Vigilance Bureau officer did not rule out the possibility of a big scandal coming to light after the interrogation of the accused.

It may be recalled that the Vigilance Bureau had caught “red-handed” DSP Sukhdev Singh Chhina on graft charges. Posted at Zira, the DSP had allegedly demanded Rs 20,000 for favouring a Moga resident in taking possession of land. 


Sikh connection of Jarawas
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

This photo of Bakhtawar Singh was taken by the writer at Port Blair in 1994. He shows an old photo of him dancing with the Jawaras.
This photo of Bakhtawar Singh was taken by the writer at Port Blair in 1994. He shows an old photo of him dancing with the Jarawas.

Chandigarh, December 30
It is, perhaps, not known to mainlanders that endangered aborigine tribes of the Andaman and Nicobar islands have age-old enmity with the sea.

There is evidence to say so. They have long list of festivals. But none of them is dedicated to the spirits of the sea. They have always considered the sea as devil and hate it. In fact, most of these tribals even use very little sea food to survive .They collect their food from forests which is their home and most eat wild pigs, honey, bananas and other eatables available in the forest area. They never worship the sea.

It is a part of the folklore of the Andamanese and the Nicobarese that centuries ago sea sucked up several islands and islets and wiped out a large population of aborigines. What happened last Sunday in these islands must have happened earlier also. Owing to this reason, they have no cultural tradition to praise the ocean.

There is another irony. December is observed as a month of the dead since ages ago it killed hundreds of people in the Car Nicobar area. In December, Nicobarese remember their dead and organise feasts to perpetuate their memory. And in this month of remembrance, Sea on Black Sunday exhibited its cruelty to the maximum by adding many more to the list of dear departed ones.

Interestingly, some of these tribes, especially Jarawas, whose population is just around 270, have a strong Sikh connection. Mr Bakhtawar Singh, who joined the Andaman and Nicobar police in 1935, played a great role in bringing Jarawas closer to the mainlanders. He started efforts in 1962, when he was allocated to the bush police and succeeded to win over Jarawas, who used to be very hostile towards inlanders, in 1974.

Talking to The Tribune on the phone from Port Blair, 89-year-old Mr Bakhtawar Singh, who originally belongs to Raipur Majri village, near Khanna, said: “I do not believe the reports that sea waves have wiped out the endangered aborigines such as Jarawas, Onges, Great Andamanese, Sentinelese and Shompens, whose total population is below 800. They have a great instinct of survival”.

Jawaras, Onges, Great Andamanese and Sentinelese live in Middle and South Andamans, about 65 km from Port Blair. Shompens, who never establish any contact with inlanders and are known for their hostility towards modern man, live in the Great Nicobar islands. Mr Bakhtawar Singh, who recently suffered a heart attack and got discharged from hospital on December 25, says that he had been in touch with Jarawas since 2000. “ But because of old age, I had stopped visiting them a few years ago”, he adds. “ But many of them are my friends and love me”, he adds.

It is a long story how Mr Bakhtawar Singh, whose one son Sarabjit Singh is an Assistant Engineer in Agriculture Department at Port Blair, won over Jarawas, who kill their targets with poison-coated arrows. “ I took the risk and many a time survived their attacks. I used to take fruits for them. Steadily, they started having faith in me and became my friends.”, he adds. “ I learnt their language to converse with them”, he adds.

Otherwise also, Sikhs have a historical link with the Andamans and Nicobar. About 4000 Sikhs live in these islands. Many of them settled there after release from Cellular Jail at the time of Independence. The Cellular Jail was set up by the British to lodge the revolutionaries and others who were fighting against them to free India from their clutches.

Interestingly, like aborigines, Sikhs have also strong contempt for the sea around the Andamans and Nicobar. They call that sea waters as “Kale Pani” (black waters).

A large number of Sikh ex-servicemen are settled near Campbell Bay, which has been reduced to rubble by the killer waves.


Open Wagah border for trade route: Pak growers
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, December 30
To exchange a technical know-how about potato cultivation, farmers from Pakistan took a round of various farms of the district here today.

Addressing a press conference after their visit, the farmers said that they had come to learn the technology of low cost potato cultivation and to understand the strategies of marketing. The farmers said they wanted to import potato seeds from the district instead of getting them from Holland as they proved to be economical, besides being disease-free.

Talking to the mediapersons, leaders of the 20-member Pakistani group, Mr Afzal Haider Rizvi and Mr Mohammad Akbal, said the governments of both countries should open the trade route through Wagah checkpost so that farmers of India as well as Pakistan could reap mutual benefits.

Mr Rizvi said 44 tonnes of potato seed which was sent to them by Chambal Agritech for research purposes proved to be very productive. They said if they would import the potato seed from India instead of Holland, they would save at least Rs 1,200 to Rs 1,400 per quintal.

Mr Raghbir Singh, president of the potato growers association of Jalandhar, said the potato seeds that were fit to be cultivated in the soils of Pakistan were being prepared in large quantities in Punjab here. He said if these seeds were registered by the government here and the trade route opened between the two countries, the farmers of the state who were currently reeling under financial losses could look out for new avenues.

Mr Ajmer Singh, vice-president of Jalandhar association, said the potato seed variety of Kufri Bahaar that had shown good results in Pakistan should be registered by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) so that it could be exported from India.

The potato growers from the district also said if the Railway Ministry provided them free racks, they could despatch as much as five lakh tonnes of potatoes to the tsunami-hit areas.


Punjab likely to videograph FIRs in dowry cases
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 30
An alarming rise in the number of dowry deaths in Punjab has forced the state government to contemplate videography of FIR registration procedures in such cases.

The idea is to retain evidence and ensure that the first-hand account of the case can be placed before the court at the time of adjudication. Also on the cards is permission to SDMs to act as dowry prohibition officers, as they are legally more competent to handle such cases.

Expected to be cleared shortly, the proposal would make registration of FIRs under Section 498 easy. It would imply that harassed women need not make the rounds of police stations to get an FIR registered. They can approach the judicial magistrate concerned and get their statement recorded.

A proposal to videograph the FIR registration process in dowry cases was made by visiting National Commission for Women Chairperson Poornima Advani yesterday.

She rapped the government for the manifold increase in the number of bride-burning cases in the state. In the current year alone, as many as 75 dowry deaths have occurred between April 1 and October 31, indicating that the menace has assumed alarming proportions.

As far as registration of cases under Section 498, IPC, is concerned, there have been 667 cases till October this year. Earlier in 2002, as many as 952 dowry cases were registered while the number was 965 in 2003.

Admitting in principle to the NCW recommendation of videography of proceedings, the officials concerned are further planning to designate SDMs as dowry prohibition officers.

Until now, only Programme Officers under the Women and Child Development Department have been functioning as Dowry Prohibition Officers.

The department, head, however admits that Programme Officers have not proved to be very effective in curbing the menace of dowry and bride-burning, especially in rural areas.

Speaking to The Tribune today, Mr R.L. Kalsia, Secretary, Department of Social Security, Women and Child Development, said: “We are keen to empower SDMs as dowry prohibition officers. We also propose to make Child Development Project Officers (CDPOs) the “prescribed officers” under the Dowry Act.

Being women, CDPOs can help achieve positive intervention in the community. Earlier, only programme officers of the department were working as dowry prohibition officers, but they failed to make an impact.

“SDMs being legally inclined are better equipped to handle and hear dowry cases. Their observation in the case would, thus, be sent before the court of law, expediting legal proceedings.” Though the proposal has some benefits, it may prove to be inadequate in view of the fact that SDMs in Punjab are overworked and often find it difficult to hold courts regularly.

Experts feel that loopholes in the proposal need to be plugged before it is approved.


Link defence deals with turban issue: Mann
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 30
The President of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, today urged the Union Government to link all defence deals with the French Government to the turban issue.

He said the issue was related to the honour of Indians, not the Sikhs alone. Almost all Indian communities tie turban during religious and other social ceremonies such as marriage,” he said.

He said the Union Government should make it clear that it would not buy any defence hardware from France till the ban imposed on the tying of turban by Sikh boys was lifted by that country. India was a major buyer of defence hardware including fighter planes worth several hundred crores from France. He said the SGPC leadership was doing nothing on this issue.

Only a sovereign government could take up the issue with the United Nations. The SGPC had no official authority to raise this issue with the UN directly. This could only be done through the Union Government, he added.

Mr Mann said the Union External Affairs Minister, Mr Natwar Singh, had done nothing on the turban issue, except for writing formal letters.

He said the issue could be resolved in a few hours, but what was required was a tough stand on the matter. “Sikhs have made sacrifices to protect France from Germans during the World Wars and it should not forget those sacrifices now”, said Mr Mann.


Dalit activists block traffic
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, December 30
A large number of Dalits, led by the Ambedkar Sena, today held a protest march, blocked traffic at the Gol Chowk on the GT Road for half an hour and stoned the window panes of a trailer when its driver was involved in a tiff with the protestors.

The protestors alleged that the driver, Pala, had hit three activists of the sena namely Ashok Kumar, Jatinder Kumar, both residents of the local Palahi gate, and Surjit Kumar of Nangal Majha village, with an iron rod and injuring them. The injured activists were admitted to hospital. The police detained the driver and impounded the trailer.

Led by Mr Harbhajan Suman, president, Punjab Ambedkar Sena, the protestors took out the march from the local Santokhpura mohalla on the GT Road, passed through the crowded bazaars, including Cinema road, Gaushala road, Banga road and blocked traffic on the National Highway No. 1. They were protesting against the delay in the arrest of Mr Nirmal Singh, a lecturer in commerce in Government Senior Secondary School for Girls, Phagwara, for using caste-specific language against Satnam Kaur, a class XII student of the school, on October 7. Even though a case under the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act was registered against Mr Nirmal Singh on December 21, yet he had not been arrested so far, alleged protestors.

They also demanded the transfer of and action against all those teachers belonging to the general category who had forced girl students of the school to organise a protest in support of Mr Nirmal Singh on December 22. They also demanded action against the school Principal. The protestors raised slogans against Mr Nirmal Singh.

The protestors also demanded the arrest of Mr P.S. Passi, president, All India Anti Corruption Forum, and his six aides for using caste-specific language against Naib Tehsildar-cum-Executive Magistrate Seema Singh in her office on December 6. Interestingly, Ms Seema Singh was the duty magistrate today when the march was taken out.

Local SDM Pritam Singh and DSP Jaspal Singh came to the site of the blockade to receive the memorandum from the protestors. The SDM assured that the needful would be done after the DSP completed his probe into the incident. The protestors rejected an enquiry by the Education Department officials saying that they had no faith in the enquiry officer of the Education Department. However, they reposed trust in the DSP.

Mr Harbhajan Suman, president, Ambedkar Sena, declared in the presence of the local officers that in case Mr Nirmal Singh was not arrested within five days, all Dalit bodies would call for a Phagwara bandh.

The blockade was lifted after the memorandum was received by the SDM and the DSP. It was at this point that pandemonium prevailed on the other side of the GT Road and a group of protestors were seen running menacingly after a vehicle. The protestors chased the trailer, intercepted it near the Bus stand, thrashed its driver Pala and smashed its window panes. The driver was saved from the mob by locking him inside the traffic police post. A crying Pala told this correspondent that a group of protestors had hurled invectives at him. When he answered back, he was beaten severely. However, the protestors alleged that he had hit the three activists with a rod and tried to drive his vehicle through the blockade. They said that the injured were hospitalised.

Besides Mr Harbhajan Suman, Ambedkar Sena leaders Surinder Dhada, Dharminder Singh, BSP leaders Harbhajan Balalon, Mr Parveen Banga, Congress leader Ram Murti, Lok Shakti leader Dr Jagdish Lal, Valmik Action Committee president Surinder Gikki, Councillors Ramesh Jordan, Sita Devi, Surinder Kaur also addressed the rally of protestors.


Auction of cattle fair site turned out to be a farce
Tribune News Service

Ropar, December 30
High drama prevailed during the auction of the seven sites for cattle fair in the district today as officials of district administration appeared to be mere spectators while the parties came for the auctions managed to dictate their terms and conditions.

Mr Avtar Singh and other from Nabha paid maximum bid of Rs 1.70 crore for one year contract to organise cattle fair at allotted site in the district from April 2005 to April 2006.

However the auction began at 12 noon in Zila Prishid Office, in the city but the different parties from all over Punjab gathered here since 9 a.m. Most of the parties had done settlement before the auction. Even when the administration’s officials announced auction, the parties were seen standing outside and asking others for ‘outside’ settlement.

Auction was turned out to be a non-serious show when the parties stopped listening to officials and most of them went outside for settlement. Finally senior officials intervened and asked the parties to seat inside and do not make claims from outside.

But the parties did not bother. The mobile phones which supposed to be off during the auction remained on and also great source to get guidance from their supporters from outside.

The officials, who conducted the auction include -Divisional director and BDPO of Panchayat and Rural Development, Ferozepore, ADC (Development) and ADC (General), Ropar.


National Commission to seek special package for safai sewaks
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, December 30
The National Commission for Safai Sewaks would urge the Punjab Government to give special package for the upliftment of the safai sewaks in the state. Ms Santosh Chaudhary, chairman of the commission stated this while talking to mediapersons here today.

He said the benefit of government schemes was not reaching the poorest of the society, a major of whom are safai sewaks. I would personally take up the matter with the Chief Minister and urge him to give special package for them, including medical benefit and loans under the Prime Minister’s Rozgar Yojna, she said.

He also regretted that in Gurdaspur district no monitoring committee had been formed to oversee the implementation of the various government schemes for safai sewaks.

The contract system of sanitation being adopted in various municipal councils of the state was resulting in exploitation of safai sewaks. As per the directions of the union government, the contrast system for the employment of safai sewaks should be done away with, she added.

The suggestion of Ms Santosh Chaudhary was however, countered by the local MLA, Mr Ashok Sharma. He said the responsibility should also be fixed on the safai sewaks who have been recruited against permanent government jobs.


Stone of shopping plaza laid
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, December 30
The Punjab Local Bodies Minister, Choudhary Jagjit Singh, today laid foundation stone of Rs 9 crore ultra-modern parking and shopping plaza at Model Town here.

The project, aimed to reduce traffic congestion, would fetch the cash starved local Municipal Corporation a whopping sum of Rs 17 crore apart from the project cost through proposed auction of 126 shops, which would be part of the plaza.

Choudhary Jagjit Singh, later addressing the gathering, said the project was being carried out on self-financing scheme. He said the parking lot would be constructed in the basement for over 250 cars and 200 two-wheelers. “We are not going to spend a single penny from the state exchequer as all expenses will be from the money collected by auction of the shops,” he said.

The minister further said that Rs 25 lakh was being spent on installation of computerised automatic traffic signals at Sri Guru Nanak Mission Chowk. The signals were fully equipped with LED retrofits, UPS power back up and with vehicle-actuated controller. The signals would adjust its timings automatically in each cycle according to the number of vehicles in that cycle.

The Mayor of the MC, Mr Surinder Mahey, said about eight acres presently housing residence of the Mayor, the Commissioner, a dispensary and a lawn tennis court in front of the gurdwara of the Model Town, would be utilised for raising a multi-story shopping plaza. This would fetch the civic body a sum of Rs 100 crore through sale of shops and offices. “We have decided to commercially exploit the MC land in posh locality by constructing high buildings,” Mr Mahey said.

Meanwhile, the Model Town Shopkeepers Association today observed complete bandh to register their protest against the move of the MC to construct parking-cum-shopping plaza at the main park of the Model Town. Interestingly, a group of Congress councillors and close aides of Punjab Transport Minister Mohinder Singh Kaypee, staged a dharna near the site of the plaza and waived black flags. They raised slogans against Choudhary Jagjit Singh and Mr Mahey.


CITU submits memo to DC
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, December 30
The local unit of Centre of the Indian Trade Unions (CITU) today submitted a memorandum to the Deputy Commissioner against the ordinance of Central Government amending the Indian Patent Act, 1970, thereby providing product patent on medicines and chemicals.

In a press note issued here today, Mr Inderjeet Singh, president, local unit of CITU, said that the ordinance would have dangerous effect on the people of the country as the prices of medicines including essential and life-saving drugs, would escalate manifold.

He said that the common man would not be able to afford treatment of serious ailments due to excessive cost.

He said the agricultural industry would also be affected badly as the farmers would not be able to buy costly and patented seeds. He further said that CITU had decided to launch a campaign for the withdrawal of this ordinance on patents by organising demonstrations, dharnas, and strikes.


PSEB staff threaten agitation
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, December 30
Mr Harbhajan Singh, president, and Mr Om Parkash, general secretary of the Punjab Ministerial Services Union of the PSEB, condemned the decision of state government for converting the electricity board into a corporation.

In a press release here today, they said that a joint forum of the PSEB employees had decided that all employees of the board would proceed on strike whenever the state Cabinet would take a decision to abolish the board. A notice in this regard had been served on the management of the PSEB and the state government.

They said that leaders of the joint forum had cleared their stand at a meeting with Mr Lal Singh, Power Minister, on December 27. Mr Lal Singh was told at the meeting that there was a heavy increase in power tariff in those states where privatisation or conversion of electricity boards into corporation had been done. Cases of power theft and line losses had increased manifold there. 


Ex-servicemen hold rally
Our Correspondent

Patiala, December 30
An Ex-servicemen rally was organised at Patiala Military Station here today.

The chief guest on the occasion Lt Gen K.D. S Shekhawat, GOC Kharga Corps, said that the rally had provided an opportunity to Ex-servicemen to resolve their problems with the District Administration and the Army Authorities.

Representatives of the State Government and those from State Bank of Patiala, Department of Agriculture, Horticulture, Dairy Development, Poultry, District Industries Centre, Grievances Cell (DPDO), Punjab Ex-servicemen Corporation (PESCO) and PSEB informed the gathering of measures adopted for the welfare of the exservicemen.

Seventy war widows were also honored on the occasion and a medical camp was organised for medical treatment and advice to the Ex-servicemen on the occasion.


Payment of pension dues in Jan

Moga, December 30
The Punjab Government would pay the widow and old-age pension, along with the pending dues, to the beneficiaries in January, the Political Secretary to the CM, Mr Harchand Singh Barsat, stated this while interacting with mediapersons here yesterday.

Mr Barsat said that about 22,000 vacant posts of teacher would also be filled before the start of the next academic session. He said that 16,000 km of link roads would be completed before March 25.

Replying a query on the rise in toll tax and power tariff, he said that people had to pay for better facilities. He said that the state government had urged the Centre to help set up industrial units in Punjab so that the state’s youth could get employment opportunities. — TNS


Cold wave claims two lives
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, December 30
The cold wave, which has been sweeping the region for the past few days, claimed two human lives in this town during the past 24 hours.

In a press note, Mr Vijay Goyal, president, Sahara Jan Sewa, said that while the body of an unidentified TB patient was recovered at platform No 1 and the second body of an unidentified old man was found at platform No 2 of local railway station.


Farmers protest against non-payment of cane arrears
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, December 30
The farmers today blocked traffic on the Amritsar-Pathankot National Highway for about three hours to protest against the non-payment of sugarcane dues. Hundreds of farmers from across the district descended on the highway at about 12 noon in front of the cooperative sugar mill in Paniar village.

They parked their tractor-trailers on the highway and blocked traffic. All efforts of the police and the civil administration failed to pacify the agitating farmers. The police had to divert the traffic to the jail road during the blockade.

The union leaders of the farmer organisations, including the Jamhuri Kisan Sabha and the Punjab Kisan Sabha, accused the government of the current state of affairs. Mr Nek Ram, a farmer leader, alleged that the Gurdaspur sugar mill alone owed Rs 2 crore to the farmers.

Instead of paying dues of the farmers, the cooperative mills were harassing them. Presently the government has fixed Rs 100 per quintal of sugarcane. However, the cooperative mill authorities of Gurdaspur were paying just Rs 80 per quintal to the farmers on the plea of poor quality of sugarcane.

The farmers should be paid Rs 117 per quintal of sugarcane on the Haryana pattern, they demanded.

The farmers lifted the dharna at about 3 pm.

Talking to newsmen, they said that if the arrear payments of the farmers were not made by the government, the farmers would block traffic in Dinanagar town, paralysing the entire traffic on the Amritsar-Pathankot highway.

In another programme held in Kalanaur, the Independent MLA from Dhariwal, Mr Sucha Singh Chhotepur, said that a Rs 600 crore sugar mill would be set up at Phikariwal village by private entrepreneurs. About 100 acres would be acquired for the mill.

Mr Chhotepur, besides inaugurating the new building of the market committee of Kalanaur, distributed cheques worth Rs 17 lakh for development of various villages of the area.


Cane growers block traffic
Our Correspondent

Phagwara December 30
On a call given by the CPM-led Punjab Kisan Sabha, a large number of cane growers of this area today held a rally near Sugar Mill here, They blocked traffic on the GT road and staged a dharna. They demanded fixing cane price at Rs 135 per quintal, payment of arrears at the rate of 14 per cent interest and giving priority to crushing area sugarcane before lifting cane from other areas.

The rally was addressed by Punjab Kisan sabha general secretary Lehmber Singh Taggar, and Sabha’s senior leaders Gurchetan Singh Bassi, Gurmej Singh Mehli, Laxman Singh Johal, Dial Singh Dhada. The speakers alleged that price of the cane had not been increased for the past seven years.


BKU to mobilise farmers for agitation
Our Correspondent

Abohar, December 30
The Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) today resolved to start village level meetings from tomorrow to mobilise the farmers for an agitation.

According to a joint statement issued by Mr Gurjant Singh, president, Mr Pirthi Raj, general secretary and Mr Gopal Bhagsar, a senior member of the executive committee here, they alleged that during their visit to the new grain market today, they were surprised to observe that cotton purchase had been started without following the prescribed procedure.

The secretary of the Market Committee tried to intervene, but nobody bothered for him. The BKU rejected the plea that farmers were in a haste to sell Narma and Desi cotton without proper auction. They alleged that there was a nexus among the commission agents, buyers and some government employees as the farmers had been told to transport the yield to some specific ginning and pressing factories.

They alleged that the malpractices in weighing of cotton were going on unabated.

The BKU representatives regretted that directions given by the SDM after their meeting on December 24 for the presence of revenue staff and local police to streamline the purchase and weighing of cotton were being flouted.

The farmers felt cheated despite the efforts made by the BKU as cotton had been purchased below the MSP not only by the government agencies, but by the private traders also.

The sources said the farmers from different villages would be transported by their personal vehicles to launch an agitation that might begin with blocking of traffic around the grain market, besides demonstration inside the sub-divisional complex and at the Market Committee here.


BKU stages dharna outside sugar mill
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, December 30
Protesting against non-payment of dues to the cane farmers, the Bharatiya Kisan Union Ekta today staged a dharna outside the Cooperative Sugar Mill here.

Addressing the protesters, the district union chief, Mr Jagjeet Singh Dalewala, said the state government was dilly-dallying the payment of dues to the cane farmers, who are already facing financial crunch. He said the anti-farmer policies of the Congress government would spell a doom for it.

The state union finance secretary, Mr Bogh Singh Mansa, said the World Trade Agreement was against the interests of the farmers. He alleged that the state government was trying to “snatch” education, health, and electricity from middle class section of society.

He condemned the government for decreasing the charges for increasing the power of motors instead of doing away with it. He said nothing was charged for increasing a motor’s power across the country and the state government should also do the same. The union leaders said while the state government was sitting on farmers’ payment worth crores, it was applying full force in recovering debt from them.


Ashwani Sekhri to be Parliamentary Secretary
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 30
Mr Ashwani Sekhri, a Congress MLA from Batala, will be inducted as Parliamentary Secretary, in the Punjab Government, on January 3. Informed sources said today that his name had been cleared by the Congress high command.

Earlier, he was a Minister of State for Cultural Affairs and Tourism etc, but was dropped because the Congress had lost in his Assembly segment during Lok Sabha elections. He is a close relation of Mr R.L. Bhatia, a senior Congress leader.


Ludhiana, Jalandhar witnessed maximum crime in Punjab
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 30
Punjab witnessed two murders, a rape, an assault on a public servant, four burglaries and seven thefts a day throughout 2004 besides recording 10 cases of kidnapping every week. Against 10 cases a week under Prevention of Corruption Act in 2003, the number of such cases dropped to six a week thus indicating a slowdown in the government’s campaign in weeding out this menace from the State.

Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Patiala emerged as major centres for heinous crime as they witnessed highest number of murders, dacoities, robberies, burglaries and thefts in the state during 2004. Jalandhar topped the list with 70 murders in 67 cases closely followed by 58 fatalities in 56 cases in Patiala and Ludhiana was third with 54 persons losing lives in 51 cases of murder registered during the year. Against 735 persons losing their lives in 718 murder cases in Punjab last year, this time 775 persons were murdered in 751 cases.

Interestingly, the highest number of murders like last year, were reported during the month of July followed by September. In July 88 persons were murdered in 83 cases and 81 persons lost their lives in 79 murder cases in September this year. February and December were the coolest months when the heinous crime was the lowest. In February , 39 persons were murdered while in December until yesterday, only 43 murder cases were reported from all over the state.

Though all political parties expressed their serious concern over deterioration in law and order situation in the State, the figures released by the Police Department show a noticeable decline in the incidence of rapes (339 against 351 last year), dacoities (15 against 27 in 2003) and robberies (84 against 106 last year).

Besides murders, kidnappings too increased as 504 kidnapping cases were registered in 2004 against 390 last year. Again, Jalandhar (63), Patiala (49) and Ludhiana (78) were ahead of other districts in this crime also.

Though the Police Department did not provide specific figures for the incidence of white crime, which has increased manifold in the State over the years. Cheating, fraud, forgery and breach of trust were the main areas where more and more cases were reported from major cities like Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Patiala and Bathinda.

Interestingly, recoveries under NDPS Act, Excise Act and Arms Act, too witnessed a visible fall this year than last year. Only 743 recoveries were made under the Arms Act against 851 in 2003. And the number of weapons seized during 2004 were only 432.Only 29 cars and jeeps and as many scooters from a long and unending list of stolen vehicles from various parts of the state could be recovered during the whole year.

Serious concerns were being expressed over growing drug menace among youth, only 3142 cases against 3550 last year under NDPS Act were registered.

The state also introduced mobile traffic police to facilitate safe travel on highways, the number of deaths on roads increased slightly this year.


Thief arrested with stolen truck
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, December 30
The Pathankot police has arrested Ramesh Singh, a resident of Katra town of Jammu and Kashmir, and recovered from him a truck stolen from Ludhiana.

In a press release issued here today, the SSP, Mr Ishwar Singh, said that the accused allegedly stole a truck (HR-37A-2777) from Ludhiana on December 27. He was planning to sell the stolen truck in Jammu and Kashmir.

At a routine naka, the Pathankot police directed the accused who was driving the truck to stop. The accused tried to flee. However, he was forced to stop. Since the accused failed to produce any paper of the vehicle, he was arrested. It was later discovered that he had stolen the truck. A case has been registered.


VC receives directive from Governor
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 30
The Vice-Chancellor of Guru Nanak Dev University has reportedly received a communication from the Governor-cum-Chancellor of the university to nominate a physiotherapist as next head of the Department of Sports Medicine and Physiotherapy, by superseding Dr G.S. Kang. For the time being Dr Jairoop Singh, Dean Academic Affairs, would take over after Dr Jaspal Singh, the present incumbent, relinquishes the charge .

Though the top officials of the university are tight-lipped about the communication sent by the Chancellor, yet insiders have confirmed that the same has been received by the Vice Chancellor’s Office today .

The Guru Nanak Dev University Teachers Association (GNDUTA) , however, has written to the Governor and the Chief Minister for their intervention for ensuring the elevation of Dr Kang as the next head of the department as per the university calendar. Dr Devinder Singh, president, GNDUTA, has blamed that Dr Jaspal Singh, head of the department, had instigated the students against the elevation of Dr Kang.

He said the same clause of the university calendar be invoked to elevate Dr Kang under which Dr Jaspal Singh was made head of the department. The GNDUTA alleged that Dr Jaspal Singh was made head though he was from the medical side instead from physiotherapy discipline. The teachers’ union said Dr Kang was qualified to be the next head as many students of the department had done Ph.d under him.

However, the Association of Physiotherapy alleged that instead of helping the students, GNDUTA wanted to foist an ‘un-qualified’ head which could ruin their future.

Meanwhile, the Punjab Federation of University Teachers Association has convened an emergency meeting at Chandigarh on January 4 to take next course of action. Dr Kuldip Singh, general secretary, GNDUTA, said the association would resort to agitation if headship was denied to Dr Kang. 


Camp to check Sikh youth falling prey to drugs
Tribune News Service

Moga, December 30
The Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle, Ludhiana, today kicked off a three-day camp to check Sikh youth from going stray and falling prey to drugs at Guru Nanak College here.

While a large number of college and senior secondary school students are participating in the camp, Sikh intellectuals from the USA, UK, and Canada are here to enlighten them on various issues. The camp got off to a colourful start with the students performing a march past and saluting 'nishan sahib'. They took a pledge that they would always consider Guru Granth Sahib as their guru, would never take to drugs, and would work towards creating a society sans any discrimination.

Addressing the students, Jaswinder Singh Bawa from the UK, said a Sikh should tread his path to development following his religion's tenets. The deputy chief of the study circle, Mr Ranjeet Singh Walia, expressed concern over falling moral values among Sikh youth. He said the lure to move abroad, attraction towards Western culture, and lack of awareness on their religion, had contributed to this problem. He appealed Sikh leaders to launch a massive campaign to keep Sikh youth away from drugs.

Dr Gurbhaksh Singh from the USA presented a paper on “Sahibzadas' martyrdom” and said their sacrifice would continue to inspire people to fight against injustice. Mr Charanjeet Singh from the UK said until and unless Sikh youth were sensitised on Sikh philosophy, the decline in moral values among them could not be arrested. The chief secretary of the study circle, Mr Charankanwal Singh, also addressed the students.


Participation in nanotechnology stressed
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 30
The thesis of Mr Sunil Nair of Indore on “Magnetic and Transport Properties of Charge Ordered and Layered manganite” was adjudged the best on the concluding day of the five-day National Symposium on Solid State Physics held at Guru Nanak Dev University here today.

More than 450 research papers were presented and deliberated by the scientists on recent happenings in the field of condensed matter physics and many new emerging areas of this technologically important branch of physics in the symposium.

Dr V.K. Aswal from the BARC, Mumbai, and Dr M. Wasikhan from the AMU, were awarded for presenting the best paper poster from among more than 450 posters presented.

A majority of the scientists were of the view that more emphasis be laid on device-oriented research by encouraging participation from interdisciplinary areas of polymer chemistry, self-assembly biophysics and they should be integrated to products useful to society such as sensors, devices, robotics, biotechnology, micro electrical mechanical systems (MEMS) and environment sensors. They felt that these devices would not only raise the standard of living but also uplift society as a whole.

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, of the Central Government.

The eminent scientists were unanimous on participation in fast upcoming areas such as nanotechnology, energy conservation generation be encouraged. They also opined that more participation from North-East areas of the country should be encouraged. As recently an IIT had been set up there to promote research and development activities in the field of science. They also suggested that young scientists hailing from this area should also be given an opportunity to participate in such symposiums.

Dr J.V. Yakhmi, convener of the symposium, while addressing the valedictory session, said that more than 500 scientists from India, Germany, the USA, Korea, Japan and France participated in it. Dr R.K. Bedi commented on the overall review of the symposium. Dr S.P. Singh, Vice-Chancellor of the university, presided over the valedictory session. 


NSS camp concludes
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, December 30
A 10-day National Service Scheme (NSS) camp, which was organised by the local DAV College at Sivian village in this district concluded today.

Dr J.S. Anand, principal, DAV College, highlighted the projects undertaken by the campers including planting of samplings, construction of a track to the stadium, cleanliness of village streets, removal of encroachments etc. He appreciated the efforts of girl volunteers of the NSS, who took classes in tailoring, cooking, knitting, etc. during the camp.

Among other activities, a kavi darbar was also organised in which eminent poets, including Sulakhan Meet, H.S. Komal, Bikaramjit Singh Noor, J.S. Anand, Surinder Preet Ghania and Kamaljit Kuti, recited their poems.

While presiding over the function, Mr Kapil Dev, SSP, Bathinda, advised the volunteers to find ways and means for self-employment. He exhorted them to be prepared to face the challenges of the present-day world.

The outstanding campers, including Aarti and Mohit, who were adjudged the best girl and boy NSS volunteer, respectively, were honoured.

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