P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



NHRC moots multiple cases against travel agents
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 10
With a view to check exploitation of people at the hands of unscrupulous travel agents, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is contemplating to stress on registration of a separate case for each fraud against accused travel agents.

If okayed, the proposal would mean that if a travel agents dupes 10 persons, he would face 10 separate cases.

According to Mr Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, national president of the Lok Bhalai Party (LBP), the commission was serious on the move. “While taking up the cases of exploited Punjabis, we have also suggested to the NHRC that provision should be made that family members of the guilty travel agents should also face the music and criminal conspiracy cases should also be registered against them. This, in our view, would curb the menace of exploitation of people at the hands of unscrupulous travel agents,” said Mr Ramoowalia.

He said his party had already taken up the case of Punjabi brides, who were exploited by their NRI husbands, with the National Commission for Women (NCW). “The NCW has reprimanded the state government for not taking adequate action against those responsible for such girls’ plight. “Similarly, as a head of the LBP, I approached the AICC chief Sonia Gandhi, who wrote a letter to the Punjab Government on the same issue. It is a different matter that the Punjab Government has not done anything in this connection so far,” said Mr Ramoowalia.

Opposing the charging of heavy toll tax at three barriers en route New Delhi by an Agra-based private company, he said. “The toll tax on 276 km-long road from Punjab to Delhi is the highest in the world. Moreover, it is a sheer loot of not only common people, but also of the poor self-employed taxi and truck owners,” he said. He demanded that the company should be ordered to show the money spent and earned by putting up huge boards and be asked to improve the condition of the road.


Police remand for travel agent
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, January 10
Narinder Singh, one of the four travel agents who were arrested yesterday, had been remanded in police custody.

The police had booked four travel agents, including a couple, arresting one of them, for duping two persons of Rs 6.7 lakh on the false promise of sending them to the UK.

Mr Baljit Singh of Phulewal village brought this to the notice of Kapurthala SSP Arun Pal Singh. He complained that he and Gurcharan Singh of Deenewal village had given Rs 4 lakh and Rs 2.75 lakh, respectively, on August 3 last year, to travel agents Sukhdev Singh, his wife Jaswant Kaur and brother-in-law Narinder Singh of Adraman and Beer villages, respectively, and their conduit Rishipal Singh of New Delhi. The agents had also taken their passports.

The travel agents told them that Rishipal worked in an Embassy in New Delhi and would get their work done. Sukhdev Singh one day rang up the duo and said he was in New Zealand and they should contact Rishipal for getting their papers completed. The duo went to Delhi and Rishipal lodged them in a hotel. He went away with the promise of returning with their visas and tickets, but never returned. Their passports were also not returned. On the direction of the SSP, the SHO city police station booked the agents under Sections 420, 406 and 120-B of the IPC for fraud, criminal breach of trust and criminal conspiracy and Section 24 of the Immigration Act.


Dual citizenship not enough to attract NRIs
Our Correspondent

Nawanshahr, January 10
Mr Ujjal Dosanjh, Health Minister, Canada, while talking to mediapersons at the Guru Nanak Mission Medical and Educational Trust, Dhahan Kaleran, about 20 km from here, on Monday, opined that mere granting of dual citizenship to the NRIs would not solve any purpose of attracting NRI investment unless the bureaucratic hurdles were not removed and the system was not made investment friendly in true spirit.

“Dollars have no citizenship”, remarked Mr Dosanjh. Dollars would be invested where the environment would be congenial for the purpose, he added. He was answering a question, as regards the decision of the Indian Government to grant dual citizenship to NRIs.

Mr Dosanjh was on a special visit to the Guru Nanak Mission Medical and Educational Trust, Dhahan Kaleran, an NRI-sponsored NGO. The trust is going to celebrate its silver jubilee on February 5 and 6.

Addressing the gathering, Mr Dosanjh lauded the contribution of Dr Budh Singh Dhahan in mobilising funds from NRIs for setting up infrastructure for providing healthcare and education facilities to the needy. He said though he did not want to criticise the government here as he was representing the Government of Canada, but being an NRI he was feeling hurt that freedom fighters’ dream of a developed and prosperous country could not be realised even after more than 50 of Independence. The political system, bureaucratic hurdles and red-tape etc. had slowed down the pace of development, he added.

He stressed the need to develop universal educational and healthcare systems. This was a must to bring equality in society. He stressed the importance of education in ensuring uplift of the status of women so that they could enjoy equal rights in society.

He also advocated the need to involve the youth in the policy-making process. The development policies and future plans should be made youth-oriented.

Mr Parkash Singh, local MLA and Parliamentary Secretary, addressing the gathering echoed the sentiments of Mr Dosanjh in particular and NRIs in general.

Dr Budh Singh Dhahan, founder president of the trust, gave a detailed account of various community service projects started by the trust. He said the trust would also launch a ‘mobile dispensary’ soon. A number of NRIs, including Mr J.Minhas and Mr Paramjit Singh Sandhu (Khatkar Kalan) had made commendable contributions for the project, he said. 


Remove red tape, says Dosanjh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 10
Mr Ujjal Dosanj, a prominent NRI and the Canadian Health Minister, today said that NRI could not be attracted for investments in India unless bureaucratic hurdles were removed from the system.

Mr Ujjal Dosanjh was here at Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Hall where he gave shots for a documentary being made on his life.

Though Mr Dosanjh expressed his reluctance in talking to media persons he, however, replied to their queries in a cool manner. On how he view the grant of dual citizenship to NRIs by the Indian Government, Mr Dosanjh said though he was a Punjabi, but, at the same time a Canadian citizen. “It is an emotional issue. But I think that dual citizenship alone cannot ensure NRI investment in India. For that, bureaucratic hurdles must be removed,” said Mr Dosanjh.

Responding to another question as to whether the Canadian Government should apologise for the Kamagatamaru excesses, Mr Dosanjh said it should be seen in a larger perspective. “Excesses were also committed against Japan and Chinese. A larger approach is needed for such things,” he said.


When will fast track courts for NRIs come up?
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 10
For how long will the Punjab Government continue to charm NRIs with the promise to set up special fast track courts to dispose of their cases quickly? The promise regarding the setting up of such courts has been made numerous times but it is yet to be fulfilled.

Only two days ago, the Punjab Government issued a statement at a function of NRIs in Mumbai that fast track courts would be set up in the state for the quick disposal of revenue and other cases of NRIs. Earlier, Mr Avtar Henry, a senior minister and vice-patron of the NRI Sabha, had made a similar statement in June this year. Mr D.S. Bains, as Commissioner, NRIs, Punjab, had also issued an identical statement on May 1. The issue is hanging fire for about two years.

Following approval by the Council of Ministers, the state government sent the proposal to set up these courts to the Punjab and Haryana High Court, but it was turned down. The High Court was of the view that all citizens are entitled for and deserve speedy justice and no special treatment could be given to any particular section of the people in this regard.

The state government had promised to take up the matter with the Punjab and Haryana High Court again but it has not done so yet.

Already, the Union Government, which celebrates NRI Day almost every year, has set up a separate Ministry for NRIs to redress their problems. The Punjab Government has made amendments in the East Punjab Rent Restrictions Act and Punjab Security of Land Tenures Act for the summary trial of disputes regarding agricultural, commercial and residential property. The NRI helpline by the Punjab Police is being run in collaboration with a Toronto-based, Asian Connections radio.

NRIs face lot of harassment in the hands of officials at the junior level. In connivance with vested interests, most officials try to delay the disposal of their disputes regarding landed and residential property. As NRIs can't afford to stay for a longer period, the advantage is taken by vested interests. There are cases of murders of NRIs.

On the demand of NRIs, the state government had set up the NRI Sabha. The charge of NRI affairs has been given to an Administrative Secretary-level officer at the state headquarter. But this system has not started functioning well as far as dealing with the problems of NRIs is concerned.

The most serious problem is of matrimonial disputes. NRI husbands had cheated brides by various means. The state government has not devised any system to collect information about the NRI bridegrooms, who come to marry Punjabi girls here. Because of this reason, life has become hell for a large number of girls. In fact cases of second, third and even fourth marriage by NRIs have come to light. Whereas NRIs ask for facilities here, there is also need to set up some system to help the parents of girls to check the antecedents of their prospective sons-in-law.

There is also need to set up a guidance cell for NRIs who wanted to make contribution in the development of their respective villages. Many of them are interested to finance the education of poor girls and boys. Some wanted to build schools. Many have built hospitals.

However, they are not interested to invest such money through government departments for obvious reasons. The government can help them by providing information.


Dept all set to roll out 650 new buses
Tribune News Service

Kapurthala January 10
To fulfil its objective of providing better transport facilities to people of the state, the Punjab Transport Department, is giving final touches to the process of inclusion of as many as 650 new buses in its fleet.

Meanwhile, the Punjab Transport Department was also planning to lay about 3000 km long new link and main roads with the help of the World Bank during the next two years.

Addressing a state-level function organised in connection with the Road Safety Week here yesterday, Mr Mohinder Singh Kaypee, the Punjab Transport Minister, said the process of including 650 new buses in the existing fleet was almost over and these buses would be made available to passengers within next few days.

“Besides, all link roads of the state would be repaired within a year and with this we hope that people of state would be getting better transport facilities. About 3000 km long new link and main roads would also be laid within two years with the help of World Bank,” said Mr Kaypee.

The minister further maintained that all the district transport offices of the state were being computerised to speed up registration of new vehicles and to ensure early delivery of driving licences to applicants.

Referring to the services provided by his department during the Road Safety Week, which concluded in the state today, Mr Kaypee said the pollution levels of vehicles and eyes of drivers were checked apart from making vehicle drivers aware about traffic rules during the week.

Mr Kaypee also inaugurated, www.suvidha.com, the website of the District Transport Office, Kapurthala.

Mr Rakesh Verma, the Kapurthala Deputy Commissioner, said the website launched by the transport department at Kapurthala was very useful as with its help people could get wide range of information about their licences, application forms and about details of vehicle registration.

Giving shocking information about road accidents, Mr Inderjit Singh Grewal, the State Joint Transport Commissioner, said about 80000 people died in road accidents in the country every year. “The number of such deaths in Punjab is around 2500. The only way to decrease this number is effective implementation of traffic rules,” said Mr. Grewal.

Mr Vinay Kumar Bublani, the Kapurthala District Transport Officer, said more and more people would be made aware about traffic rules and safety precaution by the Kapurthala District Transport authorities.

He said the website launched by the department could prove to be immensely valuable to those who wanted to purchase vehicles and to those who wanted to have any information about status of driving licences.


PRTC buses outlive their age
Tribune News Service

Ropar, January 10
Believe it or not, but it is true. Most of Punjab Roadways Transport Corporation buses plying on the roads in the state have outlived their age specified in terms of number of years and kilometers. As per government rules, the buses are required to be changed after seven years and when these cover 7 lakh km but since May 1998, the Punjab Government has not purchased any new bus for the PRTC.

About 150 buses were more than 14 years old and have been plying on roads endangering lives of passengers.

There are only 1493 buses plying on the roads in Punjab instead of required strength of 2407 buses. As a result, the condition of the buses has deteriorated to such an extent that most of them can cause an accident anytime. Even the roadways drivers fear for their lives and have started opting for voluntary retirement.

Moreover, it is not the government which has been giving compensation to victims, but drivers of buses.

As a result, about 100 roadways drivers facing accident cases are not being given their pension and dues by the government.

Giving details to The Tribune, the president of the Punjab Government Workers Union (AITUC), Mr Darshan Singh, who conducted a meeting with other members of the organisation from all over Punjab here on Saturday, said that the union had decided to meet the Chief Minister, Punjab, this week to apprise him about the deteriorating conditions.

He said despite the fact Rs 40 crore had been sanctioned as loan for purchase of 300 new buses for Punjab, work was halted as the Finance Department refused to give the guarantee for the loan.

He said earlier during Akali regime, former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had made false promises regarding purchase of new buses. He had also promoted private bus owners.

Capt Amarinder Singh was also protecting private transport business of his ministers and MLAs now, he added.


Punjab Advocate-General asked to submit record
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, January 10
The Punjab and Haryana High Court today directed the Punjab Advocate-General to submit the record pertaining to the bail plea of the accused in the case in which Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana Chairman C.M. Munjal is in a tight corner. The Bench directed that the file and other documents be handed over to the court Reader by tomorrow.

During hearing in the matter, the Bench headed by Chief Justice Mr Justice B.K. Roy also sought to know if Mr Munjal had been assigned the task of taking care of the cases listed before Mr Justice MM Kumar on the day when the bail plea was to be taken up.

Addressing the Bench, the amicus curiae, Senior Advocate Suraj Prakash Gupta, said that the issue of whether Mr Justice M.M. Kumar's order in the matter was valid or not has nothing to do with the case as contempt of court proceedings against Mr Munjal were initiated by the Bench headed by the Chief Justice.

Mr Gupta also reiterated that the question of mensuria - whether Mr Munjal had the motive to commit the alleged crime - was also clearly settled by the turn of events culminating in Mr Munjal informing the Abohar Police that Mr Justice Kumar had "orally stayed" the arrest of the accused. It later transpired that the no such order was given by the Judge as the court did not even hear the petition for interim pre-arrest bail to accused Anil Midha.

Pointing out that the duty roster of AG office also said that the court was entrusted to law officer K.K. Beniwal, Mr Gupta alleged that the case was taken by Mr Munjal to help the accused, who could be his distant relative or friend.


Dam employees see red over allowance cut
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, January 10
The employees of the Ranjit Sagar Dam today organised a mass protest against the Finance Department's decision to withdraw their allowances.

Hundreds of employees today gathered before the local treasury office in Shahpur Kandi and organised a dharna against the Punjab Government.

The employees threatened to intensify their agitation in case the government did not restore their allowances. About 1100 employees of the Ranjit Sagar Dam had not accepted salary for the month of December in protest against the government's decision to withdraw their project and field allowance.

With the withdrawal of the allowance, each employee of the dam was set to loose Rs 1300 to Rs 1500 per month.

The employees have also formed a joint action committee to continue their struggle against the government. They have also sought time from the Minister, Mr Raghunath Shay Puri, and Secretary, Finance and Irrigation, Mr K.R. Lakhanpal, to lobby their case.

The Department of Finance has withdrawn the allowance on the plea that the allowances were deemed to be given when the project work was in progress. After the project was completed, a committee headed by the Chief Secretary decided to do away with the allowance.

However, the Irrigation Department authorities at the dam kept on drawing the allowances.

The anomaly has now been detected and the allowances have been withdrawn, the Finance Department authorities maintain.

They told that the government would save about Rs 1 crore per month by withdrawing the allegedly unjustified allowance of the Ranjit Sagar Dam employees.

Sources also told that Department of Finance authorities had asked the district administration of Gurdaspur to ensure safety around the treasury of Shahpur Kandi.

They were also planning to evaluate the extra payment given to the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) employees given by the Punjab Government.

During the construction of the project the PSEB employees were sent on deputation to the dam.

Since then they have been drawing their salary from the Punjab Government.

The Department of Finance officials were of the view that the PSEB employees should have returned to the board after the completion of the project. However, they kept on drawing their salary from the Punjab Government.

The Finance Department might now ask the PSEB to reimburse the salary paid by the Punjab Government to its employees posted at the dam.

The vital meeting on the financial issues pertaining to the Ranjit Sagar dam was likely to be held very soon.


Power generation stops at Nakkiyan, Ganguwal plants
Tribune News Service

Anandpur Sahib, January 10
The power crisis in the Punjab today deepened with the power generation at the two plants in Nakkiyan and Ganguwal, of 67 MW capacity each, in Anandpur Sahib town coming to a halt.

The power generation was stopped due to the paucity of water, triggered by the non-supply of the water from the Bhakra Dam.

The power generation at the two units, of 33.5 MW capacity each, at Nakkiyan and one of 33.5 MW capacity at Ganguwal, was halted yesterday when the water supply to the Anandpur Sahib hydel channel was stopped from the Bhakra Dam.

The power generation at one of the units of 33.5 MW capacity at Ganguwal had already been stooped since December 30, after a fire that broke out there and had burnt the underground cable galleries.

The water, which was supposed to be discharged to the Anandpur Sahib Hydel Channel, has been diverted to the Nangal Hydel Channel to maintain the production of the BBMB’s two separate power generation plants at Ganguwal and Kotla.

The water level of the Bhakra Dam was 1554 feet today, which is about 60 feet low than the last year.

The water level at Bhakra Dam was about 100 feet low than normal, therefore, since September last year there was a shortage of the power supply to the Punjab, Haryana. The crisis would continue till March in all probability.

The officials of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) and that of the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) were blaming each other for the crisis. The officials of the PSEB maintained that the power generation at Ganguwal and Nakkiyan was stopped due to an acute shortage of water in Anandpur Sahib. 


Drug-makers to ask CM to take up excise issue
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 10
Representatives of pharmaceutical companies in Punjab have decided to urge the Chief Minister as well as the Finance Minister to take up urgently the issue of new excise duty levied on drugs from January 8 to save the industry in the state.

"We are examining all options available to us," says Mr Jagdeep Singh, president of the Drug Manufacturers' Association, revealing that if need be "we would knock at the doors of the judiciary against this obvious discrimination between pharmaceutical companies of plains and those of hill states."

Those manufacturing drugs maintain that till now the ex-factory price of drugs used to be between 25 per cent and 30 per cent of the Maximum Retail Price (MRP). This did not include 4 per cent Central Sales Tax (CST). Transportation charges were extra.

According to insiders of the trade, the accepted wholesalers' margin is 10.5 per cent while retailers normally get 20 per cent. Only exceptions are branded generics where the margin of profit, both for distributors and retailers vary.

Major players like Ranbaxy, Cipla and Cadilla developed branded generics before they were brought under the excise net. Since the major players were in generic, smaller players started building control over patent and proprietary brands. Major companies retaliated by flooding the markets with generics in their attempt to regain their market share in P&P brands.

Smaller companies worked their new strategies for sustenance by taking job work or acting as ancillaries for bigger players. It was generic medicines which made retailers flourish because of heavy profit margin.

The drug manufacturers maintain that while bigger players would survive this new excise duty onslaught, it will be the smaller players who will be elbowed out of the trade. Tax holiday in hilly states straightway puts them at 10 per cent advantage in the MRP. Now losing another 10 per cent because of making 65 per cent of MRP as basis for excise duty would put drug manufacturers at 20 per cent profit margin disadvantage.

"This difference is too big. The only way left for smaller companies would be either to lower the quality of their product and still work almost at par with their cost of production or leave.

"Big companies and multinationals will survive because retailers might partly absorb the MRP-based excise duty from 1000 per cent margin he gets in certain branded generics. On the other hand, increase in ex-factory price for excise duty would result in 20 per cent increase in MRP.

"In case the Government of India makes it uniform for all pharmaceutical companies, including hill states, then it is OK, as it will provide even playing field to all players. But giving the hill state units 20 per cent advantage violates the basic right to equality, which we may challenge before the judiciary. Why should units in hill states benefit at the cost of the units in plains," asks Mr Jagdeep Singh, hoping that the Punjab and Haryana Governments would take up the case with the Centre urgently as it involves not only 300-odd units but also thousands who are employed in these units.


Sugar output may hit all-time low
Poonam Batth
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 10
While the country is facing a spurt in sugar prices, the fall in sugarcane production in Punjab is going to further deepen this crisis. The sugar production in the state will hit an all-time low this year and will be 3 lakh tonnes this season.

Official sources in the Agriculture Department attribute this to a substantial decline in the area under cane production due to the apathy of the state government towards the sugarcane growers and the cooperative sugar mills. The area under sugarcane cultivation has progressively reduced from 1.80 lakh hectares in 2002-2003 to 1.35 lakh hectares last year and to just 83,000 hectares this year. In fact the area under cane cultivation has further gone down by 40 per cent since last year and this is perhaps the biggest fall in a single year. Correspondingly, the production of sugarcane has come down. In the good years like 1996-97 when as much as 2.30 lakh hectares was under cane cultivation, the production of sugar was more than 7.5 lakh tonnes, sources add.

Dr Bhupinder Singh Shahpuri, Cane Commissioner, Punjab, said the crushing capacity of these mills is 52,000 tonnes per day but with the area under cultivation having gone down most of the mills in the cooperative sector are operating less than 25 per cent of their capacity during this season. Three of the total 15 cooperative sugar mills at Rakhra, Jagraon and Zira are not operational and sugarcane from these areas is being diverted to the neighbouring mills. Dhuri and Patran, though functional also do not have enough cane stocks for crushing this season. While those which are functional would also stop operations by this month-end, only a few private mills would continue till February. Ideally, these mills should function continuously for 180 days during the crushing season to be profitable, he added.

Sources in the department add that partial and untimely payment of arrears due to them for the last two years have forced the cane growers to shift back to the traditional wheat and paddy cultivation where the returns are fixed and better. Though the government extended some help to the farmers by releasing Rs 460 crore for these two years, cooperative sugar mills in the state still owe Rs 75 crore and private mills Rs 21 crore to the farmers. Only three of the cooperative mills in Buddhewal, Nawan Shahar and Malout have cleared all their arrears till the last season, it is learnt.

The sugar industry is in the red due to host of restrictions, both on procurement of raw material and sale of byproduct. Sources disclose that even Excise Department buys molasses from these mills at Rs 125 per quintal for supply to distilleries even as the market rate for the same is Rs 900 per quintal. Besides this, sugar mills have to pay a number of taxes on sugar and molasses. The government had earmarked Rs 72 crore in the budget to provide relief to the cooperative sugar mills but only 12 crore has been released.

Further, since the price of sugarcane has not been revised since 1999 and continues to be Rs 100 per quintal, farmers are no more inclined to sow sugarcane. They maintain that while the cost of cultivation is going up, the returns are dismal. The efforts of the department to get the rates revised to Rs 110 per quintal have also failed due to the financial health of the cooperative mills. Farmers often prefer to give their produce to the private sugar mills due to timely payments despite higher rates of Rs 120-125 per quintal.


Docs accused in fake medico-legal reports case
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 10
A case of preparing alleged fake medico reports has come to light even as the inquiry reports, prepared by a board of doctors and another by a professor of Forensic Science , Government Medical College , Dr Hakumat Rai, has clearly pointed an accusing finger at the doctors concerned.

The inquiry reports state that the doctors had allegedly manipulated the injuries. While a CT scan had not mentioned any fracture of the scalp, an X-ray, done two days later, had shown out a fracture . The comparison of both reports shows that the Jagjit Singh’s injury was manipulated so that the opposite party got maximum punishment in the court .

The Communist Party of India (CPI ) has claimed that the Punjab State Human Rights Commission has directed the district police chief to initiate action against the doctors for preparing ‘fake reports'.

Dr H.S.Gill, Civil Surgeon said the report had already been sent to the police and it was for them (the police) to take action .

The case pertains to a clash between the two warring groups at Dodhala village in which persons of both parties sustained injuries in August last year . In alleged connivance with certain doctors and a conduit, a fake MLR was prepared to convict the opposite party. The CPI alleged that though a senior doctor of the Forensic Department was involved in the case yet he had got the job done by a student of MD . Addressing a press conference here today, Mr Balwinder Singh Dodhala distributed both reports. Both inquiries were conducted on the complaint of Mr Dodhala .

The re-examination of Jagjit Singh, Gurmit Singh and Jasbir Kaur was conducted by a medical board of three doctors —Dr Sukhwinder Singh, Dr Iqbal Singh Ghai and Dr Palwinder Singh. During the re-examination, the previous medico legal report and hospital report were scrutinised and it was found that the patient was first admitted to emergency in the surgical unit of Guru Nanak Dev Hospital on August 20 last year. 


Engine collides with train, four injured
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 10
As many as four passengers were injured when a diesel engine collided with the last bogey of the Ferozepore-Mumbai Punjab Mail Express train at platform number four of the local railway station last night.

The diesel engine, which was shunting on the same line on which the Punjab Mail Express train was standing, collided despite the fact that there was no fog and visibility was full in that area. The diesel engine was running at the speed of 10 km per hour. The train left for its onward journey after a delay of about an hour from its scheduled time.

Following this incident, the Union Railway Ministry, which has taken a serious notice of the mishap, has decided to initiate a high- level probe into the it.

Interestingly, all four passengers, who suffered multiple injuries and were shifted to the local civil hospital for treatment, disappeared from the hospital under mysterious circumstances.

Civil hospital sources said that the four injured, who were brought here late last night and were put to treatment immediately, were not in their respective beds since this morning.

The local railway authorities ,when contacted, refused to confirm the fact that any such collision had taken place. Information revealed that the injured, who were getting treatment, were forced to leave the hospital by a section of officials allegedly to hush up the matter. Those who suffered injuries were identified as Karaj Singh, Nachhattar Singh, Ajit Singh and Nazar Singh.

Official sources said a high level team comprising three senior official of three different wings of the Indian Railways would start a comprehensive inquiry into this incident tomorrow.

Information revealed that this evening, a section of officials of the Railway posted at the local railway station held a meeting to work out a strategy to deal with the inquiry team.

Mr Soorma Singh, Deputy Station Superintendent, local Railway Station, when contacted, while refusing to make any comment on the fact that whether any collision had taken place or not, said that only Delhi office could talk to mediapersons. He also refused to make any comment when asked that why the injured had disappeared under mysterious circumstances from local civil hospital.

It could not be known whether any criminal case was registered in this connection or not. 


Gateman averts rail mishap
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, January 10
A rail mishap was averted here yesterday on the Phagwara-Jalandhar mainline rail section due to the alertness of a gateman.

The main hook in front of the train engine of the Jammu-bound 2473 Up Sarvodhaya Express developed a snag and was dangling loosely, creating a rattling sound.

When the gateman, Joginder Singh, at the Santokhpura railway barrier noticed it he immediately showed a red flag to the driver who stopped the train.

The train was stranded at the Santokhpura railway crossing for about 10 minutes. It chugged off only after the fault in the main hook was set right by the crew. 


Polo Majra mishap exposes claims of transport, police depts
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 10
The tragic accident near Polo Majra village, near Khamano, which claimed 14 lives on January 3 has exposed the claims of the transport and police departments on the plying of safe and uncrowded vehicles on roads and highways.

This is not the first time that a vehicle belonging to a private unit was involved in an accident. Four girls working in Shiva Mills had died when the mini bus in which they were travelling met with an accident on May 13 last year. Similarly, vehicles belonging to other units have met with accidents in  the past.

Enquiries reveal that in the present case, the ill-fated mini bus was only meant for ferrying 12 persons but at the time of the accident 27 girls were travelling to work. Most of them were standing. Several girls who were waiting to board the mini bus at Sanghol had a narrow escape and are so shaken by the happening that they have reportedly not joined duty.

Experts are of the opinion that many girls fell on top of each other and suffered fatal injuries due to the impact of the accident. The death toll too could have been less had it not been for the overcrowding factor besides the alleged negligence of both the drivers.

It is a matter of record that while truck drivers are harassed by both the transport and police departments regularly for not possessing proper documents and overloading, hardly any action is taken against the influential owners of private bus companies and drivers or vehicles belonging to industrial units. In the Polo Majra accident, the inaction on the part of both the departments is evident.

Sources said at the time of the accident, the bus belonging to the Libra Bus Service was allegedly being plied without a permit on the Chandigarh - Mohali route. The permit of the bus was valid for Ludhiana-Bathinda route and it would have ideally started from the Ludhiana bus stand and passed through Barnala and other towns en route before reaching Bathinda. What was the bus doing on this route, the sources pointed out.

While the Ludhiana-Chandigarh highway has been designated as a National Highway no dividers have been constructed along the entire length. This is also one of the major reasons for the head-on collisions on this road.

Speeding is another cause for worry. Besides, police assistance booths and ambulances are not available at many places on this highway adding to the woes of hundreds of commuters, the sources added.


Sikh who befriended Jarawas is no more
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 10
A Port Blair-based retired Sikh police officer, Mr Bakhtawar Singh, who was first to establish contact with the Jarawas in the forests of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands died yesterday.

He was cremated at Port Blair today. Hundreds of people, including tribesmen, especially the Onges, participated in a colourful procession that was oraganised as part of his wish. “It was my father’s wish that none should weep following his death and his funeral procession be marked by recitation of kirtan,” said Mr Sarabjit Singh, employed as Assistant Engineer in the Agriculture Department at Port Blair, talking to The Tribune on the phone.

Shortly before the tsunami waves hit the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Mr Bakhtawar Singh, had suffered a heart attack. He was discharged from the Port Blair hospital on December 25.

He had predicted that the Jarawas would have survived the death waves.

He was proved right.

Born in Hargana village near Khanna in Fatehgarh Sahib on March 9, 1915, Mr Bakhtawar Singh joined the police in 1935 as constable at Port Blair. He retired as Deputy Superintendent of Police in 1973. Keeping in view his exceptional work on establishing ties with the Jarawas, he was given three years extension and made Commandant, Bush Police. He served in this capacity till 1976.

Later, he was made Executive Secretary of the Andaman Adi Janjati Vikas Saimiti.

Mr Bakhtwar Singh had learnt the language of the Jarawas and talked to them in their language.

The tribe which had resisted the construction of roads in their area and shot dead several PWD officials who dared to tread their territory, had developed complete faith in him.

A valuable link with the Jarawas and other tribesmen has been lost with his death.


Sikhi Sidak March from Jan 12
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, January 10
The second Sikhi Sidak March being organised by SAD(A) will start from January 12 from Gurdwara Dina Sahib, Faridkot, and reach Muktsar on January 13. This is to commemorate the tercentenary of the 40 liberated ones (Muktey), who laid down lives fighting oppressors. It was at this gurdwara that Guru Gobind Singh had written Zafarnama to Aurangzeb.

Mr Jaskaran Singh Kahan Singhwala, general secretary, SAD(A), declared here today that a big conference would be held at Muktsar and Damdami Taksal acting chief Baba Harnam Singh Bhindrawale (Dhumma) and SAD(A) president Simranjit Singh Mann would address it.

Third Sikhi Sidak March will be organised from Bhangani to Anandpur Sahib on the occasion of Holla Mohalla, said Mr Jaskatan Singh.


Blast a plot against me: Bhaniarawala
Tribune News Service

Nurpurbedi (Ropar), January 10
A time bomb could be the cause of the blast that damaged a portion of dharamshala building in the ashram of Baba Pyara Singh Bhaniarawala in Dhimana village in Nurpurbedi town in the district. The powerful blast that took place yesterday evening had damaged the portion of the building nearly 50 labourers were working there and some devotees were present inside the dharamshala. However, no one was injured in the blast as the bomb was planted just outside the gate.

Senior officials of the police including the DIG (CID), Mr B.K. Uppal, SSP, and a team of the Forensic Science Laboratory, Chandigarh, today visited the spot to investigate the cause of the blast.

The police has registered a case on the complaint of security man of the ashram, Mr Ajit Singh.


Talwara Rock Garden in four months
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Talwara, January 10
The Rock Garden of Chandigarh will get a new aquarium. The London and USA-based Nek Chand foundations have agreed to finance two blocks of aquarium for the Chandigarh based rock garden. Mr Nek Chand gave this information while talking to The Tribune at Talwara today.

He was here to supervise the ongoing work of the rock garden being developed by the BBMB at Talwara. Mr Nek Chand is the chairman of the advisory on rock garden being brought up here.

Praising the BBMB for its effort of using the waste material to create the rock garden, Mr Nek Chand said it was one of the very few organizations in India that had taken to his concept. In most of other government departments the bureaucracy had not allowed his project to take over.

In Delhi a rock garden was planned near Nehru university. Another Rs 1 crore was spent on creating the basic infrastructure of the project. However, then the officer concerned got transferred and the entire project got derailed.

The Municipal Corporation of Rajkot also planned the project in the city. However, here also when the officer who initiated the move got transferred.

He said that the Supreme Court had also issued directions regarding the solid waste management in urban areas. If solid waste generated is used in a creative manner to create art it can also to some extent in tackling the problem. Mr Nek Chand also lamented none of the authorities from Punjab had ever contacted him to create a park in the state.

On the contrary the foreigners were adopting his skill. He said the Talwara Rock Garden would take shape in four months.

Mr Narinder Sharma, the adviser to the committee, said the rock garden at Talwara was an experimental project. 


Symposium on Naxalite movement
Our Correspondent

Barnala, January 10
A symposium was held on the book, “Punjab di Naxalite Movement da Nayak — Haqam Singh Samauon” here today at S.D. College here. About 12 Punjabi writers ,research scholars and critics participated in the discussion. It was organised by the Vigyan Jot, a publication, and the Radical People Forum.

Delivering the keynote address, Punjabi novelist Jaswant Singh Kanwal shared views on the Naxalite movement in Punjab and the impact of Communist Haqam Singh Samauon on his life.

Communist Darshan Khatkar made clarifications on various points raised with regard to the principles and implementation of the Naxalite movement.

Dr Davinder Singh Booha termed this book as a documentary evidence of the history of the Naxalite movement.

Mr Sukhdarshan Natt, who compiled the book, said though the book contains elaborate information on the Naxalite movement, various events which happened during the movement cannot be termed as the final truth on the subject .

The symposium also witnessed heated discussions of the audience and Dr Tejwant Mann, general secretary, Kendri Likhari Sabha (Sekhon). The audience objected to some comments made by Dr Mann on the book.

Prominent among those present on the occasion include Dr Pritam Singh Rahi, Jagir Singh Jagtar , Editor, Vigyaan Jot, Mr Amit Mitter and others.


Gates to be set up in memory of Bhai Jiwan Singh
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, January 10
Mr Buta Singh, Governor, Bihar, yesterday urged people to follow the path shown by Bhai Jiwan Singh Jaita, who sacrificed his life for Sikh religion about 300 years ago, Mr H.S. Hanspal, President, PPCC, who was also present announced that four gates would be erected in memory of Bhai Jiwan Singh Jaita at places which were important for the Sikhs.

Both Mr Buta Singh and Mr Hanspal were here to attend a state-level function organised to mark the of supreme sacrifice made by Bhai Jiwan Singh Jaita by the All-India Rangreta Dal.

Mr Joginder Singh Mann, Dr Harbans Lal (both Parliamentary Secretaries), Mr Nathu Ram, Mr Sukhdarshan Marar, Mr Harnirpal Singh Kuku, Mr Sukhdev Singh Shabazpuri, Mr Baldev Singh Ballamgarh (MLAs and former MLAs) and Mr Tehal Singh Sandhu, general secretary, PPCC, attended the function.

Mr Buta Singh, first went to Takht Damdama Sahib to pay obeisance there and was given “siropa”. Addressing the gathering, he said Sikh religion was full of incidents, which were enough to motivate people to render selfless service to mankind. 


Yajna for tsunami victims
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 10
A yajna was organised for tsunami victims by the local Hans Raj Mahila Vidyalaya authorities, while councillors of the local municipal council collected funds for the victims.

Ms P.P. Sharma, Principal of the college, teachers and students participated in the yajna on the campus for peace to tsunami victims. The teaching and non-teaching staff contributed one-day salary for the victims. Students decided to donate an amount of Rs 1 lakh.

The councillors, led by the Mayor, marched from Company Bag to Jyoti Chowk and collected Rs 60,137 for tsunami victims. They have decided to continue the venture in the coming days. Mayor Surinder Mahey donated Rs 21,000 for the victims.


Centenary of 40 ‘muktas’ to be observed
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 10
The SGPC has decided to observe the centenary of 40 “muktas” as per the Sikh traditions this month.

A press release issued here on Friday said it was decided at a meeting of the Dharam Prachar Committee held at Fatehgarh Sahib on Friday.

It decided to give 95 acres, fixed deposits worth Rs 5 crore and other Rs 20 lakh for the proposed World Sikh University at Fatehgarh Sahib.


Delhi Akali Dal starts kar seva at Nankana Sahib
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, January 10
The Delhi Akali Dal has started the kar seva of a gurdwara and a serai at Nankana Sahib in Pakistan. It will be completed in December. This will cost Rs 6 crore.

Stating this here today, Mr Paramjit Singh Sarna, president, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) and president, Delhi Akali Dal, said there were as many as 174 gurdwaras in Pakistan and the condition of the same was in a bad shape.

Regarding the Haryana Vidhan Sabha election, Mr Sarna said the Delhi Akali Dal would support those candidates whom the Haryana Sikhs would back. They would not support SAD nominees.

Referring to the demand for holiday on the birthday of Guru Nanak Dev, Mr Sarna said. The Pakistan Punjab Chief Minister Mr Parvarz Elahi, had immediately accepted the demand and declared it to be a public holiday.


Yogi’s ashes to be immersed today

Amritsar, January 10
The ashes of Harbhajan Singh Yogi, founder of Miri Piri Academy who had brought a large number of Americans into the Sikh fold, be immersed at Kiratpur Sahib tomorrow.

His widow and other family members brought the ashes from USA. Yogi had passed away on October 6. — OC


Health programme concludes
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 10
A superhealth project developed by the 3HO Foundation, founded by Harbhajan Singh Yogi, in collaboration, with the Punjab Health Systems Corporation concluded at Dr Vidya Sagar Government Mental Hospital here today.

A group of 10 addicts was fully cured to lead a normal and healthy life after a 90-day comprehensive treatment by top American experts from the fields of yoga, meditation and medicine.

The commissioner of the 3HO foundation, Ms Mukta Kaur Khalsa, said the aim of the programme was to benefit those suffering from the drug menace.


Police official's son shot during loot bid
Rajbir Sekhon

Bathinda, January 10
A youth identified as Harpreet Singh, alias Dimpy, son of a police official posted in Mansa district and resident of Guru Ki Nagri locality of this town, was shot dead by a private security guard of a petrol pump located at Kot Shamir village, while he along with four others made an attempt to loot the pump at gunpoint late last night.

The deceased, Harpreet Singh alias Dimpy, and his associates, who were involved in the crime, were already wanted in a number of cases pertaining to looting in Punjab and Haryana.

Most of the accused were hooked to drugs. The accomplices of the deceased who were on a jeep while making an attempt to loot the petrol pump and fled from the spot after Harpreet was shot dead, were caught by the police at a special naka laid on a bridge near Jodhpur Romana village located on Bathinda-Dabwali road today.

Mr Kapil Dev, SSP, while talking to mediapersons here this evening, said the deceased accused Harpreet Singh alias Dimpy had fired a shot towards the private security guard, Mr Sohan Singh, in an attempt to loot the petrol pump after breaking its window panes.

Mr Sohan Singh then fired a shot towards Harpreet Singh from his licensed .12 bore gun which hit the deceased, who fell after running away from that spot for a few yards.

Mr Sohan Singh then fired three shots in the air to foil an attempt of looting made by the accused.

After Harpreet Singh alias Dimpy fell on the ground, his accomplices, who were identified as Gurdeep Singh, Amrik Singh, Harpreet Singh alias Kaju and Vicky alias Lucky, fled from the spot leaving their injured associate behind.

He added that while Gurdeep Singh, Amrik Singh and Harpreet Singh alias Kaju (all resident of Bathinda town) were arrested today and the jeep which they had used in the crime, had been recovered Vicky alias Lucky was still to be caught as he escaped after jumping into the distributory.

Apart from two pistols with live cartridges, some sharp edged weapons and blunt weapons were recovered from the jeep and from the possession of the accused.

All the accused were of 20 to 25 years of age. He pointed out that after the accused fled away from the scene, the employees of petrol pump, including Mr Sohan Singh informed the police immediately on phone following which senior officers rushed to the spot while other officials laid naka at different points in the whole district.

He pointed out that as the accused were involved in a number of criminal cases, their interrogation would reveal information regarding other untraced crimes also.

He said a case under Sections 307, 398 and 34 of IPC and Section 25 of Arms Act had been registered at the Sadar police station.

He added that Mr Sukhdev Singh Chahal, DSP (R) and Mr Harwinder Singh Virk, SI, Punjab Police, had played an important role to nap the accused swiftly.


Three bodies found in  10 days
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, January 10
The recovery of three bodies in the town over the past 10 days has led a panic-like situation in the area.

Though the police claims to have registered cases in all three incidents, but sources say the investigation is going on at a snail’s pace.

On January 1, the body of Sonu, son of Jathedar Sewa Singh, was found lying in a deserted car. After a post-mortem examination, the viscera was reportedly sent to a forensic laboratory for ascertaining the real cause of death. Kin of the deceased reportedly suspect that Sonu’s friends were involved in the incident.

On January 8, the body of Sorub, a student of class XII, who used to sell tea in the Siali road area here, was found hanging with telephone wire. The father of the victim has accused Sunil, his nephew, of murdering his son due to some property dispute.

Yesterday, the body of a B.Sc student, Preemi Gupta, a resident of Jugial, was found from Chakki river belt, near Talwara Jattan village.

It was in a mutilated condition. A case has been registered.


Body identified; police suspects murder
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, January 10
The body of a girl which was recovered from a canal yesterday by the Pathankot police has been identified. The police sources told that the girl had been identified as 20 year-old Primi Gupta, resident of Shahpur Kandi. She had gone to visit here friend on December 8.

When she did not return home her parents lodged a police complaint. The scooty on which had gone from home was found from near the canal in Shahpur Kandi, raising doubts initially that she committed suicide. Sources said the theory of suicide was supported by the fact that the deceased girl was in love and her parents were allegedly opposed to her marriage with Rukam who was untraceable.

The police, however, suspects that the girl was murdered. The police was working on the theory of murder in the case on the plea that deep wound were notices on the forehead of the girl that might have caused the death. Moreover, the water had not entered the body. This indicates that she might have perished before she was thrown in the canal. Had she drowned in water would have entered her body causing it to swell the police sources told.

The police has registered a case under Sections 302 and 211 of the IPC.


Mystery shrouds chemist's death
Tribune News Service

Moga, January 10
A chemist was found dead under mysterious circumstances on the roadside in Dharamkot area of the district.

However, suspecting it to be a case of a road accident, the police has registered a case under Section 174 of the IPC.

According to sources, the deceased, 25-year-old Gurmej Singh, had a medical store at Bhinder Khurd village.

On Saturday night, he called up his home at Indergarh village and told his family members that he would be returning soon.

But, when he didn't reach home till 9 pm they went out looking for him. He was found lying at the roadside with injuries on his head.

He was rushed to a private hospital where he was declared brought dead.

The police handed over the deceased's body to his family members after the post-mortem examination yesterday. 


PTU to introduce M. Pharmacy
Deepkamal Kaur
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 10
Punjab Technical University (PTU) is likely to introduce M. Pharmacy in a few colleges in the state soon.

While the PTU is already running B. Pharmacy course in 17 colleges of the state, the university is planning to start postgraduation in the field in one or two colleges from the next session. The authorities have also decided to enrol 10 to 15 candidates for the first batch and that the number of seats be increased gradually. It has also been decided that pharmaceutics and pharmacology will be the two specialised fields that would be taken up in the first batch.

A three-member committee comprising Dr R.K. Khar of Hamdard University, Delhi, Dr Lazar Mathew, Director of St Francis Institute of Medical Sciences, Ajmer, and Dr Alka Mehta, Deputy Director (Academics), PTU, has been set up with a view to exploring the demand for pharmacy postgraduates in the Punjab industry and inclination of the pharmacy graduates to take up specialised course in the field. The committee will also formulate various rules and regulation and syllabus for the course.

According to the university sources, four pharmacy colleges had proposed that M.Pharmacy be started on their campuses. However, the PTU has not given a nod to any one of them. Instead, the PTU has decided to set up a regional centre in one or two colleges and elevate them as postgraduate colleges.

The university has also set up a regional centre coordination committee to identify a nodal college that fulfils most of the needs in terms of infrastructure and qualification of the staff, as required for a postgraduation course. The committee, headed by Mr A.S. Bains, Adviser to the university, will also find out whether the targeted college will be able to meet the expenses to develop an advanced laboratory for running M. Pharmacy. It will also decide the timeframe required in this regard.

The committee will soon have two pharmacy experts. The committee will also ensure that the faculty improvement programmes are held in the regional center.

Dr Siby John, Dean (academics), PTU, said the whole process was taking time and the university did not want to start the course in a haste. He said it could take another year for the course to start.


Race on for new PAU VC
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, January 10
The race for the post of Vice-Chancellor of Punjab Agricultural University has begun. The term of the present incumbent, Dr KS Aulakh, ends on March 31.

Aspirants for the post have started their campaigning. The main contenders for the post include Dr MS Bajwa, a retired Director of Research, PAU, Dr GS Nanda, Director of Research, and Dr MS Tiwana, Dean, College of Agriculture. There may be some candidates from outside the campus. Dr KS Aulakh also remains in the race of a second term.

There are certain elements who have launched a campaign against Dr Aulakh as they were punished by Dr Aulakh for various acts of omission and commission. They include both the teaching and non-teaching staff. They have formed a joint action committee and their only agenda is not to allow Dr Aulakh get a second term.

However, the Punjab Agricultural University Teachers Association (PAUTA) has come out in support of Dr Aulakh. PAUTA has slapped a case against the joint action committee for defaming and tarnishing the image of the university.

The four-year term of Dr Aulakh has been without any major disturbance on the campus.

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