P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Revenue officers defer pen-down strike
Cases against three officers to be reviewed
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 11
Revenue officers have decided to defer their pen-down strike following an assurance by the state government that the cases registered against some officers would be reviewed.

A delegation today met the Financial Commissioner (Revenue) and appraised him of the wrong procedure adopted in registering cases against their colleagues. The Tribune had yesterday highlighted how hundreds of people in five districts falling under Patiala division were facing hardship in getting their sale deeds executed for the past many days as the officers were on a pen-down strike.

Referring to the outcome of a three-hour-long meeting with the FCR which concluded late in the evening today, Mr Gurmit Singh Nadala, general secretary of the Punjab State Revenue Officers Union, said that the government had decided to review the cases registered against three revenue officers, Mr Sucha Singh, Mr Mandeep Singh and Ms Seema Singh.

After being assured by the FCR that the inquiry in the case of Mr Sucha Singh had been marked to Mr Rakesh Aggarwal, Superintendent of Police, and that the action in other would be reviewed, the union decided to defer the pen-down strike till further notice.

Mr Nadala claimed that the meeting was held in a cordial atmosphere and the FCR discussed the issue with various officers, including the Home Secretary. They were assured that the respective District Magistrates would hold an inquiry if the union was not satisfied with the out come of the police inquiry.

Sources revealed that the issue would be discussed at a meeting scheduled to be held at Patiala on Friday. Mr C R Srivastava, Commissioner, Patiala division, would listen to the grievances of the revenue officers.

Meanwhile, revenue offices in the Malwa belt witnessed an unprecedented rush of people yesterday and today as these offices had resumed normal functioning after four days. A large number of people were apprehending the outcome of the meeting and were afraid that the work could be suspended if the strike spread to other parts of the state or got prolonged.

Long queues were witnessed in revenue offices falling in Ludhiana, Sangrur, Patiala, Fatehgarh and Ropar districts. The revenue officers, including Tehsildars, Naib Tehsildars and District Revenue Officers had observed a pen down strike on Thursday and Friday and had given a call for a similar strike for Wednesday and Thursday also.

With inputs from Mahesh Sharma (Mandi Ahmedgarh).


NRI leaves for Nagapattinam with tsunami relief
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 11
Mr Darshan Singh Dhaliwal, an NRI, had come to India on December 23 to participate in the Jor Mela which was held at Fatehgarh Sahib to commemorate the sacrifices made by the two sons of Guru Gobind Singh. Little did he know that he would be scouting for hundred trucks and boarding a flight for Tamil Nadu to be among the sufferers at Nagapattinam.

Mr Dhaliwal, who runs a multimillion dollar gas pump empire in the United States, is a frequent visitor to Patiala where his brother is a legislator from Samana. He also hob nobs with the Akalis with SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal a frequent visitor to the family mansion situated at Rakhra village, 15 km from here.

The NRI says he was caught off guard by the tsunami and the enormity of the disaster it had caused. “I had come here to participate in the Jor Mela and to hold talks for handing over a channel run by the family to the SGPC. The tsunami made me realise I would have to prioritise by trying to provide succour to the victims of the tragedy”.

Accordingly, Mr Dhaliwal claims that he had decided on the kind of help he would provide in Tamil Nadu by December 28 last year. “What I wanted to do was buttressed by a communication from the Governor’s office there informing me what kind of relief the state needed in this hour of crisis”.

He then started his search for trucks. “After a few days of fervent searching, I came to the conclusion that a hundred truck convoy, which I had in mind, would not be possible as trucks were not available for such a long distance”. He said he then decided to take the entire relief material to Tamil Nadu by a special goods train.

Twentyeight bogeys full of wheat, rice, cereals, cooking oil, canvas tents, sugar, milk powder, medicines and even ready natural food like pumpkins started on its way to Tamil Nadu three days back. Today Mr Dhaliwal, his brother and Samana legislator Surjit Singh Rakhra, besides SAD president Parkash Singh Badal and SGPC Chief Bibi Jagir Kaur received the relief material at Tripti railway station in Tamil Nadu.

Mr Dhaliwal went to Nagapattinam today. He said the relief train from Patiala included 500 Akali workers as well as employees of the SGPC who had already started the process of starting a ‘langar’ at a special camp. He said around 3,000 tents, which the relief train carried were being put up to house those who had lost everything. “We hope to cater to more than 12,000 tsunami stricken people”, he says adding that this is the least he could do. The NRI says he has spent Rs 3.5 crore on the relief and has pledged Rs 1.5 crore more, all from his personal funds only.


Dosanjh expresses concern over declining sex ratio
Tribune News Service

Dosanjh Kalan (Jalandhar), January 11
The Health Minister, Federal Government of Canada, and former premier of British Columbia, Mr Ujjal Dosanjh, interacted with villagers at his native village, here today.

Expressing concern at the declining sex ratio, he said Punjab had the unenviable distinction of having less than 750 women per thousand men. This was bound to have serious social repercussions, he added.

Mr Dosanjh said he planned to take up the issue of appointment of teachers at the senior secondary school, set up at the village with NRI contribution of Rs 85 lakh, with Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh. The school presently does not have sufficient number of teachers though it has the required infrastructure.

Later, he interacted with students at his alma mater, Guru Har Rai Khalsa Senior Secondary School, Dosanjh Kalan. The students asked him questions pertaining to the police and healthcare systems in Canada and mismatched NRI marriages. He exhorted the students not to be afraid of speaking out their minds.

Emphasising that it was imperative for people to be proactive, he said issues like better healthcare facilities and clean environment could be addressed to only if people took the initiative. He added that he would contribute his bit to the upgradation of the village health centre.


Badal reaches Chennai with relief material
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 11
A delegation of Shiromani Akali Dal( SAD) led by its president , Mr Parkash Singh Badal, yesterday reached Chennai. Akali leaders were received by the Principal Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Government, according to Dr Daljit Singh Cheema, secretary of SAD.

The delegation has gone to hand over relief material collected by SAD for Tsunami victims in Tamil Nadu, said Dr Cheema.

Mr Badal is accompanied by Bibi Jagir Kaur, president of the SGPC, Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, former Union Minister, Mr Surjit Singh Rakhra, MLA from Samana, Mr Varinder Singh Bajwa and Mr Zora Singh Mann, both Members of Parliament.

Members of the delegation met the state Governor, Mr Surjit Singh Barnala, and Chief Minister, Ms Jayalalitha. Mr Badal told the Chief Minister SAD and the SGPC plan to help the people affected by Tsunami. Akali leaders would be visiting Nagapattinam and other affected areas.


NGO asks people to help tsunami victims
Our Correspondent

Abohar, January 11
The BAPS Care International, which had spearheaded relief and rescue operations on January 26, 2001 in the Kutch earthquake, also launched immediate relief operations in the areas affected by tsunami and earthquake in India and abroad.

Swami Ishwercharan, Director, International Services of the Bochasawasi Aksharpurshotam Swaminarayan Sanstha, told this correspondent on phone that hundreds of BAPS Care volunteers were actively involved in various relief operations in the affected areas. Food packets and packaged drinking water were being distributed in far off regions, besides supplying tarpaulin, utensils, stoves, clothes, blankets and other emergency materials. He said the relief operations were started on December 27 last year.

He said the BAPS had already distributed thousands of food packets to the affected persons. Also, near Chennai the organisation had set up a kitchen to serve hot food to the survivors.

Pramukhswami Ji Maharaj, founder of more than 500 temples and chief of the BAPS with its headquarters at Ahmedabad, had issued an appeal to people all over the world to help in this time of crisis. He said it was our duty to provide humanitarian aid, regardless of community, caste, creed or country.

The Swami, who had found reference in the Guinness Book of World Records twice, said only with collective international support, we could overcome this devastating catastrophe and hence they appealed to all individuals, groups and nations to come forward and help in every possible way.


Police exonerates Daler Mehndi
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 11
Patiala SSP Amardeep Singh Rai today said Punjabi pop singer Daler Mehndi stood discharged in the human trafficking case registered against him and that there was no truth in the reports that a local court had rejected a revision petition filed by the Patiala police in that regard.

Talking to newsmen here, he said the human trafficking case registered against Daler Mehndi had been investigated twice by the Patiala police. “He has been found innocent in both inquiries,” he said. The second investigation was done after the complainants in the case claimed that they were not satisfied with the police investigation.

The SSP said the case was reinvestigated following a direction by a local court and the report, completely exonerating the pop singer in the human trafficking case, had been submitted to the court. “Once we have reinvestigated a case and submitted the report, the court is bound to accept the same,” he added.

He said misapprehensions could have occurred due to an order passed by a local court on the issue yesterday. He said the court of S.P. Bangarh had held yesterday that it could send back a case that had been submitted to it after due investigation. He said the order was passed on a petition filed by the District Attorney challenging the order of the court by which the Patiala police had been asked to reinvestigate the report exonerating Daler Mehndi. “However, we have already reinvestigated the case and even submitted the report so this order does not have any bearing on the case,” he added.

The Patiala police had moved the court of the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate on January 31 last year under Section 169 of the CrPC seeking discharge of Daler Mehndi in the two cases registered against him.

Before that, Bakshish Singh, a resident of Balbehra village, and four others, had accused Daler Mehndi of taking money from them on the pretext of sending them abroad. The allegations, which were levelled in September, 2003, were refuted by Daler who accused the Patiala police of asking for bribe to clear his name in the case. Following this, 31 more complaints of a similar nature were received by the Patiala police against Daler, but after his name was cleared by the police many of the complainants disappeared.


Yogi’s ashes immersed in Sutlej
Kiran Deep
Tribune News Service

Kiratpur Sahib, January 11
Honouring his last wish, the ashes of Harbhajan Singh Yogi, who motivated thousands in the West to embrace the Sikh way of life, were today immersed in the Sutlej at Gurdwara Patalpuri Sahib here by members of his family. Hundreds of his followers from all over the world and a number of politicians were present on the occasion. Yogi died in Espanola, New Mexico, on October 6, last year.

After a ‘path’ at Gurdwara Patalpuri Sahib, Yogi’s wife Inderjit Kaur, sons Ranbir Singh and Kulbir Singh and daughter Kamaljit Kaur, accompanied by Ms Preneet Kaur, MP from Patiala, Mr Tarlochan Singh, Chairman of the National Minority Commission, reached at the bank of the Sutlej around 2 pm. Yogi was paid tributes by Punjab Police personnel by reversing their arms. The ashes were immersed in the Sutlej from the temporary bridge over the river by his elder son, Ranbir Singh, at 2.15 pm.

The Deputy Chief Minister, Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, and the president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress, Mr H.S. Hanspal, also reached there. An ‘ardas’ was made by Jathedar Tarlochan Singh of Takht Kesgarh Sahib.

Talking to The Tribune, Yogi’s wife Inderjit Kaur said, “Although Yogi had died, he would remain with us to guide in the work of spreading his teachings. The trust run by him will now be run by all of us.” Memorials to Yogi would be built in Punjab and various parts of the world, she added.

The chief of the Harbhajan Singh Yogi’s trust, Ms Niranjan Kaur, had come here along with hundreds of followers. She said Yogi was a source of inspiration for many. He guided thousands of people in the West to live peaceful life with the help of yoga, she added.


Punjab in no mood to relieve ADGP Virk
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 11
The Punjab Government is apparently heading for a confrontation with the Centre. It is reportedly not in a mood to relieve Additional Director-General of Police (ADGP) S.S. Virk, despite Union Home Minister Shiv Raj Patil’s reported refusal to intervene in the matter.

The sources in the state government claim that the authorities are now working out the modalities for keeping ADGP Virk in the state, despite the termination of his inter-cadre deputation and issuance of a charge-sheet by the Centre.

They assert that a high-level meeting is expected to be held within the next few days for chalking out the further course of action. Till then the authorities are reportedly holding legal consultations.

The development is significant as ADGP Virk is considered a hot contender for the post of Director-General of Police (DGP). The present incumbent, Mr A.A. Siddiqui, is scheduled to retire on January 31 upon attaining the age of superannuation.

Going into the background of the matter, the sources claim that the Chief Minister met the Union Home Minister in New Delhi on Monday for discussing the issue. But he was told that it would not be possible to extend ADGP Virk’s deputation as a charge-sheet was pending against him.

The sources assert that this was not the first time that the Chief Minister had taken up ADGP Virk’s case. He had earlier also written to the authorities concerned in Delhi for extending Mr Virk’s deputation in the state.

The Chief Minister had made it clear that Mr Virk would not be relieved as he had served the state when terrorism was at its peak. In fact the officer was shot at by the militants during the crusade.

Though Mr Virk is silent about the issue, the sources in his office claim that the ADGP cannot move out of Punjab till he is officially relieved by the sate government. The matter, they assert, is between the Centre and the state. Mr Virk is just a “disciplined officer”.

They add that the ADGP is, however, likely to face problems in the apparent fight between the state and the centre. The charge-sheet, issued on December 21 last year, is pending against him and a reply has to be filed by January 14.

In the charge-sheet, the ADGP was blamed for “willfully disobeying” orders terminating his inter-cadre deputation. The charge-sheet had added that that the President of India intended to hold an inquiry against him under the provisions of the service rules.

He was also asked to either admit or explain his conduct. His inter-cadre deputation was terminated on April 12 last year. Since then the ADGP has reportedly been staying in Punjab without authorisation.


Dal (Amritsar) to submit memo

Ludhiana, January 11
The Akali Dal (Amritsar) will present a memorandum against Mr S.S. Virk, ADGP and oppose his elevation as DGP of the Punjab Police. The memorandum will be presented to the Union Home Minister, Mr Shiv Raj Patil.

Stating this Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, President, Akali Dal (Amritsar), said he had sought appointment with the Home Minister and as soon as it was granted they would go to Delhi.

Mr Mann asked the Congress leadership at the national-level and the state level what message it wanted to give to the Sikhs and the people of Punjab by appointing Mr Virk as DGP who had committed at rocities on the Sikhs. ‘Does Congress want to revive the era of torture against the Sikhs,’ he said.

Assailing Mr Parkash Singh Badal, President, Shiromani Akali Dal, Mr Mann alleged that Mr Badal was also supporting Mr Virk. He said Mr Badal had not taken any action against those policemen who had indulged in repression of the Sikhs in the garb of curbing militancy. Mr Badal should have sent Mr Virk back to his parent state Maharashtra.

Mr Mann asked Mr Badal to clarify his stand if he still supported the Congress and repression. ‘The Congress and Mr Badal are the two sides of the same coin,’ he added.


Boy who drinks petrol and stays naked
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Moga, January 11
He is mischievous just like any other 8-year-old boy. But what makes him inimitable is his strange addiction of drinking petrol, besides remaining naked most of the time.

Having a plastic bottle fitted with a capillary in his hands, Amandeep Toti can be spotted playing in the narrow lanes of the Nanak Nagri area.

His mother Janak Rani told TNS here today that Amandeep got into this weird habit at the age of two-and-a-half years. His father Harmesh Kumar is a scrap dealer and the locality has many such shops.

According to his neighbours, inhaling petrol caught his fancy at an early age when he used to play around old vehicles stranded outside scrap dealers’ shops.

Slowly he became addicted to it. “Now his addiction has gained alarming proportion. He can remain hungry for whole day, but can’t stay without petrol. He always keeps the bottle of petrol in his hands and the first thing he asks for in the morning is not tea but petrol,” said Janak Rani.

He speaks too little as he always has a tube in his mouth to drink petrol. “He neither leaves the bottle of petrol nor takes out the tube from his mouth till he is awake,” she added.

When the correspondent visited Amandeep’s home his mother was serving food to him and he was pestering her for petrol as the bottle had gone empty. She said a two years ago, he had started drinking petrol. His parents had also approached some local doctors at Rajindra Medical College in Patiala for treatment, but to no avail.

When asked about his education, Janak Rani said once he was admitted in a school, but his rude behaviour forced them to withdraw him. Now, it seems that his parents have compromised with the fate and they bring him his daily dose of petrol. To some extent this may be attributed to their financial constraints.

Another interesting fact associated with Amandeep is that most of the time he remains nude.

“In the winter too, if I dress him up, he will take off the clothes in no time. He remains naked even on the coldest of days,” said Janak Rani. As if this wasn’t enough he would play in water and wash vehicles parked outside his home.

Dr Narinder Singh, a child specialist, said drinking petrol would cause damage to lungs. He said Amandeep’s strange addiction would have resulted in expansion of blood vessels ultimately leading to increase in blood circulation. “This is the reason that in the winters, he doesn’t feel cold,” he added.


Ajnala byelection: Cong aspirants in New Delhi
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 11
The aspirants for Congress ticket for the Ajnala byelection , scheduled to be held on February 23, have gone to New Delhi to meet the party high command. Interestingly, Dr Rattan Singh Ajnala, an Akali MP from Tarn Taran, has been lobbying hard to get party ticket for his son Amarpal Singh Bonny .

Major Rajbir Singh Ajnala, Chairman, Punjab Livestock Development Board, who had unsuccessfully contested the two Assembly elections from Ajnala, has met the senior leaders of the party high command in New Delhi, apart from meeting Capt Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister, and Mr H.S. Hanspal, president, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee. Talking to TNS, on telephone, Major Ajnala claimed that the party leadership had promised to consider his case sympathetically.


Patil invites Mann to Delhi
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, January 11
The Union Home Minister, Mr Shivraj Patil has invited a five-member delegation of the Shiromani Akali Dal (A) on January 15 in New Delhi at 7 p.m. in response to a letter written by Mr Simranjit Singh Mann. Mr Mann stated this at a press conference here today. The party had conveyed opposition to the Punjab Chief Minister’s move to elevate ADGP S.S. Virk as the DGP, Punjab.

Mr Mann will be accompanied by party general secretaries Charan Singh Lohara, Jagmohan Singh, Ram Singh and Dr Harjinder Jakhu.

Mr Mann said if Mr Virk was made the DGP then he would be superseding 12 IPS officers. Besides, Mr Virk had been chargesheeted by the Central Government, he added.


Future of all PSEB employees secure, says Hanspal
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 11
“It is only trifurcation and not privatisation of the Punjab State Electricity Board” says Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief H.S. Hanspal, maintaining that the Congress Government in the state was only segregating generation, transmission and distribution to further improve the efficiency of the board.

Talking to The Tribune here this morning, Mr Hanspal said that he was amazed at unwarranted criticism being heaped at the state government on the plea that the board was being privatised and future of its 80,000 employees was bleak.

“The trifurcated board would continue as five separate public sector undertakings,” he said, asserting that future of all employees would remain secure.

Mr Hanspal said that certain elements were trying to misguide the employees and create a wrong impression in the minds of consumers that the board was being privatised. “We would love to invite private sector to augment power generation in the state. As far as transmission and distribution are concerned, they would remain in public sector domain,” he added.

Mr Hanspal said that the Chief Minister has repeatedly made it clear that there was no question of either privatising the board or handing over transmission and distribution to private sector. The government was committed to watch and safeguard the interests of all employees of the board.

Talking about Panjab University, Mr Hanspal said that the control of this premier university should be handed over back to Punjab. “The university belonged to undivided Punjab and it was only in 1966 that it was declared a centrally-controlled university. Once its control is handed over to the Punjab Government, all minor controversies and problems would be handled and solved,” he added.

He said that the Congress Government had been taking up the matter with the Centre as it had been taking 40 per cent of its financial burden.

Coming to the announcement of dates for the Ajnala byelection, Mr Hanspal said that the name of the candidate would be finalised by the party High Command soon. He was hopeful that like the previous two byelections in Garhshankar and Kapurthala, the Congress would win the Ajnala seat also.

Talking about elections in Haryana, he said that members of the Council of Ministers and senior office-bearers of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee were ready for election duties in Haryana, Bihar and Jharkhand. “We are waiting for the instructions from the High Command,” he added.


PSEB staff discuss strategy to oppose privatisation
Tribune News Service

Moga, January 11
The Technical Services Union (TSU), Faridkot circle, and the Joint Action Committee of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) Employees held a meeting at Desh Bhagat Memorial Hall here today to chalk out a strategy to oppose privatisation of the board.

Addressing the meeting, state president of the TSU Gurdayal Singh Bhangal said they were against the implementation of the Regulatory Bill, 2002, that would lead to the division of the electricity board into various companies.

Union leaders said they would oppose the move to privatise the power sector in the state.

They said the board employees would observe strikes across the state to warn the government against taking any such step. They said they would not allow the government to take away employment of the PSEB workers.

A number of PSEB employees’ unions participated in the meeting.


Probe Bathinda refinery project work: Kanwaljit
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 11
Former Finance Minister Kanwaljit Singh today demanded an independent inquiry into the circumstances under which the Amarinder Singh government had stopped the work on the Bathinda refinery. He alleged that the Congress government was working under pressure from a particular party to stop the project.

Addressing mediapersons here, Capt Kanwaljit Singh said the former SAD-BJP government had brought the project to Punjab after fighting it out with many other states who were interested in the project. He said despite this the incumbent government appeared to be hell-bent on stopping the project under pressure from the interested group. He alleged that the Chief Minister was misguiding the people that the state would incur a loss of Rs 15,000 crore if the project was commissioned. He said the reality was that hundreds of crores had been lost by stopping work on the project, on which Rs 300 crore had already been invested.

“Small-scale units were to assist in the working of the project, providing lakhs of people with jobs,” he added.

He claimed that the economy of the state had been shattered and that it was on the verge of collapse. He said the government has spent Rs 20 crore each on heritage festivals and Rs 5 crore each on renovating guest houses, besides Rs 4 crore on the renovation of the Chief Minister’s Office, where as it has sighted empty coffers as the reason for not being able to give shagun to girls and pension to widows and old people.


Govt hospitals to be improved, says Health Minister
Our Correspondent

Kharar, January 11
The government is making all efforts to improve the working of government hospitals and to provide basic medical facilities to the poor.

This was stated by Mr R.C. Dogra, Health Minister, Punjab, after inaugurating a project “Adolescence Education, Health Care and Hygiene” at the local Civil Hospital here today. He said 2 per cent user charges had been kept at the disposal of the SMOs in charge of hospitals in the state to help the needy.

He said people had lost faith in government hospitals during the tenure of the previous government but the situation had improved ever since the Congress came to power.

He appealed to Industrial unit owners and NGOs to help in spreading the project in other parts of the state which was first started in the Kharar block. Ranbaxy Laboratories and Quark had contributed to make the project a success. He appreciated the efforts of the local MLA, Mr Bir Devinder Singh, for coming up with a project which was totally new in the country.

While talking to newspersons before the inauguration, Mr Dogra said that there was a shortage of doctors in government hospitals. Efforts would be made to fill the vacant posts in the near future. He said the government would start a scheme to curb sale of intoxicants after recruitment of drug inspectors. Raids would then be conducted with the help of police and action would be taken against those found guilty of selling drugs without prescriptions.

Mr Bir Devinder Singh said he got idea about the project after he got to know that school-going girls were subjected to physical and mental harassment by their parents and others if some irregularity was noticed in their menstrual cycle. They had to face all this for no fault of theirs. The atmosphere in our families did not allow the girls to share their personal problems with their parents. As such a need was felt to provide awareness in this regard.

The MLA said 10,000 girls would be covered in the first phase of the project. As many as 32 schools would be provided a kit consisting of a towel, disinfectant, cotton, sanitary napkins, etc and a cash of Rs 1,500 per school which were being given by Ranbaxy. Quark has given almirahs for keeping the kit and other things to every school.

Mr D.S. Guru, Principal Secretary, Health, said children in the age group of 13 and 19 faced physical and psychological problems. There was a need to provide proper guidance to them during this period so that they were able to enter adulthood on a strong footing.

He said the government would need the help of youngsters to make the state immunisation programme a success which was starting from January 15. 


SSF seeks apology from joke book publishers
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 11
Objecting to poor portrayal of the Sikh community in a joke book series, the Sikh Students Federation has demanded apology from the publishers. Claiming that the community was being targeted by the virtue of being in the minority, the federation has also asked the Akal Takht, the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) and other organisations to take up the matter.

In a press statement issued here today, federation member Amar Preet Singh Mann claimed that the members of the Sikh community were shown as butt of ridicule in “The Unofficial Joke Book series”.

A Sikh gentleman was shown enjoying drinks and dance in some of the books. Another book projected him as getting himself massaged. He added that an advertisement promoting its sale was carried in a magazine, “Digit”.


Employees of Ranjit Sagar Dam hold rally
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, January 11
Continuing their agitation employees of the Ranjit Sagar Dam today organised a protest rally against the Finance Department’s decision to withdraw their allowances. Thousands of employees gathered before the local treasury in Shahpur Kandi and organised a dharna.

Later they moved in procession through the Shahpur Kandi colony of the Ranjit Sagar Dam raising slogans against the Punjab Government. The employees’ leaders while talking to newsmen alleged that they had won cases in courts to get their allowances restored. The government had withdrawn their allowances without any reason.

The employees vowed to continue their agitation till the government restored their allowances. About 11,000 employees of the Ranjit Sagar Dam have not accepted salary for 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 is set to lose an amount ranging between Rs 1300 and Rs1500 per month.

The employees have also formed a joint action committee to continue their struggle against the government decision to withdraw their allowances.


19 more Indian youths land in Pak jails
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 11
Nineteen more Indian youths have landed in the Pakistan jails. This was revealed by Mr Harpal Singh Bhullar, President, International Bhai Mardana Yaadgari Kirtan Darbar Society, in a press statement issued here today.

Mr Bhullar said these youths were nabbed by the Turky police on their way to Greece and later thrown in the Pakistan territory.

He said a team of the Indian High Commission in Pakistan would visit Machch and Quetta jails for identification of the Indian youths.


Army exhibition from Jan 13

Jalandhar, January 11
An Army weapons and equipment exhibition will be held at Zoji La Army ground in Kapurthala on January 13 and 14 as part of the Army Day celebration.

The exhibition will be organised for the general public on the theme, “Know Your Army”, a defence spokesman said here today.

Various weapons and equipment on display will include tanks, BMPs, artillery guns, including Bofors and Anti-aircraft guns, UAV, anti-tank guided missiles, rifles, light machine guns, sniper rifles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket launchers, night vision devices, radars and communication equipment. — UNI


CITU to stage dharna outside Parliament
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, January 11
The members of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) will stage a dharna outside Parliament on the second day of the Budget session to lodge their protest against the amendment of Indian Patent Act 1970, informed Mr Raghunath Singh, all-India vice-president and general secretary of the Punjab, unit of CITU, in a conference organised at local Public Library.

In a press note issued here today, Mr Singh criticised the UPA government for amending the Indian Patent Act 1970, through an ordinance, diluting the employment guarantee programme and for reducing the interest rate of provident fund to 8.5 per cent. He said that patent ordinance would spell havoc to the people of the country, as prices of medicines would increase manifold.


Virasat Mela kicks off
Rajbir Kaur Sekhon

Muktsar, January 11
A procession showcasing the different facets of Punjabi culture, including Sath, Trinjan, gatka, marriage customs, Jago, Makkan (mourning group), etc was carried out in the main markets of this town to mark the beginning of two days Virasat Mela named as “Mela Melian da”, being organised by the district administration on the eve of Maghi near local Red Cross Bhavan, today.

Hundreds of people participated in the procession that started from local Guru Nanak College for Women and culminated at Guru Gobind Singh Park complex after passing through the busy markets of this town. Politicians of all hues also participated in the procession.

A Punjabi youth, who was sitting on a decorated horse carrying "Virasat flag", followed the band team that led the impressive procession. Around 50 well-decorated horses and camels, when tapped with the Punjabi ‘dhol’, graced this unique procession.

The colorfully dressed youth of different schools and colleges of this town performed the various traditional household and outdoor activities depicting the richness of Punjabi culture. They sang the Punjabi folk songs and performed Gidha and Bhangra.

Clad in the traditional kurta, chadara, tore wali paag and jutti (traditional Punjabi dress), district high officials, along with the common people, also became the part of this cultural procession.

The people came on the streets and at their rooftops to have a glimpse of the first-ever Virasat procession taken out known for the sacrifice of 40 muktas (liberated ones), who died while fighting with Mughals at Khidrane Di Dhab (now Muktsar) during the last battle of Guru Gobind Singh with Mughals.

The Virasat Mela is also dedicated to that historical occasion, which took place about 300 years ago in this town. The narrow lanes remained busy throughout the day as people from nearby villages also reached here to enjoy this mega event.

The procession was followed by various tableaux depicting the traditional manner of churning of milk, playing knitting wheel and to cut sarson leaves, etc.

A special village, named "virasati pind'', made of mud and bricks covered with thatched rooftops, portraying the rural Punjab was laid at Guru Gobind Singh Park complex.

Apart from it, a mushaira would be organised tonight. Punjabi folk singers would also enthral the audience.


Punjab to regularise accreditation of journalists
Tribune News Service

Mansa, January 11
Mr Bharat Inder Singh Chahal, Media Adviser to Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today said the state government would take necessary steps to regularise the temporary accreditation of mediapersons.

He was here to preside over a function organised by the Local unit of the Punjab-Chandigarh Patarkar Parishad, to honour eminent personalities in the field of print and electronic media for their outstanding contribution. He said a meeting of the Punjab Press Relations Committee would be held shortly under the chairmanship of Capt Amarinder Singh to do the same.

He claimed the state government had been looking after the welfare of journalists and it had already extended the facility of free travel to all deskmen.

He also asked the Deputy Commissioner to allot a room to local mediapersons in the district administrative complex. He said the government would ask PUDA to allot land for the construction of press clubs at district level.

He released book Punjabi Sahitak Patarkari written by Mr Prtiam Rupal.

He also honoured Mr Sarbjit Dhaliwal, Mr Karamjit Singh, Mr Major Singh, Mr Devinderjit Singh Arshi, Mr Baljit Singh Brar, Ms Gaganjit Devgan, Mr Inderjit Devgan, Mr Sant Singh, Mr Pritam Rupal, Mr Daljit Singh Jhabar, Mr Surinderpal, Mr Labh Singh Sidhu, Mr Randeep Singh Ahluwalia, Mr Paramjit Singh Sidhu, Mr Sukhbir Singh, Mr Balwant Singh, Mr Preet Mohinder Singh, Mr Dharmendar Kumar, Mr Manjit Singh Sidhu and Mr Ramanjit Singh Sidhu.


Public Health employees stage dharna
Our Correspondent

Abohar, January 11
Hundreds of employees of Public Health and Sanitation branch of the Public Works Department held a demonstration and staged dharna at the office of the Executive Engineer here today.

Mr Nopa Ram, zone president, Mr Rajinder Singh Sandhu, senior vice-president of the district unit, and other leaders of the Field and Workshop Workers Union addressed the demonstrators.

They alleged that the Executive Engineer had assured them that all their demands would be sympathetically considered, but not even a single step was taken in the right direction. They also criticised the authorities for denying uniforms and travelling allowance and delay in payment of salaries.

They said the department had not recovered bills of water charges from consumers which caused financial crunch in the department.


Excess water to Rajasthan resented
Our Correspondent

Abohar, January 11
The Bhartiya Kisan Union was expressed resentment over excessive supply of canal water to Rajasthan.

The union at a meeting presided by Mr Gurjant Singh, block president, here today said that 10,000 cusecs of water had been released in the Rajasthan feeder which was 2500 cusecs more than the sanctioned limit. This had resulted in crisis for farmers of this subdivision who depend on canal water for irrigation.


Car damaged in service: compensation awarded
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 11
The District Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum, Bathinda, has directed Hyundai Motor India Ltd and Bhagat Singh Motor Company Patiala, to pay a compensation of Rs. 5,95,965 to Mr Amarjit Singh, a contractor, whose new car was damaged in an accident which took place during the road test by a mechanic working in the company showroom during the first service of the vehicle.

Though Mr Amarjit Singh, in his complaint filed with the forum, has made Oriental Insurance Company with which the vehicle was insured, as a party to the case, the forum held that the insurance company was not liable to pay any compensation.

After listening to arguments put forward by the complainant and other parties, the forum, headed by Mr Lakhbir Singh, held that Mr Gurmail Singh was an authorised employee of the company and he was driving the car negligently, which resulted into the accident, the company was liable to pay the compensation to the complainant.

As Bhagat Singh Motor Company, which was running showroom in this town, had been working as a dealer of the Hyundai Motor there was the relationship of principal and dealer/agent between them and, hence, both these parties were jointly liable for the deficiency in service on their part and liable to pay the compensation to the complainant.

The forum also directed that the manufacturer and the dealer would be liable to pay interest at the rate of 9 per cent per annum on the amount which had been awarded as the compensation from the date of receipt of its order by them.


DC warns shopkeepers on encroachment
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, January 11
Taking a serious note of large scale encroachments here, particularly on the Mall, Old Sabzi Mandi and Main Bazar, Mr Alok Shekhar, Deputy Commissioner, has warned shopkeepers to check their activities, otherwise the district administration would be compelled to take action to solve the problem.

Giving them a week notice in this regard, he told them not to put their belongings on the roadsides in front of their shops which was causing prolblem for pedestrians.

The Deputy Commissioner said a special barricades would also be erected near the Clock Tower to check the entry of vehicles in the main bazaar. In a press note issued here today the Deputy Commissioner, while holding a meeting with office-bearers of different business organisations, disclosed that a vegetable market would shortly be set up around Bhagat Singh Park to rehabilitate vegetable sellers on reasonable rent.

It was also decided to settle about 400 rehriwalas by establishing three markets on Sadiq Chowk, Circular and Talwandi Roads. The Deputy Commissioner asked them to furnish a complete list in this connection immediately in his office to do the needful at the earliest.

While directing rickshaw pullers to park their rickshaws around the bus stand, Mr Shekhar also took a serious view for the unauthorised encroachments by some taxi owners near Government Girls Senior Secondary School.

On a complaint by the vegetable office-bearers that earlier also only 17 out of 52 vegetable sellers had been settled and the cases of remaing were still hanging fire, the Deputy Commissioner promised that no such discriminatory attitude would be followed.

Assuring all sorts of funds, he also asked officers of the Nagar Council to prepare a plan for the beautification of the town named after Sufi Saint Baba Sheikh Farid. Many senior district officers were also present in the meeting.


Five suspended for trains collision
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 11
Even as a high-level committee comprising three senior officials of different wings of the Indian Railways today started a formal inquiry into the collision of a diesel engine with an express train at local station late last night, five officials connected with the shunting and traffic movement were booked in a criminal case by the Government Railway Police and subsequently placed under suspension.

The committee comprising Mr J.M. Singh, Mr S.P. Singh and Mr Jaswant Singh, which arrived today at the local railway station from Ambala, visited the spot where the diesel engine had collided with the Ferozepore-Mumbai Punjab Mail Express train at platform No. 4, injuring four passengers.

According to information, the team which left for Ambala in the evening will conduct a preliminary inquiry and submit the report to the higher authorities.

Following this the Union Railway Ministry will launch a regular inquiry. Mr D.K. Singh, Station Master, has been transferred for a fair and free probe.

Those, who have been booked and subsequently placed under suspension are driver of the engine, Malkhan Singh, pilot Jamadar Balwant Singh, Assistant Station Master Anil Kumar and cabin men Gurdev Singh and Ran Bhorose. No arrest has been made in that connection so far.

Information gathered revealed that all those employees who have been placed under suspension will be reinstated tomorrow. They had been suspended to aid a free and fair probe.

Interestingly, all four injured passengers who were admitted to the local Civil Hospital were not found in their respective beds today, according to hospital sources.


Youth held for theft of two rifles
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 11
The burglary of two rifles from a police chowki in Samana sub-division in December created a scare about the motive of the robbery with even a possibility of the rifles landing up in militants’ hands. A 21-one-year old youth has finally been found to be the culprit. The youth, who does not have a criminal record, claims he stole the rifles under the spell of a drunken bout to avenge attempts to molest his sister by a youth of his village who had also beaten him up severely.

Presenting the youth, Gurjant Singh, before reporters, Senior Superintendent of Police A S Rai said Gurjant Singh had been arrested from near Fatehgarh Sahib yesterday.

One of the two rifles he had stolen from the Tharua police chowki and some cartridges had been recovered at his instance. He had been remanded in police custody till January 15 during which time the police expected to recover the second rifle also.

Giving details of the case, Mr Rai said the two rifles had been stolen from the police chowki on December 29. He said following this, the police zeroed onto Gurjant Singh because he was friendly with one of the constables posted at the chowki and used to visit it often.

He said following the burglary, the investigation of the case had been handed over to Samana DSP Jaspreet Singh Sidhu who along with the constables posted at the police station was ultimately responsible for the arrest of Gurjant Singh.

Gurjant Singh, when questioned on the crime, said he had stolen the two rifles because he wanted to avenge the beating he had received at the hands of some youth of his village, Bahadurgarh, under the Moonak police station. Gurjant Singh said during one such beating, the village youth had dragged him by his hair and also tried to molest his sister.

He claimed he had reported the matter to the Moonak police station but no action was taken on the issue.

Gurjant Singh claimed that he decided to steal the two rifles from the police chowki because they were within reach as one of the constables posted there was a friend. He said after the burglary, he sprained his ankle following which he had to throw away one rifle.

He said he tried to test-fire the second rifle but could not do so and buried it along the Ghaggar bed near Tharua village. After this, he fled the area.

A case has been registered against Gurjant Singh under Section 380, IPC, and Sections 25,54 and 69 of the Arms Act. 


Gang of thieves busted
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, January 11
The Hoshiarpur district police arrested two members of a gang of thieves and burglars last evening.

Mr Lok Nath Angra, SSP, Hoshiarpur, in a press note issued here today, said the Tanda police arrested Angat Kumar Mehato, son of Kale Mehato and a resident of Bihar, presently residing at Ahiyapur (Tanda) and Mohan Lal, son of Mulakh Raj of Ahiyapur (Tanda), and recovered one Honda Activa scooter, a Kinetic Zing scooter, 3 gold chains, a gold ring, a DVD player, a satellite receiver and many other articles from them.

He said a case under Section 411 of the IPC was registered against them at Tanda police station.


Missing certificates: board orders inquiry
Tribune News Service

Mohali, January 11
The Punjab School Education Board has initiated a departmental inquiry to find out how a set of pass certificates issued to middle class students following the annual examination held in February, 2004, has gone missing.

As many as 99 pass certificates issued by the board to the students of Sanatan Dharam Shiksha Senior Secondary School, Zira, and Flower Valley Public Senior Secondary School, Abohar, have reportedly not been received by the principals of these schools. Sources in the board said that these had been posted by the board to these schools some months ago but the school principals have informed the board that they have not received these certificates.

Last week the board also issued a notice informing the public that middle class certificate from series number TT 4U 279687 to 279741 and TT 4U 279742 to 279786 had been lost and should not be honoured by any one. Mr Khushbir Singh, in-charge of the middle cell, said such an incident had happened for the first time in the board and a departmental inquiry has been marked to find out at what level these certificates had been lost. “We are still trying to ascertain whether these were lost within the board or the Postal Department,” he said.

However, sources said instances of the board losing bundles of pass certificates is not the first one and happens often. “In all such cases the board issues a public notice to consider these certificates cancelled and fresh certificates are issued,” said the board’s secretary, Mr Mahinderbir Singh.


Row over suspension of DAV teacher
Deepkamal Kaur
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 11
The recent orders of suspension passed by the DAV College Managing Committee against a college teacher, following allegations of possessing a fake PhD degree, has triggered a controversy on the campus.

The staff supporting Mr Ram Avtar, head of the department of Hindi, has also decided to send their representation to the committee demanding reversion of the orders and a probe into the matter. The staff has alleged that the teacher has been embroiled in the controversy as he did not share a good rapport with a former principal.

While the orders of his suspension, along with a chargesheet, have been issued on January 5, he had been in controversy since December, 2002. It had been pointed out that the degree in Vedic Literature, that he had obtained from Gurukul Kangri Vishwavidyalaya, Hardwar, was not equivalent to that of Hindi and, thus, he did not fulfil the criterion for the post.

Following this, the college had even sought a clarification from the university at Hardwar in this regard. At this, the college authorities were reportedly told that the degree in the course was not equivalent to that of Hindi. The management of the college then despatched a photocopy of the degree to the university seeking its authenticity. The management was reportedly told that the degree was a fake one as it did not bear the signatures of the then authorised signatories. They were also told that the name of Mr Ram Avtar was not on the list of recipients of the PhD degree in 1978.

At this, the DPI (Colleges) stopped the salary grant that was being released to him. Even the Guru Nanak Dev University had told him to keep away from all university matters. The orders had been reportedly reverted on clarification given by Mr Ram Avtar.

A college committee, investigating into the matter, had reportedly asked him to present a notification of the university pertaining to his degree which he was unable to do. At this, the management served on him a suspension notice.

Mr Ram Avtar said his degree was genuine. He said when he had contacted the university authorities, he was simply told that they had lost all old records of degree holders. He said he even possessed photographs of convocation supporting that his degree was not fake. He added that since he had done all his research work in Hindi and he was recruited through a proper selection committee about 24 years back, his degree was equivalent and he was fit for the post.

He said he could not obtain a notification as the university authorities had told him that the procedure of issuing notifications was not being followed at that time.

Repeated attempts to contact Mr M.L. Aeri, Principal of the college, failed as he did not attend the phone.


Protesting teachers burn copies of ordinance
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, January 11
The local wing of the Government Teachers Union today held a dharna in front of the local Treasury to protest against the government ordinance withdrawing benefits to the government teachers given in 1986. They also burnt the copies of the ordinance to register their protest.

The spokesperson of the union talking to newsmen later alleged that the government had announced special increments for teachers who improved their qualifications. Taking benefit of the government announcement many teachers had improved their qualification and took the financial benefit. This also led to the improvement of the education standard in school.

However, now after about 18 years the government had decided to withdraw the benefit with effect from 1986. The ‘draconian’ ordinance would also force many retired teachers to return huge sums of money to the government. How could employees return the recovery of about 18 years to the government when they have paid income tax on it and have spent it on their needs.

The teachers threatened to intensify their agitation if the government failed to withdraw the ordinance.


Stationery distributed among students
Our Correspondent

Dera Bassi, January 11
The Panchayat and Mahila Mandal of Devi Nagar village, with the assistance of Mr Bhupinder Singh Saini, a state awardee in social service, distributed sweaters, school bags and other stationery among 25 poor students of Shaheed Naib Subedar Pal Singh Memorial Government Elementary School, Devi Nagar, here today.

Mrs Salita Saini, president of the Mahila Mandal, informed that the village panchayat with the assistance of some prominent persons of the village extended their help in one way or the other to the poor students of the school every year.


New school timings in Sangrur dist

Sangrur, January 11
Keeping in view the problems, being faced by students due to inclement weather, Mr Husan Lal, District Magistrate, Sangrur, has ordered new timings for the opening and closing of all government and private schools (primary, middle, high, senior secondary) in Sangrur district.

The schools will now function from 9-30 am to 3-00 pm till further orders. — OC


Lotteries Dept revenue up by Rs 13 cr
Our Correspondent

Patiala, January 11
Punjab Finance Minister Surinder Singla yesterday announced that the State Department of Lotteries would earn revenue of Rs 100 crore by the end of this financial year as compared to Rs 87 crore last year.

Mr Singla distributed Rs 3.58 crore in prize money, including Rs 2 crore given to Satinderpal Singh, a resident of Kishanpur Kalan village in Moga district, who won the first prize of the Maa Lakshmi Diwali Pooja Bumper lottery at a function organised here. He said the increase in the revenue had come about due to complete transparency in conduct of the lottery draws in the state.

The minister said as promised, the prize winners in today’s function got their prize money without deduction of establishment cost. He said only Income Tax was deducted from the prize money.

Giving details of the Lotteries Department, Mr Singla said the department had already earned Rs 66 crore till December 31 and that the sum was likely to go up to Rs 100 crore by the end of the financial year in March. He said the funds generated would be used to undertake development activities in the state.

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