P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Decks cleared for Bathinda oil refinery
State accepts revised deed
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 24
Decks seem to have been finally cleared for the setting up of the Bathinda oil refinery as the state government has almost accepted the revised deed of assurance or, say MoU, submitted to it for acceptance by the Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) with regard to the refinery.

The deed, which was sent to the state government by the HPCL, principal investor in the project about a week ago, was discussed in detail at a meeting held under the chairmanship of the Chief Secretary, Mr Jai Singh Gill, on Friday. All senior officers concerned, including Principal Secretary for Industries, Mr S.C. Aggarwal, Director, Industries, Mr Sanjay Kumar, and others were present at the meeting. All points of the deed were discussed in detail. Senior officers of the HPCL were also present at the meeting.

“We are preparing a memorandum regarding the revised deed and it will be presented before the Council of Ministers for approval on January 28,” said a senior officer of the state government on the condition of anonymity. He said that there were some “ if and buts” in the deed draft which required to be settled with the HPCL by making modifications here and there. Otherwise, the deed in its existing form is acceptable to the state government.

Informed sources said that the Punjab Council of Ministers would be having no alternative except to accept the revised deed because the HPCL has diluted the concessions, promised to it earlier, on the direct intervention of the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh. The HPCL had already made up its mind to shift the project to Rajasthan, the state government of which has offered to give all concessions sought by the HPCL. In fact, the Rajasthan Government has issued threats against the reviving of the refinery project at Bathinda, ignoring the claim of that state where oil reserves have been found in plenty. However, with the intervention of the PM, Punjab succeeded to renegotiate the conditions with the HPCL to retain it.

In the revised deed, there is a condition to defer the sale tax — with maximum upper limit of Rs 250 per annum — for five years. According to an earlier condition, that was accepted by the previous Akali Government headed by Mr Parkash Singh Badal, but was rejected by the present government headed by Capt Amarinder Singh, the deferment of the sales tax was for 15 years with an upper limit of Rs 600 crore per annum. By way of revised deed, as has been claimed by the officers concerned, the state government would be “saving” Rs 7750 crore.

However, there are officers who differ with this claim of the state government. They say that there would be only saving of interest on the total amount which was earlier to be deferred for 15 years and now it is to be deferred to 5 years. It would be a few hundred crores and not in thousand crores. Moreover, the project, which was to be completed by next year, would now be completed by 2009, a period considered too long in a country like India, which has pegged its growth rate around 7 per cent, that is only attained by a few select countries in the world.

Only after the approval of the Council of Ministers, the acceptance regarding the deed would be intimated to the HPCL authorities concerned. The refinery project, the foundation stone of which was laid by the then Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, in November, 1998, has been hanging fire since then. The initial investment in the refinery was projected Rs 16,000 crore by the HPCL and Mr Badal.

However, later it was stated that the project was worth Rs 13,000 crore only. Now the HPCL, which has brought down its capacity from the original 9 million tonne to 6 million tonnes, says that the project would come up with Rs 9,000 crore.


Family’s suicide: SSP ‘threatening’ witnesses
PHRO writes to Chief Minister
Pawan Kumar

Amritsar, January 24
Mr Kultar Singh, a former district police chief, is allegedly threatening the witnesses in the sensational case in which Hardeep Singh and four of his family members, including two children, committed suicide on October 31 last year.

This was alleged by the Punjab Human Rights Organisation (PHRO) in a letter to the Chief Minister here today. The PHRO alleged that certain relatives of the former SSP had made threatening calls to the witnesses warning them of dire consequences if they revealed the truth. A suicide note of the deceased written to one of his close friends, in which the SSP's name figured (which was tampered with) was recovered by the police. This letter has been sent to Forensic Laboratory in Chandigarh.

The PHRO led by its Chairman, Justice (Retd) Ajit Singh Bains also alleged that the SSP could approach the forensic laboratory for a report in his favour.

However, Mr Kultar Singh refuted all allegations levelled by the PHRO in the letter.

Levelling serious allegations, the organisation stated that the SSP abused his position and got the investigations influenced. It also alleged that he demanded Rs 12 lakh for "finishing the matter". Out of this amount Rs 5 lakh was delivered to him, it added.

The PHRO said the FIR registered in the case and the challan presented by the then SHO of C Division police station (who was allegedly working at the behest the SSP) did not mention the role of the police even though it was clearly found scribbled (by Hardeep and his wife) on the walls of the house.

It alleged that the SHO fabricated all the statements under Section 161 of the CrPC besides the recovery memo and suicide note in which the name of the district police chief figured.

The organisation further alleged that as per its investigations and evidence collected by it, he made every possible effort to destroy evidence and tamper with the suicide note. It also alleged that he made sure that no statement of the MLA was taken on record. The PHRO claimed that it had enough proof and witnesses which could lead to the conviction of the former SSP.

Mr Kultar Singh, when contacted claimed that he possessed documentary proof to prove his innocence. He said he had given written orders to the police to arrest the persons allegedly blackmailing Hardeep much before he committed suicide. He said he also released photocopies of the suicide note got by the MLA.

He said the organisation was trying to defame him as he refused to oblige them in a case dating back to his stint as SSP in Amritsar. He threatened that he would file a defamation case against them as soon as the enquiry being conducted by a team deputed by DGP was completed.

The former SSP said that the credentials of the members of the organisations, who were claiming to be investigating the case, were not above board.

In the meanwhile, the PHRO demanded that Mr Kultar Singh should be suspended so that the could not threaten the witnesses in the case. It also demanded that the investigations should be transferred to an honest officer.


Canadian MP Bains backs same-sex marriage
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 24
“Though we are free to vote according to our conscious on the same sex marriage Bill, 70 per cent of the members of the ruling Liberal Party will vote in favour of it,” says Mr Navdeep Singh Bains, the youngest member of the present House of Commons.

Elected on the Liberal ticket defeating Mr Pervinder Sandhu in a straight contest from the Liberal-dominated Ontario province last year, Mr Bains became a Member of Parliament at the age of 26.

“I am very clear. I am all support for the minorities. Canada is a country of minorities and we have to respect all minorities. The same sex marriage legislation does not violate any religious sanctity, faith or belief. It is for the religions to decide on their stand on the issue.

No one can move the court if a place of worship, say a temple, or a gurdwara or a synagogue, refuses to permit same sex marriage,” adds Mr Bains.

Supporting the stand of Mr Navdeep Singh Bains is the World Sikh Organisation (WSO), which says that “same sex marriage is the right of a minority community which must be conceded. This does not affect any religion,” says Mr Inderjit Singh Bal, a former president of the WSO, who is accompanying Mr Bains on a tour of India.

“The Sikh high priests should not have taken a decision on same sex marriage in a hurry,” feels Mr Bal, maintaining that “human rights and rights of minorities cannot be suppressed.”

Born and brought up in Canada, Mr Bains holds Masters of Business Administration degree. He is also a qualified CMA, which for all practical purposes is equivalent to a chartered accountant degree.

Mr Bains, who accompanied Canadian Prime Minister, Mr Paul Martin, on a visit to India. Though his grandparents had moved from their ancestral Tajewal village in Hoshiarpur district to Rajasthan in the early 30s, he still considers himself a Doabia as his mother comes from a village in Jalandhar.

“I will be visiting my village in Rajasthan tomorrow. Last time I was there was about 10 years back,” says Mr Bains who is accompanied on this tour by his father, Mr Sukhminder Singh Bains, and younger brother, Mr Harjot Singh.

While Mr Sukhminder Singh Bains is into business, Mr Harjot Bains is training to be a physiotherapist.

Prime Minister Paul Martin was pleasantly surprised to know that Mr Navdeep Bains was a teetotaler. “In fact it was while travelling to India that Navdeep explained to Mr Martin all about Sikh religion. He was greatly impressed,” recalls Mr Sukhminder Singh Bains.


Special economic zone project report sent to govt
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 24
The much awaited feasibility report on the special economic zone (SEZ) promised by the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, during his visit to the holy city in September last year has been submitted by the state government to the Prime Minister’s Office.

The Chief Secretary of the Punjab Government, Mr Jai Singh Gill, while talking to The Tribune from Chandigarh on the phone confirmed that the report had been submitted to the ministry concerned for its approval about 10 days ago. He said the Prime Minister had announced a Rs 1,100 crore SEZ project to be set up in Amritsar.

Mr Gill pointed out that the project would provide the much-needed boost to the industry in the border district, which is going through a very bad phase and hoped that the local entrepreneurs will make maximum use of the proposed SEZ.

The Chief Secretary was confident that SEZ would be able to work as a catalyst for the border area industry and give buoyancy to the sagging morale of the entrepreneurs in this area. He was confident that SAFTA would come into force by 2006 and thus would definitely lead to opening up of trade with Pakistan.

The Chief Secretary said once they get the approval for land the state government would embark upon the next phase of acquiring land for the project.


Illegal trading near toll barrier
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Madhopur (Gurdaspur), January 24
It is not only to middlemen who are thriving on the illegal trade on the Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir toll and sales tax barriers. Another illegal trade, “palti”, was being carried out openly under the watchful eyes of the law enforcement authorities, causing huge revenue loss to the governments of Punjab and J&K.

A toll of Rs 150 for a 9-tonne load in a truck is imposed by the Jammu and Kashmir toll barrier at Lakhanpur. The automatic computerised weighing machines have been installed at the toll barrier, leaving no scope for any vehicle carrying more than 9 tonnes to pass without getting penalised. A penal tax of Rs 40 per quintal is imposed on any vehicle carrying more than the authorised weight.

The stringent rules have given birth to the illegal trade of ‘palti’ thriving on both sides of the toll barriers at Lakhanpur. “Palti” was the name coined by the locals due to its nature. As the name suggests, it is the trade of transferring goods from one vehicle to another to adhere to the weight limit.

The heavy vehicles carrying goods coming for J&K can be seen moving towards an open area near the toll barrier. Here TATA 407 or trucks are waiting for them. The extra load from the heavy vehicles is transferred to smaller trucks to evade the penal toll tax. The local truck owners are paid an amount ranging from Rs 300 to 500 to just help clear the toll barrier, depending on the amount of the penal tax being evaded.

Interestingly, the illegal trading is taking place just 200 to 300 m from the toll barrier of Lakhanpur, but no action is being taken to check it. Certain persons at the barrier state that the trade had political protonage due to which they could not stop it. An illegal tax of Rs 100 per vehicle per day was being imposed on each vehicle operating in the area.

Sources put the daily earning from the illegal tax collected from the vehicles involved in ‘palti’ trade between Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000 per day.

The authorities at the toll barrier of Lakhanpur declined to comment on the illegal trade.


Punjabi settlers in Andamans eager to return
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 24
Though the Punjab Government is all set to despatch a high-level team to disburse financial aid and other help in kind to tsunami-affected Punjabi farmers settled in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, farmers are eager to return to the state.

The Punjab team headed by Mr Rakesh Ahir, Deputy Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, will be flying to the islands on January 27 via Chennai, from where it would collect dry milk power, eatables, clothes and ration etc.

There are 209 ex-servicemen farmer families and the Punjab Government would give Rs 1 lakh to each family in cash. The state government has also decided to float a trust to provide education in Punjab to the children of the affected Punjabi families and also to provide funds for the construction of 7 schools there. Seats have also been reserved for the wards of affected families in engineering another professional colleges in Punjab.

About 80 per cent flat land, which had been proving a gold mine for ex-servicemen punjabi farmers settled there, has been damaged by saline water of the sea. And 60 per cent of it is still under water. It would take six years to reclaim this land, say agriculture officers of Nicobar areas. Even, the coconut farms, which were main sources of income of farmers, have been damaged by tsunami. Once the saline water enters the land, its bleaching becomes very difficult.


Block Cong expresses concern over govt functioning
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, January 24
In an unprecedented move, a special meeting of the Phagwara Block (Urban) Congress Committee, with Mr Manmohan Sharma in the chair, adopted a unanimous resolution, expressing serious concern over the style of functioning of the Congress Government in Punjab headed by Captain Amarinder Singh.

It was reliably learnt today that a piquant situation arose at the meeting when the speakers opined that the way the government was working was unfortunate.

Addressing the meeting, Block Congress president Manmohan Sharma bemoaned that the entire state was in the grip of a deep power crisis, making life of the people miserable. But during the prolonged power cuts imposed upon the public, electricity supply remained uninterrupted in power colonies, he alleged. The government was doing nothing to tackle the grave situation, he remarked. The ministers, too, were not revealing anything to the masses, he alleged. A situation that required to be dealt with on a war footing was being handled casually, he regretted.

Essential commodities like kerosene and other household goods were scarce, he rued.

Mr Sharma declared that a resolution would be sent to the Punjab Government demanding provision of essential and basic amenities like power and goods of daily use to people of the state.


IG denies charge of intimidation of Khalra case witnesses
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 24
Patiala Zone Inspector-General of Police Rajinder Singh today claimed that he did not have any relation with the Jaswant Singh Khalra disappearance case, nor any role in harassing or intimidating the witnesses in the case.

The IG was responding to a statement by the Khalra Action Committee accusing him of intimidating the witnesses in the case. He said no complaint of intimidation of witnesses so that they did not depose in court had been brought to his notice by anybody.

Mr Rajinder Singh said he would, however, ensure that the neccessary protection was provided to the witnesses so that they could depose in a fair and impartial manner. Speaking on the other issues raised by the Khalra Action Committee, he said the rape case against one of the victims, Kirpal Singh Randhawa, had been registered in July, 2003, whereas he joined his present post in Patiala in February, 2004. He said Randhawa had been arrested with regard to the case in July, 2003, and that the case had been submitted in the court in August the same year.

The police officer claimed that the allegations being made by the committee members against him were false and motivated. He said he did not have any relation with the Khalra case and was neither posted at Amritsar at the time of disappearance of Jaswant Singh Khalra nor was he an accused in the case.


Municipal Workers’ Union distances itself from mahasangh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 24
The Punjab Nagar Palika Karamchari Mahasangh, which is leading an agitation against Senior Deputy Mayor Kabir Das, was today isolated by the Municipal Workers Union which has claimed that the mahasangh is using its name without any authority to threaten senior functionaries of the corporation.

The mahasangh, which is a state-level body, through its president, Mr Balwant Singh Sidhu, had claimed yesterday that it would stall all work in the corporation in case there was any move to take action against corporation leaders who had locked the offices of both the Mayor and the Commissioner a few days ago. Mr Sidhu had claimed that the decision had been taken at a meeting which was attended by Mr Prem Chand Sharma, who heads the mainline Municipal Workers Union in the city.

Today Mr Sharma claimed that his office had taken serious note of a release which claimed that he was party to a decision to stop work in the corporation in case any action was taken against leaders who had locked the offices of the two functionaries. He said no such meeting had taken place and that he did not authorise anyone to release anything to the Press on the issue.

The president of the Workers Union also took umbrage to a statement made by Mr Sidhu claiming that the mahasangh and the Workers Union would come out with disclosures about the shady deals of senior functionaries in the coming days. Apparently referring to Senior Deputy Mayor Kabir Das, who is being targeted by the mahasangh for allegedly not paying conversion and development charges on his petrol pump, Mr Sharma said his union could not be party to any personal attack against a particular councillor.

The union head said his organisation was already holding talks with the corporation and was hopeful that all pending issues would be resolved amicably. He said even if this did not come about and the union was forced to launch an agitation, it would do so in a disciplined manner only.


Trade unions seek wage revision
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 24
AITUC, INTUC, CTU and the Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) today decided at a joint convention of the unions to demand a minimum wage of Rs 5,000 for unskilled workers.

Mr Beant Brar, state secretary, AITUC, said that the proposal would soon be submitted to the Labour Commission, Chandigarh .

Mr Praduman Singh, national vice-president, AITUC, in his inaugural address said that the Minimum Wages Act was one of the first laws to be enacted in 1949 after Independence.

He said as per the standing decision of the Labour Ministers’ conference the minimum wages must be revised every two years.

Among others, Dr Subhash Sharma, president, state INTUC, and Mr S. D. Kapur, state general secretary HMS, also spoke on the occasion.


Randhawa to visit hailstorm-hit villages
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 24
While Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has deputed Parliamentary Secretary Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa to visit the villages in the Abohar-Fazilka area affected by hailstorms on January 22, he has called a high-level meeting on January 27 to discuss the deteriorating power situation in the state.

Mr Randhawa has been asked to submit a report to the government after visiting the area hit by hailstorms. The government would decide compensation to farmers whose wheat crops had been damaged on the basis of the report to be submitted by Mr Randhawa, it is learnt.

The government will also discuss various measures to be taken to tackle the power crisis at the meeting. The crisis is expected to last till August because of low water level at certain dams where hydro power projects are located.


Seminar on drug menace
Our Correspondent

Batala, January 24
A seminar on drugs and a de-addiction camp were organised by the Batala police district under the supervision of Dr Jitendra Jain, chief of the Batala police district, at Bikram Palace on the Jalandhar Road here today.

Dr S.S. Bedi, Mr Ramesh Mahajan and Swami Divyanandji delivered lectures on de-addiction “Friends against Drugs”, a club, said it would fight the menace with the help of colleges and schools.

Mr V.K. Bhatia, Principal of S.L. Bawa DAV College, Batala, and chairman of the club, said there was a need for educating the masses regarding the menace. On this occasion, a book and a cassette on de-addiction were released by Dr Jain.

The Chemist Association of Batala also participated and gave an assurance to the public and the police that it would not sell any drug without prescription. Mr Kewal Kumar, SP, Headquarters, presented the annual report for the work done by the police in fighting the drug menace. Local schools and colleges participated in a poster competition.


Murder case: 3-doctor board for postmortem examination
Our Correspondent

Kharar, January 24
A three-member board of doctors was set up at the Civil Hospital here today to carry out a postmortem examination on the body of Nachhatar Singh who was allegedly strangled by his friend at Sahora village on Saturday night.

The three members of the board were Dr Vijay Kumar, Dr K.K. Gupta and Dr Pushpinder Sapra. It is learnt that the doctors believed that Nachhatar Singh died due to strangulation. Some marks were found on the neck of the deceased. However, to know the exact cause of death the viscera has been sent to Patiala for a chemical examination.

Nachhatar Singh was allegedly killed by his friend, Mohan Singh, after both of them had some heated arguments while having drinks. The body of the deceased was thrown in the fields. According to the police there was some old rivalry between the families of the two persons.


Injuries not fabricated: doctors
Our Correspondent

Patiala, January 24
A board of medical specialists of Government Rajindra Hospital today ruled that the injuries sustained by Kulwinder Singh, a shopkeeper, who had alleged that he was beaten up by the police, did not seem to be fabricated.

According to sources, the team will give its final opinion after receiving hospital records of Kulwinder Singh. The board, comprising Associate Professor Dr S.S. Oberoi and Dr D.S. Bhullar, was formed on an application moved by the ASP, Dr K. Sharma. The SSP, Mr A.S. Rai, had earlier deputed the ASP to inquire into the allegations of police atrocity.

Dr Bhullar, when questioned on the issue, said Kulwinder Singh had suffered contusions on both sides of his forehead and face. He said there was a contusion on his lower lip as well as on both heels. He said the injuries were three-day old as per the medico legal report.

Kulwinder had alleged that he was beaten up mercilessly by the SHO of the Civil Lines police station and other officials two days back. He alleged that the police officials had targetted him because he was vociferously voicing the cause of Sarabjit Singh, who was forcibly being ousted from a shop in Tripri township.


Village celebrates Dr B.C. Roy Award to its son
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Patto Hira Singh (Moga), January 24
Ever since the news of Dr Purshottam Lal, who hails from this nondescript village of Punjab, winning the Dr B.C. Roy Award reached here, his acquaintances’ joy knew no bounds.

It took them down memory lane and they reminisced how they spent their early days with him. Talking to The Tribune, Dr Lal’s childhood friends, Mr Jagdish Raj Sharma and Mr Tarsem Lal, said though his father, Nagin Chand, was a cycle mechanic, he spared no effort to ensure that his seven sons got the best education and they all grow up to become doctors and engineers.

Dr Lal studied in the village till Class IV and then went to his grandparents’ Sehna village in Sangrur district for further studies. He was the most intelligent among his brothers and didn’t hesitate in studying under streetlights, which, according to him, increased his concentration, said Mr Sharma. Tarsem Lal said Dr Lal had won a national merit scholarship of Rs 125 with which he paid his school fee and also contributed to his family’s needs.

A couple of close friends of Dr Lal, Mr Malkit Singh and Dr Harmesh Lal Garg, said he did his MBBS from the Medical College in Amritsar. He was always a topper. While he was studying, his father got electrocuted, after which his elder brother, Ramesh Kumar, an engineer, and his mother, Lajwanti, played key role in building his career, they added.

After completing his MBBS, he proceeded to the USA for higher studies. He returned to India in 1989 and joined Apollo Hospital in Chennai. Known for his new heart surgery procedures that were simple and cost-effective, he later launched the Metro Group of Hospitals that took special care of patients from Punjab.

Dr Lal has a plethora of awards to his credit, of which Padma Shree and Padma Bhushan are prominent.

Mr Paramjeet Singh, president of the Captain Hira Singh Sports Club, said as nobody from his family resided in the village, they had donated their home to the club.


Black Prince ruled annual dog races
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, January 24
They say that every dog has its days. This was evident at Palahi village where 54 high-bred greyhounds, a breed of Ireland, converged for the third annual dog races that concluded last evening. The Janata Track Racing Club (Punjab) senior vice-president, Mr Kuldip Singh Kang, was the organiser.

About 15 to 20 dogs had come from abroad to take part. The final was between two brothers Black Prince of Mr Pritpal Singh Paddi Jagir and the Blue Prince of Mr Satti Khotewala. The champion of seven races, Black Prince won the Palahi race also. Blue Prince came runners-up and won Rs 5,100 and Rs 3,100 and trophies, respectively.

A bitch named Supersonic of Mr Harminder Singh Gill of Ludhiana came third. She won Rs 2,100 and a trophy while Power Flash of Pritam Singh Neelo Kheri ended up fourth, winning Rs 1,100 and a trophy.


Seven passengers hurt in bus mishap
Our Correspondent

Barnala, January 24
Seven passengers sustained injuries when a private mini bus overturned near Thikriwala village, about 10 km from here, today.

According to reports, a mini bus carrying about 40 passengers running at a high speed, in an attempt to save a jeep slipping from the road, overturned resulting in injuries to seven persons.

The injured were rushed to the Civil Hospital here for treatment.


Sant samagam concludes

Moga, January 24
A three-day sant samagam concluded at Kalgidhar Gurdwara here today.

Damdami Taksal chief Harnam Singh Dhuma and Baba Sheesha Singh from Nanded attended the proceedings on the concluding day of the samagam.

The Damadami Taksal chief said that Sikhs across the world should follow Sikh tenets and shun superstitions.

He said that the main aim of Damdami Taksal was to spread Sikhism, curb social evils and drug menace, and check Sikh youths from going stray. — TNS


PFA demands action against Phillaur police

Ludhiana, January 24
The People for Animals Ludhiana has demanded a high-level probe into the killing of a leopard by a team of police and wildlife officials at Phillaur today.

Mr Sandeep Jain, president of the organisation, alleged that the Wildlife Department and the police were ill-equipped and ill-trained for such a situation and should have taken the help of experts from the tiger safari, Amaltas, or Chatt Bir Zoo. — TNS


Cold wave hits life
Tribune News Service

Ropar, January 24
Aggravation of cold wave coupled with mild rain today hit life in the district. There was less activity in various schools, colleges and government offices have witnessed less attendance.

Most of the people confined to their houses as the district had rain on the third day. Private and government buses also had fewer passengers.

Problem was aggravated for people following power cuts for several hours. Rural areas of district faced more than 12 hours power cuts while the city witnessed eight hours cuts.


High Court
Dera blast
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, January 24
Controversial godman Baba Piara Singh Bhaniarawala today moved the High Court seeking investigation by the CBI into the recent blast near his dera.

In his petition, Baba Bhaniarawala alleged that the blast that took place near his dera in Dhamana village in Ropar district on January 9 was an attempt to kill him.

The petitioner said the scene of blast was just half a kilometre from his residence and it was planted on the gate of the dharamshala constructed in the name of his parents and where the petitioner visits daily for prayer.

The petitioner stated that he apprehended a conspiracy against him. The district police had registered a case under relevant sections of the Explosives Act after the blast. The petitioner stated that no person was injured, but the blast left a big hole.

He prayed that a CBI inquiry be ordered to uncover the truth.


Hailstorm damages wheat, mustard crops
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, January 24
Hopes of a large number of farmers of the district were dashed to ground when their wheat and mustard crops were damaged due to hailstorm that lashed the region late last evening.

Not only it caused huge loss to the crop, a considerable number of cattle also perished in the same.

To assess the loss, district administration has ordered a ‘girdawari’ and had pressed revenue officials into service to make a comprehensive report over the same.

The most affected villages of the district where the crops had suffered a considerable damage included Khapianwali, Chak Attari Sadarwala, Fattanwala, Attari, Kabarwala, Gulebawala, Lambi Dhab and Sohnewala. Malout, Muktsar and other towns of this district also withered hailstorms.

A section of farmers pointed out that the crops that had come under a thick sheet of hailstorms had been perished completely. They had been trying to clear their fields of hailstorms, but it would take time, they added. The sharp fall in temperature would also stunt the growth of wheat and mustard plants. They pointed out that rain at this time was useful for the crops, but the hailstorms had hit hard their agricultural operations. Due to spine a chilling cold, they had been finding it difficult to work in their field , they added.

Mr Sukhbir Badal, former Union Minister, who toured the affected villages today, alleged no official of the state government had reached any village to assess the loss so far. He alleged though the farmers had been suffering due to hailstorms, the district administration had not taken any step to extend them the required help.

He demanded the government should send a minister to the affected village so that he could make government officials work to provide relief to the affected farmers. Apart from it, the state government should immediately announce interim relief for the affected farmers, he added.

The hailstorm, which also lashed Bathinda district, has drastically hit the arrival of raw cotton in different markets of the region. A significant quantity of raw cotton that was lying in various markets in the open also got wet and hence has been rendered unsaleable.

Mr B.R. Banga, Deputy Commissioner, could not be contacted despite repeated efforts as he was on visit to certain areas of the district.


Online passport applications becoming popular
Shveta Pathak
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 24
An increasing number of people are opting for the online facility to file their passport applications. The Regional Passport Office, Chandigarh, has received over 2,500 applications online merely within two-weeks of the launch of the facility, says Mr Arvind Kumar, Regional Passport Officer.

Mr Arvind Kumar, who was here yesterday to address an awareness programme on exports, said though the system in place did not make the entire process of filing an application paper-free, people would soon be provided the facility where they would be able to complete the entire process online.

“The current system puts one in queue once the application is filed online, but we will certainly provide the facility to make the entire process be paper-free,” he said.

About making amendments in one’s passport, an extremely tedious task, he said the department was introducing user-friendly measures in the direction. For instance, earlier if a change in the date of birth was to be made a court declaration was required.

“Now we have adopted a process wherein the amendment can be made by the Passport Office itself,” he said , adding, “though the ministry was initially hesitant to implement the same the department took the initiative and things are simpler now.”

He advised that people should fill their passport application forms themselves so as to avoid any kind of discrepancy. “The most important thing is to fill a passport application yourself. With online forms being available, it takes merely two minutes to fill an application form.”

He said for frequent travellers, for whom procuring additional booklets, entailed a process as long as filing for a fresh passport, the department had simplified things.

“Earlier it used to take two to four months if one required an additional booklet. But now the booklet is made available in merely 48 hours, in several cases even less,” he said.


District admn’s no to dismissal of accountant
Kiran Deep
Tribune News Service

Ropar, January 24
The district administration today refused to implement an order of the Chairman of the local Zila Parishad to dismiss an accountant who had issued cheques worth Rs 24.50 lakh to Minister of Animal Husbandry and Fishery Jagmohan Kang.

The Chairman of the Zila Parishad, Ms Kuldeep Kaur, had suspended her accountant Dharmvir for issuing cheques to Mr Kang without her consent.

Sources said in a communication to the Punjab Government the Additional Deputy Commissioner (Development) and Chief Executive Officer of the Zila Parishad, Mr H.S. Garcha, stated the order passed by the Chairman was not as per law and he had referred the matter to the Director of the Rural Development and Panchayats.

It was learnt that the accountant had become the victim of a tussle of power between Mr Garcha and the Chairman. Mr Garcha did not took the Chairman into confidence while signing cheques for Mr Kang from the Zila Parishad funds. The accountant issued the cheques only as per the direction of his seniors.

Mr Kang had distributed the cheques among the panchayats of 24 villages for various development works at a function held in Majri village on December 26.

Mr Garcha, in a letter to the Zila Parishad on January 12, stated that the Chairman had no right to suspend the accountant. Only the panchayat samiti had the power to dismiss any employee.

Mr Garcha had claimed that the employee was suspended under the Panchayati Raj Act, 1964, by the Chairman but that Act had already been repealed. At present the decision could be taken as per the Panchayat Act, 1994.

Responding to Mr Garcha, on January 17 Ms Kuldeep Kaur again issued a letter to Mr Garcha seeking the suspension of the accountant.

Ms Kuldeep Kaur told The Tribune that Zila Parishad had received Rs 33 Lakh amount from the administration, which was to be utilised for various development works in the district.

But on December 26, the amount was distributed among village panchayats of only one town keeping her in dark.

The accountant had issued cheques from the Zila Parishad fund without seeking her permission.

When contacted, Mr Garcha refused to comment saying that the matter had been referred to the higher authority.


MC plans to buy power from private firms

Amritsar, January 24
The local civic body is seriously considering to buy surplus power offered by a private company to meet its requirements for running tubewells, sewerage system and street lights.

The Mayor, Mr Sunil Dutti, told The Tribune here that the Municipal Corporation was holding discussions to work out a plan to buy power from the Khanna paper mills here which has set up its own captive thermal power plant.

The Mayor said that since Punjab was facing a power crisis and essential services, including the water supply, were badly affected due to frequent power cuts. He added that the corporation would hold discussions with private companies which have offered to provide surplus power.

In the meanwhile, a spokesman of the company said they were in touch the PSEB for working out technical details to offload their surplus power into the distribution system. — OC


Wife, mother-in-law held on murder charge
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, January 24
The district police has arrested wife and the mother-in-law of Hardeep Singh on the allegation of murdering the latter about one and a half years ago even as the co-accused, brother-in-law of the victim, was still at large.

According to the police, Simran Kaur, alias Manju, a resident of Mohalla No 2 of Jalandhar cantonment, had an affair with Hardeep Singh, a resident of Deep Nagar, here about five years ago and both of them tied nuptial knot with the consent of their family members.

The police said that Hardeep went to his in-laws’ house on June 1, 2003. Later, his mother-in-law, Shanti Devi, informed Bhupinder, brother of Hardeep, that he (Hardeep) fell unconscious on the main gate of the house. Bhupinder, along with his mother Surinder Kaur, reached the spot and got Hardeep admitted to the Civil Hospital immediately. Hardeep died late in the night. During the then police inquiry, Shanti Devi had submitted that two persons came to her house and asked Hardeep to accompany them.

Acting on the statement of Shanti Devi, the police registered a case under Section 174 of the IPC and handed over the body to the family members after conducting post-mortem. But, sensing foul in the theory of Shanti Devi, the father of the victim, Jagjit Singh, on July 1, 2004, demanded re-opening of the case alleging that Simran, Shanti Devi and the brother-in-law of the deceased, Ravi, had conspired to kill his son.

The district police after conducting thorough investigation found the trio prime facie guilty of committing the murder and registered a case under Sections 302, 34. IPC. While Simran and Shanti Devi were arrested from their residence, Ravi was still absconding.

Meanwhile, a local court has remanded both the accused in police custody for one day.


Temple committee chief seriously hurt in attack
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, January 24
A group of persons attacked the president of the Shiv Mandir managing committee, Mr Gopal Dass Dogra, with sharpedged weapons at Bhargo Camp locality here today, seriously injuring him.

According to the police, the reason behind the attack was an on-going dispute over the ownership of the title of a property of Shiv Mandir. The police said Mr Dogra was on his way to the temple at 5.30 a.m. when he was attacked. The attackers stabbed him below the neck several times. He fell unconscious on the road, just 500 yards from the temple.

Poonam, a resident of the same locality, informed the family of the victim. He was taken to the local Civil Hospital immediately. The doctors there later referred him to a private hospital. The police said Raj Kumar, son of Mr Dogra, in his complaint, alleged that Parkash Kaur, who was fighting a civil case with regard to the ownership of a temple property, had threatened his father of dire consequences on January 22 in case he (Mr Dogra) failed to withdraw from the case. Parkash Kaur is also residing in the same locality.

As soon as the news of the attack spread in the city, supporters of Mr Dogra assembled near the hospital. They demanded the arrest of the attackers.

The condition of Mr Dogra, according to the doctors, was still critical.

Meanwhile, the police has detained Avtaar Singh. A case under Sections 307 and 120-B of the IPC has been registered on the complaint of Raj Kumar.


Two held on murder charge
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, January 24
The Noormahal police today arrested two persons on the charge of murdering their friend, Santokh Deep, a resident of Kandola Khurd village, about 40 km from here.

According to the police, Narinder, a resident of Kandola Khurd village, in his complaint, had alleged that one Amrik Singh, alias Meeka, of Pasla village came to his house on January 21 and asked his brother, Santokh Deep, to accompany him. As Santokh did not return till late in the night, family members and neighbours launched a manhunt to trace him. They came to know that Amrik Singh and Sukhvir Singh had a brawl with Santokh at their ‘dera’ (haveli) on the outskirts of the village.

All of them reached the spot and found a shoe of Santokh Deep floating in the well of the ‘dera’. The police was informed and the body of Santokh was taken out from the well. The body, according to the police, was bearing marks of blunt injuries on the chest and other parts of the body.

A case under Sections 302 and 34 of the IPC has been registered. Mr Sarabjit Rai, SHO, Noormahal police station, said both accused have been arrested.


Youth murdered, body found in well

Phillaur, January 24
Narinder Kumar (21) was allegedly murdered by his two friends, Amrik and Sukhbir, at Kandola Khurad village in Phillaur subdivision a few days back,but his body was found floating in a well last night.

According to reports received here this morning, all these friends went to the fields and took liquor near a well. Both accused had a quarrel with the deceased.

The police suspects that the accused murdred the youth and threw the body into the well. The police has registered a case under Section 302, IPC, against both accused.

The body was handed over to the family members of the deceased after a post-marterm examination in the Civil Hospital Phillaur. — OC


Cop’s daughter missing, no FIR yet

Amritsar, January 24
Mr Dharm Singh, a head constable at the SSP’s office, Tarn Taran, has been running from pillar to post to get an FIR registered against those who had allegedly kidnapped his daughter, a teacher of a private school, even though a week has passed.

Addressing a press conference here today, Mr Dharm Singh alleged that he was facing threats from the family of the suspects. He alleged that his daughter was kidnapped on her way to school on January 17.

Mr Satwinder Singh Tomy, a sympathiser of the family of the victim, alleged that the police officials of the B Division had not lodged an FIR due to the reported high connections of the suspects. — TNS


Body found
Our Correspondent

Kharar, January 24
Body of an unidentified migrant labourer was found by the police on the roadside near Chapparchiri village, near here, today.

It is learnt that initially the police thought that a murder had taken place and swung into action. Even senior police officials reportedly reached the scene to inquire into the crime. But after investigations the police started believing that the deceased had been hit by an unidentified vehicle.

The body of the victim was sent to the local Civil Hospital for a postmortem examination.

The police has registered a case under Sections 304 A and 201 of the IPC in this regard.


CBSE to give due place to tsunami
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 24
Imparting extensive knowledge to students about earthquakes,volcanos and tsunamis etc is apparently not on the priority list of the Punjab Education Department. Obviously, because of this reason, geography, which is also called mother of all sciences, is taught at the plus two level only in 53 schools of the 1382 senior secondary schools in the state.

Informed sources said of the 53 schools, there were lecturers to teach geography in only 35 schools. In other words, geography was taught as a subject in even less than 4 per cent schools at the secondary level.

Devastation caused by tsunami in Asia recently has forced educationists the world over to think about the teaching of geography that deals with earthquakes, volcanos and tsunamis etc at the school level. Even bodies like the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) have planned to give due place to tsunami and other topics dealing with natural calamities in the syllabus prescribed for schools in the country.

In the latest tragic scenario engineered by tsunami, it has become a must for every student to learn about earthquakes, volcanos and tsunamis, tornadoes and typhoons which often cause big damage in the coastal countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia etc. Even certain parts of the states like Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab, especially the Chandigarh capital region, fall in the seismic zone.

Informed sources said at the matric level, geography is taught as a part of social studies in Punjab. Of the 100 marks question paper, questions worth 30 marks are asked from geography. Even civics and economics are also taught as a part of social studies at the matric level. But only sketchy information is given about the various topics that are taught as a part of geography at the matric level.

The plus two syllabus of geography prescribed by the Punjab School Education Board is very extensive as well as intensive. It has topics such as solar system, work of river, glacier, work of wind, sea, major land forms, earthquakes, atmosphere and hydrosphere that includes oceans, waves, currents, tides etc. But, unfortunately, it is taught only in insignificant number of schools. There is good demand from students to have this subject. For instance, in two schools of Faridkot district, during the 2003-03 academic session there were 816 students who opted for this subject in 2003-04; nearly 750 students got this subject at the plus two level.

The sources said in 2001 the Punjab Government had issued advertisements to recruit 468 lecturers in secondary schools. But not a single lecturer of geography was recruited then. Even during the earlier recruitment of lecturers made in 1992, 1994, 1996, not a single lecturer was recruited to teach geography.

The state government had set up model schools in all blocks. However, no arrangement was made to teach geography in such schools also.

Asked in this connection, Mr Sukhjinder Singh Sukhi, president of the Geography Post Graduate Teachers Union, Punjab, said his organisation had taken up the issue to introduce geography as a subject in all senior secondary schools at the plus two level with the state government authorities concerned but there was no adequate response. Damage caused by tsunami may force the authorities concerned to consider the introduction of this subject in more schools, he added.


Students gherao principal’s office
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 24
Activists of the Punjab Radical Students Union (PRSU) and students of Akal Degree College, Mastuana Sahib, near here, today held a rally on the college campus and gheraoed the office of the principal for some time in protest against the non-fulfilment of their demands by the college management and the principal. They also raised slogans against the college authorities.

Sanjiv Mintoo, state president of the PRSU, said here today that the rally and gherao of the office of the principal had been done as the principal had not got some rooms of the arts block of the college vacated from the students of pharmacy so far despite a peaceful agitation by the students in this connection.

The other demands of the students include introduction of MA classes on the college campus, appointment of teachers against vacant posts and refund of excess fee deposited by the students this year.

Mintoo warned the college management and the principal that if the genuine demands of the students were not met soon, the students would be compelled to intensify the agitation.

The other student leaders who participated in the agitation included Sanjiv Mintoo, Harwinderjeet Singh, president of college unit of the PRSU; Gurmukh Singh Mann, a state-level leader of the Punjab Students Union; and Dharminder Lali, a student leader.


School donates Rs 8,500

Kharar, January 24
The management, staff and students of Maxim Merry School donated Rs 8,500 for the victims of the tsunami tragedy.

The Principal of the school, Ms Neeru Kaushik, said that a procession was organised by the school and students carrying donation boxes moved in the market collecting money for the needy. OC


Children to donate pocket money for tsunami victims
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 24
Students of Saffron City School Kotla Bajwara Fatehgarh Sahib led By Ms Rajnisha Chopra, teacher today handed over a draft of Rs 10,000/- to the Deputy Commissioner for the Prime Minister’s relief fund. The Deputy Commissioner praised the children who contributed pocket money for a national cause.


Power crisis hits industry
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, January 24
The wheel of industry has come to a halt, thanks to the severe power crisis in Punjab. Industrial production has been hit due to the unscheduled power cuts. The Punjab State Electricity Board has imposed severe restrictions on the consumption of power by the industry. The induction furnace units have been asked to observe two weekly off while the industry will have to observe one compulsory weekly off. Besides, the industry is not getting power supply according to the schedule.

The industrial production in Ludhiana has been affected worth several hundred crores daily and a large number of workers have been rendered jobless.

There does not seem to be any immediate relief as the hydel generation cannot be increased due to the poor water level in the reservoirs of the Bhakra power complex and other hydel reservoirs. The water level in the Bhakra reservoir has touched the lowest during the past 30 years. It is reported to be low by more than 50 ft compared with the level of the last year.

As a result, generation from all hydel projects, including Bhakra and the state-run units of Anandpur Sahib, Mukerian, UBDC and Shahnan has been drastically cut. The PSEB is getting only 60 lakh units of power from the Bhakra power complex against 90 lakh units last year. The PSEB’s own hydel projects are supplying only 55 lakh units of power. The three thermal units of the PSEB are supplying nearly 290 lakh units of power against 400 lakh units last year.

According to Mr H.C. Sood, Member (Distribution) PSEB, the power supply position is likely to improve as one unit of the Ropar thermal plant has gone into stream which was out of generation.

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