P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Ministry to approve new package for Bathinda refinery
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 30
The Punjab Council of Ministers will meet here tomorrow to approve the deed of assurance to be signed with Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited( HPCL) with regard to the revival of the Bathinda oil refinery project, the work on which was suspended in 2002.

The foundation stone of the refinery was laid in November, 1998, and it was to be completed in 48 months. Before the suspension of the work, over Rs 300 crore was spent by the state government and the HPCL to create basic infrastructure at the project site. The state government had widened the road network near the project site and also created a special water facility for it.

Rejecting the package of concessions offered by the previous SAD-BJP government to the HPCL to set up the refinery at Phulo Khari village, near Bathinda, the present government, led by Capt Amarinder Singh, has renegotiated a new package with the HPCL. The new deal includes deferment of the sales tax for five years with an annual upper limit of Rs 250 crore. The earlier deferment of sales tax was for 15 years with an upper limit of Rs 600 crore per annum.

The implementation of the Value Added Tax( VAT) in the state from April 1 will also come up at the meeting. The council is expected to give its nod to the implementation of VAT as already the state government had given a word to the Union Government to follow the national pattern in this connection.

Sources said for the implementation of VAT, an ordinance would be issued after its approval by the council. The Union Government wanted that the system to implement VAT should be put in place by all states well in advance of their budget session. With the implementation of VAT, the state government is expecting at least Rs 500 -crore increase in the tax revenue.

The council is also expected to approve extension to Mr A.P. Bhatnagar, who was appointed Advisor( Jails) following his retirement as DGP by the state government.


Modi now at the receiving end
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 30
Cutting across their political lines and affiliations, several prominent Sikh leaders, including the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) President, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, and the President of the All-India Vishwakarma Ramgarhia Sabha, Mr Malkiat Singh Birmi, took strong exception to the Gujarat Government's decision to cancel holiday on Guru Nanak Dev's birthday.

A number of Sikh organisations from various parts of the world, including the USA, Canada and England, also criticised the action of the BJP government of Gujarat saying it had hurt the sentiments of the community.

In Baroda, after the bhog ceremony of the annual akhand path, eminent Sikh leaders like Sant Lakha Singh, Bhai Balwinder Singh Rangeela and Mr Bhupinder Singh Rangila, assailed the decision and demanded that the holiday be restored. The congregation adopted a resolution to this effect unanimously.

Mr Parminder Singh, General Secretary, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC), said it was time for the SAD and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) to severe all ties with the BJP. He urged the National Commission for Minorities Chairman, Mr Tarlochan Singh, to act and get the decision reviewed within a week. He said it was unfortunate that both Mr Badal and Bibi Jagir Kaur had remained quiet on the issue till today.

The Gujarat Sikh Pratinidhi Board, says its secretary, Mr Mohinder Singh, had registered its strong protest besides making representations to the then Union Home Minister, Mr Lal Krishan Advani, and also the National Commission for Minorities. "But Mr Narendra Modi refused to relent," adds Mr Mohinder Singh saying that there has been strong resentment in Gujarat's Sikh community over the "anti-minority stance of the Modi government".

Mr Badal today called Mr Modi, over the telephone and urged him to review the decision about Guru Nanak Dev's gurpurab. The decision has hurt the sentiments of the Sikh community not only in Punjab but all over the world, he told Mr Modi.

"Guru Nanak preached universal brotherhood, social equality and secularism. His teachings are not only for the Sikhs but for the whole humanity. Hence, such a decision is totally unjustified," said Mr Badal revealing that he had also taken up the matter with the former Union Law Minister, Mr Arun Jaitely, and urged him to take up the matter with the Gujarat Government on priority basis.

Mr Malkiat Singh Birmi, a Parliamentary Secretary of Punjab and president of the All-India Vishwakarma Ramgarhia Sabha, said Mr Modi had blotted the name of Gujarat. He added that unfortunately Mr Modi had become the Chief Minister of a state which has produced the Father of Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, a great advocate of communal harmony, peace, universal brotherhood and non-violence.

Mr Birmi said such anti-minority actions were nothing new for Mr Modi, who had a couple of months ago made derogatory remarks about the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh.


Doaba govt hospitals fail to draw patients
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 30
The poor inflow of patients in government hospitals in the Doaba region suggests that doctors here are almost idling, many of them not getting even one patient every hour.

On an average, each government doctor is visited by five to six patients every day, which in other words, mean that a doctor, on an average, does not get one patient in an hour during his eight hour duty schedule on a working day.

Jalandhar district has 220 government doctors for the local Civil Hospital and other hospitals and Primary Health Centres. As per statistics gathered by The Tribune, these institutes, on an average, are visited by 1,500 to 1,550 patients daily. The average number of patients received by a doctor this way comes to about eight in a day, which meant that a doctor received one patient each hour.

Similarly, Hoshiarpur district, which has eight Civil Hospitals and Public Health Centres (PHCs), has 231 doctors against the sanctioned strength of 258 doctors. The average daily inflow of patients in all eight government hospitals and PHCs was recorded to be around 1200-1300.

In Nawanshahr district, about 800-900 patients pour in daily in four government hospitals at Banga, Nawanshahr, Mukandpur and Saroya. As many as 85 doctors were working in these hospitals against the sanctioned strength of 94.

The state of Kapurthala, which has 54 doctors working against sanctioned strength of 61, is also not very different. The poor daily inflow of patients on working days suggest that at some hospitals, certain doctors were not even getting a single patient during every two hours. The break-up of average daily patient inflow on working days show that the state of government hospitals was exactly the same.

The Kapurthala Civil Hospital has 19 doctors. It has daily OPD inflow of between 225 and 250 patients. With 16 doctors, the government hospital at Phagwara receives about similar number of patients.

The Sultanpur Lodhi hospital again has 16 doctors, but, the daily average patient inflow is restricted between 180 and 190. With two and six doctors, government hospitals at Tibba and Begowal receive around 40 and 90 patients, respectively. If the Hoshiarpur Civil Hospital received about 350 patients daily, the number at PHC, Hariana, was 30-35.

Similarly, the average daily patient inflow at different government hospitals and PHCs of Hoshiarpur was: Dasuya (100-125), Mukerian (250-300), Mahilpur-150-175, Tanda (200-250), Garhshankar (150-178) and Talwara (150-175).

In Nawanshahr, the average break-up was as following: Nawanshahr Civil Hospital (125-150), Banga (60-65) and Saroya (50-55).


Nabha villages wake up to the scourge of AIDS
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Nabha, January 30
AIDS is finally being treated as the scourge it is in villages in this area. More than one year following reports of multiplicity of HIV positive cases, now attempts are being made to discuss the disease at the village level with panchayats even painting walls with AIDS awareness messages.

“Sarpanches are finally waking up to the scourge,” says Mr Dhir Singh, who runs an NGO, Jan Seva Samiti, in the area. He says earlier it was difficult convincing sarpanches and the panchayats to start a campaign against AIDS in villages. “Mysterious deaths in villages which were later disclosed to have occurred due to HIV virus, have brought about the change in scenario,” he says.

The rise in number of AIDS patients first came to light when private laboratories in the town claimed that there had been an alarming increase in HIV tests, many of whom were found to be positive. The laboratories, all of whom boldly claim to conduct HIV tests, are still the only ones that most of the suspect HIV patients patronise. “This is because of the stigma associated with the disease,” says Mr Amarjit Singh, a social worker, while explaining why the Civil Hospital, Nabha, is not patronised by such patients.

It is also difficult to record the actual number of HIV cases. He says three tests have to be done at a month’s interval each before a person can be classified to be HIV positive. The problem is that patients do not come to even private laboratory again once they are told they are HIV positive after the first test. With most feeling that they are doomed and that there is no need to take allopathic medicine for the disease, they prefer going to ‘sadhus’ and ‘sants’ in search of a miracle cure. He says most of them end up being given steroids, which, after an initial recovery, lead to even more complex problems.

Mr Amarjit Singh says the combine harvesting industry is partially responsible for the spread of HIV in villages surrounding the town. “People from these villages remain out for months at a stretch covering a large distance with their combine harvesters,” he said. Besides, the establishment of an Indian Oil Corporation depot has also given a boost to the spread of the disease in the area with a large number of truckers moving in and out of the town.

Speaking about the change that has occurred over the past few months, Mr Dhir Singh says the society has distributed posters and also painted walls in villages of Beenakheri, Kakrala and Bohran. All these villages had reported HIV cases last year.

The village panchayats have, for the first time, agreed to cooperate with the NGO in spreading awareness about the disease and also adopting a more pro-active attitude about safe injections and safe sex in order to safeguard the younger generation from the virus, he says.

The society also provides consultation about AIDS on phone, he says.


Punjab Police bids farewell to Siddiqui
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 30
Mr A.A. Siddiqui, Director-General of Punjab police, is hopeful of getting a “good assignment”, from the Centre after his superannuation.

Talking to mediapersons at the PAP complex here today, Mr Siddiqui, who was given a farewell by the Punjab police officers, said he was hopeful of getting a good assignment from the Centre after his retirement on January 31. He said he intended to settle down in Allahabad after retirement. He also expressed his desire to promote Sufi music, for which he was planning to go to Pakistan in March.

Referring to the law and order situation in the state, Mr. Siddiqui said Pakistan had stopped aiding terrorist activities in the state. However, Pakistani aid to Kashmiri terrorists was still on. While maintaining that Pakistan had changed its policy and had ceased to support Punjab terrorists, Mr Siddiqui said people-to-people contact in the North-East could curb terrorism there.

Lauding the valiant role played by the Punjab police in its tirade against terrorism, Mr Siddiqui said it would take another decade to see a change in the police system.

Mr Siddiqui, who was accompanied by senior officers of the Punjab police, including Mr D.R. Bhatti, ADGP, PAP, also took the farewell salute during a parade by a contingent of the PAP jawans.


Home Minister clears Virk’s file

The Union Home Minister, Mr Shivraj Patil, has cleared the file of Mr S.S. Virk, Additional Director General of Police, on deputation in Punjab from Maharashtra. Informed sources said Mr Patil signed the file last evening approving the extension in Mr Virk's deputation to Punjab. The issue has been hanging fire for the past two years.

Mr Virk's name is under consideration for appointment as the next Director General of Police, Punjab, in place of Mr A.A. Siddiqui, who will retire tomorrow. The Departmental Promotion Committee( DPC) will meet tomorrow under the Chairmanship of the Chief Secretary, Mr Jai Singh Gill, to decide the next chief of the Punjab Police. Mr Virk is said to be a close confidant of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, who had personally taken up the issue of extension in the deputation of Mr Virk with the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, and Mr Patil.


Historic mound falls prey to unplanned construction
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, January 30
The historic mound witness to the 10-month-long resistance given by less than 2,000 Sikhs led by legendary Banda Singh Bahadur to 1,00,000-strong Mughal army is under threat. The unplanned constructions over the mound located near Gurdas Nangal village threaten the original mound which gives one the feel of the fierce battle.

The said mound, spread over about seven acres, is located near Gurdas Nangal village, about 15 km from Gurdaspur. A gurdwara and a sarovar have already been brought up over the mound. During the digging of the sarovar, the bones of animals, horses, men and pieces of weapons were discovered as remnants of the said war.

Giving details of the historic battle on the mound, Prof Raj Kumar Sharma, a regional historian, said that the fall of Gurdas Nangal brought to an end the career of Banda Bahadur, one of the most illustrious warriors of Punjab. Before Guru Gobind Singh passed away he entrusted his mission to Banda Bahadur.

Banda Bahadur headed the military command of the followers of the Guru. A council of ‘panj piaras’ consisting of Binod Singh, Kahan Singh, Baj Singh, Daya Singh and Ram Singh was appointed to assist him. He was also given a Khanda and Nagara, the symbols of temporal authority, and hukamnamas (letters), asking the Sikhs to extend every help to him.

In November, 1709, Banda Bahadur destroyed the towns of Samana, Kapuri and Thaska. The battle of Chappar Chiri in 1710 that led to the occupation of Sirhind signalled the beginning of new era in the history of Punjab, says Prof Sharma.

Peeved about the growing exploits of the Sikhs, Abdul Samad Khan was appointed Subedar of Lahore on February 22, 1713. At that time Banda Bahadur was carrying his military activities in and around Kalanaur in order to conduct swift raids on the Mughal power centre of Lahore. Though reduced in strength he was busy building mud fortifications at Kot Mirza Jan, a small village between Kalanaur and Batala. Before the defences could be completed, Banda Bahadur was attacked from all directions.

Banda and his men fought bravely post to post before taking shelter in the haveli of Bhai Duni Chand in Gurdas Nangal village. The siege of Gurdas Nangal began in April, 1715. Banda Bahadur and his men made every effort to strengthen the defences of the haveli by collecting stores or ammunition and rations. A ditch was dug outside the haveli and filled with water from the neighbouring Shah Nehar canal and other small streams flowing from the hills that rendered the Mughal artillery useless. Whenever the Mughals tired to bring their artillery in position, horsemen would come out from the haveli and destroyed it .

Though it was an unequal fight with the Mughal forces swellings day by day, the Mughals did not make a frontal assault, fearing that hand- to- hand battles would cause them heavy losses as in the battles of Thatian and Raipur Behrampur.

After about eight months when not even a blade of grass was left for the forces of Banda Bahadur in the haveli, the Mughals entered the premises on December 7, 1715, massacring many while taking many lieutenants, including Banda Abrader, as captive.

Prof Raj Kumar said it was unfortunate that the places depicting the last war fought by one of the greatest Sikh warriors were being deformed due to haphazard constructions. The government and the SGPC should take concrete steps to protect such structures for future generations.


Shahpur Kandi Dam construction to be delayed
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur January 30
Though the Punjab Government has released Rs 9 crore for the Shahpur Kandi Dam, it will take another four to five months to start work on the project. Highly placed sources in the Department of Irrigation revealed that construction of the dam could not be carried out at present due to the non-availability of designs.

The government had released Rs 9 crore received under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme for construction of the left side head regulator.

The left side regulator will be used to control the flow of water in the canal to be dug from the Shahpur Dam on the Punjab side. The 7.5 km canal will start from Shahpur Kandi Dam and end at the Madhopur head from where its water will be released in the UBDC canal system. Two power projects have also been planned on the said canal.

However, since the Irrigation Department authorities were not expecting release of funds, they never got the designs of the dam completed and approved from the boards of consultants. The value of ‘phi’ that was essential for the design of the dam has also not been cleared by the board of consultants due to which the construction cannot start.

The Chief Engineer of Ranjit Sagar Dam, Mr Balinder Singh, when contacted admitted that the construction work of the Shahpur Kandi Dam could not be started at present due to non-availability of designs.

He said construction of the dam could only be started when the NHPC submitted the complete project report which could take four to six months.

Sources said the authorities at the dam were planning to purchase material with the available funds.

The other portions of the Shahpur Kandi project include a right hand head regulator that would control the flow of water to the canal going to Jammu and Kashmir from the dam, 22 bays and spillways.

The Jammu and Kashmir Government has already started arbitration due to the delay in completion of the Shahpur Kandi Dam by the Punjab Government.

The Shahpur Kandi Dam project was initially planned as part of the Ranjit Sagar Dam. As per the original design, the Ranjit Sagar Dam was to help in peak load generation in the state.

During peak hours, water released as a result of 600 MW power generation at Ranjit Sagar Dam was to be stopped at Shahpur Kandi Dam.

Here again an additional 168 MW was to be generated from the same water. Further stage III of the UBDC was to be implemented to generate an additional 133 MW.

However, due to the non-construction of the Shahpur Kandi Dam, full potential of the Ranjit Sagar Dam has also not been realised. At present just 200 to 300 MW power is being generated at Ranjit Sagar Dam against the installed potential of 600 MW because there is no dam to absorb the water released.


Major Rajbir Singh to contest as rebel
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 30
Peeved over denial of the Congress ticket in the forthcoming Ajnala byelection scheduled to be held on February 23 , Major Rajbir Singh, Chairman, Punjab State Livestock Development Board (PSLDB), has decided to contest the election as a rebel candidate.

He is likely to announce his resignation as PSLDB Chairman on tomorrow after a meeting of his supporters.

Talking to TNS here yesterday, Major Rajbir Singh said senior Congress leaders from Ajnala were likely to tender their resignations in protest against the decision of the party high command to allot the ticket to Mr Harpartap Singh Ajnala, his younger brother. He said it was unfortunate that the party had accommodated a person who was expelled for six years from the party following his decision to contest the previous election as rebel.

Major Rajbir Singh said a third front was in the offing even as the CPM (Ram Bilas Pasla group ) and the BSP might announce their support to his candidature. He said he and his supporters would not let Mr Harpartap Singh win the byelection. He said during the previous Assembly elections, he had supported his younger brother, Mr Harpartap Singh, and that was why he got a good number of votes. He claimed that Mr Milkha Singh and Mr Jatinderbir Singh Billu , Block presidents of Ajnala and Harsha Chhina, respectively, had already conveyed to the party high command that they would support him (Major Rajbir Singh) . He said since the party high command had given the ticket to a 'rebel', he had no option but to contest the bypoll against official 

He alleged that Capt Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister, and Mr HS Hanspal , president, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, had assured him that the ticket would be given to him.

Major Rajbir Singh claimed that the result of the byelection would prove beyond doubt that voters of Ajnala were not with his brother, Mr Harpartap Singh. He alleged that Mr Harpartap Singh had manipulated intelligence reports in his favour and misguided the party. Major Rajbir Singh claimed that the proposed Third Front would be formidable force and it would be difficult for the Congress to win the election.


Efforts on to ‘resolve’ ticket row
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 30
Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Deputy Chief Minister, Punjab, today said the Congress was making efforts to pursuade Mr Rajbir Singh Ajnala, the elder son of former MLA late Harcharan Singh Ajnala, to give up plans to contest the Ajnala Assembly byelection in the larger interests of the party.

According to reports following the allotment of Congress ticket to his younger brother Harpartap Singh Ajnala for the Ajnala Assembly byelection, Mr Rajbir Singh Ajnala had expressed displeasure over the non-allotment of ticket to him by the party. He had also “made up” his mind to contest the Assembly byelection against his brother.

Ms Bhattal said she hoped that Mr Rajbir Singh would work for the victory of Congress candidate as the party would redress all his grievances and grouses.

Ms Bhattal was talking to mediapersons after an annual “shardhanjli samaroh” organised in connection with the death anniversary of her parents and freedom fighters, Baba Heera Singh Bhattal and Mata Harnam Kaur Bhattal, at Bhattlan village, about 30 km from here, today. On this occasion, 11 freedom fighters and wards of freedom fighters were honoured by Ms Bhattal. She presented a shawl and Rs 1,100 to each of them.

Ms Bhattal also disclosed that the Punjab Government would release a grant of Rs 20 to 50 lakh soon for the development of each Assembly constituency. She also said the Central Government would release a grant of Rs 75 crore for the rural development in the state. She said the World Bank had also approved a sum of Rs 3,500 crore for Punjab to provide drinking water facilities in the rural areas.


‘Badal asked party cadre to collect Rs 1 cr’
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 30
A delegation of the Akali Dal (Ravi Inder Singh) will meet Election Commission officials to apprise them of the alleged collection of Rs 1 crore by the SAD (Badal) for the forthcoming Ajnala byelection at the behest of its president, Mr Parkash Singh Badal.

Mr Ravi Inder Singh, president of the Akali Dal, addressing a press conference here yesterday, said Mr Badal had flouted election norms by directing his party's cadre to collect money. He claimed that each Akali MLA and MP had been told to collect Rs 1 lakh and Rs 2 lakh, respectively.


Ravi Inder sold trust land illegally, claims SAD
Tribune News Service

Ropar, January 30
The propaganda secretary of SAD Ropar, Mr Gurmeet Singh Matharu, today alleged that the former Speaker, Vidhan Sahba, Punjab, and the President of Akali Dal, Mr Ravi Inder Singh, had sold the property of the Ambala Board of Education Trust at Kurali illegally.

While addressing a press conference here, Mr Matharu said Mr Ravi Inder, who is also the chairman of the trust, had sold one acre land near Khalsa School, Kurali, without consulting other members of the Trust.

Mr Matharu also alleged that the Jharkhand police had recovered arms from Mr Ravi Inder’s factory in Jharkhand. The Jharkhand police had sent a report about the recovery to the DGP, Punjab.

But the Punjab police did nothing so far, he said.

He alleged that Mr Ravi Inder was getting active support from Capt Amarinder Singh.

Mr Matharu said Capt Amarinder Singh waived off Rs 14 crore which was due from Mr Ravi Inder’s factory in Mohali.

Mr Ravi Inder was not available for comment but his political secretary, Mr Rajinder Singh, said Mr Matharu was leveling baseless allegations without any proof.

“Mr Matharu was just playing in the hands of former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. The property of the Khalsa school was sold with the mutual consent of the trust members and we have proof for it,” he said.

Clarifying about the allegation of arms recovery, he said, “During militancy, the arms were given to the security guards of Mr Ravi Inder Singh as per the police directions for security reasons.”

He said everything was on police records. The allegations were leveled just to get political benefits, he added.


No recognition to historic village
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Sur Singh (Amritsar): This village, called the centre of ‘Gadar’ movement, wrote glorious history of valour and gallantry during the freedom struggle. But sadly, it has failed to preserve the ancestral houses of all 37 ‘Gadri Babas’ who had made a supreme sacrifice for the sake of the country.

What is shocking is that there is no trace of the ancestral house of Baba Jagat Singh in the village who was hanged alongwith Kartar Singh Sarabha on November 16, 1915, in the first Lahore conspiracy case. His name figured in many novels and books on history. While the state and central government had given special grants and status to the villages of Sarabha and Shaheed Bhagat Singh, the historical village of Sur Singh was ignored in this regard. However, Mr Surjit Singh, a resident of Canada, traced the history of 34 out of the total 37 Gadri Babas. He raised funds and got constructed a hall in their memory at a piece of land ,donated by the village panchayat.

Sur Singh, which is only 6 km from the border, has the honour of giving birth to Bhai Desa who had played a significant role in the re-construction of Harmandar Sahib (the Golden Temple) after the Mughal invasions. However, neither villagers nor the SGPC could trace the house of Bhai Desa. The Harmandar Sahib was destroyed by the Afghan invaders thrice and was finally built in its present form during the period of Sikh misls (confederacies) in AD 1765. Bhai Des Raj, a Khatri of Sur Singh, Amritsar district, known for his honesty, was put in charge of the finance of the project so that the building of the gurdwara and the tank should be completed. Bhai Des Raj was granted a seal ‘Gurz di Mohar’ by the Khalsa to collect funds. The Sikhs regarded this seal as a Hukumnama (despatch) from their Gurus. This time the foundation of the temple was laid by Jassa Singh Ahluwalia on 11 Baisakh Samvat 1821(A.D. 1764) which was carried out under the supervision of Bhai Des Raj.

Waryam Sandhu, a Punjabi short story writer, who also belongs to this village , said that Sur Singh was not given due recognition by anyone. He claims that it is one of the oldest villages in the state which was established by a ruler, named Sur Singh, a few years after the birth of Guru Nanak Dev. The village has found its mention in history books too. Bhai Bidhi Chand, a contemporary of Guru Hargobind, was born in the village.

Master Hira Singh, a retired teacher and Mr Harbhej Singh, sarpanch of a ruling party, however, admitted that there was lot to be done to preserve the heritage belonging to Gadri Babas, Bhai Des Raj and others, belonging to this historical village. They claimed that the number of freedom fighters from this village was much more and that there was need to re-write the history after proper research.


Polio-affected girl gets raw deal
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Moga, January 30
Even as the Prime Minister, Mr Manmohan Singh, paved the way for the disabled to join the Civil Services last week, a handicapped girl hailing from Langeana village, got a raw deal at the hands of the district administration on Republic Day.

Speaking to The Tribune here today, Sikander Singh said the activists of a social welfare organisation working in their village had told him to reach the Guru Nanak College ground on January 26 to receive a tricycle for his disabled daughter studying in Class VI.

With tears in his eyes, said both legs of Rajvinder and her lower portion were rendered disabled at the age of two. He tried to get her treated at various hospitals, but his poor financial condition didn’t allow him to get better treatment for his daughter. “Rajvinder is a bright student, but she faces great difficulty in commuting to the school. Most of the time I have to drop and pick her up from the school,” he said.

A daily wager, Sikander Singh said he could not afford a tricycle for his daughter. He said he had met the officials concerned and also informed them about the social welfare organisation active in their village. The officials told him that his application had not come through proper channel and hence they could not give him a tricycle. Sikander Singh said he even tried to approach the minister on Republic Day, but the officials didn’t allow him to take up his problem before him.

Surprisingly, the District Red Cross and the Civil Hospital prepare the list of polio-affected persons from time to time and also allot funds for assisting them. When contacted, Red Cross officials said Rajvinder’s name didn’t figure among those to be given tricycles on Republic Day and if she had given a proper application in time she would have definitely got the tricycle.


Jail inmate dies in hospital
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 30
Chotta Singh, a resident of Phulewala village in this district, who was undergoing three-and-a-half year imprisonment in the local Central Jail after being convicted in a criminal case, died in the Civil Hospital here this morning.

Information gathered by The Tribune revealed that Chotta Singh, who was booked under a criminal case pertaining to an attempt to murder and subsequently convicted, had been facing various health problems ever since he was lodged in the local Central Jail in July, 2004.

Information revealed that Chotta Singh, who had been getting treatment in the jail and outside hospitals for breathing problems and tuberculosis, became serious late last night and was shifted to the Civil Hospital where he died early in this morning.

Mr Sukhdev Singh Saggu, Superintendent, Central Jail, when contacted, said the that deceased was around 65 years old. He added that the deceased could not be sent on parole to his house as he was yet to complete six months in the jail which was mandatory for sanctioning parole to an inmate.

He said that the jail authorities had informed the District Magistrate, the National Human Rights Commissioner (NHRC) and Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC). A panel of doctors conducted the post mortem of the dead body. The family member of the deceased had also been informed about the incident.


Gandhi, martyrs remembered
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 30
“It is a matter of great concern for all of us that our young generation is not well-equipped with the history of our freedom struggle,” said Mr S. Raghupathy, Union Minister of State for Home, while paying tributes to Mahatma Gandhi and thousands of martyrs and freedom fighters who laid their lives to attain Independence, at Jallianwala Bagh here today.

Mr Raghupathy who is currently on a two-day visit to the city, observed that today’s generation lacked the spirit of nationalism and patriotism.

He appealed to the people to make a people’s movement to inculcate the values and ideals set by our freedom fighters and martyrs. He said this would be the right tribute to Mahatma Gandhi and other martyrs.

He appealed to the people of Punjab to emerge as role models for the rest of the country.

He said, “We should renew our pledge to re-dedicate ourselves to the ideals of nationalism and of patriotism.

He called upon the people to work with commitment, dedication, faith and confidence to make the country strong and vibrant.

The Union Minister paid obeisance at the Golden Temple. He was presented a model of the Golden Temple and a set of religious books by the Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Mr Charanjit Singh Atwal.


Roadways staff stir from tomorrow
Tribune News Service

Moga, January 30
The Punjab Roadways Employees Union would organise gate rallies at 18 depots on February 1, besides stopping Chandigarh Transport Union (CTU) buses from entering Punjab from February 2, the convener of the union’s joint action committee, Mr Gurmail Singh, stated this here today.

The panel convener said that this was decided to protest against the plying of “illegal” private and CTU buses, delay in buying a new fleet of buses and no decision in allowing Punjab Roadways buses to ply from Sector 17, Chandigarh. He alleged that illegal bus operation was being carried out in the state on a large-scale, which was directly affecting the earnings of Punjab Roadways.

He said that the committee had decided to launch a stir against illegal operation of buses from January 2, which was postponed in wake of the State Transport Director’s promise of resolving the issue in a high-level meeting.

Later, the Transport Minister also held a meeting with the joint action committee and assured early redress of their grievances.

The convener further stated that no meeting had been held till now to stop the illegal plying of private and CTU buses in the state.


Dispute ends in blood donation
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, January 30
In a unique gesture Sat Parkash and his associates, who allegedly were injured in bloody clash last evening agreed to resolve their dispute with Shamsher Singh, Vijay and Harpreet by donating blood at Bhai Gyanayia Ji Charitable Blood Bank here today.

The bloody clash took place at Pehala village near Nasrala between groups led by Sat Parkash and his associates and Shamsher Singh, Vijay and Harpreet Singh. During the clash Sat Parkash and his associates sustained serious injuries. Both groups went to Sadar Police Station to lodge complaints against each other.

Later, on the persuasion of Ms Balwinder Kaur, Municipal Councillor, Hoshiarpur, and Mr Bhagawan Singh Chohan, BSP General Secretary, Punjab, Shamsher Singh and his associates agreed to donate blood.


DC honoured with siropa
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 30
A 21-member religious committee of prominent people of the district constituted Shaheedi Jor Mela today honoured Mr S.K. Ahluwalia, Deputy Commissioner at a function held at Gurdwara Hall, Nai Abadi, Sirhind. He was presented a siropa by Mr Subegh Singh, manager, and Bhai Baldev Singh, Head Granthi, respectively, Gurdwara Fatehgarh Sahib, for not allowing anybody to indulge in bad politicking and cheap amusement.


Novel health care scheme for farmers
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 30
The Punjab Government has worked out a novel health care scheme for 10 lakh farmers and their families who are a part of the cooperative movement in the state.

The scheme has been named as Sanjivini Rural Cooperative Societies of Punjab Members Health Care Scheme. Already, after a detailed discussion with officers concerned, it has been approved by Punjab Chief Secretary Jai Singh Gill.

The file of the scheme is now with the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, who has gone through it and has liked it. “The Chief Minister is convinced that the scheme is workable”, say officers posted in the Chief Minister’s office. The main objective of the scheme is provide cost-effective quality health care facilities to the members of cooperative societies, who are engaged in agricultural and allied activities through self-defined and self-funded schemes.

Among the societies working in the cooperative department are the Primary Cooperative Agriculture Service Society, the Milk Producers Society, the Primary Cooperative Agriculture Development Banks, the Cooperative Rural House Building Society, the Cooperative Sugarmills Ltd and Cane Growers Society, the Primary Cooperative Agriculture Marketing and Processing Societies and the Central Cooperative Bank Ltd etc.

The scheme would provide coverage to meet the medical expenses of surgical procedures and other treatment requiring indoor intervention to the members up to an expenditure of Rs 2 lakh per year in the hospitals notified under the scheme.

To operate the scheme, a registered trust would be set up for this purpose. The managing committee of the trust would be headed by the Chief Secretary. The Finance Commissioner (Cooperation) and Registrar, Cooperative Societies would be its Vice Chairman and Deputy Chairman, respectively. 


Probe ordered into spurious drug sale
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, January 30
Taking serious note of reports carried in a section of media the Medical Education and Research Department has urged the Deputy Commissioner to probe into alleged report that doctors of the local Guru Gobind Singh Medical College were prescribing substandard costly medicines to patients.

According to sources, the Deputy Commissioner has asked the ADC, Mr Darshan Singh Garewal, to probe into the matter. Sources said some doctors in Malwa were minting money by prescribing expensive medicines to patients and that too when cheap and better quality medicines were available in the market.

The sources said drug manufacturers were neither giving correct addresses on the labels nor writing batch numbers and expiry dates on strips.


Murder case cracked, 4 arrested
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, January 30
The police has arrested four persons in connection with a murder that took place about a year ago. The police succeeded in cracking the murder case after a person was recently arrested on the charge of smuggling poppy husk.

According to sources, Angrej Singh, who was working as a tailor in Madak village, was murdered on the night of January 24 last year. Though the police had registered a murder case on the basis of Amarnath's statement, it had failed to lay hands on any clue about the accused. Even the post-mortem report of the deceased suggested that he died of consuming poison and strangulation.

A few days back when the police arrested Gurjant Singh of the village for smuggling poppy husk, he spilled the beans during interrogation and confessed to have played a role in Angrej's murder.

He admitted that he was working as a farm labourer at Jagroop Singh's field and they both had murdered Angrej.

Following his confession, the police arrested Jagroop, his son, Bittu, and Bittu's father-in-law, Gurcharan Singh. Sources said that Angrej Singh reportedly had illicit relations with Bittu's wife.

All the accused were produced in the court of the Judicial Magistrate, which sent them in two-day police remand.


Mobile phone of IAS officer stolen
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 30
In a bizarre incident, the cell phone of Mr B.C. Gupta, Principal Secretary, Department of Food and Supply, Punjab, was stolen from the local Circuit House while it was being charged on Friday evening.

Information gathered by TNS revealed that ever since the theft committed by some unidentified persons, the local police remained on its toes to trace cell phone. Mr Gupta had given his mobile phone to his gunman, Mr Makhan Singh, for charging when the theft took place.

A section of the police and Food and Supply Department officials, present in the Circuit House were thoroughly questioned and searched. Even vehicles belonging to these officials were searched.

Mr Kapil Dev, SSP, said four to five persons, who were roaming nearby, were identified and questioned.

Police sources said after making hectic searches, it was found that someone, who had stolen the cell phone, had made some calls on different number from the same set and the numbers had been traced.

Local police authorities had also taken the help of state police authorities in detecting the EMI number of that particular mobile set and a formal request in this connection had been made to an ADGP-rank officer.

A case in this connection has been registered under Section 379 of the IPC.

In another case, three youths have been booked in a criminal case for their alleged involvement in the abduction of a minor girl from the Talwandi Sabo area. The youths have been identified as Gurlal Singh, Gurjant Singh and Bittu. The police is trying to arrest the accused.


Official wranglings block salaries of 1 lakh teachers
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, January 30
As many as one lakh government teachers in the state have been working without wages for the past three months a bureaucratic formality between the finance and education departments has not been completed.

Sources in the Department of Finance told The Tribune that they had asked the Department of Education for some data that has not been supplied as yet. Earlier, the collective sanction was given every year for the temporary posts in the education department. Each Drawing and Dispersing Officer (DDO) used to show a copy of that collective sanction to the respective District Treasuries Officer to draw the salaries of the employees working under him.

However, the practice created a problem for the Department of Finance. The total number of temporary employees in the Department of Education always exceeded the number for which the sanction had been granted by the government. In order to solve this problem the Department of Finance authorities directed the education department counterparts to give DDO level lists of temporary employees before the sanction for temporary employees was given.

They have maintained that the sanction for temporary employees would hence forth be given at the DDO level rather than collectively in order to avoid any problem. “The finance department is ready to release the salary of the teachers the moment the required data is provided by the Department of Education, maintain officials of the finance department.

However, officials in the education department told on the condition of anonymity that it might take a little more time for them to submit the data asked for by the finance department. They said the Department of Education was a big department and even though orders had been issued to all DDOs to submit the number of temporary posts under them all of them had not supplied the details as yet.

The finance department should release the salaries of employees and the details that they are seeking can be provided in the near future, they said.

Meanwhile, teachers across the state are planning to stage an agitation to protest against the non-payment of their salaries. Already they have organised dharnas across the state. The teachers have also threatened to boycott forthcoming the exam duties in case their salaries were not released.

The union leaders of the teachers also alleged that they are facing a problem in filing income tax returns in the month of February as they are not sure whether they would be paid the pending salary within this financial year or not.

Besides, the Department of Education, employees of the Animal Husbandry Department have also not been paid salaries due to a similar problem.


Several medical college departments headless
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 30
The government medical colleges in Punjab are in the throes of a crisis with the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) not filling 35 posts that were publicised in June last year, even as a spate of resignations and superannuations has made some departments go headless and created 52 vacancies in Government Medical College, Patiala, alone.

The PPSC had advertised 35 entry-level posts in June last year, but the applicants were still to be called for an interview. This has resulted in a state of alarm in the medical colleges with the Medical Council of India (MCI) expected to inspect all three colleges in the state next month.

The medical colleges are facing the spectre of derecognition. This is because under the MCI norms all vacant posts are to be filled immediately. Besides, the medical colleges are also suffering as post-graduate seats are being decreased in many streams. Teaching work is also being affected due to excessive vacancies. While the Government Medical College, Amritsar, has a vacancy percentage of 29, in Patiala there are at present, 52 vacant posts against a strength of 180.

Dr B.S. Sohal, secretary of the Punjab State Medical and Dental Teachers Association, said, in the Patiala college, the intake of post-graduate students has been reduced in many specialities. In the skin department, there is only one post-graduate student against four earlier. Similarly, the number of post-graduate seats has been reduced in the ENT and the chest departments”.

At the local Government Medical College, the cardiology and nephrology departments were nearly paralysed with no Professor to head them. Both departments were doing with only one assistant professor each. Dr Sohal said two posts of professors were vacant in the surgery and medicine departments.

Two posts of assistant professors were vacant in the skin department and three in the Anaesthesia department. The situation was likely to deteriorate further at Patiala as three professors would retire in the coming two months.

Dr Surinder Singh of the teachers association said the issue had been brought to the notice of the minister and the Secretary of the department. He said recruitment in other departments was being done without the help of the PPSC.


Varsity moots medical college for rural students
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 30
After starting an engineering college exclusively for rural students at Talwandi Sabo in Bathinda district, Punjabi University is set to replicate the feat in the field of medicine. It aims to start a medical college near Chandigarh which, like its Engineering College, will cater only to students who have studied in government schools in rural areas.

The university wants the medical college to get off the ground this year. Vice-Chancellor Swarn Singh Boparai has held preliminary discussions with the Gurdwara Ratwara Sahib management to make this a reality. The management has land 5 km from the PGI in Chandigarh and the university is keen to use this land for its proposed project.

Talking to TNS, Mr Boparai said he had held discussions with Mr Mohinder Singh Gill, a former player representing the management of the Ratwara Sahib gurdwara. He said though the university was keen to establish the medical college, talks with the religious organisation were still at a preliminary stage and might take time to fructify.

The Vice Chancellor said the establishment of a medical college was part of the larger vision of the university---to establish a rural university. He said he personally felt that this was the only way to ensure that the most deprived sections of society could acquire a stake in the system. He said the proposed rural university would impart education only vocational courses rather than teaching standard courses in the arts and science streams.

Punjabi University is going in for these measures due to virtual non- existent opportunities for rural students in engineering and medical colleges in the state. "A survey conducted by us revealed that there were virtually no students from rural areas studying in engineering or medical colleges in the state", says university spokesman Dr Baldev Singh Sandhu. He said the university's move to establish an engineering college at Talwandi Sabo met with success with 162 students being admitted in the college after the class X examination itself.

The proposed medical college besides stressing on rural students, will also focus on girl students.


Unemployed ETT teachers burn effigy of CM
Tribune Reporters

Bathinda, January 30
Hundreds of activists of the Unemployed ETT Teachers Union today burnt an effigy of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and jammed the traffic for about one hour near the local bus stand to protest against the lathi charge by the police on agitating unemployed teachers at Patiala yesterday.

The unemployed ETT teachers, who have been observing a strike for the past four months against the state government for not appointing teachers in state government-run schools on a regular basis, raised slogans against the Chief Minister and the state government. They demanded withdrawal of fake cases registered against the activists at Patiala yesterday.

Addressing the agitating teachers, Mr Swaranjit Singh Bhagta, state president of the Elementary Teachers Union, alleged that a section of the activists was proceeding towards the Moti Bagh residence of Capt Amarinder Singh at Patiala yesterday to give him a memorandum in connection with their demands. Suddenly they were attacked with lathis and water cannons by policemen. Not only this, the policemen also fired in the air and they did not spare girls also.

He pointed out that during the Kapurthala byelection, the state government had categorically accepted the genuine demands of the unemployed ETT teachers. Now the state government had been backtracking from its promise, he added.

He demanded that immediate action should be taken against those policemen who were involved in this inhuman and illegal act. The agitating teachers added that if the state government failed to take any action against the policemen in this connection and failed to recruit 6,000 teachers on a regular basis, they would oppose the Congress candidate in the coming Ajnala byelection.

The agitating teachers were supported by some other unions also, including the Lok Morcha, the Technical Service Union, the Punjab Student Union, the DTF, the Khet Mazdoor Union and the PLS Manch, etc.

FARIDKOT: Protesting against the lathi charge on ETT teachers in Patiala, various employees’ organisations today burnt an effigy of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and raised slogans against the state government. A protest march was also held from Shaheed Bhagat Singh Park. After passing through main areas of the city, it culminated in front of the Jubilee cinema, where the CM’s effigy was burnt.

Addressing the protesters, Punjab Teachers’ Union leader Jaskewal Golewalia said by lathi charging the ETT teachers, the state government had proved that it was ignoring people’s interest and its count down had begun. He said that instead of redressing the grievances of unemployed teachers, efforts were being made to suppress their voice. He said all employees’ organisations would back ETT teachers in their agitation and its result would be visible in the forthcoming Ajnala Assembly byelections.


Teachers sent to judicial custody
Our Correspondent

Patiala, January 30
Sixteen members of the Unemployed Elementary Teachers Union, who were taken into custody by the local police for creating disturbances in front of the Chief Minister’s residence yesterday, were today sent to the judicial custody today.

The teachers were produced before a Duty Magistrate who sent them to the judicial custody for 14 days.

Meanwhile, the president of the union, Mr Sukhwinder Singh, has served an ultimatum to the government by saying that either the Chief Minister should concede to their demands by tomorrow or they would be forced to resort to self-immolation in front of the CM’s residence. Yesterday, the police had registered a case against 16 people for indulging in arson.


Teachers’ union submits memorandum to Bhattal
Our Correspondent

Barnala, January 30
Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab, today promised to redress the grievances of thousands of college teachers serving in private colleges of Punjab.

She gave this assurance to a two-member PCCTU deputation comprising Prof P. K. Sharma and Prof Manmohan Singh, president and secretary, respectively, of the union.

The deputation met her in Sacred Heart Convent Higher Secondary School, Barnala, where she had come to inaugurate its new science block.

Prof Manmohan Singh said she promised to meet the deputation shortly before Ajnala byelection.

He said the deputation submitted a memorandum to her. They urged her to convene a meeting on September 16 at her office in Chandigarh. The memorandum enlisted a charter of demands which included release of third quarter grant of Rs 18.68 crore, issue of order on 50 per cent DA merger in the basic pay, implementation of the Johl Committee recommendations, grant of pension- gratuity scheme of December 18, 1996; house rent allowance for private rural colleges of Punjab, conversion of posts for the existing teachers, policy for adjustment of teachers affected by shifting of plus two classes from colleges, exemption from refresher courses up to 2004, release of grant to B.Ed. colleges and lecturer designation to DPEs.


Take inspiration from Mata Gujri, girls told
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 30
Women should take inspiration from Mata Gujri, who sacrificed her husband, son four grandsons and attained martyrdom for the cause of religion, community and nation, said Dr Harbans Lal, Chief Parliamentary Secretary, while addressing the annual function of Government Girls Senior Secondary School, Sirhind, here today.

He said girls now were competing with boys in every sphere. He said education was the only way to make girls self-sufficient and confident.

He said it was unfortunate that women were being tortured and even burnt due to various social evils like dowry. He called upon the girls to launch a campaign against social evils like female foeticide.

Dr Lal gave a draft of Rs 1 Lakh to the Principal for the development of the school.

The Principal, Ms Jaswant Kaur, read the annual report and highlighted the achievements in the fields of sports, education and cultural activities.

The children presented a cultural programme. The students who excelled in various fields were honoured.


Talk on status of women

Patiala, January 30
A lecture on “Status of women and their fertility behaviour” was organised by the Population Education Club of Khalsa College, Patiala. Dr Harvinder Kaur, Reader, Economics, Department of Correspondence Course, Punjabi University, highlighted the problem of overpopulation and its effects on society. OC


PNB observes security awareness week
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, January 30
In order to enhance security consciousness among employees, Punjab National Bank (PNB) observed security awareness week from January 24 to 29. A wide range of activities were undertaken during the week in the entire state.

According to a press note issued by the zonal office of the PNB here today, a demonstration of security equipment was arranged at the zonal office here, which was attended by top executives of the bank and a large number of its employees. Mock drills were conducted in selected branches all over Punjab, which were aimed at educating the officers and staff about the action to be taken during a robbery in a bank and any other exigency.

A quiz competition was arranged at Zonal Training Centre (ZTC) of the PNB, in which 68 employees from different branches in the state took part. 

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