P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Power, stamp duties raised
Concessions for Bathinda refinery
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 31
While people would have to cough up Rs 450 crore more per annum as the Punjab Council of Ministers today approved 5 per cent increase in electricity duty and 3 per cent increase in stamp duty, the Bathinda oil refinery project is finally through as the council gave its nod to the revised package of concessions sought by the Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited to set up the project.

The council has also approved the implementation of VAT from April 1 this year.

Revival of 62 posts approved

The Punjab Council of Ministers today gave approval for the revival of 62 posts of teaching faculty in the Government medical colleges in the state. The government has also created 30 new posts of teacher in the Government Dental Colleges of the state. 

After the meeting of the council, the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, said that the money collected by way of increase in electricity duty and stamp duty would go to the fund created to pay old-age pension etc and financial help to poor girls under Ashirawad Scheme. The increase in stamp duty would not be chargeable on the purchase or sale of agriculture land.

With the increase, the electricity duty goes up to 10 per cent on the power bills charged by the PSEB from its customers, and with the enforcing of 3 per cent increase in stamp duty, its rate would go upto 9 per cent. Besides stamp duty, people have to give 1 per cent additional fee on the deeds registered by Revenue Department. The previous SAD-BJP Government had brought down the stamp duty from 12 per cent to 6 per cent.

Talking about the package of concessions offered to the HPCL for the refinery project, Capt Amarinder Singh said that the state government would provide Rs 250 crore annually for five years as loan to the HPCL. And interest on this loan would be paid by the state government, he added. Average annual interest burden on the state for the five years would be around 100 crore, he added. He said that the SAD-BJP Government had given the sales tax deferment for 15 years to the HPCL and the total amount to be deferred was about Rs 15,000 crore during that period.

He said that by renegotiating the package, the state government had saved about Rs 13,000 crore. However, this calculation of the government seems to be on the higher side. The actual saving will be far less. But the project has been delayed for about three years. All other concessions such as exemption from ED, which were agreed upon by the SAD-BJP Government, have also been approved by the present government.

Coming to the Value Added Tax, Capt Amarinder Singh said that the state government had decided to go by the national consensus on this issue. VAT would be implemented from April 1 this year. There are certain items such as diesel, pesticides, foodgrains, fertilisers etc on which the Punjab Government has difference with the Union Government. These items have been kept out of the purview of VAT for a while. Again, discussions on these items would be held next year for reaching on agreement.

For instance, Punjab has levied 8 per cent sales tax on diesel, but in certain other states it is 20 per cent. Punjab is not prepared to raise it to 20 per cent. So, this is a point of disagreement on VAT. Likewise, Punjab avoids imposing high rate of tax on fertilisers and pesticides etc.


Virk takes over as Punjab DGP
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 31
Ending all speculations, 1970-batch IPS officer S.S. Virk today took over as Punjab’s Director-General of Police (DGP). Along with him, four other officers of the same batch and an officer of the 1971 batch have also been elevated to the posts of DGP.

The number of DGPs in the state, with their elevation, has now increased to eight. The promoted officers include Additional Directors-General of Police (ADGPs) Lalit Bhatia, G.S. Aujla, S.C Jain, M.P.S. Aulakh and K.K. Attri. ADGP D.R. Bhatti’s case has been kept in a sealed cover as proceedings in the alleged wireless scam are pending against him. His case has reportedly been referred to the state Home Secretary for his opinion and necessary action. In all, the government announced the postings of 12 officers

In case of Mr Lalit Bhatia and Mr Jain, the posts have been upgraded. The two officers have now been posted as DGP (Vigilance and Security, Punjab State Electricity Board) and DGP (Railways), respectively.

Mr Aujla has been promoted as DGP, Rules. In his place, 1977-batch officer ADGP Chander Shekhar has been posted as ADGP (Training-cum-Director, Punjab Police Academy, Phillaur).

Mr M.P.S. Aulakh has been made the DGP, Prisons. Mr Attri is DGP-cum-Commandant of Punjab Home Guards in place of DGP R.K. Gupta. He retired upon attaining the age of superannuation today. Mr Attri has been replaced by ADGP Anil Kaushik. He has now been posted as ADGP (Crime). Mr N.P. S. Aulakh has been posted as ADGP (Punjab State Human Rights Commission), while ADGP J.P. Birdi has been posted as ADGP (Law and Order).

DGP (Punjab State Human Rights Commission) S.K. Verma has been posted as DGP (ok Pal), while DGP P.Lal has been posted as Chairman-cum-Managing Director of Punjab Police Housing Corporation.

A Maharastra cadre officer, ADGP Virk’s name was cleared for the DGP’s post after the matter pertaining to his extension and charge-sheet was “amicably resolved” between the Centre and the state government.

The Punjab Government was all along insisting that Virk should be allowed to continue in the state because of his role in the anti-insurgency operations during the dark days of terrorism.

In fact, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had personally taken up the matter with Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil during his visits to New Delhi.

This was not the first time that the Chief Minister had taken up his case. He had earlier also written to the authorities concerned in Delhi for extending Mr Virk’s deputation in the state. In fact the Chief Minister had made it clear that Mr Virk would not be relieved.

Mr Virk, on the other hand, had clearly stated that it was feasible for him to move out of the state till he was relieved, despite the termination of his inter-cadre deputation and issuance of a charge-sheet on December 21 last year.

Soon after taking over the charge from outing-going DGP A.A. Siddiqui, Mr Virk told Punjab Police officers at a meeting to strive hard for maintaining the glorious tradition of the force and for further strengthening it.

The need of the hour, he said, was to rise above “petty things” and to work towards achieving higher goals. “There are areas that need special attention,” he added. Giving details, Mr Virk said besides maintenance of law and order situation in the state, unrest in some of the rural areas required to be dealt with. He added that the absence of adequate academic facilities, debts and other agrarian related problems were giving rise to hoards of problems in the rural area”.

Born on July 26, 1949, in Hoshiarpur district, Mr Virk had done his graduation from Ferozepore before completing his post-graduation in English from Panjab University in 1969. After clearing his IPS examination the same year, Mr Virk worked as Assistant Superintendent of Police in Pune and Jalgaon in his early years of service.

He was among the few officers sent to Punjab in wake of “disturbed conditions prevailing in the state”. After reporting here in July 1984, he worked as Senior Superintendent of Police at Jalandhar and Amritsar districts.

He was, subsequently, promoted and posted as Deputy Inspector-General of CRPF with headquarters at Amritsar and was handed over the responsibility of supervising anti-terrorist operations in the district. He was working on the post of ADGP (Intelligence) before he took over as the DGP this evening.

During his distinguished career, Mr Virk has been bestowed with Police Medal for Meritorious Service in 1986, followed by Padmashri in 1988 and Police Medal for Gallantry in 1989.


Drugs a big challenge to the force: Virk
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 31
His active eyes constantly follow the movements of the visitors as they enter his new office in Sector 9 Punjab Police Headquarters. Even before they turn around to congratulate him for taking over as the Director General of Police, Mr S.S. Virk springs from his chair and grabs their hands warmly.

The same agility had once saved him from an attack by militants in the dark days of terrorism. Today, years after the incident, the memory of the attack is still fresh in his mind. That is, perhaps, the reason why he vows to fight whatever remains of militancy in the state.

“No, militants are not active in the state, not anymore,” he says soon after taking over charge from outgoing DGP A.A. Siddiqui. “But that does not mean that we can sit back and relax.”

Making himself comfortable in his new chair, he adds: “You see, the movement is no more organised. But splinter groups are still there. In fact, you can still feel the undercurrent of militancy in the state.”

The need of the hour, he asserts with a smile, “is to keep the powder dry and be on the toes all the time so that militants do not receive support from any quarters”.

But what about the officers who endanger their lives fighting militancy? A substantial number of them were feeling low following their removal from the cadre posts. “I know,” he says. “The issue has to be amicably resolved. I am not saying that it is a self created problem. But at the same time I am sure a solution to the problem is just in sight”.

Elaborating upon his contention, he adds, “Several PPS officers are awaiting promotion as IPS officers. Once the process is complete, I am sure the problem will be solved to a great extent. The rules too require to be amended. As the DGP of the state, I will do my best to do whatever I can for streamlining the functioning”.

Besides militancy, what is the greatest challenge before the Punjab Police? “The menace of drugs,” Mr Virk adds without hesitation. “The problem needs to be tackled at the earliest”.

Giving details, he adds: “It is not just a law and order problem, but a social problem. The menace can be eradicated not just by nabbing drug peddlers but also by holding awareness programmes and rallies in the state. The cooperation of the masses is a must along with efforts by the police”. 


Did Siddiqui give out-of-turn promotions?
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 31
Following in the foot-steps of his predecessor, Mr A.A. Siddiqui, who was Punjab’s Director General of Police till today, had been on an out-of-turn promotion spree since the last few days.

According to departmental sources, DGP Siddiqui promoted dozens of police personnel on merit basis. These include constables, Assistant Sub-Inspectors and Sub-Inspectors.

Mr Siddiqui, who superannuated today and handed over charge to new DGP S.S. Virk, is also learnt to have issued orders placing some personnel in higher scale in-situ. This means that a constable who is given such favour can be promoted without doing the mandatory training.

Despite repeated attempts, Mr Siddiqui was unavailable for comments. Some officials of the DGP’s own staff also expressed ignorance in the matter.

Most of the orders have been issued as per the relevant portions of the Punjab Police Rules. Chapter 13.21 of the rules, which deals with promotion of police personnel, bestows on the DGP the power to relax any provision relating to the promotion of cops. The clause reads: “When the IGP (now DGP) is of the opinion that it is necessary or expedient so to do, he may, by orders for reasons to the recorded in writing, relax any provision of this chapter with respect of any clause or category of persons”.


11 Dal Khalsa leaders court arrest
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 31
As many as 11 leaders of the Dal Khalsa, a radical Sikh organisation, including an Indian Airlines plane hijacker, courted arrest here today from outside the Golden Temple on charges of unfurling a “saffron flag” on Republic Day, delivering inflammatory speeches and opening fire in the air.

They had given themselves up for remaining underground for five days. The Amritsar police had booked 35 radical Sikhs, including a Khalistan ideologue, Dr Jagjit Singh Chauhan, and arrested eight persons on the same day on the above-mentioned charges. However, some of them had been missing since then.

Among those who have been arrested are: Mr H. S. Dhami, working President, Dal Khalsa, Mr Satnam Singh Paunta Sahib, a hijacker, Mr Kanwarpal Singh, Mr Sarabjit Singh Ghuman and Mr Balraj Singh Bhalaipur. The other six persons who courted arrest are: Arpal Singh Ajnala, Subedar Baldev Singh, Giani Amrik Singh, Sukhdev Singh, Sarwan Singh and Gurdip Singh.

They had unfurled the ‘saffron flag’, similar to the one hoisted by Maharaja Ranjit Singh at the Lahore fort, to mark Republic Day. The Sikh youths had also opened fire in the air and gave a salute to the ‘saffron flag’ with naked swords. Mr Manmohan Singh Khalsa, while talking to The Tribune, condemned the registration of an FIR.

Before courting arrest, they performed ardas at Akal Takht where Mr Rajinder Singh, convener, Shiromani Khalsa Panchayat, was also present.

Mr Paunta, speaking to The Tribune, said his party would challenge the FIR in the high court. He said the police mentioned in the FIR that the case was registered on a tip-off that leaders of the Dal Khalsa were unfurling the ‘saffron flag’ and delivering inflammatory speeches. He claimed it was false as he had already announced about the programme at a press conference in Jalandhar.

He said they had not passed any remark against any religion or nation or their symbols but had given respect to ‘Nishan Sahib’ as per the Sikh tradition. About firing in air, he said it was always done during the unfurling of Nishan Sahib and even in marriage parties.


Chohan to court arrest on Feb 3
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, January 31
Khalistan protagonist Jagjit Singh Chohan will offer himself for arrest at Amritsar on February 3.

A case on the charge of sedition was registered against Dr Chohan and activists of Dal Khalsa at Amritsar on January 26 for unfurling the saffron flag in a gurdwara. The Amritsar police has already arrested a number of activists of Dal Khalsa.


Cong flays Modi, SAD on Gurpurb holiday issue
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 31
Dubbing senior BJP leader Narendra Modi as “Aurangzeb” of modern India, the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee and Sikh scholars have flayed the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) for its indifference towards cancellation of the Gurpurb holiday in Gujarat on account of the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.

The Punjab Pradesh Committee general secretary, Mr Parminder Singh, today revealed that since the issue was very serious and was being seen as a threat to the communal fabric of the country, the PPCC had decided to meet the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, and the President, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, to apprise them about the situation in the aftermath of the action of the Narendra Modi Government.

Talking to The Tribune, Mr Parminder Singh said the PPCC would stress upon the Prime Minister and the President to make a constitutional provision to curb interference in religious matters by any Chief Minister and people like Mr Narendra Modi. “Narendra Modi is acting like Aurangzeb of modern India and that too in the land of Mahatma Gandhi, which cherished communal harmony and peace. First Mr Modi acted against Muslims and Christians and now he is turning towards Punjabis, who had made maximum sacrifices during the freedom struggle,” said Mr Parminder Singh.

At the same time, while congratulating the Punjab Congress, particularly the PPCC general secretary Parminder Singh, for taking up the issue, Sikh scholar Prof Tarlok Singh has condemned the action of the Gujarat Government as Guru Nanak did not belong to Sikhs alone. He said the inclusion of the ‘bani’ of Bhagat Namdev, who hailed from the erstwhile “Saurashtra” in the holy Guru Granth Sahib, was by itself, proof that Sikh Gurus were for communal harmony and universal brotherhood and there was no place for discrimination against anybody.

Criticising the role of the SAD and that of the SGPC leadership, Mr Parminder Singh said though the SAD leaders, including Mr Badal, and the SGPC leaders, were informed about the unfortunate development in November last itself by Mr Jaswinder Singh Sethi, president of the Sikh Gurudwara of Baroda, and by Bhai Balwinder Singh Rangila, no move was initiated by the SAD leadership to persuade its ally, the BJP, to stop Mr Modi.

“Mr Sethi has informed me that none of his letters to the SAD elicited any response from the party or the SGPC though no holiday was observed on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev in November 2004. Mr Sethi also informed that a deputation of Gujarati Sikhs had also met senior BJP leader L.K. Advani, but in vain. It is very discouraging that Mr Badal reacted on the issue only after it was taken up by the Congress.

On the other hand, the UPA chairperson, Ms Sonia Gandhi, set a unique example by declining the Prime Ministership and offering it to a Sikh,” said Mr Parminder Singh, who visited Gujarat to assess the situation after receiving complaints from the Punjabi community living there. “Mr Advani is a Sindhi and claims to have reverence for Guru Granth Sahib, but it is a matter of shame that he too has not done anything to address the issue.” 


Rana Sodhi case may be sent to Vigilance: CM
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 31
The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today said that he would hand over the case of the Chief Parliamentary Secretary, Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi, to the Vigilance Bureau (VB), if the latter was found guilty in the preliminary inquiry ordered against him.

Mr Anil Kaushik, ADGP (Crime), has been asked to conduct the preliminary inquiry into the allegations of bribe of Rs 25 lakh levelled against Rana Sodhi by a resident of Pathankot. The Chief Minister said he was hopeful that Mr Kaushik would submit the inquiry report at the earliest. But he did not fix the timeframe for Mr Kaushik to submit the report.

Denying that he was using double standards as far as probing allegations of bribe were concerned, the Chief Minister said he was using the same yardstick in the case of Rana Sodhi, which was earlier used in case of former Akali ministers. The CM was asked why he did not straightway hand over the case of Rana Sodhi to the Vigilance Bureau as had been done in case of Akali ministers, he said he was not prepared to declare Rana Sodhi guilty on the basis of newspaper reports.

Meanwhile, talking about the Ajnala byelection, Chief Minister said he had not received the resignation of Major Rajbir Singh( retd) from the chairmanship of a public sector undertaking.

Making his intentions clear to contest the Ajnala byelection against the Congress’s official candidate and his brother, Mr Harpartap Singh, Major Rajbir Singh stated yesterday that he would resign from the chairmanship.

Urging Major Rajbir Singh not to contest the election, Capt Amarinder Singh, said that he should give a chance to his brother, Mr Harpartap Singh, to contest the election this time. The Chief Minister said that earlier Major Rajbir Singh had contested the Assembly elections twice and lost. “We had also proposed the name of Major Rajbir Singh for ticket to the party high command, which ruled in favour of Mr Harpartap Singh,” said the CM. “I hope that Major Rajbir Singh was a disciplined soldier and he would not press further to contest the election,” he added.


Package for computer education in government schools approved
Poonam Batth
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 31
The Punjab Council of Ministers today approved a package of Rs 70 crore for introducing compulsory computer education in government schools from April this year.

After three unsuccessful attempts to introduce the subject, the Education Department is now all set to make the students of these states computer literate under its Information and Communication Technology project.

The subject would be introduced in as many as 1298 government schools across the state from class VI to class XII in the first phase from April this year. This move will help bring students of government schools on a par with those from the private schools in the field of computer literacy and also bridge the gap that exists between the underprivileged children of rural areas and their privileged counterparts in the urban areas.

The Principal Secretary, Education, Ms Tejinder Kaur, said the subject would be introduced in all those urban and rural schools which have 350 and 325 students on roll, respectively.

The course curriculum would be based on NCERT guidelines and the CBSE syllabus. However, the project would be implemented in phases and there would be no pick and choose policy.

While the students of class VI and VII will have to pay Rs 15 per month for the new course, besides the regular fee, those from classes VIII to XII would be paying Rs 20 per month. Depending on the strength of students, 10 to 60 computers will be provided in every school. The computer laboratories have already been set up in most of these schools and specially trained teachers would be provided to teach the students, she added.

The process of selections stands completed and only formal appointments have to be made in the case of teachers. The teachers would be kept on contract and paid by the Education Department.

To ensure that students in rural areas also have an easy access to computer education, course material will also be made available in Punjabi. These passouts of class XII would be digitally enabled to get IT-related jobs in this era of global competition.


Traffic disrupted after gas leaks from tanker
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Mauli (Phagwara), January 31
Thousands of passengers and vehicle owners faced inconvenience as traffic remained disrupted between Phagwara and Goraya on the Jalandhar-Ludhiana highway for about 12 hours today due to leakage of gas from a tanker which had a hit a tree. The stationary tanker was hit from behind by a truck laden with bananas near this village.

The traffic, diverted through alternative routes from 5.30 am onwards when the police authorities came to know about the leakage, could not be restored on the affected stretch of highway till 5 pm and people had to face a great deal of inconvenience. Three schools in the vicinity of accident site were also ordered to be closed by the administration in view of the sensitive nature of the mishap.

A curfew-like situation could be witnessed on the Jalandhar-Ludhiana highway as no vehicular movement was allowed on this road by the administration and the police. People had to go by long alternative routes passing through Jalandhar-Mehtan -Hadiabad villages to reach Ludhiana and Jalandhar. Similarly, people desiring to go to Ludhiana from Phagwara or vice versa had to take the Phagwara-Virk-Goraya route to reach their destinations. In most cases, passengers covered the usual two-hour Jalandhar-Ludhiana journey in more than four hours due to bad condition of link roads, through which traffic was diverted following the accident.

It is learnt that a Jammu-bound gas tanker rammed into a tree on Saturday night, probably, due to the driver’s folly. As the gas tanker remained stationary at the accident spot, another banana laden-truck hit it from behind at around 5.30 am. This resulted into gas zooming out of the tanker with great pressure, causing a flutter among onlookers. Soon panic spread to the nearby areas and people started vacating their houses.

Interestingly, the police authorities allegedly remained ignorant about the accident and traffic was only stopped when some people informed them about the second accident this morning. Following this directions were given to divert the vehicular traffic through alternative roads and routes. Phagwara SDM Pritam Singh reached the place immediately after the accident along with Phagwara DSP Jaspal Singh, who suspended Mr Pardip Singh, ASI, for not passing on the information about the accident well in time though the Sadar police was informed about the accident by the highway patrolling authorities on Saturday itself.

As the accident news spread, fire tenders were rushed to the site from Phagwara, Kapurthala and Jalandhar to tackle an eventuality, if any. Experts from the Suchi Pind plant of the Indian Oil Corporation also reached the site and the process of transferring of gas into auxiliary cylinders was initiated. Traffic was likely to be restored on the highway late in the evening after shifting of the gas from the tanker to the cylinders.


Concessions on drinking water, sewerage charges withdrawn
Our Correspondent

Abohar, January 31
The Punjab Government has withdrawn concessions on drinking water and sewerage charges, which it had allowed during the byelections to the state Assembly. The users are feeling cheated as they have been asked to pay bills for the past six months at old rates along with arrears.

Sources in the Municipal Council here confirmed today that the consumers had been supplied combined bills for drinking water and sewerage for the past six months.

The consumers will have to pay water and sewerage charges at the same rate for the past six months. The flat rate had been notified as Rs 60 on 5 marla, Rs 80 on 10 marla and Rs 105 per month exceeding 10 marla residential plots. However, the state government has directed the Municipal Councils and the Punjab mater supply and sewerage Board (PWSSB) that billing with effect from the next year be done at the Rs 80 and 90 per month for water supply and sewerage, respectively, for 5 marla plots and thereof accordingly. Worst-affected are government-aided educational institutions run by social and religious organisations, as they have been slapped bills for thousand of rupees.

Some of the school managements said they had exhausted funds in the Red Cross and Amalgamated Fund Accounts by the end of the financial year. Thus to pay the bills along with arrears for a half year might be an uphill task for them.

According to official records the total number of houses in this sub-divisional town are around 20,000. Most of them have not been enlisted as consumers as either they have not so far got sewerage connection for flush toilets or are yet to get the connections legalised.

Sources in the local council and the PWSSB confirmed that the consumers were yet to pay arrears worth Rs 126 lakh on account of drinking water and sewerage charges. The council has no regular Executive Officer for past five months.

The council staff said that they had to return empty handed during the recovery campaign in the localities of down-trodden families. Most of the consumers refused to pay the arrears as well as current bills against the supply of drinking water and maintenance of sewerage. They had given oral consent for disconnecting both the facilities with immediate effect as they were unable to make payment. 


Rajbir Singh resigns over denial of ticket
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 31
The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee today received a big jolt when Major Rajbir Singh Ajnala resigned as Chairman of the Punjab Livestock Development Corporation (PLDC) in protest against the denial of the party ticket for the forthcoming Ajnala byelection , scheduled to be held on February 23 .

Two senior Congress leaders, Mr Jatinderbir Singh Billu and Mr Milkha Singh, also resigned as Block Congress presidents of Harsha Chhina and Ajnala . They are close confidants of Major Rajbir Singh .

This decision was announced by them at the house of Major Rajbir Singh. It was preceded by a meeting of his supporters, including panches and sarpanches of different villages .

Major Rajbir Singh clarified that he was not going to join any political party. However, he said, he would contest the Ajnala byelection as an Independent candidate against his younger brother and Congress nominee, Mr Harpartap Singh Ajnala, and the Shiromani Akali Dal candidate, Mr Amarpal Singh Bonny. He claimed that he would win the election, as candidates of the Congress and the SAD were novices. He alleged that his younger brother and Congress nominee had misguided the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and the party high command to get the party ticket . He said the party ticket was allotted without considering the ‘winnability’ factor.

To a question, the former PLDC Chairman said that he was not going to resign from the primary membership of the Congress. However, he hastened to add that the party high command was likely to expel him for contesting the byelection against the official nominee .

On the proposed alliance for the Ajnala byelection, Major Rajbir Singh said he was sure of getting support from the Bahujan Samaj Party, the CPM (Pasla group) and other like-minded parties.

Major Rajbir Singh said the party high command had ditched him though he had worked as general secretary of the District Congress Committee from 1985 to 1993, during militancy. Later, he was elevated as secretary of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee .

He claimed that more than 12,000 ex-servicemen would vote for him as he himself had retired as a Major in the Army. He alleged that after winning from Ajnala, the SAD candidate, Dr Rattan Singh Ajnala, had failed to come up to the expectations of voters of the constituency. He claimed that he had good chances to win in a triangular contest.


Policy for tourism projects amended
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 31
The Punjab Council of Ministers today approved an amendment to the Industrial Policy 2003. Henceforth, tourism projects will be treated on a par with industry for the purpose of incentives. These incentives would be available only to those hotels, restaurants and amusement parks which have a license and registration from the Tourism Department.

In case of amusement parks, these incentives would be available only to those projects which involve an investment of more than Rs 2 crore. Besides, all new tourism projects worth Rs 5 crore or above would be taken up on a case-to-case basis for special concessions by the Empowered Committee headed by the Chief Minister .

The policy has also been amended to allow change in land use in industrial and in rural areas for setting up multiplexes and other entertainment projects. 


Film on Baba Deep Singh in April
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 31
A Punjabi religious movie ‘Anokhe Amar Shahid Baba Deep Singh’ covering the life of the martyr, who sacrificed his life while fighting invaders near the Golden Temple, is likely to be released in April.

The film has been jointly produced by the Mata Kaulan Bhalai Kendar Trust and Shot Real Production, Mumbai, at a cost of Rs 2 crore.

The producer of the film, Bhai Guriqbal Singh, a famous ragi, said the film was near completion.

The film would be made available in Hindi and English.

The cast of the film includes Deep Dhillon (Ahmad Shah Abdali), Vindu Singh (Taimur), Kashish (Nilofer), Gurinder Makna (Afzal Khan) and Jaswant Singh Jass. Russian actors Christina and Ulga had also acted in it.

Music has been composed by Uttam Singh and lyrics are by Dev Kohli.


Institute in memory of Tohra planned
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 31
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee has decided to establish an institute of advance study in memory of former president of the SGPC Gurcharan Singh Tohra.

The SGPC in a press note issued here today said the foundation stone of the institute was likely to be laid next month.

The first meeting of the committee, which was held in Chandigarh yesterday, decided to impart higher education to granthis, ragis, katha vachaks and preachers. He added that correspondence courses in various disciplines would soon be launched. It would also conduct examinations for the students studying in various Sikh machinery colleges. 


From pillar to post in search of justice
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 31
More than a year has passed since the President, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, directed the Ministry of Labour and Employment to take appropriate action, Joginder Singh (60), a resident of Mehna Singh Road, is still running from pillar to post to get his dues released from a Jalandhar-based construction company.

Joginder Singh, who worked as civil foreman in the company, has now decided to write to Indian Ambassadors posted in various countries in this regard. He alleged that he had requested the company to release his dues but his requests fell on deaf ears as the authorities concerned refused to clear his dues as he had left the company.

Joginder Singh said he required money as he was old and needed it for his treatment. He said he had approached the President for intervention but it was disappointing that the directions issued by the President’s office had not been carried out.


Notice issued in Home Guards case
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, January 31
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has issued notice of motion for April 29 on a petition filed by 167 Punjab Police Home Guards.

The petitioners, who have put in service ranging from 10-30 years, have prayed for directions to the respondents to regularise their service with retrospective effect and also ensure parity in their pay scales and other service conditions.

Citing a judgement of the Supreme Court of India, the petitioners, who are members of the Punjab Home Guard Association, Rajpura, have stated that the government has been unjust in denying them service benefits, including regularisation.


Court directs SSP to serve summons on Balian

Barnala, January 31
The court of Additional CJM Karnail Singh today directed the SSP of Barnala to serve summons on a Congress leader and member of the District Planning Board, Ms Surinder Kaur Balian, in a defamation case. In its order, the court directed the SSP to serve the summons through a gazetted officer.

Mr Bachan Singh Pakhon, a former MLA (Cong) has filed a defamation case against Ms Balian. Ms Balian had alleged that Mr Pakhon had supported SAD candidate Balbeer Singh by taking money.


Special ‘girdawri’ ordered in Muktsar
Crops in 17,000 acres damaged
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, January 31
The Punjab Government has ordered a special ‘girdawri’ to assess the damage caused to different crops by hailstorms which lashed this region twice in the past 10 days.

Stating this, Parliamentary Secretary, Agriculture, Punjab, Mr Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, said today that so far preliminary reports collected by different agencies revealed that wheat, barley and sarson crops in more than 17000 acres had been damaged.

He said the Punjab Government had decided to postpone the recovery of loans advanced to those farmers whose crops had been damaged by hailstorms by six months. He added that apart from it, the authorities concerned would waive the interest on loans advanced to the affected farmers.

He said not only were crops and houses damaged, but cattle belonging to the poor had also perished. Such loss would also be assessed and suitable compensation would be paid to the affected people, he said.

Mr Randhawa, who toured a section of affected villages, including Chak Attari, Chak Badai, Badai, Fattanwala, and Sarainaga today, said after the report of special ‘girdawri’ was received by the state government, all affected farmers would be given adequate compensation without delay.

He said hailstorms had caused loss to crops in about 23 villages of this district. He admitted that this natural calamity had broken the backbone of a section of farmers.

Officials of the Revenue Department have been directed to remain honest while carrying out the special ‘girdawri’ so that adequate compensation can be paid to affected farmers.

Mr Randhawa said any official found lacking in performance of duties connected with the special ‘girdawri’ would have to face the music.

He also appealed to farmers to approach him in case any official of the Revenue Department indulged in any malpractice while carrying out the special ‘girdawri’.

Meanwhile, a section of farmers appealed to Mr Randhawa to ensure supply of water in different minors flowing in the district and ensure the supply of urea and fertilizers in adequate quantity to them. 


Probe ordered into corruption charges against Commissioner
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, January 31
A probe has been ordered into corruption charges against the Faridkot Division Commissioner, Mr B. Sarkar.

Mr B.C. Gupta of the Food and Civil Supplies Department has been given the charge of investigation and the parties concerned have been summoned along with their witnesses and evidence before February 16.

The complainant, Mr Harpartap Singh Sandhu, had alleged that the Commissioner had taken a bribe of Rs 55,000 in a case pertaining to mutation of a piece of land, but he reportedly took more money from his rivals and declared the verdict in their favour. He had charged the Commissioner with changing his own verdict. According to him, his wife, Nirmal Kaur, had filed an appeal in the court of Mr B. Sarkar, in which she had stated that the mutation of her father's property after his death was done in the name of his natural heirs by the Assistant Collector of Jaito, but later the Collector of Faridkot mutated the property in the name of Mr Mahinder Singh’s only son on the basis of an unregistered will.

Mr Harpartap Singh alleged that after the appeal was filed in his court the Commissioner approached him through his reader and demanded Rs 55,000 for a verdict in his favour. He alleged that he had paid him bribe in the presence of some witnesses, but the Commissioner gave the verdict in the opposite party's favour by taking more money from them. He alleged that when he asked the Commissioner to return his amount he was threatened.

It may be mentioned here that Mr B. Sarkar, who is the Ferozepur Division Commissioner, has additional charge of Faridkot for the past many months. He has about 31 tehsils and sub-tehsils of Faridkot, Ferozepur, Bathinda, Mansa, Muktsar, and Moga districts, under him. 


Heated arguments mark MC meeting
Our Correspondent

Kharar, January 31
Heated discussions over various issues marked the meeting of the General House of the Municipal Council here today. Issues like widening of roads, punishment to a clerk, lack of development activity in some wards drew arguments.

The house today rejected the drawings passed earlier by it in connection with a case in which Mr Gurbhajan Singh claimed that he was the owner of a piece of land falling on the Kharar-Landran Road. According to a report given by the SDM, Mr Gurbhajan Singh owned only 1.5 marlas of that land while his son owned another half a marla. The custodian for the rest of the land was the Central Government. The council cancelled the drawings which it had cleared for a piece of land measuring 1.5 kanal.

A proposal to give punishment to a clerk, Pardeep Kumar, for indulging in irregularities was kept pending. While some of the councillors said the clerk should be demoted as a part of punishment, others were against it. The issue had come up for discussion many times earlier but no proper action had been taken so far.

The decision of the council to give clearance only to those colonies which would have 30 ft wide roads was discussed at the meeting. Councillors said the decision should apply to all colonies and not only to a few of them.

A proposal to complete the building of a hall at Government High School, Desumajra, at a cost of Rs 3.25 lakh was criticised by the members. Ms Amrik Kaur said as there was shortage of funds for development works in the council the building should be completed by using government funds.

Mr Jai Bhagwan Singla said adequate development work had not been carried out in his ward. As a table item the house decided to focus on development activity in Mr Singla’s ward. It was decided to strengthen the Arya College road, lay water pipes, repair hand pumps, etc.


Tehsildars, naib-tehsildars to strike work today
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, January 31
More than 375 tehsildars and naib-tehsildars belonging to the Punjab Revenue Officers Association will go on a strike in the state from tomorrow in protest against the alleged false cases registered against more than 18 revenue officers.

This was stated by state general secretary of the association Gurmit Singh Nadhala here today. He said despite directions of the Home Department that if any complaint was received against any revenue officer, the police must consult the District Magistrate or other competent authority of the department before taking any action against on it, the police and vigilance officials were registering cases against revenue officers ignoring the directions.


Govt officials found absent from duty
Our Correspondent

Kharar, January 31
Many government officials were found absent from duty during raids conducted at three places by the Kharar MLA here today.

None of the official put on duty at a complaint centre of the Punjab State Electricity Board here was present there when a raid was conducted by Mr Bir Devinder Singh. Neither the junior engineer, nor the lineman or assistant lineman was present at the centre. The MLA has asked the SDO concerned to look into the matter and submit a report in this regard.

The MLA also went to the Civil Dispensary at Brahmana Basian village and found the doctor and the pharmacist absent from duty. Only a Class IV employee was present. A number of persons complained that the doctor did not come to the dispensary regularly.

Local Government Model Senior Secondary School was also raided. Six teachers were found absent. However, four out of them told that they had reached the school in time but had been detained by the police at the gate and were told to go in only after the school assembly was over.


2 held for duping Army aspirants
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, January 31
The Pathankot police has arrested Niku Singh, a resident of Dala village, and Ram Das, an RMP and a resident of Mumo Katrala village near Mukerian, on the charges of duping two persons on the pretext of getting them recruited in the Army.

Two recently selected Army recruits, Nishu Kumar, a resident of Lari Brahmana village and Rakesh Kumar, a resident of Gura Kalan village, brought the matter to the notice of the police. They told the police that they had attended the Army recruitment rally organised at Mamoon Cantt last year in October.

They were selected in the physical tests and also appeared for medical tests in the Army Hospital, Pathankot, on November 3, 2004. It was there that Niku Singh contacted them and offered to help them in getting selected. He told them that his friend Ram Das had connections in the Army and could help them in getting selected. He asked them to pay Rs 45,000 each for the purpose.

The complainants appeared for the written test on December 26 at Ferozepore. After that Niku Singh came to their home and repeated his offer again. He allegedly took away the cards issued by the Army to the complainants. Both the complainants were later declared selected for the Army. However, Niku Singh refused to return their cards and demanded Rs 45,000 from them. One of the complainants allegedly paid Rs 30,000 to Niku Singh to get his card back.

However, the accused demanded the entire amount. The two then contacted the police and got Niku Singh trapped while accepting the pending amount.

A case under Section 420 of the IPC has been registered against both the accused.


Spate of burglaries in Jalandhar
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, January 31
Burglars last night struck at five houses in different parts of the city and decamped with jewellery and other valuables worth lakhs of rupees.

The burglars broke into four houses, situated just 100 yards from the division No. 5 police station in the JP Nagar locality. They broke into the house of Dr Rakesh Sharma, who along with the member of his family had gone away to attend a marriage party. Dr Sharma, in his complaint to the police, said he found the belongings scattered all over the house when he returned from the party at 11 pm. The lock of the main almirah was broken and gold ornaments worth Rs 1 lakh, Rs 2,000 and other valuables were missing.

They decamped with gold ornaments worth Rs 1.5 lakh, Rs 35,000, four imported wristwatches from the house of Gurmeet Kaur. She had also gone to the same party. When Surinder Singh and Harish Arora, neighbourers of Gurmeet Kaur, came to know about the robbery at her house they rushed towards their houses only to find the locks at the doors broken. Surinder Singh said he heard some voices in his house, but the burglars managed to escape.

An attempt of the burglars to burgle the house of Rajinder, an employee of Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), at Shaheed Udham Singh Nagar was thwarted after S.K. Kumar, a neighbourer, spotted them while trying to break the lock of the main door. He raised an alarm and the burglars fled the spot in the car.

The burglary incidents have put a question mark on the functioning of the district police which recently claimed to have controlled activities of thieves and robbers in the district.

Meanwhile, city residents alleged that such a large-scale burglary could not be possible without the connivance of police personnel.


Cops beat up three
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 31
Mr Sukhjinder Singh, his younger sister Poonam and one of his friend, Mr Rattan Sharma, were mercilessly beaten up allegedly by three policemen when they went to take possession of a house in the Harbans Nagar here.

They were admitted to the local Civil Hospital with multiple injuries. A criminal case has been registered against them and six others on a complaint of Mr Gurdev Singh, whose daughter Ranjit Kaur lives in the house with her two children.

Sukhjinder Singh suffered multiple fractures on his right leg his condition was stated to be critical.

The victims alleged that Ms Sukhwinder Kaur’s in-laws had sold the house to Mr Sukhjinder Singh. She had kept her belongings in the house for some time. When they went to get its possession from her, she along with her father, Mr Gurdev Singh, called the police.

Mr Ajay Maluja, SP (D), said Ms Ranjit Kaur had been living in the house of her in-laws after she was deserted by her husband. Her in-laws had sold the house to Mr Sukhjinder Singh. Mr Sukhjinder Singh tried to take possession of the house forcibly.

He said preliminary reports revealed that Mr Sukhjinder Singh and others, allegedly attacked Mrs Ranjit Kaur’s kin who were in the house at that time. The victims suffered injuries when the kin of Mrs Ranjit Kaur repulsed their attack in self-defence, Mr Maluja said. He said the investigation was still going on.

In another incident, thieves struck at a jewellery shop at Talwandi Sabo town late last night and injured watchman Ram Bahadur with sharp edged weapon and then threw him in a bonfire.

A case has been registered and the victim has been admitted to the Talwandi Sabo hospital.


Smuggling of smack on the rise
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 31
Known for rampant smuggling of opium and poppy husk, in Bathinda district, which has a close proximity with Haryana and Rajasthan, smuggling of smack has also started witnessing a significant jump.

The situation in connection with the incidents pertaining to smuggling of smack in this district has attained the alarming dimension as against only three cases of smuggling of smack registered in 2003, three cases of the same have been registered in different police stations in this district up to January 30, 2005.

Not only this, the police has seized more than 28 gm of smack during the past 30 days of the current year against the recovery of only 8 gm of smack in 2003.

Information gathered by The Tribune revealed that only three cases connected with smuggling of smack were registered in the district in 2003. The number of such cases went up to seven during 2004 and the total recovery of smack was around 194 gm. In the first month of current year, the police has registered three cases so far.

Information revealed that smuggling of smack was more rampant in rural areas than in urban areas. Out of a total 13 cases registered in the district in the past two years and one month, eight cases were registered in rural police station and five cases in urban police stations.

A cross section of the policemen, to whom The Tribune talked to, point out that earlier the smuggling of smack was confined to the districts like Ferozepore and Muktsar as Ferozepore shared its border with Pakistan and Muktsar shared its border with Haryana and Rajasthan. The smuggling menace has shifted to the Bathinda region as the peddlers have been finding customers easily in the shape of students due to an increase in the number of educational institutions.

Information revealed that due to easy availability of smack in the region, a section of poppy husk and opium consumers has started consuming smack. The local de-addiction centre has started receiving such patients belonging to this district in large numbers for the past one year or so.

The district police confirmed that smack cases were on the rise.


Two arrested for demanding ransom
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, January 31
Rajbir Singh and Iqbaldeep Singh, both brothers and residents of Chak Heeran Singh Wala village, were arrested by the Kot Bhai police for their alleged involvement in taking a ransom from Mr Darshan Singh, a resident of Chottian village, by holding a threat to him and his family members.

In a press note issued here today, the district police said that these two accused had been demanding Rs 2 lakh as ransom from the complainant and had been holding him a threat that if he failed to pay the ransom money, he, along with his family members, would be killed.

Mr Darshan Singh, who was under pressure, went to pay the ransom money. After reaching the place, Mr Darshan Singh told them that he had only Rs 10,000 at the moment. He urged them to amount and not to harm him and his family members.

The accused, who were travelling in a car along with three other persons with their faces covered with pieces of clothes, asked Mr Darshan Singh to make arrangements for the remaining amount of Rs 1,90,000 shortly, otherwise he would be taught a lesson. After that the accused left in their car.

Mr Darshan Singh managed to recognise both these accused and after consulting his kin, he reported the matter to the police. The police arrested these two accused, while the other three accused, who had been identified as Des Raj, Gurpreet Singh and Yadwinder Singh, were yet to be nabbed.

A case in this connection had been registered in Kotbhai police station, under sections 386, 148, 149, 506 and 120-B of the IPC. A knife, three wickets, a car and Rs 30,000 in cash have been recovered from the two accused. 


Govt to get tough with private colleges
Our Correspondent

Barnala, January 31
The Punjab Government will not allow management committees of private colleges in Punjab to run colleges at their whims. The Higher Education Ministry will take stern action against the erring private college management committees.

These assertions were made by Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Deputy Chief Minister-cum-Higher Education Minister, here yesterday in Sacred Heart Convent Senior Secondary School, while delivering presidential address as chief guest at the annual prize distribution function after inaugurating the new science block of the school. Mr S. Dani, Principal, read the annual report of the institution highlighting achievements of the school in academic and extra-curricular activities. Mr Harbans Singh Sidhu, former Punjab minister, Mr Kewal Singh, former MP and Mr Jagjit Singh Dhaula, were also present at the function.

When this reporter drew her attention that there were certain university calendar norms and government norms which were being thrown to the wind with impunity by the managing committees asking her whether the government would initiate action against such erring committees, she said that government would take stern action against those violating norms. She said a Cabinet subcommittee headed by her including Mr Harnam Dass Johar, Punjab School Education Minister and Mr Surinder Singla, Punjab Finance Minister, would take note of this and bring such committees to book.

Mrs Bhattal exhorted educationists and administrators of educational institutions to develop a mindset to lay emphasis on public service more than benefit. She regretted that privately-run education institutions were commercialising education.


Seminar on history of Punjabi literature begins
Our Correspondent

Patiala, January 31
The Department of Punjabi, Punjabi University, in collaboration with Punjabi Academy, New Delhi, organised a two-day seminar on “Composite History of Punjabi Literature”. Mr Swarn Singh Boparai, Vice-Chancellor, Punjabi University, inaugurated the seminar. Dr S.P. Singh, Vice-Chancellor of G.N.D. University, Amritsar, was the chief guest.

Inaugurating the seminar Mr Boparai said the Punjabi language occupied a respected place in the fields of languages as it had been placed at number tenth in the schedule of world languages. He announced on this occasion that Punjabi University was in the process of preparing a Punjabi language dictionary of international standards in the name of “Punjabi Language”. The Vice-Chancellor further said Punjabi University in order to revive the eloping arts had started organising competitions in the field of folk art.

Presenting his keynote address Dr Sutinder Singh Noor urged that the composite history of Punjabi literature had given rise to certain confusing situation both in Indian and Pakistani Punjabs. He mentioned fundamentalist writings of Pakistani writers Shehbaz Malik and Wahid Qureshi which had played a negative role in the development of composite history of Punjabi literature.

He lamented that institutions involved in the development of Punjabi literature in Pakistan on secular and progressive lines had been termed as “traitors” which was not a healthy trend for the development language, literature & culture.

Dr S.P. Singh in his presidential remarks said while consolidating the composite literature, various aspects and attitudes would have to be taken into consideration. He further added that it was also important to keep in mind the social, economic, cultural and regional conditions which prevailed during the inception of literature while preparing a historical document of composite history of Punjabi language, literature & culture.

Earlier Dr Satish Verma, head of the Punjabi Department, while welcoming the delegates introduced the theme of the seminar. He said in this two-day seminar deliberations would be held on different aspects of Punjabi language, literature and culture of India and Pakistan in the various technical sessions.

Dr Rawail Singh, Secretary, Punjabi Academy, Delhi, proposed a vote of thanks.

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