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Holland relief allowed to proceed without paying duty
Neeraj Bagga

Wagah, February 8
The Customs Department has eventually agreed to allow humanitarian aid from Holland stuffed in 10 jumbo trucks for the victims of tsunami disaster to proceed to its destination in Tamil Nadu after completing some paper work.

Mr D. P. Singh, Commissioner, Customs, said the matter became clear when the Chennai-based NGO Karunalaya responded and decided to fill in papers in its name. He said earlier, Ms Nicolen De Croon was filing papers in her name, which was not legible.

He said now the Indian NGO has been working to deposit all requisite documents and agreed to import the material in its name. He said the Dutch NGO would have to submit a written undertaking that the material would be offered free of cost to the victims of tsunami.

He also informed that the NGO would have to submit a certificate issued by the District Magistrate that the material had been distributed free of cost within six months to the department.

A Holland-based NGO, Motherhood, had brought the aid material after travelling 10,000 km- long exhaustive journey. They reached here on February 4, but could not proceed further as the Customs Department had no procedure to allow them without paying duty.

Ms Nicolen De Kroon, who heads the 14-member Dutch team, said she and all members of her group were satisfied at the new directives and hoped that they would resume their nearly 3,000 km journey soon.

She said five members of her NGO were in Islamabad to arrange travel documents. She said that they were assured by the officials of the Indian Embassy that they would get the same by the evening of February 9.

She said the officials of the Indian Embassy in the Hague had told the NGO that they would get the visa at the Wagah border. However, much to their surprise, they did not get visas here so they had to travel to Islamabad for arranging the documents.

Ms Nicolien De Kroon, founder and Director of the NGO, said they had brought the humanitarian aid, especially for women and children, including tooth brushes, pastes, soaps, creams, clothes for children and women, medicines, tents, equipment for purification of water, and dry milk etc.

She said nearly 20,000 children were involved in collecting these items. Some of the children had donated their pocket money and even their toys.

The Dutch humanitarian team started their journey on January 14 from a small village of Holland, Andjik and passed through countries like Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan to reach here. They did not have to pay any duty in any country.

The 14-year-old NGO has been in the forefront of extending a helping hand to the people living in trouble- torn regions of the world, including Bosnia, Slovenia, Croatia, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Kurdistan, Iraq, Sudan, Albania, Chechnya and Israel.


Chautala in Pak for kite fest
Pak refuses to accept gifts
Neeraj Bagga

Wagah, February 8
Mr O. P. Chautala, Chief Minister, Haryana, led a 24-member group of his state to Pakistan here today to participate in the four-day Jashn-e-Bahar Basant (spring) festival in Lahore.

Though the Haryana delegation was extended red carpet welcome by the Pakistani Punjab government at the border but it refused to accept gifts of Mr Chautala which included a buffalo of murah breed, a motor bike and a tractor-trailer.

Mr. Chautala while speaking to media persons minutes before proceeding to Pakistan vented his ire against exit poll, which had predicted the severe beating of the INLD in the Assembly elections and demanded its banning. He described exit polls as 'crime' as it befooled people.

Chaudhary Pervez Elahi, Chief Minister, Punjab (Pakistan), was present at the international border to welcome the Haryana delegation.

Mr Chautala said he was going Lahore to overcome election fatigue. He said the visit would further boost the cordial relations between India and Pakistan. He said after his last visit to Pakistan, he had spoken to Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister, for the relaxation in visa rules. He said then visa rules were relaxed for the aged people of both the countries. Now, he again has demanded the softening of rules for the common people.

The basant festival mark the beginning of spring with the basant carnival, an revelry of kite flying, rooftop soirees, garden parties and equestrian events, much to the disgust of Islamic clerics. People don clothes in yellow and green bidding farewell to the winter and usher in spring.

Night-time kite flying mark the opening of the festival. Ancient Mughal palaces are thrown open for all-night parties to view the kites, illuminated by spotlights. Stars from the local 'Lollywood' film industry perform with classical Qawali musicians at parties in traditional haveli homes.


Cash crunch stalls AIDS control programmes
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, February 8
The number of AIDS cases in Punjab is increasing every year. According to a report of National Aids Control Organisation (NACO), HIV prevalence in the state since past five years has increased by 1.6 per cent.

In Gurdaspur district alone, 114 HIV cases have been detected, out of which 43 have died while 7 have migrated to other states and 10 were untraceable. However, despite that programmes of the AIDS Control Society of Punjab have come to an abrupt end.

Almost all targeted intervention projects started by the society have come to an abrupt end due to the non release of funds. No programme was being run in Gurdaspur. The sources told The Tribune that in May 2002, the society started 12 targeted intervention AIDS control programmes across the state. The programmes were specially started for spreading awareness regarding AIDS among target groups such as truck drivers and sex workers etc.

The programmes were to continue for three years. However, all these projects were stopped after just one year. The NGOs running the projects have not got the funds due to which the awareness campaigns have come to standstill.

According to data available with the NACO, the Punjab society has not submitted monthly surveillance reports of the programmes being run by it since May 2004. The report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) released in 2004 has also chided the Punjab AIDS Control Society on various grounds.

According to a report, 15 programmes for financial year 2001-02 and 22 targeted invention programmes for 2002-03, were to be run by the state society. However, it could run just 10 and 14 programmes, respectively. Even these programs have come to an end in the year 2003-04.

Further, no project for gays and drugs users has been started. The Punjab AIDS Control Society installed 385 condom vending machines from the 1999 to 2003, but as per the CAG report, 230 out of them were non-functional which include 55 that went out of order immediately after the purchase.


Man who fought terrorism resents withdrawal of security
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, February 8
He fought terrorists during the peak of militancy in Punjab. His house even today looks like a bunker from where he repelled numerous terrorist attacks on him and his family. The bullet- ridden walls of his house still speak of the ferocity of the encounters he might have had with the terrorists. He also lost his wife and a son to terrorists for raising a voice of dissent against them.

Despite all that Mr Ajit Singh Takkar Sandhu is a dejected man today. On a casual report of the DSP (CID), Gurdaspur, the police has withdrawn all security provided to him exposing his life to threats from terrorists. Even the carbine allotted to him for self-protection has been withdrawn.

While talking to The Tribune, Mr Ajit Singh said that being a CPM worker he used to speak openly against terrorists in Punjab. His village, Takkar Sandhu, was located in that part of Gurdaspur, which at one time was the hot bed of terrorism. Due to his open criticism of the terrorists they used to threaten him with dire consequences.

On August 15, 1990, when his wife Dhanwant Kaur and son Jasbir Singh were coming home, terrorists gunned them down near his residence. Hearing their screams, he came out and fired at the terrorists, injuring one of them. He could not even perform the last rites of his wife and son as terrorists had threatened to eliminate anyone who attended the cremation.

However, the tragedy did not break Ajit Singh. Instead, it strengthened his resolve to fight against terrorism. He was provided with 18 guards after that and with the help of the security men he fought with terrorists in the entire area.

This also brought him in direct confrontation with the terrorists who launched numerous attacks on his house. Even grenade attacks were made. But he survived and helped the police nab many terrorists in the area. However, all this took its toll.

Mr Ajit Singh could not plough his fields for more than 10 years and his land became barren. His financial condition also turned worse as he had to pay for maintaining about 18 guards.

However, normalcy returned to Punjab. Slowly the guards given to him were withdrawn. Recently, even the lone security guard provided to him was withdrawn on the report of the DSP (CID), Gurdaspur.

Mr Ajit Singh said that he met the present DGP, Mr Virk, against the withdrawal of his security. The DGP, who had himself fought terrorism, paid heed to his request and stayed the order for withdrawing the last SPO given to him. The DGP also assured him that he would look into his case.

But what peeved Mr Ajit Singh the most was that though he fought against terrorism and lost his family members the lower rank police officials were not gracious enough to provide even one security guard to him. “Police protection was provided to every petty politician but not to an ordinary person like him who fought terrorists,” he lamented.


MSP for rapeseed, mustard Rs 1,700
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 8
Keeping in mind the indications that prices of oilseeds and pulses may remain below the minimum support price, Markfed today announced that it will procure the produce in the state at the MSP.

Announcing the MSP for 2005-06, Markfed said the rate for rapeseed and mustard is Rs 1,700 per quintal while for gram it is kept at Rs 1,425 per quintal. The MSP for masur dal has been kept at Rs 1,525 per quintal. The increase in the MSP this year is Rs 100 per quintal in rapeseed/mustard oil, Rs 25 per quintal in gram and Rs 25 per quintal in masur, respectively, the Managing Director of Markfed, Mr S.S. Channy said.

Markfed has been appointed as Nafed’s agency to procure oilseeds and pulses as per the Central Government’s policy. Nafed is the Central Nodal agency for the implementation of a Minimum Support Price (MSP) for oilseeds and pulses. Markfed and Nafed have signed an agreement.

Mr Channy said the move is aimed at providing marketing support to farmers for mustard, rapeseed, gram and masur crops. This is given to the farmers for facilitating procurement, selling and payment for them.

The agreement covers policies and other terms and conditions related to selection of procurement stations, quality to be procured, payment conditions, arrangement of bardana, storage space, publicity, specifications and commissions to be paid to Markfed.

The purchase of oilseeds and pulses will be made through cooperative marketing societies at the MSP in the ensuing season, for which the arrangements will be made by Markfed in consultation with Nafed.

The procurement centres proposed to be opened in Punjab for the procurement of mustard seed, gram and sunflower seed under price support scheme include, Bathinda, Rampura Phul, Raman, Abohar, Fazilka, Zira, Ferozepore, Muktsar, Malout, Moga, Kot Isekhan, Mansa, Sardulgarh, Bhudlada, Ajnala, Bhagtawala, Jandiala, Rayya, Tarn Taran, Patti, Faridkot, Kotkapura, Amloh, Sirhind, Bassi Pathana, Batala, Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Mukerian, Jalandhar, Nakodar, Goraya, Nur Mehal, Kapurthala, Phagwara, Sultanpur Lodhi, Khanna, Ludhiana, Mullanpur, Gagroan, Nawanshahr, Balachour/ Saroya, Banga/Aur, Patiala, Rajpura, Banur, Nabha, Samana, Ropar, Chamkaur Sahib, Kharar, Sangrur, Dhuri, Ahmedgarh, Barnala, Bhawanigarh and Sunam.

Besides this the farmers can approach the Markfed district office, branch office and cooperative marketing societies in Punjab in this regard.


Custodial death: police ‘backing out’ on compensation
Tribune News Service

Lohian (Jalandhar), February 8
While the Jalandhar police has failed to arrest three accused in the alleged Satnam Satta custodial death case, clouds of uncertainity have started shrouding the assurance of the compensation of Rs 5 lakh and a government job to the next of the kin of the victim. This offer was ‘extended’ by a senior police officer to the family, which led them and political parties to lift the “anti-police” agitation yesterday.

Meanwhile, sensing that the compensation as announced might not work out, police sources revealed that top police officers were busy finding a solution to the problem.

The only way out seemed was that an “alternative and unofficial economic package” to the family.

Efforts were also allegedly being made to make the family accept the said “package” with the help of mediation of a middle-rung political leader who was said to be close to the family of the victim.

Though, the police authorities have booked three main accused-ASI Vijay Kumar, Home Guards jawan Balkar Singh and Head Constable Surjit Malik, in the wake of agitation, all three were still out of reach of the police.

They had fled the police station immediately after the Lohian police station was attacked by mob after death of Satpal Satta, who was allegedly detained for stealing an iron pipe worth Rs 40.

According to the BSP General Secretary, Mr Pawan Tinu, SP Rajpal Sandhu, had given an assurance to the agitating people and family members that the compensation of Rs 5 lakh and a government job would be given to next of the kin of the victim, following which, the agitation was withdrawn.

He said his party would not allow the authorities to slip away from assurance.

SSP Satish Kumar Asthana, was not available for comments about developments in the aftermath of the alleged custodial death.


All is not lost yet on turban issue
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 8
On the turban issue in France, all is not lost yet. Another opportunity is around to build pressure on the French Government to get the Act, that was passed banning the turban in public schools there last year, abrogated.

“All would depend on how the issue is handled by the Sikh community, especially its representative body — the SGPC — and above all by the Government of India,” says Dr M.S. Rahi, an advocate of the Supreme Court, who spent about two weeks in France recently to prepare the turban case for a legal battle in the European Parliament.

Next month the French Government would assess the effectiveness of the Act. “There is an inbuilt practice in the France to review the effectiveness of every Act after one year of its passing by Parliament. And if the Act fails to achieve its ends or appears to be harsh on public, it is reviewed by Parliament,” says Dr Rahi.

Opportunity would be available to Sikh bodies to force the French Government to revoke the Act, he adds.

Already lobbying has been started by various Sikh bodies in Europe and other parts of the world. As many as 100 members of the European Parliament have been approached by the Sikh community. “Our strategy is to make the members raise the issue in the European Parliament and to get it referred to the European Human Rights Commission,” says Mr Rahi. Once it is referred to the Human Rights Commission, it would attract the attention of the entire world community.

Dr Rahi, who is a member of the Penal Reforms International and the Lawyers Without Borders, two international bodies of lawyers, who deliberate on transnational legal issues every year, says that some best legal brains in Europe and even of France have offered to extend all help to Sikhs to fight a legal battle on this issue.

Mr Rahi said that with the help of such lawyers, he would also file the case in the European Court of Justice. “ We would move step by step. I am preparing the draft by invoking literature, philosophy, culture, history and religion and relations of Sikhs and French in the past 400 years to build the Sikh case on turban,” he adds. The issue is related to “ freedom of conscience” and it would be made basis of the case, he adds.

Giving the background, Dr Rahi, said that before framing the draft of the Act, the French Government had set up Stassy Commission which invited minorities to hear objections against the bill. But no Sikh body submitted any representation against the draft. Later, the Constitutional Council of the France had debated it but no Sikh body raised the voice against it.

But that is past now. “It would be better if now Sikh bodies come together to wage another battle against the Act to get it annulled,” he says.


Cong leader booked for paddy theft
Sanjay Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 8
A prominent Congress leader who unsuccessfully contested last Assembly election has been booked for allegedly stealing 5300 bags of paddy of the Warehousing Corporation (WHC) from his own mill at Bhagupur village in Taran Taran police district.

Trilok Singh Chakwalia, the Congress leader, has been booked under Sections 380 (theft), 420 (cheating), 406 (breach of trust) and 409 (criminal breach of trust by an agent) of the IPC on the complaint of the Amritsar District Manager of the WHC Sudesh Chand, SSP Taran Taran Paramjit Singh Garewal, when asked, told The Tribune over telephone today.

The Taran Taran police has arrested a labourer Angrez Singh who was stealing the paddy bags. He told the police that he had stolen the bags as he was hired for the purpose allegedly by Chakwalia. Following the statement of the labourer, the police made recoveries of stolen paddy bags from a school and a society building in the village. The police searches are continuing.

The Congress leader, whom The Tribune contacted on his mobile phone, did not respond. A person who refused to identify himself on Chakwalia's mobile phone revealed that the Congress leader had been booked and was not traceable and that his mill had come under the supervision of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate. According to Garewal, Chakwalia was absconding.

When contacted, Sudhesh Chand, said that the Warehousing Corporation had given the newly opened mill for custom milling 98,000 bags of paddy this year. His mill prepared five wagons load of rice but rest of the material was rejected for not meeting the specifications. The mill was unable to further do the custom milling. A physical verification of the mill was done and the WHC got back 46,000 bags of paddy.

According to the police, the mill did not have the capacity to custom mill so much of paddy and when the rice mill was asked to return the paddy, Chakwalia got the paddy removed illegally from his stores.

Chakwalia-run mill has been facing controversy since it was opened in the village. He made a bid in an auction of 18 acres of panchayat land in alleged connivance with the village Sarpanch. The auction reportedly had to be cancelled by the Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar in the wake of the protests by villagers led by a former Sarpanch Gurmej Singh.

The police action followed when the Chairman of the Majha Ex-Servicemen Human Right Front, Colonel (retd) G. S. Sandhu, complained to the SSP about the theft of the paddy from the mill to the SSP Garewal who immediately sent raiding parties to seize the stolen material.

Colonel Sandhu alleged that the mill was running without even an electricity connection and yet it could continue milling of paddy for almost a year.

Colonel Sandhu said the SHO and DSP of the area had allegedly allowed a large quantity of bags to be taken away by showing laxity in putting up a picket on the mill. He alleged a former minister was hand in glove with the politician-turned miller. Colonel Sandhu also said Chakwalia had partnership in the mill with an allegedly blacklisted miller of Ferozepore.


PSEB scraps industrial weekly off
Gurvinder Kaur

Patiala, February 8
Owing to an improvement in the power supply position in the state, the Punjab State Electricity Board has decided to hold in abeyance the imposition of compulsory weekly off day on general industrial and arc furnace consumers falling under category-1 feeders with immediate effect.

In another development the board has reintroduced the voluntary disclosure scheme (VDS) for domestic and non-residential consumers which shall remain operative up to March 31. A spokesperson of the board today stated that for the convenience of the consumers, the procedure of regularisation of unauthorised loads had been simplified.

The VDS had been launched for one month beginning on January 1 and the board had managed to net nearly Rs 100 crore with the Sangrur circle alone collecting Rs 12 crore. Seeing the response to the scheme which encourages farmers to disclose unauthorised agricultural tubewell load without being entangled in legal wrangles, the VDS has been reintroduced by the board. Under this scheme the consumer has to pay Rs 1200 load charges per HP to get the unauthorisedly increased load regularised.

According to a PSEB spokesperson, the board had organised 40 camps to spread awareness about the scheme and take it to the consumer’s doorstep.

He added that board Chairman Y.S. Ratra had also attended a camp, besides encouraging other members to do so.


Drug Inspectors overburdened
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 8
As most of the posts of district drug inspectors are lying vacant in the state, the present lot of seven drug inspectors are reportedly “overburdened”since they have to function as assistant public prosecutors in the cases of samples, collected by them from the shops of chemists and druggist.

Therefore , their primary work of checking sub-standard drugs and intoxicants has been suffering in a big way as they are performing their duties in more than one district. In the capacity of assistant public prosecutors, they not only file the cases in the courts but also conduct proceedings on behalf of the prosecution side. Besides appearing in the courts of chief judicial magistrates and sessions courts, sometimes they also appear in the high court. As a result they have to spend a lot of time in the courts.

Due to overburdened drug inspectors, the Punjab Health Department seems to be “unable” to check the menace of sub-standard drugs, besides facing great problems in checking the growing sale of drugs in the form of intoxicants in the state, specially in rural areas, by the unregistered medical practitioners or unauthorised chemists.

For example, the Drug Inspector, posted at Sangrur, is also looking after Patiala and Mansa districts, while the Drug Inspector, posted at Ropar, has also been covering Nawanshahar district.

It is also learnt that the monthly quota for collection of samples from chemists’ shops is also fixed for the Drug Inspectors as 15 samples in big districts and 10 samples in small districts in a month.

Meanwhile, Dr Surinder Singla, a member of State Drug Advisory Committee, has said that at the first meeting of State Drug Advisory Committee last year the government was urged to fill the vacant posts of drug inspectors immediately, but to no avail so far.

Expressing concern over the vacant posts of drug inspectors, he said shortage of drug inspectors was also hampering the work of checking the sale of spurious and adulterated drugs in the state.


No entry ticket for heritage festival
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 8
The Patiala Heritage Society has decided not to charge any ticket for any cultural event during the Heritage festival which begins on February 12. It has also decided to do away with the system of passes except for the fashion show.

Disclosing this here today, Deputy Commissioner Tejveer Singh said the Heritage Society had decided to do away with the system of passes following a meeting chaired by its chairperson Preneet Kaur.

“This has been done to encourage people to attend the cultural shows being held every evening.” He said earlier the society was charging money for donor passes for the fashion show as well as the lone star-studded evening which had seen Jagjit Singh and Ghulam Ali performing in the city.

Mr Tejveer Singh said passes would be issued for the fashion show solely with the aim of regulating the number of people coming to attend the event. He said passes would be available for the same without any payment.

The Heritage Society will, however, be charging entry fee for visitors coming to the Sheesh Mahal complex where the Craft Mela is being held from February 12 to 27. The Craft Mela has been sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism, which has given a grant for holding the mela in which more than 150 artisans from all over the country are expected to participate.

However, Mr Tejveer Singh said a nominal entry fee would be charged and added that the children below the age of twelve would not be charged any entry fee.


Punjab’s economy will bounce back, says Singla
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 8
A "perturbed" Punjab Finance Minister, Mr Surinder Singla, today assured industrialists that the poor fiscal health of the Punjab Government would not be allowed to paralyse the state's economy.

He also took the opportunity of the pre-Budget meeting organised by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI) at Haryana Bhawan, Sector 3, to lash out at the "baised" BJP-led National Democratic Alliance though Badal-bashing dominated his address.

Accusing former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee of ruining Punjab's "investment culture" and being the "biggest culprit" for granting territorial concessions in Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, he said Punjab would fight its way back to the top.

Assuring the business fraternity that the long-pending capital subsidy arrears would be "resolved to the satisfaction of the industry in the Budget", Mr Singla said that creation of infrastructure was a priority with the government.

"The concept of the government lordship is outdated. While we will provide infrastructure, the cost will be shared by the users. Nearly 1200 km of road will be completed soon on BOT basis," he stated.

Commenting upon the power crisis in the state, Mr Singla laid emphasis on power reforms. He disclosed that the government had planned to generate 3000 MW of power in Punjab in the next three years. In addition, the Punjab Government is also keen to enter into an agreement for setting up a 1000 MW capacity project out of Punjab to cater to the state power requirement, the FM observed.

Strongly recommending entry of private capital in power generation, Mr Singla said that nobody was willing to come on the condition that power was to be sold to the electricity board. "Setting up a power generation plant takes about three years. The previous government didn't do its job. Not 1MW of power was added during Badal's term. We will move this project and work for Punjab's future," he explained.

Mr Singla expressed satisfaction over the fact that industrial houses were no longer looking for tax concessions but availability of infrastructure. "This is a positive development for us. Industry in areas with tax concessions will wither away once they are off," he asserted.

He condemned the Badal-led previous government of keeping mum when Mr Vajpayee was doling out territorial concessions and discriminating with Punjab. "How can a Prime Minister use fiscal policies to destroy one state and benefit the other?"

Mr Singla said that the media was the biggest enemy of the truth for believing Mr Badal's claim that he brought the Bathinda refinery project to Punjab. "The Congress Government at the Centre approved the Bathinda refinery project and land was acquired for the same. The Vajpayee Government merely laid the foundation stone and claimed it was theirs. The media is the biggest enemy of the truth for believing Mr Badal rather than checking the facts," he rued.


Ranjit Singh war museum to open soon
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 8
Fourteen years after it was conceived, the first two galleries of the Maharaja Ranjit Singh War Museum at Ludhiana are ready for inauguration. The project was initiated by the Punjab Government in 1991 and the museum will have a total of seven galleries.

The two galleries which are now complete and already receiving limited visitors include those devoted to the 1999 Kargil conflict and ancient Indian martial history and heritage.

The inauguration is scheduled by the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, in March, when he is also expected to attend a seminar on post-retirement rehabilitation of ex-servicemen at the same venue.

The ancient history gallery depicts the Indian martial culture from the time of the Mahabharata. Besides murals, paintings and scrolls, an interesting feature incorporated in this gallery is "talking" mannequins. A number of mannequins dressed up as soldiers from various eras have been placed in the gallery. On the touch of a button, these give out the history and other information pertaining to their respective time.

The Kargil gallery highlights the battles fought by the Indian Army about six years ago in one of the toughest terrain anywhere. Pictures or the war front, historical narratives as well as some of the weapons used in the war are displayed in this gallery. Those decorated for gallantry during the conflict also find a prominent mention. Efforts are also on to procure weapons and items captured from the enemy during the war.

Named after Punjab's legendry ruler, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the museum was conceived with a view to preserving the rich military history of the region and to document the gallant deeds of soldiers, airmen and sailors from Punjab. The museum would also serve as a source of motivation for future generations.

The government spent about Rs 4 crore on acquiring four acres on the Ludhiana-Jalandhar highway and another Rs 2 crore were spent on constructing a building. Recently, the Punjab Government gave a grant of Rs 60 lakh for the museum. Some donations have also been received for various other sources.

After being conceived, the project remained in the doldrums for several years, with little progress being made. It was only about four years ago that the project got a fresh impetus.

Besides the two galleries, a number of war trophies, including tanks, armoured personnel carriers and artillery guns, have been displayed in the compound. An airframe of the Su-7 aircraft and a model of INS Vikrant have also been displayed. A number of vintage guns also form a part of the museum's collection.

The other galleries which are in the process of coming up include a uniforms gallery, a heroes' gallery, post-Independence(1947-65) gallery and a gallery devoted exclusively to the 1971 Indo-Pak war.


Effigy of minister burnt
Our Correspondent

Rajpura, February 8
Members of the International Bhau Bhaichara Sangathan, Bahadurgarh, burnt the effigy of Punjab Horticulture Minister Jasjit Singh Randhawa and raised slogans against him here today.

The members were protesting against the removal of hoardings and sign boards of the sangathan from a Bahadurgarh market and various other places in the state.

The protesters were up in arms following the removal of the hoardings and signboards by the police from various places recently. The members said the minister had some misunderstanding with leaders of the sangathan.

Mr Balwinder Singh Sidhu, president of the sangathan, alleged that the police pulled down the sangathan hoardings and signboards following the directions of the minister.

“The widespread popularity of the sangathan in Ghanaur has forced Mr Randhawa for directing the police to remove the signboards,” said Mr Sidhu.

The sangathan also distributed foodgrains among 150 poor families from the various villages in the locality. The sangathan is running 25 centres in the state.


Cold wave claims two lives
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, February 8
The cold wave, which has been sweeping the region for the past many days, has claimed two human lives during the past 24 hours.

As per a press note issued, an unidentified man, who had fallen ill due to severe cold wave, was lying near Hanuman Chowk. Though volunteers of Sahara Jan Sewa shifted him to the local Civil Hospital for treatment, he died after a few hours.

The other victim of cold wave was found lying unconscious at local national colony. He was also shifted to local Civil Hospital where he was declared brought dead. The deceased could not be identified.


Mukt-e-Minar in memory of 40 Muktas
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, February 8
A massive exercise has been undertaken to give the necessary facelift to this city to prepare it for the tercentenary celebrations of supreme sacrifice made by 40 Muktas (liberated ones) while fighting in the last battle of Guru Gobind Singh who had fought with Mughals here 300 years ago.

Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has been taking personal interest to celebrate the occasion in big way in May 2005. He has decided to visit the city on February 9 to lay the foundation stones of different projects.

Mr B.R. Banga, Deputy Commissioner, said that in memory of 40 Muktas, a Mukt-e-Minar, would be erected at a piece of land worth more than Rs 4 crores, which had been donated by the Baba Mukand Singh Sodhi Trust. He added that four gates would be set up on all the four main roads which crossed the city and these gates would be named after those Sikhs, who had made sacrifices in different battles.

He said the memorial minar would be 65 feet high and would be constructed near the local mini secretariat. About Rs 50 lakhs would be spent on it and it would be designed in the shape of Khanda (two edged sword). He added that a memorial in connection with Mai Bhago, who established links of the Muktas with Guru Gobind Singh, would also be set up near the minar. A stadium in the name of Bhai Maha Singh would also be set up in a local college.

He pointed out that district administration had been making efforts to shift meat and cigarette shops located in the holy city.


Girl killed, 3 hurt in fire
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, February 8
Deepika, alias Isha (16), a student of 10+2, died and three of her family members were injured when a fire broke out at their house in New Shastri Nagar here today.

According to information, Mahesh Passi (45), a building contractor, along with his wife Kiran and two daughters Deepika and Shivani, were putting up in a rented house.

Due to chilly whether, the victims burnt some coal substance, which caught fire and the goods lying in the room were reduced to ashes. All of them sustained burn injuries.

The victims were brought to local Civil Hospital, where Deepika was declared dead and others were referred to a hospital at Amritsar.


Plan on disaster management discussed
Tribune News Service

Ropar, February 8
In a significant move to cope with crisis triggered by hazardous industrial units in the district or natural calamity, a team of experts from the Disaster management Institute of Bhopal here today presented the plan to the district administration. The team, including Mr Rakesh Dubey and Ms Raina Bains, explained a plan to a group of district crisis management, said the Deputy Commissioner, Ms Seema Jain.

She said keeping in mind the accident hazards in any unit in the district, the expert had prepared the off-site plan. The expert had also explained separate disaster management techniques for the hazardous industrial units.


high court
Lottery sellers seek quashing of FIR
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, February 8
Mr Justice M.M. Aggarwal of the Punjab and Haryana High Court has issued notice of motion for March 31 on a petition filed by lottery sellers of Ludhiana seeking quashing of an FIR registered against them.

The two lottery sellers, Mr Subhash Chander and Mr Jagjit Singh Chawla, had been booked on April 24, 2003, under various sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The petitioners have prayed that the FIR be quashed as they had provided evidence to the police about the alleged irregularities committed by certain police officials. They said the same could not be construed as having given illegal gratification for getting their work done.

They also alleged that they had been victimised for exposing corruption in the police department through video CDs.

The Ludhiana Police had filed a charge-sheet against 14 policemen, including two sub-inspectors, eight head-constables, three constables and a Home Guard jawan on the charges of corruption. The duo had also been booked in the case.

The petitioners have claimed that they had actually exposed rampant corruption in the police by recording the illegal acts of cops on video.

The hearing will now resume on March 31.

Khalra case

The High Court has issued notice of motion for March 22 on a petition filed by a witness of the case relating to missing of human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra.

The petitioner, Mr Jaswant Singh Randhawa, has prayed for providing security to him through some Central Government agency as he faces threat to his life.

The hearing will now continue on March 22.


Electrocution of sambar in Hoshiarpur: accused
get bail
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 8
In another dastardly act of animal killing, a male sambar's dismembered body was recovered from a farm house at Nara village in Hoshiarpur yesterday.

Cut into pieces for meat supply to Jalandhar and some influential individuals, the animal had been electrocuted before being slaughtered for eating purposes.

Worse, however, is the news that within a day of its killing, the culprits are out on bail. This is not an isolated case where those charged with eliminating animals have gone scot-free.

On an average, four cases of poaching registered every month yield no results due to lack of official drive to get the guilty punished. Not to ignore loopholes in the law which help the killers seek bail and get away with heinous crimes.

Even in this case, the forest authorities at Hoshiarpur did not take any action against either the reputed eye specialist Dr Thind who owns the farm where parts of the sambhar were recovered or against Iqbal Singh Dhillon, owner of the adjacent farmhouse who allegedly shared portion of the meat.

The only ones nabbed for killing the Schedule III animal are migrant labourers Mahendra Kumar, employed at the farm of Dr Thind. His accomplices Raj Kumar and Bijju, both employees of Iqbal Dhillon were also arrested for electrocuting the animal and dissecting it. However, names of farmhouse owners did not figure in the damage report filed by forest authorities yesterday.

This despite the fact that Mahendra Kumar, a key accused, stated on camera that the animal meat was supplied to Mr Dhillon.

Another strange aspect is that several portions of the animal's body are still missing. Only the sambhar head with antlers, its skin and intestines were recovered from the farm house, suggesting that meat was supplied elsewhere also.

"Rear portion of the animal's thighs, considered most palatable, was not found," said Mr S.S. Bajwa, Honorary Wildlife Warden, Gurdaspur, who was part of the team that raided the farmhouse yesterday.

Honorary Wildlife Warden, Hoshiarpur, Mr Gunraj Singh, said the animal was recovered by a team comprising two forest range officers, a forest guard and a forester, besides honorary wildlife wardens, who are still disturbed over the manner in which forest officials have hushed up the case. "The act was committed in a reprehensible manner. Head of the animal was recovered from the roof of the farmhouse; its skin and intestines had been buried along the boundary of the farmhouse," said Gunraj Singh, adding that those interested in burying the case even got a small news about the incident published in a section of the media. "They did so to prevent comprehensive coverage of the case," he said.

Significantly, while employees of farmhouse owners were arrested under the Wildlife Protection Act, produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate and even bailed out today, none of the farmhouse owners was even questioned about the killing.

Meanwhile, DFO, Hoshiarpur, Mr R.R. Kakkar, when contacted, did not answer his mobile.


PAU seeks Bt cotton varieties from ICAR
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, February 8
The Punjab Agricultural University authorities have asked the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) to release Bt cotton varieties for cultivation in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan and save farmers from the clutches of unscrupulous traders, who have been fleecing cotton growers by selling unapproved seed varieties.

In a letter to the Director-General of the ICAR, Dr K.S. Aulakh, Vice-Chancellor, Punjab Agricultural University, pointed out that encouraging yield levels of cotton had been obtained in Punjab during the last crop season. Notwithstanding a sharp fall in the prices of cotton, farmers are enthusiastic to increase the area under cotton, which shall help in the endeavour to diversify agriculture in the state. But the non-availability of any approved variety of Bt cotton has become an issue of serious concern for the university and the state government. Cotton growers of the state have been impressed with the good performance of Bt cotton in experimental plots in Punjab as well as from the reports of commercial Bt cotton in central and southern states.

The Vice-Chancellor pointed out that despite special efforts by the university and the state government last year, the approval of Bt cotton varieties could not be obtained due to procedural problems. Now the stipulated trials on Bt cotton in the north zone under the aegis of the ICAR have been repeated for the second year. The final decision is to be taken by the GEAC (Genetic Engineering Approval Committee) of the Ministry of Environment and Forest.

Dr Aulakh expressed concern over the delay in the release of the approved Bt cotton varieties. It would be appropriate if the final decision on the approval of Bt cotton is taken at the earliest so that farmers do not feel forced to purchase seed of unapproved Bt cotton from unauthorised sources.

The Vice-Chancellor has also written to Capt Amarinder Singh in this regard and requested him to take up the matter with Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar. The GEAC is meeting on February 8 to take stock of the situation.

Dr G.S. Chahal, Additional Director of Research, PAU, said the university had tested eight Bt cotton varieties, which had been found suitable for cultivation in the north zone. The PAU has received another 18 varieties for conducting trials.

Enquiries revealed that the pesticide lobby is pressurising the quarters concerned to delay the release of approved Bt cotton varieties as the same would result in the less sale of pesticides.


Govt misleading people: BKU
Tribune News Service

Jaito, February 8
The Bharatiya Kisan Union (Krantikari) has alleged that the state government has broken its promises and it is misleading the common people by issuing "false statements".

Addressing a state-level meeting of the union here, state union president Surjit Singh Phul said though the government was saying that no farmer would be arrested for the recovery of debt, officials were consistently "harassing" farmers. The case of Sukhchain Singh, a farmer from Chandbhan village, who was arrested for the recovery of loan and later released, also came up for discussion at the meeting.

The union leaders said that though some farmers had been released, the union would continue its agitation against the state government's policies. They flayed the Punjab Government's decision to unbundle the electricity board. The union announced its participation in the dharna to be held by various organisations in Patiala on February 17. It was decided at the meeting to gherao the bank employees "harassing" farmers. The union would protest against the auction of farmers' land and privatisation of the PSEB.


Admn directed to register sale deeds
Our Correspondent

Kharar, February 8
The Punjab State Human Rights Commission, superseding the orders of the SDM, has directed the Ropar Administration to register the sale deeds in connection with the land under dispute at Jhanjeri village.

The orders said the ban imposed by the SDM, Mr Sukhvinder Singh Gill, was wrong as it violated the human rights of the complainants.

The orders issued by Mr P.C. Rajput, said any act of the district administration to refuse to register the sale deed would amount to a violation of the human rights of the complainant for which the district administration would be liable.

The commission has directed the Deputy Commissioner to proceed strictly according to law and not to violate the human rights of the complainant in the matter of alleviating their property, the income from which they want to use to pay off their debts and to meet other essential needs of their life.

Emphasising that the matter be proceeded strictly according to law, the commission asked the authorities concerned to submit the final report in this regard to the commission before the next date of hearing.

Mr Sadhu Singh and some other persons had complained to the commission that they were the owners of the land in question in the village and mutations had been done in their favour.

The SDM had given orders to stop registering the sale deeds of the panchayat land in the village after the sarpanch of the village had complained that some persons wanted to sell the common land of the village.


20 quintals of poppy husk seized
Our Correspondent

Muktsar, February 8
In its campaign against smuggling of narcotics, the district police has arrested two smugglers and seized about 20 quintals of poppy husk from them.

Mr L.K. Yadav, SSP, in a press note issued here today, said that a police team laid a naka on the Malout-Bathinda road near the Jandwala link road to check vehicles of suspected drug smugglers. At around 2 pm, a truck coming from Jandwala village side was stopped by the police. The two occupants of the truck tried to run away but the police party managed to capture them. After checking the truck in the presence of Mr Hargobind Singh, DSP, Malout, 50 bags of poppy husk, each weighing 40 kg, were seized from the truck.

He said that the driver of the truck was identified as Balveer Singh, alias Balli, a resident of Bohra village in Haryana, while other person was identified as Makhan Singh, alias Makhani, a resident of Gandu Kalan village in Mansa. He said that a case in this connection had been registered at Malout police station.


4-year-old murdered
Our Correspondent

Phillaur February 8
Four-year- old Amandeep Singh was allegedly kidnapped and strangled to death by Arun Kumar, Joginder Paul and Bharat Bhushan at Sargundi road, Goraya, in Phillaur subdivison on sunday night..

According to a delayed report received this morning , the child was playing in a playground near his residence when he was kidnapped by Arun Kumar. he was spotted by some women of the locality near a gurdwara but he gave them the slip.

SHO Makhan Singh told The Tribune today that , perhaps, the suspect wanted to seek ransom from the parents of the child , but he murdered him after being seen by the women.

All three suspects were arrested under Sections 302 , IPC, and 120-B today.


Two booked for attack on ZP vice-chairperson
Tribune News Service

Moga, February 8
In the case of attack on the vice-chairperson of the Zila Parishad, Bibi Jasvir Kaur Lande, the Baghapurana police has booked two persons under Sections 354, 323 and 34 of the IPC.

Bibi Jasveer Kaur, who is associated with the Shiromani Akali Dal, was attacked by two persons at Lande village on Friday last when she was returning from one Mahinder Singh’s home. She had alleged that the assailants beat her up with iron rods and also tried to rape her.

Village sarpanch, Makhan Singh and his aides had rushed her to the Civil Hospital in Baghapurana. The assailants had also snatched Rs 17,500 and a mobile phone from her.


FCI official caught taking bribe
Tribune News Service

Bareta (Mansa), February 8
Mr Dharmpal, Assistant Manager, Food Corporation of India (FCI), and posted here, was caught red-handed by a team of the Vigilance Bureau while he was accepting bribe of Rs 3000 from a contractor Jagjit Singh for passing his bills connected with the transportation charges of foodgrain items.

Mr Chiman Lal, SP, Vigilance Bureau, Chandigarh, who supervised the raid, when contacted, said the Vigilance Bureau team, led by DSP Jaspal Singh, was specially sent to Bareta from Mohali after a formal complaint in connection with the demand of bribe by the accused was lodged by Mr Jagjit Singh to the DIG, Vigilance Bureau, Mr G.S. Sahota.

He added that the Vigilance Bureau team managed to catch Mr Dharmpal while he was accepting a bribe of Rs 3000 from Mr Jagjit Singh to pass the bills pertaining to the transportation charges. He said that though the accused demanded a bribe of Rs 5000 from the complainant initially, the deal was struck at Rs 3000.

Two government witnesses and one shadow witness accompanied the Vigilance Bureau team when it conducted a raid to catch the accused. Mr Jagjit Singh had been carrying the job of loading and unloading of foodgrains from the goods train and subsequently transporting the same to different destinations.

A case in this connection has been registered in police station, flying squad, Mohali, under the Prevention of Corruption Act.


Two held for looting petrol station
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, February 8
The district police here today nabbed two persons for looting cash from a petrol station salesman. Both were identified as Harpal Singh resident of Dhakka Colony, Patiala and Manu Sharma of New Mohindra Colony Patiala. Looted cash was recovered from them.

The police got information that Rs 15000 was looted from Kissan Filling Station, Peerjain, after injuring the salesman with knife. Both were stopped at a naka for checking but they tried to run away. They were arrested after a chase. They are facing trial in more than six cases.


Heritage lovers frown at ‘tampering’ with college environs
Rashmi Talwar

Amritsar, February 8
Allegations of “tampering” with the environs of the historic Khalsa College here have been levelled against the college authorities. The college, which was established in 1892, is one of the favoured tourist destinations in the city.

Heritage lovers have raised hackles over the ongoing construction of an auditorium next to the residence of the Principal of Khalsa College on the campus.

Dr Balwinder Singh, Reader in Guru Nanak Dev University’s Guru Ram Dass School of Planning Department and an avid heritage lover, said the college authorities had “tampered” with the environs envisioned by the founder of the college, Bhai Ram Singh, who was Principal of National Arts College of Lahore during the British times.

Dr Balwinder contended that the architecture of the massive structure was a virtual “symphony in bricks”. He claimed that the college authorities had drawn flak recently for the brick-cover on the building by one of the Principals of Lahore college who had visited the campus.

An expert in architecture, the varsity Reader said the structure of the college was Indo-Saracenic and was a unique example of a mixture of Sikh and Rajput architecture of the times.

Spread on 300 acres, the college and its environs had been synchronised by the great architect to make a symmetrical balance in its scale, texture, planning, utility and even colour scheme.

Mr Charanjit Singh Gumtala, former president of the Amritsar Vikas Manch (AVM), an NGO, also condemned the “tampering” that would alter the front view of the building from one side and was visible from the outer side.

The auditorium under construction is being raised at the place, which could obstruct the Principal’s block and alter the view of the heritage building.

Earlier, the AVM had also raised objections over a wedge constructed on the approach route to the college on its premises for separate exit and entry purposes.

Mr Charanjit Singh Chadda, Vice-President of the Khalsa College managing committee, however, refuted allegations of “tampering”, as he said no heritage building would be touched. He said the college had a hall with a seating capacity of merely 400, which lacks sloping-seating arrangement.

Besides, the current hall with its high ceiling is faced with “echo problem”. “Since the college authorities did not want to alter any heritage structure to install air-conditioning and other ultra-modern gadgets as per the requirements of a modern auditorium, it decided to raise a new one,” he added.

The new auditorium would be spread on 1 acre and would be built at a cost of Rs 2 crore with a seating capacity of 1200 persons with state-of- the-art high-tech gadgetry and split levels to equip a balcony.


Indefinite strike by private college teachers
from Feb 16

Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, February 8
Teachers of private colleges of Punjab and Chandigarh under the aegis of the Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers Union (PCCTU) will boycott teaching for an indefinite period in support of their demands from February 16.

The first phase of the protest would take place On February 11 when teachers of Guru Nanak Dev University would go on mass casual leave and hold a rally at the district courts in Amritsar.

Nearly 5,000 teachers observed a three-period strike today. They were demanding a revision of their pay scale.

Dr Jagwant Singh, general secretary, PCCTU, alleged that at present non-aided government colleges of Punjab were getting an aid of Rs 80 crore whereas according to the provision in the budget these should get Rs 116 crore. Though formal orders of sanctioning pension and gratuity were issued by the Punjab Government in 1996 and approved by the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, but the orders have not been implemented yet.

He further said that committee had not touched some major issues in their recommendations, which need to be revised.


Jobless teachers to ‘expose’ govt
Tribune News Service

Moga, February 8
Announcing to wage a “decisive” battle against the state government, the Unemployed ETT Teachers Union has said that it will “expose” the Congress government through VCDs showing canecharge on jobless teachers and promises made by Punjab ministers, during the forthcoming Ajnala Assembly bypoll.

Interacting with mediapersons here, the state union president, Mr Jaswinder Singh Sidhu, said the union would launch a stir against the state government in Ajnala from February 14 in favour of its demands. He said the Chief Minister, Mr Amarinder Singh, had gone back on his word for the second time. The CM had promised on February 2 that cases against ETT teachers would be withdrawn and they would be released, but nothing had been done even after five days, he regretted.

Reacting sharply to statements of Deputy Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, he said she never invited them for talks. He alleged that they had gone to meet her on October 19, 25, and November 4, 17, last year, but despite being present, she refused to meet them. He alleged that her OSD said she had no file relating to their matter.

Mr Sidhu said the Congress cashed in on false promises during the Kapurthala bypoll, but now they would distribute 25,000 VCDs in villages of Ajnala, depicting “atrocities” on unemployed teachers and Punjab Minister Lal Singh making promises. He alleged that the state government, in a bid to suppress their voice, was trying to book and arrest them.


"Jad Kamla..." adjudged best play
Our Correspondent

Abohar, February 8
"Jad Kamla Hove Vehra", directed by Gourav Vij (26), was adjudged the best comedy play at the National Open Drama and Dance Competition organised by Shri Mahashakti Kala Mandir, Barnala. Teams from various cities of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu region participated in the festival.

Hundreds of spectators had a hilarious time during the 40-minute performance by the Sparsh Theatre Society group of this small town during the wee hours today.

Ashish Gagneja, who played servant "Cheeku", was declared the second best actor of the competition. Supporting artistes in the play included Sonu Babbar, Vimal Midha, Ashish Makkar, Anjum Gaba and Manish Madaan. Interestingly the same comedy play had recorded three house full shows here recently when the society staged it to collect funds for tsunami victims.

More than half of the dialogues were based on plays staged in Pakistan by artistes of West Punjab. Representatives of more than 10 organisations from different cities offered to organise the play.

For Vij, a commerce teacher at DAV College here, it was the second honour in less than a fortnight. Earlier a play "Court Marshal" directed by him and staged by the students of DAV College at the Inter Zone Panjab University Youth Festival held at Swami Premanand College, Mukerian, was declared the best and was recommended for participation in the Inter University Youth Festival.

The Sparsh team of young artistes, most of them bachelors, had another feather in its cap. Their nukkad natak titled " Tain Ki Dard Na Aya" written and directed by Vimal Midha won the first prize in the street play category at the Barnala festival. Ruby Sharma was declared the over all best actor. Other performers in the play included Ashish Gagneja, Ravin Grover, Vickey Doda, Arun Gagneja and Manish Madaan.

There was jubilation over the laurels won by the Sparsh team. Interestingly, Gourav's father, Jiwan Parkash Vij, had been a much sought after stage artiste in 1960-70.

Dr B.C. Josan, Principal of DAV College and a member of the Panjab University Senate, said that it was indeed an occasion to celebrate as the local boys had shown their talent among scores of theatre groups from north India.

Mr Sajjan Kumar Jakhar, a former minister, and his youngest brother, Mr Sunil Jakhar, Parliamentary Secretary, Punjab, congratulated the winners. Mr Tulsi Ram, president of the Municipal Council, also complimented the city artistes.


Applicants face uncertainty over ETT test
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 8
Nearly 1 lakh candidates who applied for the entrance test for elementary teachers training (ETT) course have been facing uncertainty over contrary statements being issued by various authorities concerned in connection with the conduct of the test.

The applicants got confused after the authorities announced that the entrance test would be held for ETT course and subsequently application forms were accepted. Later, they made an announcement and issued public notices saying that entrance test has been cancelled and admissions would be made on basis of the marks scored by the students in Class XII.

However, a statement made by Punjab Deputy Chief Minister, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal yesterday again confused the candidates as she said that a decision regarding the change in selection criterion was yet to be finalised.

A random survey conducted by The Tribune revealed that a majority of students who had applied for the entrance test of ETT course had been finding it difficult to concentrate on their studies, either for the same test or for their university and other exams. Not only the students, but also their families and even the coaching centres training the students for that test had been facing tough time.

About 500 students today staged a dharna in front of the District Institute of Education Research and Training (DIET) and submitted a memorandum to its principal. They demanded that the ETT entrance test should be held as per schedule and the war of words going on among a section of senior officials of the Education Department in connection with the holding of entrance test should not be allowed to affect their career.

They also raised slogans against the Director, State Council of Education Research and Training (SCERT), Chief Minister, Education Minister, and the Principal Secretary (Education) Punjab. The parents of some of the ETT aspirants alleged that as some seats of the ETT course had been allegedly sold off at a premium to a section of aspirants and hence the entrance test was being given a go by.

A large section of the applicants demanded that admissions to the ETT course should not be held on the basis of performance in Class XII examinations as it would create an imbalance among them. They claimed that if that was done, almost all seats of the course would be captured by the students who had passed Class XII with physical education, home science, vocational stream and those who passed out from open schools, as they are awarded exceptionally higher marks in their practical exams as compared to the students belonging to arts faculty.

The attraction for the ETT course can be seen from the fact that nearly 95,000 students applied for its entrance test which was to be held for 3,400 seats spread equally over 17 districts of Punjab. The test, if held, will be held three years after the last entrance test.

Neither Mr Sadhu Singh Randhawa, Director, State Council for Educational Research and Training (SCERT), dealing with the ETT course and holding of entrance test for the same nor Ms Tajinder Kaur, Principal Secretary, Education, Punjab, could not be contacted for their comments despite repeated efforts.


Units in economic zones will give boost to
exports: CRRID
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 8
The setting up of agri-based industries in the special economic zones (SEZ) would eventually boost export and provide better productivity, besides higher incomes to the farming sector in Punjab — this is what the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID) is claiming.

In a concept paper on SEZ, CRRID has stated Punjab has lost the distinction of having the highest per capita income, but has potential that can be tapped for much stronger growth.

The report asserted that “a vast untapped potential was there in the setting up of argi-base industries in SEZ.

These would facilitate provision of export incentives to boost exports, centralised modern facilities, value addition, better productivity and higher incomes to the farming sector.... These would also encourage the multinational companies and the non-resident Indians to set up manufacturing facilities in the state.

The assertion is significant as the feasibility of establishing SEZ at Amritsar is being actively considered by the Punjab Government. In fact, Punjab’s PWD Minister Partap Singh Bajwa had recently stated that SEZs would be created on the Amritsar-Batala road for encouraging industrial production in the state.

The Minister had added that benefits similar to the ones being granted by the Himachal Pradesh Government to the industries in the state would be provided in SEZ.

For discussing the issue, a seminar was being held on “Establishment of Special Economic Zones in Punjab”, said CRRID’s Director-General Rashpal Malhotra. He added that the seminar would be inaugurated on February 10 at the CRRID premises.

The Chairman’s address would be delivered by Punjab Governor S.F. Rodrigues, while the keynote address would be read out by state Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh.

“Two Punjabs Centre” would also be inaugurated at CRRID by the Governor at 4 pm the same day. The function would be chaired by the Chief Minister.

Giving details of the centre for two Punjabs of India and Pakistan, former High Commissioner to Malaysia and Ambasador to Sweden Paramjit S. Sahai said the centre was being structured as an independent entity. It would be guided by a six-member steering board drawn equally from India and Pakistan.


PSIEC proposal to give better facilities
to SEZ units

Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 8
Industrial units being set up in Special Economic Zone (SEZ) proposed to be established at Amritsar should be declared as providers of public utility services — at least this is what Punjab Small Industries and Export Corporation (PSIEC) has suggested.

The suggestion is significant as the units would get better infrastructure and other facilities once they are declared as public utility services providers.

In its detailed report, PSIEC has added that exemption should be provided from procedural formalities that hamper quick implantation of productivity-related changes. PSIEC has also recommended revision in minimum wages after intense interaction with the industry. The same should be fixed annually, they have asserted.

The report — provided by the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID) — has further added that Amritsar's location and characteristics were ideal as it provided gateway to Pakistan and Central Asia. The city was close to the airport. Rather, 35 flights were operating in a week. Moreover, the cargo facilities were being upgraded.

Giving details of the tentative land use plan, PSIEC has disclosed that 48 per cent out of total 1000 acres would be occupied by manufacturing industries and flatted factories. Another 12 per cent would be devoted to residential and commercial activities.

Approximately 220 acres would have textile industries, while food processing units would be set up on 60 acres. Light engineering and other industries would be established on 180 acres. The category would include industries manufacturing auto parts, hand tools and bicycles, the report has added.

SEZ would offer simplified procedures and greater freedom of operations to the entrepreneurs. Regarding the expenditure to be incurred on the project, the report has asserted that the land would cost Rs 203.56 crore, while another Rs 215.64 crore would be required for establishing core infrastructure, including roads, power distribution, water, drainage and sewerage facilities. The total cost would come out to be Rs 509.21 crore.


FDI hike in telecom sector condemned
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 8
Protesting against the increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) in the telecom sector from 49 per cent to 74 per cent, members of the All-India BSNL Executive Association, the BSNL Employees Union and the Sanchar Nigam Executive Association held a demonstration in front of the office of the General Manager, Telecom, Ludhiana today.

The call for protest was given by the central headquarters of the unions. Flaying the decision to increase FDI, Mr Inderjit Singh, All-India vice-president of SNEA, Mr Balbir Singh, circle secretary of BSNL Employees Union and Mr Ashok Kumar Khanna, circle secretary of the All-India BSNL Executive Association, said the decision was not in the interest of national security.

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