P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



SAD set for major makeover
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 8
The Shiromani Akali Dal, which suffered defeats in the Assembly byelections in recent months, is in for a major makeover. Its organisational structure will have a fresh look by the end of this month. An advisory council with 101 members will be a new addition to two other major organisational bodies of the SAD.

Already, the Political Affairs Committee (PAC), the apex decision and policy-framing body having 25 frontline leaders as its members, and the Working Committee with 51 members are in place. Mostly, the PAC holds its meeting on a regular basis to take urgent decisions on current political issues. The Working Committee meets once or twice a year. How many meetings of the council will be held in a year is not known yet. The council move seems to be aimed at accommodating the maximum number of second-line leaders of the party.

“We are in the process of reshaping the party. The new PAC, Working Committee and council will be constituted soon. Already, the election of district presidents and circle jathedars have started,” said Mr Badal, who had a long discussion with members of the PAC here yesterday at Kalgidhar Nivas. Another meeting spread over two days is expected soon for further discussions on party issues. Defeats by big margins in the byelections have come as a shock for Mr Badal and his associates. The meeting was held to find out where the party faulted during these elections.

“All age groups will be given due representation in these bodies,” asserted Mr Badal. Asked whether any major change was expected in the character of the party which was dominated by Sikhs, Mr Badal said he had tried to open the door of the party to all communities. However, the response is not adequate from other communities. Our party’s door is open to Hindus, Muslims and Christians.” He denied that he had not made efforts to make the party “all-inclusive”.

The biggest problem of the SAD at present is that it is dominated by a few families. Its top leaders are more concerned about promoting their progeny and close relations. They are hardly bothered about the political interests of other party activists. The party’s focus on the youth is negligible. And because of this reason, its base is narrowing.

Mr Badal said the defeats in the byelections would not harm the party politically.

Mr Parkash Singh Badal said his party MLAs, MPs and other senior leaders would hold a dharna before Parliament House on March 15 to protest against the “ murder of democracy” in Punjab. 


Jagmeet Brar has not contacted me: Badal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 8
The President of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), Mr Parkash Singh Badal, yesterday said neither the senior Congress leader, Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, nor any of his supporters had contacted him or any other Akali leader for joining the SAD.

Mr Brar has been suspended from the primary membership of the Congress by the Disciplinary Committee of the Punjab Congress alleging that he had contacted Akali leaders to join the SAD .

Mr Badal said he would not answer any speculative question in this regard. Mr Brar had gone on Sunday to Tohra village on his own to pay tributes to the late Gurcharan Singh Tohra.

He was given time to speak because he was a senior leader of the Congress. “If the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, had gone there, we would certainly have given him time also to pay tributes,” asserted Mr Badal. “No leader was specially invited to Tohra village. Leaders of all parties were extended an open invitation through newspapers to reach Tohra village”, he added.

Asked why Capt Amarinder Singh did not turn up this year, Mr Badal said last year it was a political necessity for the Chief Minister to attend the bhog ceremony of Gurcharan Singh Tohra because the Lok Sabha elections were due to be held in Punjab. But this year there was no such necessity. “Capt Amarinder Singh went by political exigency and not for his so-called love for leaders like Tohra,” he added. He said, “The Congress is up to its old game of demolishing democratic institutions and ruling states by hook or by crook.”


No feelers were sent to Brar, says Dhindsa
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, March 8
The SAD secretary-general and MP, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, today said that Congress leader Jagmeet Singh Brar had not approached them, nor had anybody approached him for joining the Akali Dal. He was commenting on the statement of Mr Nasib Singh Gill, chairman the PPCC’s disciplinary action committee, Mr Brar had been suspended because it had “come to our notice from reliable sources that Mr Brar was palnning to leave the party and join the SAD”.

Mr Dhindsa said though the Brar issue was an internal matter of the Congress, the Congress had no business to drag the name of the Akali Dal into the factional feuds plaguing the party. He asked Mr Gill to make public the identity of “reliable sources”.

Capt Amarinder Singh had injected a new kind of politics in the state by introducing politics of individual rivalry and settling scores, he alleged. This had also divided the bureaucracy into two groups, he said.

So far, nothing had been proved against SAD President Parkash Singh Badal. Crores of rupees had been spent for sending intelligence persons abroad for gathering evidence against him but nothing had come out of it, he said.

Mr Dhindsa dared Capt Amarinder Singh to set up a judicial commission to probe all cases of corruption against all leaders, including those of the Congress, since 1950.

He said Akali leaders, and SGPC members would march from Bangla Sahib Gurdwara to Parliament on March 15 in protest against the murder of democracy in Punjab during the Ajnala byelections.


Punjab excise policy to be approved tomorrow
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, March 8
The Punjab Cabinet will approve the excise policy of the state for 2005-2006 at its meeting on March 10.

According to sources close to the state government, the government has amended the state excise rule in order to avoid litigation and allegedly to accommodate its own men at the time of auction of liquor vends in the state. The liquor vends have to be auctioned before March 31 at any cost.

Under the amended rules, the government will be in a position to give the vends to any group as there will be no limit for any group. Earlier the state government had fixed the maximum limit of Rs 15 crore for each group and this limit was not followed while auctioning the vends last year as a result of which there were petitions in the Punjab and Haryana High Court challenging the auction of vends in Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur districts. The high court had ordered the re-auction of the liquor vends in these districts.

State government sources say that it is not the first time that the excise rules are being amended. Earlier, the limit was Rs 1 crore and there were a number of amendments in the excise rules 36(4) and 36(5) in the past too.

The liquor trade in Punjab had been politicised and every year strong controversies arise as a result of the auction of liquor vends. The Punjab Government earns around Rs 1400 crore from state excise and this is the mainstay of the state economy.

The liquor contractors of the state allege that the state government is succumbing to political pressures and the liquor trade is passing into the hands of certain individuals who have strong political clout. Liquor traders of UP have managed a monopoly control of liquor trade in Punjab. The entry of liquor barons was made possible during the SAD-BJP regime when the son and son-in-law of former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal quarrelled over control on liquor trade. Now the UP baron has managed to have entrenched himself very deep and has strong links with the ruling party.

This UP liquor baron has control over more than 50 per cent of the total liquor trade in Punjab. He has monopoly in the districts of Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Hoshiarpur. Ludhiana district provides the maximum revenue from liquor.

Small liquor traders who have been in this trade for the past 50 years are being eliminated from the same because of poor financial status and lack of political clout.

Liquor contractors allege that the state government in order to help its cronies will auction the liquor vends in three days and the auction will be division-wise and not district-wise. However, an official of the state Excise Department denied it and said that the auction would be completed in six days as in the past.

An intriguing aspect of the liquor trade is that liquor barons have brought their musclemen from UP. According to liquor trade sources they have brought around 400 men who act as ‘karindas’. They conduct raids on the marriage palaces and also on private places to check the illegal sale of liquor. Because of monopoly control, the liquor contractors have been selling liquor at higher rates.

Smuggling of liquor is also taking place from Chandigarh to Punjab on a large scale.

According to Mr Manmohan Singh, Deputy Excise and Taxation Commissioner, Ludhiana, a sum of Rs 11,37,000 was realised as penalty from the people who were caught bringing liquor bottles from Chandigarh.


Lakhs go without pension
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 8
For 20 months now, the 10 lakh beneficiaries of the Punjab’s pension scheme for vulnerable sections have been awaiting the release of a paltry sum of Rs 200 per month. This despite having braved their disability and in some cases their illness to go through the tedious formalities of qualifying as “pensioners”.

These deprived elderly are also losing out Rs 75 per month which they must get under the National Old Age Pension Scheme of the Government of India. Punjab has not yet implemented the scheme nor has it conducted a relevant survey despite the apex court’s direction that payments under the scheme be made to beneficiaries latest by January 1, 2002.

Left high and dry, the elderly and other disadvantaged sections in the state may now have some hope, with the Punjab and Haryana High Court intervening in the matter. Taking up a public interest litigation filed by the Voluntary Health Association of Punjab, the High Court has issued a notice to the State of Punjab for April 26.

The petitioner NGO which has been researching the issue for sometime has sought the court to direct Punjab to disburse old age/widow/disability pension to all respondents in the state. Another request has been the timely payment of pension, on the lines of the National Old Age Pension which, by the Supreme Court’s orders, must be disbursed by the seventh of every month.

Ms Veena Sharma, a key researcher in the case, told The Tribune today, “The money which the old are being denied is subsistence allowance. It is not meant for saving. Because they depend on this money for all their expenses - from basic to medical - it must flow regularly. The state must fix a date for disbursal so that the old are not subjected to the trauma of visiting the bank repeatedly and returning empty-handed.” Ms Sharma said the denial of pension was a violation of the right to food under Article 21 of the Constitution.

The current petition which came up for hearing at the High Court on March 4 features statements of 356 elderly and disabled pensioners from Patiala. However, the prayer of the NGO is for all 10 lakh pensioners from Punjab, who have been denied their subsistence allowance due to non release of monthly pension.

The people who have not got any money are those that have no source of income and no movable property in their name. Significantly, the list of formalities which they had to complete before seeking the state’s pension also seems endless. They are required to get two photographs, get their age verified from a medical practitioner, and approval of the tehsildar and finally submit the form to Director, Social Welfare Office. However, very often the poor elderly and disabled are made to repeat the process for a minor loophole in the form.

A recent survey in this connection was held in Samana in Patiala district where the volunteers of the petitioning NGO requested 10 old pensioners to support their public interest litigation. To their amazement, over 500 turned up just from three villages. The situation is worse in other districts as well, with Sangrur alone housing 63,000 pensioners awaiting the megre benefit of state’s pension scheme.


Money order(ed) is not money delivered
Rajmeet Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 8
Tanif is a daily wager from Bihar. On September 1, 2004, he sent a money order of Rs 1,000 to his family in Surajgarha, Lakhisarai.

But till date, Tanif’s family has not received the amount. Tanif is not the only victim of the apathy of the postal department to transmit money, speedily and safely.

Running into lakhs of rupees, the amount was sent from different post offices in the Punjab postal circle.

Sources in the department admitted that some of the money orders booked as far as October, 2004, had not been delivered at their destination.

Over 7000 money orders booked from different post offices in the Chandigarh division have not been delivered. The figure of such money orders sent from different towns in Punjab could push up the figures by several thousand.

Investigations reveal that the fault in the non-delivery of the money orders lies with the postal employees concerned largely in Bihar and eastern districts of Uttar Pradesh.

The sources here said though the information about the money orders were sent through the VSAT, it was not being downloaded at the other end on a regular basis.

As per the practice, a computer printout of the payment receipt has to be taken by the Extended Satellite Money Order (ESMO) unit and sent to the post office concerned for delivery of payment. A collective reminder to the postal circle concerned could solve the problem, said a postal employee.

A postal official said when a money order was not delivered, the sending ESMO unit sent a reminder to the receiving unit. In case of no response, a duplicate money order (DMO) was sent at the designated destination. Even then if the payment was not made, an inquiry was made for further follow-up.

Concerned at the fate of their money, the customers are doing rounds of different post offices. In some of the cases, the senders are being asked to come after every 15 days to know about the fate of their money.


Rakesh tortured to death by police: report
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 8
A magisterial inquiry regarding an alleged custodial death conducted by the Subdivisional Magistrate of Balachaur, Mr Amarjit Singh Shahi, has indicted SHO Baldev Raj and some other policemen.

Mr Shahi in his report said that “Rakesh Kumar, who was about 24 years of age and was from a Dalit family of Rakran Dhahan village of Nawanshahr district, died an unnatural death on June 7 while in police custody. The circumstances of the case do not suggest that he committed suicide. He had been tortured to death by the Police and the suicide theory is an after thought”. The inquiry was ordered by Mr Harjit Inder Singh Grewal, District Magistrate (DM).

Rakesh Kumar was taken into custody on June 6 by the Balachaur police in connection with a theft case registered at the police station there. He was brought to the police station by Head Constable Ram Kishan and constable Jatinder Singh.

On June 7, the police spread the word that Rakesh Kumar had committed suicide in the lock-up. It sparked protests in the area and the DM had to impose a curfew to control the situation. On the basis of statements made by certain police officials, the SDM has stated in the report that Rakesh Kumar was arrested by SHO, Baldev Raj. The SHO was present in the police station when Rakesh Kumar died. And the SHO just slipped away from the scene. The roznamcha, a crucial document in the police station, was tampered with, its pages (numbers 5 and 6) were changed and it was re-stitched after incorporating wrong entries.

The report said that the “confessional” statement made by Mr Tirth Ram, constable, proved beyond doubt that he had made entries in the roznamcha in the presence of SHO Baldev Raj.

The SDM raised crucial questions in his inquiry report. Why was roznamcha number 2 tampered with? Why were page numbers 5 and 6 replaced after making entries? The roznamcha was re-stitched to create false evidence by Baldev Raj and his associates.

The statements of the police officials who had taken the deceased into custody on June 6 could not be recorded. A perusal of the postmortem report, giving details of 12 injuries found on the person of the deceased, established beyond doubt that he was brutally tortured while in police custody, said the report.


KCF militant arrested after 15 years
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 8
The police has arrested a militant belonging to the Khalistan Commando Force who had been absconding for more than 15 years.

Balraj Singh Raja, the alleged militant hailing from Daduwal village, near Nurmahl, had absconded in 1989 when he was arrested by the Jalandhar police along with a heavy quantity of arms and ammunition after jumping bail. He was declared a proclaimed offender in 1990. He was said to be close associate of Gurdip Singh Deepa and Gurnek Singh Neka.

As he managed to leave the country, Balraj, according to Mr Rakesh Kaushal, SP (City-II), went to Bahrain and after staying there for two years, he moved to Belgium where he got asylum and settled in the Hest area.

Mr Kaushal, who supervised the operation to nab Balraj, said Balraj was arrested following information poured in that he was moving in Jalandhar district. Immediately thereafter, police parties were deployed and a special operation was launched to nab him. Subsequently, he was arrested by Inspector Vibhor Kumar and Gulshan Kumar, Lakhbir Singh and Ramaninderjit Singh, all ASIs, from near Guru Ravi Dass Chowk here.

His interrogation revealed that he had come to India from Belgium last month, but he did not go to Daduwal to avoid detection.


Vets pay vaccination costs to meet targets
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, March 8
The vaccination campaign of the Department of Animal Husbandry, Punjab, is costing veterinary doctors dear. They are being forced to pay from their pockets to meet the targets fixed by the government for the vaccination of cattle across the state.

Sources here state that the department had started a campaign against the foot and mouth disease among domestic cattle. Under the campaign the vaccine was being purchased in bulk and supplied to dispensaries.

The vaccine was being supplied as per cattle population. However, the doctors are finding it hard to exhaust the stock.

One reason for the non-consumption of the lot was that in many cases owners of cattle avoid vaccination. They believe this would have an adverse affect on the milk yield. In some cases people do not even want to pay the meager amount of Rs 2 for getting their animal vaccinated. More than 30 to 40 per cent of the doses supplied to the dispensary remain unutilised. However, directions from the Department of Animal Husbandry was to finish the stock.

Due to it the doctors have to pay from their pockets at the rate of Rs 2 per dose to the government for unused vaccine. The staff of each dispensary has to contribute about 2,000 to Rs 3,000 from their salaries to meet the target. The unused vaccine was being dumped in waste. Veterinary doctors alleged that it was impossible to achieve the target. The drive was not only causing loss to the staff of veterinary dispensaries but also to the government.

Each vaccination dose costs about Rs 25. However, it is given to farmers at a subsidised rate of Rs 2. The government was losing this money due to these vaccine doses going waste.

The doctors apprehend pressure from pharmaceutical giants behind the forced vaccination campaign.

Besides, the veterinary staff was also not being paid any traveling allowance for going to remote areas in this regard.


He lost mother, money to ‘land of opportunities’
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Araiyawala (Faridkot), March 8
Longing for good life prompted Jagroop Singh to take a heavy debt for the journey to the land of opportunity, but his dreams soon turned sour. His travel agents cheated him as soon as he landed up in Malaysia. He languished in jail for six months and lost his mother, who could not bear the turn of events.

Jagroop while talking to this correspondent today said he was into dairy farming along with his elder brother Sukhdev Singh. But the greed of earning more took him to Gurmit Singh and Gurdial Singh, the travel agents. They lured him with big promises like a job in Malaysia. Sukhdev stated that he paid about Rs 2 lakh to the duo in three instalments.

After dilly-dallying for a couple of months they took Jagroop to New Delhi, from where he was sent to Malaysia in November 2003.

The travel agents had told him that their representative would receive him at the Kuala Lumpur airport, but nobody turned up. He remained hidden at the airport for a few days and that too without food and water. Finally, a person took him out of the airport and got him employed at a furniture shop. Here too, bad luck followed him. He wasn’t paid a single penny and was made to work for 16 hours a day. He merely got two square meals a day.

He had to live with about 20 youths in a single room. One day the police raided their premises and arrested all. He was imprisoned for six months.

Jagroop somehow managed to send a message to his family, who arranged for his return ticket again by taking debt from an arhtiya. Meanwhile, both travel agents have been booked for fraud.


Mission to revive gharana
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 8
He has come to teach but avers he is a pupil still, never mind the fact that he teaches the nuances of the Patiala gharana to 850 students at his Calcutta Music School. Today within a few hours of his visit to Punjabi University, he wanted to initiate a life-long bend with students of the region.

Pt Ajoy Chakrabarty has come to the university here to revive a heritage of the region of which he is the only surviving link. The maestro started a three-day workshop with students of the university as well as budding classical singers from Kurukshetra and Jalandhar under the aegis of the Gurmat Sangeet Chair today.

Pt Chakrabarty talks straight from the heart. During an interaction with TNS at the university, he said though he was practising the Patiala ‘gayaki’ he had not made any contribution towards making children of this region aware of their rich heritage.

Stating the reason for his visit, he said: “It is my duty and responsibility to make the students of this area aware of their heritage. “We are forgeting that we are the richest country in the world in the field of music”.

About himself, he said: “Seekhna or samajhana jaari hai as one life is too small to learn Bharatiya sangeet”.

About his own journey, the maestro said he was only two-and-a-half years-old when he was initiated into music by his father. “My father was not a professional, but he understood music”.

Later, the vocalist came under the tutelage of Ustad Munnawar Ali Khan and remained so for 20 years. “Though this completed my musical training, there was much more to learn. “I met Bade Ghulam Ali Khan Sahib only once in my lifetime, but was greatly influenced by his attitude.

The maestro has brought with him recorded interviews with Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Munnawar Ali Khan which will be shown to the students. “I will also be singing to showcase the subtle differences in style of the great maestros and try to delineate their influences for the benefit of the students”.

Giving details of the necessity of understanding ‘sur’, Pt Chakravarty said after this came ‘leh’, ‘taal’, ‘kavita’ and finally aesthetics. For all this, hard work and a truthfulness was most important. The importance of ‘riyaaz’ could not be overemphasised. If done regularly, improvement could take place almost everyday.

Gurmat Sangeet Chair Head Dr Gurnam Singh said Pt Chakravarty would perform in the university on the last day of the workshop. The vocalist had been given Senior Fellowship by the university.


Anganwadi workers disrupt Women’s Day celebrations
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 8
The state-level Women’s Day celebrations here today saw anganwadi workers claiming that the Punjab Government had turned a deaf ear to their problems. The leader of the workers even took over the mike for a short period at the function even as women shouted anti-government slogans.

The function, organised at the Polo Ground, also saw the unveiling of a programme under which women can now complain directly to the SDM of their respective area. The SDM can, upon investigating the case, submit his report directly to the court concerned if he finds the allegations to be true. This eliminates the role of the police in the case.

Trouble erupted at the function after Minister of State for Social Security Gurkanwal Kaur finished her speech. Just as a giddha performance started, former president of the state unit of the aganwadi workers’ unit took over the mike. Ms Sunita Joshi had been requesting since the start of the programme that she be allowed to speak. Seeing that she would not be given an opportunity, she marched to the stage and took over the mike. When she started speaking against government policies and criticised the government for not implementing a decision whereby the salary of anganwadi workers had been increased from Rs 1,200 to Rs 1,500, the mike was switched off and the giddha was restarted. The workers present on the occasion did not take kindly to this insult and started shouting slogans against the government.

Earlier, Ms Gurkanwal Kaur, said Rs 34 crore had been earmarked for the welfare of women. She said the government had also earmarked Rs 1 crore for spreading awareness about female foeticide. Special camps would be held for disseminating information in this regard at the district level, she said.

Secretary, (Social Security) R. L. Kalsia said women would now have the opportunity to take their complaints directly to the SDM concerned to seek redress of their grievances.

State Women Commission chairperson Parminder Kaur said women should recognise their rights and be more assertive.


Women’s Day means little to them
Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, March 8
International Women’s Day means little to female inmates of the Central jail.

Worse is the fate of 11 children who are also suffering along with their mothers. Nobody knows what fate holds for the two-month-old boy who was born to an inmate in the prison.

However, the Chairperson of the Punjab Social Welfare Board (PSWB), along with Dr Kiran Bedi’s India Vision Foundation, provided them a chance to have some celebrations. They got together to celebrate International Women’s Day, which provided them with a chance to express their pent-up feelings through poetry, skits and bhajans.

Jagdish Kaur, who is serving a life term, presented a poem on despair in the life of women inmates.

Amar Kaur, an elderly woman languishing in jail, has lost her younger sister. She urged the Jail Superintendent to allow her to visit her native village so that she could participate in the last rites of her sister. The Jail Superintendent assured her that she would be allowed to go to her village.

Ms Ratna, chairperson of the PSWB, offered to adopt 11 children and provide them with education and other facilities so that they could live a better life. She offered to provide funds for setting up a dari-making centre for them. She also offered to set up a crèche and an adult education centre to empower women inmates.

Later, students of BBK DAV College, who visit the jail regularly, offered cloths to women inmates.


Exhibition of paintings to help tsunami-hit
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 8
For students of the Department of Fine Arts, tsunami has given them a chance to give away what they can in a unique manner. Students have put up their paintings for sale in a exhibition in their department whose proceeds will go for the welfare of the Tsumani victims.

Vice-Chancellor Swarn Singh Boparai, who inaugurated the exhibition, had contributed his bit towards the effort of the students. He bought a landscape besides two sculptures in the form of masks to encourage the students. Fine Arts department head Dr Saroj Rani said the proceeds of the exhibition would go the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund.

The students are optimistic about their effort. Meenakshi Bansal, who has put up two paintings for the exhibition, says she is optimistic about sales. This is because of the attractive prices which are around Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500 for most of the paintings, though there are some which are being retailed at Rs 15,000. Masks, she says, are up for grab for around Rs 400 to Rs 500.

Meenakshi says while few of the paintings have been made keeping in view the tsunami tragedy, the majority of them were on diverse subjects. “Many of us felt the horror might not go well with all the buyers which is why we have put up various kinds of work,” she said. Another student Sonia Rani said some of the paintings were those which were done by students to mark the tercentary of the establishment of the Guru Granth Sahib. She said these paintings had been earlier displayed at Delhi and have got a good response. The two have put up a mural each which depicts various facets of spiritual existance.

Among the other interesting paintings are those by Pooja who has painted a Sikh theme and Harcharan Singh who has painted Guru Gobind Singh on horseback. Though both are examples of calender art, they have been done skillfully attracting attention. The masks put up at the exhibition have men and women in variuos moods. All of them have been coloured in such a manner so as to give them a metal finish though they are made of clay.

Department head Dr Saroj Rani said though the idea had been conceived by her, the students had given it their own shape. She said department teachers — Dr Saroj Sharma, J.S. Garcha and Kavita Singh had supervised the entire effort.


Om Puri nominated to alumni assn
Our Correspondent

Patiala, March 8
Prominent NRI philanthropists, actor Om Puri and Punjabi singer Gurdas Mann have been nominated as executive members of the Punjabi University Alumni Association today.

A university note said the Vice-Chancellor, Mr Swarn Singh Boparai, had nominated 21 members to the executive committee which included NRIs, Mr Rashpal Singh Aujla and Mr Harry Mann, bureaucrat D.S. Guru, former Minister Upinderjit Kaur, actor Om Puri, Gurdas Mann, poet Dr Surjeet Pattar, academician Dr S.S. Noor, university Director, Youth Services, Dr Sunita Dheer, Dr T.S. Sandhu and C.M. Singh Bedi.

While the Vice-Chancellor will be its chief partron, Prof S.P.S. Virdi, Dean, Academic Affairs, is president; Dr Param Bakhshish Singh, Registrar, is senior vice-president; Dr Jaswinder Singh, Dean Alumni Relations, is general secretary; Mr Sukhdev Singh Sidhu, Joint Director, Industries, is secretary; and Mr Mohinder Singh, finance officer, is joint secretary and cashier.


Minor fire in train carrying CRPF jawans
Tribune News Service

Mukerian, March 8
A major tragedy was averted today when a special train carrying CRPF jawans to Jammu caught fire. The incident took place this afternoon near Chakwala village, 10 km from Mukerian railway station. The coach in which the luggage of the jawans was kept caught fire.

The alert jawans saw smoke coming out of the coach and raised the alarm. The guard stopped the train. The fire was put out by the jawans who used sand from nearly fields. The local administration called for BBMB fire brigades from Talwara. However, before the fire brigades could reach the jawans had put out the fire.

CRPF Inspector Sher Singh said the jawans were on their way back from election duty in Bihar and Jharkhand. The railway authorities said it seemed the fire in the train was caused due to short-circuit. Not much damage was caused to the coach. Some trains on the Jammu track were delayed due to the incident.


Rail coach damaged in fire
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 8
A rail coach (04235 A) caught fire during mechanical repair in a workshop here today. The mishap occurred when the entire train was lifted for repair.

However, a big accident was averted as a high voltage wire was passing overhead the site of the incident. Senior officials, including Station Superintendent Vimal Kumar, are silent about the incident. Three fire engines took a long time to extinguish the fire.

Although all seats and the interior of the coach were reduced to ashes, nobody was injured in the incident. The local railway authorities have sent a report about the burning of the coach to the headquarters. It is learnt that the authorities would order a high level probe into the incident.


Pervaiz Elahi’s brother calls on CM
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 8
Mr Javed Elahi, the brother of Pakistani Punjab’s Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi, along with Minister Mowahid Hussain Shah, today called on Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. They appreciated his unique initiative to foster goodwill, mutual friendship and harmony between the Punjabs of the two countries through people-to-people contact.

The Chief Minister said it was a high time that the residents of both Indian and Pakistani Punjab should come closer to give impetus to the mutual trade and commerce to usher in an era of overall development and progress across the border. He said recently more than 40 delegations of artistes, journalists, lawyers and academician had come to Punjab to share their experiences in the respective fields.


Sports meet

TALWANDI SABO (Bathinda): Girl students of Yadvindra College of Engineering won the inter-departmental volleyball, handball and kho-kho competitions in the three-day sports competitions which came to an end here on Monday. The Centre of Business Studies won the badminton competition (women) and in basketball competition for women, Guru Kashi College were the winners.

The handball competition for men was won by Guru Kashi College and the kho-kho competition was won by Guru Kashi College. In men’s table tennis, Centre of Business Studies won in singles and doubles. The volleyball competition was won by Yadvindra College and Guru Kashi College won in football.

In gatka, Yadvindra College won and in kabaddi, Guru Kashi College won. — OC


Fireproof bank safe foils robbery
Tribune News Service

Moga, March 8
Unidentified persons tried to break into the State Bank of Patiala branch at Baghapurana, near here, yesterday.

According to sources, the thieves armed with gas-cutters tried to break open the bank’s safe but it was fireproof.

Sources said they had entered the bank premises by scaling the rear wall. They unlocked the back gate with the aid of the gas-cutter and broke open two other doors in a similar fashion before gaining access to the safe. They tried to cut the safe from various points but failed.

The way they entered the bank along with gas-cutters and other tools gives an impression that they were acquainted with the bank premises. They left the bank through a door that was reportedly unlocked which puts a question mark on the security system of the bank. The sources said the shutters of the bank were also open on Sunday. However, bank officials denied it.

They also said there was no loss of cash.

The SSP, and SP (D), rushed to the bank. A dog squad and finger-print experts were also called for investigation. A manhunt has been launched to nab the culprits.


Three booked for felling trees
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 8
The Patiala Divisional Forest Officer has registered a case under Section 52 of the Indian Forest Act against three persons for illegally felling trees in the Bag Behari reserved forest in Dera Bassi sub divison.

Disclosing this here today, Divisional Forest Officer Karamjit Singh Jattana said tractor, trailer and other articles being used by the three persons to fell trees in the forest had also been confiscated under the Forest Act. He said the incident had been reported by a Range Officer who had arrived at the spot when the three persons were in the process of hacking down the trees.

Mr Jattana said on seeing the Range Officer and other staff, three persons had fled from the scene, abandoning the tractor trolley and other articles. He said the accused were located after investigations that the tractor trailer had been rented by Gurmukh Singh who was working as a felling labourer. He said two others who had been associated in the case, Karam Singh and Jathedar Tota Singh of Seoli village, had also been named in the case.

The Divisional Forest Officer said all accused were given an opportunity to present their side of the case to him. He said following the hearing it was concluded that all three of them had been cutting trees from a government forest. This tractor-trailer, he said, would now become government property. Mr Jattana said this had been possible after an amendment to the Indain Forest Act, 1927, which allowed confiscation of seized articles. The amendment would serve to curb such offences, he added.


Ex-sarpanch, brother booked for fraud
Tribune News Service

Moga, March 8
A former sarpanch and his brother have been booked for duping people and finance companies of lakhs of rupees by selling off expensive vehicles on fake registration papers.

Sources said the former Sarpanch of Kingra village, Jagdip Singh, and his brother, Randhir Singh, used to get costly vehicles financed through private companies and get duplicate registeration papers issued reportedly in connivance with Transport Department employees, saying they had lost the original ones.

They also made it sure that nothing about the finance was mentioned in the duplicate papers. Exploiting his identity as the former Sarpanch, Jagdip Singh used to gain confidence of his prospective customers before finally selling off vehicles to them. In this way they were duping finance companies as well as their unsuspecting customers simultaneously.

The police reportedly raided their hideout on the Amritsar road, but they managed to flee.


Gold chain snatched
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 8
Two unidentified youths snatched gold jewellery from an old woman here today. In their bid the accused also tried to strangle the woman so that she could not shout and raise the alarm.

According to information, Harjit Kaur (68), a resident of Guru Nanak Avenue on Majitha Road, here was standing outside her house when the accused attacked her.

Mr Santokh Singh, son of the victim, said all the family members were inside the home. However, as accused strangled her, she could not shout and raise the alarm. But when some of the neighbourers saw this, they started shouting, making the accused fled on a scooter. He said one of the accused was wearing a patka and other was clean-shaven.


Two travel agents nabbed
Our Correspondent

Phagwara March 8
The police has recovered Rs 2.59 lakh and 28 passports from Mr Himant Singh of Bhullarai village, running a travel agency in Model Town, HM Enterprises, and Mr Vijay Kumar of Mandhali village working as manager there.

It was learnt from police sources today that the arrests were made during a raid conducted by the CIA staff headed by Inspector Surinder Singh in the Model Town office of the travel agents.

Two other racketeers, Varinder Kumar Verma of Basti Jodhewal in Ludhiana district, and a woman, Ms Rashmi of Lajpat Nagar, Jalandhar, are still at large.

The racketeers were involved in illegal human trafficking duping youths, it was further learnt.


‘Poverty’ drives man to end life
Tribune News Service

Moga, March 8
A resident of Rania village committed suicide reportedly due to his poor economic condition at Buttar village, near here, yesterday.

Sources said the deceased, Bhola Singh, had three children and he was working as a daily wager. He had left on Sunday without telling anyone.

Asa Singh, a farmer of Buttar village, yesterday spotted a man hanging from a tree in his field and informed the police. The body was identified as that of Bhola Singh.

The Badhanikalan police has registered a case under Section 374 of the IPC and handed over the body of the deceased to his family members after a post-mortem examination.


JE held on graft charge
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, March 8
Vigilance officials have arrested a junior engineer (JE) of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), Gurdeep Singh, on a graft charge. He was arrested on a complaint of Balwinder Singh, a resident of Muradpur village.

The complainant had alleged that a transformer supplying power to his village which was damaged three months ago had not been repaired. The JE concerned allegedly demanded Rs 1500 from the complainant for repairing the transformer.

The vigilance officials laid a trap and caught the JE red-handed. A case has been registered against the JE.


Absconding travel agent held
Tribune News Service

Moga, March 8
The PO wing has arrested a travel agent accused of duping the son of a former sarpanch of Rs 5 lakh for sending him abroad.

According to sources, the accused, Gurdial Singh, had struck a deal to send the son of Mahesari village’s former sarpanch Gurdeep Singh to England in Rs 15 lakh. He took Rs 5 lakh as the first instalment, but he went back on his word. Mr Gurdeep Singh had lodged a complaint with the SSP in this regard.

A case was regitered against five persons, including Gurdial Singh, under Sections 406, 420 and 120-B of the IPC, on April 6, 2003. The other accused are still at large.

Meanwhile, the police has arrested Darshan Singh at Rode village and seized a .315-bore pistol and three cartridges from his possession. A case has been registered against him under Sections 25, 54, and 59, of the Arms Act.


3 Shiv Sena leaders held

Phagwara, March 8
The police arrested three leaders of the Shiv Sena (Bal Thackeray), Mr Pawan Parbhakar, state vice-president, Mr Rajesh Palta, Phagwara block president, and Mr Ashwani Chamba, a senior leader, for fear of a breach of the peace here last night.

They were presented before SDM Pritam Singh who sent them to judicial custody till March 14. The leaders were held for opposing Pakistan Cricket team’s tour. — OC


4 copying cases registered, invigilators removed
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 8
Teachers of the local Khalsa Senior Secondary School, who have been posted as invigilators in this examination centre, have been removed from their respective duties following the registration of four copying cases. A team led by Mr Sadhu Singh Randhawa, Director, SCERT, had conducted a raid and detected mass copying.

While talking to this correspondent, Mr Raghbir Chand Sharma, centre superintendent at the school, said the school was having a bad reputation and no teacher was willing to give duty.

He said he was supposed to appoint 50 per cent of teachers as invigilators while the other 50 per cent were to be appointed by the controller. He said due to the reputation of the school no teacher agreed to give the duty, so he asked the controller to appoint the remaining 50 per cent staff also.

He further said on March 5 Mr Randhawa visited the school and found copying material from students. He added that Mr Randhawa asked him to relieve those invigilators from duty who were teachers of Khalsa Senior Secondary School.

While Ms Gurwinder Kaur confirmed that four cases had been registered against the students as they were carrying copying material with them. She also said four new invigilators had been put on examination duty in the school in the place of the relieved staff.


DC orders probe into ‘embezzlement’ of exam fee
Tribune News Service

Moga, March 8
Following a news report in The Tribune on March 6, the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Mandeep Singh, has asked the District Education Officer to probe into the alleged embezzlement of examination fee of about 40 Class X students by Guru Nanak Dev Public School, Ajitwal.

Angry parents of these students had alleged that they had deposited Rs 1,850 as the admission fee and Rs 950 as examination fee each, but they didn’t receive their wards’ test admit cards even a day before the examinations.

When the parents approached the school authorities they didn’t have any answer to their queries and reportedly misbehaved with one of them.

The affected students alleged that the school had also charged Rs 350 as bus fare for taking them to the examination centre at Kot Ise Khan, besides Rs 500 for “ensuring positive result of exams”.

Their parents demanded stern legal action against the school authorities, return of fee paid to the school and free education for their children in the coming year. However, the school authorities had denied these allegations and pleaded innocence in the matter.

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