P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Excise auctions rock House
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 21
Tabling of Justice B.S. Nehra Commission of Inquiry report in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha this afternoon was lost in the din of slogan raising by both Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislators who wanted an immediate discussion on "blatant irregularities committed in the ongoing excise auctions in the State."

While the Speaker, Dr Kewal Krishan, rejected an adjournment motion brought forward by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, on the auctions maintaining that the Excise Department had already sought a discussion on the subject, the Opposition stood determined in not allowing any further proceedings till its demand was accepted.

Unruffled by the protest by the Opposition, the Treasury Benches went ahead with the proceedings, approving not only the first report of the Business Advisory Committee of the House but also the Punjab Appropriation Bill, 2005, authorising the payment and appropriation of Rs 483.70 crore out of the Consolidated Fund of the state.

Intriguingly, the excise auctions shifted the focus from the Justice Nehra Commission of Inquiry Report as Mr Badal demanded a CBI inquiry into the "handing over if the entire liquor trade of Punjab to Mr Ponty Chadha on a platter".

After Mr Badal was not allowed to speak on what he described as "broad daylight dacoity on the state exchequer in the name of excise auctions", the SAD-BJP legislators stormed into the well of the House forcing the Speaker to adjourn it for half an hour.

When the House reassembled, Mr Badal made yet another attempt to speak without being allowed by the Speaker. This led to the SAD-BJP legislators walking into the well of the House again and continuing their slogan raising till the adjournment after all official business had been transacted.

At one stage, Mr Bir Devinder Singh wanted that the SAD-BJP legislators should either be asked to leave or the House be adjourned as an important financial Bill, the Appropriation Bill, was to be introduced and passed by the House.

"The Opposition must realise its responsibility," remarked the Speaker refusing to adjourn the House the second time. He repeatedly requested the protesting MLAs to return to their seats and participate in the proceedings. At one stage he even made a request with folded hands, but to no avail. Slogans raised by the SAD and BJP members should not be made a part of the proceedings, he ruled.

Interestingly, the SAD-BJP combine had been demanding action in the Punjab Intranet scam alleging the involvement of the Chief Minister's son. The Opposition MLAs, wearing black robes, had held a protest dharna on Friday before the start of the Budget session alleging murder of democracy with blatant misuse of official machinery in the Ajnala byelection. But today, the focus shifted to the excise auctions.

"Money has changed hands in the biggest scam of the state. The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, the Rural Development Minister, Mr Lal Singh, and the Financial Commissioner, Excise and Taxation, Mr Mukul Joshi, are directly involved in it," Mr Badal alleged while talking to newsmen in the Press Gallery of the Vidhan Sabha.

He maintained that there was no question of the SAD legislators staging a walkout. "We want a discussion on an important issue agitating the entire state. What will be the purpose of a debate after the damage has been done ? The auctions are a mockery. How can auctions worth several hundred crores be conducted in 50 seconds or 30 seconds. Entry tickets to the auction pandal were given only to men of Ponty Chadha. Why should all vends within a division be clubbed and sold as one group. Traditionally, these vends are auctioned either individually or in small clusters," said Mr Badal.


Liquor vends of two districts go for Rs 239.59 cr
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 21
Vends of country liquor (L-14A) and Indian-made foreign liquor (L-2) in the excise districts of Amritsar I and II and Jalandhar II (comprising revenue districts of Hoshiarpur and Gurdaspur) for the next financial year were auctioned for Rs 239.59 crore at the Rotary Bhavan here today. The revenue accruing to the government was marginally higher by just 1.44 per cent as against the licence fee of Rs 236.20 crore for the current year.

According to Ms Kanchan Chawla, Deputy Excise and Taxation Commissioner of Jalandhar division, who presided over the auction proceedings, 458 vends of country-made liquor and 146 of IMFL in Amritsar I and II districts fetched Rs 108.59 crore whereas 174 country liquor and 71 IMFL vends in Jalandhar II district went for Rs 131 crore.

The auction of vends for the entire state, which was taken up at the same venue as on Sunday morning, could not be completed even today and the vends in the revenue districts of Ferozepur, Faridkot, Bathinda, Moga and Muktsar would be offered for bidding tomorrow.

While there was tight security cordon laid around the auction hall, the left side of the Ferozepur road from Sarabha Nagar crossing to the canal, which remained closed to traffic yesterday, was opened this morning. Due to incessant rain, which started in the early hours of the morning and continued throughout the day, the auction proceedings had to be shifted to the Bhavan.

The District Excise and Taxation Commissioner, Ludhiana, Mr Manmohan Singh, stated that all the prospective bidders would be allowed entry to the auction venue through entry slips issued to them on Sunday. He said others keen to take part in the auction proceedings tomorrow could also obtain new entry slips, which would be issued at the venue on payment of the stipulated entry fee.


Pathankot woman dies of jaundice
Residents gherao MC office
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, March 21
Irate residents of the town gheraoed the Municipal Council office for over two hours and raised slogans against the local authorities and government after a pregnant woman, Mona, of Acharjian locality died of jaundice.

They accused the council authorities of failing to check the supply of contaminated water to residential areas despite the threat of jaundice for the past one month.

Though over a 100 cases of jaundice have been reported in the town for the past month, this was the first reported causality.

Sources said Mona had been undergoing treatment for jaundice at the local Civil Hospital. Her condition deteriorated after which she was referred to Ludhiana this morning.

However, she died en route to Ludhiana and was declared brought dead at a hospital there. She was married just eight months ago.

Her death took a political colour with leaders of the opposition accusing the ruling government of failing to take preventive measures to curb the spread of the disease.

Addressing a gathering, former minister and senior leader of the BJP Mohan Lal demanded compensation for the family of the deceased. He alleged that despite widespread outrage, the government had not taken any measures to check the supply of contaminated water to residential areas of the town. He held the government responsible for the death of the patient.

The impasse ended after the Executive Officer of the council assured the agitators of sending a team to the affected locality to locate the points from where water was allegedly getting contaminated.

Residents have been blaming unplanned laying of the sewerage and water supply pipes for the spread of water-borne diseases. Water pipes in many areas of the town were right above the sewerage line, they alleged.

The MC authorities also admitted that decaying water pipes were the cause of water contamination.

After initial reports of the spread of jaundice, the district Health authorities had stopped the council water supply to many areas.

The council had also issued tenders for changing damaged pipes. However, water samples taken from the source were also found unfit for consumption by the Health authorities.


NRI couple, dentist case takes political hue
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandher, March 21
The dispute between an NRI couple and a local dental surgeon has taken a political turn with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) demanding that the couple should be booked for lodging a “false” complaint against the doctor.

Meanwhile, though a case had been registered by the police against dental surgeon Vijay Kumar, but a compromise was said to have been made between the two parties by certain police officials and other mediators.

Harinder Kaur Pawar, an executive with the UK’s Customs and Excise Department, who originally hailed from Mithapur village near here, alleged that Dr Vijay Kumar had “fleeced” a huge amount from her and her husband Jaswinder Singh Pawar in the name of treatment.

She also alleged that the doctor, his wife and five other unidentified persons came to their residence in Mithapur, “searched” for their passports and “coerced” her and her sister-in-law.

Dr Kumar, while denying the allegations, alleged that the couple was trying to avoid the payment to the tune of Rs 48,000 and with this objective they had been leveling false allegations against him.

“Rather, I was cheated by them and now they were putting police pressure on me,” Dr Kumar said.

The local police registered a case against the doctor under Sections 420, 342, 506, and 148-149 of the IPC and was allegedly detained him for some time. However, he was released later.

The SSP, Mr S.K. Asthana, said both parties had reached a compromise. Dr Vijay Kumar, however, could not be contacted for comments.

Meanwhile, senior BSP leader Pawan Tinu, alleged that the doctor had been implicated falsely and that it was nothing but an example of rising atrocities on Dalits and the downtrodden in the state.

He also indicated that if the police failed to withdraw the “false” case, the BSP would hold a demonstration on Tuesday. “We are seeking registration of a case against the couple for lodging a false complaint against the doctor,” said Mr Tinu.


Three IAS officers charge-sheeted
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 21
Three IAS officers have been charge-sheeted in various department cases under Rule 8 of the All-India Service (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969, by the Punjab Government. There is no charge sheet pending against any IPS officer at present.

This was stated today in a reply tabled in the Punjab Assembly. The reply was given by the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and the question was asked by Mr Manpreet Singh Badal, Akali MLA.

Mr Samir Kumar, IAS officer, has been charge-sheeted for allegedly attending a political rally at Paragpur in Jalandhar. The reply to the charge sheet given by him is under government consideration. Mr H.R. Megh, IAS officer, has been charge-sheeted in connection with a panchayat land case in Kapurthala district. The inquiry officer has been appointed in this case. Mr Mandeep Singh, another IAS officer, has been charge-sheeted for alleged irregularities in respect of the appointment of panchayat secretaries. His reply to the charge sheet is also under government consideration.

Replying to a question in the House asked by a BJP MLA, Mr Tikshan Sud, the Power and Irrigation Minister, Mr Lal Singh, said that 2,89,380 applications were pending for tubewell power connections with the Punjab State Electricity Board. The highest number

(26,185) of such applications was in Amritsar district followed by Ferozepore (24,589).

Replying to another question asked by the same MLA, Mr Lal Singh said that the sub-soil water level had gone down in 78 per cent area of the state. The worst-affected districts in this connection were Amritsar, Ludhiana, Mansa, Fatehgarh Sahib, Sangrur, Bathinda, Jalandhar and Patiala. The fall in the water table in these districts was in the range of 3 metres to 10 metres. And even in certain areas of Sangrur and Bathinda districts the fall in the water table was more than 10 metres. With the help of the Central Ground Water Board, artificial re-charging of the ground water had been started in various affected areas.

As many as 3,07,392 cases of power theft have been detected till date during the current financial year and fines totalling Rs 89.56 crore have been recovered from the accused, said Mr Lal Singh, answering another question.

Mr Harnam Dass Johar, Education Minister, answering a question asked by an Akali MLA, Mr Gulzar Singh Ranike, said that over 14,000 posts of teacher were vacant in elementary schools and nearly 8,000 in secondary schools because of the ban on recruitment.

Mr Raghunath Sahai Puri, Housing and Urban Development Minister, said that PUDA had issued 146 licences till date for housing colonies. And two such licences had been issued by the district-level authorities.

Mr Ramesh Chander Dogra, Health Minster, said that there was no cardiologist and neurologist posted in any civil hospital in the state.

The Animal Husbandry Minister, Mr Jagmohan Singh, said that the problem of stray cattle had become very serious in the state and all concerned should extend help in tackling the problem.

Mrs Gurkanwal Kaur, Social Security Minister, while answering a question, said that old age pension, etc, had been disbursed in 11 districts and it was pending in six districts. As a dedicated fund had been created for the pension, the remaining districts would be covered soon. She said the government was paying Rs 200 per month as pension. An Akali MLA, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, wanted to know what had happened to the Congress promise to increase the pension to Rs 600 per month.


So near, yet so far
Jailed Indians’ kin kept waiting
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Wagah, March 21
Much to the disappointment of hapless families, the repatriation of 61 Punjabi youths and 529 fishermen could not be materialised due to unspecified reasons given by the Pakistan government.

Consequently, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had to postpone his visit to Wagah check post at the last moment.

However, Second Secretary of Indian High Commission in Pakistan Balwinder Singh Hampal said the repatriation had been postponed till tomorrow due to late arrival of a train from Karachi to Lahore.

Earlier, the Punjab Government had received a communique from the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, that the prisoners and fishermen would be released and repatriated via Wagah at 10 am today.

The communique had also directed the Customs and Immigration authorities, the district administration and even the Chief Secretary to Government of Gujarat to make advance arrangements in this regard.

Owing to communication gap, a large number of families, including the old and children, reached here despite heavy downpour.

A number of Lok Bhalai Party workers, led by Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, also made it to the border to receive the Indian prisoners.

The family of Santa Singh, who had been lodged in Pakistan jail since 1969, had to return disappointed due to the postponement of the repatriation. Family members said they had met Santa Singh around 35 years ago.

The family of Balwant Singh, lodged in a Pakistan jail, also returned disappointed due to the delay.

The family members of Sarbjit Singh, who was awarded death sentence by a Pakistan court in 1991 due to mistaken identity, were also seen at the check post here.

They were eager to know the condition of Sarbjit Singh whose appeal was pending in the Supreme Court. They pleaded that Sarbjit Singh had been mistaken for Manjit Singh, who had engineered a series of bomb blasts in Pakistan in 1990.

Though the family had produced record of voters’ list and ration card to establish that his (Manjit Singh’s) actual name was Sarbjit Singh, his appeal was rejected.


Nehra panel: no truth in charges against Raninder
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 21
The Justice B.S. Nehra Commission has held that there was no truth in the allegations of hawala transactions made against Mr Raninder Singh, son of Punjab Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, in the Punjab Intranet company case.

Copies of the 109-page report were tabled in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha today when the Chief Minister was not present in the House. In fact, the Chief Minister had made public some of the findings of the commission at a Press conference in December last year, saying that he had sent the report to legal experts for examination and further action.

Tabling of the report was lost in the din of slogan raising and protests by Shiromani Akali Dal and Bharatiya Janata Party legislators against the excise auctions in the state. As such, there was no discussion on it .

Holding that documents, material and copies of documents quoted in news reports of December 28, 2003, were not genuine and the result of fabrication, the commission has recommended in the public interest that a criminal case be registered not only against those responsible for fabricating the documents quoted in the news reports but also against those responsible for using these false and fabricated documents as genuine.

The Commission of Inquiry was set up under Section 3 of the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952, after reports appeared in a section of the print media alleging that a Singapore-based firm had sent US $ 100,000 to a company in Mauritius, which passed on half that sum to a Channel Islands entity along with a letter saying that an additional US $ 900,000 was on the way.

The report has further said that all this was in the name of a company the Punjab Government proposed to set up but whose future was now in doubt. It further maintained that money was received by the Channel Islands entity from Mr Raninder Singh, son of the Punjab Chief Minister, whose address was that of the private residence of the Chief Minister.

The commission was set up to "inquire into the truthfulness or otherwise of the allegations contained in the news reports" at the earliest, preferably within a period of two months. The commission was appointed on January 2, 2004, and its term was subsequently extended till December 31 last year.

The commission said in the report that it had got published in leading newspapers notices inviting the general public, politicians and journalists to come forward to produce any material to substantiate the charges. Only two journalists — Mr Kanwar Sandhu, Resident Editor, and Mr Manish Tiwari, Principal Correspondent , both of Hindustan Times — appeared before the commission and filed affidavits.

The others summoned by the commission were Mr Leonard Freeke, a school days’ friend of Mr Raninder Singh, Mr J.E.C. Grange of SMX Global Technologies, Mr N.S. Kalsi, Managing Director of Punjab Infotech, and Dr Y.S. Rajan, the then Vice-Chancellor of Punjab Technical University.

The commission also considered the affidavit filed by Mr Rakesh Sharma of Hindustan Times. Besides, it granted an opportunity to Mr Raninder Singh to produce evidence in his defence.Mr Raninder Singh also produced evidence by way of the affidavits of Mr Chetan Gupta, Mr M.K.Tandon (computer expert) and Mr Arvind Sud (document expert).

Mr Freeke, an accountant around whom the whole case revolved, was summoned by the commission to appear before it on May 20, making it clear that he would be entitled to economy class fare for his to and fro journey and other expenses admissible under the rules.

The commission held that Mr Freeke imposed certain pre-conditions for his appearance. These conditions included pre payment of Euro 9,979.42 as expenses of his journey and that of his counsel by executive class on May 3, 2004, provision of two full-time military or New Delhi police security officers for round-the-clock protection and assurance of full legal immunity for him and his counsel during their stay in India (May 16 to 22).

"The commission found these conditions unacceptable and informed him of the same," the report said, revealing that there was an abrupt change in the conduct of Mr Freeke which made the commission conclude that his behaviour was not consistent and that his bona fides were doubtful. As a result, his appearance was not considered necessary," the report added.


Rain dampens day one of Hola Mohalla
Kiran Deep
Tribune News Service

Kiratpur Sahib (Ropar), March 21
Sudden downpour played spoilsport on the first phase of the six-day Hola Mohalla, which began here today.

Around 25,000 devotees paid their obeisance in various gurdwaras both here and at Anandpur Sahib today. Around 35,000 devotees had paid their obeisance on the first day of the festival last year.

Devotees carrying flags and chanting slogans began arriving here since early morning. The festival started in the morning with an “Akhand Path” at Patalpuri Sahib.

Religious discourses, which were scheduled to be held outside, were organised inside the gurdwara due to the rain.

The first phase of the festival will continue at Kiratpur Sahib till March 23. Thereafter, the main function of Hola Mohalla will be held at Anandpur Sahib from March 23 to March 26.

Various political parties, including the Congress and the SAD, will organise their conferences on March 25 at different venues at Anandpur Sahib.

Talking to The Tribune, Deputy Commissioner Seem Jain said the administration had set up 11 temporary dispensaries at Kiratpur Sahib and Anandpur Sahib for devotees and also arranged bus services.

She said the area had been divided into 11 sectors and senior officers of the administration and the police had been put on round-the-clock duty at the two venues.

“With a view to maintaining law and order, 12 SPs, 37 DSPs, 64 Inspectors, 1,900 police personnel and 303 NGOs have been deployed in Kiratpur Sahib and Anandpur Sahib,” said SP Surinder Pal Singh.

He said 1,100 traffic police constables and 35 mounted policemen had also been deployed there.

A member of the SGPC, Mr Gurinder Singh Gogi, said devotees today faced problems due to the rain since the administration had not made proper arrangements. Many of them could not visit the different gurdwaras — Patalpuri, Sish Mehal, Koti Sahib, Bhiwangarh Sahib, Charankanwal Sahib and Teer Sahib — here.


MC clears budget of Rs 486 lakh
Our Correspondent

Kharar, March 21
The municipal council cleared a budget of over Rs 486 lakh for the year 2005-06 at a special meeting held here today.

The budget proposals showed an income of Rs 475.95 lakh while the balance carried forward from the previous fiscal was Rs 10.17 lakh.

The proposed expenses of the civic body come to Rs 475.07 lakh. Expenditure on staff amounts to Rs 166.45 lakh against the figure of Rs 142.40 lakh proposed last year. A sum of Rs 278.50 lakh has been proposed to be spent on development works in the town. Expenses on development have come down this year by Rs 37.27 lakh as compared to last year. Last year, a sum of Rs 315.77 lakh has been proposed to be spent on development works. The proposed expenses under the contingency head stand at Rs 80.12 lakh.

The council expects to earn an income of Rs 233 lakh from octroi, which is the main source of revenue. The proposed octroi income was raised from Rs 215 lakh to Rs 233 lakh after councillors stressed that the figure should be raised by 15 per cent than that of last year which stood at Rs 195 lakh. Even the amount of Rs 14 lakh fixed for income from house tax was raised to Rs 25 lakh at the meeting. A sum of Rs 130 lakh has been proposed as income from building fee.

The council proposes to spend Rs 66 lakh on paying power bills of various tubewells being run for the supply of water and Rs 22 lakh on paying power bills related to streetlights. The proposed amount of Rs 1 lakh to be spent on the library was raised to Rs 2 lakh.

The council president, Mr Charanjit Singh, told councillors that HUDCO was about to clear a loan of Rs 9 crore for providing water supply and sewerage to the town. But the civic body did not have adequate funds to pool in its share in the development works. He suggested that the council should sell a piece of land lying vacant near Sunny Enclave to pool in the margin money. The sale of land would fetch more than Rs 1.50 crore.

Mr Roshan Lal suggested that the council should have its own firefighting arrangement for the town. The house agreed to spend about Rs 10 lakh from the money earned from the sale of land on this project. Mrs Raghbir Kaur complained that adequate development work was not being done in her ward. Moreover, the council staff or the contractor never contacted the councillor concerned while executing work in the area. Mr Jai Bhagwan Singla said payments of contractors should be cleared only forwarded by the councillor concerned.

A provision for the execution of sewerage work along the Randhawa road at a cost of Rs 66 lakh had also been made at the meeting. 


Rodrigues for crusade to save forest cover
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 21
The Punjab Governor and Administrator, Union Territory, Chandigarh, General S.F. Rodrigues (Retd.), called for a crusade against degradation of environmental heritage and loss of forest cover, adding that conservation of ‘flora and fauna’ and preservation of forest resources is very essential for maintaining ecological balance and livelihood security.

Launching a ‘Green Action Plan’ to mark the World Forest Day, here today, Gen Rodrigues said every family in Punjab and Chandigarh must resolve to plant 6 to 10 trees in a year to make it a mass movement. He said another pledge which needs to be taken on this occasion is to discourage the trend of presenting bouquets and garlands, which can contribute in checking the wastage of flowers and their profitable use in other productive ventures. He emphasised the need of generating awareness among the people about the social and economic importance of plants in human life and development.

Expressing his serious concern over the callous attitude shown by the unscrupulous elements engaged in illegal trade of wood, Gen Rodrigues said that the forest laws should be strictly enforced to check the illegal felling of trees. He said sincere efforts must be made to bring down the loss of forest cover which is presently 15 lakh hectare annually, through legislative and legal measures already provided in the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.

The Governor further said as per records, India has about 7.5 crore hectares of land under forests which comes to about 23 per cent of the total geographical area. The actual forest area with good tree cover is not more than 15 per cent. However, the National Forest Policy, 1988 envisages that 1/3rd of the total geographical area be brought under tree cover for maintaining proper ecological balance in nature. He appreciated that the forest cover in Chandigarh is 33.98 sq km which forms 34.3 per cent of its geographical area. He said we should not be complacent and we must make concerted efforts for increasing it by planting more trees and improving the quality of existing plantations as there is a major scope for it.

Gen Rodrigues further said the Chandigarh Administration has already initiated the process for preparing an Action Plan for desiltation of Sukhna Lake and preservation of ecological balance in the catchment area by undertaking various measures. He said an acquatic park and sanctuary for migratory birds has been planned and a comprehensive programme has been chalked out for converting and maintaining Sukhna Lake to international standard. He said check dams are being erected in the catchment area to further check the flow of silt in the Sukhna lake as preventive measures.


Civil Surgeon’s salary stopped
Tribune News Service

Ropar, March 21
Civil Surgeon, Rana Harjinder and Accounts Officer, Surinder Kumar Jindal, of the Health Department have been facing an unusual problem as the Punjab Finance Department has stopped their salary for the month of February following audit objections.

The Finance Department stopped the two officials’ salary due to audit objections of the year 1997 to 2001 when they were not posted here, informed the sources. The accounts officer joined here only four months ago and the Civil Surgeon two and a half years ago.

Sources informed that the Punjab Finance Department had passed verbal instruction to stop the payment salary of the officials. The finance department raised objection for non-payment of 7.11 lakh due towards the department and reportedly had passed instruction to the Treasury Department for not releasing their salary till the department could not clear their dues.

The Punjab Health Department Sub-ordinate Office Clerical Association today also met the district treasury officer and demanded release of the officer’s salary. If their demand would not accepted, then they would stage dharna outside the Treasury office, said the President of the Association, Mr Amarjit Singh. The association had also taken up matter with the Deputy Commissioner.

Mr Amarjit Singh said that the two officials had nothing to do with the audit objections, as they were not posted here for the years, the Finance Departments had raised objection.

When contacted the Deputy Commissioner, Ms Seema Jain, said that she had taken up the matter with the Director Treasury, Punjab and much of the amount had already been recovered from the department concerned. She said that the matter would be soon sorted out, she added.


Punjab to form trust to maintain Katasraj
Tribune News Service

Mohall, March 21
The Punjab Government has decided to form a trust for the upkeep and maintenance of the famous Katasraj temple in Pakistan.

This was stated by the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, while talking to media persons following the inauguration of the Dell Customer Care Centre here today. Stating that this was decided following discussions with the Pakistan Punjab Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi, Captain Amarinder pointed out that this formed a part of the ongoing cultural cooperation between the two nations.

The Hindu shrine located in Chakwal district is currently being maintained by the Pakistan Evacuee Properties Trust Board. However, it is said to be in dilapidated condition and if not taken care of rigorously, the 1600-year-old temple will soon be history. The trust will undertake the renovation of the temple and its future maintenance.

Captain Amarinder Singh dismissed with a shrug the allegations leveled against him with regard to the liquor auctions in the state. “The Akalis are in the habit of speaking on this issue whenever they can,” he said.


Temple management to probe ‘illegal’ meeting
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 21
The Congress-led Durgiana Temple management committee would inquire into the alleged participation of former minister in the Akali-BJP regime Dr Baldev Raj Chawla and former district BJP chief Mr Om Parkash Kalia in an alleged “illegal” meeting of the BJP-led Durgiana Sangharsh Committee.

Mr Surinder Arjun, officiating president of the temple committee, lashed out at those who participated in yesterday’s meeting called by the rival faction. The meeting has been termed ‘illegal’. The members who participated in the meeting of rivals would invite expulsion, he said.

A general house meeting of the temple committee presided over by Mr Arjun passed a resolution on the formation of a development and beautification committee.

He said a resolution was pressed for opening the temple ‘toshakhana’ that had been sealed following legal wrangles .

The management clarified that sarovar water was pure and any allegations attributing it to be contaminated were wrong. 


Councillor faces music for ‘abusing’position
Rashmi Talwar

Amritsar, March 21
Principal Secretary, Local Government, has issued a show- cause notice to Mr Rajinder Bhalla, Municipal Councillor from ward no 45, following the allegations of "abuse" of position by the councillor in allotment of tenders worth crores.

The Tribune had first carried the story detailing the alleged actions of the councillor upon which the Commissioner of the Municipal Corporation, Mr K.S. Kang, cancelled the tenders. Tenders worth crores in the Operation and Maintenance (O&M) Cell were cancelled on the allegations that the councillor, who was also the Chairman of 'Water Supply and Sewerage Works' of the corporation, had allegedly signed against and issued the tenders.

Mr Bhalla was charged with blatant 'abuse' of position and interference in the issuance of tenders.

He was also charged with resorting to favouritism, especially with regard to the development works in the Operation and Maintenance Cell of the Municipal Corporation, under Section 36-B of the Punjab Municipal Corporation Act, 1976

As many as 133 tenders worth about Rs five crores were allegedly doled out to near and dear ones of the councillor in the Water and Sewerage Department.

Taking cognisance of matter, the Commissioner had written 'observations' on the matter to the Director, Local Bodies, on March 4, last year.

Mr S.S. Sharma, a resident, had brought the matter to the notice of the Commissioner and demanded an inquiry alleging that a number of advertisements worth lakhs were given in the regional and national dailies inviting applications for tenders thus causing sizeable loss to the Corporation. The notice had given a 21-day period for submitting an explanation with no excuse for any delay in the submission of reply. 


Traffic disrupted as LPG tanker overturns
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 21
Vehicular traffic on the Jalandhar-Phagwara highway got disrupted as LPG started leaking from a 18-ton LPG tanker after it turned turtle near Chaheru village this morning.

The incident occurred at around 7 am when the tanker, heading towards Jalandhar, fell into a roadside ditch when the driver was negotiating a curve leading to a bridge.

As soon as it fell into the ditch, LPG started gushing out. Rescue operation was initiated by the district administration and officials of the Indian Oil and JCT fire brigades.

Sensing the sensitive nature of the leakage, traffic on one side of the GT road was diverted through the other lane.

Driver of the tanker Jawahullah and cleaner Moharrum were also injured in the accident and they were hospitalised.


NFL employees stage dharna
Tribune News Service

Nangal, March 21
Employees of National Fertilisers Limited stage a dharna outside the NFL unit today to protest against the decision of the management to shut down the CAN plant, for giving Capt Amol Kalia Fertiliser Senior Secondary Model School on lease to a private party and also against the medical policy.

The vice-president of the NFL Employees Union, Mr Jagmohan Singh, said that the employees affiliated to various unions today organised a rally and staged a dharna from 8 am to 5 pm. He said there was resentment among the employees that they were not taken into confidence neither before handling over the school to the private party on lease for 10 years or before taking a decision to close down the CAN fertiliser plant.


100 given tricycles
Tribune News Service

Ropar, March 21
Prem Dayal Upadhyay Institute for physical handicapped, New Delhi, and Ambuja Cement foundation today gave Tri-cycles, Wheel chairs, hearing-aids to 100 physically challenged persons of Ropar district here this afternoon.


high court
Arrest stayed
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, March 21
The High Court has stayed the arrest of Rajasansi MLA Vir Singh Lapoke who had been booked during the recently-held Assembly by-elections for Ajnala constituency.

Mr Lapoke, who is a Shiromani Akali Dal MLA, was booked for allegedly trying to disrupt election process.

The FIR was registered against the Akali leader on the complaint of one Sardool Singh who had alleged that Mr Lapoke and his accomplice had intentionally shot at him and the bullet hit his shoulder. A case was registered on February 21 at Police Station Lopoke in Amritsar district.

Counsel stated that the allegation that any shot was fired, was "concocted". He said while the alleged occurrence took place at 8.30 pm on February 21, the complainant Sardool Singh was medically examined the next day.

Counsel also presented the medical report and said the perusal of the medical record would reveal that injured was instantly discharged after medical examination and despite being called for X-ray, never turned up.

Counsel further referred to a February 23 letter from Senior Medical Officer, Civil Hospital, Chogawan, Lopoke (Amritsar), to the In charge, police post, Jasraur, which "categorically stated that the patient never reported back for X-ray. Therefore, the nature and kind of weapon used for the injury suffered by him cannot be determined." 


Punjab AG offers free legal aid
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, March 21
Punjab Advocate General Harbhagwan Singh today offered free legal support to the families of Punjab citizens who are currently languishing in Pakistan jails.

Hailing the efforts of Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh in getting many such jailed Indians released during his recently-concluded Pakistan visit, Mr Harbhagwan said the efforts of Capt Amarinder in this direction were commendable and he would be offered all help in his endeavours.


5 PCS officers transferred

Chandigarh, March 21
The Punjab Government’s Department of Personnel today ordered the transfer and postings of five PCS officers.

Estate Officer with the Punjab Urban Planning and Development Authority (PUDA) at Mohali Darshan Singh has been posted as Kharar’s Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM).

He replaces PCS officer Sukhwinder Singh Gill, who has been posted as Jagraon’s SDM in place of Mr Gurmit Singh. His services, in turn, have been placed at the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s disposal for appointment as PUDA Estate Officer in Mr Darshan Singh’s place.

Gurdaspur’s SDM Harminder Singh and Khadoor Sahib’s SDM T.K. Goel have swapped places. — TNS


Kharar SDM transferred
Tribune News Service

Mohali, March 21
Mr Darshan Singh, a PCS officer who was serving as Estate Officer, Punjab Urban Planning and Development Authority here has been transferred as SDM Kharar. He would replace Mr Sukhwinder Singh Gill there. Mr Gurmit Singh, who had been serving as SDM, Jagraon has been posted as Estate Officer, PUDA, Mohali in place of Mr Darshan Singh.

These transfers were ordered by Punjab Chief Secretary Jai Singh Gill this evening.


DCC cell’s chief appointed
Our Correspondent

Patiala, March 21
Guninder Singh Sidhu, who earlier was general secretary of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee’s legal cell, has now been appointed as the President of Patiala District Unit of the PPCC’s legal cell.

His appointment has been made by Mr Harpreet Singh Tinku, Chairman of the PPCC’s legal cell.


Three killed, 15 injured in LPG cylinder blast
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 21
Three persons were killed and 15 injured in an LPG cylinder blast in a double storey house in Tiwariyan bazaar in the Lohgarh area, here today. Three firebrigade vehicles were pressed into action to douse the flames.

The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, has ordered a probe into the incident and announced exgratia of Rs 1 lakh to next of kin of the victims.

According to an eyewitness, Ravi Malhotra, some people were trying to douse the fire following the leakage of gas when the cylinder burst. Deepak Trikha died on the spot. Others who were killed in the incident were Arvind Jain (50) and Kaushal (25).

The roof of the house collapsed due to the blast. Doors were blown away and deep cracks developed in the walls. Most of the injured suffered severe burn injuries.

Rain caused hindrance in the rescue operation. The narrow lanes made the matter worse.

Anil Kumar Mehra owner of the house, said his son, Vishal Mehra, was injured in the incident. He did not know much about the cause of blast as he was not at home at that time. His mother, Sheetal Mehra (80), was rescued by residents.

According to the Civil Surgeon, Dr H.S. Gill, about 15 persons were injured in the incident. Thirteen of them were admitted to the Guru Nanak Dev Hospital, one was taken to the civil hospital while another one was admitted to a private hospital. The condition of five of the injured was said to be serious.


20 injured in bus mishap
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 21
Nearly 20 persons were injured, five of them seriously with head injuries or multiple fractures, when a PRTC bus, coming from Malerkotla side, dashed against a roadside tree on the Sangrur-Dhuri road, about 5 km from here, today.

More than 15 injured persons, including driver of the bus Major Singh of Chhanna village, were admitted to the local Civil Hospital for treatment. The injured persons are Balwinder Singh (Bhawanigarh), Arun Kumar (Malerkotla), Surjit Kaur (Mehlan Chowk), Ranjit Kaur (Ghasiwal), Constable Bhagwant Singh (Ladda Kothi), Nachhatar Kaur (Ghasiwal), Dalip Singh (Sunam), Surjit Kaur (Alloarkh), Banarsi Dass (Dhuri), Surjan Singh (Khetla), Baljit Kaur (Badrukhan), Arvind Singh (Sangrur), Kunal (Patiala), Nand Kaur (Rangian) and Satwinder Singh (Badrukhan).


2 killed, 11 hurt as tempo, truck collide
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, March 21
Two women were killed and 11 passengers were wounded when a tempo in which they were travelling collided with a truck (PB-32-9911) near Mehtiana, 18 km from here, on the Hoshiarpur-Phagwara road last evening.

Anju, wife of Mr Tarlok Chand, died on the spot, while Parsani, wife of Mr Sansara, succumbed to her injuries at the local Civil Hospital.

All the injured were admitted to the Civil Hospital and were identified as Tarlok Chand, Gian Kaur, wife of Mansukh, Romesh Kumari, wife of Surinder Pal, Bimla, wife of Amarjit, Dharma Pal, son of Sarda Ram, Kaushayala, wife of Om Parkash, Kamlesh, wife of Charanjit, Nasib Chand, Gurmit Kaur, wife of Harbans Lal, Raj Rani, wife of Gopal Chand, and Surinder Kaur.

Both the deceased and the injured persons belonged to Samundra and were coming back to their houses after attending a condolence meeting at Mastapur.

The police has registered a case under Sections 304-A, 279, 337 and 338, IPC, against truck driver Raj Kumar, son of Gurmail of Chak Bilga, in Nawanshahr district.


Gang of thieves busted
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, March 21
The district police arrested three members of an inter-district gang of thieves who used to break open the shutters and locks of banks and shops, last night.

Mr Lok Nath Angra, SSP, said in a press release here today that the arrested members were identified as Amar Chaudhry, Megh Nath and Surinder Kumar Tiwari, all residents of Mangalpur Kalan Bazar, in Betia district (Bihar).

The police recovered one .12-bore desi pistol along with 2 live cartridges and two toy pistols from them.

A case under Sections 25, 54 and 59 of the Arms Act has been registered against them. 


Shot over bottle of liquor
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, March 21
Enraged over the denial of a liquor bottle on credit, an ex-serviceman in a fit of rage opened fire from his licenced .12-bore rifle, killing one person on the spot and injuring two others.

According to information, Mohinder Singh, who is an ex-serviceman, in a drunken state last night went to a liquor vend at Mahiyansinghwala village under Mallanwala police station. He demanded a bottle of liquor on credit but Dayal Singh, caretaker of the liquor vend, refused. Mohinder got furious and started abusing him.

Meanwhile, Pritam Singh, who stays near the vend, alongwith his two sons, Gurtej Singh, and Lakhwinder Singh, came out to Dayal Singh’s rescue but Mohinder irate over the incident opened fire from his rifle, killing Gurtej Singh on the spot. He fired more shots at Pritam Singh and Lakhwinder, injuring both.

Thereafter, he fled the scene and is still absconding. His family has also left the village after the incident.

Mr Sudhanshu Srivastava, SSP, stated that the police has registered the case in this regard.


Man arrested with 7 kg opium
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, March 21
In its drive against the smuggling of narcotics, the district police has arrested a person and seized 7 kg of opium from him today.

Mr L.K. Yadav, SSP, Muktsar, while talking to The Tribune, said that one person identified as Krishan Lal, a resident of Hanumangarh district of Rajasthan, was carrying 7 kg of opium in a bag.

On getting information about his movement in the Kabarwala area, a special naka was set up.

When a man was found running away after seeing the police vehicle, he was chased by policemen and overpowered.

On search of his bag in the presence of the DSP, Malout, Mr Hargobind Singh 7 kg of poium was seized from his possession.

A case in this connection has been registered under the NDPS Act.


MC Councillor killed in mishap
Tribune News Service

Ropar, March 21
Municipal Councillor (MC), Kurali, Lakhmir Singh, and former MC, Krishan Lal Tandon, were killed while two others received serious injuries in an accident on the Ropar-Nangal road here. The accident took place when a truck hit a car carrying four persons.

Lakhmir Singh and Krishan Lal Tandon were killed on the spot while driver of the car, Manjinder Singh, was referred to the PGI while another injured, Harjit Singh, was admitted in the Civil Hospital, Ropar.

The four were coming from Nangal when the truck coming from the Chandigarh collided with car at 11 am. The driver of the truck escaped after the accident. The police has registered a case of causing death due to rash and negligent driving against an unknown truck driver.


Bank employee dies in mishap
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 21
One person was killed in a road accident on the Bathinda-Muktsar road near Guru Nanak Dev Thermal Plant (GNDTP) yesterday.

The accident took place when a PRTC bus hit the motor cycle of the deceased, Jagsir Singh, an employee of Oriental Bank of Commerce.

Meanwhile, the body of a man was found near the local TB hospital.


Transporter murdered

Phillaur, March 21
Armed persons murdered a transporter, Chain Singh, near Hundal Dhadha village in Jalandhar district yesterday.

According to a report received here today,Chain Singh (55) was having morning walk when he was attacked with sharp-edged weapons. — OC


GND varsity earmarks 1.5 cr for EDUSAT connectivity
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 21
Guru Nanak Dev University has earmarked Rs 1.5 crore for its regional channel under EDUSAT connectivity for 2005-06. The decision was taken at a Senate meeting held here today.

Besides this, the university allotted Rs 50 lakh for needy students, Rs 3.25 crore for capital works, Rs 70 lakh for promoting research work, Rs 5.50 lakh for scholarships, books, study material for disabled and other meritorious students and Rs 2.80 lakh for seminars and conference workshop, etc. Meanwhile, the Senate unanimously approved the Budget estimates of Rs 7974.68 lakh.

Dr S.P. Singh, Vice-Chancellor, who presided over the meeting, stated that of the total estimated expenditure of Rs 79.74 crore, the university would spend 50.79 per cent on teaching, allied teaching, research and improvement of education. 15.07 per cent on general administration, 4.62 per cent on conduct of examinations, 25.44% on miscellaneous departments and health services and 4.08 per cent on capital works.

He said to meet the committed expenditure of Rs 7974.68 lakh, the state government would provide Rs 1781.88 lakh while the university would contribute Rs 4394.69 lakh plus Rs 1765.14 lakh as opening balance. Thus there would be a deficit of Rs 32.97 lakh during this financial year. He added that the university had submitted a proposal to the Development and Educational Communication Unit (DECU), ISRO, Ahmedabad, for allocation of the regional channel for imparting instructions to students under distance education and conventional modes. He said under the project the university would set up an earth station, an audio-video production centre and the requisite civil work.

To give fillip to research work, he said a special provision of Rs 70 lakh had been made for the purchase of equipment. An amount of Rs 1.50 crore had been provided for improving the infrastructure, purchase of chemicals, library books and faculty development.

Dr S.P. Singh said the Chief Minister of Punjab had sanctioned Rs 5 lakh from his discretionary fund for carrying out research work on Maharshi Valmiki.

Moreover, Rs 1 crore had also been earmarked for procuring land for the construction of the boys hostel on the regional campus, Jalandhar.


Seminar on Policy Reforms in India today
Our Correspondent

Patiala, March 21
The Department of Economics, Punjabi University will organise a two-day National Seminar on March 22 and 23 under the special assistance programme of the University Grants Commission (UGC).

The topic of the seminar will be ‘Policy Reforms in India — Some Economic, social and Political issues.

Prof Yoginder K. Alagh, former Union Minister of Power, Science and Technology will inaugurate the seminar.


Traders observe fast against VAT
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 21
Members of the local Beopar Mandal, led by Mr Amarjit Singh Titu, today observed fast and staged a dharna in front of the office of the Assistant Excise and Taxation Commissioner (AETC) here in protest against the proposed implementation of the value-added tax (VAT) from April 1 in the state.

The traders also took out a protest march through the town and raised slogans against the VAT and the government.

They submitted a memorandum against the proposed implementation of the VAT to the AETC, Mr K.V.S. Sidhu, in his office here to forward the same to the Punjab Finance Minister.


Punjab CII council office-bearers
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 21
Mr MC Munjal and Mr Harpal Singh have been elected as the new Chairman and Vice Chairman respectively of the CII Punjab State Council.

Mr M.C. Munjal is Managing Director of Majestic Auto, an exporter of mopeds from India. He started his career with Hero Cycles and also set up Gujarat Cycles at Baroda.

Mr Harpal Singh, Chairman of Fortis Healthcare, SRL Ranbaxy, Fortis Financial Services and Fortis Securities. He has held senior positions in TATA’s, Hindustan Motors, Mahindra and Mahindra and Shaw Wallace.

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