P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Singla spares luxuries, moots cess on diesel
Parbhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 22
Levying of cess on diesel — a major farm input — and petrol to raise Rs 100 crore for setting up the Agri-Diversification, Infrastructure, Research and Development Fund (ADIRF) is how Punjab proposes to achieve its second breakthrough in agriculture.

Though the state Finance and Planning Minister, Mr Surinder Singla, proposed no new taxes in his Budget speech in the Vidhan Sabha today, he wants to levy a “small cess of Re 1 per litre on diesel and an additional cess of 50 paise per litre on petrol”.

This proposal has sent shock waves in the farming community which claims to be reeling under mounting costs of farm inputs without any substantial increase in the minimum support price (MSP) of both wheat and paddy during the past few years.

Sparing of common luxuries, including entertainment and even liquor, for financing the proposed ADIRF is baffling. Levying of agriculture cess on each bottle of liquor sold in the state or imposition of a cess on cinema tickets would have given the state enough money for the ADIRF.

The state’s only hope of emerging as a frontrunner in the race for economic growth, feels Mr Singla, hinges heavily upon the diversification of crops, improved post-harvest technologies, value addition through processing, supply chain management, improving yields through genetic modification and biotechonolgy. So he has proposed indirect taxation on the farm sector to fund the work to be done by agricultural scientists, economists and administrators.

Economists, however, suggest that the ADIRF could have been safely funded from the Revenue Deficit Grant of over Rs 1500 crore given to the state by the 12th Finance Commission. They argue that while on the one hand the state has given exemption to a “rich sport” like cricket from the payment of any entertainment duty on gates at national and international matches on the other hand a small and marginal farmer will have to pay the cess every time he uses his farm machinery, including a tractor, pump set or thresher.

Mr Singla claims that his Budget is growth oriented. The state proposes to set up an investment commission on the lines of the National Investment Commission for promoting investment in agriculture, infrastructure, industry and the services sector. He has made a provision of Rs 50 crore for liquidating the backlog of undisbursed subsidies to restore the credibility of the government.

A redeeming feature of the Budget is the provision of funds for the maintenance of the existing assets. A provision of Rs 100 crore for the maintenance of roads, Rs 25 crore for canals, Rs 40 crore for buildings and Rs 15 crore for drains has been made in the Budget. Besides, Rs 114 crore has been set aside for clearing the pending electricity bills relating to hospitals, drinking water and irrigation schemes.

Admitting that public services provided by the government have become prohibitively costly with a sharp deterioration in their quality, Mr Singla has also proposed for suitably involving the private sector in the delivery of both education and health care services in the state by following transparent policies and procedures. In the case of school education, for example, the private entities — non-government organisations (NGOs) — would be suitably compensated to provide quality education.

He has hinted that local bodies, like municipal committees and corporations, should levy service charges to generate funds for matching grants from the state government under the urban renewable programme. Water supply, sewerage and solid management services could no more be provided free of cost and user charges was the only way out, he held.


Power plants: pvt parties to be encouraged
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 22
Announcing the Punjab Government's major policy decision in his Budget speech, the Finance Minister, Mr Surinder Singla, said that the government would encourage private investors to set up power plants in the state. Currently, all power plants were in the public sector. Announcing that reforms in the power sector were already under way, the road map for reforms envisaged the unbundling of the PSEB. Consumers would be allowed open access and captive generation would be promoted.

The government would make efforts to enter into collaboration with Himachal and Uttaranchal for setting up hydro power projects. For enhancing the installed power capacity, the construction of UBDC Stage-III (75 MW), Mukerian Hydel Project Stage-II (19MW) and the Shahpur Kandi Project (168MW) would be taken in hand next year. A gas-based plant of 1000 MW had been proposed near Doraha. Execution of Lehra Mohabbat Stage-II at a cost of Rs 1789 crore, on a turnkey basis, was under way.

The PSEB would release 1,75,000 general, 5,000 industrial and 40,000 tubewell power connections during the next financial year.


For a second breakthrough in agriculture, Mr Singla said in his Budget speech that the diversification of crops away from the wheat-paddy rotation, improved post-harvest technologies, value addition through processing and a breakthrough in crop yields by genetic modification were need of the hour. For this the Agri-Diversification, Infrastructure, Research and Development Fund has been created. Private players especially agro-processors would be allowed to procure raw material, in other words foodgrains, from the farm gate. The law would be suitably amended to allow them to do so, said Mr Singla in his speech.

There would be legislation for head registration of animals, which would help farmers earn a higher income. The government would ensure the clearance of the dues of farmers totalling Rs 62 crore by September-end in lieu of the sugarcane supplied by them to sugarmills. The Cooperative Department would be restructured to enable cooperatives to function as independent, autonomous and democratic enterprises.

Rural sector

Rural roads would be upgraded with an outlay of Rs 264 crore to be provided by NABARD. All villages would get 24 hours’ domestic power supply by March 30 this year. The village Development Fund had been set up for providing sanitation and the sewage facilities to 1,500 villages. With a contribution of 10 per cent of the capital cost and by bearing fully the operation and maintenance cost, the villages concerned would be able to get funds from the Punjab and Central Governments for sewage and sanitation projects.

To provide houses to 30,000 rural poor, Rs 50 crore had been allocated, said Mr Singla and it was above Rs 17.60 crore under the Indira Awas Yojna. To identify those below the poverty line, an independent agency would be engaged.


Punjab to have urbanisable zones
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 22
To regulate and ensure planned development in the periphery of important towns and cities, the Punjab Government proposes to declare urbanisable zones by encouraging private parties to develop new estates with high-quality infrastructure and benchmark international norms.

The state Finance and Planning Minister, Mr Surinder Singla, told the Vidhan Sabha during his Budget speech that time-bound approvals and special incentives for mega projects with an investment of over Rs 100 crore in the housing and urban development sector would be granted.

He also announced the setting up of the Municipal Development Fund under the Punjab Accelerated Infrastructure Development Programme. An initial provision of Rs 100 crore has been made in the Budget. The corpus fund, Mr Singla said, would be used to garner resources from the capital market to fund water supply, sewerage, solid waste disposal, environmental protection and roads.

Municipalities would be required to meet only 20 per cent of the capital cost and undertake responsibility of meeting the operational and maintenance expenditure on their own by generating new revenue streams, indirectly suggesting the levying of user charges by the local bodies.


Akali Dal, BJP MLAs boycott Budget
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 22
Protesting against presentation of the Punjab Budget in English by the Finance Minister, Mr Surinder Singla, Akali and BJP MLAs today staged a walkout from the Punjab Assembly and boycotted the entire Budget proceedings. It was, perhaps, the first time in many years that the Budget was boycotted by the main Opposition parties in the House.

As Mr Singla started reading his Budget documents in English, Akali and BJP MLAs led by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, got up to urge the Finance Minister to present the Budget in Punjabi. However, as Mr Singla continued to read the Budget document in English, Akali and BJP MLAs urged the Speaker to intervene and direct Mr Singla to present the Budget in Punjabi.

However, the Speaker, Dr Kewal Krishan, defending Mr Singla said that three languages — Punjabi, Hindi and English — were allowed in the House and there was nothing wrong if Mr Singla was presenting the Budget in English. Dr Kewal Krishan said that the rules of the House allowed Mr Singla to present the Budget in English.

After this, Mr Badal and others started raising slogans against the State Government and walked out from the House. Akali MLAs and BJP MLAs did not enter the House again.

Countering the Akali-BJP protest in the House, Mr Singla said that Mr Badal’s son spoke in English in the Lok Sabha a few days ago and he should first answer it. He further said that wards of most Akali MLAs read in English public schools.

Later, talking to media persons outside the House, Akali MLAs said that Punjabi was the official language of the State and the Finance Minister should have presented the Budget in the House at least in Punjabi. 


Liquor vends’ auction totals Rs 1266.09 cr
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 22
The liquor vends in Ferozepore, Moga, Muktsar, Faridkot, Bathinda and Mansa districts were auctioned out for Rs 254.80 crore for the next year as against this year’s figure of Rs 250.94 crore.

With the auction of liquor vends for all districts having been completed, the state government had managed to secure revenue of Rs 1,266.09 crore as against the earning of Rs 1240.99 crore for the current year with a marginal increase of Rs 25.10 crore or 2.02 per cent.

The auction of liquor vends for the entire state, which commenced at the Rotary Bhavan here on Sunday, concluded today.

Although officials of the Excise and Taxation Department refused to comment, but persons in trade circles maintained that the cartel of liquor contractors led by Mr Ponty Chadha had not only retained majority control of in Ludhiana, Amritsar and Sangrur districts, but had also consolidated its strength in some other districts.

The department officials claimed that smooth and orderly entry was ensured for all prospective bidders. Any person keen to participate in the bidding was allowed to enter the venue after paying the stipulated fee of Rs 500.

The auctions were conducted in a free and fair manner and the respective divisional collectors ensured that all interested persons were given ample time to offer bids.

The annual quota of PML and IMFL for the state for the current year was 4.60 crore proof litres (PL) and 2 crore PL, respectively, which would remain unchanged for the year 2005-06. The total number of PML and IMFL vends in the entire state, put to auction during last three days, was 4,310 and 1,344, respectively.

The district-wise figures at which the vends were auctioned for the next financial year (with the current year’s figures in brackets) are Ludhiana I, Ludhiana II, Ludhiana III and Fathegarh Sahib Rs 275 cr (Rs 268.33 cr), Jalandhar I and Jalandhar II (comprising Nawanshahar and Kapurthala) Rs 214.40 cr (Rs 209.56 cr), Patiala, Sangrur and Ropar Rs 282.30 cr (Rs 275.96 cr), Amritsar Rs 108.59 cr (Rs 108.20 cr) Amritsar II (comprising Hoshiarpur and Gurdaspur) Rs 131 cr (Rs 128 cr), Ferozepore, Moga, Muktsar Rs 136.55 cr (Rs 134.48 cr) Faridkot, Bathinda, Mansa Rs 118.25 cr (Rs 116.46 cr).


Park Plaza case accused get bail, police drops main charges
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 22
Angry parents and relatives of the newly-wed couple, who were allegedly assaulted on their honeymoon night at the local Park Plaza hotel a few days ago, staged a protest against the police at the district courts complex here today. The four accused in the case were granted bail by the court in the evening.

Demanding a CBI probe into the incident, the parents and relatives of Mr Harpreet Singh, the bridegroom, alleged that the police had not conducted a fair investigation and were “working to weaken the case”, thereby helping the accused.

The victim party was incensed following the submission by the prosecution that they had deleted Section 307, 452 and 294 of the IPC from the FIR as allegations of attempt to murder, forcibly entering the room and under the obscenities Act were not proved during investigation.

The police had booked four employees of Park Plaza, Dharminder Raghav, Parwinder Pohal, Raju Kumar and Sangam, under Sections 307, 452, 294 and 120-B of the IPC. But today the prosecution claimed that only an offence under Sections 509 (outraging the modesty of a woman) and 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapon) of the IPC is made out against the accused, which are all bailable offences.

Mr Tavinder Singh and Mr T.P. Singh, fathers of bride and groom, respectively, while addressing mediapersons alleged that the police had played a partisan role during the investigations and had paved the way for bailing out of the accused.

They added that the hotel owners were known for their strong political connections with the ruling party and with a senior police official.

Granting bail to the accused, the Additional Sessions Judge, Mr Sukhdarshan Singh Khaira, remarked, ‘‘It is a matter of record that the present accused are not named in the FIR and after their arrest they have not been subjected to any identification parade. No recovery has been effected from the accused in spite of the fact that the accused have already been subjected to custodial interrogation repeatedly for one week.’’

The accused were ordered to be released on their furnishing personal bonds for Rs 50,000 each with one surety of the like amount to the satisfaction of the duty magistrate concerned.

The court has directed the accused not to leave the jurisdiction without prior permission of the court and will not tamper with the prosecution evidence and to regularly appear on each and every date of hearing.


Travel agency vanishes with money, passports
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 22
The dream of 39 poor youths of Amritsar, Ludhiana, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar and Nawanshahr districts to make it to greener pastures in Dubai has crashlanded as a "fake" travel firm not only gobbled up their lakhs of rupees, but its officials also decamped with their passports and other travel documents after shutting the doors of the firm and handing them over dubious looking photocopies of 'visas' issued by the UAE authorities.

After losing money and travel documents, they are now running from pillar to post to get an FIR registered against the accused. And sadly, they have not achieved any success on this front. Their complaint is lying "unattended" with the anti-fraud wing of the Jalandhar police.

All 39 youths had responded to an advertisement inserted in newspapers on February 12 by Sat Narain Associates, which, according to victims, had its offices in Jalandhar, Chandigarh and Mumbai.

The company had claimed that it would send selected persons to Dubai for jobs of masons, painters and mechanics and that they would be getting good salaries. After they responded to the advertisement, they were called to company's Jalandhar office, situated near the bus stand. They were interviewed for three four days there. Their medical test was also got conducted from the Shahid Udham Singh Nagar-based DMC Hospital and the Trauma Centre. At this juncture, each of applicant was charged Rs 15,000 as security amount. Signed receipts were issued by an official of the company against the amount. After all 'formalities' were completed, 'successful' candidates got phone calls from the company's office informing them that their visas had come and they should collect these 'passports to prosperity' as early as possible. The candidates collected their 'visas' after making a payment ranging between Rs 55,000 and Rs 65,000. They were allegedly promised that their flight to Dubai had been scheduled for March 10. They were instructed to come to the office on March 9.

But when 'successful' candidates reached the company's office on March 9, they got the biggest jolt of their life as no official of the company was present in the office. "It was the rudest shock for all of us. We tried to contact Jaspreet, manager of the company, on his mobile. He kept assuring us that we would be flying to Dubai on March 15 or 16. But this promise never materialised and all phones and mobiles of the company went silent.

At this point, we made a complaint to the SSP, who, marked it to the anti-fraud wing. But sadly enough, no action has been taken on our complaint so far," said Makhan Singh, a candidate. He is serving as a Head constable with 80th Battalion of the PAP, Jalandhar.

Mr Ramandip Singh Bharowal, general secretary of the Lok Bhalai Party, said the case of victims was being taken up by the party's chief, Mr Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, who has been approached by the victims.

Dev Raj, another victim hailing from Digana village of Hoshiarpur district and who already had a 14-year stint in Saudi Arabia as a painter, said those who had already visited abroad had been given a concession of Rs 10,000 and they did not suspect anything foul as the company officials were behaving in a very 'honest' manner. "We also contacted the Sector 8-based office of the company in Chandigarh and found that about 110 youths were waiting there for their visas," said Gurpreet Singh of Jathaur village, near Wagah in Amritsar district. He said the total amount gobbled up by the company was about Rs 29 lakh.

None of the officials of the company at Jalandhar and Chandigarh could be contacted as none of the phone number was functioning.

Mr S.K. Asthana, SSP, said he would look into the matter and justice would be done.


Work on Khalsa heritage project restarts
Kiran Deep
Tribune News Service

Anandpur Sahib, March 22
The construction work on the prestigious Khalsa Heritage Memorial Complex began today with the arrival of Boston-based architect of the project Moshe Safdie accompanied by officials of the various agencies associated with the project. The deadline for the project’s completion was fixed before Hola Mohalla in 2007.

The work on the project had come to halt about a year ago following paucity of funds.

Moshe Safdie along with associate architect on the project, Mr Ashok Dhawan, the Vice-President of Larsen and Toubro, Mr R.P. Raghwan, and Mr Amardeep Behal, a representative of the NID, Ahmedabad have reviewed the work at the project site for two hours this afternoon. During a visit to the project site, Moshe Safdie has suggested some changes in the work that has already been completed.

“I am very excited about the project and after discussing with the officials associated with construction and design, a deadline has been fixed to complete the project before Hola Mohalla in 2007”, Moshe Safdie told The Tribune.

“I have been visiting the place regularly since 1997. This is not only a professional assignment but one completely immersed in Sikhism. Before designing the Khalsa heritage project I had studied a lot about Sikhism and visited a number of gurdwaras”, he added.

He said as the project had been stopped for about a year ago, the first job assigned here was to clear the dust accumulated on the various parts of the project.

I am happy about the decision of the state and Central governments to release funds for the project.

Mr D.S. Jaspal, Principal Secretary, Cultural Affairs and Chief Executive Officer of the project, who accompanied the team, said the work got restarted here as the Anandpur Sahib foundation had entered a memorandum of understanding with PNB-led consortium of five banks for lending a term loan of Rs 100 crore. Besides it, the balance of Rs 45 crore would be granted by the Central and the state governments.

The total cost of the project is Rs 224 crore out of which Rs 79 crore have already been spent, he added.

Describing the importance of the project, Mr Jaspal said, “After the completion the project will become one of the major interpretive historic museums of the world. The spectacular architecture and the exhibits will be the defining features of the project”.

Giving details, he said the museum would cover 500 years of Sikh history, starting from Guru Nanak Dev. Sophisticated multi-media and virtual reality equipment will be used.


Land dispute settled after 36 years
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur March 22
Bachittar Singh and his cousin brother Rasal Singh, both residents of Ladpalvan village, could not stop the tears as they stood at the recently held Lok Adalat here. The tormenting litigation over the division of their family property had been going on since the past 36 years. It was the third generation of the family which decided to abide by the decision of the Lok Adalat held by the additional civil judge (senior division), Mr R.K. Garg.

The litigation in the family started way back in 1969 for 11 marlas. The brothers after exhausting panchayat mediation for the settlement of the dispute approached the local court. This started their tormenting journey in the court that saw passing away of two generations.

Many times the court appointed local commissioners to settle the dispute. The matter was taken to the High Court. Many judges trying the case retired and one of the advocates representing the litigant got promoted as the judge in the Punjab and Haryana High court. However, one party or another objected to the judgements or rapprochements and litigations continued.

The relief was granted to the litigants when their case was taken up in the Lok Adalat held at Pathankot.


Head scab destroys durum wheat crop
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, March 22
The long wet spell this winter has badly affected the crop of durum (PDW-274) variety of wheat in the district. This variety of wheat crop sown by about 100 farmers in 350 acres in the Dera Baba Nanak and Kanuwan areas of the district under contract farming programme of Punjab Agro has been attacked by head scab disease.

The disease has damaged about 80to 90 per cent of yield. Due to the disease, the stem and fruit of the crop has turned black, indicating that it has been damaged.

This variety of wheat is ideal for baking or bread industry. The farmers had grown this variety at the assurance of Punjab Agro that they would get better returns. It required dry weather for good yield. However, due to continuous rains in the month of February, moist conditions were created. These conditions meant damage to the crop.

The Chief Agriculture Officer, Gurdaspur, admitted that Durum variety of wheat has been damaged. This is likely to cause huge financial losses to the farmers. As per the agreement with Punjab Agro, they are not likely to be paid anything in case the crop gets damaged. The experts of the PAU say experimenting with the cash crops was always risky. Punjab Agro should ensure that the crops grown under the contract farming are insured.


Bhatti promoted
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 22
Punjab’s Additional Director-General of Police (ADGP) D.R. Bhatti was today elevated as the Director-General of Police (DGP). The number of DGPs in the state, with his elevation, has increased to nine.

The promotion orders, issued by the Department of Home Affairs and Justice, were subject to the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s decision in the alleged wireless scam, a government spokesman asserted.

The move to promote Mr Bhatti after dropping chargesheet against him in the alleged scam has, however, left several questions unanswered — at least this is what senior police officers at the Punjab Police Headquarters are asserting.


NGO to make Sangrur women self-reliant
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 22
A Delhi-based NGO, Bisnouli Sarvodaya Gramodyog Sewa Sanstha (BSGSS), has chosen Sangrur district to make its more than two lakh economically dependent women reliant by forming 5,000 self-help groups in the coming five years.

The NGO has selected the Lehragaga area for the pilot project and will provide training to women in stitching and handicrafts. The NGO will have 15 volunteers in the initial stage for this area. Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Deputy Chief Minister and MLA from the Lehragaga Assembly Constituency, had invited the BSGSS to help the women of this area.

Ms Nandita Bakshi, secretary of the BSGSS, said here today she along with some other officers resigned from the Indian Revenue Service as she felt that till 50 per cent women of the country were not empowered, the country could not become prosperous.

She said the NGO had chosen four areas — women empowerment, health and education. She said the BSGSS had been encouraging self-employment and was working to create markets. She said women whose monthly income was only about Rs 300, were now earning Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 a month in Delhi. The number of such women was around 6,000. In Varanasi, women were taught to weave silk neckties. Around 56,000 neckties had been sold by the NGO so far, she added.

The BSGSS would now train the Sangrur women after forming self-help groups.

The BSGSS has tied up with National Open School to impart education to poor women.


Tenders for sabzi mandi cancelled
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, March 22
In order to avoid controversy, all tenders were cancelled today by the Market Committee Phagwara, according to a press note issued by Mr Jaspreet Singh Bains, president of the committee.

The tenders regarding the sabzi mandi and the auction of its goods to private contractors were to be opened at 2 pm today. However, it was decided unanimously by a three-member auction committee that the tender should not be opened and a fresh date be fixed for inviting tenders.

Mr Paramjit Singh, who had also given tender, objected to it, alleging that the committee was doing this to oblige its favourites. The tenders were opened in the presence of the bidders and media after getting the sealed envelops rechecked, claimed Mr Bains.

However, after the tenders were opened, Mr Paramjit Singh raised fresh objections that his envelope containing the tender was tempered with.

The committee cancelled the tenders and the auction to avoid controversy, added Mr Bains.


Federation to observe Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom day
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 22
The district unit of the General Categories Welfare Federation, Punjab, has decided to observe the martyrdom day of Shaheed Bhagat Singh by holding a public meeting here.

Mr Harbans Singh Sidhu, district president of the federation, in a press note issued here today said that the martyrs had laid down their lives hoping to create an equal and just society which, he lamented, had not been achieved so far. A decision in this connection was taken at a meeting of the executive body, he said.

He alleged that the continuation of the caste-based reservation system in the country and prevalence of some acts giving privileges to some castes over the others were a blot on the social fabric and were like insulting the martyrs.

The meeting had condemned the action of the Rajasthan Government wherein out of the 35,000 vacancies advertised only 2,714 had been kept open for those belonging to the general categories. He alleged that the interests of the general categories were being sidelined all over the country and the so-called depressed classes were usurping the benefits of all the development and government schemes.

Meanwhile, the Punjab Aided School Teachers and other employees union has condemned the action of the Punjab Government wherein in the state holiday falling on the martyrdom day of Shaheed Bhagat Singh had been cancelled.

They demanded the restoration of the holiday as a mark of respect for the martyrs.


Holiday in Nawanshahr today
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 22
The Punjab Government has declared March 23 as a local holiday in view of function pertaining to the martyrdom-day of Bhagat Singh at Khatkar Kalan village.

According to a press release, all government offices, including corporations and boards, besides education institutes in Nawanshahr district, will remain closed today.


Urdu poet Sulekh Kanwal dead
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 22
The Principal, Dr Sulekh Chander Kanwal, an Urdu poet and art promoter, died at his Ranjit Nagar residence, Bhadson road, here today. Dr Kanwal (75) has served as Principal of Kasturba Gandhi College, Rajpura, after retiring from Government College of Physical Education. Artists like Gurdas Mann and Ms. Nirmal Rishi were his students.

Dr Kanwal’s book “Ashian” was recently released by Surjit Pattar, Kashmiri Lal Zakir and Balraj Komal in Ludhiana. He was associated with many art and literary organizations of the state, including the National Theatre Arts Society (NTAS) as its chief advisor.


Kavi darbar organised
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, March 22
The District Cultural Society yesterday organised a kavi darbar in the auditorium of BZSF Senior Secondary School here. Mr Sham Singh, News Editor, Punjabi Tribune, was honoured by the society for getting “Shiromani Award” from the Language Department. This programme was part of the ongoing cultural activities in the district. Dr Gurmohan Singh Walia, Principal, Mata Gujri College, was the chief guest, while Mr Ranjit Singh Tarkhan Majra, chairman, municipal corporation, Sirhind, was special guest.

Mr Sham Singh and Mr Anup Singh Khanpuri recited their poems on the occasion.


Rs 5 crore for institute of diplomacy
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 22
The Punjab Government has as a tribute to former Union External Affairs Minister, Swaran Singh, decided to give a one-time grant of Rs 5 crore for setting up the Sardar Swaran Singh Institute of International Diplomacy in New Delhi, the state Finance and Planning Minister, Mr Surinder Singla, announced in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha today.

Swaran Singh, who belonged to Jalandhar, remained a member of the Union Council of Ministers headed by Jawaharlal Nehru, for a number of years.


Find missing Pakistanis: Bitta
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 22
Mr Maninderjit Singh Bitta, president of the All-India Anti-Terrorist Front (AIATF), today while urging the Union Government to find out those Pakistanis who had not returned to their country after the Indo-Pak cricket match came to an end in Mohali, alleged that Pakistan was using US financial aid to spread terrorism in India.


Record power generated

Ropar, March 22
Guru Gobind Singh Super Thermal Plant with designated capacity of 1260 MW here yesterday crossed it’s earlier record of power generation. Total power generation since March, 2004 was 8875 Million Units (MU) today while earlier record of highest power generation was 8858 MU in 2001-2002, said a senior functionary of the plant. TNS


Court to monitor Sutlej Action Plan
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, March 22
The Punjab and Haryana High Court today said it would monitor the implementation of the Sutlej Action Plan by the Punjab Government. The plan, finalised in 1998, pertains to cleaning of the Sutlej.

During resumed hearing in a PIL filed by Mr Balbir Singh, secretary of the Dhart Sohavi, a NGO, seeking directions to the Punjab Government to clean the Sutlej, the Bench was informed that the government claims to have shortage of funds to clean the river.

The petitioner had stated that the river, which was of great significance for Punjabis, was polluted, leading to rise in pollution-related deaths in the over 270 villages which were on its banks.

In its reply, the government took the stand that water treatment pants were needed to be set up in urban areas. However, so far, only two such plants have been set up.


Know your rights, consumers told
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 22
The Sunam unit of the Punjab Consumer Welfare Society (PCWS) organised a function in connection with International Consumer Day at Sunam yesterday. Mr Husan Lal, Deputy Commissioner, presided over the function. Mr D.K. Monga, president, Sangrur District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, and Mr Surinder Kumar Goyal Sheron Wale, district president of the PCWS, were also present on the occasion.

Mr Monga explained the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act,1986, and told the consumers about their rights under the Act while purchasing the commodities from shopkeepers. He said every consumer should get a proper receipt with date from the shopkeeper.

Mr Husan Lal asked the consumers to remain vigilant about their rights under the Consumer Protection Act.

He asked the gathering to have good knowledge about the Act so that every consumer could get quality goods and proper service from the shopkeepers and authorities concerned.

Among others who addressed the function, were Mr Surinder Kumar Goyal Sheron wale, Mr Yash Pal Mangla, district secretary of the PCWS, Ms Geeta Sharma, president of the Sunam Municipal Council, Mr H.S. Bagga, ADFSC, Sangrur, and Mr Ravinder Bhardwaj, project chairman of the function.


40 pc tractors idle, says IARI report
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Rakhra (Patiala), March 22
Idle tractors, overuse of chemical fertilisers which are having no effect on the yield, non-productive expenditure on social ceremonies and youths running after jobs of peon is the state of affairs in the “idyllic” agriculture-dominated Punjab, according to a survey team of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI).

The survey team of the IARI, which went around villages in this district as well as neighbouring areas during the past two days, was shocked to learn of the state of affairs. “We were concerned about reports of fall in agricultural productivity in Punjab,” says Dr Kartar Singh, a principal scientist in the team, “but seeing the state of affairs first hand was certainly revealing.”

Dr Kartar Singh and Dr R.S. Chillar, while interacting with The Tribune, said a survey had revealed that nearly 40 per cent of the available tractors were lying idle. He said the team was astonished to know that even though the average land holding in the state was only two acres, there was a predominance of tractors in all villages.

They said the question was not only of purchasing tractors, but purchasing tractors with high horse power was not needed keeping in mind the small holdings. This, they said, had pushed farmers into debt trap all over the Malwa region.

Young Farmers Association Director Bhagwan Das Gupta, who coordinated the visit of the IARI team, said the problem lay in the fact that farmers were not educated. He said this forced them to ape others without realising the repercussions. The team members also felt the same saying farmers had told them that they were continuously being forced to spend more on social ceremonies. “Hun vapas nahi ja sakde,” said Surinder Singh of this village.

The team members said farmers faced severe problems specially when there were more children in the family. “Farmers told us that they have to spend the same amount of money as spent by others in the village, regardless of the fact that whether they can afford it or not.” They said this resulted in non-productive expenditure to maintain false egos.

The farmers in the state are facing another crisis. None of their sons want to take up their profession any longer. And this is not limited to the small and marginal farmers but to people with big land holdings also. Darshan Singh, a former sarpanch of this village, said his sons would rather get recruited as peons than spend their time in the family fields. “For this I have to run after local politicians,” he added.


Notice to ghee factory
Our Correspondent

Kharar, March 22
The municipal council here has issued a notice to a ghee factory in Khanpur village for encroaching land of the council.

The civic body has given seven days’ time to the factory to remove the encroachment on the land failing which the enforcement wing of the council would have to do the job. The expenditure incurred in this regard would also have to be paid by the factory.

The encroachments were brought to the notice of the council by residents of Khanpur village who had approached the civic body to help them to check the pollution caused by the ghee factory in the village.


SHO transferred
Our Correspondent

Machhiwara, March 22
Machhiwara SHO Balwinder Singh has been transferred to the Khanna Police Lines yesterday. Inspector Dogar Ram, Circle Inspector, Samrala, has been given the charge of the Machhiwara police station.


Sarpanch, teacher booked for grant embezzlement
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 22
The district police has registered a case against the sarpanch of Mian village, near here, and a science teacher posted in the village school for alleged embezzlement of a grant given for the school building.

Police sources said that the sarpanch, Mr Resham Singh, and the teacher, Mr Harcharan Singh, had embezzled a grant of Rs 23,000, which was given for the school building. Villagers had lodged a complaint in this connection and the Additional Deputy Commissioner got an inquiry conducted into this episode.

The district police today registered a case under various sections of the IPC against the two accused after they were held guilty in the inquiry report.


Two devotees killed in firing
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 22
Two devotees were killed and three injured as a double-barrel gun of a local BSP leader went off accidentally while he was welcoming the devotees, who were on their way to Anandpur Sahib for Hola Mohalla celebrations, at his Avtaar Nagar residence in Chaugitti area, near here, this morning.

The incident occurred when Sukhbir Singh, a BSP leader, allegedly tried to fire some shots from his double-barrel gun at his residence, where, a jatha of Sikh devotees had come from the Jheeta area of Amritsar.

As he tried to fire the second shot, the gun went off accidentally hitting Satnam Singh (55), Jatinder Singh (17) and Sajjan Singh (55), Vivekjit Singh and Sukati, residents of Jheeta village.

Satnam Singh and Jatinder Singh succumbed to their injuries on their way to the hospital, while the injured were admitted to the hospital.


Woman dies under mysterious circumstances
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, March 22
Rajwinder Kaur, wife of Gurpreet Singh, was found dead under mysterious circumstances at her house in Dhugga Kalan village. Her dead body was found hanging from a ceiling fan yesterday.

On the statement of Mr Saran Singh, father of Rajwinder Kaur, the police has registered a case against her mother-in-law Gurmit Kaur, father-in-law Garib Dass and brother-in-law Soni.

In his complaint Mr Saran Singh stated that he his daughter got married to Gurpreet Singh in February, 2002. He alleged that she was tortured by her in-laws for not bringing adequate dowry and was asked to bring Rs 50,000 to send her husband abroad.

He said they continued to torture her even after he fulfilled their demands. On March 21 he was informed about the death of Rajwinder Kaur. He alleged that they either killed her or compelled her to commit suicide.

The Tanda police has registered a case under Sections 302, 34 of the IPC against the father-in-law, mother-in-law and the brother-in-law of Rajwinder Kaur.


5 booked for kidnapping man
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, March 22
Mr Raman Rishi Verma and Mr Jitesh Verma, owners of Shiv Shakti Rice Sheller, near Sahni, Mr Amit Kumar, owner of Shiva Rice Mill, Rawalpindi village and two others were today booked under Sectons 365, 342, 506,323, 148, 149 on the charges of kidnapping, wrongful confinement, armed rioting, criminal intimidation, causing hurt in connection with the case of Kulbir Singh.

Kulbir Singh of Narur village, a Munshi at Shiv Shakti Rice Sheller, was kept in captivity for three days. Family members and villagers last night gheraoed the sheller and succeeded in freeing Kulbir Singh.

Kulbir had to be hospitalised as he was injured during his captivity.


PO held after 10 years
Tribune News Service

Moga, March 22
The PO Wing has arrested the head of a robbers’ gang involved in a number of robberies in 1995 after 10 years.

According to sources, the accused, Fariad, is a resident of Kot Ise Khan. Fariad, along with his accomplices, Rajinder Singh, Mohni, Ajaib Singh, Major Singh, Aslam and Sukhdev Singh, struck at Nirmal Singh’s house at Mothawali village in September, 1995, and decamped with a 12-bore rifle, jewellery and cash.

The gang also targeted the residences of Puran Singh of the same village and Santokh Singh of Wada Ghar village.

Once the gang dressed in police uniform, barged into a teacher’s house and looted valuables.

They were booked for their criminal activities at Sadar and Baghapurana police stations.

Fariad was nabbed when the PO staff had set up a naka last night.

The PO Wing has also succeeded in arresting 10 other proclaimed offenders involved in different crimes.


Three killed in bus-auto collision
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 22
A child and two persons died and three persons, including two women, were seriously injured in an accident when a bus collided with an autorickshaw on Ferozepore Road near Milk Plant late this evening.

The 10-week-old child died on the spot, while the driver of the autorickshaw and a passenger were declared brought dead at nearby Raghunath hospital.

The three injured were rushed to the DMC hospital. Their condition was stated to be critical. All passengers of the bus were, however, safe.


Jewellery, clothes worth Rs 45,000 stolen
Our Correspondent

Kharar, March 22
Gold jewellery and clothes worth about Rs 45,000 were stolen from a house in Mundi Kharar.

It is learnt that Mr Devinder Puri, along with his wife, had gone to his parents’ house in Maloya village on Sunday. Some neighbours informed him yesterday that the locks of his house were seen broken. When he came back, he saw things lying scattered in the house and thieves had decamped with gold jewellery and expensive clothes after breaking open the cupboards.


Urdu academy for Malerkotla
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 22
The Punjab Government will launch on April 2 an information and communication technology (ICT) programme in 1,299 schools of the state, Finance and Planning Minister Surinder Singla announced during his Budget speech in the Vidhan Sabha today.

Talking about various initiatives taken by the government, he said that under the ICT programme, subject teachers would also be given computer training.

Mr Singla said that ramps with railings would also be constructed in all schools for easy access to children with physical handicaps. The construction of girls’ hostels would also be taken up.

He announced that the budgetary allocation of Rs 21.67 crore for cooking foodgrains under the midday meal scheme had been made this year. The opening of new degree colleges at Moonak in Sangrur and Narot Jaimal Singh (Gurdaspur) are proposed while a vocational training college would be started at Guru Harsahai in Ferozepore. The government also intended to pay pension to eminent Punjabi scholars by creating a corpus fund with seed money of Rs 45 lakh.

Though Mr Singla faced the wrath of the Shiromani Akali Dal and Bharatiya Janata Party legislators for reading out his Budget speech in English, he announced the setting up of an Urdu academy at Malerkotla with a provision of Rs 1 crore this year.

On the technical education front, Mr Singla announced the completion of nine polytechnics so that the training of rural youth could start there.


No salary for seven months!
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, March 22
Resentment prevails among the teaching and non-teaching staff of the local DAV College for not getting salaries for the past seven months.

At an emergency meeting held here today, members of the Punjab and Chandigarh Teachers Union, Hoshiarpur, criticised the indifferent and irresponsible attitude of the local administration for delaying the disbursement of salaries even after getting the grant for the same from the state government.

Ms Nita Puri, vice-president of the local PCCTU unit stated in a press note that the teaching and non-teaching staff of the college were getting salaries through the district administration on account of a dispute between two factions of the college managing committee for the past more than a year. The state government was releasing college grants to the district administration who after checking and verifying salary bills, was releasing the same for disbursement.

She urged the Deputy Commissioner, Hoshiarpur, to instruct the officials concerned to release the salaries of the staff immediately.

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