P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Scrap Sec 5 of termination of agreements Act: SAD
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 23
In a move that may drastically change the terms of political debate on the sensitive river waters issue in the region, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has decided to demand the deletion of Section 5 of the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004. The move follows what the SAD considers a “ reopening of the issue closed by the Act as the Governor of Punjab has gone on record offering talks with neighbouring states.

Notice for a private member’s Bill has been sent to the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Secretariat by the SAD President, Mr. Parkash Singh Badal. The Bill seeks an amendment to the Act with a view to deleting the section which guarantees that the existing usage of water of the Ravi and Beas rivers by Haryana and Rajasthan will be protected.

Though the Act was well intentioned, and was supported by the party for that reason, its purpose stood defeated by the insertion of Section 5. If the usage of water by non-riparian states had to be protected, what is the point in harping on the riparian principle at all? This section opens the way for future judgements against the state,” a SAD press communique said here today.

“The SAD feels that the installation of a Congress government in Haryana has also brought about a change in the attitude of the Punjab Government on the river waters issue. The Dal will not allow them to run away from the stand endorsed by the Assembly. In fact, the SAD will go further and plug all loopholes for future misuse also. Hence, this new Bill.”

The communique further said that Section 5 ran contrary to the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004. If the outflow of water was to be guaranteed by Punjab, “what really is the case we have on the river waters?” It does not matter which government is in power in Punjab or in the neighboring states.


Punjab told to use funds in time
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 23
Following the failure of the Punjab Government to fully utilise the funds meant for modernisation of the police force, the Central Government has reportedly threatened the state government with the diversion of amount.

Sources in the Punjab Police headquarters here reveal that the Central Government has categorically told the authorities concerned in the state government that the money will be diverted to other states for their on-going projects if not utlised properly within the stipulated period.

The sources add that the letter is not the first one to be written by the Centre. Earlier also, a similar letter written by the Union Government was received by senior functionaries in the state government.

Giving details of the matter, the sources in the Punjab Government’s Department of Home Affairs and Justice reveal that the state government has not been releasing its share for two years now.

They add that 60 per cent of the funds for moderinisation of the force are released by the Centre, while the remaining amount is paid by the state government.

The Centre’s share, the sources assert, comes out to be approximately Rs 32 crore. After receiving the amount from the Centre, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) is signed with it by the state government for carrying out the various works.


Budget proposals draw flak
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 23
Coming down heavily on the proposed cess on diesel and petrol in the Punjab Budget, the President of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, has said the thrust towards privatisation in key social sectors like education signalled the government’s capitulation before the capitalist lobby.

“The Budget clearly reflects a hangover of the liquor loot. Having passed on all revenue potential of the state on excise to a particular cartel, the Chief Minister is keen to make the common man pay for sustaining even the salary bill of the government. This is as far as one can go in being heartless and insensitive to the misery of the common man”, said the Akali leader in a statement issued here today.

He said the Budget proposals would not only make diesel and petrol more expensive in the state, but also break the back of the common man.

Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra, President of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Longowal), in a separate statement, said the Budget was totally against the concept of a welfare state and would put unbearable burden on people.

The Punjab Subordinate Services Federation has termed the Budget as a “black declaration at the behest of international agencies”.

Addressing a rally against the Budget, Mr Ranbir Dhillon, secretary of the All-Indian State Employees Coordination Committee, said the introduction of the contributory pension scheme and the medical insurance scheme for employees had generated a lot of resentment among employees.


Punjab to prune law officers’ strength
Maneesh Chhibber
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, March 23
The Punjab Government is seriously considering a proposal to drastically reduce the number of its law officers.

As of now, the office of Advocate-General, Punjab, has over 110 law officers, including Advocate-General Harbhagwan Singh.

But now, after having finally realised that it doesn't need the huge army of law officers, many of whom are not even seen in the office for days together, the government is considering implementing the recommendation of the high-powered committee set up last year under Chief Secretary Jai Singh Gill to reduce the number of law officers to just 62.

"We will take a decision when the time for renewal of contracts of the present officers comes. But yes, we are thinking of reducing the number of law officers," said Mr Harbhagwan Singh when quizzed on the issue.

However, it will take much more than a simple desire if the government wants to reduce the number of law officers. It is a common knowledge that the recommendation of the high-powered committee in this regard was completely disregarded by a powerful coterie led by the then Principal Secretary to Chief Minister-cum-Home Secretary S.K. Sinha.

Mr Sinha, who was sometime back ousted from the post of Home Secretary, took a lot of interest in getting his favourites appointed as law officers.

In 2003 while the original list finalised by a committee that had the AG also a member had just 65-odd law officers, by the time the list was released, it had a whopping 92 names. And the number did not stop at that. In the end, the number of law officers exceeded 120.

However, with Mr Sinha seemingly out of favour, this time observers are willing to bet on reduction.

Highly-placed sources told The Tribune that the term of the present law officers, which ends at the end of this month, could be extended for a month or two.

"The Chief Minister was on an official trip to Pakistan. He is now busy with the Budget Session of the Vidhan Sabha. A final decision will be taken once he is a little free," said an officer.

Incidentally, the government is still undecided on increasing the salary of its law officers. In the last reshuffle, in a bid to cut costs without reducing the number of law officers, the government did the unique thing of effecting a substantial cut in their salaries. Due to this reason, a number of law officers refused to join and eventually quit.


Leadership issue open: Jagmeet Brar
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, March 23
Former MP Jagmeet Singh Brar today said the issue pertaining to change of leadership in the state was still pending with the high command and would be settled only after Mr Pranab Mukerjee submitted his report to the AICC chief, Mrs Sonia Gandhi. Mr Brar, along with his supporters today visited National Martyrs Memorial, Hussainiwala, to pay floral tributes to three national martyrs on the occasion of Shahidi Divas.

Mr Brar, who came 2 hours ahead of the scheduled start of the official function, said he was not extended any invitation for the conference despite the fact that he contested from the Ferozepore parliamentary constituency and got more than 3.5 lakh votes.

Talking to mediapersons, Mr Brar condemned the decision of the state government to cancel the holiday on the occasion of martyrdom day of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. Referring to the recent auction of the liquor vends in the state, Mr Brar said there was a need to bring transparency in the functioning of the various departments of the state government. He said instead of encouraging monopoly, the government should promote small time contractors.

Mr Brar also questioned the state government’s claim that Rai Sikhs had been accorded Scheduled Caste status by the Union Government.

He said he had recently met the Lok Sabha Speaker, Mr Somnath Chatterje, to request him to install a statue of Bhagat Singh at a suitable place in the Parliament house. He also said that he had requested the Railway Minister, Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav, to start a train from Hussainiwala to Ludhiana which should pass through Dhudhike, the ancestral village of Lala Lajpat Rai and Sarabha, the village of martyr Kartar Singh Sarabha.


SAD seeks PM’s intervention on Punjabis in Spain
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 23
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) today sought the immediate intervention of the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, for ending the agony of Punjabis trapped in Spain for want of their nationality certificates.

Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, MP, and secretary-general of the SAD, met the Prime Minister and gave him a memorandum today.

The Spanish Government has asked the Indian government to certify the nationality of its citizens for the regularisation of their illegal stay in Spain.

The Spanish Government has declared general amnesty for all illegal immigrants provided they furnish certified copies of certificates showing their nationality. The Dal leaders maintained that due to the indifferent attitude of the Indian Embassy in Spain, many illegal immigrants might not be able to benefit from the amnesty.

Unless they produced nationality certificates, all such aliens would face harassment and possible deportation. Mr Dhindsa urged the Prime Minister to take up the matter with his Spanish counterpart immediately to get the deportation process stayed. The Dal also wanted that the necessary instructions should be sent to Indian Embassy officials in Spain for taking up such cases on priority.


Australian citizen alleges police frame-up
Sanjay Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 23
An Australian citizen who claimed to have exposed a suspected HIV- infected citizen from his country having married a girl from Barnala, has been booked by the Patiala police in an alleged frame-up exercise for allegedly assaulting his sister with a sharp-edged weapon.

The accused Baljinder Singh, however, said he had been framed in the case for allegedly exposing another Australian citizen who was said to be related to a former Punjab minister.

Baljinder Singh has complained to the DGP, Punjab, DIG and SSP of Patiala alleging that the police was after him since he sent records of alleged frauds by another person and his suspected HIV status. Baljinder Singh in his complaint alleged to the senior officials that he had been booked under Section 326 of IPC (causing grievous injury with a weapon) to the mother of another Australian citizen) under Police Post Sanaur despite the fact that he had not even talked telephonically to the woman, what to talk of attacking her with a knife.

Baljinder Singh also sent a complaint to the Punjab Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, against the police attitude.

Baljinder Singh asked the top brass of Punjab to protect the lives of his wife and child based in Mohali these days.

Baljinder Singh claimed that he had supplied the Punjab top brass with medical reports of the other person, his alleged frauds in India and Australia and the fact that the man in question was already under investigation in Australia. Baljinder Singh also provided the police senior officials with a cassette in which the suspected HIV person during an interview for a visa was accusing the Punjab Police of persecuting him for his political beliefs. The cassette appears to have the interview record of the other Australian for seeking political asylum in Australia.

According to the Patiala police, Baljinder Singh allegedly attacked his sister Rajinder Kaur with a sharp-edged weapon on March 14 along with two unidentified youths. The woman was hospitalised in the Rajendra Hospital and recorded her statement at 3.25 pm the next day narrating the story.

The police said the case was registered on the basis of a medical legal report. The police denied that the former minister was putting any pressure on it to register a case against Baljinder Singh.

The Station House Officer of the area, Shamsher Singh, said the police parties had gone to Mohali to find out about Baljinder Singh but he was told to have gone to Australia denying that any of the policemen harassed his wife and child.

The SHO said he had got a phone call from Baljinder Singh claiming he was not at Sanaur on the day the incident is reported to have taken place but Baljinder Singh could not provide any proof of his being away from Sanaur either in Australia or anywhere else in India. 


NRI gets nod to repair Gobindgarh Fort
Rajbir Sekhon

Bathinda, March 23
The Archaeoloical Survey of India (ASI) has approved to the proposal of structural repair of Gobindgarh Fort. The proposal was made by Mr Sukhminder Singh Chahal, NRI hailing from this town.

The monument, situated in the heart of the town, has been carying for repair since the past several years. The 1,800-year-old monument is in a dilapidated condition but is posing a threat to the lives of people living in its vicinity.

The authorities concerned had got the repair work done on the fort a few years ago after one of its walls collapsed and claimed one life. It was a small effort as only a portion of the outer walls of the monument was repaired.

Mr Chahal, an engineer, visited the town last year and was shocked to see the condition of the monument. He offered to undertake the repair work.

Mr Chahal, alongwith the Deputy Commissioner, SSP, Income Tax Commissioner and historians today videographed the fort to start the work.

Mr Chahal said he had come to India for a few days to get the estimate of funds required for the renovation of the fort. He had met experts and artisans who could guide and undertake the repair without damaging the monument.

A seminar would be organised soon in connection with the fort.

Residents of the town welcomed the gesture of Mr Chahal and said it had been for the first time in this town that an NRI had come forward for the preservation of a historical monument.


Martyrs’ villages to go model
Varinder Singh and Parmod Bharti

The activists of the Bhagat Singh Naujawan Sabha demonstrated black flags to Mrs. Bhatal as she reached the museaum for paying tributes to Shahid Bhagat Singh. They also raised slogans for cancellation of government holiday on the Martyrdom day. As the situation started deteriorating, police officials jumped in and they resorted to mild cane charge to disperse agitating on activists.

Meanwhile, activists of the BJP and the Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha took out a “scooter rally” from Banga to Khatkar Kalan to pay tributes to Martyrs. The Left parties — CPI, CPM, CPI (ML-New Democracy) also organized conferences here with an objective to pay their respects.

Khatkar Kalan (Nawanshahr), March 23
With a view to inculcate patriotism among future generations and to pay tributes to martyrs, ancestral villages of martyrs would be converted into Model villages.

Similarly, existing museum at this village would be renovated at par with contemporarty international standards and this village would be developed by the Punjab government as a tourist spot with a patriotic touch. The state government was also planning to rename Khatkar Kalan as Shahid Bhagat Singh Nagar and setting up of the Shahid Bhagat Singh Chair at the Punjabi University Patiala.

This was revealed by Mrs. Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, the Deputy Chief Minister, who was addressing a gathering at the state level function organized here to commemorate martyrdom of Shahid Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. Mrs. Bhattal also inaugurated the Shahid Bhagat Singh Memorial Park near the ancestral house of the martyr, set up at a cost of Rs. One crore.

Reacting to charter of demands, put forth by the village sarpanch, which sought setting up a bus halt, proper drainage of waste water and providing round the clock power supply to the village, Mrs Bhattal said all demands of people of the village would be fulfilled on priority basis and directed the Deputy Commissioner Mr Harjit Inder Singh Grewal to prepare proposal for development of the village.

Giving a political colour to her speech, Mrs. Bhatatl criticized the previous SAD-BJP government and claimed that it was the congress government which was successful in bringing the shattered economy of the state back on the rails.Turning to budget, Mrs Bhattal said it was “development oriented” and in the same breath defended proposed cess on petrol and diesel and termed it as the need of the hour as it would generate additional revenue of Rs 450 crore, which, would be dedicated to welfare of poort sections of the society. She said the government would provide regular pensions to the old, handicapped, shoguns and stipends to dalits from this fund. Alleging that the previous Badal led government had sanctioned pensions to ingenuine people, Mrs. Bhattal said the congress government has scrutinized the list of pension beneficiaries and genuine people have been identified for the benefit.

The Deputy Chief Minister also released the “District Charter”, prepared by the Deputy Commissioner Mr. Harjit Inder Singh Grewal and honoured freedom fighters of the district. Dr Kewal Krishan, Speaker, Mr Mohinder Singh Kaypee, Mr Rakesh Pandey, both ministers, also addressed the gathering.

On the other hand, Mr Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, the General secretary of the SGPC, Mr Resham Singh Thiara, the district president of the SAD, former minister Sarwan Singh Phillaur and Mr Nand Lal, MLA also addressed the gathering.


Governor who wields pen and brush with equal ease
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Surjit Singh Barnala
Surjit Singh Barnala

Mohali, March 23
At 80, Mr Surjit Singh Barnala has the twinkle of a young artist in his eyes. A law graduate from Lucknow who began his political innings as MLA, Barnala, this former Chief Minister of Punjab has had a remarkable political career spanning five decades. Now the Governor of Tamil Nadu for the second time, Mr Barnala, however, feels that as an artist, he has just begun.

“I paint nature. It all started in Uttaranchal. The mountains and the sky, every kilometre that one moves there, nature creates a new picture,” he told mediapersons here today. “And I have no training as a painter. One day I just picked up the brush and now here I am with two exhibitions behind me. I am working for the next one in Chennai. It is just my hobby,” he explains humbly. Mr Barnala’s first works were exhibited at Punjabi University and later at Hyderabad, receiving rave reviews from the critics.

And we had thought that Mr Barnala was only into writing. His book “Story of An Escape” has now been translated into Hindi, Urdu, Tamil and Telugu.

“The second edition of the English translation has been brought out recently since the first edition was out of print. But what I am looking forward is to release the book in Braille so that the blind too can read it. The release is on March 28 at Dehradun.” he said.

The choice of the venue is not surprising. Mr Barnala became the first Governor of the new Uttranchal state. “The mid Himalayas beckon me. I love nature, it motivates me to give a vent to my creativity which I realised is inherent. There is something in me that makes me want to paint. And I see this same creativity in my four year old grandson.”

And what about politics? “I have always remained in active politics. I cannot say if I will come back to Punjab politics again but then what can one say about the future with certainty? “he said. But why not write about Punjab politics since he has been into the thick of things. “No, its too dry a topic to write about. I would choose something better for my second book which I am planning,” he said

Mr Barnala, who was instrumental in establishing Guru Nanak Dev University at Amritsar, feels strongly about technical education. “Tamil Nadu has in the past 10 years made remarkable achievements in the field of medical and technical education. Punjab too is doing well. But we should remember that these are fields where constant updation of syllabus is required if the system of education has to succeed,” he said.

In 1990, Mr Barnala was appointed as Tamil Nadu’s Governor and then again in November, 2004. But had he managed to learn Tamil? “I am almost there. In 1990, I had learnt enough Tamil to read newspapers and now I am trying to write. But you have to agree that the language is difficult. In fact, all South Indian languages are tough to learn. But I will do it”, he pointed out.


Badal ‘failed to promote Punjabi’
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 23
The Shiromani Akali Dal, led by Mr Parkash Singh Badal, which boycotted the Budget session of the Punjab Assembly on the issue of Punjabi, today found itself in a piquant situation following preference given to English by SGPC today .

Interestingly, the page one advertisement of the SGPC-run college, published in a Punjabi daily regarding its annual convocation, has been published in English.

Bhai Ranjit Singh, a former Jathedar, Akal Takht, strongly criticised Mr Badal on account of his alleged double standards on the Punjabi issue. He said if Mr Badal had love for the Punjabi language why he had sent his son and daughter to English schools in the past. He asked Mr Badal to propagate Punjabi with sincerity instead of exploiting the sentiments of innocent persons.

He alleged that Mr Badal had failed to take concrete steps to promote Punjabi during his regime. So much so, the Badal government had stopped giving awards to Punjabi writers through the Punjab Languages Department.


Cong gets Katas water for ‘kalash yatra’
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 23
After what seemed like stealing the Panthic agenda from the Shiromani Akali Dal, the Congress is set to appeal to the religious sentiments of the minority community also. The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, has returned with “holy water” from the Katas Raj temple in Pakistan which will be taken all over the state in the form of a “kalash yatra”.

Capt Amarinder Singh handed over a “kalash” full of the water he has got from Pakistan to Mayor Vishnu Sharma yesterday. The Mayor disclosed that the yatra would start on May 26 from the Kali Mata Temple here and will be taken through rural and urban areas in the state.

Speaking on the occasion, the Chief Minister said during his recent visit to Pakistan he visited the Katas Raj temple along with a business delegation after learning that the temple was in a state of disrepair. He said though the temple was in a precarious condition, it could still be saved and that he had held talks with his Pakistan counterpart and suggested ways and means to do this.

The Chief Minister said, besides earmarking funds for the restoration of the temple himself, the temple had also received funds from a number of industrialists.


5 Cong-backed directors elected

Fatehgarh Sahib, March 23
Five out of six Congress-backed candidates were elected as Directors in an election held today for the post of Directors of the Amloh Co-operative Marketing Society, where as one candidate belonging to SAD (B) was also elected.

Congress leaders and workers of the area have termed it as a victory of the policies and programmes of the Chief Minister. A majority of the elected directors owe allegiance to Mr Jasjit Singh Randhawa, Minister for Co-Operation.

Basically it was a fight between the two warring factions of Congress led by Jasjit Singh Randhawa, Minister and local MLA Sadhu Singh Dharmsot, Parliamentary Secretary.

Those elected are Baldev Singh Aulakh, who is also president of the MC Amloh and brother of the OSD to Randhawa, Mr Gurnam Singh Bhaini Jer, Mr Randhir Singh Jasran, Mr Sandeep Singh Lakha Singh Wala, Mr Sher Singh Bholian and Balbir Singh Haibatpur. OC


Wall demolished despite stay order
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 23
The Municipal Corporation authorities today demolished the boundary wall despite the fact that the owner had obtained a stay order restraining the corporation from such an act. The owner is the cousin of Nabha legislator and Punjab Informatic Chairman Randeep Singh.

The corporation authorities swung into action at around 10.15 a.m. today according to residents living in the vicinity of Jagdish Ashram and took less than 15 minutes to demolish the boundary wall. This was done despite the fact that a court order restraining the corporation authorities from such an act had been posted on the boundary wall. Earlier a local court had passed the restraining order on March 19.

Municipal Corporation Commissioner Manvesh Singh Sidhu when questioned on the issue, said he was not aware of the demolition. He said he had passed some demolition orders recently but did not remember details of this particular case. However, when told about the restraining order, he said, “if somebody has disobeyed the court order, action will be taken against him”. The Commissioner when asked how a demolition team led by an officer had overlooked the court orders pasted on the wall, he said, “There are all kinds of people”. However, he said he would be able to given details regarding the demolition team only tomorrow.

Some months back, during the run up to the parliamentary elections, a Municipal Councillor had encroached upon government land and built a shop close to today’s demolition exercise. The Corporation authorities failed to “see” the encroachment till it was completed and a notice was sent to the councillor in “due” time and he had taken a stay order from a local court.

Once this was obtained, the corporation had sighted this fact and said it could not take any action against the councillor. Though it was promised that action would be taken against concerned inspectors of the area, no such punitive action was announced.

Meanwhile, Inder Mohan Singh, whose boundary wall was demolished today, said he had constructed the boundary wall after few shops owned by him had been gutted following a blast in one of them in September last year. He said after taking over possession of the shops, which had been declared unsafe, he had constructed a boundary wall in a straight line which was in alignment with other constructions in the area.

He said he was issued a notice by the corporation authorities around 15 days back following which he personally explained the case to the commissioner. He said on his request, a team of officials was deputed to the spot and he had again explained the entire case to the officials alongwith relevant documents.

He said following this and after learning that there was “some pressure” on the corporation authorities to take action against him he had even secured a stay order from a local court. Mr Inder Mohan said it was unfortunate that the authorities had chosen to demolish the boundary wall despite this stay order.


40 trees wither as MC dumps garbage unmindfully
Deepkamal Kaur
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 23
Nearly 40 eucalyptus trees planted on the roadsides, forming a protected forest area of the Jalandhar-Amritsar road, are dying a slow death. Thanks to the callous attitude of the Municipal Corporation.

Senescence has set in untimely among the trees which are growing in the soils littered with garbage heaps that primarily contains inorganic matter, including plastic bags, It has caused dehydration among the trees, leading to withering of leaves and weakening of the trunks.

Untreated garbage from the old city areas is being spread over broad strips of soil on either sides of the road, just outside DAV College here. A patch of the land outside the girls’ hostel of the college has been converted into a dumping ground, which has turned marshy due to frequent downpour.

The garbage heaps have proved to be a nuisance not only for the trees but also for the residents and students passing through the area as it has started emitting a foul smell, besides providing a breeding ground for flies and mosquitoes.

The roots of these trees also have gone weak. A few trees have also fallen down and many are lying in an inclined position. This has caused a scare among the residents. Mr Ram Baksh, a fruit vendor, said whenever there was a thunderstorm, no one dared to stand in the shade of the trees.

Experts also opine that intermingling of non-biodegradable waste is harmful, as it does not allow the water to percolate into the soil, thereby affecting the water table level.

However, the corporation and the Pollution Control Board have turned a blind eye towards the situation. Mr Ved Vyas, Assistant Commissioner, when contacted, said he was not aware of the situation.

The Assistant Commissioner, however, admitted that garbage was being dumped in the area but added that soil was being used to cover the garbage and hence it did not emanate any stench. He said the corporation had also deployed sweepers for picking plastic bags so that the vegetation could not get affected.

The Forest Department, however, has been doing its bit to save the remaining trees. Mr Sanjeev, Forest Range Officer, said he had informed the matter to the Divisional Forest Officer, Phillaur.

He said the department had faced a loss of nearly Rs 60,000 due to the ignorance of the corporation by littering the area with polythenes and other non-decomposable matter.


Golden Temple upkeep lies with state: UNESCO
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 23
The communication of Ms J. Okahashi, a senior official of UNESCO, has confirmed that after according the world heritage status to the Golden Temple, the primary responsibility of its management and protection would be with the state.

With this, the proposed status to the Golden Temple may run into rough weather even as the SGPC chief, Bibi Jagir Kaur, had urged UNESCO to hold the process in abeyance.

A communication addressed to Dr Jasdev Singh Rai, Director, Sikh Human Rights Group (SHRG), Ms Okahashi stated that “the World Heritage Convention is an intergovernmental instrument ratified by states. According to this convention the responsibility for protecting heritage sites within a certain country belongs primarily to the state authorities. As for how, within the various levels of the government, non-government or local communities, this protection is actually operated, this is an internal matter. What matters, with respect to the WH Convention, is that this protection be effective in safeguarding universal values claimed by the nominating state when submitting a file for inscription on the world heritage list”.

The UNESCO official also stated that “a particular approach and wide consultation of all stakeholders is of course always recommended to ensure that the conservation objectives proposed in the nomination are shared by the local communities and are therefore sustainable”.


Banks to lend Rs 100 cr for heritage complex
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 23
The Punjab Government has tied up with a Punjab National Bank-led consortium of five banks for a loan of Rs 100 crore for the completion of the Khalsa Heritage Complex at Anandpur Sahib in a time-bound manner

According to a press release, the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, told world-renowned architect and designer Moshe Safdie that the state government was committed to completing the project.

He added that the Anandpur Sahib Foundation had already started drawing the amount for executing the ongoing work at the site. He said Larsen & Toubro (L&T) had resumed the construction work and was likely to complete the civil work within the stipulated period of 18 months.

Earlier, Mr Safdie asked the Chief Minister to resolve various issues pertaining to the completion of the project. After meeting the Chief Minister to plan the modalities, he said the issue relating to L&T should be resolved to complete the project within the schedule of two years. He was accompanied by President of Cultural Innovation from Toronto Robert Barne.


20-yr-old tastes freedom after 18 months
Our Correspondent

Alimajra (Rajpura), March 23
Tears of joy washed away 45-year-old Gian Kaur’s agony of 18-month separation from her son as Nahar Singh (20), who had been in a Pakistani jail, returned to his house and to freedom this morning.

Getting information about the release of their son from a Pakistani jail, the parents had made all arrangements to receive him. Their house buzzed with excitement and activity as a large number of relatives and neighbours gathered to welcome Nahar.

Dreams to solemnise the marriages of his two sisters, Sarabjit Kaur and Jasbir Kaur, and to help his parents financially, had made Nahar Singh decide to go overseas. His father Daler Singh, owner of a small landholding, revealed that they fell in the trap of a travel agent and were cheated. Travel agent had sent Nahar Singh to Jordan illegally in September, 2003 after charging Rs 40,000.

While talking to the Chandigarh Tribune, Nahar Singh said during these 18 months he had a bitter taste of life as he was made to move from Jordan to Syria, Lebanon and Turkey.

Two other Punjabi youths, Manohan Lal from Jalandhar and Karamjit Singh from Kaithal had joined him in Jordan. While they were being taken to Greece, the Turkish police nabbed them and they were sent to Iran from where they were then sent to Pakistan and were lodged in a jail there.

In all these countries Nahar Singh worked as a labourer and was tortured. He was lodged along with 23 other Punjabi youths in Kota Jail in Pakistan.


Advocates competent to audit accounts, says association
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, March 23
Resentment prevailed among the members of the Taxation Bar Association here against the proposed Punjab Value Added Tax Act.

It is being implemented from April 1, 2005 in which only Chartered Accountants have been authorised for the purpose of auditing accounts.

Advocates and Income Tax Practitioners have not been authorised for the said purpose.

Mr Harish Aery, secretary of the Taxation Bar Association, stated in a press note today that the empowered committee of the State Finance Ministers for the implementation of VAT on the uniform basis issued white paper on January 17 to be followed by all states.

He said advocates and Income Tax practitioners were more conversant with sales tax law than Chartered Accountants.

He urged the state government that keeping in view their expertise they should also be authorised to conduct audit and issue audit reports, certificates under Section 43 of the proposed VAT Act 2005 along with Chartered Accountants.


BSNL subscribers issued fake receipts
Lalit Mohan and Bharat Bhushan Dogra

Pathankot, March 23
Mr Satish Kumar of Shakti Nagar had been depositing his telephone bill regularly but to his surprise, his outgoing calls were barred by the local BSNL authorities. He was told that his bills for May and July had not been deposited.

He had, however, saved the receipts issued by the BSNL authorities, certifying that the bills had been deposited.

Ms Ajay Mahajan, another subscriber, told the BSNL authorities that she had deposited the bills regularly but her telephone services had been disconnected illegally.

Sources said the “scam” committed in the deposition of the bills had been detected after this year’s audit. The audit team found that many subscribers had not deposited the bills. They asked the BSNL authorities to recover the bill. In the meantime, the services to many subscribers were either restricted or disconnected.

Representatives of the BSNL employees’ union alleged that some employees had taken money from the subscribers but issued fake receipts. About Rs 2 to Rs 2.5 lakh had been swindled.

The General Manager, BSNL (Pathankot), Mr Mausadi Lal, said he had not received any written complaint.


Amritsar MC to buy small fire engine
Rashmi Talwar

Amritsar, March 23
The Municipal Corporation has proposed procurement of a small fire engine to tackle emergencies in narrow lanes of the walled city. The MC woke up to the need for smaller fire engines after the cylinder blast in gali Tiwariyan that claimed four lives and left 15 injured recently . Mr KS Kang Commissioner Municipal Corporation, told The Tribune that the mini fire engine would be indigenously fitted with pressure pumps and could enter narrow lanes. The cost of the vehicle would be Rs 5 lakh while another vehicle would be purchased after studying feasibility report.

Meanwhile, a comprehensive survey has been ordered by the MC, for the walled city that would start next week. It will be a multi-team operation to assess the strength of buildings in the walled city, number of water points to be connected to main tubewells and identification of vulnerable buildings. The Fire Department also needs revamping. Despite requirement of 13 fire engines, only nine are present.

Although 50 water points are connected to tubewells, these are useless during power failure. Out of four fire stations only the Gillawali Gate has a reservoir with a capacity of 20,000 litres although four such reservoirs are required.


Common civil code sought
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 23
The General Samaj Party (GSP) yesterday asked the Union Government to introduce a common civil code throughout the country to strengthen the bonds of brotherhood and unity among various castes.

It also asked the Union Government to scrap the Reservation Act and the Atrocities Act. Mr Suresh Kumar Goyal, party president, said here that the two Acts were suicidal for the country.


HC appoints panel to determine farmers’ losses
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 23
While adjudicating the petition filed by the Progressive Farmers Association headed by Mr Sukhpal Singh Khaira, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has appointed a high-powered committee to determine the losses suffered by farmers during the kharif 2000-01 season and the extent they have been compensated.

The committee headed by the Principal Secretary, Food and Civil Supplies, Punjab, will also decide to what extent farmers are required to be compensated further. The other members of the committee will be the Financial Commissioner (Development), Punjab, a nominee of the ministry concerned of the Union Government, the Managing Director of Markfed , the Senior Regional Manager of the FCI, and a representative of farmers to be nominated by the Financial Commissioner (Development). The committee has been asked to take the final decision in the matter as expeditiously as practicable and in any case not later than three months.

The order has been passed by the Chief Justice, Mr Justice D.K. Jain, and Mr Justice Hemant Kumar. It has been stated in the order that in case the petitioner is not satisfied with the report of the committee, it will be open for him to take recourse to appropriate proceedings in accordance with the law.

The petitioner had filed the petition in 2001, stating that farmers suffered losses to the tune of Rs 1,000 crore due the distress sale of paddy that year in Punjab alone and they were not adequately compensated though a promise was made in this connection by the government authorities concerned.

Mr Khaira had stated in the petition that no efforts were made to determine the actual losses suffered by the farmers due to distress sale and the meagre compensation that was to be given to the farmers was pocketed by middlemen. Farmers were forced to sell paddy at Rs 150 to Rs 200 per quintal losses than the minimum support price.

The court in its order said that at this juncture it would be neither feasible nor appropriate to direct an inquiry into the question of losses suffered by the farmers on account of the distress sale of paddy.

The stand taken by the respondents — Union Government and others — in the court was that a substantial amount had been disbursed among farmers to compensate them for the losses suffered. The Punjab Government told the court that the farmers had suffered a loss of Rs 250 crore due to the purchase of paddy by the procurement agencies at a rate which was lower than the MSP by Rs 25 per quintal.

The stand of the Union Government was that keeping in veiw the difficulties faced by farmers specifications were relaxed to purchase the paddy and a decision was taken to compensate the farmers, whose paddy was purchased below the MSP. A sum of Rs 100 crore was to be disbursed by the Punjab Government and 50 per cent of it was to be shared by the Union Government.

Mr Khaira said that he would soon call a meeting of various farmers’ organisations to present the farmers’ case before the high-powered committee set up by the court.


Smack smuggling on the rise in Malwa region
Tribune News Service

Mansa, March 23
Smack has been entering Punjab in huge quantity from Haryana, MP and Rajasthan.

Though the smuggling of smack was earlier confined to big cities of Punjab like Amritsar, Jalandhar and Ludhiana, now it has made inroads into the Malwa region.

Mr Gautam Cheema, SSP. today said that Mohammad Shaheed and Saleem both residents of Kota district in Rajasthan, had been arrested for allegedly smuggling 500 gm of smack in the Sardulgarh area of this district. They had been running opium processing units in the jungles of Madhya Pradesh and had been smuggling smack, opium and heroin to Mumbai, West Bengal and Punjab. Muktsar district has been witnessing rampant smuggling of smack and hardly any day passes when the police does not apprehend a smack smuggler.

In Bathinda, three cases pertaining to smuggling of smack were registered in 2003. The number of such cases went up to seven in 2004 and in January this year, three cases had been registered.

The police had also arrested Tehal Singh in the Sardulgarh area and seized 2 kg of opium.

In another case, the police arrested Kulwant Singh and seized 1 kg of opium.


Teachers join ‘handcuffs’ against govt
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 23
Protesting against the contractual appointments being made in the government schools of the state, members of the Unemployed Elementary Teachers’ Union held a massive rally here today.

The rallyists raised slogans against the government as they handcuffed themselves while passing through various streets of the city. The members gathered at the Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Hall and marched towards Bhagat Singh Chowk.

Explaining the reasons for getting themselves handcuffed, Mr Jaswinder Singh Sidhu, president, said while it took so long for the Indians to free themselves from the shackles of British rulers, they felt they were still not liberated as their hands were tied due to unemployment and poverty.

He said despite being qualified, they had failed to get any jobs in the government sector.

The teachers demanded that the unemployed ETT youth be given a chance to take up thousands of posts that were lying vacant.


Staff of aided schools to stage dharna on March 28
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 23
Nearly 10,000 teachers in 488 government-aided schools of the state have decided to stage a dharna at Matka Chowk, Chandigarh, on March 28 in support of their demand for the restoration of pension and other demands.

In a statement issued here yesterday, the state president of the Government-Aided School Staff Union, Mr Gurcharan Singh Chahal, said the government was not justifying its action of denying pension to the employees working on government-aided posts who would retire in the near future. The employees who had retired earlier were being paid pensionary benefits, he added.

He criticised the sudden decision of the state government to stop pensionary benefits of the employees who had retired after March 31, 2003.


Impose VAT at first point, say chemists

Sangrur, March 23
The Sangrur District Chemists Association today asked the Union Government to issue a notification to levy 4 per cent value-added tax (VAT) on the maximum retail price (MRP) at first point on all types of medicines.

Stating this here, the president and general secretary of the association said the imposition of 4 per cent VAT on the MRP of the medicines at first point would bring uniformity in the prices of medicines throughout the country. — TNS

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