P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Vat Bill introduced in Punjab House
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 24
The Punjab Government moved closer to the implementation of VAT in the state from April 1 as its Excise and Taxation Minister, Mr Sardul Singh, introduced the Punjab Value Added Tax Bill, 2005, replacing the ordinance in the state assembly today.

The Bill will come up for discussion later in the House. In the statement of objects and reasons for introducing the Bill, Mr Sardul Singh stated that in Punjab nearly 43 per cent of the state’s revenue came from sales tax. The administration of the existing system of sales tax lacked the basic features of any forward-looking tax administration, namely neutrality, simplicity and equity.

The sales tax administration was also archaic and irrational, leaving most of the tax compliance and enforcement to taxpayers and administrators.

A quick reading of the Bill makes it clear that it is soft in nature and the provisions relating to penalty incorporated in it are not very harsh. The business community had recently protested against the introduction of VAT as it had apprehended that the authorities would subject it to very harsh penalties in case of violation of any provision in the Bill. For that reason, the appears, its penalty provisions have been kept lenient.

However, for almost all offences there is a provision of cash penalty. No penalty, will, however, be imposed unless the person concerned is afforded an opportunity of being heard by serving a notice.

Moreover, the returns furnished, accounts and documents made available in accordance with this Bill or any evidence recorded in the course of any proceedings under the relevant law, other than the proceedings before a criminal court, shall be treated as confidential. Notwithstanding anything contained in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, no court shall, save as aforesaid, be entitled to require any officer of the state government to produce before it any such statement, return, account or document or any part thereof or to give evidence before it in respect thereof.
The appeal with regard to the orders passed by the Tax Tribunal would lie before the high court.

Tax-free items

There will no tax on agricultural implements operated manually or driven by animals, aids and implements used by handicapped persons, aquatic feed, poultry, cattle feed, hay,straw and grass, betel leaves, books, periodicals and journals, bread, charcoal, charkhas, condoms and contraceptives, cotton and silk yarn, curd, lassi, earthen pots,electrical energy, fishnets fishnet fabrics, fresh milk, pasturised and “separated” milk, fresh plants, saplings, fresh flowers, fresh vegetables and fruits, garlic and ginger, glass bangles, human blood and plasma, kirpans and handmade musical instruments.

Items on which tax will be 4 per cent

There are at least 95 items on which the rate of tax will be 4 per cent. These include agricultural implements not operated manually, all kinds of bricks, all types of yarn, bicycles, rickshaws, capital goods, chemical fertilisers, pesticides, mono block and submersible pumps, coffee beans, cotton and cotton waste, drugs, medicines, edible oils, embroidery or zari articles, atta, maida, suji, besan, gur, jaggery, handpumps, hawai chappals, ice, agarbattis, industrial inputs and packing material, kerosene sold through the PDS, knitting wool, oil cakes, paddy, rice,wheat and pulses, paper and newsprint, pizza bread, processed salt, readymade garments, roasted gram, groundnut, seeds, solvent oils, sports goods, sugarcane, stainless steel sheets, transmission towers and umbrellas.

Items on which tax will be 1 per cent

These include bullions, gold, silver and platinum ornaments and precious stones.

Items with 20 per cent or above tax rate

On aviation turbine fuel, the tax rate will be 20 per cent. The tax rate on liquor will be 22 per cent, on lotteries 30 per cent and petrol 27.5 per cent.

Goods not mentioned in any of the schedules will be taxed at the rate of 12.5 per cent. The Bill is expected to be passed by April 1, the day on which VAT is to be enforced by Punjab and other states in the country.


NIT Director functioning despite sack order
Deepkamal Kaur
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 24
Despite having been issued order of termination of service, the Director of Dr B.R. Ambedkar National Institute of Technology continues to work. He also took classes on the campus here today.

Even as Mr Jambulkar, Deputy Educational Adviser to the Ministry of Human Resource Development, said that he had sent a faxed message in this regard and even issued orders through post yesterday, the local authorities feigned ignorance.

Mr Pramod S. Mehta, Director of the institute, was not available for comments as his PA, Ms Poonam, repeatedly said that he was taking classes.

The order issued by Mr Jambulkar clearly mentions that the NIT Director's services were terminated immediate effect as he was appointed without necessary approval of the appointment committee of the Cabinet. In such a situation, he was to hand over charge to the seniormost faculty member, Dr R.Sharma from the Department of Physics. But this did not happen today.

The Registrar of the NIT, Mr K.K. Dhir, said he was not sure of having received any orders from the MHRD as he was not on the campus. Mr Hari Gautam, Chairman of Board of Governors of the NIT, too said that no order of the sort had been received by him. He said if anything of the sort would have happened, he should have got the order in the first place.

Interestingly, Mr Gautam had also denied any such move against the director by the ministry even during his visit a month ago during annual convocation of the institute. The chairman had even denied having seen any advertisement for the post of Director issued for 11 of the total 18 NITs by the MHRD. He had said that he was performing his duties diligently and his post was safe.

Dr Sharma, when contacted, also denied having being given any charge by the Director or Registrar on the basis of his seniority. The situation, however, caused unrest among faculty members who had been somewhat dissatisfied with his working. The staff had been long demanding transparency in the academic and other matters, besides complaining of partial behaviour by the administrators.

The faculty members said they were a bit apprehensive about the situation as a similar instance had taken place in the NIT here about three years ago when Dr H.S. Sagar, Principal of then called Regional Engineering College (REC), had been awarded a two-year extension after having completed two tenures. "The college had stopped receiving any grant from the MHRD and the process of getting deemed university status was also delayed.

The students and faculty had locked gates and finally Dr R. Sharma was handed over the charge," they recalled saying that they did not want the situation to turn volatile again.


Principal ‘manhandles’ teacher
Rajbir Sekhon

Bathinda, March 24
Ms Ravneet Kaur Sidhu, a Punjabi teacher at the local Delhi Public School, today alleged that the Principal manhandled her and subsequently forced her to quit the job.

Ms Sidhu said she was teaching in the school for the past one year and was working to satisfaction of students and authorities. She alleged that Ms Jyotsna Sobti, who had joined DPS as Principal recently, was arrogant and she pressurised her to leave the job.

She alleged that Ms Sobti manhandled her on March 21 in the presence of her husband and staff members with the help of a section of the security guards. She further alleged that Ms Sobti used derogatory language against her without any reason. She pointed out that the only reason for which she was insulted was that she had been appointed by the former management of the school. She said Ms Sobti had also forced other staff members to give false statements against their colleagues.

She added that she was not the only teacher of DPS who was forced to leave her job. Earlier the attitude of Ms Sobti had forced nine teachers of the school to leave their jobs. She alleged that by doing so Ms Sobti had not only been disturbing the atmosphere of the school, but had also been damaging the reputation of the institution.

Ms Sidhu demanded immediate removal of Ms Sobti from her post. She had also given her legal notice for passing derogatory remarks against her and forcing her to leave the job.

Ms Sobti, when contacted, while denying all the allegations levelled by Ms Sidhu, said the husband of Ms Sidhu misbehaved with security guards after making his entry into the school forcibly. She added that after that Ms Sidhu and her husband created a scene in the school and held out threats to staff members. She added that one of the security guards, who was allegedly manhandled and abused, had lodged a complaint against the husband of Ms Sidhu.

She wondered why Ms Sidhu did not approach the police on March 21 when she was allegedly manhandled. Ms Sidhu allegedly failed to handle class X students and she was asked to start teaching class V but she insisted that she would continue to teach class X. She added that Ms Sidhu had been trying to tarnish the image of school for her vested interests.


Police officer ‘threatens’ lawyer in Khalra case
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 24
Prosecution lawyer and human rights activist Brijinder Singh Sodhi today claimed that he had been threatened with dire consequences by a police officer who is an accused in the Jaswant Singh Khalra disappearance case in the court premises here.

Mr Sodhi claimed that the incident occurred when he was going to enter the court at around 11.30 a.m. He said a police officer, Surinderpal Singh, who was the Station House Officer of Sarhali in Tarn Taran when Khalra was kidnapped in 1995, threatened him saying “earlier we might have broken your legs but now we will have to kill you”.

The lawyer said this blatant threat came after a number of threatening calls received by him on the telephone, including one today morning. He said he had been receiving threatening calls on his mobile number since the last one week. Mr Sodhi said the calls were made from numbers which were not listed and that the callers appeared to be drunk while threatening him with dire consequences in case he persisted in appearing for the prosecution in the case.

Mr Sodhi said he would be approaching the court of Additional Session Judge S.P. Bangarh, who is hearing the Khalra case, tomorrow with all relevant details. He said he would also be approaching the President, Prime Minister and other senior officials stating that if anything happened to him or his family in the near future, the accused police officials in the Khalra case would be responsible for it. He said he had not approached the local police as he did not have any faith in it.

Defence lawyer Satnam Singh Kler when contacted on the issue, said there was very little chance of such an incident happening today. He said this was because all the lawyers had entered the court twice today in the morning and afternoon sessions and no untoward incident occurred during this period. “Moreover in case Mr Sodhi received any threat from one of the accused he should have informed the court or us”. Mr Kler said this was the first time that such an allegation was being made as no such incident had occurred in the three year period since the case was being heard in Patiala. He, however, said in case such an incident had occurred it was unfortunate.

Meanwhile the cross examination of CBI Superintendent of Police K.S. Joshi ended today. During the cross examination, the CBI officer, who had investigated the case in the beginning, admitted that the CBI had discarded Special Police Officer (SPO) Kuldeep Singh as a witness in the case. The CBI officer admitted that this was done due to the various flip flops committed by Kuldeep Singh after he gave a statement to the CBI indicting various police officials of murdering Khalra. The defence lawyers also questioned the time of two and a half years taken by Kuldeep to come forward to depose in the case.

The prosecution, meanwhile, filed an application asking that Kikar Singh, an earlier witness who had turned hostile, be summoned before the court.


Punjab plan to promote eco-tourism
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 24
The Punjab Government is working out the modalities for promoting eco-tourism in the Ropar wetland. In fact, the state government has already asked the Delhi-based Wetland International South Asia (WISA) to prepare an "eco-tourism development plan" for the wetland. In all, there are three wetlands in the state.

Giving details, Punjab's Director and Warden of Fisheries, Dr Baljeet Singh Sidhu, says WISA's team — headed by the Director, Dr C.L. Trisal — visited the area on Tuesday for selecting a suitable site. He adds that the team is expected to submit a detailed plan to the Fisheries Department and the state government soon.

The development is significant as the wetland, besides being a source of "great economic, cultural, scientific and recreational value", serves as a refuge to a wide variety of fauna and flora.

Rather, the rich flora in the wetland includes medicinal, woody, ornamental, economic and ecologically important plants. The flowers blooming in the wetland also attract different varieties of butterflies, bees and other insects, making it a "favourite destination" for tourists.

"We hope to further boost tourism by providing just the right kind of environment under the eco-tourism plan", says Punjab's Animal Husbandry, Fisheries and Tourism Minister, Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang.

Meanwhile, sources in Fisheries Department say that the Union Ministry of Environment has already sanctioned a project for the conservation and management of the wetlands in the state.


In service of the suffering and the poor in Punjab
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 24
Its the calling of the roots. After spending three decades in dealing with homeless families affected by drug or alchohol abuse or suffering from mental diseases or HIV/AIDS in the US, Ms Boona Cheema, Executive Director of Building Opportunities For Self Sufficiency (BOSS), a community-based organisation in the USA, is back to her roots here to help out the poor and suffering in Punjab.

For almost 33 years, Ms Cheema has been working with homeless families in Alameda County of California. She says that in Alameda County itself, there are about 8000 persons who remain homeless during a year. 'Its a strange paradox. Though the US Social Security Department looks after their upkeep, even in a rich nation like the US, there are families who have remained homeless for generations. BOSS is working in four sectors - economic development; housing; policy and advocacy.

Our target population is not just homeless, but those people suffering from mental illness, HIV, affected by domestic violence or drug and alchohol abuse, so that we can help them. Since we have taken a holistic approach for the settlement of homeless, our model is now being replicated in all states of the US, and we hope to replicate this in Punjab," she says.

Her organisation, BOSS, has tied up with the Sri Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle, an NGO working in the area of drug and alcohol abuse in Punjab.

"I intend acting as a bidge between NGOs here and the community-based Organisations (CBO's) in the US, so that a more holistic approach can be adopted for social welfare. The idea is to check out the best practices that are being adopted by NGOs here, and see what can be done to improve them, keeping in view the cultural senstivity so as to build a better society," she says.

"For example, because of a pre-conceived notion that women here cannot be addicted to drugs, no NGO is working on eradication of drug abuse among women. After all , they , too , face the same pressures in life as men. "We have tied up with the Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle, and propose to start a residential programme for women drug and alchohol addicts," she says.

She is also finalising a tie-up of US-based CBO-CEO Women with the Dr Amrik Singh Cheema Foundation Trust, for female literacy and economic uplift of women in Punjab. The trust is an NGO named after Ms Cheema's father and one of the pioneer's of Green Revolution, Dr Amrik Singh Cheema.

A former journalist with a leading English national daily, Ms Boona Cheema wanted to be a war correspondent. She left for Vietnam to cover the war, and experienced a complete transition when she saw the sufferings and war crimes being committed there.

She then ended up working as a social activist with the International Voluntary Services for providing medical help to the napalm bomb child victims of Vietnam. She later went to the US, and found her calling as a social activist. She also trained as a minister in a seminary in the US so that she could mix her spiritual experiences in her social work.


Landmine blast victims demand govt jobs
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, March 24
The persons who got maimed in mine blasts in border areas of the district have demanded government jobs. The demand was raised by an 18-year-old girl, Rama Devi, of Varsal Jattan village, who lost her leg when a mine planted by the Army in border areas in 2002 blasted.

Rama raised the issue at a function organised by the Army to provide ex gratia to the persons of the borders areas who lost limbs to the mine blasts from 2002 to 2003. The mines were laid in borders areas during the said period due to escalated tension between India and Pakistan.

She said the meager grant of Rs 1.5 lakh being given by the government could not compensate the loss of their limbs.

At the function the Commanding Officer of 21 Sub Area, Brig R.K. Sharma, stated that the Union Government and the Army had decided to give Rs 1.5 lakh grant to each civilian who had lost limbs. Of the said amount an ex gratia of Rs 37,500 were paid to the affected persons today. The remaining amount would also be released very soon. Besides the grant, the Army was also planning to give free medical care and educational facilities to them, he added.

The SDM, Pathankot, Mr Amarjit Paul, said the Union Government had released Rs 8 crore as compensation for damage to the crops of border farmers. Of the said grant Rs 7 crore had been paid to the farmers while the process has been started for distributing the remaining Rs 1 crore to the affected farmers in Narot Jaimal Singh block.


SGPC warning over maryada
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 24
Bibi Jagir Kaur, president of SGPC, today said the Shiromani Committee would not tolerate any interference of UNESCO or the government in its administration and “maryada” of the Golden Temple and might withdraw the case for seeking world heritage status.

In a press note issued here today, Bibi Jagir Kaur said the SGPC had asked UNESCO to suspend processing the dossier of the Golden Temple till the sub- committee, formed by the SGPC reviewed the dossier.

However, she said Dr Jasdev Singh had no authority to comment on seeking the world heritage status for the holy shrine.

Meanwhile, Bibi Kiranjot Kaur, an executive member of the SGPC, who had coordinated for preparing the dossier of the Golden Temple, clarified that the statement of the UK based Sikh, Dr Rai, was totally misleading.

Dr Rai had raised apprehensions that the state would interfere in the management of Darbar Sahib, following granting of the world heritage status.

She claimed that under the rules of UNESCO, the management of the Golden Temple would remain in the hands of Shiromani Committee under the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925.


Tiff between Army men, villagers; traffic blocked
Tribune News Service

Hariyal (Gurdaspur), March 24
Residents of Hariyal village today blocked traffic on the Pathankot-Kangra National Highway to protest against the alleged high-handedness of the Army authorities. Traffic was blocked for about two hours and the crowd raised slogans against the Army authorities.

The villagers told The Tribune that yesterday a woman went to the fields to answer the call of nature. One Army jawan allegedly tried to molest her. She raised an alarm following which her husband Dinesh, and brother-in-law Mukesh came to her rescue. They overpowered the army jawan and allegedly beat him up. The jawan was later brought to the village. The matter was resolved through intervention of the police and father of the jawan. The woman reportedly suffered injuries while saving herself.

Yesterday at about 9.30 pm a large number of armed Army jawans allegedly belonging 413, Engineer Regiment, descended on the village. They thrashed the villagers and picked up the husband, brother-in-law and neighbour of the woman concerned. All three were allegedly taken to an undisclosed place and tortured.

Later, they were thrown on the main road near their village in an injured state. All three were admitted to the Civil Hospital, Pathankot. The police registered a case on a complaint by the injured persons.

Mr Parveen Minhas, a local Shiv Sena leader who also belongs to the same village and spearheaded today’s protest against the Army authorities, alleged that he had been receiving threatening calls. He alleged that Army personnel were threatening him on the telephone.

The SSP Gurdaspur, Mr Ishwar Singh, when contacted said the matter had been taken up with the army authorities at Pathankot. They were also trying to verify the facts in the case. The case has been registered on a complaint by the victims and efforts are being made to resolve the tiff.

The Army authorities were not available for comments.


Dowry death: police inaction alleged, highway blocked
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, March 24
Traffic remained disrupted on the Pathankot-Jammu national highway today for about eight hours as agitated residents protested against the alleged police inaction in a dowry death case. The residents of the Char Marla quarter area got agitated when the body of Kamlesh was found in a gunny bag near the railway track adjoining the Chaki river bridge.

Kamlesh, who was reportedly involved in a dowry dispute, had been missing since March 19. Her parents said a woman had taken Kamlesh to her in-laws with an assurance that she would help settle the dispute. Since then she had gone missing. Her parents lodged a complaint with the police and a DDR was registered.

Agitated at the “police inaction”, the residents blocked the national highway near Dhaki. The placed the body at the centre of the road and held a dharna.

They raised slogans against the police authorities and demanded the immediate arrest of her in-laws. They alleged that the accused were being shielded by the MLA and a former municipal councillor.

The SDM and the SP failed to persuade them to lift the blockade. The traffic was diverted to the Pathankot-Gurdaspur and Dalhousie roads.

The blockade was lifted at about 4 pm when the police managed to arrest one of the accused.

The SSP Gurdaspur, Mr Ishwar Singh, when asked to comment about the case said Kamlesh had lodged a dowry complaint against her in-laws in February.

A case was registered on February 22 and her husband and father-in-law were arrested and sent to jail. They managed to secure a bail and another complaint was lodged by her.

Raids were conducted on the house of her in-laws but it was found locked. Now that the body had been recovered, a murder case would be registered, he added.


Rape cases highest in Ludhiana
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 24
As many as 1,121 rape and 2,358 murder cases were registered in Punjab between 2002 and March 10 this year. This information was tabled in the Punjab Assembly by the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, in response to a question by the BJP MLA, Mr Tikshan Sud, and the Akali MLA, Mr Balbir Singh Maini.

As many as 300 cases of rape were registered in 2002 and of these 104 were under trial in various courts. As many as 45 such cases were cancelled and 12 were untraced. Accused persons were convicted in 32 cases and acquitted in 105. The maximum number of cases were registered in Ludhiana district.

During 2003, as many as 380 cases of rape were registered. And 160 of these had been sent to the courts concerned for trial. The FIRs in 52 cases were cancelled. In 2004, as many as 389 rape cases were registered. And 216 of these were at the trial stage. Till March 10 this year 52 cases had been registered.

From the number of rape cases, it appears that Ludhiana is the most unsafe district for women.

As far as murders were concerned, 732 such cases were registered in 2002. Of these, 352 cases were sent to trial courts and 113 remained untraced whereas 58 cases were cancelled.

As many as 730 murder cases were registered in 2003. Of these 443 were sent to courts for trial, 92 remained untraced and 39 cases were cancelled. In 2004, as many as 775 cases were registered and 516 of these had been filed in various trial courts. During the current year, till March 10, 121 cases had been registered. Jalandhar and Ludhiana districts figured at the top in the number of murder cases.


Liquor auction disgraceful: Jagmeet
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 24
Describing liquor auction in the state as an "utterly disgraceful event", former MP Jagmeet Singh Brar said today that the same had brought the Congress government, led by Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, "under a clout".

Claiming that the auction was conducted in a "dictatorial style", he said the "single issue was enough to wipe the Congress from the political horizon of Punjab." In a press note, he added that the Chief Minister — like many businessmen — had learnt that free competition was a waste and "monopoly efficient".

Appreciating efforts by Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda for ensuring free competition and level playing field, he added that as a result the revenue had registered an increase.


Rally, seminar mark World TB Day
Tribune Reporters

Sangrur, March 24
More than 5,000 TB patients have benefited under the revised national TB control programme in Sangrur district so far. This was stated by Dr Surinder Singla, in charge, district TB centre, Civil Hospital, Sangrur, at a TB awareness rally on the occasion of World TB Day at the War Heroes Stadium here today.

Earlier, Dr Inderjit Kaur Walia, Civil Surgeon, Sangrur, flagged off a TB awareness rally from the local Civil Hospital. A large number of school students and students of the local Multipurpose Health Workers (Female) Training School took part, which passed through the main bazaar and culminated at the War Heroes Stadium. Dr Suresh Singla, Deputy Medical Commissioner, Sangrur; Dr O.P. Khangwal, District TB Officer; and Dr H.S. Bali, ENT specialist were also present.

On the occasion the District TB Control Society, Sangrur, conferred an award of honour on the Lions Clubs International, District 321-F. The award has been conferred in recognition of the services rendered by the club in the implementation of the programme.

Hoshiarpur: Ninety lakh persons are suffering from TB in India and two persons die from this disease every three minutes in the world. This was stated by Dr S.P S. Sohal, Civil Surgeon, Hoshiarpur, while addressing in a seminar on “Observe DOTs — To Make Punjab TB Free” at Mahavir Spinning Mills complex here on Thursday. He said to root out TB, patients should get treatment under DOTs.

About DOTs, Dr Sohal said under this ant-TB drugs were administered to patients free of cost under the supervision of a person of the Health Department.

Mr. I.M.J.S. Sidhu, chief executive of Mahavir Spinning Mill, who was the chief guest, expressed gratitude to the Health Department for organising an awareness lecture on TB for the mill workers. He stressed the need for organising such seminars.

Dr Rajnish Sud, District TB Officer, Dr Ajay Bagga, in charge, School Health Programme, and many others also addressed the seminar.


Drug menace discussed
Sarabjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 24
Cutting across party lines, members of various political parties expressed serious concern over the growing problem of drugs in Punjab. A resolution in this regard was moved by Congress MLA Jugal Kishore Sharma.

Initiating the discussion, Mr Sharma, said the use of drugs, poppy husk, etc. had become a serious problem in the state and all should join hands to tackle it. Punjabi youths had been become its victims in a big way, he said.

Akali Dal MLA Manpreet Singh Badal said there was not a single village free from the grip of drugs, especially poppy husk. He said Punjab topped in per capita consumption of liquor not only in the country but the entire world.

Citing the example of Pakistan Punjab, Ashwani Sekhri said during his recent visit there, “we were surprised to find that no youth was drunk. Where as in Indian Punjab, one finds almost every second youth hooked to liquor,” he said.

Moreover, Indian Punjab’s economy had become too dependent on excise revenue, he said. Though in Pakistan Punjab there was no income from excise, condition of most of the cities there was better than Indian Punjab, he added.

Among others who spoke on the issue in the House were Suchha Singh Chottepur, Gurjant Singh Kuttiwal, Gulzar Singh Ranike, Gurkanwal Kaur, Jagmohan Singh Kang, Des Raj Dugga, Raj Kumar Verka, Balwinder Singh Bhunder and Tota Singh.

Earlier, raising the issue of stray cattle and wild animals through a notice, Des Raj Dugga said it had become a big problem for farmers of the Kandi area.

The government should take immediate measures to protect the interest of farmers who had been hit hard by the problem of stray cattle.


Dam area under illegal cultivation
Ravi Bhushan Puri

Pathankot, March 24
More than 2000 acres along the Ranjit Sagar Dam popularly known as the Thein Dam reservoir is under illegal cultivation posing a serious threat to the dam’s security. The land was acquired and compensation to the tune of crores was paid to its owners.

After acquisition, the ownership rights vested with the RSD. The dam authorities are at liberty to lease out or use the acquired land in any manner. Sources revealed that the authorities had not given any rights to anyone for cultivation or using the fertile land.

A majority of the persons whose land was acquired had not given ‘physical possession’ of their acquired land, said sources. “We were not stopped by anyone from cultivation,” said an old resident of Phangota village.

Chief Engineer of RSD project Bhalinder Singh confirmed that no one could be allowed to cultivate the land belonging to the RSD project. He said the enforcement wing of the project would take appropriate action against the violators .

The multicrore RSD project was a joint project of Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. It is said to be a ‘high security zone’ due to its proximity with the border.

When contacted, RSD security in charge Lt-Col G.S. Mullick (retd) said more than 260 persons of PESCO has been deployed for safety and security of the dam. He further said that there was no threat to the project.


Council passes Rs 11.03 cr budget

Phagwara, March 24
The annual budget meeting of the Nagar Council, Phagwara, held today unanimously passed a budget of Rs 11.03 crore for 2005-06.

A press note by council president Malkiat Singh Ragbotra this afternoon claimed that the major thrust of the council would be on the development of the town.

A sum of Rs 6.25 crore had been earmarked for development projects, Rs 1 crore for roads and drains and Rs 25 lakh was kept for augmenting the capacity of tubewells for meeting the drinking water requirements. — OC


PSHRC member inspects mental hospital
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 24
The old Hindi song, “Ek raasta hai zindagi, jo tham gaya to kuch nahin, was touching as mentally challenged Jatinder played it on harmonium. The occasion was a survey by Mr V.K. Sibal, member of the Punjab State Human Right Commission (PSHRC), to assess the living conditions of the inmates of Dr Vidya Sagar Mental Hospital today. As many as 345 patients are in the hospital.

Mr Sibal inspected the pantry, besides the cooking and sanitary conditions.

The visit was pre-planned and the public relations office had informed the media about the visit a day earlier. Hence, it was being felt that the hospital had been “prepared” for the visit.


PNB sells properties of 2 defaulters
Our Correspondent

Mandi Gobindgarh, March 24
In an open auction Punjab National Bank, Mandi Gobindgarh, sold properties of two defaulters M/s Bhola Steel Rolling Mills and M/s Star Metals, Mandi Gobindgarh. The properties were taken over by the bank last year under Section B(2) of the Securitisation and Reconstruction Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Act 2002.

The auction was conducted by M/s Prem Garg and Associates in the presence of Mr K.K. Gulati and other officials of the bank. The bank will be able to reduce its NPA by Rs 53,80,000, said Mr V.K. Khurana, branch manager, here today. He further stated that under the Scrutination Act banks would take steps for reducing the NPA level. It is going ahead for 0 per cent NPA bank, which is at 0.28 per cent. The bank has already recovered 95.25 lakh during past two months.


high court
Notice issued
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, March 24
The High Court on Thursday issued notice of motion for May 16 on the petition challenging the appointment of Mr Kashmir Singh Patti as Chairman of the Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission.

Today, the Bench headed by Mr Justice N.K. Sud also summoned record pertaining to appointment of Mr Patti.

The petitioners, SGPC member Jasmair Singh and three others have also appended a letter that Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh who wrote to Mr Patti in 1997, opposing the Commission's alleged pro-Akali Dal stance.

Saying that Capt Amarinder, who was then President of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, had reportedly written to Mr Patti, requesting him to stop being a rubber-stamp of the Akalis.

In their petition, Mr Jasmair Singh and others have challenged the action of the government in appointing Mr Patti to the post on the grounds that it was not a bona fide exercise of power.


Clerk remanded in police custody

Kharar, March 24
A court here today remanded a clerk of the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation in one day of police custody. Clerk Pravin Kumar was arrested by the Punjab vigilance bureau officers on charges of accepting bribe.

According to sources, Pravin Kumar had “helped” an applicant by taking money and providing him copies of a map. The original map that had been filed with the corporation had been shown as lost last year by this clerk.

The vigilance bureau had booked a case against him at the Mohali vigilance police station. — TNS


PSEB seeks farmers’ help
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 24
In a unique twist of fate the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), which had earlier revoked the free power facility to the farming sector, is now requesting the various farmer organisations to come to its aid.

The Board held a meeting here yesterday to urge the various farmer organisations to play an active role in stopping the gherao of private contractors by board employees. The contractors have outsourced the laying of lines under the 24-hour power supply scheme in rural areas and the move has been opposed by board employees.

The PSEB has outsourced laying of lines in 1,001 villages to private contractors in order to meet the deadline set by the state government to extend 24-hour power supply to all villages in the state on the urban pattern. The government has set a deadline of June 30 for the completion of the project. The board has taken up work on laying lines in 2,151 villages itself, while work in 739 villages has been given to the Punjab Mandi Board.

Board Chairman Y.S. Ratra held a meeting with farmer leaders, including Mr Baldev Singh Mianpur of the BKU (Rajewal), Mr Satnam Singh Beheru of the BKU (SAD-Amritsar) and Mr Manjit Singh Kadian of the BKU (Lakhowal). Mr Ratra emphasised that the board was putting in all efforts to ensure that the entire state was covered under the 24-hour supply scheme.

He said, however, at places contractors, who were doing their stipulated job, were gheraoed and even stopped from working. Mr Ratra said if such a state of affairs continued to persist the board would not be able to meet its target of completing the scheme by June 30. He appealed to the leaders of the farmer organisations that they should use their influence to ensure such disturbances did not occur.


Six booked for duping man
Tribune News Service

Moga, March 24
Six persons, including three bank officials, have been booked for withdrawing lakhs of rupees from the bank account of a chemist after declaring him “dead”.

In his complaint to the SSP, the complainant, Mr Sudarshan Gupta, had stated that he had deposited about Rs 7 lakh in the bonds of the Public Provident Fund and a Moga-based advocate was managing his income tax affairs. In the process the advocate’s son, Nitish Jain, laid hands on his record and got a plea submitted to the State Bank of India for withdrawing his money through his “widow” after declaring him ”dead”.

He got his death certificate prepared from one Vikas Sood, who had already been booked in a fake certificate scam. The accused produced Veena Rani, a resident of Jawahar Nagar, before the bank officials as the “widow” of Sudarshan Gupta. Later, when Mr Gupta visited the bank one day to take stock of his account’s status he was stunned to know that lakhs of rupees had been withdrawn from his account.

First, the bank officials didn’t believe him, but the truth came to the fore as soon as they matched his signatures. Investigations also revealed that besides withdrawing Rs 6.9 lakh from Mr Gupta’s PPF account, the accused had also withdrawn Rs 2.93 lakh from his wife’s account at Punjab and Sind Bank, Kot Ise Khan, in August 2004. The accused had forged the signature of Mr Gupta’s wife Sudesh Rani.

Mr Gupta had also lodged a complaint with the Punjab State Human Rights Commission in this regard.

The police has booked Nitish Jain, Vikas Sood, Veena Rani and bank officials - Palwinder Singh, Gurmahinder Singh and SS Bhatti, under Sections 419, 420, 465, 467, 468, 471, and 120B of the IPC.

However, no action has been taken against the witnesses produced for withdrawing money from the chemist’s account.


Four arrested in abduction case
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 24
Four out of the five accused allegedly involved in the abduction of a woman and her daughter on March 21, were arrested today.

Mr Kapil Dev, SSP, in a press note said the accused identified as Balwinder Singh, Gurmit Singh, Baldev Singh and Yadwinder Singh were arrested while they were travelling in a car.

He said Pritam Kaur, her daughter Jaswinder Kaur and nephew Rajinder Singh were coming to this town from Dabwali in Haryana in a jeep when the accused parked their car in front of the jeep. They then put red chilli powder in the eyes of Rajinder Singh, who was driving the car, and threw him out of the jeep.

The accused then took Pritam Kaur and Jaswinder Kaur towards Mehta village. When the accused slowed down the jeep, Pritam Kaur jumped out of the vehicle.

The accused attacked Jaswinder Kaur and injured her. They left her near Gehri Bhagi village and fled.

The victims were later admitted to the local Civil Hospital.

The accused reportedly confessed to the crime during interrogation. Balwinder Singh, one of the accused, said he had been caught with 14 bags of poppy husk in the Rampura police station area and he had been suspecting that Jaswinder Kaur had supplied information to the police.

He said though he was lodged in the Faridkot jail in connection with a murder case, he committed the crime when he was on parole. The SSP said Angrej Singh, another accused in the case, had been absconding.


RJD leader’s son booked for brawl
Tribune News Service

Moga, March 24
The son of the state vice-president of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Mr Jayant Sathi, has been booked in a case of brawl that broke out in Hotel Roop Milan a few days back.

The complainant, Mr Varun Kumar of New Town, had alleged that one day he was passing through Majestic Road when Jayant and his friend Sham Mohan waylaid him and asked him to hand over some money. When he gave them Rs 200, Mohan reportedly snatched his purse and went inside the hotel.

He alleged that the accused attacked him with sharpedged weapons when he demanded his money back. He alleged that they abused him, when he tried to call up his father.

On the other hand the state RJD vice-president, Mr Ashok Sathi, alleged that Varun Kumar had come to his hotel for having a dose of liquor, but when his son tried to stop him he started quarrelling with him.

He alleged that Varun laid hands on Rs 1,200 when his son was counting his money. He further alleged that Rs 200 was seized from Varun’s socks, while the rest could not be traced. Sathi said he himself got Varun admitted to a hospital after he got injured in the brawl.

Meanwhile, the police has registered a case against Jayant and Sham Mohan in this connection.


Three nabbed with stolen goods worth Rs 1.25 lakh
Our Correspondent

Patiala, March 24
The police has today nabbed three persons with stolen goods worth more than Rs 1,25,000 in their possession. The goods recovered included 25 mobile phone sets, 35 bottles of perfume and computer decoders.

Acting on a tip off a CIA team headed by Inspector Jassa Singh aided by ASI Varinder Singh and ASI Harvinder Singh nabbed Vipin, Sunil Kumar and Aditya Sharma all of whom have been involved in incidents of robbery in the past. According to SP(D) Pritpal Singh Virk the accused have admitted to many instances of robbery carried out by them alongwith one more accomplice who is absconding.

It was revealed by the three during investigation that they had stolen the recovered goods from Sangrur, Rajpura and Sirhind besides carrying out seven robberies in Patiala. According to police officials all the three are drug addicts and indulge in petty crimes to gather money for their indulgence.


XEN held for accepting bribe
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 24
A team of the Vigilance Bureau, headed by Mr Rachhpal Singh, DSP, Sangrur, today arrested V.P. Goyal, Executive Engineer, Water Supply and Sanitation, Sangrur, from his office in the Kaula Park Market here when he was allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs 10,000 from Mr Kuldip Singh, an owner of a boring company from Rampura Phul.

Mr Rachhpal Singh told this correspondent on the phone this evening that V.P. Goyal was demanding Rs 29,000 from Mr Kuldip Singh for clearing his payment of Rs 58,000.

Kuldeep Singh installed a tubewell in Chhajli village. But the deal was struck for Rs 20,000 of which the first installment of Rs 10,000 had been paid to V.P. Goyal in his office today by Mr Kuldip Singh.


Raped teenager becomes mother
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, March 24
A deaf and dumb girl, about 16 years of age, who was allegedly raped, gave birth to a female child at the Civil Hospital here yesterday.

According to doctors treating her, the mother and the infant are in good health.

But the fate of child born is unknown. When asked, Kartar Singh, father of the victim said in no case they would marry or send their daughter to the accused’s, Pawan, house, but hastened to add that he would certainly demand compensation from him.

Pawan, who was residing in the girl’s neighbourhood at Lakhasinghwala Hithar village, under Mamdot police station, is presently in the custody of the police.

The rape took place around eight months ago but the frightened girl did not inform her parents. It came to light only when the she became pregnant. Thereafter, when asked, the girl told her parents about the episode. The girl used to work at Pawan’s house as domestic help.


Police rules out kidnapping
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 24
A complaint by a local Phd student accusing her husband, and in-laws of kidnapping, torture and dowry demands has fallen through with the local police ruling that the kidnapping referred in the case never did take place.

Twentynine-year-old Amandeep Kaur, who is a grand niece of the late General Harbaksh Singh, had alleged that she had been kidnapped by her husband Ravtej Singh Dhillon and the latter’s uncle when she was going to the Urban Estate in connection with her thesis work on March 16. The woman, who was married in 2003, had claimed that a Contessa car with black glasses was used for this purpose and that she had been taken to the Rose Avenue house of her in-laws where she was subsequently tortured.

Senior Superintendent of Police A S Rai disclosed that the investigation of the allegation of kidnapping had been done by the DSP (Rural). Mr Rai said the officer had taken statements of shopkeepers in the area where the kidnapping was said to have taken place and also recorded their statements. He said it was also revealed that the Rose Avenue residence of the accused was nearly 10 km from the university area and the victim could have easily raised the alarm on the way. He said there were many crowded areas in the way and that raising of the alarm would have attracted attention.


Student killed in road accident
Our Correspondent

Malerkotla, March 24
A student, Mohd Faishal Farooqui (19), son of Noor Mohd Farooqui, a resident of Raianwala Mohalla inside Sirhandi Gate, was crushed to death by a truck at Chokran village, near here, today.

According to information available, Mohd Faishal was going to a village near Chokran for his annual examination when a speedy truck crushed him. The driver of the truck escaped.

Mohd Faishal died on the sport. A post-mortem examination was conducted in the local Civil Hospital.


Factory worker killed in blast

Mandi Gobindgarh, March 24
Sanjay Chauhan (25), a resident of Mohammad Pura in Balia district of Uttar Pradesh, was killed in a blast in a scrap godown of Sundram Steels, near Ajnali village, Mandi Gobindgarh, today. Sanjay’s brother-in-law Mattoo, who was working as a helper with him, had a narrow escape. Matoo said they were cutting scrap with the help of gas. The blast took place when they cut a bomb-like object.

Mr Varinder Kumar, district police chief, reached the blast site and seized 60 bomb-like objects. A case has been registered. — OC


Plan to give grants to pvt educational institutes: Bhattal
Tribune News Service

Ropar, March 24
The Deputy Chief Minister, Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, yesterday said the state government had worked out a special plan to provide grants in a fixed time-frame to private institutes so that the money was not misused.

In addition to it, strict action would be taken against private colleges and schools which were not providing education to the students as per the norms.

She was talking to reporters after attending a function at Rayat College of Engineering and Information Technology here.

She said the report of the committee would be submitted in the Vidhan Sabha session.

The Deputy Chief Minister said the grants would be given to new colleges and schools.


Barnala stresses value-based education
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 24
The Governor of Tamil Nadu, Mr Surjit Singh Barnala, today gave a call for compulsory value-based education in schools and colleges.

Mr Barnala was speaking at the inauguration ceremony of the eighth branch of MGN Public School at Urban Estate here today. Addressing the gathering, he said that imparting education to children was an art. He said education constituted not just the ability to read and write but also played pivotal role in nurturing the character of the children.

The Governor defined the schools as fields where the seeds of discipline, character and hard work were sown. He said that the changing society had transformed the role of teachers whose jobs have become more complicated.

Mr Barnala was welcomed by Major C.S. Rai, Chairman of the MGN Educational Trust, and Mr Jaspal Gill, Principal.


38 students awarded college colours
Our Correspondent

Patiala, March 24
The annual convocation and award presentation function of M.M. Modi College was held here today in which Dr S.P. Singh Vice-Chancellor, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, was the chief guest Dr Ranjit Singh Dean, College Development CounciI, Punjabi University was the guest of honour.

On the occasion, the chief guest, Dr S.P. Singh, said commercialisation of education was creating problems for society. He said the youth must be aware that private educational institutions were doing yeoman’s service to society. Students must prepare themselves to face the challenges of globalisation. He added that life was full of struggles in this age of competition. The students must develop strong personalities and serve the society in a better way, Dr Singh added. Dr Ranjit Singh Ghuman said the occasion of convocation and prize distribution function were memorable moments for the students.

Dr V.K.Sharma. College Principal, welcomed the chief guest and read out the annual report of the college. Mentioning the achievements of the students and the future plans of the college he said that in the fast changing world, educational institutions were also passing through a transition. He stressed the need to start occupational courses in colleges. He said that such occupational courses would shortly be started in Modi College also.

The Principal further said Modi College would adopt five such students which cannot afford college expenses but were meritorious and the Institute will bear their educational expenses. Representatives of Industrial houses like Vardhman Mills, Ballarpur Industries, Winsonle Yarns, ICICI Bank and Apex Laboratories visited the college campus and shortlisted the students for employment.

Harpreet Kaur Pannu and Ruchi Trikha were awarded the roll of honour. Harpreet Pannu got first position in BMIT in Punjabi University Patiala while Ruchi Trikha won the gold medal in national fencing championship and has also participated in international competitions.

Thirtysix students were awarded college colours and 33 students were awarded merit certificates for their higher achievements in academics, sports, NSS, NCC and co-curricular activities during the year.

The chief guest, Dr S.P. Singh, and Guest of Honour Dr R.S. Ghuman, were honoured by the Principal with mementoes. Mr K.K.Sharma and Dr P.K.Singla, President and Secretary of the Old Students Association of the college, were also honoured and given mementoes by the chief guest.


Prize distribution function held
Our Correspondent

Patiala, March 24
At the Annual Prize Distribution Function of Government Mohindra College held today, 747 students were given prizes for their outstanding achievements in academic, sports and extra curricular activities. Twenty nine students received the college roll of honour on the occasion.

Addressing the gathering the Chief Guest Mr Jasjit Singh Randhawa, Cabinet Minister, Cooperatives and Horticulture, exhorted the students to stay away from social evils and to dedicate themselves to academic pursuits in order to equip themselves with all the requisite skills required for a rapidly changing job market. He reiterated the commitment of the Punjab Government towards the over all development of the State.

Earlier Dr. R.K.Sharma, Principal of the college read the Annual Report of the College highlighting the achievements of both the college students and the teaching faculty. The function ended with a vote of thanks delivered by the Vice Principal Prof. Satya Dewan.


Banks in Punjab open
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 24
Banks in Punjab will remain open tomorrow while banks in the city and in Haryana will remain closed tomorrow on account of Good Friday.

However, all banks will remain closed on March 26 and 27 on account of Holi followed by a Sunday.

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