P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Ministers violated rules while furnishing houses: audit report
Rajmeet Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 31
Contrary to the rules, the Punjab Government spent Rs 26.37 lakh on the furnishing of the residential accommodation occupied by its ministers during the financial year ending March, 2004.

The wasteful expenditure, pointed out by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), was in breach of the guidelines which allow a minister to avail either free, furnished accommodation, the maintenance charges of which were to be borne by the state government, or get an amount not exceeding Rs 30,000 as the monthly allowance.

In case of ministers living in private houses and getting monthly allowance of Rs 30,000, furnishing and repairing of these houses was not the responsibility of the state.

The CAG in its audit report has pointed out that the records of Provisional Division (B and R), Chandigarh, revealed that in November, 2003, 13 ministers who either resided in their own houses or rented houses during the period from March, 1997 to March, 2002, were not only being paid monthly allowance not exceeding RS 30,000, but their houses were also furnished at a cost of Rs 26.37 lakh, contrary to the rules.

The Executive Engineer concerned in its reply to the audit department stated that " furnishing was done against the approved estimates by the Secretariat Administration on the basis of norms and the rent was also being paid for furnished accommodation on the approval of the Punjab Secretariat". The reply of the XEN was not tenable as the expenditure was not covered under the rules.

The CAG has quoted the October, 2000 notification, issued by the Department of General Administration (Cabinet Affairs branch). It states that each minister along with his family members will be provided a free, furnished house, the maintenance charges of which will be borne by the state government. In lieu of such house, a minister will be paid an allowance, not exceeding Rs 30,000 The ministers who have their own house within a radius of the headquarters, as may be specified by the state government from time to time, will be paid such monthly allowance not exceeding Rs 30,000 as may be assessed by the PWD. The mater was referred to the government in May, 2004.


Navjot Sidhu backs traders
Tribune Reporters

Pathankot, March 31
The former cricketer and MP from Amritsar, Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu, today turned out in support of traders protesting against the implementation of value added tax (VAT) system. He addressed a rally organised by traders to protest against VAT at the Post Office crossing here today.

Addressing the rally, he alleged that the government should first have created a consensus before implementing the new system. The government was also ignoring the mass protest by traders against its implementation.

Other BJP leader who addressed the rally of traders included Mr Mohan Lal, former minister and senior leader of BJP.

Meanwhile, the response to the bandh call against VAT was near total today also. But for the petrol station that started functioning today, all business establishments remained closed. People faced hardship in procuring essential commodities like medicines. All chemists in major towns of the district kept their shutters down. Hotels, dhabas, restaurants and vegetable and fruit vendors, however, were open.

Earlier, Mr Sidhu presided over the annual function of Sarva Hitkari school in Hariyal village near Pathankot. He announced a grant of Rs 5 lakh for the school.

AMRITSAR: On the second day of the protest against the imposition of VAT, the entire trading activity came to halt as per the call given by all-India trading and business associations for 72-hour bandh.

Meanwhile, the Public Protection forum has criticised the politicalisation of the movement against VAT and said that certain political parties were trying to take media mileage for their vested interests. He said the BJP was part of NDA government, and it had praised the VAT system and wanted all the state governments of adopt this new taxation system.

HOSHIARPUR: Local shopkeepers observed a complete strike on second day on Thursday against the implementation of VAT due to which normal business activities was paralysed. However chemists, fruits and vegetables shops and petrol pump stations remained opened. All bazars and business establishments presented a deserted look.

Reports of bandh were also received from Tanda, Hariana, Dasuya, Garhdiwala, Mukerian, Mahilpur and Garhshankar towns of the district.

NAWANSHAHR: Traders observed a near-total bandh for the second consecutive day in protest against the implementation of bandh here on Thursday. Traders took out a protest march, burnt the effigy of the CM, Capt Amarinder Singh, and organised a protest rally at Chandigarh Chowk. Mr Parveen Bhatia and Mr Kewal Arora, president, and vice-president, respectively, of Kothi Road Shopkeepers Association, Mr Ashwani Ballagan, District BJP president, Mr Gopal Mohan Sharda, president, Geeta Bhavan Road Shopkeepers Association, Mr Prem Singh Bhadwal, Mr Darshan Bhardwaj, Mr Jugal Kishore Dutta, addressed the rally.

SANGRUR: Barring shops of barbers, chemists, vegetable and fruit sellers, dhabas and some others, local shopkeepers and businessmen on Thursday observed almost complete bandh in the town in protest against the implementation of VAT.


‘Centre not giving enough funds for Amritsar’
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 31
Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu, BJP MP, yesterday expressed his dismay over the discriminating attitude of the central government towards the border district by not providing adequate funds for systematic improvement of the infrastructure.

Mr Sidhu lashed out at the UPA government for the slow pace of work on the four laning of the Amritsar-Jalandhar national highway and Rajasansi international airport. He charged the minister concerned with misleading him about the fate of the four-laning project.

He sought a special status and requisite funds to improve the highly deplorable civic amenities.


Muktsar girl to scale Mount Everest
Rajbir Sekhon

Muktsar, March 31
Sukhwinder Kaur is on cloud nine. Known as Sukhi to her friends and kin and she left for Kathmandu yesterday to fulfil her dream of scaling Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak. She reached at the base camp today.

After offering her prayers at historic Gurdwara Tutti Gandi Sahib, Sukhi proceeded for Kathmandu, capital of Nepal, yesterday with the hope that she would be able to scale Mount Everest, that too from north column and without carrying an oxygen cylinder. Residents of this historic town gave her a ceremonial flag-off.

Talking to this correspondent on telephone, Sukhi, who has been given state award by the Punjab Government for her rare achievements in the field of mountaineering and expeditions, said that though she was happy about the expedition yet but she was also little sad as her dearest friend, Pammi, who shared almost all achievements with her, could not accompany her due to shortage of finances.

She said despite promises made by the state government and various other political leaders that they would be given financial help for their mission dedicated to the tercentenary of 40 Muktas (liberated ones) at the Khidrana-Di-Dhab (now Muktsar), where Guru Gobind Singh fought his last battle with Mughals, she was given nothing. She had to seek financial help and assistance from the section of residents and her known persons to gather enough money to fund her expedition.

She added that it was the owner of a travel agency who helped her and also agreed to reduce the fees to be paid for climbing Mount Everest.

Sukhi said that even after reduction of fees, she was to pay about Rs 5 lakh to the travel agency. Out of this amount, which Rs 4 lakh were collected by her well-wishers and the remaining amount was arranged by taking loan from various people. Though Sukhi was promised financial help by the Chief Minister, Punjab, Capt Amarinder Singh few months ago but it did not arrive.

Not only this, the financial condition of Sukhi was so bad that she could not even afford to buy tracksuits and shoes. She is carrying second-hand clothes and shoes with her for her mission.

Sukhi has scaled Mount Kamet and Mount Sarsi Kangri earlier. She had also travelled to world highest pass, Khardungla Pass twice, once on a bicycle and once on motor cycle. Though, Sukhi was promised a government job by successive state government for her achievements, she had denied the same on flimsy grounds by the authorities concerned.


Decision on periphery Act after panel report
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 31
The Housing and Urban Development Minister, Mr Raghunath Sahai Puri, today informed the Punjab Assembly that an appropriate decision regarding the Punjab New Capital (Periphery) Control Act, 1952, would be taken after the submission of the report of a committee headed by the Chief Secretary, Mr Jai Singh Gill.

Replying to a question by Mr Bir Devinder Singh whether the government proposed to repeal the Act, Mr Puri said at present there was no such proposal.

However, replying to a supplementary question by Mr Bir Devinder Singh, the Minister said that a high-level committee headed by the Chief Secretary was examining this issue. He said that even notices had been issued in newspapers seeking suggestions from the public. About 500 persons had sent their suggestions to the committee. As many as 336 villages and five municipal committees were covered by the Act in the Punjab area.

While asking the question, Mr Bir Devinder Singh had stated that the Act was passed at the time of joint Punjab in 1952. After that many developments had taken place in this region. Haryana had become a separate state. Punjab had no control over Chandigarh. Besides, some new towns such as Mohali, Panchkula and Zirakpur had come up in Chandigarh’s periphery. Further, Acts such as the Punjab Regional Town Planning Act and the Punjab Apartments Act had been passed after the periphery Act.

In the light of these developments, the periphery Act should be repealed as it had become a stumbling block in the development of more than 300 villages in the Punjab area.

Replying to a question by Mr Gurjant Singh and Mr Sukhpal Singh regarding the damage caused to crops in the recent past, Mr Amarjit Singh Samra, Revenue Minister, said that crops had been damaged on 37,270 acres in Bathinda district and 15,505 acres in Ferozepore district due to hailstorms. He said those farmers whose crops had suffered damage above 75 per cent would be given Rs 2,000 per acre as relief. The amount had been fixed by the Central Government and there was no proposal to enhance it. He said that orders had been issued to release the money to be disbursed as relief.

Mr Jasjit Singh Randhawa, Cooperation Minister, assured Mr Jeet Mohinder Singh that pre-cooling centres set up for grapes in Talwandi Sabo and Badal villages would be made functional before the grape-picking season.

Walkout by Akali, BJP MLAs

Akali and BJP MLAs staged a walkout from the House when the Speaker refused to allow the Akali MLA, Mr Jagdish Singh Garcha, to speak on the liquor issue. The Speaker said that already the Opposition leader, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, had spoken in detail on the issue yesterday and there was no logic in raising it again. As the Speaker was saying this, some MLAs from the Treasury Benches stated that no one should be allowed to raise personal matters. After this, the Akali and BJP MLAs, raising slogans, walked out of the House. Their slogans were not recorded in the proceedings.


House adjourned
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 31
The Punjab Vidhan Sabha was adjourned as soon as news about the death of two Haryana Ministers in a helicopter crash near Saharanpur reached the House this afternoon.

The Deputy Speaker, Mr Darbari Lal, announced the adjournment 20 minutes before the scheduled time after the Secretary of the Vidhan Sabha informed him about the crash.

At that time a discussion was in progress on a private bill moved by Mr Tota Singh (Shiromani Akali Dal) for the setting up of sewage treatment plants at appropriate places to check pollution caused by the discharge of sullage from cities into rivers.

Those who joined the debate on the sewage treatment plants included Mr Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Dr Mohinder Kumar Rinwa, Mr Ashok Sharma, Mr Des Raj Dhugga, Mr Gobind Singh Longowal and Mr Tikshan Sud.


Malaysian firm may build 2 jails in state
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 31
A Malaysian company, which has been into construction and the infrastructure development business, may be awarded a contract to build two medium-security modern jails at Nabha and Jalandhar at a cost of more than Rs 300 crore.

The Punjab government proposes to make the Punjab Infrastructure Development Board not only a nodal agency for the project but also for recommending PJI Overseas Limited, a subsidiary of PJI Holdings (Behard), so as to avoid a long-drawn process of inviting global tenders for this ambitious project.

This may keep other specialised companies engaged in the work of jail building out of contention for this contract.

Though the government issued a press release after yesterday's meeting, no mention of the presence of the Malaysians was made. There was also no indication that the work would be undertaken by a foreign agency.

Subsequently, the government proposes to set up the Punjab Jail Development Corporation by entrusting to it construction and infrastructure development and maintenance work. The Chief Minister is keen that new jails should be constructed by using the best available technology and material on a par with international standards.

The state government proposes to use the vast stretch of land available with the Nabha Open-Air Jail for one of the two jails. The second jail is proposed to be built on the Jalandhar-Kapurthala road.

Each of these two jails will have provision for keeping 5,000 prisoners or undertrials besides employees' houses and hospital and other facilities.

To raise funds for the project, the state may dispose of some jails, including the one at Patiala, which is considered a prime location.

The state is keen that these two medium-security modern jails should be ready before the term of the present Congress government comes to an end in February, 2007.

The visiting three-member Malaysian team, which had a meeting with the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, yesterday, met the Chief Secretary, Mr Jai Singh Gill, and the Finance Secretary, Mr K.R. Lakhanpal, today to work out initial modalities.

Members of the team — Mr C.L. Lim, Mr C. Y. Kang and Mr Rajaish Saigal — have reportedly assured the Chief Minister that they would complete the work in 15 to 18 months. This Malaysian company had made a presentation on medium-security modern jails at a city hotel some months ago.


IA flight to Kabul leaves with lone passenger
Our Correspondent

Rajasansi (Amritsar), March 31
The resumption of the New Delhi-Amritsar-Kabul Indian Airlines flight today after a decade turned out to be a non-starter.

The Indian Airlines had made elaborate arrangements to welcome the passengers, but as no Afghan national was on board the flight, it turned out be a non-event.

The flight was started at the personal request of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai during his visit to Delhi recently. It was hoped the resumption of the flight would revive the trade ties between the two countries.

The Station Manager of the Indian Airlines, Mr Kamaljit Singh, who was personally there to receive the passengers, said more and more businessmen would be using this flight to resume trade links with Kabul.

Talking to the media, the lone passenger, Mr Manjit Singh, an employee of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, said they had been receiving more than 50 visa applications daily from Afghan nationals for travel to India. He hoped with the launch of this flight, a large number of Afghans would visit Amritsar and Delhi.

There was a tremendous scope for business ties as Afghanistan was in the process of rebuilding and required a huge amount of material and essential items, including medical and pharmaceutical products.

Besides, a number of Afghan students would get an opportunity to study in Indian colleges and universities to pursue higher education, the official said.


Lakhs expected to visit Takht Damdama Sahib
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Talwandi Sabo, March 31
As lakhs of devotees from different parts of the country and aboard are expected to visit this place to pay their obeisance at Takht Damdama Sahib, the land where 10th Sikh Guru Gobind Singh compiled Adi Granth, during the three-day mela, the district civil and police administration has started making arrangement to prevent any 
untoward incident during mela days.

Mr K.A.P. Sinha, Deputy Commissioner, who presided over a meeting of district officials in connection with the mela arrangements, said control rooms, bathrooms, divers, boats, life jackets, potable water, temporary toilets would be provided for the convenience of pilgrims.

He said Mr Gurkirat Kirpal Singh, SDM, Talwandi Sabo, had been appointed as mela in charge while Mr Iqbal Singh, District Development and Panchayat Officer (DDPO), had been appointed as Assistant Mela Officer.

The district police authorities will also make elaborate security arrangements.

As per the history, Guru Gobind Singh accorded the status of Guru to Adi Granth compiled here at Takht Shri Hazur Sahib, located in Maharashtra, on the occasion of Baisakhi.

The town is also known as Guru-Ki Kashi (seat of learning). After leaving Talwandi Sabo, which is located on the southern tip of Thar desert, Guru Gobind Singh never visited Punjab again. For its religious importance, Damdama Sahib was accorded the status of fourth Takht of Sikhs.

Successive state government had declared this town as holy city. Now the Punjabi University authorities have decided to set up a rural university in this town to make it as a seat of learning.

Talwandi Sabo town, located 28 km from Bathinda town and bordering Haryana, is dotted with various historical gurdwaras. It also houses the headquarters of Nihangs Budha Dal Sect) headed by Baba Santa Singh.

This town was visited by Guru Nanak Dev and Guru Teg Bahadur before Guru Gobind Singh stayed here.

The Takht Damdama Sahib management while talking to TNS said that about 10 lakh devotees, including the NRIs, were expected to visit here in a week. For their convenience, the SGPC would make elaborate arrangements. Community kitchens (langars) would be organised by the SGPC and by other social and religious bodies. Arrangements for accommodation of the devotees had been made in various rest houses and buildings of education institutions dotting this town. 


Buses to Nankana Sahib may not ply on Baisakhi
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 31
The Pakistan Government seems to have developed cold feet regarding the plying of 10 special buses symbolically from Amritsar to Nankana Sahib on April 13, Baisakhi day. Informed sources said that though this issue was taken up by the Union External Affairs Ministry with its counterpart in Pakistan, there has been no adequate response in this regard yet.

During his recent visit to Pakistan, the Indian Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, had taken up the issue of the special buses with the Prime Minister of Pakistan. He had immediately cleared the proposal. In fact, it was the Pakistan Prime Minister who had permitted 10 buses whereas Capt Amarinder Singh had asked that symbolically a few buses should be allowed to ply during the Baisakhi festival. Later, after working out the modalities at the diplomatic level, regular bus services should be started between the two holy cities.

Sources said that a meeting in this connection was called yesterday by Capt Amarinder Singh. However, the meeting was postponed to April 8. Capt Amarinder Singh had also spoken early this week to his counterpart, Mr Parvaiz Elahi of Pakistan Punjab, on the bus issue. As Mr Elahi was busy in connection with Pakistan Day celebrations, he had told Capt Amarinder Singh that he would get back to him after discussing the issue with the authorities concerned in his country.

With each passing day, the possibility of the plying of special buses is decreasing. Sources said that the Pakistan officers concerned wanted that pilgrims should be brought to the Wagah border in Indian buses and later transported in Pakistan buses on crossing the border. However, this view has not found favour with Capt Amarinder Singh and the authorities concerned in the Union Government. Already, a bus service between Delhi and Lahore has been plying for the past few years.” And there should be no hesitation on the part of the Pakistan authorities if on a particular day,11 buses instead of one pass through the Wagah border to Nankana Sahib via Lahore”, said a senior officer of the state government.

Sources said Capt Amarinder Singh had planned to invite all MLAs, irrespective of their party affiliation, to travel in the first buses bound for Nankana Sahib from Amritsar. Besides it, he had also planned to send opinion leaders like sarpanches, etc, on this historic occasion.

Capt Amarinder Singh has requested the Union External Affairs Minister, Mr Natwar Singh, to take up the issue with the Pakistan Government. Sources said that certain Congress MPs from Punjab had asked the Union Government that if a bus could ply between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, why could a bus not ply between Amritsar and Nankana Sahib on Baisakhi day.


Exhibits at Science City non-functional in nine days
Deepkamal Kaur
Tribune News Service

Kapurthala, March 31
Many interactive exhibits displayed at Pushpa Gujral Science City that was opened for public just nine days ago have become non-functional, thanks to the rowdy crowds that have mishandled them and even stolen their parts during their visits.

Visitors have taken away differently sized and weighed balls that were used to explain the various scientific principles, without which the models have become non-functional. The bulbs emitting lights of specific colours and power have been taken away, rendering various exhibits ineffective.

A model based on photosensitive effect, “Catch me if you can”, has not been working for the past two days as the mirror used for the purpose has been destroyed by some visitors. A model called “Ball and container paradox” is also lying in non-working condition as visitors have stolen the ball that was used to explain its functioning. “2 D to 3 D”, a model used explaining the illusion effect, too, is awaiting repair after it was damaged on Tuesday.

Similarly, a model called “Colour illusion panel” has lost its real effect when the visitors took away the bulbs fitted in the model that helped the users understand the contraction and dilation of pupil of the eye. Though another bulb has been fitted into it, the model has lost its sheen.

Not just that the pulleys and steel ropes are lying in torn condition in the kids’ park where some college boys mishandled it, even a metal rope of a swing is lying in broken condition after some heavy weight adults entered the park meant for children and tried to enjoy the rides.

Though the maintenance staff of Science City is checking all exhibits as per their routine, many knobs and switches have become loose.

The Tribune team found that the visitors were quite careless while using the delicate science exhibits. The short leather belt used in the model “Moboeus band with moving train” that operates with sound was being hit very hard by youths . Young boys were jumping so hard on the “Grand shuttle” working on the principle of “similar charges repelling each other” that it stopped functioning after short intervals.

Dr R.S. Khandpur, Director General, said he was planning to depute more people around the exhibits.


Child artiste to be honoured
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 31
Tiny Pragati’s dreams are too big for her age. They are not made up of sugar candies and Barbie dolls, but of working side by side with actors and actresses.

Still they are not out of her reach. For, eight-year-old Pragati has already acted in five Hindi and Punjabi films, besides television serials. Bollywood blockbusters include Veer-Zara and Love Story.

In recognition of her talent, Ludhiana-based Saheed Memorial International Sewa Society has now selected her for “Best Artist Award”. Punjab’s Parliamentary Secretary Harbans Kaur Dhillo is expected to present her the award at a ceremony scheduled to be held in Ludhiana on April 10. In fact, Pragati Trikha will be the youngest artist to be presented the award.

Studying in Class IV in Chandigarh’s DAV Model School, Pragati says she has as of now no intentions of going to Mumbai even though she has been receiving offers from Bollywood. “Though I have the courage of facing the camera without fear, I am very particular about my studies,” she adds with a smile.


Seminar on Guru Nanak Bani concludes
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 31
Bhai Baljinder Singh from California, USA, exhibited the first of its kind Gurbani search engine, a software produced by him to conduct research on Gurbani, on the concluding day of a national seminar on Guru Nanak Bani "Asa Patti Mahla Pehla" a multi-dimensional study. The search engine was useful to find text and meaning of Guru Granth Sahib and was easy to use.

More than 12 research papers were presented on different aspects of the theme on the second day of the seminar.

Principal S.K. Jolly from Delhi, Dr Inderjit Singh Wasu, Dr Sushil Kaur, Dr Gurcharan Singh, Dr Jaswinder Kaur Dhillon, Dr Rai Jasbir Singh, Prof Balwinder Joura, Dr Manvinder Singh, Mr Kashmir Singh Samra, Prof Kusum Lata and Dr Surjit Kaur Jolly also presented their papers on the various aspects of Guru Nanak Bani "Asa Patti Mahla Pehla". Dr B.S. Dhillon, director of seminar, presented vote of thanks.


Roads maintenance to get a boost
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur March 31
State roads and government building in Punjab will get a fresh lease of life. After a gap of about nine years, the Punjab Government has decided to earmark budget for the maintenance of the roads and building in the state.

Mr Pratap Singh Bajwa, the Minister for PWD, gave this information while talking to The Tribune on phone today. He said for the next financial year a budget provision of Rs 100 crore had been kept for the maintenance of roads and Rs 40 crore for the maintenance of government buildings.

The maintenance head of the roads and government building was closed after the SAD/BJP government took over in the state in 1996.

He said the World Bank had accepted the proposal of the Punjab Government for extending loan for laying and strengthening 1100 km planned roads in the state. 


100 booked for protest against new bus stand
Tribune News Service

Goniana (Bathinda), March 31
The arrest of six persons and registration of cases against as many as 100 persons for their alleged involvement in launching an agitation against the opening of a private bus stand has led to resentment among residents of the town.

The police managed to prevent the residents and members of the Sangharsh Committee from blocking traffic on any road yesterday and today but the people were agitated over the fact that they were ill-treated by the police which resorted to lathi-charge while they were protesting peacefully.

Residents and members of the Sangharsh Committee have been protesting against the opening of a private bus stand in the town. They have been claiming that as the bus stand was located at quite a distance from the town so it would be inconvenient for residents to go there, especially at odd hours.

The six persons, taken into custody by the police included Harmesh Kumar Mattu, president, Sangharsh Committee; Bhagwant Singh; Vipan Kumar; Goni, Suresh Kumar and Bhupinder Sharma. Some residents alleged that these six persons had been given a good thrashing by the police. However, it was not known whether they had been arrested formally or not.

Information revealed that apart from the registration of a case against these six persons, the police had also registered cases against 100 unidentified persons under Sections 307, 353, 186, 332, 283, 148 and 149 of the IPC at Nahinawala police station.

Meanwhile, the private bus stand, which became operational yesterday, has been functioning normally.


15th Punjab Regiment launches motor cycle rally
Our Correspondent

Sadhuwali/Abohar, March 31
To kickstart to the forthcoming tercentenary celebrations of its Raising Day, on April 13, 2005, the 15th Battalion of the Punjab Regiment launched a motorcycle rally to the Western Himalayas. The rally will traverse a distance of 2,500 km over the tough and rugged terrain of the Pooh Valley.

The rally was flagged off by Major Gen. A. S. Lamba, GOC of an Infantry Division, at an impressive but brief ceremony this morning. Starting from Sriganganagar, the motorcycle rally will pass through all important places in Punjab and will traverse the hilly and rugged terrain of Himachal Pradesh. On its return journey, the rally will pass through Chandigarh, New Delhi and Mehraj in Bathinda district where the unit had been raised by Baba Alla Singh, founder of Patiala state.

The 10-member team is led by Lt Sarfraj Singh Sanghera. The participants were given mementos by the GOC. The participants have proper insurance cover and will be escorted by two vehicles equipped with first-aid kits.

Major-General Lamba said it was not just a motorcycle expedition, but a purposeful mission which would strengthen the bonds with the civilians and inspire the youth to join the armed forces.

The participants in the rally will also go to Hussainiwala in Ferozepore to pay obeisance to the great martyrs, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. 


MC House rejects plan to hike water, sewerage rates
Our Correspondent

Kharar, March 31
The Municipal Council unanimously rejected the government proposal to implement revised water and sewerage tariff at the civic body meeting held here today.

The members said it was the responsibility of the council to provide essential services to residents at reasonable rates. The financial loss suffered by not implementing the proposed charges could be compensated by earning more income from other sources. The Executive Officer of the council, however, said since the government had issued directions to implement revised charges, the civic body should do it.

The council also refused to carry out the sterilisation campaign in connection with stray dogs, as directed by the Deputy Director, Urban Local Bodies, Ludhiana, on the ground that the civic body did not have adequate funds for it. The cost calculated by the Department of Animal Husbandry for sterilising one dog was Rs 789. It was pointed out that even social organisations were not ready to provide any help in this regard. As such the Department of Animal Husbandry should carry out the campaign at its own level.

Regarding a complaint made by 12 councillors and residents of Khanpur village in connection with pollution being spread by a ghee factory in the village the House decided to request the Ropar Deputy Commissioner to give an early opinion as the case had been referred to her earlier. The Punjab Pollution Control Board would also be approached to take appropriate action in this regard.

The House was told that the Director, Local Government, had given an approval for taking a loan of Rs 40 lakh from a bank for sinking four new tubewells. The council decided to get an internet connection for the office to improve communication. Directions in this regard had been given by the Deputy Director, Local Government, Ludhiana.

It was also decided at the meeting that the council would not issue any new licences for rehris to people from the far off areas. The president, Mr Charanjit Singh said a large number of people from outside had come to the town and carrying out business on rehris. This had adversely affected the business of local residents.

Some heated arguments were also witnessed at the meeting. Dr Gurnam Singh demanded that licences of some contractors should be cancelled as they has failed to contact municipal councellors of the area while executing any development work. Mrs Amrik Kaur complained that a machine that was lying in her ward for sinking a tubewell was removed from there without intimating her and as a result she had to face embarrassment in front of residents of her ward. The president told her that the machine was removed from there only to be replaced by a bigger one as a deep bore tubewell had to be sunk in the area.

Mr Charanjit Singh, who completed two years as president of the civic body, thanked the MLA and the councillors for their support. He told the House that during his tenure the council was able to provide a park, a library, better water supply, sanitation and streetlighting facilities to the town. Projects were being worked out to improve the sewerage system of the town. A funeral van was also being purchased.


Rs 485 crore more for Patiala under district credit plan
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 31
The district credit plan prepared by the State Bank of Patiala from 2005-06 was launched by the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Tejveer Singh, today.

The plan envisages a target of Rs 2131 crore there by giving an increase of Rs 485 crore over the last year’s plan. The plan has been prepared taking into account the potential available under various activities and the Government of India guidelines in doubling of credit flow to the agriculture sector in three years.

Mr M.K. Rastogi, Deputy General Manager, State Bank of Patiala, said credit institutions that disbursed loans amounting to Rs. 1708 crore up to December, 2004 against the target of Rs 1646 crore for 2004-05. He also mentioned that the annual credit plan 2005-06 envisage a target of Rs 2131 crore comprising Rs 1597 crore for the agriculture and allied sector, Rs 176 crore for the non-farm sector and Rs 358 crore for other priority sector. Mr Rastogi told the house that loans and advances in the district had registered a growth of 46.4 per cent on year to year basis up to December, 2004 as against the growth of 21.4 per cent for Punjab as a whole. He said the State Bank of Patiala had taken various initiatives like waiver of collateral security up to Rs. 50,000 simplification of loan documents up to Rs 1 lakh organising farmer training camps and sponsoring of REDP programme. For improving credit to the farm sector agriculture marketing produce scheme launched by the bank had been well received by the farmers, he added.

Mr Tejveer Singh appreciated the contribution of banks. While launching the plan he appreciated the impressive performance of banks in achieving the benchmarks laid down by Reserve Bank of India under priority sector and lauded, Nabard and other agencies for preparing the landmark credit plan for the district. He expressed optimism that the plan would lead to over all development of the economy of the Patiala district. He also appreciated the efforts being put in by the banks, Nabard and other developmental agencies for under taking various developmental and promotional schemes for over all growth of the rural sector. He stressed upon taking necessary initiatives for the development of handloom and handcrafts, especially Patiala phulkari and Patiala jutti.


18 get financial help
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib. March 31
The Punjab Government is committed to fulfil all promises made during elections and is making allout efforts for the benefit of every section of society particularly for the SCs and BCs, widows and the down trodden section of society, said Dr Harbans Lal, Chief Parliamentary Secretary, a function organised by district Social Security Department to distribute financial assistance of worth Rs 10,000 to each beneficiary under National Family Benefit Scheme.

He distributed cheques among 18 beneficiaries. Mr S.K. Ahluwalia, Deputy Commissioner, presided over the function and Ms. Amrit Bala District Social Security Officer, gave detailed information about the various schemes being initiated by Social Security Department.

Dr Harbans Lal said the Government was celebrating the current year as development year and Rs 700 crore had been earmarked for various development projects by the Government. He said the Government has started giving all type of pensions to beneficiaries.

Ms Amrit Bala, DSSO, said the Social Security Department had initiated various schemes for the benefit of widows, people living below the poverty line, handicapped and senior citizens.


Wakf board member files DDR against Mohammad Mustafa
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, March 31
A special meeting of members of the Punjab Wakf Board was held at Aam Khas Bagh Sirhind today. Except Razia Sultana, MLA, all other five members Haji Khalifa, Syed Mohammed Yahya Mujeddedi, Prof Nashir Naqvi, A. Wahid and Mohammad Izhar Alam, ADGP, Punjab police, attended the meeting, which was presided over by Mufti Hilal Usmani.

Addressing mediapersons after the meeting Dr Nashir Naqvi, Prof Punjabi University, distributed copies of DDR registered against Mohammad Mustafa, IG Punjab police, husband of Razia Sultana, MLA.

Dr Naqvi alleged in the DDR that he had got a call from Mohammad Mustafa IG, threatening him that he and his family would be eliminated if he attended today’s meeting. He further alleged that Mr Mustafa told him that he would make it difficult for him to live in Punjab. He said he informed the security officer and the VC of Punjabi University and got a DDR registered against him.

Mr Mufti Hilal Usmani India’s renowned Islamic scholar said that in today’s meeting it had been decided to apprise the Chief Minister as well as the DGP about the incident.

Giving the details of the proceedings of the meeting, he said that annual budget was presented at the meeting but due to technical and legal cause it could not be discussed and it would be discussed in next meeting. He said that seven daily-wage employees were given extension for another six months. He said board members also had a direct interaction with all the 16 state officers of the board and took stock of their achievements and recovery.

Answering a query, members said they had no differences with chairperson Razia Sultana. Mohammed Izhar Alam, ADGP, refused to answer queries and said he had come to attend the meeting and he was with the members.


Police proposes Road Safety Councils
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 31
The Punjab police has suggested to the state government to form Road Safety Councils at the state and district levels. The councils promote and encourage road safety through education, training and publicity.

Sources at the Punjab police headquarters claim that a detailed proposal in this regard has already been submitted by the traffic wing to the State Transport Commissioner and other senior functionaries in the government.

The recommendation for the formation of the councils has been made in accordance with the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act. The suggestion was forwarded to the authorities concerned after a series of news items on road safety in these columns. The sources add that such councils, prevalent in foreign countries, already exist in some states in the country.

Giving details of the proposal, Inspector-General of Police S.K. Sharma, in charge of the traffic wing, says that the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, has been requested to head the high-powered State Road Safety Council. This, he asserts, will go a long way in ensuring complete coordination between different departments responsible for ensuring road safety.

Regarding other departments involved in road safety, another officer adds that the Transport Department and the State Transport Authority are responsible for the issuance of driving licences and registration certificates for vehicles. Local bodies, including municipal corporations and committees, along with the Public Works Department (Roads and Buildings) are also responsible for safety.

The development is significant because on an average seven persons are killed and nine injured daily in road accidents in the state, compared to two murders a day.

Punjab has lost more than 11,000 persons in road accidents since 2000. Over 50,000 have been injured in road mishaps since then. In 2003 alone, over 2,700 deaths were reported in such accidents, The number of deaths was a little lower in 2004. As many as 2,400 persons were killed in mishaps.

As far as the councils are concerned, the officer says that these will coordinate the actions and functions of different departments and local groups in road-safety matters.


Fire in Rail Coach Factory
Tribune News Service

Kapurthala, March 31
It was a narrow escape for the staff of Rail Coach Factory as the compressor room caught fire here this morning.

During peak hours of the factory little before noon, there was short-circuiting in the compressor room that led to burning of the electric panel. The staff of the factory raised the alarm and got the power supply switched off.

A fire alarm was also raised and foam-type fire extinguishers and fire engines were used to douse the flames. The staff of the factory said that it could have been a major tragedy in case the fire would have spread to a paint shop just 50 yards away from the compressing room.


Relief for tsunami victims
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 31
Punjab's Transport Minister Mohinder Singh Kay Pee yesterday presented a cheque of Rs 25.36 lakh to Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh for the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund for Tsunami victims.

Another cheque of Rs 2 lakh was also presented to the Chief Minister by State Minister for Science, Technology and Industrial Training Rakesh Pandey on behalf of the Civil Lines Welfare Society, Ludhiana


high court
Verka resident seeks registration of case against doctor
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, March 31
The Punjab and Haryana High Court today issued notice of motion for July 21 on a petition seeking directions for registration of a criminal case against a Punjab Government doctor.

According to the petition, Dr Inderjit Singh Hundal and his family had kept a peacock at their house at Verka in Amritsar district. The bird allegedly damaged the eye of the minor daughter of the petitioner.

In their petition, Mr Sarabjit Singh and his wife Amarjit Kaur alleged that the peacock kept in illegal confinement by Dr Hundal and his family was the cause of loss of an eye of the child. The petitioners have stated that keeping of birds such as peacocks in captivity is against law as it has been prohibited under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.

Apart from seeking registration of a case against Dr Hundal, his wife and son, the petitioners have also prayed for grant of Rs 20 lakh as compensation.

Today, the Bench of Mr Justice N.K. Sud and Mr Justice A.K. Mittal adjourned the matter to July 21.


7 get life term for Dalip Singh’s murder
Our Correspondent

Barnala, March 31
Additional Sessions Judge Fatehdeep Singh yesterday sentenced seven accused to life imprisonment for the murder of Dalip Singh of Mehalkalan.

He also fined them Rs 10,000 each. In case of default of payment of fine, they will have to undergo imprisonment for two more years.

Those awarded imprisonment were Narayan Dutt, Prem Kumar, Manjeet Singh Dhaner, Labh Singh, Avtar Singh, Sukhwinder Singh, and Bakhtaur Singh. Of them Narayan Dutt, Prem Kumar and Manjeet Singh Dhaner are founder members of the Kiranjit Kand Virodhi Action Committee.

Soon after the verdict, action committee members held a protest rally at the Shaheed Jeeta Singh shopping complex. Hundreds of men and women from Mehalkalan and the adjoining areas participated. The committee said it would file an appeal in the Punjab and Haryana High Court against the verdict. After the rally, the action committee held a protest march through the main bazars which concluded at Shaheed Bhagat Singh Chowk.


HC stays octroi contract

Ropar, March 31
The high court today stayed the octroi contract of Ropar city given to a private party in an auction conducted by the Deputy Director, Local Government, Ludhiana.

The court has stayed the contract following a PIL petition filed by residents of the city, claiming that the contract was given to a private party below the amount fixed by the Municipal Council, Ropar. The court has fixed the next day of hearing in the case for April 8.

In an auction conducted by the Deputy Director, Local Government, the bid of the octroi contract had gone to the party for Rs 2.18 crore while the municipal council had fixed Rs 2.28 crore for the bid. — TNS


Passport racket busted, four cops booked
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 31
The Jalandhar police has busted a racket involving preparation of passports using fake names, non-existent addresses, fabricated documents and fake police verification reports. It has nominated four police officials of the passport branch of the district police office as accused in the case.

Mr S.K. Asthana, SSP, said the racket was being run in a highly professional manner with the active connivance and association of certain police officials and some travel agents, as revealed during a preliminary inquiry into the matter. The probe was conducted by Mr Varinder Pal Singh, SP (Headquarters).

Mr Asthana said the accused used to apply for grant of passport facility to the passport office, Jalandhar, using fictitious identities, non-existent addresses and fabricated documents of the applicants. Working as part of a well-oiled gang, Head Constables Harjit Singh and Mahavir Singh, Constables Ram Kishan and Kulbir Singh would receive the inquiry report from the police station by virtue of their posting in the passport branch of the district police. They would remove the report recommending refusal of passport facility to the applicant and replace it with a fabricated police verification report, recommending grant of passport instead. Signatures of various police officials would also be forged by the accused.

Following the inquiry conducted by Mr Varinder Pal Singh, separate cases have been registered against the accused. Mr Asthana said during investigation, the possibility of involvement of any official of the passport office would also be looked into. He said five cases had been detected, wherein, details were found to be fabricated.


DSP to probe rape of patient in hospital
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, March 31
Mr Lok Nath Angra, Senior Superintendent of Police, Hoshiarpur, said here today that he had deputed Mr Kuldip Singh, DSP (R), to probe into the alleged rape of a young patient belonging to Lambra village by two employees of a private hospital in Lachowal. The victim was operated upon for appendicitis five days ago. He said her statement was recorded last evening in the presence of the hospital doctor. In her statement Daljit Kaur did not mention about the rape. However, she said when she complained about severe pain in her stitches, Mintu and Bittu, both employees of the hospital, administered some injections to her and took her to the operation theatre for check up, where they kept her for about an hour. They also slapped her when she cried due to pain. The swab of the girl, given by the local Civil Hospital after her medical examination, was being sent to the Chemical Examiner, Punjab Government, Patiala.


Youth beaten up by miscreants
Bipin Bhardwaj

Rajpura, March 31
A group of over 10 armed youths attacked Mr Harjit Singh alias Bittu, a resident of Jalbera village near Sirhind, late last night.

Sources said Bittu (28) was returning home on his scooter when, over 10 youths in a Gypsy and a Tata Sumo stopped him and forcibly picked him up. They thrashed him while driving on the city roads, sourced revealed.

The victim was later dragged out of the vehicles and was thrown at an abandoned plot adjacent to the Civil Hospital. The assailants then attacked him with sharp-edged weapons. They left him outside the emergency of the hospital sources in the police said.

The injured was later admitted to the hospital with serious injuries.

According to the Rajpura police, Bittu sustained 13 to 15 wound, including two deep injuries on his head. The assailants attacked Bittu because of some old rivalry, the police claimed.

Family members and friends of Bittu assembled outside the hospital soon after receiving the news this morning. The situation out side the hospital was tensed as Bittu’s friends demanded the arrest of the assailants.

The police has booked over 10 persons including Gurinder Singh Bhatia, a resident of Rajpura, Gurjant Singh Jantta of Hassanpur Kerpur village, Amrinder Singh of Khanpur village, Jeet Singh of Paula village, Mima of Banur, Satnam Singh, alias Satta of Ghaggar along with their other accomplices.

A case under Sections 307, 64, 506, 148 and 149 of the IPC has been registered against the assailants on the complaint of Mr Jasbir Singh.

No arrest has been made.


Man crushed to death
Our Correspondent

Banur, March 31
A 90-year-old man was crushed to death by an unidentified car, here this morning.

According to the police, Karnail Singh, a local resident, was crossing the Zirakpur-Patiala highway when the car crushed him to death on spot. The car driver reportedly sped away from the scene after the accident.

The body was handed over to the family after the postmortem at Civil Hospital, Rajpura in the evening. The police has started investigations.


Sainik School to get Rs 1.01 cr grant from MoD
Tribune News Service

Kapurthala, March 31
To undertake structural restoration work of Sainik School, Kapurthala, housed in Jagatjit Palace, the Ministry of Defence has sanctioned a grant of Rs 1.01 crore.

A communique in this regard from the department reached the school here today, while the grant for the purpose is likely to reach tomorrow. Even as the complete details regarding utilisation of the grant are yet to reach the school, it has been stated that this grant would be supplemented by a share of the Punjab Government to the tune of Rs 96 lakh as communicated by the Principal Secretary of the Defence Services Welfare Department of Punjab.

The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) had already sanctioned Rs 98 lakh for Jagatjit Palace and Baradari Gardens for its facelift. The grant is, however, yet to reach the school.

Jagatjit Palace is a unique example of French architecture. Maharaja Jagatjit Singh's quest for beauty coupled with his global exposure enabled him to create a string of beautiful buildings in Kapurthala which exemplified the best of exotic and native streams.

But the building has been in dire strait for quite some time now. The wooden floor and doors were getting damaged as they have almost been hollowed by termite. So much so that a circumventing path atop the library made of wooden planks can fall any time. The roof of the office of the Registrar collapsed a few weeks back and his office had to be shifted elsewhere.

Subsequently, INTACH officials visited the school and prepared a report which had listed a cost of Rs 3 crore for the works that are required to be done. The chairman of the trust, Mr S.K. Misra, had subsequently taken up the case for the provision of the funds with the Ministry of Defence.

Meanwhile, the school has received Rs 9,600 per student from the Central Government for scholarship. The school is also likely to get revised scholarships under the new income slabs for the students from the Punjab Government soon.


Touts create fee hike scare
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar March 31
Much to the chagrin of the local Regional Passport Office (RPO) authorities, touts have started spreading the canard that the fee for issuance of passports and related services will be enhanced manifold beginning tomorrow. This is to fleece innocent applicants.

The RPO authorities have, however, clarified that there is no proposal by the Ministry of External Affairs to enhance fee for issuance of fresh passport or related services in the near future.

Passport seekers from Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur, Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Nawanshahr districts have swarmed the RPO apprehending a sharp rise in the passport fee.

Interestingly, touts operating from around the passport office and their agents operating from villages and small townships resort to the same trick in the last week of December and March every year.

Gullible passport seekers hand out commission to them, which is generally between Rs 500 and Rs 700, for saving them from the “hike”.

When contacted, Mr Amarjit Singh, Regional Passport Officer, clarified that there was no proposal to hike the fee for issuance of a fresh passport, a duplicate passport or change in name. Admitting that the RPO had witnessed an unprecedented rush of applicants in the last week of this month and this had created hurdles in the functioning of his office in more ways than one, Mr Amarjit Singh said: This can be due to apprehensions created by certain quarters. But, I must tell applicants that they should not apply through touts or other doubtful channels as no hike is going to take place from April 1.”

He said his office was doing all to save people from falling prey to unscrupulous elements.


National workshop on forensic science
Our Correspondent

Patiala, March 31
The Department of Forensic Science, Punjabi University, Patiala, will organise a national workshop on forensic facial reconstruction from April 4. The five-day workshop has been designed for forensic scientists working in the field of forensic science, forensic medicine, forensic anthropology and anatomy who are involved in personal identification from skeletal remains.

The workshop will be inaugurated by Mr Harminder Raj Singh, joint secretary (police modernisation), Ministry of Home, Govt of India on April 4 in the university Senate Hall.

Giving this information Dr R.M. Sharma, Head & Chairman, Department of Forensic Science, said the aim of the workshop was to promote interest and give first hand training and information on various aspects of Facial reconstruction.

He stated that the teachers participating in the workshop were known in their respective specialisation and participants would get on-hand training on the subject. He added that the latest technological advances in imaging and availability of computer applications had brought many changes in the field work and new ways were being devised to make the technique more objective.

Those participating in the workshop include Prof M.Y. Iscan, Associate Director, Institute of Forensic Sciences, University of Istanbul, Turkey, Prof P. Sema Deptt of Prosthodontics, Dental Faculty, Ankara University, Ankara, Turkey, Dr A.S Cadger, Council of Forensic Medicine, Istanbul, Turkey, Prof P.K. Chattopadhyay, Director, Amity Institute of Forensic Sciences, New Delhi, Dr Daizy Sahni, Associate Prof, Deptt of Anatomy, PGI, Chandigarh and Dr P. Sinha, W.B Forensic Science Lab, Kolkata.


BSNL gears up to give more connections
Poonam Batth
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 31
Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited ( BSNL) will put up 1,000 more cell sites to give additional nine lakh connections in Punjab during the next five months to enhance its connectivity in the region.

The Principal General Manager for the Punjab Circle of BSNL, Mr G.S. Bhatia, said there are 3.8 lakh mobile phone subscribers in this circle and connectivity will be made available to 12.8 lakh subscribers for mobile connections in the next five months.

About the poor connectivity from BSNL landlines and mobile connections to Airtel mobiles, Mr Bhatia clarified that there was no problem at their end.

He attributed the decline in landline connections to the increase in the mobile phone connections. But despite this, there are 19.7 lakh landline connections in the Punjab Circle, which is the highest subscriber base in the state for any operator.

Mr Bhatia said BSNL has decided to focus on mobile phone connections and broadband services.

They have started sanctioning broadband connections of 10 MMB capacity and have a target of issuing one lakh connections in 2005-2006.

Talking about BSNL not providing phone connections in the newly developed sectors 66 to 71 in Mohali and still declaring it to be non-feasible area, he said the matter was hanging fire since they have not been allotted land to set up an exchange for expansion of services here.

He said strict legal action would be initiated against bill defaulters. He did not comment on the shortage of SIM card and recharge coupons for CellOne.

Meanwhile, the installation of broadband equipment in Chandigarh circle is complete and the services would be 
launched in a phased manner.

It would be first launched for the residents of Sector 4, 17, 34, Mohali and Panchkula.

The subscribers who have registered themselves for the service may apply.


Insurance staff observe strike

Jalandhar, March 31
As part of countrywide action, employees of the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) today observed strike to demand immediate wage revision.

The striking employees held a rally in front of the local Divisional Office building of the corporation.

Mr Surjit Ram, secretary, Northern Zone Insurance Employees Association, said that the LIC had achieved a record increase in business during the previous decade, but the employees were yet to be given their share for the hard work they had done for the benefit of the company. — PTI

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