P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Confusion reigns at visa facility for Pakistanis
Ashok Sethi

Wagah, April 7
Notwithstanding the hype surrounding confidence building measures for further normalising relations between India and Pakistan confusion prevailed today on the opening day of providing on-the-spot visa facility.

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs had issued written orders to the immigration staff at the Wagah joint checkpost to provide on-the-spot visa facility which, however, lacked modalities.

The immigration authorities on the Indian side had set up the visa counter for Pakistan nationals above 65 and below 12 years from today. According to information available, the Pakistani counterpart refused to allow their nationals to cross the international boundary by claiming that they were not aware of the rules and regulations and the Indian authorities had not given them any prior information about the easing of visa norms.

Indian security personnel said a serious communication gap had resulted in the present imbroglio as couple of Pakistan citizens above the age of 65 had landed up on their side of the border but their immigration staff refused to allow them to cross the Radcliff Line without assigning any reason.

They, however, revealed that the Indian immigration authorities had been directed not to issue visa for Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and the North East. They also stated that according to norms only those Pakistanis who could be received by their relations or friends at the border would be allowed to cross into India.

The present impasse was likely to be resolved in the next few days as they were expecting the receipt of proper guidelines.


ASI to keep off Golden Temple affairs pending heritage decision
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 7
Even as Bibi Jagir Kaur and Bibi Kiranjot Kaur, president and executive member of the SGPC, respectively, have locked horns over the issue of dossier on Harmander Sahib, the Director of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has clarified that there won’t be any interference in the management of the religious site after the World Heritage Status (WHS) is granted to the holiest place of the Sikhs.

However, the SGPC chief has sent a two-member team, comprising Mr Jaswinder Singh, advocate, and Mr Joginder Singh, an SGPC member and Additional Secretary, respectively, to personally deliver her letter to Mr C. Babu Rajeev, Director-General, ASI, tomorrow to hold the process of dossier in abeyance. In her brief letter, Bibi Jagir Kaur asked the Central Government not to pursue the dossier till the submission of the final report of a five-member sub-committee, constituted by the SGPC to study the dossier.

In response to the letter of Bibi Kiranjot Kaur, the Director-General of the ASI stated that the management of Shri Harmandar Sahib would continue to remain with the SGPC and there would be no change at all to this management as a result of its inscription as the WHS. The letter further reads that Unesco does not and will not impose management discretions on the WHS. Any suggestion from Unesco would only be advisory in nature (as an expert body) with regard to upholding and conserving the heritage value of the site . The full responsibility for the protection as well the suggested conservation of the heritage property will be with the SGPC.

“The Government of India will not have any role in the management of Golden Temple”, the communication of ASI Director-General reads. However, the situation got complicated when Bibi Jagir Kaur directed the members of the sub-committee not to meet any visiting official of the ASI or Unesco as urged by Bibi Kiranjot Kaur. The final report of the sub-committee would be presented to Bibi Jagir Kaur in the sub-office of the SGPC at Chandigarh tomorrow. Reliable sources said the report has recommended immediate withdrawal of the dossier. However, Bibi Kiranjot Kaur has levelled serious charges against two members of the sub-committee and asked the SGPC to constitute another committee with Sikh background.

She alleged that Prof Niranjan Singh Dhesi, a senior member of the sub-committee had “communist background”, while another member Dr Jasbir Singh Sabar, a professor at the GND varsity, was allegedly working for a particular lobby. In a communication to the SGPC chief, Bibi Kiranjot Kaur alleged that she was shocked over the inclusion of the name of Prof Dhesi, who did not have any link with Sikh history, art, culture, heritage or Sikh architecture. She sought the reconstitution of the sub-committee.


Kiranjot Kaur must quit SGPC: Hardeep
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
Mr Hardeep Singh, a Member of the SGPC, who has been urging the withdrawal of the dossier that was submitted to UNESCO to seek world heritage site status for the Golden Temple complex, today asked Bibi Kiranjot Kaur, a member of the Executive Committee of the SGPC, to resign from the religious body on moral grounds.

Addressing a press conference here, Mr Hardeep Singh, said that it had been proved beyond doubt that there were glaring mistakes and distortions regarding Sikh history in the dossier. Besides, Bibi Kiranjot Kaur was directly responsible for the incorporation of such mistakes. She was the brain behind this project. She got the dossier prepared, vetted and signed from the SGPC authorities concerned. He said he had nothing personal against Bibi Kiranjot Kaur. “ I had raised an issue and I have been proved correct,” he said.

Mr Hardeep Singh said that Bibi Kiranjot Kaur had been trying to influence the five-member panel of experts set up by Bibi Jagir Kaur, President of the SGPC, to examine the contents of the dossier. “On what basis did Bibi Kiranjot Kaur attend the meeting of the panel in Ludhiana early this week? ” he asked.

Mr Hardeep Singh said he had spoken to Bibi Jagir Kaur that he should also be allowed to appear before the panel, which would be meeting here tomorrow to present his viewpoint. If that was not possible, Bibi Kiranjot Kaur, too, should not be allowed to appear before it. “We will either present our viewpoint before the panel or not allow Bibi Kiranjot Kaur to appear before it tomorrow,” said Mr Hardeep Singh.

Raising many issues regarding the dossier. Mr Hardeep Singh said the SGPC President should inquire why Rs 40 lakh was given for preparing the dossier while the dossier relating to Kila Mubarik at Patiala had been prepared by charging only Rs 20 lakh. Besides the payment made by the SGPC, it appears that the Union Home Ministry had also made some payment in this regard. Moreover, two scholars, he said, had been given Rs 1.40 lakh each for vetting the dossier. All these things should be probed, he added. Bibi Jagir Kaur had been requested to write to the Union Government to take up the issue of the withdrawal of the dossier with UNESCO.


Pvt managements not to take over govt schools in Punjab
Sarbjit Dhaliwal

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
Taking a very clear stand on the issue of government schools, representatives of the Management Committees of government-aided private schools today made it clear to the Punjab Government that they would not take over Government schools in any manner. But they were prepared to extend the cooperation required to improve the education delivery system in the state.

Talking to The Tribune on the phone from Ropar, Mr Mohan Lal, General Secretary of the Aided School Managements, in reference to the meeting called today by, Mr Harnam Dass Johar, Education Minister (Schools), at Mohali to discuss the issue of handing over government schools to private managements, said the meeting was held without circulating any blueprint or outlines of the scheme to managements.

“It appears this Government is building castles in the air”, he said. Can one expect a worthwhile discussion on any proposal or scheme without putting it before the invitees at the meeting in black and white? he asked.

Mr Mohan Lal said government schools should continue to function. Students belonging to poor sections of society would be hit hard if the government made any structural change in the management of these schools, he added. “It is the constitutional responsibility of the state government to provide cheap and best education to all and if the government closed its schools, then poor students will be hit hard”, he added.

The government should not treat education like business. It was a social responsibility which should be performed with utmost care and conviction by the government, said Mr Mohan Lal. “We will not enter into any confrontation with government school teachers and neither will we hit their interest in any manner”, he said.

He said that it was a pleasant surprise that the government had admitted that private aided schools were providing quality education. But the government had been treating such aided schools most shabbily. Grants to such schools were not released in time. The government had freezed the vacant posts of teachers in these schools which were the backbone of school education at least in the urban areas.

Pension scheme of employees retired from aided schools had also been stopped since May, 2003. “ If the Government can treat aided schools, which it admits are doing well on the education front, in such a manner, no one should expect the government to give a better treatment once it hands over government schools to the managements of aided schools”, said Mr Mohan Lal.

Mr Manohar Lal Chopra, a senior leader of the Aided School Employees Union, said there was a sinister design behind the move to hand over government schools to aided ones. “ The government wanted to put teachers of aided schools in confrontation with teachers of government schools. We will not allow this to happen”, said Mr Chopra.

School education has become a big issue in the state for the past few months. For various reasons including neglect and lack of supervision on the part of the government officers, the education system in government schools has collapsed in the countryside. The Government is now probing various possibilities including handing over its schools to management of private schools to improve the education delivery system.


Representatives of pvt schools air grievances
Our Correspondent

Mohali, April 7
Ignoring the agenda of the meeting called by the Punjab Education Minister here today, representatives of government-aided private schools gave vent to their grievances and the problems faced by their institutions.

Most of the representatives of the managements of the schools, invited to the meeting to discuss how such institutions could help raise the level of education in government schools, found a platform to air their problems in front of the Education Minister, Mr Harman Dass Johar. Strangely, Mr Johar did not object to the representatives ignoring the subject of the meeting.

How could the future of students be made secure in case the government decided to hand over the functioning of government schools to the managements of aided private schools was also to be discussed at the meeting. Except a few persons speaking about the item on the agenda many speakers demanded that government should give adequate grants, remove the ban on recruitments and give adequate staff.

Mr Jagdish Singh, a school manager from Amritsar, criticised the government for using the services of teachers during school hours for other works, which adversely affected studies. Mr D.P. Kashyap, another representative, said the government did not have any proper planning and kept upgrading schools even when there was shortage of staff.

Mr Vijay Kakaria, manager of the Ahmedgarh Vidya Pracharak Sabha, Ahmedgarh, questioned as to how could the meeting be fruitful when the topic on the agenda was not discussed properly.

The minister told the gathering that public schools, which allegedly indulged in fleecing, followed their own rules and the government had no control over them. He said he had talked to the HRD Minister in Delhi and requested him to frame a policy under which the government could exercise some control over such institutions. The government wanted that public schools should get a no-objection certificate from officials of the Education Department every year and this would enable the district education officers’ to visit such schools in their areas.

Talking about the excess staff in certain schools, the minister said the system was being rationalised and excess staff was being sent to schools facing staff shortage. He said the government would not allow schools to function from residential areas in accordance with the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

When asked by mediapersons about the efforts of the government in bringing the Punjab School Education Board under its control, the minister said the autonomy of the board would remain and the government had so far done nothing to bring about changes in this regard.


Sant Ram Singla dead
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
Known in the political circles for his secular credentials and simple living, Chairman of the Punjab Mandi Board Sant Ram Singla died at the PGI this evening. He was admitted to the PGI earlier this week following a brain hemorrhage.

He was 71 and is survived by his wife, a son and two daughters.

The cremation will take place in Patiala at 2.30 p.m. tomorrow.

Born and brought at Gajevas village, near Samana, Singla represented Patiala Parliamentary constituency in the Lok Sabha in 90s. He was also elected to the Punjab Assembly in 1980 from Samana. His younger brother, Mr Balkrishan Singla, is president of the Punjab Arhtiya Association and his other brother, Mr R.P. Singla, is General Manager in CITCO.

He had also served as Political Secretary to the late Giani Zail Singh during his tenure as the Chief Minister of Punjab from 1972 to 1977 and later when Gianiji took over as the Union Home Minister. He was a member of the All India Congress Committee.

Singla, who started his career as Executive Officer of the Patiala Municipal Committee, joined politics at the behest of Giani Zail Singh. After the death of Giani Zail Singh, he became close to Capt Amarinder Singh, who had appointed him as Chairman of the Mandi Board.

Always in a cheerful mood and ready to help others, Sant Ram Singla, was a political strategist and had managed the election campaign of Capt Amarinder Singh and Ms Preneet Kaur in the last Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. In fact, Singla, who was a strong contender for the party ticket, withdrew from the contest for the Lok Sabha seat in the last election in favour of Mrs Preneet Kaur.

Expressing deep grief over his demise the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, said that with Sant Ram Singla's death, the Congress had lost an important political leader, who was dedicated to the party and was a strong votary of the party traditions and values. " For me, it is a personal loss as he was our close family friend and supporter", said Capt Amarinder Singh.

The Deputy Chief Minister, Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, has also expressed grief over Singla's death. ‘‘He was a sincere Congress leader’’, she added. Mr Bharat Inder Singh Chahal, Media Adviser to the Chief Minister, said Singla was a politician with a positive mind and did lot for the common man. Mr Narinder Singh Kaurian, Vice- Chairman of the PRTC, said with the passing away of Singla Punjab had lost a man who always worked for the development of the state.


EPF scam: action sought against guilty policemen
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, April 7
In a new turn in the EPF scam in the thermal plants the DGP (Vigilance), PSEB, Mr Lalit Bhatia, has written to the ADGP (Crime) to take action against the Ropar police officials. In the letter, the DGP has stated that the legal and administrative procedure has been subverted by the Ropar police to drop the proceeding in the corruption case against officials and contractor of the Guru Gobind Singh Super Thermal Plant (GGSSTP) in the EPF scam.

He has stated that as the head of the PSEB’s vigilance department he had requested an inquiry into the EPF scam by the crime wing. In July 2003 the then DGP, Punjab, wrote back to him that after the inquiry by the crime wing 14 officers of the GGSSTP engineering wing, seven of the accounts wing and the contractor, Mr R.S. Sodhi, had been found guilty in the case. The DGP also wrote that the SSP, Ropar, had been ordered to file a charge sheet in the case against the guilty officials.

However, for about one year the Ropar police failed to file a charge sheet in the case. On the contrary, after about one year the Ropar police filed a cancellation report in the Ropar court in the case. On the basis of the cancellation report filed by the Ropar police the court sent back the case to the Ropar sadar police station, where the case was initially registered.

Mr Bhatia has now alleged that the Ropar police had violated the orders of the office of the DGP, Punjab, by withdrawing the case that was ordered to be registered by the then DGP. He has also accused the crime wing officials of failing to monitor the progress in the case.

Under Section 36 of the CrPC whenever a case was registered on the orders of the office of DGP, it was the duty of his office that included the crime wing to monitor its progress. By not monitoring the case the crime wing officials had allowed the Ropar police of subverting the legal and administrative procedure in the case.


SHO, Home Guard jawans booked in bribery case
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, April 7
The Jalandhar police has booked the Noormahl SHO, two home guard jawans and an informer for allegedly trying to coerce and threaten a Greece based NRI that he would be booked in a false case if he failed to cough up a bribe of Rs 5 lakh demanded by the SHO.

The SHO and others have been booked on the basis of an inquiry conducted by Jalandhar range DIG Parmjit Singh Sarao into a complaint lodged in March by NRI Joga Singh, originally hailing from Mandi village, near Phillaur.

Interestingly, like so many other alleged police atrocities related cases in the district, the police has not been able to arrest the accused so far in this case too.

Mr Joga Singh had alleged that on March 12, Sub-Inspector Manjit Singh and other police personnel had picked him up from his home at the behest of one Chindder, a resident of Mehsampur village, who was allegedly working as an informer of the area police and later he was kept in the illegal confinement for a number of days.

During this period, the SHO allegedly threatened Mr Joga Singh that he would be released only after he paid a bribe of Rs 5 lakh to the police official, otherwise, he would be implicated in a false case. When the residents of Mandi village went to the police station to secure the release of Mr Joga Singh, they were told by police officials that Mr Joga Singh was involved in Malta tragedy case. He was released after he paid the bribe money. Chindder had allegedly mediated in the whole episode.

Mr Joga Singh lodged a complaint against the SHO and others and an inquiry was conducted by DIG Parmjit Singh Sarao, who, ordered the registration of a criminal case against the accused.

Mr S.K. Asthana, SSP, said a case under Section 7/13 (2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act and under Sections 420, 170, 171, 343 of the IPC has been registered against SI Manjit Singh, home guard jawans Kuldip Singh and Amarjit Singh and Chinnder Singh.

Further investigation of the case has been entrusted to Mr Opinderjit Singh Ghumman, SP (Operations).


Poor health services push up death rate in Amritsar
Tribune Reporters

Amritsar, April 7
The absence of health services in the border district here has resulted in an alarming number of deaths due to health related reasons in the state.

While the state record stands at eight deaths out of every 1,000 persons, six of these deaths are being reported from Amritsar alone which is fair indication of the dismal state of health services in the district.

The Health Department figures reveal 35 child deaths for every 1,000 persons while 170 mothers die out of one lakh persons. The inadequate health services and escalating death rate were cause for concern as the public was forced to seek treatment at private hospitals at exorbitant rates.

No significant scheme was operational at the grassroots level while awareness regarding various health problems was also poor. Several health services were reporting a high number of vacancies and surprise surveys found absentee health workers in rural services .

These observations were made by various speakers at a seminar on the occasion of World Health Day. The seminar was organised by the Department of Community Medicine, Government Medical College. While the seminar gave the slogan, “Every mother and child counts”, the medical fraternity expressed concern over the maternal , infant and neo-natal mortality rate. Ms Ratna, chairperson, Social Welfare Board, while presiding, expressed apprehensions about the inadequate health services and hygiene in the mid-day meal scheme for rural children directly related to infant health. Dr A.S. Padda, officiating principal of the medical college, said 1,400 women die every minute in the world .

Dr Madhu Nagpal, Head, Gynaecology and Obstetrics, said 1,30,000 women die due to pregnancy related problems. Dr Karnail Singh, Head, Paediatrics, said 68 children in every 1,000 persons die due to lack of nutrition and dehydration and the death of 30 per cent of underweight babies was due to inadequate nutrition to the mother.

Meanwhile, at another seminar held by the All India Women’s Conference (AIWC) the Civil Surgeon, Dr H.S. Gill, said 82 per cent women and 35 per cent adolescents were suffering from anaemia and 64 per cent had have less chances of survival .

In the country 20 per cent children die from pneumonia and the same percentage from diarrhoea while the newborn mortality rate was 37.

At both seminars a call was given to oppose female foeticide.

SANGRUR: The World Health Day was celebrated at a function at the Sant Longowal Institute of Engineering and Technology (SLIET) at Longowal village, about 20 km from here, today. Mr Husan Lal, Deputy Commissioner was the chief-guest.

Mr Husan Lal stressed upon the need of maternal health and minimising the infant mortality rate, especially in the rural areas. He also emphasised on the role of technical institutions in improving the health of rural people.

Prof N.P. Singh, Director, SLIET, urged the Deputy Commissioner, who is also chairman of the District Red Cross Society, to forge a linkage between the SLIET and the Red Cross Society for better medical services and facilities to the people, especially in the Longowal belt of the district.


16 only and 6 months’ pregnant
Chitleen K. Sethi

Tribune News Service

Mullapur Garibdass (Ropar), April 7
She has a vacant look in her eyes. She does not speak a word but her face tells a story words can do little justice to.

Emaciated to the bones and huddled on the floor of her single room house in Malikpur Taparian village, 16-year-old Kanwal looks like a school-going child. It is almost hard to believe that Kanwal whose mother died recently, is six month pregnant and would have a child to take care of in the next few months.

A victim of rape, allegedly committed by her uncle, Balbir Singh, Kanwal is now an orphan and is being taken care of her grandmother. The grandmother Jagir Kaur can barely see or hear, and begs for money in the village to feed Kanwal and her two other grandchildren. The house they live in is bereft of any furniture except for a single bed and in the kitchen there is no food either cooked or stored. Reeling in poverty there are days when this family goes to sleep hungry.

Utterly helpless, the 75-year-old grandmother seems to be on the verge of insanity.

“My son died years ago leaving his wife Jaswinder and three children. For as long as Jaswinder was alive, she worked as a daily wager and earned for her family. Kanwal studied till class V after which she left to help her mother at home. She would fill water from the well, cook food and take care of her younger brothers. But eight months ago Jaswinder also died after a long illness at the hospital leaving these three orphans with me. And now when we needed the support of our relatives the most, this is what my sister’s son Balbir has done to my poti (grand-daughter),” she relates breaking into tears.

Kanwal who sits quietly, entirely expressionless through the conversation, seems to be in a state of deep shock. She does not respond to any question put to her. But every time you bring in Balbir Singh’s name in the conversation, she seems to register something.

Balbir Singh lived with his family just a few houses down the village. Married with children of his own, Balbir Singh was booked for rape by the police when Jagir Kaur complained to the police. He was arrested last week and is now in judicial remand.

But the problem remains. While the grandmother hushed the word abortion into our ears, the girl seems to have no idea what to do. “Please help us.” pleads Jagir Kaur. Please get rid of this child and I will marry her,” she begs with folded hands.

The other Harijans in the village are looking up to the police for help. The police is helpless as what to do with the girl who needs medical help urgently.

“We have been contacted by a villager from Seonk offering to marry the girl. He says he would allow her to have the child and take care of both of them.” But the girl is minor, we cannot get her married,” said Mr Bhagwant Singh, SHO, Mullapnur Garibdass. “And as far as abortion is concerned we cannot get it done. The girl has been taken to Ropar for a complete medical examination and according to the doctors it is too late for an abortion and since the girl is so weak it can be dangerous for her life,” he adds.

With the world celebrating the Health Day today, maybe we could begin by making this mother and child count.

(The name of the victim has been changed)


Panel to reconsider law officers’ job terms
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
A high-powered committee headed by the Punjab Chief Secretary has been asked to reconsider the terms, norms and conditions regarding the appointment and functioning of law officers. Directions in this regard have been issued by the state Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh.

Sources in the Punjab Government say that the committee is likely to reconsider the feasibility of enhancing the salaries of the law officers, besides reducing their number, following the directions.

They say that the state government, instead of reducing the number of law officers, had recently decreased their salaries in an apparent bid to cut down the expenditure. As a result, a number of law officers had refused to join duty.

The move to reconsider the terms and conditions is significant because the state Advocate-General, Mr Harbhagwan Singh, has all along been saying that the number of law officers should not be reduced for ensuing optimum functioning of his department.

The government had initially appointed more than 110 law officers, including the Advocate-General, in Chandigarh and Delhi even though the sanctioned strength was just over 60.

Following the recent submission of resignation by several law officers for one reason or the other, their number as of now is 96. As many as 89 of them are currently posted in Chandigarh. The others are in Delhi.

The sources add that the present term of the law officers expired on March 31. But one-month extension was granted to them by the state government’s Department of Home Affairs and Justice.

Going into the background of the matter, the sources say that the government had this year decided to reduce the number of law officers to 65, in accordance with the recommendations made by the committee. But the authorities found it difficult to go ahead with their plans in the absence of norms and criteria.

The absence of political will is another reason behind the government’s failure to act on the suggestions. The sources add that this is not the first time that the committee’s recommendation regarding a reduction in the number of law officers has been ignored. Last year also the suggestions were disregarded.


Karah parshad data computerised
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 7
Keeping its date with technology, the SGPC rode on the hi-tech wave to computerise its karah parshad distribution and cash collection system. Computer printed slips for karah parshad have replaced the age-old printed manual receipts at the Golden Temple here.

Computers have been installed at all 13 karah parshad counters, linked to the centralised server through wireless network. On feeding the amount of karah parshad, the computer printer shall issue the slip and the amount will get transferred to the centralised server supporting the data warehouse. The karah parshad receipts bear date, time, amount and a distinguished number. The sales data of karah parshad shall keep on compiling in the centralised server and the total sales figure of karah parshad can be known at the click of mouse by the day end. Daily, weekly and monthly statements of karah parshad sale shall also be obtainable from the centralised server any time and also through remote access. The central data bank is capable of keeping the information for long and sales figure for a particular time-period relating to previous years can be mined from it.

Dr Bikram Singh Virk, who is supervising the whole project, said that every person manning the computer shall get a printout in duplicate at the end of duty and deposit the cash collection on the basis of that. According to him, the infrastructure for the computerisation of general collection, akhand path booking and langar rasad collection was also ready and would be started within a few days after imparting training to the employees. He further disclosed that this was being taken as a pilot project and would be implemented in all the gurdwaras controlled by the SGPC. The facility of showing the total collection on the Internet to the president and other senior officials of the SGPC shall also be provided for.


SGPC to take over historic gurdwara
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, April 7
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) would take over the historic Patshahi Dasvi Gurdwara within a couple of days as per the Supreme Court order, SGPC President, Jagir Kaur stated this while interacting with media persons here today.

To review the preparations for the tercentenary of 40 muktas martyrdom, Ms Jagir Kaur appealed to the Nihangs to hand over the reigns of Gurdwara Patshahi Dasvi at Kotkapura to the SGPC. At present the Baba Budha Dal is managing the affairs of the gurdwara.

Tension prevailed in Kotkapura a few months back when an SGPC team and hundreds of Nihangs came face to face on the issue. The SGPC team had to return at that time.

Ms Jagir Kaur said the Nihangs had about 700 acres of land belonging to the SGPC under their control. She urged them to vacate the same so that the land could be utilised for religious works.

She appeared satisfied with the preparations being made by the SGPC for the tercentenary of 40 ‘muktas’.

She said a huge ‘‘amrit sanchar’’ programme would be held at Gurdwara Tuti Gandi Sahib on May 1.


No fresh case of jaundice
Our Correspondent

Patiala, April 7
No fresh case of jaundice has been reported from the city even as the Civil Surgeon’s office remained on a high alert to tackle the menace of water-borne disease in the district.

The Civil Surgeon, Dr Shiv Kumar Garg, and the District Health Officer, Dr V.S. Mohi, visited the Jattan-Wala-Chauntra area located in the walled city from where the maximum number of jaundice cases were reported in the past few days.

The Deputy Commissioner, Mr Tejveer Singh, said a mobile dispensary had been set up near the gurdwara in the affected locality which was providing free medical aid to residents of that area. The Rapid Response Team, constituted by the Deputy Commissioner to look into the outbreak of the disease, also made its presence felt by making a door-to-door survey in the area. The Deputy Commissioner said the affected pipe, which caused contamination of water, leading to the disease had been repaired. Pipes in several homes in the area in which worms were detected were also repaired or replaced by the municipal corporation authorities.

In a related development, the Deputy Commissioner has asked the Civil Surgeon to ensure safe drinking water to the Nabha and Patiala jails from where reports of contaminated water had recently surfaced.


Fire destroys 30 huts
Tribune News Service

Ropar, April 7
More than 30 huts were destroyed in a fire that broke out in a slum area in front of the Mini Secretariat here last late night. The incident took places at 10 pm when one of the huts in the colony caught fire from a candle. Within few minutes the fire engulfed most of the huts and also damaged articles of habitants.

As news of the incident spread in the area, a large number of locals rushed to spot to help the people. A water tank from gurdwara was also brought to control the fire.

The victim have been provided shelter in gurdwara. ADC, Surjit Singh, and police officials also reached the spot.


Major fire at power plant
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, April 7
A major fire broke out at Malwa Power Plant Private Ltd situated at Gulabewala village, about 10 km from here, today. Sources said the plant had collected a huge quantity of raw material for generating power and it was yet to start working.

However, the reason behind the fire was yet to be ascertained.

Fire engines from Muktsar, Gidderbaha, Bathinda, Fazilka, Ferozepore, and Kotkapura were rushed to the spot. Sources said the plant was in the agricultural land and the farmers having their land in its surroundings were a worried lot. Some of them even harvested their wheat crop fearing damage to it.

The SDM, Mr J.C. Sabharwal, visited the site in the afternoon.


Hoshiarpur village renamed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
The Punjab Government has renamed Nangal Choran village in Hoshiarpur district as Nangal Khilarian. Disclosing this, a spokesman of the state government said a notification had already been issued in this regard.


State mourning today
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7 
The Punjab Government has declared state mourning on Friday — the day of Pope John Paul’s funeral.

According to a Punjab Government spokesman, the National Flag will be flown at half-mast in Chandigarh and in the state.


Mohan Lal is MC vice-chief

Fatehgarh, April 7
Mr Mohan Lal Sappal was the elected vice-president of the Municipal Council here today. Councillors here are divided in two groups and president of the Council is in minority and the opposition group has more councillors. — OC


Five departments reply to PIL on civic amenities
Deepkamal Kaur
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, April 7
Jalandhar is an ideal place to live in, if the claims of the five government departments are to be believed. Five of the six government departments, against which a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed in the district court, have sent their replies to the notices issued to them about two months ago.

While five defendants, including the Ministry of Environmental and Pollution Control, Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Local Bodies and Urban Development, Department of Home Affairs and the Chief Secretary, Punjab, have sent their replies to the court of Mr Tejinderbir Singh. The reply of the Municipal Corporation is still awaited.

The lawyers had complained of noise pollution, mushrooming of illegal colonies, broken roads, improper sanitation facilities at public places, ineffective method for garbage disposal, ill-maintained street lights, lack of parking facilities and regularisation of traffic rules.

Considering the matter to be urgent, the court had accepted the demand of the lawyers and exempted them from serving the notice to the defenders under Section 80 of the Civil Procedure Code. The defendants have, however, claimed that there was no such urgency to claim the benefit of the section.

In its response, the Punjab Pollution Control Board said it had not received any serious complaint regarding air, water or noise pollution while the most large, medium and small polluting industries had installed adequate air pollution control devices or had shifted to cleaner fuel technologies.

The board has said it challaned 733 defaulters in the year 2004 and 35 in the current year for noise pollution alone.

The Transport Department stated that it had not received any proposal in regard to CNG operated vehicles as no such fuel station was there in the state. It also said the traffic was being controlled by police personnel in the district as per the Motor Vehicle Act and rules.

The department mentioned about pollution emitted by three-wheelers though it said 32 service stations had been authorised to check emission from automobiles.

In its response, PUDA said 620 unauthorised colonies had been identified by it and 317 cases were pending in various courts. It added a proposal to build a new bus stand was being taken up through the Punjab Infrastructural Development Board to provide all modern facilities.


Stripping case: interim relief granted to victims
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
Two months after three persons of Pathankot were allegedly stripped naked by an ASI of the Punjab police in an inebriated state, the Punjab State Human Rights Commission, (PSHRC) has come to their rescue.

In its order issued here today, the commission awarded an interim compensation of Rs 5,000 each to the victims. This will be in addition to any other relief that other state agencies could provide to the victims, the commission said while adjourning the case to June 23 for the compliance report.

It may be recalled that three inmates Subhash Chander, Raj Kumar and Gurmail Singh—who were detained in a lock-up of the Police Station in Pathankot were allegedly forced to dance in nude by ASI Sanjiv Kumar.

It was alleged that the trio, who were in the lock-up in connection with a case registered against them, were also humiliated and tortured by the ASI in a drunken state.

Taking a suo motu notice of a report published in The Tribune, the PSHRC had called for a report from the State Government on February 7 this year.

The Deputy Commissioner of Gurdaspur had sent his report on February 23. The SDM, Pathankot, who conducted an inquiry reported that Sanjiv Kumar had been booked under Sections of 342,347,355,294 and 506 of the IPC.


High Court
Life term upheld
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, April 7
A Division Bench of the High Court comprising Mr Justice J.S. Narang and Mr Justice Virender Singh has upheld the life imprisonment granted to Punjab Police DSP Baldev Singh and head constable Balwinder Singh.

The two had been found guilty of being responsible for the mysterious disappearance of seven male members of a Majitha family way back in 1991.

As per the prosecution story, DSP Baldev Singh, head constable Balwinder, who is his brother, and a group of people went to the house of Sadhu Singh (now deceased) and picked him up, his son and five grandsons. Despite repeated requests and representations to the police and civil authorities, no step was taken to get them released.

They have not been found till date. Sometime back, the Sessions Judge, Amritsar, had found the cops guilty of having eliminated the seven kidnapped persons. Both were awarded life imprisonment, while the remaining accused were acquitted.

Both filed an appeal in the High Court, which did not find merit in their appeal and upheld the sentences.


Farmers missing at cotton seed launch
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 7
The state government today launched a Bt cotton seed, Boulgard, following the nod from the Central government. However, the function organised to mark the seed’s launch turned out to be a show of private firms’ dealers.

The farmers of the cotton belt for whom the function was organised were conspicuous by their absence. The state government didn’t even invite the agricultural experts to the function despite the fact that they would have to sensitise the farmers on the technical aspects of cotton. He admitted that for 17 lakh hectares of Punjab about 10 lakh packets were required. The government had initiated talks with eight other companies. He said the trials of their seeds were on and they would be given the nod once they were found okay.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Agriculture and Animal Husbandry Department, Mr Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, was the chief guest. Interacting with mediapersons, he said the farmers would reap a good harvest with Boulgard and it would reduce their expenses. He said trials had revealed there was lesser need to spray insecticides on the crop.

He said five lakh packets of seeds had been demanded for the state’s farmers, while the company, Mahyco Monsanto Biotech India Ltd, had already made arrangements for four lakh packets. About the seizure of spurious cotton seeds worth Rs 70 lakh from various parts of Malwa in recent days, Mr Randhawa said those indulging in such trade would not be spared. Answering a query, he admitted that the prices of Boulgard were high and the government would hold talks with the company in this regard.

Meanwhile, the Kheti Virasat Mission and the Punjab Organic Farming Association today said the Punjab Government was creating “Bt euphoria” and pushing the state’s farmers into another trap of debts and death. In a joint statement released here today, both the organisations termed the launch of Boulgard as a step towards pushing the state’s farmers into the clutches of corporate agriculture.


DC bans use of combines during night
Our Correspondent

Patiala, April 7
The Deputy Commissioner, Mr Tejveer Singh, has banned the use of combines for harvesting of wheat during night till May 31 as the practice increases the moisture content in the grain beyond the permissible limit fixed by the government.

Mr Tejveer Singh said various government and private procurement agencies were reluctant to buy the wheat harvested by combines and this only added to the worry of farmers, who brought their produce to the grain markets to sell.


Medicine shop raided
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 7
The local drug authorities and the local police yesterday conducted a raid at a wholesale medicine shop in the Kaula Park market here today. The raid was conducted as part of the police exercise to curb the sale of intoxicants, being misused as drugs, in the town and nearby areas.

Mr Narender Kaushal, DSP, Sangrur, told The Tribune on the phone that during the raid more than 70 lakh intoxicant pills and more than 400 bottles of syrup, which could be misused as drugs, among other medicines, had been recovered from the shop so far.


Six held for stealing diesel
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 7
The local police today arrested six persons, including the owner of a dhaba and two drivers of two oil tankers, for allegedly taking out diesel from the oil tankers of oil companies to sell the same to their customers at cheaper rates. The police also allegedly seized 350 litres of stolen diesel and 40 litres of kerosene.

Mr Narender Kaushal, DSP, Sangrur, said this evening that the police had arrested six persons, including Gurtej Singh, owner of Dasmesh dhaba, situated on the Sangrur-Bhawanigarh road, 7 km from here.


Journalist booked
Our Correspondent

Kharar, April 7
A journalist has booked by the police on charges of voluntarily causing hurt, wrongful restraint and criminal intimidation.

According to the police, Mr Ashwini Sachdeva was booked by the police on a complaint made by Mr Pritpal Singh, a resident of Kharar. The police said the scribe had allegedly attacked and abused Mr Pritpal Singh after their cars were involved in a minor collision yesterday.


British teachers visit school
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, April 7
The British teachers, on a 10-day learning tour to India, found Indian students to be more obedient and courteous than the British students.

Mr John Bartholomew, leader of the 11-member group on a day’s stopover, visited DAV International and interacted with teachers and students there.

He said the reason lay in the family system. “In India family works as a disciplined and closed-knit unit which helps in inculcating values in a child,” said Mr John and added that he would convey to the UK authorities “to let us develop our understanding of our own culture”.

Mr John, a retired principal of the primary school, said that all the teachers had come from primary and secondary schools in Richmond, a riverside suburb of London. He said the motive of the visit was to extend the learning and teaching of citizenship. He said they wanted to observe the way the children in other countries approached the rights and responsibilities.

The city was the last destination of the group which had been to Chandigarh, Patiala and Jalandhar. They had visited 10 schools in Punjab to study various aspects of government, private, public, rural and urban schools.

Ms Sarah Berry, a primary school teacher, found children of rural school courteous.


PTU to hold CET on June 1
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, April 7
Punjab Technical University will hold a combined entrance test (CET) for admission to engineering, architecture and pharmacy colleges on June 1.

The Vice-Chancellor of the university, Dr S.K. Salwan, said here today that the university had been given nod in this regard by the Principal Secretary, Technical Education, Punjab. The university has also decided to declare the results of the examination by June 15.

Dr Salwan said that it was being expected that more than 20,000 candidates would appear for the examination.

Meanwhile, it is yet to be decided as to which university will hold the entrance test for admission to the MBA and MCA courses in various colleges of the state. While the CET is conducted every year by the PTU, the MET is held by rotation. Last year, the examination was conducted and supervised by Punjabi University, Patiala.


Students face problem as entrance test dates clash
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, April 7
To the dismay of students, preparing for pre-medical entrance exams of various government and private medical colleges, most of the test dates have clashed.

The CBSE All-India Pre-Medical Test and Dr D. Y. Patil, Medical College, Mumbai, have announced their examination on the same date, which fall on May 15.

Earlier, the Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC), Pune, Sikkim Manipal Institute of Medical Sciences (SMIMS) and private colleges at Maharashtra have announced May 1 for their entrance examinations. But now, the Association of Management of Un-aided Private Medical and Dental Colleges and Consortium of Medical and Engineering and Dental Colleges have too declared to conduct their examination on same date.

The entrance examination for the Jawaharlal Institute of Post-Graduate, Medical Education and Research (JIPMER), Pondicherry, Uttranchal CPEMT and St John Medical College, Bangalore, will hold the tests on May 29.

The Mahatama Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Sevagram Wardha, Maharashtra, and Bharti Vidhya Peeth have announced to hold the entrance test on April 17.

Dr Ashok Nandwani, who had highlighted this issue, said every year the students have to face this problem. The students and their parents urged the Union Health Ministry and the IMA to find a solution in this regard.


Teachers protest against privatisation

Bathinda, April 7
Thousands of teachers today organised a protest march from the local teachers home to the Mini Secretariat to lodge their complaint against the state government’s move to hand over its schools to private managements.

While addressing the agitating teachers, who were raising slogans against the state government, Principal Gurdev Singh Gill alleged that the government itself had been responsible for poor education level in the schools as more than 30 thousand posts of teachers had been lying vacant in government run schools.

He said that lakhs of students would be without education if the schools would be given to private hands. OC


Rail component manufacturers rue VAT
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, April 7
Punjab-based manufacturers of components used by the Railways for its wagons fear that “unjustifiably” higher rate of tax in Punjab than other states under the VAT regime will push them out of the trade soon.

Addressing a press conference here today, Mr Amarjit Dhall, Mr Vimal Chopra, Mr Kuldip Singh and Mr Anurag Aggrawal, office-bearers of four different organisations — the Kapurthala Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Ludhiana Rail Coach Components Manufacturing Association, the Mohali Rail Components Association and the Jalandhar Rail Coach Manufacturing Association — said the imposition of ‘unprecedented’ and higher tax than other states would virtually force them to leave the business. “While in Haryana, where VAT is already there, and in other states, manufacturers have to shell out tax at the rate of four per cent, the Punjab Government has imposed a much higher rate of tax at 12.5 per cent. How the component manufacturers of Punjab would survive this gap and that too for a long period till 2007, when taxes would be uniform in the entire country under the VAT regime,” rued Mr Amarjit Dhall and Mr Kuldip Singh.

Manufacturers said that they were being pushed out of the competition by this disturbing and confusing implementation in Punjab.


VAT implications discussed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
The Punjab Government today held a meeting with the traders and industrialists of the state to discuss and sort out the problems being faced by them after the introduction of the value-added tax ( VAT) in the state.

Presiding over the meeting, Finance and Planning Minister, Mr Surinder Singla, assured the traders that the government would sympathetically consider their demands and advised them not to be apprehensive of the tax as it would eventually help them. He said it was a simple and progressive tax. The self-assessment method, would end the Inspector Raj, he added.

Mr Singla said in future all notifications of the department would be published in all leading newspapers for the convenience of the traders. The Punjabi version of the Act would also be soon made available to the traders.

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