P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Cost of farm inputs rises because of VAT
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 9
Punjab farmers as well as small scale units engaged in the production of fertilisers, insecticides, pesticides and agricultural implements are reeling under a new dosage of taxes as a sequel to the implementation of Value Added Tax (VAT) regime in the State from April 1.

“It is like a Vatsunami for us,” allege 40-odd units in the small-scale sector producing fertilisers. “We have been taxed to the extent of Rs 80 crore on fertilisers and Rs 70 crore on pesticides and insecticides,” says Mr Arun Kapur, President, Micronutrients Manufacturers Association. After imposition of VAT a bag each of urea, di ammonia phosphate (DAP) and zinc sulphate has become expensive by Rs 10, Rs 18 and Rs 30, respectively.

Similarly, under the VAT regime most of the machine driven agricultural implements are to be charged 4 per cent tax. Only manual or animal driven agricultural machinery has been exempt from VAT. This will put an additional tax burden of Rs 6 crore to Rs 8 crore on farmers annually.

During discussion on the VAT Bill in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, though the Opposition had held that its implementation would hit the debt-driven and stagnant agro-economy of the State hard, yet the Government went ahead to pass the Bill the same day.

The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, had raised serious concerns over the bringing of fertilisers, insecticides, pesticides and machine driven agricultural implements under the VAT regime. He held that this would escalate the cost of agricultural production. Since there is negligible or no increase in the minimum support price, farmers would be major losers.

In Punjab 40 small-scale units engaged in the manufacture of zinc sulphate and other micronutrient fertilisers produce about 60,000 metric tonnes of micronutrients every year of which 40 per cent is sold in Haryana, UP, Rajasthan, Uttaranchal and also in South India.

Mr Kapur maintains that the Punjab units could compete with other manufacturers only because there was no sales tax on fertilisers till March 31 this year. The Punjab Government after procrastination for 30 days imposed 4 per cent VAT on fertilisers and pesticides. Earlier, it had on March 3 exempted fertilisers from VAT.

“Reversing of this decision 27 days later has hit the micronutrients industry hard as UP and Haryana have no VAT on fertilisers. Our supplies to UP, Haryana and other parts will be cut as Punjab units cannot export a single kg of zinc sulphate even to states which have a VAT regime as there shall be no input tax credit available to the buyer. This step shall certainly force Punjab units to pull down shutters as the market created by them over the past 30 years shall suddenly crumble before their eyes,” adds Mr Kapur.

The Bharti Kisan Union maintains that an average Punjabi farmer has already been reeling under severe financial burden. He has to bear 4 per cent purchase tax, 2 per cent rural development fund, 2 per cent market fees and 2.5 per cent brokerage to commission agents. As this was not enough, the Punjab Government has now slapped 4 per cent VAT on these inputs.

The Punjab dealers in areas bordering Haryana are also facing a nightmare. The farmers in these areas have reverted to Haryana dealers for their requirements of micronutrients. The situation is scary and it is high time the government took a stand and removed VAT on fertilisers as is the case in Haryana or UP, suggests Mr Kapur.

Incidentally the major fertiliser manufacturing companies are not affected by VAT because of their monopoly and do not face any real competition. They sell in any state as per government allocation where farmers are forced to buy at the offered prices as they do not have any choice, claim BKU leaders.

The BKU leaders have demanded that all agricultural inputs should be exempted from payment of VAT.


Foot-and-mouth disease spreads in PAU farm
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 9
Even as dairy farmers of Punjab have been turning to Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) for treatment of different diseases concerning their livestock, the university authorities have been at a loss as to whom they should approach when the inmates of its own dairy farm are suffering from foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) for the past one week.

Though confirmed cases of FMD have surfaced in the dairy farm of the PAU, the authorities concerned have been doing nothing except blaming the farmers, who attended its last kisan mela, held in the first week of March 2005, for bringing this disease to the inmates of its farm through infection.

While Dr K.S. Aulakh, Vice-Chancellor, PAU, when contacted said he had no information about the FMD affliction of inmates of its dairy farm, Dr M.S. Oberai, Dean, Colleges of Veterinary Sciences, PAU, confirmed there were about 15 cattle out of total 700 cattle, that had been afflicted with FMD. After the FMD surfaced in the dairy farm, the entry of strangers, including mediapersons has been banned.

Apart from blaming the farmers who attended the kisan mela in the recent past Dr Oberai pointed out that they had also lodged a complaint with Pune-based Inter Vet, the company, which had supplied the vaccine that had been injected to the cattle for protecting them from FMD.

He added that though Inter Vet had given guarantee in January 2005 when the cattle were vaccinated, saying that the vaccine would protect the cattle for one whole year the cattle started suffering from FMD within three months or so.

However, he said that this issue should not be blown out of proportion as the reports of the disease had also been surfacing in other parts of the state and hence it was a routine incident. He added the PAU authorities had been keeping a close watch over the dairy farm to find out that whether the number of affected cattle was on the increase or not. So far, reports had revealed that the number of affected cattle remained the same.

Dr Oberoi pointed out the PAU authorities had taken blood samples of the affected cattle to find out why the FMD had spread in its dairy shed. He said a team of Inter Vet had also visited the dairy farm and taken blood samples. The examination reports were awaited and further action would be taken accordingly.

Information revealed that FMD among the cattle in PAU dairy farm had also surfaced about two years ago and affected about 26 cattle. About three years ago, the disease claimed the lives of two cattle in the PAU dairy farm.


Dosanjh praises NRIs’ efforts in state
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, April 9
While praising Punjabis for their hardworking and cordial nature, Mr Ujjal Dosanjh, Health Minister of British Columbia, said it was a matter of great pride for him that a lot of work was being done towards developments in the rural areas of Punjab. The efforts made by NRIs were commendable, he said. They did not depend on the government alone and many times made generous contributions from their own pocket. Mr Dosanjh was addressing a cultural function organised at Aalowal village about 10 km from here, today.

Mr Ujjal Dosanjh was accompanied by his wife Raminder, Mr Romesh Chander Dogra, Health and Family Welfare Minister, Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang, Animal Husbandry Minister, Punjab, Mr D.S. Bains, Commissioner, NRIs Department, and Mr D.K. Tiwari, Deputy Commissioner, Hoshiarpur.

He appreciated the efforts of NRI Manjit Singh of Aalowal village who donated Rs 5 lakh for development work in the village. He said people should not remain dependant on the government. They should complete the work through their own contributions. He said every citizen should honestly deposit taxes to the government as through collection of tax money the development of the country was possible.

While giving details about the development made within the past three years during the Congress regime, Mr Romesh Chander Dogra said the government had procured traditional crops from farmers during the past six rabi and kharif seasons and got their payment released smoothly. Special efforts had been made towards repairing buildings of schools, strengthening and widening the roads in the state. He announced a grant of Rs 50,000 to the Youth Club and Rs 5 lakh for village development.

Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang, while praising the NRIs said despite residing in foreign countries, they were well connected with their respective villages and were participating in all types of social and economic activities from time to time. The Punjab Government had decided that it would contribute equal money for development in those villages where NRIs may provide finances for the uplift of the area.

Mr Gurminder Singh, Sarpanch of the village, welcomed Mr Dosanjh, his wife, Punjab Ministers and the Deputy Commissioner of Hoshiarpur. NRI Manjit Singh also addressed the gathering on this occasion.


Punjab should have gone for crop diversification: expert
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Abhijit Sen
Abhijit Sen

Chandigarh, April 9
Terrorism cannot be blamed for Punjab's gaping-for-breath economy. No, not anymore. The state's political class is largely responsible for the syndrome. It failed to take a simple decision like crop diversification when the moment was right — at least this is what Planing Commission member Abhijit Sen has to say.

In Chandigarh for attending inaugural session of a seminar on "Rationalising investment and subsidies in Indian agriculture", Dr Sen asserts, "The state administration should have gone for crop diversification at least a decade ago."

The two-day seminar is being organised by the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID), along with Washington-based International Food Policy and Mumbai-based Indian Society of Agriculture. Besides others, Vice-Chairman of the state Planning Commission Dr S.S. Johl is attending the seminar.

Crop diversification programme can be fully successful in Punjab only if the government assures farmers that their products will be picked up, says Vice-Chairman of the state Planning Commission Dr S.S. Johl.

He adds: "As of now there are 24 crops on the minimum support price list. But all of them are not procured by the government agencies. As such, the farmers are unwilling to shift from high yielding rice and wheat varieties to other crops. The shift will take place only when they are sure that their produce will be picked up and they will get good price for the same.

Giving details, Dr Sen says, "Basically, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh is now trying to do what the politicians should have done over a period of 10 years — go in for diversification".

As complete diversification would have been impractical and expensive, they should have initially encouraged a shift from paddy to crops required for the processing industry. Coupled with marketing support, the state's condition would have been different today, he adds.

Dr Sen knows what he is talking about. For, he is not just a member of the Planning Commission, but also Professor of Economics in Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. Besides this, he has taught at the Universities of Sussex, Oxford and Cambridge. A Ph.D in Economics, he has authored and co-authored more than 30 papers on agriculture, employment, economic reforms and poverty.

Referring to the current scenario in the state, he says the farmers are happy growing just two crops — rice and wheat. The yield is high and the farmers are able to get a good price. Moreover, procurement by government agencies gives them a sense of security. As a result, Punjab has not been able to do well compared to some other states.

That is, perhaps, the reason why some of the experts in the field of agriculture have been rightly stressing upon the need for providing subsidy to the farmers producing crops other than rice and wheat, besides infrastructure for marketing.


Sahibzada’s statue used for decoration
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 9
A statue of Sahibzada Ajit Singh, installed at one of the city squares, is being used for decoration, prior to the Baisakhi celebrations here.

The Sahibzada’s statue is surrounded with buntings from all sides. Religious bodies of the city have taken a strong notice of this act. The district administration has given the charge to various departments for decorating the city squares to welcome political leaders on the occasion of the Baisakhi fair.

The Punjab Agro Corporation has been given the charge to decorate Sahibzada Ajit Singh Chowk. Sources said Mr Megh Raj, an employee of the corporation, told the management of the gurdwara, which installed the statue, that the Deputy Commissioner had asked them to beautify the square. However, those decorating the square, tied up buntings with the ‘kalgi’ of the mounted Sahibzada.

Sources said at least department should have ensured that statue was not misused. Gurdwara Sahib Baba Ajit Singh is looking after this statue. Its manager, Mr Bhola Singh, said they had already spent Rs 10 lakh in maintaining square. The president of the gurdwara’s management committee, Mr Gurprit Singh, said if the administration had to decorate the city then it should have paid attention to the neglected squares. He said they had spent Rs 6.5 lakh on the statue, besides paying Rs 42,000 to Municipal Corporation.

The district manager of the Punjab Agro Corporation, Mr Ajaib Singh, said it was an error. The DC, Mr KAP Sinha, said he would look into the matter.


Paramvir Chakra awardee’s family attacked
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, April 9
About 12 unidentified armed men barged into house of Gurdayal Kaur, the widow of Paramvir Chakra awardee, Subedar Joginder Singh, at Fidde Khurd village, near here, yesterday and harvested wheat crop spreading over 5 acres of disputed land.

Sources said about 10-12 armed men entered Gurdayal Kaur’s house and after manhandling her family members, locked them in a room. They then harvested the wheat crop spreading over 5 acres of land near her house with the aid of a combine.

About six months back also some men had demolished a part of her house. At that time the district administration had intervened and asked both parties to maintain status quo in the matter.

Sources said Amarjit Singh, son of Joginder Singh, had sold his land to one Baljinder Singh and he was reportedly making bids to take over the same.

The sources said the SDM, Mr Mohan Lal, had inspected the spot following orders from the DC. They said Gurdayal Kaur’s family had pointed fingers towards the same party that was earlier involved in the demolition of their house.

When contacted, the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Alok Shekhar, admitted that her crop had been harvested by some men. He said an FIR had already been lodged and the police was investigating the matter.


Cong will make use of Singla’s son: CM
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 9
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today said the services of Mr Vijayinder Singla, son of Mandi Board Chairman Sant Ram Singla, who died two days back, would be used for the benefit of the party.

Answering a question while talking to newspersons at the residence of the late leader, the Chief Minister said, “Vijayinder is a bright and intelligent person who can give a good boost to the party in the state”. He said a decision on how Vijayinder's services could be utilised would be taken after the ‘kirya’ ceremony of the late leader on April 20.

Capt Amarinder Singh visited the house of Mr Singla near Shahi Samadan in the city this morning. He was accompanied by Adviser B I S Chahal and senior civil and police officials. The Chief Minister stayed with the family for 40 minutes. He recounted his close association with the late leader besides praising Mr Singla's work philosophy. The Chief Minister said Mr Singla had always remained optimistic while carrying out various political tasks which had held the party in good stead in the state.

The Chief Minister said the Mandi Board Chairman's death was a great loss to the state. He also recounted the contribution made by Mr Singla towards the development of the state as well as fostering Indo-Pak friendship, adding that his initiative in persuading Punjab Pakistan to adopt a Marketing Board on the lines of the one existing in India would be always remembered.

Meanwhile, friends and well wishers of Mr Singla kept pouring in at his residence today to commiserate with the family. Besides important personalities, humble men, including peasants from Samana, the constituency he represented in the state Assembly, also came calling at his residence. There were some like Jagir Singh who came simply because the late leader had granted him a gas connection from his discretionary quota to others who said the late leader was always there when they needed him.


Ropar admn fights fire with hired engines
Kiran Deep
Tribune News Service

Ropar, April 9
Lack of fire stations in six major towns of the district is proving costly for the administration. The Guru Gobind Singh Super Thermal Plant has asked the district administration to pay Rs 50.99 lakh for hiring fire engines from the thermal plant fire station over the past 21 years.

In a communication to the Deputy Commissioner, the thermal plant authority has asked the administration to deposit the amount due with it since 1984.

The administration has been seeking the services of fire engines from the thermal plant to fight major fires, since the six towns — Ropar city, Chamkaur Sahib, Anandpur Sahib, Morinda, Nangal and Kurali — do not have fire stations.

The only fire station that exists in the district is in Mohali sub-division, which is located far away from other sub-divisions.

Left with no option, the administration either has to requestion fire engines from the thermal plant or from Mohali to fight fires in the district.

Last year, the administration had incurred a burden of Rs 6 lakh for hiring the services of the thermal plant to control blazes in several parts of the district.

Every year, several acres of standing crop is destroyed in fire incidents. Yesterday, crop in four acres of land was destroyed when a fire broke out in Morinda sub-division. Two days ago, fire damaged a portion of forest area in Kurali. Also, 30 jhuggis were reduced to ashes in Ropar city on Thursday night.

A senior official of the thermal plant, on condition of anonymity, said it had become a futile exercise to send letters to the administration to pay the dues.


Hope shines on Moorish Mosque
Deepkamal Kaur
Tribune News Service

Kapurthala, April 9
With the district administration gearing up to arrange funds for the revamp of Moorish Mosque, there seems to be some ray of hope for the 75-year-old monument that has been in a state of neglect for the last several years.

Though the PWD officials have presented a rough estimate of Rs 34 lakh for the renovation of the mosque to the administration, the actual proposal will be made only after experts from the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) visit the city in a week's time and make an assessment of the monument designed by a famous French architect, Manteaux, who recreated the design of the great Qutbiya Mosque of Marrakesh in Morocco and decorated the inner dome of the mosque with works composed by artists of the Mayo School of Arts, Lahore.

The administration is planning to get funds from the Agha Khan Foundation, a UK-based NGO established by Prince Karim Agha Khan, spiritual leader of the Ismaili community. It is learnt that the prince had once visited the mosque and even addressed a gathering during his visit to India, several years back.

The administration has already made a proposal in this regard in which they have mentioned that the rising Muslim population in the city had been pressing for the upkeep of the mosque for the last many years. As many as 300 Muslims visit the mosque for offering "namaz" every Friday afternoon, though few of them keep coming in between also.

Of late, the mosque has been an attraction for the tourists from various European countries. A group from Italy and France had visited the mosque this Tuesday and were overwhelmed by the magnificient architecture of the monument that came up in four years at a cost of Rs 4 lakh at that time. Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, President of India, had also offered prayers in the mosque during his visit to the city nearly two years ago.

That was the only time the mosque was given little touches, including a whitewash of the building. The large compound, paved with pure white Indian marble that had been the noteworthy feature of the monument, is now in a bad condition. Though the labour was deployed for replacing old, broken pieces of marble with new ones, the floor is still too uneven.

The fine work of art inside the dome has been untouched ever since and this is the area that will require experts and prove to be most expensive part of the renovation process. The 158 steps that lead to the single minar of the mosque and the tiles of the dome above also need lots of repair work. The three one-piece huge saucer-shaped fountains made of marble that no longer sprinkle water for "wazu", a Muslim ritual, also need to be restored.

The Deputy Commissioner, Mr Rakesh Kumar Verma, confirmed that a proposal in this regard was being sent to the Agha Khan Foundation.


IAF jets face bird-hit threat due to dump
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, April 9
Fighter jets of the Indian Air Force (IAF) taking off and landing at the local base area are under threat. The huge waste dump created near the air strip of the IAF is attracting a large number of birds that can prove deadly for any fighter plane.

The Pathankot Municipal Council has failed to check the flow of the sewerage and solid waste from a drain into the IAF base here despite orders by the director local government. On a complaint of the IAF authority the Director Local Government, in August last year had directed the Pathankot Municipal Council to take appropriate measures to check the flow of sewerage into the IAF station.

The measures include periodical cleaning of the drain, taking away garbage dumped near the air force station, stopping the solid waste from flowing towards the IAF station using mesh wires and construction of a siltation chamber. However, for the past eight months the directions of the Director Local Government have remained confined to files with the Municipal Council hardly taking any step to act on them.

The result is that the solid waste and sewerage dump in the IAF station has been increasing in size with each passing day. As of today the dump has spread over a large area converting it into a stinking marsh attracting birds.

Farming operations around the IAF station have added to the problems. These farmers are using sewerage water of the drain to irrigate their fields. This spreads sewerage across a vast area around the IAF station attracting birds and posing threat to aircraft.

The IAF authorities while speaking on the condition of anonymity alleged that to avoid spending a few lakh rupees on checking the flow of sewerage in the drain the municipal council authorities were threatening fighter jets worth crores. If even a single fighter plane comes down due to a hit, it will not only cause national loss worth crores but would also endanger the lives of residents of surrounding areas.


Birmi gets hangar’s possession
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 9
The Punjab Civil Aviation Department has handed over hangar number 2 housing the engine overhauling workshop as well as the Northern India Flying Club to the Chief Parliamentary Secretary, Mr Malkit Singh Birmi, despite opposition from flying club staff. The staff had locked the hangar to prevent its takeover by Mr Birmi.

The Civil Aviation Director, Mr Rakesh Chandra, when contacted, said the hangar had been handed over to facilitate flying in the region and that the move should not be construed to be against any of the existing flying clubs in Patiala. He said though the government had taken a decision to hand over one hangar in the aerodrome complex to Mr Birmi, it would ensure that the flying activities of both existing clubs would not be disturbed.

The lock was taken out following an order of the Administrative Officer of the Civil Aviation Department last night. Mr Birmi was given possession of the hangar with the condition that the safe custody of the planes and other equipment lying in the hangar will be his responsibility. Earlier, the Cabinet had approved handing over of the hangar to Mr Birmi on lease for three years to enable him to run his proposed “Birmi Flying Academy”.

The complete handing over of the hangar to Mr Birmi has taken the staff of the flying club as well as its students by surprise. The students apprehend that the club will be derecognised by the Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). This, they say, is because under DGCA rules a flying club can run from only an approved site.

Meanwhile, Mr Chandra said he had earlier invited representatives of both the Patiala and Northern India Clubs to Chandigarh but they did not choose to come and instead approached the court. He said now representatives of both the clubs had approached him and he would be calling them for a meeting on Monday. He said the shifting of the Northern India Club would not hamper the recognition of the club. He said the club could resume operations after shifting to the new hangar.


Malta tragedy victims’ kin to get death certificates
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, April 9
Mr M.C. Nathan, Joint Secretary of the Union Ministry of External Affairs, has written to the Chief Secretary of the Punjab Government to pass instructions on to the authorities concerned to take necessary steps to provide death certificates to the families of the victims of the Malta Boat tragedy.

Mr Balwant Singh Khera, Chairman, Malta Boat Tragedy Probe Mission, recently submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister in which it was urged to issue the death certificates to the kin of the victims of the tragedy.

Mr E. Ahamed, Union State Minister for the External Affairs, took up the issue with the state government since none of the dead bodies had been found and death certificates could not be issued as the law did not pronounce a man dead unless his dead body was recovered.

A man could be legally pronounced as dead after being missing for seven years.

Mr Nathan has pointed out that the Punjab Government had made an ex gratia payment of Rs 50,000 each to the families of 79 victims.


IG refutes charge in land-grab case
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 9
Patiala Zone Inspector-General of Police Rajinder Singh claimed today that he was accused of involvement in a land-grab case when he had just acted within the ambit of law to redress the grievance of an NRI who had complained against some land-grabbers.

He claimed that the alleged land-grabbers had approached the Director-General of Police (DGP) with false allegations against him. He claimed that this had been done with the aim of sidetracking the investigation into the case.

Mr Rajinder Singh said Harchand Singh, who was settled in Canada, had complained to him in March this year that his three-acre piece of land in Dhandran village, in Ludhiana district, had been usurped by land-grabbers.

He said the complainant had claimed that Nachhatar Singh had forged an “agreement of sale” dated December 12, 1986, to sell the piece of land for Rs 2.50 lakh.


Sabha condemns ‘black laws’
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 9
A Zabar Virodhi (anti-repression) convention was held here last evening by the district union of the Zamhoori Adhikar Sabha Punjab. It was dedicated to the historical day related to the throwing of a bomb by Shaheed Bhagat Singh and his associates in the National Assembly Hall against the tabling of the Public Safety Bill and the Trade Disputes Bill by the British on April 8, 1929.

The convention was organised to oppose the “black laws” passed and implemented by the present government allegedly against the democratic struggle of the labour class.

Mr Karam Barsat, the key speaker at the convention, presented his paper on the topic “Black laws and role of democratic forces”. He said the Central Government had been passing “black laws” on the pretext of protecting unity and integrity of the country and crushing terrorism in the country, but in reality such laws were being enacted just to crush those forces which might pose a challenge to the “existing corrupt system” in the country.

Others who spoke on the occasion included Dr Tejwant Mann, Mr Jagdev Singh Sohi, Tarsem Lal, Mr Hardev Singh Rathi and Mr Gurmail Bhutal.

The gathering also passed resolutions, demanding the cancellation of life imprisonment awarded to three members of the Kiranjit Katal Kand Virodhi Action Committee. 


No move to shift Bathinda refinery: Singla
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 9
The Punjab Finance and Planning Minister, Mr Surinder Singla, has denied that the HPCL was planning to shift the Bathinda refinery to any other place.

“No one can take it away from Punjab,” he asserted confirming that a letter has been received from Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPCL) exploring possibility of any tax relief as was being offered by the Madhya Pradesh Government for a similar refinery there.

Mr Singla maintained that no state could offer any tax holiday to any such project.


Docs extol virtues of homoeopathy
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 9
The Homoeopathic Medical Association of India, Punjab branch, today organised a free medical camp on the premises of Shri Guru Harkrishan Public School at SST Nagar to commemorate the 250th birth anniversary of the founder of homoeopathy, Dr Samuel Hahnemann.

The camp was inaugurated by Rajmata Maharani Mohinder Kaur. It was attended by a large number of homoeopathic physicians. A large number of patients poured from Patiala city and neighbouring villages.

In her inaugural speech, Rajmata Mohinder Kaur fully endorsed the opinion that homoeopathy was a very effective system of medicine and she narrated how she was completely cured of a skin problem with homoeopathy.

Dr P.S. Sondhi, general secretary of HMAI, spoke about homoeopathy while Dr Tarun Chaudhary, Dr J.S. Sehi and Dr Major V.P. Datta presented their research papers on homoeopathy.

Dr Hamit Singh, president of HMAI, Punjab, welcomed the chief guest. Mr Ved Parkash Gupta, chairman, PRTC and Mr K.K. Sharma, chairman, Improvement Trust were also present.


Forum flays move on war memorial
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 9
As the stage is set for the hand-over of Gobindgarh Fort to the civil administration on April 14, Mr Brij Bedi, president of the Citizen Forum, has criticised experts of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) for its move to turn the fort into a war memorial or museum.

Mr Bedi said that turning the fort into museum would not serve any purpose, as such a museum already existed in the city. The Panorama of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, featuring the life and history of the legendary Maharaja being built at an estimated cost of Rs 5 crore, is nearing completion.


Annual Urs concludes
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, April 9
The 392 Annual Urs in the memory of Seikh Ahmed Farooqui Sirhindi concluded at Rauza Sharif here today with religious ceremonies.

Thousands of Naqsbandi Muslims from various parts of the country and abroad, including a 189-member contingent from Pakistan, paid their obeisance.

Foreign nationals also visited Baras Sharif, Chiri Sharif and other religious places surrounding the district.

“Sajda Nashin” Khalifa Syed Mohammad Yahya Muzedded said Pakistani pilgrims were happy with various facilities provided to them. He appreciated the efforts of district administration and the police in making arrangements during the occasion.

Leader of the contingent Mir Tareem said they felt like they were at home. He said people of Pakistan were keen on frequent visits to India and vice versa.

The presence of Pakistani delegation also benefited local traders as they did brisk shopping in Sirhind market.


Five of family feared drowned
Tribune News Service

Ropar, April 9
Five members of a family, including three children, were feared drowned into the Bhakra canal, near Brahampura village in Morinda subdivision. The incident came to light late this evening when a motor cycle was found abandoned near the canal by a police party.

Police sources said Gurnam Singh, along with his wife Surinder Kaur and three minor children — Simran, Isha and Bipinpreet — was on his way to Morinda from Fatehgarh Sahib. Gurnam Singh was going to his in-laws’ house.

Kesar Singh, father of Gurnam Singh, ruled out any possibility of suicide.


Fire in auto repair shop

Rajpura, April 9
Goods including spare parts of cycles worth thousands of rupees were destroyed in a fire that broke out in two shacks near here, last night.

The fire destroyed two shacks of auto-repair and one paan shop when shopkeepers of the adjoining area noticed the flames. They brought the fire under control in one hour. OC


Ignorance costs cotton farmers dear
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 9
Bt cotton seed is a genetically modified seed. It is claimed to be resistent to american bollworm. Bt cotton seed has been named so because it carries Bacillus-thurigiensis bacterium that parasites on caterpillars of Amercian bollworm and butterflies etc. This bacteria is killed by a toxin secreted by these. This bacteria has been introduced in the cotton seed through genetic engineering. Non-Bt hybrids do not carry such bacteria.

Farmers in the cotton belt of Punjab can’t make a distinction between the two hybrids. They have been sold common hybrids at a high rate by agents.

While touring the cotton belt early this week, this correspondent found that the farmers got cheated because they were not aware of the difference between the Bt cotton and the non Bt hybrid cotton. Mr Sukhdev Singh, a farmer from Nangal village, near Mansa, said that “ no one tried to educate us”.

In Malwa, the farmers have been sowing hybrid cotton and reaping good harvest. Last year various gangs, having extensive network in the Malwa belt, brought cotton seed from Gujarat and sold the same to the farmers as Bt cotton.

A number of gang members have been arrested and their stocks seized.

This year, six varieties of Bt cotton have been officially introduced in the cotton belt. However, at most places, farmers have already bought the seed from the gangs. “Many farmers are in a fix whether to sow the suspected seed or buy Bt cotton seed from authorised dealers”, says Naranjan Singh of Boha.

Mr Balwinder Singh Sidhu, Director Agriculture, Punjab, said that his department has been educating farmers about Bt cotton. “We are also planning to launch an advertisment campaign in this regard”, he added.


3 booked for cheating NRI
Tribune News Service

Kapurthala, April 9
The police has booked three persons, including an 80-year-old woman, for allegedly usurping the house of a UK-based NRI.

Vijay Kumar, a resident of Gopal Park, has been arrested while his 80-year- old mother Shakuntla Devi has been let off under the provisions of Section 436 of the CrPC. The third person booked in the case, Naresh Kumar, a resident of Amritsar Road, is still at large.

In a complaint lodged by Mr Ved Parkash Joshi, a resident of Derby, it has been stated that his sister-in-law Shakuntla Devi had taken possession of his house and stolen his belongings

The NRI said he and his wife left for the UK after the execution of the sale deed. Following this, Shakuntla Devi, her son and one Naresh Kumar broke open the locks of the house and stole his belongings.


3 held for dera head’s murder
Tribune News Service

Moga, April 9
The police has arrested three persons for abducting and killing Mahant Prem Muni of a dera at Rauke Kalan village.

Sources said Prem Muni had about 35 acres of land in his name and some of his disciples were eyeing his property.

His three disciples, Ranjeet Singh, alias Balak Das, Bhagat Ram, and Talwinder Singh, abducted him on March 23. They took him to Kalait near Bikaner in Rajasthan on his jeep and allegedly poisoned him there.

They then came in contact with Mahant Kanshi Muni and Krishan Puri at Kalait and consigned Prem Muni’s body to flames in connivance with them.

The police had registered a case of abduction against them on March 31.

The disciples have been arrested, while a search for the other two accused is on.


Two held for triple murder at Gajeana village
Tribune News Service

Moga, April 9
The police has arrested two persons in connection with a triple murder that took place at Gajeana village a couple of months back.

Those arrested have been identified as Bakhtaur Singh and Harpreet Kaur, both residents of Rode village.

Karnail Singh, his wife Jagir Kaur, and their grandson, Sandeep Singh, were killed on the intervening night of January 21-22 due to a property dispute.


3 held for hooliganism
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar April 9
Hooliganism by students sparked off following an incident of eve-teasing during the concluding part of the star nite organised by the local DAV Institute of Engineering and Technology on its campus.

One of teachers reportedly slapped one of the agitated girls, but this could not be confirmed. The police arrested three students.

Though the college management had initially told the police that it did not want to “pursue” the case, Mr Ramandip Singh, a Lecturer of the institute, lodged a formal complaint with the police this evening, on the basis of which, a case was registered.


Child succumbs to injuries

Kharar, April 9
A five-year-old child, who was injured in an accident yesterday, succumbed to his injuries at the PGI, Chandigarh, today.

According to the police, the deceased, Mandeep Singh, got seriously injured when an accident took place near Mundi Kharar. A jeep and a scooter had colided. The child was on the scooter, along with his parents, who also got injured.

The police has registered a case. OC


Gurdaspur to have B.Ed college
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, April 9
Guru Nanak Dev University would develop its Regional Campus, Gurdaspur, into a "Mini-University" by setting up modern infrastructure there.

This was stated by Dr S.P. Singh, Vice-Chancellor of the university, while laying the foundation stone of a three-storeyed building of the Information Technology (IT) block on the campus.

The vice-chancellor said, "The university would set up a B.Ed. college with 100 seats at Gurdaspur from this academic session. The Punjab Government, Syndicate and Senate of the University had approved it. With the commencement of the college here, a long-pending demand of the local people would be fulfilled.

The university would introduce diploma courses for the students of this area, who have passed Class X to XII, from this academic session on the campus, he said. "If the University got the adjoining 7.5 acres belonging to the Higher Education Department of Punjab, it would start more job-oriented courses", he added.

Welcoming the Vice-Chancellor, Mr Raman Behl, President of the local Municipal Committee and Syndic of university, appreciated the efforts of the university to develop the campus into a mini-university. He said people of the area would extend their cooperation in acquiring the 7.5 acres adjoining the campus.


PTA fund not to be discontinued

Bathinda, April 9
The Punjab Government has reportedly changed its mind regarding the discontinuation of PTA fund in government schools.

A written order of Education Department to discontinue fund had created a furore in academic circles. Government teachers’ bodies had also opposed the decision.

The sources said following protests against the order, Education Minister Harnam Das Johar had given verbal orders to withdraw it. However, the formal orders in this regard were expected by Monday.

The sources said instead of discontinuing the fund the government would put forth some conditions to prevent its misuse. The government schools were not getting any separate grant for their power, water and stationery bills etc and they were relying on the fund only.

DEO, Ms Gurbinder Kaur Dhillon, had despatched the orders to discontinue the fund to all schools a couple of days ago. Government schools faced another problem when Director, Education, Anurag Aggarwal said the schools would have to arrange furniture for computer education. DPI (Secondary), Mr Gyan Singh, refused to make any comment on the issue and asked this correspondent to wait till Monday. Sources said decision had been taken and now it would be mandatory to get these funds sanctioned through PTA committee and an audit conducted. — TNS

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