P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Cong rally a damp squib
Amarinder fails to turn up
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 14
The tussle between the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and senior Congress leader, Mr Jagmeet Brar, and a likely change in the PPCC leadership turned the Congress rally at Talwandi Sabo into a flop show. The Chief Minister failed to attend the rally leaving it to the PPCC chief, Mr HS Hanspal, to blow his government’s trumpet.

Sources in the party said Capt Amarinder Singh skipped the rally to be with Mr Pranab Mukherjee, in charge of the party affairs in Punjab, and Mr Hanspal made it to the rally at about 3 pm after receiving Mr Mukherjee in the state capital.

The party rally’s failure could be gauged from the fact that local artistes had to sweat it out till 2.30 pm to keep the crowds glued to their places. When the main leaders of other political parties were addressing their party rallies, the Congress leaders were waiting anxiously for Mr Hanspal. Even the Bathinda MLA and the only minister from the area, Finance Minister Surinder Singla, and Markfed chairman Harminder Jassi, who hails from Talwandi Sabo, were conspicuous by their absence.

Interacting with mediapersons, Mr Hanspal said the Congress would give a befitting reply to the SAD’s forthcoming white paper and added that Mr Parkash Singh Badal was doing this just to conceal his “wrongdoings”. On the issue of Mr Jagmeet Brar, he said the matter was pending with the party high command. He denied that the Congress was interfering in the religious affairs of the Sikhs. He said the Congress government had put a check on dance programmes and liquor vends at Chamkaur Sahib and Fatehgarh Sahib, which SAD could not do during its regime. He said the Congress was just doing good works and these could not be termed as intervention in the religious affairs of the Sikhs.

Later, addressing the rally, Mr Hanspal said the next two years of the Congress government in the state would be that of development and that too fast-paced. He said more than Rs 5,000 crore would be spent on development works in the state, of which Rs 1,890 crore would go to drinking water supply in rural areas and Rs 920 crore to road works. He said in the last three years the Congress government had put the state’s economy back on tracks.

He said the state government was in the favour of private participation in the education sector, as accountability was missing among its employees and it was affecting education in the state. He said a committee comprising the Finance Minister, the Education Minister, and experts, would take a final decision on handing over of the government schools to aided ones.

Ex-minister Jasbir Singh said Mr Badal always rued that the Congress was an enemy of Sikhs, but it had proved him wrong by giving the country its first Sikh Prime Minister as well as the Chief of Army Staff. He said the Congress government had made a valuable contribution to historic events like the birth anniversary of Guru Angad Dev at Khadoor Sahib and the 400th anniversary of the Sahibzadas’ martyrdom at Anandpur Sahib besides taking a strong stand on SYL issue and getting Punjabi youths languishing in Pak jails released. He said the Punjab Chief Minister also laid the foundation stone of a bus service from Wagha to Nankana Sahib.

Punjab Revenue Minister Amarjit Singh Samra, Talwandi Sabo MLA Jeet Mahinder Singh, and other party leaders were also present.


SAD to issue white paper on Cong govt’s failures
Tribune News Service

Talwandi Sabo (Bathinda), April 14
The Shiromani Akali Dal would release a white paper on the failures of three-year-old Amarinder Singh government on May 15, besides launching protests against its “anti-people” policies at all the district headquarters from May 20. Former Punjab Chief Minister and SAD President Parkash Singh Badal stated this while addressing a party rally on Baisakhi Jor Mela here today.

Mr Badal accused the Central Government of turning a blind eye to the interests of Punjab. He said the farmers had got a paltry hike of Rs 10 in the MSP of wheat, whereas they got an increase of Rs 50 during the Akali regime.

He said Punjab was on the verge of destruction and its per capita income in the agriculture sector had gone down. He said the price rise in agricultural inputs as well as diesel had broken the backbone of Punjab’s economy.

Mr Badal lashed out at the Congress government for giving nod to a 40 per cent hike in power tariff in the state and said it would hit the common man. He said the state government had also failed on the industrial front and no industry had come to the state for the past three years. He said the SAD-BJP regime had made great efforts in bringing refinery to the state, but Capt Amarinder Singh was “delaying the project in connivance with an industrialist”.

He alleged manufacturing units were closing owing to an increase in the steel prices, while the state’s youth were getting no employment.

He further alleged that corruption had creeped in the Amarinder government from top to bottom and every day a scam was coming to the fore.

He challenged the Chief Minister to recommend a CBI probe into the hawala scam involving his son, and the recent liquor contracts. He alleged that hundreds of crores were taken as kickback in the liquor contract.

He raised the issue of the recruitment of DSPs and said the Punjab and Haryana High Court had reprimanded the state government in the matter. He said the state government had discontinued the housing schemes for the poor sections of society, pension scheme and the shagun scheme.

The former Chief Minister accused the Congress government of interfering in the religious affairs of the Sikhs. He alleged that Capt Amarinder Singh was playing the “Sikh card” and indulging in stunts like getting Indian prisoners released from Pak as he had no achievements to show.

Talking about splinter Akali groups, he said they were just covering up the Congress. He condemned the proposed privatisation of the health and education sectors, saying that it would take away health services and education from the poor. He said after unbundling of the PSEB nobody in Punjab could be able to afford power. He said the law and order machinery had broken down in the state.

Regarding the charge of Jathedar Balwant Singh Nandgarh, Mr Badal said Takht Sri Damdama Sahib was not being ignored by the SGPC. A former Finance Minister, Capt Kanwaljeet Singh, Ms Paramjit Kaur Gulshan, MP, Mr Tota Singh, MLA, and other party leaders were also present on the occasion.


Cong caught stealing power for rally
Tribune News Service

Talwandi Sabo (Bathinda), April 14
While the Congress government was denying free power to the state’s farmers and had launched a crackdown against those indulging in power theft, the party was caught stealing power for its political conference here today.

Sources said the Congress was drawing about 35 kw of power for its rally from an electric pole located on the college road. The sources said the party neither applied for temporary power connection nor deposited the due amount. The sources said Rs 3,450 had to be paid for drawing 1 kw power and going by the amount of power the Congress withdrew for its rally, it should have paid Rs 1,20,750 to the Punjab State Electricity Board.

The sources said this amount was refundable after deducting the charge for consumed power units. The party was consuming about 20 units of power per hour for the rally that was held from 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The matter didn’t end with power theft. A number of PSEB officials, including an Executive Engineer, an SDO, three Junior Engineers, were camping at the site to ensure smooth power supply to the party programme.


7,500 employees declared surplus at Ranjit Sagar Dam
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, April 14
As many as 7,500 employees working at present at the Ranjit Sagar Dam have been declared surplus by the Department of Finance. According to sources, the department has calculated that just 4,000 employees were needed for the operation and maintenance of the Ranjit Sagar Dam as against 11,500 persons posted there.

As many as 11,500 employees have been posted at the Ranjit Sagar Dam along with another 461 at the Shahpur Kandi Project. The salary bill of employees posted at both the projects was about Rs 186 crore per annum. The Budget of Rs 163 crore has been passed for paying the salary to employees of the dam for the present financial year. However, along with it the Department of Finance has also suggested measures for rducing the financial salary burden of the dam.

A category-wise list of the employees posted at the Ranjit Sagar Dam was being prepared for sending them to BBMB against Punjab’s share in the organisation. The Chief Engineer of Ranjit Sagar Dam, Mr Bhalinder Singh, told The Tribune that besides sending 1,100 employees against the vacant posts, the Punjab Government has also decided to press for its share of about 50 per cent employees in the BBMB.

Earlier, the State Department of Finance had worked out that by posting about 1,100 employees in BBMB the state could save about Rs 11 crore per annum in terms of expenditure on salary.

Besides the BBMB the employees declared surplus at Ranjit Sagar Dam would be placed at the disposal of all other government departments. The surplus employees can be sent to work in any other government department that is facing a shortage of employees. However, their salaries would continue to be drawn from the dam project.

The annual salary burden of 461 employees posted at the Shahpur Kandi Project, who have been without work for more than one decade now was Rs 23 crore.

Mr Bhalinder Singh said the government had also released Rs 16.46 crore under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP) for the Shahpur Kandi Project. Matching grant from the state has also been released.

The work on the Shahpur Kandi Project would start as soon as the detailed project report is submitted by the NHPC. Though the efforts are being made to start the project work of Shahpur Kandi dam on department level. However, a final decision in the matter would be taken by the government, he said.


24 Pak prisoners repatriated
Neeraj Bagga

Pakistani prisoners being repatriated at the Wagah joint checkpost in Amritsar on Thursday.
Pakistani prisoners being repatriated at the Wagah joint checkpost in Amritsar on Thursday. — Photo by Rajiv Sharma

Wagah, April 14
Twentyfour Pakistani prisoners were repatriated at Joint Checkpost here today. Reciprocating the gesture of the Indian Government Mr Syed Akbar, Minister of Jails, Pakistan’s Punjab, who had come to receive the prisoners, announced that his government would soon release 30 Indian Punjabi prisoners.

Earlier, the government had announced to release 22 prisoners. However, at the eleventh hour names of two more prisoners were added in the list. They were brought from Tihar Jail today.

For father of six sons and two daughters Fazal Din, 55, the release had come as a godsend opportunity. He was eager to see his daughter-in-law and granddaughter. He said his eldest son got married in his absence and had a daughter now. Fazal felt that he would now discharge his responsibility after reaching his house at Moje Padda village in Lahore. He claimed that he had crossed over the border on a foggy morning.

Every prisoner had a different story to narrate for his crossing over to India. Amir Ali, 24, said he was a student of final year Electrical Engineering in Lahore University. A resident of Chak 62 village of Sahiwal district, Amir had gone to see his relative in Sialkot when he inadvertently crossed over to India nearly four and half years ago. Amir said he would complete his education after reaching his house.

The two prisoners brought from Tihar Jail were Khalid Mohammad Salim and Mohammad Yasmin. Salim said he came to India on visa six years ago and was caught by the Delhi police for “possessing” RDX. Yasmin said he came here in 2000 and was booked for possessing fake currency notes by the Delhi police.

Mr Avtar Henry, Food and Civil Supplies Minister, was present on the occasion. He said the Indian Government would soon release 160 more Pakistani prisoners. Out of them 40 were lodged in various jails of Punjab, he added.

The prisoners released today have been identified as Amir Ali, Agnam Ashraff, Mohd. Aslam, Mohd. Aaif, Gulam Rasool, Maqsood Ahmed, Mohd. Sharif, Mulla Mohammad Gujar, Mohd. Sharif, Shajind Mohammad Unas, Zahid Iqbal, Zafar Husain, Fazal Din (all from Jammu jail), Shabir Ahmad (Rajasthan jail), Noman Ali, Mohd. Ali, Mohd. Shabir, Mohd. Sardar, Wasim, Mohd. Ahmed, Ghulam Nabi(all from Amritsar Central Jail), Mohd. Yasmin and Khalid Saleem (both from Tihar Jail). 


Govt may terminate contract with NID
Designing of Khalsa Heritage complex interiors 
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, April 14
In a crucial development the Punjab government may terminate the agreement with the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, for designing the interiors of the Khalsa Heritage Memorial Complex (KHMC). The decision was likely to be taken on the recommendation of the Chief Architect of the project, Mr Moshe Safdie.

Mr Pratap Singh Bajwa, Minister for PWD, culture and archives, said this in an exclusive interview with The Tribune.

In a letter to the government dated March 2005 Mr Safdie had stated that the interior design developed till date by the NID was more suited to technology center than the spiritual heritage. The design had high degree of abstraction and there was absence of objects and artifacts related to the religion.

So, on his recommendation the contract for over-seeing exhibit design works and operation and maintenance of the project might now be given to the Cultural Innovations headed by Robert Barnett, Mr Bajwa added.

The contract, for designing the interiors the Khalsa Heritage Complex coming up at Anandpur Sahib, was given to the NID at a cost of Rs 10.34 crore. As per the agreement Rs 1.26 crore was to be paid to the NID for the finalisation of the design concept. Though the amount has already been paid the concept was yet to be finalised.

Another Rs 1.54 crore was to be paid to the NID for visual structure and lightening design. Out of the total amount Rs 70 lakh has already been paid to the NID but it has failed to submit the designs.

The component of the operation and maintenance of the project was missing from the agreement. So even if the NID was allowed to go ahead with project and Rs 10.34 crore was paid to it, the museum cannot become functional without the component, Mr Bajwa added.

He further said Mr Safdie had also recommended that the contract for stainless steel roofing with skylights should be given to some specialist of international repute. As per the original plan the work was to be executed by the L&T. The L&T has also been advised to appoint senior engineers for the project.

The other issues likely to be decided in the forth coming meeting to be held under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, were those of entering into direct contract with AB Design Habit which till today were the sub-contractors of the NID. A separate contract was also being considered with the MSA Ashok Dhawan for designing furniture, fixtures and equipment based on the program and area definitions completed with Cultural Innovations.

Mr Bajwa further said negotiations for the appointment or new agencies and termination of agreement with the NID were likely to be completed by June. After this the project would be completed within stipulated time period. The total cost of the project was Rs 224 crore out of which Rs 79 crore has already been spent. Out of the rest the consortium of banks headed by the PNB has provided Rs 100 crore.


Action against Brar if need be: Pranab
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 14
The Defence Minister, who is also in charge of Punjab affairs, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, today refused to be specific about the issues raised before him, but asserted action would be taken against senior Congress leader and All-India Congress Committee member Jagmeet Brar “as and when necessary”.

Refusing to divulge the details of the action, he said, “You will come to know as and when we proceed against him. But before that, I cannot comment on the issue. In fact, I cannot even say whether Mr Brar has been asked to submit his explanation. The party does not believe in discussing the details of the disciplinary proceedings. You just wait for it”.

Talking to the media this afternoon at a Sector 26 hotel, the Defence Minister acknowledged that several complaints had been received by him in this regard.

Referring to a letter written by Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief H.S. Hanspal seeking action against Mr Brar on the allegations of indiscipline, he said, “Views pertaining to the functioning of individual members and the problems within the party should not be made public. They should be discussed at the party forum. There is a set procedure for it.”

Mr Mukherjee added that there was nothing wrong with the leadership in Punjab and there was no move to change it. The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, was present when the statement was made. The Deputy Chief Minister, Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal was also there.

He refused to say anything in response to a query regarding the move to change the PPCC chief. He added Pradesh Congress Committee elections all over the country were due in any case. They were expected to be held sometime after April 30. As such, it was inappropriate for him to comment on the issue.

The assertion assumes significance as there has been a lot of speculation regarding the removal of Mr Hanspal from the PPCC chief’s post. But the Defence Minister’s statement ruled out the possibility of any mid-term change.

Mr Hanspal was conspicuous by his absence during the day. However, Mr Manish Tiwari, considered a front runner for the PPCC chief’s post, was present during an oration organised at Panjab University this morning. Ms Ambika Soni was also there.

Earlier during the day, Mr Brar told the media he stood by the issues raised by him regarding the performance of the Congress government in the state. He added that several MLAs felt the same. However, he refused to divulge the exact number. Mr Brar added that the Chief Minister had failed to fulfil the promises he had made to Ms Sonia Gandhi regarding development work in the state.

Meanwhile, at a different function, Mr Mukherjee and Capt Amarinder Singh paid floral tributes to Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar on his 114th birth anniversary at Dr Ambedkar Bhavan. 


Mann for new boundary commission
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 14
While the Congress and the SAD hit out at each other in their political conferences, the SAD (Amritsar) and the newly formed five-party front sang different tunes on various issues facing the state.

Addressing his party’s rally, the SAD (Amritsar) President, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, demanded constitution of a new boundary commission so as to merge the Punjabi-speaking areas of Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Chandigarh, and Rajasthan with Punjab. He urged the state government to make a norm as per which the property of a farmer could not be auctioned for recovery of loan.

He said the farmers’ debt should be waived off and they be given loans on 4 per cent annual rate of interest. Speaking on the Kanishka tragedy, Mr Mann demanded from the Canadian Government that the then Cabinet Secretary, the RAW chief and the Internal Security Minister in the Rajiv Gandhi government, Mr P. Chidambaram, should also be interrogated in the case.

Mr Mann said Mr Parkash Singh Badal’s failure to hold public protests against the Amarinder government was boosting the morale of Congressmen. He alleged that the Congress government had appointed Mr S.S. Virk as the DGP on the advice of Mr Badal.

He said bad roads, dilapidated schools, hospitals without doctors, elderly awaiting pensions, unemployed youth and corruption cases in cold storage pointed towards the state government’s failure on all fronts.

On the other hand, the newly formed front of the CPI, the SAD (Ravi Inder), the SAD (Longowal), the Lok Bhalai Party, and the CPM, announced that they would fight against the “anti-people” policies of the state government on the basis of a common minimum programme.

Lok Bhalai Party chief Balwant Singh Ramoowalia said both the Congress and the SAD had failed to check the deceiving travel agents and their front would kick off a stir on the issue.

Dr Joginder Dayal of the CPI said the people of Punjab had witnessed the “misrule” of the Congress and the SAD and they were fed up with them.

SAD (Longowal) President Prem Singh Chandumajra termed the Akali and Congress governments as those ignoring the interests of farmers and labourers. He said the front was fast emerging on the state’s political arena and they would put an end to the people’s woes. The front leaders alleged the “unholy alliance” of the SAD and the BJP was merely to loot people. They also accused the Congress government of being involved in corruption.


Kainth announces BSM’s revival
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, April 14
The much-awaited revival of the Bahujan Samaj Morcha (BSM) was announced by its President Satnam Singh Kainth. He was expelled by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leadership after differences cropped up between him and the state leadership a few months ago. 


15 Punjab celebrates 300 years of glory
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Abohar, April 14
One of the oldest and most highly decorated battalion of the Indian Army, 15 Punjab (1 Patiala) commemorated 300 years of its existence with several events.

Addressing a special sainik sammelan, the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, said “If any unforeseen situation warrants a call to arms, you must go into battle with dignity and honour.”

The battalion had been raised at Mehraj village, near Bathinda, in 1705 by founder of the Punjab state and Capt Amarinder Singh’s ancestor, Baba Alla Singh.

Stating that the battalion has a proud history with unparalled achievements to its credit, Capt Amarinder Singh exhorted the troops to maintain the battalion’s glorious tradition and ethos. “Of the 22 battle honours won by the battalion, 20 have been for wars fought on foreign soil — a unique achievement for any unit anywhere in the world,” he remarked. The battalion’s crowning glory was its action at Zoji La in 1948, where it won eight Maha Vir Chakras.

The Chief Minister, who was visiting the battalion for the first time, also announced a grant of Rs 21 lakh for the battalion. For its achievements as well as its actions in Jammu and Kashmir, the J&K Government has presented a silver trophy to the battalion.

The Colonel of the Punjab Regiment, Lieut-Gen Mohinder Singh, announced a grant of Rs 3 lakh for the battalion’s war widow relief fund from the Adjutant General’s Fund. The Battalion’s Commanding Officer, Col Advitya Madan, said the battalion drew its inspiration from the regimental motto, “Nischay Kar Apni Jeet Karon”.

A number of serving as well as retired regimental officers JCOs and other ranks attended the function. These included Lieut-Gen R.S. Dayal, Lieut-Gen L.S. Lehal, Major-Gen Shivdev Singh, Lieut-Gen V.R. Raghvan and Lieut-Gen Shankar Prashad.

General Lehal also released the tricentenary souvenir. General Dayal released a book on the battalion’s history: “First Patiala: Legendary Forces”. The book has been written by Col Anil Shorey (retd).

Major Avtar Singh, who had joined the battalion in 1945, donated Rs 1 lakh to the battalion. General Raghvan, a former CO of the battalion, who also heads a think-tank, Delhi Policy Group, instituted an award of Rs 1 lakh for the best grading in courses.

Other events organised included a motor cycle rally, a display by the Tonadoes dare devil motorcycle team, barakhana, pagal gymkhana, release of a commemorative postal stamp and a religious meet.


SGPC launches ‘amrit sanchar’ to baptise Sikhs
Tribune News Service

Anandpur Sahib, April 14
The SGPC, on the occasion of Baisakhi, today launched a special drive “Amrit Sanchar” to baptise Sikhs at Gurdwara Takht Shri Keshgarh Sahib in Anandpur Sahib . About 7,000 Sikhs from different parts of India were baptised at six venues till evening. The function began at 3 am in the morning and would continue till tomorrow.

Labourers from Bihar, who were recently converted to Sikhism, also paid obeisance at gurdwara. Besides, two residents of Bhav Nagar in Gujarat, Nitish and Bunty, also converted to Sikhism. They were accompanied by a nine-member jatha from Shri Guru Nank Gurdawra in Gujarat.

“I have chosen Anandpur Sahib because it was a birthplace of the Khalsa”, Bibi Jagir Kaur said while interacting with mediapersons here this evening. 


Centre shoots down Punjab’s biotechnology project
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 14
The Union Government has shot down the Punjab Government’s project regarding the setting up of a national institute of biotechnology in the state.

The Rs 150-crore project, which was to be funded by the Central Government as word in this connection was given last year by the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, to the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, was submitted to the Union Government’s Department of Biotechnology ( DBT) about two months ago for approval.

The Union Government, informed official sources said, had sent back the project report to the Punjab Government stating that “ such projects are not funded any more by it”.

The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, has been himself pursuing this project. He took a lot of pains to get the project prepared from experts, including the Punjab Council of Science and Technology, and also wrote to the Union Government authorities concerned in this connection.

Sources said the project would be dropped for a while. In due course efforts would be made to set up the institute with the help of private 

The Punjab Government had proposed to set up the institute of international standards in 300 acres of land either at Amritsar or somewhere near Chandigarh. While half of the land was to be used as campus of the institute, the remaining was to be developed for setting up biotechnology based industries to give practical training to students during the course.

The proposal about the Institute was mooted by Capt Amarinder Singh before the Prime Minister during the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the installation of Guru Granth Sahib at Golden Temple last year.


Protest against garlanding of Ambedkar statue
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, April 14
While the Punjab Local Bodies Minister, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, garlanded Dr B.R. Ambedkar’s statue at Nakodar chowk, a large number of BSP workers, protesting against the garlanding and withdrawal of holiday on Ambedkar Jayanti by the Punjab government, washed statue of Dr Ambedkar with milk.

The BSP leaders and workers also raised slogans against the Punjab Government and said Chaudhary Jagjit Singh had no right to garland the statue of a visionary like Dr Ambedkar as the Punjab Government had failed to honour the feelings of the Dalits and withdrawn holiday on Ambedkar Jayanti.

After garlanding the statue of Dr Ambedkar, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, who was accompanied by his supporters, said Dr Ambedkar had made an unparalleled contribution towards the uplift of the poor, the downtrodden and the womenfolk of the country. “Dr Ambedkar sacrificed his entire life to improve the lot of Indians. He framed the Constitution in such a way that there was no discrimination between men and women as the Constitution provides similar rights to one and all,” he said.

Meanwhile, as Chaudhary Jagjit Singh and his cavalcade moved away from the venue, a large number of BSP workers, led by Mr Avtaar Singh Karimpuri and Mr Pawan Tinu, president and general secretary of the Punjab BSP, shouted slogans against the Punjab government and the minister. They said the minister had no right to garland the Ambedkar statue as atrocities on the Dalits had increased. The BSP leaders and workers washed the statue with milk to “purify” it since it was touched by those who “did not believe” in Dr Ambedkar’s principles. Later, they garlanded the statue afresh.

Members of the Federation of All India SC/ST Employees P&T Departments, led by Mr Mohan Lal Sandhi and Mr Gurdial Chand also garlanded the statue of Dr Ambedkar. They condemned the Punjab Government’s move to privatise education in Punjab.

Members of the Bahujan Samaj Morcha, led by its president Mr Satnam Kainth, and several other organisations and political parties also paid tributes to Dr Ambedkar at different functions. A ‘Shobha Yatra’ was also held on the occasion.

Amritsar: The anniversary was celebrated with fervour by the Baba Sahib Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar Jayanti Samaroah Samiti here today. Mr Vijay Kumar Sultana, general secretary, and Dr Amar Parkash Kataria, member of the samiti, after garlanding the statue of the great leader, stressed on following the teachings and the philosophy of the father of the Indian Constitution.

Meanwhile the Dr B.R. Ambedkar Society of Guru Nanak Dev University announced the celebration of the birth anniversary of Dr Ambedkar on April 15. The society will hold a programme on views on the life and teachings of the leader by various speakers.

The Yuva Shakti Sangathan also celebrated the birth anniversary of Dr Ambedkar. Mr Sohan Lal Amrohi, president, besides others paid rich tributes to the leader on the occasion while stressing on the teachings of Dr Ambedkar.

Batala: A function was held on Thursday at the local Little Flower School.

The function was organised under the aegis of the Samajik Chetna Manch, Punjab, and was presided over by Mr Kewal Singh Parwana, Principal, Guru Nanak College, Batala.

Mr P.C. Pyassa, partron of the manch, said Dr Ambedkar struggled all his life to achieve social justice and equality. 


100 desert taksal over maryada
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 14
More than 100 followers of Damdami Taksal deserted it today following differences over ‘maryada’.

They alleged that senior functionaries of the taksal had beaten them up when they raised objections over the ongoing chaliha (forty days religious purification) on the taksal premises.

Those who deserted the taksal urged the Jathedar, Akal Takht, to summon the taksal’s acting chief, Baba Harnam Singh Dhumma, for indulging in ‘anti-maryada’ activities. The ‘chaliha’ started from April 1 and would be completed on May 11.

However, a senior functionary of the taksal, Bhai Ajaib Singh Abhinasi, claimed that the ‘chaliha’ was arranged to revive the old ‘maryada’ of the taksal, which had been abandoned for a long time. Denying the allegations of conducting a ‘havan’ inside the taksal premises, Bhai Abhinasi said the ongoing purification activities were based on the two books written by Sant Kartar Singh and Sant Gurbachan Singh Khalsa, both former Jathedars of the taksal.

Addressing a joint press conference, Jathedar Amrik Singh and his companions alleged that many of the followers were severely beaten up and asked to leave the taksal immediately. While the followers were given marching orders ,others deserted the taksal. When contacted, Bhai Abhinasi admitted to the thrashing.

The breakaway group claimed that all the old followers of the taksal were not happy over the ongoing “purification methods” adopted by the taksal chief.


Youth dies of drowning on Baisakhi
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, April 14
A young devotee Harjinder Singh died of drowning this afternoon in the sarovar of historic gurdwara Sukhchainana Sahib on the occasion of Baisakhi.

It is learnt that the 24 year-old Harjinder Singh of Harbanspur village (Jagjitpur), who was baptised, had come along with his village “sangat” (group of devotees) to take part in the Baisakhi festival at Sukhchainana Sahib. He had a holy dip in the sacred sarovar as did others.

After having one dip, he again went inside the sarovar to have another dip. This time he went deep inside. When he did not surface, help was sought. He was taken out unconscious and removed to a private hospital from where he was brought to the Civil Hospital. The youth was declared dead by the doctors. It was learnt that he had died of drowning in the sarovar itself.

A large number of devotees alleged that the water level in the sarovar was much higher this year. Excessive water had been pumped into it, they said. There was no draining provision.

This caused slippery conditions on the stairs and around the sarovar, alleged the devotees.

However, the gurdwara management denied these allegations.

Whatever the reason, the Baisakhi festivities ended up as a tragedy for Lehmber Singh, who lost his young son this afternoon.

Meanwhile, the police was investigating.


PCMSA against privatisation of hospitals
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, April 14
The Punjab Civil Medical Services Association (PCMSA) while appreciating the statement of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, at the PGI, Chandigarh, yesterday against privatisation of health services, today urged the state government not to go ahead with its proposed move of transferring certain government hospitals to private entrepreneurs.

In a press release here, Dr Hardeep Singh, president, and Dr Ajay Bagga, press secretary of the PCMSA, stated that privatisation of health services was not a panacea for the existing shortcomings in the healthcare delivery system in the state. They said that to provide more better health services, better health infrastructure such as good equipment, good quality medicines and building etc. be provided and for this, the budget on health expenditure needed to be increased.

Dr Hardeep Singh and Dr Bagga welcomed introduction of the telemedicine project in government hospitals as it would cut short the expenses which the patients used to make while getting treatment from hospitals rendering super specialist services.

Both doctors stated that the Punjab Government should try to read in between the lines the statement of the Prime Minister in which he had stated that privatisation of health services would lead to creation of two worlds in which a few could avail of the world-class facilities and another in which vast population might not have access to even ordinary health services.

Dr Bagga also said that due to dedication and hard work of the government health employees small-pox had been eradicated, polio was on the way out and maternal mortality and infant mortality had been considerably reduced.


Kang inaugurates eye camp
Our Correspondent

Kharar, April 14
An eye camp was inaugurated by Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang, Minister for Animal Husbandry, at Arya College for Women, here, today.

Nearly 400 persons were examined at the camp which was organised in memory of Suraj Prakash, whose wife provided money for the camp. Operations were recommended in the case of 60 patients.

The operations would be done at the local Civil Hospital. Patients would be provided medicines free of cost.

Mr Kang gave an assurance that he would take up the matter of university affiliation for the college with the Chief Minister as well as Education Minister.


Lalit Kumar’s death anniversary observed
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, April 14
The fifth death anniversary of martyr Lalit Kumar was observed at his native village Jalbehra.

The function was organised by PTA, MTA and organising committee of the village. Mr Paramjit Lal, head teacher of Government Elementary School, Jalbehra, and the main organiser, said Lalit Kumar got martyrdom in Siachen Glacier during Operation “meghdoot” on April 11,2000. He said he was a very brilliant student of the school and from childhood wanted to serve in the Army.

He said the younger generation should take inspiration from him and should be ready for sacrificing lives for the country.He added that a suitable memorial was being planned.

Ms Jasjit Kaur, science teacher, Ms Baljinder Kaur, Jaswinder Singh, Mr Sajjan Singh, Ms Sashi Lata, Ms Seema Kapla and Mr Sardara Singh also spoke on the occasion.


Decision to strike off holidays flayed
Our Correspondent

Patiala, April 14
The decision of the Punjab Government of not declaring holidays on Baisakhi and Dr Ambedkar’s jayanti has sparked off a protest from the Brahmin Sabha (Patiala unit).

At a meeting held under Mr Shiv Kumar Sharma, president of the district unit, the office-bearers observed that since Baisakhi has religious significance the government, like previous years, should have declared a holiday.

Mr Shiv Kumar Sharma said the government, by not declaring a holiday today to mark Dr Ambedkar’s jayanti, had shown disrespect towards Dalits of the state.

The meeting also urged the government to observe a holiday on Parshuram jayanti on the lines of the Haryana Government, since there was a heavy population of Brahamins in the state.


Lok adalats catch foreigners' fancy
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 14
The 'Punjab experience' in Alternate Dispute Redressal (ADR) of labour-related cases may not be a very well-known phenomenon across Indian states right now, but it has certainly caught the fancy of foreigners.

At a recent International Labour Organisation (ILO) conference at Manesar (Haryana), representatives of eight countries decided to study the Punjab experience in detail and then suggest the same to their respective governments.

This followed a presentation made by Dr BC Gupta, a senior Punjab cadre IAS officer, who is presently posted as Principal Secretary, Food and Civil Supplies. Dr Gupta is also an ILO resource person.

Sources say that the ILO has sought details from the Punjab Government on the mechanism adopted by lok adalats in settling labour disputes out-of-court, and that too, in a matter of hours. "The ILO members wanted to know more about how Lok Adalats functioned and how labour disputes are settled by them," Dr Gupta told The Tribune.

Incidentally, the Government of India had also sometime back written to all states to "follow the Punjab experience for expeditious settlement of labour disputes".

Labour disputes, which have a history of prolonged litigation, are being successfully tackled in out-of-court settlements due to the pro-active approach adopted by the Punjab State Legal Services Authority (PLSA).

The authority, working under Punjab and Haryana High Court Judge Mr Justice H.S. Bedi, also received kudos from Supreme Court Judge Mr Justice N. Santosh Hegde.

Addressing a gathering at yesterday's Special Lok Adalat at Ludhiana, Mr Justice Hegde urged the remaining states to follow the "Punjab example" in ADR.

"We are only trying to reduce litigation by reaching out to the people. Lok Adalats are gaining popularity because they are much cheaper and swifter to settle disputes," notes Mr Justice Bedi. It took the combined efforts of Mr Justice Bedi and Dr Gupta to push the reluctant government and judicial machineries towards adopting ARD to settle labour disputes that had been hanging fire in various civil courts for years.

Incidentally, Dr Gupta has been responsible for introducing ADR in the departments of Labour, Cooperatives, Agriculture, and Food and Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs, all of which he has headed for time to time. In four Special Lok Adalats for labour cases organised by PLSA, a whopping 12,873 cases out of the total 13,853 pending cases were settled. An amount of over Rs 4.67 crore was paid as compensation at these Lok Adalats.


Human rights panel has recommendatory
powers only: HC
Maneesh Chhibber
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, April 14
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that the Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) has no powers to set aside the findings of a Deputy Commissioner (DC), passed in a statutory capacity. The PSHRC, the court has observed, has only recommendatory powers vide which it can highlight its own conclusion to a particular agency of authority and it was for the authority or individual to accept the recommendations.

The High Court was disposing of a petition filed by Mr Jai Singh, seeking quashing of an order passed by the Full Bench of the PSHRC on July 21, 2003, by which it had held that it had no powers to set aside the findings of the DC in a dispute about bonded labour.

In its order of far-reaching consequence, the Division Bench of Mr Justice H.S. Bedi and Mr Justice Viney Mittal held that the PSHRC rightly concluded that the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, did not confer any power on it to supercede an order that had been passed in exercise of statutory powers.

The Bench noted that a perusal of the Protection of Human Rights Act showed that the PSHRC had the power to only inquire into violation of human rights and abetment thereof or negligence in prevention of such violation etc, by a public servant.

"No powers whatsoever have been conferred upon the PSHRC to set aside any orders passed by any administrative or quasi-judicial authority at the instance of any aggrieved person," the Bench held.

Mr Justice Bedi and Mr Justice Mittal also held that the PSHRC was merely a creation of a statute and that there were no general or plenary powers enjoyed by it.

"In contrast to a court of law, which enjoys inherent and plenary powers, the PSHRC does not have any such powers," it noted.

The High Court also added that even in civil disputes, which are governed by the Code of Civil Procedure or some other statutory provisions, the PSHRC has no role to play.


95 lakh tonnes of wheat may be procured
Our Correspondent

Barnala, April 14
Mr B.C. Gupta, Principal Secretary, Food and Civil Supplies, Punjab, today said the state was expecting to procure more than 95 lakh metric tonne wheat in the current season. He said about 25 per cent of the total quantity of wheat had already come to the grain market.

Adequate arrangements have been made for the smooth procurement and lifting of the wheat from the mandis. Mr Gupta was in the city to conduct surprise checks in the mandis.

Talking to mediapersons here today, Mr Gupta said the Reserve Bank of India had lent them Rs 5,940 crore as advance money to purchase wheat. The Food and Civil Supplies Department would ensue there were no delay in the payments of the wheat to the farming community.

Mr Gupta said the mandis would remain open up to June 30 but the department was expecting to meet the purchase target of entire quantity of wheat in the first week of May only. He said about 1,590 purchase centres had been set up to purchase wheat.

In reply to a question, he denied that there had been cases of irregularities in the wheat procurement. Mr Gupta was accompanied by his staff, Director, Food and Civil Supplies, Mr Jagpal Singh Sandhu, MD, Punsup, Mr S.S. Ghumman, ADC, Sangrur, Mr N.S. Walia. The team also visited Badbar, Dhanaula, Khudi and Tapa mandis.


Fruit processing plants to be set up in state: CM
Our Correspondent

Abohar, April 14
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, said today that “Tropicana”, a globally renowned company, had agreed to set four fruit processing plants in the state. First plant would be established at Abohar and the second on at Hoshiarpur by the next financial year.

The Chief Minister, while addressing a press conference at Jakhar Fruit and Agriculture Farms at Maujgarh village near here this morning, said Rs 4 crore would be earmarked for the expansion of the water supply and sewerage system in the town. A team of the Local Bodies Department would visit Abohar to conduct the survey in this regard.

Some persons drew the Chief Minister’s attention to 140 illegal pumps installed by a few SAD workers during the SAD-BJP government in the Gidderbaha area. Owners were getting irrigation water from Bathinda Canal. Capt Amarinder Singh said he was seized of the matter and would ask the authorities to undo all illegal acts of the former Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal. He was told that another SAD leader had encroached upon 30 ft government land by raising a ramp to connect his marriage place with the National Highway No. 15 near Khuyiansarwer village here. He asked the authorities to inquire into the incident. 


DC suspends 3 employees
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, April 14
The Deputy Commissioner, Mr Dalip Kumar, has suspended three employees posted at his camp office for misappropriation of funds in buying a photostat machine for the office.

Sources said these employees had submitted the bill of a branded photostat machine and had withdrawn the amount mentioned on it, but got a fake machine installed at the office.

The fraud dates back to the tenure of the then DC, Mr B.R. Banga.

The suspended employees have been identified as senior assistant Jagjit Singh and clerks, Satinderpal Singh and Rahul Kalra. These employees have been suspended after they were found guilty in a probe ordered into the matter.


Burning of straw banned
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, April 14
To save environment and the fertility of land, Mr S.K. Ahluwalia, District Magistrate through an order under Section 144 today imposed-ban on the burning of straw of the wheat lying in the fields.

These orders will remain in force up to 30 April. 


Villagers educated on sanitation
Tribune News Service

Kharar, April 14
The Panchayat Department of the Chandigarh Administration held an awareness camp at Maloya village to educate villagers on sanitation, cleanliness, female foeticide and literacy. The Deputy Commissioner, Mr Arun Kumar, said about 150 persons attended the camp.

Officials of the Family Welfare Department, Forest, Health, Adult Education, and Non Conventional Energy delivered lectures during the camp. The camp was supported by the Panchayat Department, Punjab and different NGOs. Such more camps would be held in Dhanas, Kajeri, Hallomajra and Mauli Jagran villages.


5 proclaimed offenders arrested
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, April 14
The Gurdaspur police has arrested five proclaimed offenders who had been eluding the state police for the past 15 years. In a press release issued here today. the SSP, Mr Ishwar Singh, said that Dalbir Singh, a resident of Bahilolpur, had been eluding the police since April, 1990.

Faroox Ahmad, a resident of Misrut village in Jammu and Kashmir, had been absconding since 2002. The other absconders, who have been arrested, are Balwinder Singh, a resident of Lakhopur, Bhupinder Singh, a resident of Sahoval, and Hani Khan, a resident of Batala.

Besides the absconder, the police has also arrested Gur Iqbal Singh, a resident of Bagwa village, for smuggling smack and Malaak Singh of Khan Malik on the charge of smuggling liquor. 


Caller ID leads to killer
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, April 14
The police today claimed to have solved the blind murder case of Shama Arora (32), a resident of the Green Field locality here with the arrest of Suraj Sharma (26). The deceased was murdered on April 11.

Mr R.P.S. Brar, district police chief, in a press conference here today revealed that Suraj Sharma, a resident of Chheharta, was a habitual gambler even though he had a chemist shop at Kartar Nagar in the area. He had already borrowed Rs 1.10 lakh from Ravinder Arora, husband of the deceased.

On the fateful day, he came to Shama for borrowing more money. He added that as Shama knew that Suraj was a gambler, she made a call to her husband on landline phone having caller ID .

However, Suraj disconnected the phone and made another call to his cousin, Amit Sharma, which was not reachable at that time. Later a brawl ensued between them, which resulted in the murder of Shama. The phone call made by Suraj was recognised by Ravinder Arora. 


Body found in temple tank
Our Correspondent

Batala, April 14
The body of an unidentified young man was found in the tank of the Achelshwar Temple, 5 km from here on the Batala-Jalandhar road today.

The deceased was fully dressed. He had a head injury as well, which led to suspicious that he was murdered before being thrown into the tank.

The police has taken the body into custody for identification and it will be sent to the Civil Hospital for a postmortem examination tomorrow, according to Dr J.K. Jain, chief of Batala police district.


Suicide case: woman’s body found in canal
Tribune News Service

Ropar, April 14
The body of Surinder Kaur, who had jumped into Bhakhra Canal near Brahampura Jimidara village in Morinda town along with four other members of her family on April 9, was today recovered from the canal near Chaklna village at about 4 pm.

The body of the deceased was spotted floating by former sarpanch of Auaind village, Surmukh Singh, and he informed the police.

Panic gripped the Brahmpura village when the news of Surinder Kaur’s death spread. Rajinder Singh, brother of deceased, called to identify her body. The police and a large number of villagers continued the search for other missing members of the family.

The five members of a family, including three children hailing from Fatehgarh, had jumped into canal on April 9.

The labourers working in the field had reportedly seen the family members when they jumped into the canal.

The incident took place when Gurnam Singh along with his wife Surinder Kaur, three-year-old daughter Simran, two-and-a-half-year-old Isha and son (3) Bipinpreet, was on his way from Fatehgarh Sahib to Morinda.

Gurnam Singh, who belonged to Ucha Jatana village in Fatehgarh Sahib, was taking his family on a motor cycle to his in-laws house in Brahampura, Morinda.

The police was yet to ascertain the reason as to why the family took extreme step of ending their life. The police did not recover any suicide note from the spot but the name of Gurmeet Singh, his father and mobile number were found written on the motor cycle.


CBI raids IT Commissioner’s residence
Our Correspondent

Patiala, April 14
The CBI today conducted a raid at the Income Tax colony residence of Mr B.S. Sandhu who is presently posted as Commissioner, Income Tax, Ahmedabad.

The CBI sleuths landed at Sandhu's residence, located in chotti Baradari, in the morning and the raid was still on when this story was filed.

The Commissioner was alone when his residence was raided at about 6 am. Mr Sandhu was earlier posted as Joint Commissioner, Income Tax, Patiala, before he was promoted and transferred to Ahmedabad in July last year.

Immediately after being posted at Ahmedabad, Mr Sandhu, who is a 1981 batch officer, proceeded on an year's leave. Although the CBI officials remained tightlipped about the raid, a source revealed that the agency had taken into its possession some important documents. 


Scooterist killed in accident
Our Correspondent

Banur, April 14
One person was killed and another injured when their scooter collided head-on with an Army truck on the Zirakpur-Patiala highway at Jansla village near here, this evening.

According to eyewitnesses, the scooterists were heading towards Rajpura when the Army truck collided head-on leaving one scooterist dead on the spot.

An ambulance of the “highway patrol” reached the spot after getting the information.

The accident victims were rushed to the Civil Hospital, Rajpura. Banur police has started investigating the matter.


7 injured in mishaps
Our Correspondent

Kharar, April 14
Seven persons were injured in two mishaps here today.

In one incident three persons got injured when a scooter hit a migrant labourer near Khanpur Chowk. They were taken to the local hospital. The labourer, who got seriously injured, had to be referred to the PGI, Chandigarh.

The second accident took place near Quila complex where an auto-rickshaw and a truck collided. All the four occupants of the auto rickshaw, including the driver got injured. They were sent to the Civil Hospital here. 


College of Nursing holds convocation
Our Correspondent

Nawanshahr, April 14
Guru Nanak College of Nursing, Dhahan Kaleran, about 20 km from here, held its annual convocation today. Mr Charanjit Singh Atwal, Deputy Speaker, Lok Sabha, presided over and conferred degrees on 38 students who had passed the B.Sc.(nursing) examination.

In his address, the Deputy Speaker, asked the youth to dedicate themselves to the pursuit of the latest techniques and knowledge in the field of education with a view to enabling them to face the challenges in the present era of globalisation. 


Computer education starts in Moga schools
Our Correspondent

Moga, April 14
Computer education in about 27 government schools of this district commenced today. As per a press note issued, Mr Mandeep Singh, Deputy Commissioner, inaugurated a computer lab in Government Senior Secondary School. Two units with 10 computers each started working in this school.

While addressing the function organised in this connection, Mr Mandeep Singh said that a total of 37 units in 27 schools of the district had started working and one teacher per unit had been made available. He further said that under the ICT project, government schools with the strength of 325 and 350 students in rural and urban areas respectively had been provided one unit, each comprising 10 computers.

He said that a small amount of Rs 20 and Rs 25 would be collected from the students while administrative expenses on the ICT projects would be met from the management cost of the Sarv Shikhya Abhiyan Scheme. He said that recurring expenses, including teacher’s salary, Internet charges, etc. would be borne by the Director-General, School Education.

He added that all the 150 government high and senior secondary schools in the district would be covered under the ICT project by next year.


Poetic meet at Sacred Dales today
Our Correspondent

Kharar, April 14
The Simmi Marwaha Memorial Children’s Poetic Meet will be held at Sacred Dales International School, Janta Nagar Extension, here tomorrow.

Dr Harjinder Singh Majhail, director of the school, said today that his institution organised a children’s Baisakhi poetic meet every year to promote creativity among the young.

He said frm this year onwards the poetic meet would be dedicated to the memory of the late Simmi Marwaha.


Patiala resident gets lucky, wins Rs 1.5 cr
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 14
A resident of Patiala is the winner of the Rs 1.5 crore Punjab State Baisakhi bumper prize. The prize went to ticket number B-443282, sold by a sub-agent of M/s Punjab Trading, Patiala, Martin Lottery Agency.

The draw was declared here today at Nehru Sidhhanta Kendra by the Deputy Director, Local Bodies, Ms Sarojini Sharda Gautam, and the ADC, Development, Mr Ajmer Singh.

Ten prizes of Rs 5 lakh each went to 829294, 940869, 003804, 194837, 263429 in the A-series and 174811, 431545, 807671, 362816 and 340666 in the B-series.

The following numbers won third prizes of Rs 1 lakh each: 270891, 130426, 194870, 281449 and 486148 in the A-series and 736054, 737089, 609915, 276681 and 222138 in the B-series.

Prizes worth Rs 50,000 each went to the following numbers: 447556, 707884, 748341, 686193 and 661584 in A-series and 893213, 046072, 438132, 498655 and 231730 in the B-series.

Twenty prizes worth Rs 20,000 each were also declared.

The sixth prize of, Rs 5,000 each went to all tickets ending with the following last four digits: 7408, 8159, 8503,8866 and 0373.

Tickets ending with the number 837 got prizes worth Rs 500 each.

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