P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



SGPC gets flak over ‘conversions’
SAD denies conversions; forms 3-member inquiry panel
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 17
The SGPC today received a flak from rival Akali factions and the Congress following the alleged conversion of sacked employees of the Shiromani Committee into Christianity.

The alleged ceremony to join the Christian-fold reportedly took place near Goindwal, called “Sikhi da Dhura” (nucleus of Sikhism), yesterday .

However, some of the sacked employees denied that they had abandoned Sikhism to join Christianity. Senior leaders of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) including Mr Manjit Singh, an Akali MLA, and some SGPC members, reached the spot to cross-check the alleged conversions. Some of the sacked SGPC members alleged that they were “mis-guided” by a part-time correspondent of a Jalandhar-based daily that he would be instrumental in getting them jobs in the SGPC again if they would threaten conversion. The SAD/ SGPC leaders claimed that the journalist had apologised before the “Sikh Sangat” for the “baseless propaganda”. They said the SAD/SGPC would take legal action against the “so-called journalist” for the “concocted story”. They claimed that no function was held for the said conversion.

Meanwhile, the temporary recruitment and their subsequent sacking has been a burning issue in the SGPC. The large-scale recruitment of the employees by the successors of Jathedar Gurcharan Singh Tohra, who was removed unceremoniously as the SGPC chief before tercentenary celebrations of the birth of Khalsa, had resulted in the current unsavoury situation. The unwanted recruitment and the subsequent sacking took place under Bibi Jagir Kaur, Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar and even during the brief stint of Mr Alwinderpaul Singh Pakhoke as president. The temporary employee, recruited by one president, would be invariably sacked by his/her successor. The situation reached such a point whereby some of the historical gurdwaras were found to be in “red”. The salary bill of certain historical Sikh shrines surpassed the collection of “Golak”.

Some of the petitions were filed in the Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission wherein serious allegations were levelled. The petitioners alleged that the clauses of Sikh Gurdwara Act 1925 were violated while giving employment, apart from causing un-necessary financial burden on the Shiromani Committee. Instead of any solid requirement, the temporary recruitments were made on either political basis or to strengthen the vote bank. The most unfortunate aspect is that the commitment of the employees towards the Sikh faith was never considered while making temporary recruitment in recent years.

While the SGPC has taken a serious note of the alleged conversions, the rival Akali factions and the Congress have held the SGPC responsible for the current developments. In a press note, Bhai Ram Singh, general secretary of the Akali faction, said the three-member committee would submit a report within three days. He said earlier a “Sandhawalia family” had embraced Christianity in Amritsar and the second conversion was a matter of great worry for the Sikh Panth.

Mr Harminder Singh Gill, general secretary, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, said the SGPC and the SAD, led by Mr Parkash Singh Badal, would have to confess that they had failed in discharging their “religious duties”. The Akal Purkh ki Fauj, led by Mr Jaswinder Singh Advocate, has warned the Christian missionaries against such conversions. He said the Sikh masses would not tolerate allurement “tactics” of the missionaries.

In a strongly-worded statement, Bibi Jagir Kaur, President, SGPC, alleged that former employees had resorted to black-mailing tactics. She said there was a time when the brave Sikhs did not abandon their faith and preferred to face the Mughals’ atrocities. However, they (the 56 sacked employees) had joined Christianity for “money”. She said if they had any complaint, they could have moved the Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission instead of taking such “black-mailing step”. The SGPC chief sought immediate intervention of the Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities in this regard.


Conversions based on greed, says SGPC
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 17
The Dharam Parchar Committee of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), which met here today, condemned the reported conversion of 56 of its former employees to Christianity and described their action as an attempted “blackmail”.

Bibi Jagir Kaur, President, SGPC, who presided over the meeting, said that history of Sikhism was full of devotion, selfless service, sacrifices and cannot be identified with earning livelihood.

She said if any employee of the SGPC had any complaint or grievance, he or she had all the right to go the Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission or any other forum or come to her or any other office-bearers or executive of the SGPC.

Employment or removal from service does not mean denouncing Sikhism.

The committee decided to seek meeting with representative of the Christian community in the state to impress upon them that greed-based conversions should be not allowed. Both Sikhism and Christianity are minorities and as such no conversions should be encouraged.

It also appealed to the National Minorities Commission to convene a meeting of the religious leaders of minorities to impress upon them need to discourage incentive-based conversions.


Boy’s suicide: Principal claims innocence
Tribune News Service

Policemen supervise a classroom of a school in Ludhiana which was burnt by mob following the death of a student.
Policemen supervise a classroom of a school in Ludhiana which was burnt by mob following the death of a student. — Photo by Inderjeet Verma

Ludhiana, April 17
The alleged affair between a Class XII student and a primary class teacher, which resulted in the former committing suicide, remained in the news even today after the Principal of the school, Mr Sukhpal Singh, revealed that another female teacher had acted as a conduit between the two and helped in exchanging letters.

The Principal, who is the accused in the case, today surrendered before the Shimla Puri police station.

“I have been wrongly accused by the boy’s family and the police has also buckled under the mob mentality. The boy’s parents knew everything and they too had scolded the student for the alleged affair,” Sukhpal Singh claimed. He had been booked for creating circumstances leading to the suicide of the student. Sukhpal Singh said he did not touch the boy. “It was a sensitive matter and I tried to handle it with care. It is unfortunate that the boy ended his life but this was not due to me,” he said, stressing that the boy could have taken the step because of the fear of parents or breaking of the affair.

“I had suspended the teacher immediately after learning about the matter on April 13. I had not taken any action against the teacher facilitating the affair as it was later through her only that the matter came to light,” he said.

“The matter was sorted out at a meeting attended by the teacher and her mother on April 13, the student and his mother and one of his male relatives and some staff members. We told them to discontinue the relationship and they agreed.”

But the girl’s mother insisted that the letters written by her daughter be returned or torn in their absence. However, the boy denied that he had any such letters. Then on the morning of April 15 I told the boy that he would be handed over to the police if he did not return the letters,” the accused Principal said.

“The boy went home and returned with his mother in an hour who assured me that the letters would be returned. But then the news came that the boy had consumed poison, I went to the hospital but the boy’s relatives pushed me around”.

Sukhpal Singh has prayed for the safety of his wife and two children who live near the school and had absconded fearing attack by the relatives of the deceased boy.


Negligent landowner leaves farmer’s son brain damaged
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

A brain-damaged Buta Singh with his mother at Bhakta Bhaika village in Bathinda.
A brain-damaged Buta Singh with his mother at Bhakta Bhaika village in Bathinda. — Tribune photo by Kulbir Beera

Chandigarh, April 17
A life has been nipped in the bud, virtually. Sometime ago, seven-year-old healthy and strong Buta Singh of Bhakta Bhaika village in Bathinda was high on life. Today, he is a like a vegetable.

It happened last year on the morning of October 24. Buta, along with his mother and sister, was walking along a village road when a rich and influential landlord, Kaka Singh, drove past in his tractor-reaper. The edge of the reaper hit the child on the head, causing serious head injury.

Kaka Singh did not stop to help the ill-fated child. He bled profusely before he could be given medical treatment. The double blow of injury and delayed medical help took its toll. Buta was left brain damaged.

He nearly regressed into infancy and lost the power to react or reason. Today, he cannot walk or speak properly and doctors have said he needs an urgent operation.

Dr Dinesh Gupta of Bharat Brain Hospital, Bathinda, where the child remained unconscious for nine days after the accident, says, "The extent of child's recovery or the time required for it cannot be predicted." He is suffering from right frontal depressed fracture with underlying haemorrhage and brain oedema.

Buta needs to be operated upon urgently, but the problem is money. His father, Nirbhay Singh, is poor, illiterate and a low caste. All his efforts to either get the guilty booked or claim compensation have come to a naught.

Kaka Singh, on the other hand, is rich, influential and high caste. As a result, he has scoffed at Nirbhay's attempts to persuade him to at least help the child monetarily and even went to the extent of using offensive language against his caste.

The police, on its part, have not booked Kaka Singh for negligent driving despite the statements of the child's mother and sister who were present at the time of the accident. The FIR, too, was registered not under Section 279 (negligent driving), but under a "softer" Section 287 IPC. It stated the accused was driving in his own farm when the child, sitting in the field, was hit by a brick that flew off from under one of its wheels.

While the child suffers, his father has arrived in Chandigarh to seek justice from the Punjab State Human Rights Commission which has heard his side of the story. Ms Veena Sharma of Human Rights Law Network has pleaded before the Commission that the accused be booked for negligent driving to afford the victim an opportunity to get monetary compensation.

When the case comes up for hearing again, the commission will be requested to direct the Deputy Commissioner, Bathinda, to release Red Cross funds for child's treatment; direct the SSP, Bathinda, to depute high-ranking officer to correctly record the statements and book the accused for his crime. Lastly, it has been pleaded that Kaka Singh be brought to book for calling Nirbhay Singh a low caste.


Acquired land ‘sold’ four times
Mahesh Sharma

Mandi Ahmedgarh, April 17
A piece of land that was acquired by the Land Acquisition and Water Drainage Department of the state government, was transferred four times after the acquisition but the authorities who should have taken possession of the land could know about the illegal act performed by the original owner only when the last purchaser filed a civil suit in a court at Malerkotla.

After 17 years of committing fraud with the state government, the main accused and a revenue official were booked under Sections 420, 467, 468, 471 and 34 of IPC on the basis of an investigation conducted by a senior police officer.

The district office of the Land Acquisition and Water Drainage Department acquired a piece of land measuring 13 bighas and 2 biswas from Mr Kahan Singh of Nathoheri village vide a notification made under Section 4 of the relevant act on November 28, 1985. The transferee had received a payment of Rs 15,493 from the department. The land was reportedly acquired for the extension of Rohira drain for the improvement of the irrigation facilities in this part of the region.

The department instead of taking possession of the land and extending the drain restricted the deal to papers only. The seller allegedly connived with a revenue official of the department and deferred the registration of mutation in connection with the land. On the basis of tampered revenue records he disposed of the land to Mr Pritam Singh of the same village who further sold the same to Mr Khushi Mohamad of the same village.

In the meantime, Mr Khushi Mohamad came to know about the defect in the title of the land and filed a civil case against the persons concerned in court. During the proceedings of the case, Executive Engineer, Ropar Headworks, referred the case to Senior Superintendent of Police at Sangrur for investigations and necessary action against the accused.

Investigations by SP (D) revealed that Mr Kahan Singh had connived with Mr Bhup Singh, a patwari, to tamper with the revenue records and defer mutation in connection with the said piece of land. Around 20 revenue officials were called to join the investigations. Fifty percent of them had retired by then. The report submitted by the police team showed that intention of all officials, except Mr Bhup Singh was not mala fide.

The SSP (Sangrur), Mr H.S. Chahal, on completion of the investigations directed the SHO at the local police station to register a case against Mr Kahan Singh of Nathoheri village and Mr Bhup Singh, patwari. While Mr Kahan Singh was found guilty of selling state property, the patwari was accused of facilitating the deal.

Mr Mukand Singh Mahli, DSP Malerkotla, said Mr Harinder Singh and Mr Barjinder Singh, SHOs at Sadar and city police stations, respectively, had been directed to investigate the matter.


Loss making sugar mills face closure
Poonam Bath
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 17
The fate of Punjab’s cooperative sugar mills continues to hang fire with the Punjab Government deciding to sell six of the 15 mills.

The Directorate of Disinvestment had earlier set in motion the liquidation of three of its sugar mills. Of these, one in Rakhra ( Patiala) and the other one in Jagraon could not start operations during this crushing season and the third one in Zira closed merely after 18 days. A few others operated much below their crushing capacity.

Official sources maintain that a meeting of the core group of the Punjab Disinvestment Commission held last week under the chairmanship of the Chief Secretary, Mr Jai Singh Gill, had decided to close these mills and an official was to be deputed to audit their accounts.

Three other mills which would go into private hands included the distilleries in Nakodar, Gurdaspur and Batala. Officials have also decided to mortgage all those mills, which are yet to pay the sugarcane arrears to the farmers and cooperative banks in the state. This would help make the balance payments to the farmers. These sugar mills have made payments to the farmers at Rs 100 per quintal this season.

Due to the apathy of the state government, the area under crop cultivation was just about 37,000 hectares this season, but this was likely to increase next year. According to figures available, 12 lakh quintals of sugar has been produced by the mills this year, as against 20 lakh quintals last year.

The Managing Director of Sugarfed, Mr K.B.S Sidhu, while confirming the decision of the committee to close three of these mills said the agenda pertaining to the closure of some other loss-making mills could not be taken up as the meeting was adjourned.

He said by selling sugar lying in the godowns at higher rates, Sugarfed had been able to clear the balance cane arrears of Rs 102 crore and only Rs 40 crore was pending now.

Sources in Sugarfed maintain that except for the mills at Nawanshahr and Budhewal, the government has set in motion the formalities for handing the remaining 12 mills to private parties. The apathy of the government, they alleged, was responsible for these mills running in heavy losses.

With the closure of more mills, the future of hundreds of employees and workers hangs in balance as mills in the cooperative sector were on the verge of collapse.

The axe is likely to fall on six others, though discussions were reportedly held on all the loss-making ones. The cane from the few villages feeding these cooperative sugar mills has already been diverted to the neighbouring private mills as in the case of the mills at Rakhra, Jagraon and Zira, which were not operational this season.

The officials justify the privatisation by saying that the crushing capacity of these mills was very low as compared to the bigger private mills. The normal crushing capacity of these mills is 800 tonnes per season and at best it goes up to 2,500 tonnes per day. Only those which have a crushing capacity of 6,000 tonnes per day can stand the test of time.

Setting up a big mills entails an investment of Rs 100 crore, which can only be done by big industrial houses. The government is keen to sell the small ones at lesser rates, but not doing its bit to get them out of the red, said a member of the Sugarfed Employees Union while adding that no money had been spent to revive them. The government had sanctioned Rs 70 crore in the budget for their revival but only Rs 12 crore was released. To further reduce the economic pressure on the sugar mills, the number of employees has also been reduced from 102 in 1999 to 49, of which 15 more retire in the next five years, yet the government is determined to close Sugarfed, they allege.

They have further alleged that the government was earning revenue worth Rs 1,500 crore annually by buying mollasses from these mills at cheap rates. These mills are also facing the brunt of buying sugarcane at Rs 100 per quintal on the recommendation of the state government, against the MSP of Rs 70 suggested by the Centre, they add.

The union has submitted a memorandum containing their grievances and demands to the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh; Defence Minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee; Congress President, Ms Sonia Gandhi, and MP, Rahul Gandhi.


Factionalism in SAD comes out in the open
Our Correspondent

Phagwara April 17
The function in connection with the first halt of the 2029 Up New Delhi-Amritsar Swaran Shatabdi Express at the railway station here yesterday brought into the open factionalism in the Akali Dal.

The organisers, including Mr Jarnail Singh Wahid, SAD adviser-cum-SGPC member, Chaudhary Swarna Ram, former Punjab Minister and state BJP vice president, and Mr Sarwan Singh Kular, former Chairman, Market Committee, Phagwara, were taken by surprise when a faction of Akalis led by Jathedar Gurmukh Singh, former president, Phagwara Akali Dal Circle, and Mr Gurjit Singh Khalsa, Youth Akali Dal general secretary, kept standing on Platform No 1 and did not join the function.

The train arrived, halted and chugged off after Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal flagged it off but the rival Akalis stood on platform No 1 raising slogans.

Meanwhile, Mr Atwal declared that he would try to secure halts of other trains, including Malwa Express, at Phagwara. He also declared that a flyover at a cost of Rs 20 crore would soon come up at the T-junction of Phagwara byepass on the GT Road near Mehtan village.

He also declared that a foot overbridge across the railway station would be constructed.


SAD appoints 5 district unit chiefs
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 17
The Shiromani Akali Dal President, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, today appointed presidents of five district units and one more special invitee to the Working Committee of the party.

The newly appointed presidents are jathedar Makhan Singh Nangal (Faridkot), Jathedar Bawa Singh (Amritsar City), Sant Gurdev Singh (Moga), Jathedar Jagtar Singh Rajla (Patiala Rural) and Jathedar Inder Mohan Singh Bajaj (Patiala).

Jathedar Amarjit Singh Chauhan from Hoshiarpur has been named permanent special invitee to the Working Committee of SAD.


Puda to seek FDI for township
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Mohali, April 17
The Punjab Urban Planning and Development Authority (Puda) will, through a global tender, invite applications from foreign and large Indian companies to invest in the urban infrastructure development sector in the state.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has drafted a policy to facilitate mega projects for the development of integrated townships, including housing, commercial complexes, hotels, resorts and other city or regional-level urban infrastructure facilities, in the real estate sector. “The government will give certain incentives to such projects, including reduction of stamp duty, exemption from the Punjab Apartment and Property Regulation Act which would mean exemption from payment of external development charges and bank guarantee,” said Mr K.B.S. Sidhu, Secretary, Urban Housing and Development, Punjab.

On April 4, the Empowered Committee of the Punjab Government had been authorised by the Cabinet to approve such projects of urban infrastructure development. The committee, headed by the Chief Minister of Punjab approves all mega industrial and information technology projects in the state that involve an investment of more than of Rs 100 Crore. The Principal Secretary, Industries, Punjab Mr S.C. Agarwal, added that the Empowered Committee would now also consider the various mega projects in urban development, including the ones through foreign direct investment (FDI).

The Government of India had, through an announcement on February 24, 2005, shifted powers to approve FDI projects from the Centre to the state government. The Central Government had reduced the minimum area to be developed by a foreign investor from 100 acres to 25 acres in the case of serviced housing plots. Other than this, the minimum capitalisation of $ 10 million for wholly owned subsidiaries and $ 5 million for joint ventures with Indian partners had been laid down.

Interestingly, however, the first such venture in the state involving the development of an integrated township in Mohali by a Malaysian company has been hanging fire for the past two years. Initiated by Mr Suresh Kumar, the then Chief Administrator, PUDA, two sectors in the township had been earmarked for the development of a state-of-the-art integrated township by Malayasian Urban Developers. A memorandum of understanding had also been signed by the Minister of Housing and Urban Development with the company.

However, the project was put on hold on the premise that such projects should be undertaken only through global tenders and not by “choosing” a particular company. When contacted, the Chief Administrator, PUDA, Mr A. S. Chattwal, however, said the project was still on. “We are in the process of acquiring land in these two sectors and the company is in touch with us,” he said.


Peace march to Pak hits roadblock
Pawan Kumar

Amritsar, April 17
The non-issuance of visas to Indian marchers participating in the first 1000 km- long padayatra may spoil the elaborate arrangements made by various associations and people to welcome them. The marchers have not received the visas to cross over to Pakistan to complete the Pakistani leg of the peace march.

Started from March 23, the march reached here after traversing over 600 km from Delhi. However, the failure to grant visas to Indian marchers may hit a roadblock. The march was to cross over to Pakistan through the Wagah checkpost on April 18.

Meanwhile, the India-Pakistan peace march today proceeded towards the Wagah checkpost in the hope of getting the visas in time. The march commenced from the Dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin and proposed to reach Pakpatan (Multan), birth place of Baba Farid, on May 11.

Ms Saeeda Deip, who came from Lahore (Pakistan) to participate in the peace march, said the people and various associations, including the Joint Action Committee, High Court Bar Associations, Press Club, Lahore, the Punjab Union of Journalists etc, had made elaborate arrangements for welcoming the peace march. She said the people of Wagah across the border had organised a cultural programme. She added the people at Wagah village had made arrangements for folk singers for their entertainment. However, the delay in visa issuance had caused inconvenience to the people and the marchers.

Dr Sandeep Pandey, a Magasasay award winner organiser of the peace march, criticised the bureaucratic hurdle in issuing the visa. He said a list of 43 Pakistani members who were willing to participate in the march had been provided. However, till April 1 no visa was issued. He said on April 1 the visa was issued to only nine members that they could cross over on April 13. Similarly, he said they had personally given the list of 114 peaceniks to the authorities concerned in Pakistan. But to their dismay they had not been issued the visa till date.

Dr Pandey said they would wait at the Wagah joint checkpost till the visas were granted. He said the march was launched to strengthen the peace process so that a permanent thaw could be created in the region. The peaceniks also condemned the non-issuance of visa to 250 Indian citizens for participating in the World Punjabi Conference and expressed their disappointment over the attitude of the Pakistan Government.


Holiday home transfer by next week
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur April 17
With all hurdles out of the way the holiday homes of the Punjab Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) are ready for transfer to UK-based businessman Bob Kalur. Sources told The Tribune the transfer formalities were going to be completed within the next week and all properties of the holiday homes would be transferred in the named of the UK-based businessman.

With the transfer coming into effect, 30 more employees of the PTDC posted at the holiday homes would be retrenched. The Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) liability of the retrenched employees would be borne by the buyer of the holiday homes.

The transfer of the holiday homes has raised many an eyebrow. All five prime properties of the holiday homes have been sold at just Rs 2.5 crore. In addition to the said amount the buyer would also have to pay the liabilities. The liabilities include returning the amount of Rs 5,000 each contributed by about 4,000 members of the holiday home scheme and paying the VRS dues of 30 employees.

The sources said the amount involved after taking into account both the liabilities came to just about Rs 5 crore. A major chunk was the amount that was to be returned to members of the holiday home scheme. However, it was unlikely that the amount would be returned. The buyer could also retain the members, thus saving the amount to be paid to them. If this was done the entire properties of the holiday homes stood transferred in the name of buyer between Rs 3.5 crore and Rs 4 crore. This included the price and dues of employees.

The official evaluation of the cost of the Goa holiday home property alone came to Rs 6 crore. The PTDC had recently got the property of the Goa holiday home evaluated. The Goa holiday home property includes an 18-room hotel at Panjim and a six-acre beach at a prime location adjoining a five star hotel.

The other valuable property of the holiday home scheme was a 12-room hotel at Jaipur. The hotel was located on about one acre of prime land on the Jaipur-Sekar national highway. The hotel was in very good condition. The value of the hotel property was in crores, the sources added.

The other properties of the holiday home scheme included a resort at Masourie consisting of 16 independent sets, a three acre site for a hotel in Manali and a 28-room hotel in Dharamshala. The value of all these properties was said to be in crores. With the government handing over the properties of holiday homes for just Rs 2.5 crore, critics are claiming that not even the evaluated cost of the prime properties had been realized in the sale. The government has caused a huge loss to the public exchequer by selling the prime properties of holiday homes at a throwaway price.


Allow board to manage Amarnath yatra, says body
Our Correspondent

Mandi Ahmedgarh, April 17
The Shri Amarnath Yatra Welfare Organisation has urged the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir to implement the decision of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court and lift all restrictions on pilgrims, thus permitting the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board to manage the affairs of the pilgrimage independently.

The organisation has also welcomed the Union Government’s decision to extend a substantial grant for providing facilities for the pilgrims.

Mr Rajinder Kumar Sharma, a resident of Maherna village and president of the national unit of the organisation, headquartered at Kalka Market, Hauz Qazi, Delhi, said the NGO had taken a serious view of the alleged negative role of the Jammu and Kashmir Government, discouraging the devotees from taking the pilgrimage.

In a communication to Mufti Mohammad Sayed, Mr Sharma reminded him of the promises made in the manifesto of his party regarding the safety of the pilgrims.

Referring to the orders passed by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court recently, Mr Sharma said: “Now when the court has decided the case in favour of the shrine board, the state government should not interfere in registration, langar arrangements and the duration of the pilgrimage. It should only ensure the security of the pilgrims, as directed by the court.”

Recollecting the woes of the pilgrims the organisation has put on record that the period between 1990 and 1995 had proved bad for the devotees who dared to visit this state for paying obeisance at the Amarnath temple.

The organisation has further noticed that despite the efforts by the Governor of the state to undo the restrictions laid down on the shrine board, the government was unable to build confidence among the Hindus.

Besides hurting their sentiments, it has adversely affected the prospects of their rehabilitation in the state. The age-old tradition of Chhari Mubarak on the eve of Rakhsha Bandhan was also interrupted.

Appreciating the decision taken by the Union Government to promote pilgrimage, Mr Sharma claimed that Rs 20 crore had been approved for providing more facilities in the state.

Besides constructing road from Baltal to Sangam, the board proposes to run a rope way from later to the “gufa”, Mr Sharma said.


Engineers decide to wear black badges
Our Correspondent

Patiala, April 17
The Punjab State Electricity Board Engineers Association has decided to wear black badges on April 19 and 20 to express solidarity with other employees going on two day strike to protest against the unbundling of the board.

Mr M.S. Bajwa and Mr H.S Bedi, President and Secretary of the Association respectively, said that the state government was undertaking restructuring of the power sector without involving the engineers and other professionals working in the power sector. They added that Punjab was an agriculture based state with more than 70 per cent of the population depending upon farming for livelihood and the proposed unbundling would ruin the farming community.

Mr Bedi added that the proposed model meant for the PSEB was based on the models adopted by seven states in the country and the same was not suited to Punjab keeping in view the states needs and other problems.

Mr Bedi said that the power companies after unbundling would only add to the long list of loss making corporations already operating in the state.

The Association cautioned the state government against falling in the trap of slogans like `competition’ and 'electricity market’ which were futuristic ideas and the same had no relevance in today’s deficit power scenario.

Meanwhile, the National Working Group on Power, which is headed by former PSEB Chairman N.S Vasant and comprises former members of the Planning Commission, has sought an urgent meeting with the Board’s Chairman on the issue of unbundling.

In a letter to the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr K. Rakesh Rao, Convener of the Group, has said that there was a need to examine the experience of Haryana and Delhi where the power structure has been privatised. Mr Rao added that neither of the two states, either through corporatisation or privatisation, had been able to resolve the two basic problems that plague Electricity Boards in the country- high level of transmission and distribution and financial losses. Merely replicating models of these two States would prove to be counter productive in the long run.


MLA’s promise on sewerage, roads
Tribune News Service

Moga, April 17
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MLA from Moga, Mr Tota Singh, today said that the work here on sewerage, roads to various towns and indoor stadium would be completed by December 31.

Addressing a press conference here, the MLA said he had raised these issues in the Punjab Assembly. While Rs 5.66 crore was spent on the sewerage, Rs 17 crore was yet to be utilised in the project, he said. Local Bodies Minister Chaudhary Jagjeet Singh had assured him of completing the project by December 31. He also raised the matter of an ultra-modern indoor stadium, lying incomplete on the outskirts of the town. He said the department concerned had assured him of its completion by the end of the year.

Tenders had already been called for the Moga-Zira, Moga-Baghapurana, Nihal-singhwala-Mudki, and Talwandi-Amritsar roads, and soon their construction would be kicked off. More amenities would be provided to the commuters at the local bus stand. Rs 5 crore was sanctioned for the bus stand and Rs 24 lakh was yet to be spent, he added.

Flaying the Amarinder Singh government, he said during the Akali regime, the area under sugarcane cultivation was 4.5 lakh hectares, which had now come down to a mere 2 lakh hectares. Due to this, nine sugar mills had to be shut in the state. The state government should talk to the Centre for maintaining cotton prices at Rs 1,875.

He said the farmers had to sell off their cotton at Rs 1,500 last year and they suffered huge losses. The state government should give priority to providing jobs to unemployed B.Ed. teachers instead of recognising more B.Ed colleges.

He expressed hope that people would participate in large numbers in the SAD’s planned protest against the state government’s policies. 


Hoardings mushroom in Jalandhar
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar April 17
Even as buildings and open spaces remain splashed with huge hoardings and banners, the Municipal Corporation has finally decided to pull them down.

In case of encroachments, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had directed all civic bodies to ensure removal of encroachments from government land by the end of 2004 but this directive, too, seemed to have been implemented partially.

A number of educational institutions, particularly private schools, have put up huge hoardings in open spaces and buildings in order to attract students.

A large number of hoardings have come up on buildings along the stretch of the GT road from PAP chowk to Patel Chowk, from BMC Chowk to Bhagwan Mahavir Marg up to Amritsar chowk and from Jyoti Chowk to Lambra village. The Model Town Market has the maximum number of hoardings on all roads leading to it. Similarly, the road from Model Town Market to Mithapur village has also not remained unaffected by the menace.

The hoardings could not have been set up without active support from Senior officials of the MC.

The MC Commissioner, Mr Satwant Singh Johl, it has reportedly given fresh directions to the “tehbazari” staff that all hoardings should be removed as early as possible.


Seminar on female foeticide
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, April 17
The district Health Department in association with Harpreet Medical Complex, Sirhind, organised a seminar on female foeticide here today.

Dr Harbans Lal, Chief Parliamentary Secretary, was the chief guest, while Dr Harkirtan Pal Singh Sandhu, Civil Surgeon, presided over the function.

Addressing the seminar Dr Harbans Lal said it is was imperative to eradicate social evils from the society.

It was unfortunate that the male-female sex ratio had touched a new low and if the trend continued there would be a social disorder, he added.

He called upon people to fight against female foeticide and shun sex determination tests.

He said the government had made strict laws to deal with doctors who indulged in determination of sex and female foeticide.

He said the youth could play a crucial role in controlling the menace. It was unfortunate that the district had the lowest sex ratio in the country, he lamented.

He exhorted social organisations to lead from the front in the battle. He also expressed concern over the growing trend among youths of taking to drugs.

Dr N.S. Bawa, who has received a national award for books and paintings on female foeticide, organised an exhibition. Tiny tots from Love Dale Monteseri Home School presented a skit on the subject.

Dr Harchand Singh Sarhindi, a Punjabi writer, and Mr Charnjiv Channa, president MC, also addressed the gathering.


Kanishka bombing case lawyer honoured
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 17
A Punjab and Haryana High Court lawyer, Mr Navkiran Singh, who fought the case of Ripudman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri in Canada, was today honoured at a function organised by the Dal Khalsa.

Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, SGPC member, presided over the function. S. Piara Singh Bagri, younger brother of Ajaib Singh Bagri, also attended the function. Organisers of the function bestowed a “siropa” on him. Working president of the Dal Khalsa Harcharanjit Singh Dhami while addressing the gathering said the verdict given in the Kanishka bombing case had not only relived the community but also snubbed the anti-Sikh forces.

He alleged that Indian as well world media for the past two decades had been using the blowing up of the Air India flight 182 in 1985 as a tool to defame the image of the Sikhs. 


Body dug out of well
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, April 17
The body of a labourer, identified as Harbans Singh, was dug out of the well at Har Raipur village, about 15 km from here, yesterday.

In press note issued, Mr Vijay Goyal, president of the Sahara Jan Seva, said Harbans Singh was digging the well when a mudslide plunged on him.

The villagers and the administration officials gathered at the spot.

After hours of efforts, volunteers of the seva with the help of villagers managed to take out the dead body.

The body was shifted to the hospital for the post-mortem examination.


CM to the rescue of PVC awardee’s widow
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, April 17
The Deputy Commissioner, Mr Alok Shekhar, and the SSP, Mr B. Chander Shekhar, on Friday visited the house of Param Vir Chakra awardee Subedar Joginder Singh and handed over a cheque of Rs 1 lakh to his widow, Mrs Gurdayal Kaur, at Fidde Khurd village.

It may be mentioned here that about a week back several armed men had barged into her house and after locking her family in a room, forcibly harvested her wheat crop spread over five acres.

Taking serious note of the matter, the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, released Rs 1 lakh as financial aid for the PVC awardee’s widow from his relief fund. Sources said the administration also handed over her wheat crop, which was recovered from the culprits. Five of the accused were arrested in the case and sent to judicial remand.


Wheat farmers allege delay in payment
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 17
Though the state government has been claiming making payment to wheat growers within 48 hours of purchase, but one look at the farmers’ dues and payment made by the government agencies suggests otherwise.

According to sources, the government agencies have purchased wheat worth about Rs 100 crore from Bathinda’s 130 procurement centres, but made a payment of only Rs 15.64 crore. The delay in payment has hit the farmers who were already bearing the brunt of untimely rains that ruined their crop to some extent in various pockets of the state.

The sources say the delay in payment to farmers would spell more trouble for the state’s farmers who have to repay bank loan and prepare for the next crop.

The government agencies have procured about 1.37 lakh metric tonne wheat. These agencies started procuring wheat from April 6 at many centres, while the purchase began from April 11 at some other centres. The Food Corporation of India has to pay most dues of the farmers. The FCI has purchased wheat worth Rs 20.26 crore, but paid only Rs 1 crore. The agency is procuring wheat from 36 purchase centres. Markfed has purchased 40,934 tonne of wheat from 38 centres, but it paid only Rs 1.38 crore out of Rs 29.68 crore due to the farmers. Similarly, the warehouse has given only Rs 52 lakh out of a total of Rs 4.49 crore. Pungrain has purchased wheat worth Rs 18.79 crore and made a payment of only Rs 3 crore. Punsup has made a payment of Rs 9.5 crore out of the total dues of Rs 19.72 crore.

Gurjant Singh, a farmer from Ballo village, said the non-payment of his dues had delayed his bank installment. He said he had no money for the next crop, which would hit his earnings in the coming season.

Satvir Singh of Mehraj village rued that while the wheat produce had declined by 10 quintals per acre, the delay in payment had added to their woes.

When contacted, the Punjab Food and Civil Supplies Minister, Mr Avtar Henry, said the state had got Rs 7,000 crore for the purchase of wheat and there was no problem in its procurement. He admitted that disbursal of funds to the government agencies could have taken some time, but said there was no shortage of funds.


MLA’s warning to procurement staff
Our Correspondent

Nabha, April 17
Following reports of inadequate procurement arrangements of wheat in some of the mandis, local MLA Kaka Randip Singh came down heavily on the procurement staff of the agencies at a meeting with traders, farmers and officers of various procuring agencies, held in grain market here.

Irked over inadequate lifting arrangements of the crop near Sauja and Banera mandis, Mr Randip Singh warned the officials concerned to be ready to face the consequences as he had recommended stern action against certain officials. He maintained that Capt Amarinder Singh had pledged that his government would not let the farmers suffer in mandis of the state and clarified that there was no dearth of funds with procuring agencies.

Market committee vice-chairman Gian Chand Magho complained that contrary to governments claims agencies were withholding payments from five to seven days. He said Punjab Agro had not cleared dues of purchases done after April 9.


Wheat procurement almost complete in Patiala dist
Our Correspondent

Patiala, April 17
Deputy Commissioner Tejveer Singh today disclosed that wheat procuring agencies in the district had lifted 7. 4 lakh metric tonnes of the grain from the markets.

He added that procurement process in the district was almost over with just 10 per cent of wheat left to be procured.

He gave breakdown of various agencies which lifted wheat from the market. He said Pungrain procured 67, 000 metric tonnes, Markfed 1.87 lakh MTs, Punsup 1.93 MTs, Punjab Warehousing Corporation 70,000 MTs, Punjab Agro 12 lakh MTs and FCI 76,000 MTs.


Neighbour ‘sells’ woman for 1 lakh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 17
A married woman was allegedly sold off for Rs 1 lakh by her neighbour in Partap Singh Wala village to another man of Choochak village near Moga, who was allegedly captivating her for past some days.

On the statement of the victim’s mother, Ms Nirmala Rani, a resident of local Janata Nagar, the Ludhiana police has registered a case under Sections 363, 366, 368, 342, 506, 34 and 120-B, IPC, against Ranjit Singh, her neighbour, his friend, Harnek Singh, both residents of Partap Singh Wala and Jaswant Singh and his mother, Rani, of Choochak village.

According to the FIR, the victim was married to Dalbir Singh of Partap Singh Wala village some years ago. They had two sons from the marriage. Dalbir Singh, who was a tea vendor in local Industrial Area, allegedly used to consume liquor and beat up his wife.

Due to the misbehaviour of her husband, Ranjit Singh, her neighbour, started sympathising with her. Some days ago he, alongwith his friend Harnek Singh, took her to Choochak village along with her 8-year-old son, after allegedly luring her into finding her a good job. But she found herself in the house of Jaswant Singh.

According to Mr Gurpreet Singh, SHO, Haibowal Police Station, the victim called up her mother in Janata Nagar yesterday and told her that she was being allegedly captivated by Jaswant Singh, who was claiming that he had married her by paying Rs 1 lakh to Harnek Singh and Ranjit Singh.

She told her mother that she did not know where she was being kept and the police traced her whereabouts by tracing the phone number and getting the details of the address from the Internet.

He said her elder son was also with her in the village and younger son was in the custody of her mother, Nirmala Rani. The police said the FIR was based on the complaint of victim’s mother. Sources said the police had called up Jaswant Singh, who had even threatened the police of dire consequences if it tried to take any action against him.


10-yr-old killed in road mishap
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 17
A 10-year-old boy was killed and two others were injured when a tractor-trailer overturned at Dansinghwala village, near here, today.

Sources said Bhola Singh was driving the tractor-trailer loaded with sand, while 10-year-old Jagmeet Singh and 15-year-old Jaggi Singh, both labourers, were sitting on the tractor.

Suddenly, the tractor collided with a bridge railing and overturned.

Jagmeet died on the spot. Jaggi and Bhola Singh have been admitted to a local hospital.


Migrant abducts minor, found
Tribune News Service

Kapurthala, April 17
A Bihari migrant working as mason in the house of a Sikh family of Aujla Jogi village for the past few days abducted a 14-year-old girl this morning.

The girl was later found by the police with the laborourer at Ludhiana railway station by afternoon.

Kanhiya Lal, a resident of Athania village in Bihar, fled with the girl around 8:30 am. The family immediately reported the matter about the missing girl with the police. The police rescued the girl within six hours of the incident.

The girl has been handed over to the family, while a case has been registered against the mason by SHO Surinder Pal Singh of Sadar police station.


Seminar on drug awareness
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, April 17
A seminar on drug awareness was organised at Sri Guru Angad Dev College, Khadoor Sahib 22, km from here, today under the patronship of Baba Sewa Singh head of the kar sewa sect, Khadoor Sahib.

The Seminar was dedicated to the 501st birth anniversary of Guru Angad Dev.

On the occasion, an NGO, Sikh Students Against Drugs, was formed to create awareness in society against drug abuse.

More than 500 students of different universities, colleges and schools participated in the seminar. Mr Manjit Singh, MLA, was also present on the occasion.


Badungar against privatisation of education
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, April 17
A former SGPC President, Prof Kirpal Singh Badungar, said here today that by deciding to privatise government schools and health services, the Government of Punjab was running away from its constitutional obligation of providing free education and health services to people. He said by trying to do so the state government had forfeited its moral right to stay in power and should immediately step down.

Professor Badungar said education would go beyond the reach of poor if government schools were privatised. He said the SAD would launch a statewide agitation from May 20 against anti-people policies of the Punjab Government.


GND varsity exams as per schedule
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, April 17
All the examinations of Guru Nanak Dev University would be held as per schedule on April 18. Informing this in a press release here today, Dr R.S. Bawa, Registrar, said that only administrative offices and non-teaching departments of the university would remain closed on April 18 on account of Ram Navmi as declared by state government.

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