P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Police mum over Rana Sodhi case
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 24
A strange and eerie silence is being maintained by the Punjab police over the Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi case.

Though the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, had asked the Additional Director-General of Police, Mr Anil Kaushik, to look into the complaint of Mr Gurdev Singh Sidhu of Pathankot that he had allegedly paid Rs 25 lakh to Chief Parliamentary Secretary, Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi, for securing lease of a piece of land belonging to the Jammu and Kashmir Government, the police is keeping its report under wraps.

The issue was raised by the Shiromani Akali Dal President and Leader of Opposition, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, during discussion on the Motion of Thanks on Governor’s Address and wanted to know from the Chief Minister whether he would remove Rana Sodhi as Chief Parliamentary Secretary following serious allegations of accepting bribe made against him by Mr Sidhu.

Intriguingly, the Chief Minister, while replying to the discussions, did not talk about the charges against Rana Sodhi, the Local Bodies Minister, Ch Jagjit Singh, and the special selection committee headed by the previous Home Secretary, Mr S.K. Sinha, in the infamous DSPs recruitment case.

Mr Badal not only named Rana Sodhi in his speech but also questioned the Government as to why cases of corruption were being swept under the carpet more so when the Chief Minister had assured the House that any complaint of corruption against anyone in his government would be referred to the CBI.

Mr Kaushik was given a month to complete the inquiry. Though it is more than two months now, neither the police nor the Chief Minister is talking about it. When The Tribune approached Mr Kaushik, he refused to talk about it. All he said was “no comments”.

Soon after the audio-cassette pertaining to the bribe was made public by Mr Sidhu, the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief, Mr H.S. Hanspal, also sought an explanation from Rana Sodhi.

Rana Sodhi, claiming innocence, blamed his detractors within the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) and outside, for launching a concerted campaign against him to defame him. He maintained that he had explained his position to the Chief Minister and the party high command and got a clean chit from them.

Besides the Opposition parties, certain Congress leaders have warned that it is important for the Amarinder government to maintain its clean image. “If Rana Sodhi and other ministers charged with corruption by Mr Badal on the floor of the House are clean, the government should retort back and refute the charges. Silence on such serious issues gives credence to suspicion.

Now when the Assembly elections are not far off, the government should not allow the Opposition to browbeat it into defensive on the probity platform,” said a senior leader of the party.


Kidnapped boy killed; cousin, accomplice held
Ashok Sethi and Pawan Kumar

Amritsar, April 24
The body of 12-year-old Gurbhajan Singh, a resident of Patti, was recovered from some fields at Chohla Sahib.

He was kidnapped and killed by his cousin Gursahib Singh (28), a TV mechanic and resident of Sabrah village and his friend Pargat Singh alias Sonu, a scooter mechanic and resident of Chohla Sahib. These two had planned this crime to extort a ransom of Rs five lakh from the parents.

But fearing that their identity would be revealed, the kidnappers reportedly became panicky and poisoned Gurbhajan. They then buried the body in the fields where they had also concealed the ransom amount of Rs 1.9 lakh received from Balbir Singh, father of the deceased.

According to Mr Paramjit Singh Gill, DIG border range, it seemed that the boy was killed by the accused about two days ago after getting the ransom money. The police suspected that Gurbhajan was administered some poisonous substance, which resulted in his death.

Mr Paramjit Singh Grewal, SSP Tarn Taran Police district, who was supervising the case, said that they were closely monitoring the calls for ransom received by Balbir Singh on his cell.

The SSP said that after ensuring the involvement of Gursahib Singh, son of the maternal uncle of the deceased, the police laid a trap and caught the cousin and his accomplice. The two later confessed to the kidnapping and the murder of Gurbhajan. He said that both the culprits had been continuously visiting the family of Gurbhajan Singh to avoid any suspicion about their involvement.

According to the police the abductors had demanded an amount of Rs 5 lakh from Balbir Singh, a migrant from UP, who had sold his property and shifted to Patti. He had recently bought some land and constructed a new house which had attracted the attention of kidnappers. Balbir had expressed his inability to pay the huge amount and had offered Rs 1.90 lakh on the condition that his son would be released. However, later the kidnappers changed their mind after receiving the money and insisted that the balance amount should be paid before they released the boy.

Balbir Singh then contacted the police and gave the information about the kidnapping of his son and ransom paid.

A case under Section 364A has been registered on April 22 on the information of the father.

Meanwhile, the killing of the boy have sent shockwaves in the border area of Patti.


Anti-graft drive a farce: Khanna
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, April 24
“The much publicised anti-corruption campaign of the Chief Minister, Cap Amarinder Singh, has turned a damp squib. Almost all corruption cases like the UBDC scam are being given a quiet burial by the government. Officials who were accused of swindling public money amounting to crores have been given promotions. These officials have been given prime postings under the protection of certain Congress leaders,” said Mr Vinod Khanna, MP from Gurdaspur, while talking to The Tribune here today. He was here on a visit to his constituency.

Even senior Congress leaders like Mr Jagmeet Brar had started speaking openly against the corruption by the present government in the state. This had proved that the anti-corruption campaign of the Congress was just motivated at victimising leaders of the Opposition, he said.

To a querry, Mr Khanna said the BJP was preparing for elections at the Centre within a year. The party was preparing for a mid-term election at the Centre and the cadre had been asked to get ready.

The second line of BJP leadership should now be brought forward to lead the party. However, the old leadership that had brought the party to its present status could not be ignored. The second line in the party could not move without taking advantage of the valuable experience of seniors, he said.

Regarding comments by RSS chief K.S. Sudershan regarding former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Mr Khanna said the statement was misinterpreted by the media. The BJP was a democratic party and everyone had the right to air his opinion. However, such freedom could not be expected from the Congress.

The whole attention of the Union and state governments of the Congress was focused on tainting Opposition leaders. Motivated inquiries were being ordered against former ministers of the NDA. In states also, cases were being registered against leaders of Opposition parties. Leaders of the UPA were resorting to such tantrums to divert public attention from the core issues of development.

On the working of Punjab Government, Mr Khanna said all sections of society were organising protests almost everyday against the present Congress government. Mr Khanna distributed Rs 1 crore from his MP Local Area Development Fund by way of cheques among various institutions and panchayats in his constituency.


Forest cover under threat
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Chuharwali/Madaran (Jalandhar), April 24
The felling of about 12 full-grown eucalyptus trees at Chuharwali village and installation of a huge hoarding by a Jalandhar-based private school is an example how the depleting green cover along the Jalandhar-Hoshiarpur road is under threat.

The huge hoarding shows advertisement of the local Mayor’s World School at Jalandhar. The hoarding has been put up not on some poles but on trees belonging to the Forest Department, Punjab, along the road near Madaran village. Interestingly, it is in direct contrast with norms of the Forest Department which had furnished affidavits in the Supreme Court two years back that no tree in Punjab was bearing any hoarding.

This hoarding and a couple of small boards hanging on trees were also in violation of a directive of the Punjab and Haryana High Court which had directed the state government to remove hoardings along highways and other roads as these posed a serious traffic hazard.

“No person could install any hoarding on Forest Department-owned trees,” said a senior Forest Department officer.

A Tribune team found some labourers chopping three eucalyptus trees of the Forest Department along the Jalandhar-Hoshiarpur road near Chuharwali village. A contractor said he had employed the labourers to cut the trees on directions of forest guard Kapil Dev.

A person, identified as Deva Singh, a beldar of the Forest Department, Jalandhar, moved away saying that the orders had come from the top. About six full-grown trees were felled by the labourers. Meanwhile, the contractor also slipped away.

Though Divisional Forest Officer Vipul Chander was not available, sources in the Punjab Forest Department revealed that no green tree could be touched by anybody.

Only dead trees and the trees covered under the working plan, chalked out by the Forest Department, could be felled. Even cutting of a tree for widening of a road was prohibited.


Teachers not paid salaries since Dec
Our Correspondent

Batala, April 24
Resentment has prevailed among employees of govt-aided schools of Gurdaspur district due to non-payment of salaries since December, 2004.

Mr Sukhdev Singh Bal and Mr Jatinder Singh Bajwa, Mr Yash Pal and Mr Davinder Singh, leaders of the Gurdaspur Govt-aided Private Managed Schools Teachers Union, said here today that it was difficult for staff to live and look after dependents.

Sukhdev Singh Bal further said at present 26-govt-aided schools was running in the district in which about 500 teachers and non-teaching staff members were working.

Mr Bajwa, Batala Block president of this union, said the Punjab Government, headed by Capt Amarinder Singh, stopped the pension for teachers of private schools who retired after 58 years.

Mr Yash Pal secretary and Mr Davinder Singh, executive member of the union alleged that the government had not instructed the authorities concerned for merger of 50 per cent D.A. in the basic pay of these staff, whereas the government school employees were getting this facility.

The union urged the Chief Minister to look into their demands sympathetically and instruct the authorities to release grant-in-aid and also pay them the enhanced D.A. instalments.


Sikh in Denmark penalised for carrying ‘kirpan’
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, April 24
A Danish Court has imposed a fine of 3000 kroners on Ripudaman Singh, a student, of the Aahrus University, Denmark for wearing a ‘kirpan’. Ripudaman Singh hails from Jalandhar.

Before his entry into the US Embassy in Copenhagen for the purpose of seeking a visa, Ripudaman Singh handed over his “kirpan” and mobile phone to the security staff of the embassy on May 24, 2004.

He was stunned when on his return the embassy security staff confronted him saying he should have confessed that he was in possession of a “knife”.

Ripudaman pleaded that it was not a “knife” but a religious symbol worn by baptised Sikhs the world, over, but, Danish police officials who had been called by the US Embassy security staff remained adamant and directed him to either pay fine for possessing of a “knife” or face prosecution in a Copenhagen city court.

The case was subsequently referred to the Copenhagen city court. The “kirpan” was confiscated and the judge sent it for forensic examination which opined that the six-inch “kirpan’’ was a weapon, with “blunt edges and a sharp tip’’.

Mr Tarlochan Singh, Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities in India, took up the matter with Mr Michael Sternberg, Ambassador of Denmark in New Delhi, and urged him to convey to the Danish Government and the police that carrying of a ‘’kirpan’’ was a religious duty of every baptised Sikh.

Mr Tarlochan Singh, referred to a circular issued by the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, Ministry of Civil Aviation, New Delhi, stating that Sikh passengers were allowed to carry a nine-inch “kirpan” with them on board domestic flights.

But, the Copenhagen city court, while accepting that the “kirpan” is a religious symbol, has slapped a fine of 3,000 kroners (about Rs 24,000) on Ripudaman.

While giving a 15-day notice to Ripudaman Singh for appeal in the case, the court has decided that in case he fails to pay the fine, he will have to undergo imprisonment for six days.

Mr G.S. Lamba, father of Ripudaman and editor of “Sant Sipahi”, says it is ironic that a knife is allowed at a public place on certain conditions, but, not the “Kirpan”, which is globally accepted religious symbol of the Sikhs.


Use of Dalits as vote bank flayed
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, April 24
The Phagwara unit of the Taraksheel Society today organised a seminar on “Jaati-paati Vivastha atey Taraksheelta”(Caste System and Rationalism).

Prof Attarjeet, Punjabi story writer and former president, Lok Sabhyacharak Manch, Punjab, read out keynote paper.

He flayed use of Dalits as a vote bank by all political parties. He rued that even Gurmat Kav Shastar and Sikh faith could not end the evil of casteism.

He even took to task leftists for doing little on this count.

A hot discussion followed on the paper.Master Sukhdev Singh, in charge, Cultural wing of the society, Mr Jaswinder Singh, press secretary, Surinderpal Singh Paddi Jagir, organising secretary, Mr Ghan Shyam, finance secretary, Mr Jaspal, Mr Surinder Dosanjh and other rationalists took part in it.

An exhibition by the rationalists was also organised. Banners and placards, displayed at the site, advocated the separation of religion from politics, alleged that religion and castism had killed more people in the world than wars and advised masses” Maan naal kaho asin han insaan, Na Hindu, Sikh, Isai na Musalman” (Proudly say that we all are human beings, we are neither Hindu, nor Sikh, Christian or Muslims).


SAD (A) workers burn Badal’s effigy
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 24
Leaders and activists of the SAD (Amritsar) today burnt an effigy of Mr Parkash Singh Badal, SAD President, for his alleged “anti-Panthic” policies at the traffic lights chowk, near the main bus stand, here. Activists were led by Mr Jagdhir Singh Katron, general secretary of the SAD (A), and Mr Jeet Singh Alloarkh, president of the district unit of the party.

Mr Katron said there was resentment among Sikhs against Mr Badal’s “anti-Panthic” policies. He alleged that Mr Badal had blocked the release of jailed Sikh youths when the RSS initiated a move in this direction during his regime. He said despite adoption of the Anandpur Sahib resolution, Mr Badal had “failed” in getting demands of Sikhs fulfilled so far.

Master Karnail Singh Narike, executive member of the SAD (A), Mr Nirmal Singh Gharachon, SGPC member, Mr Gurjant Singh Kattu, general secretary of youth wing of the party, Mr Gurnaib Singh, president of district unit of youth wing of the party, Mr Parshotam Singh Phaguwala and Mr Hardip Singh Lohakherri, both leaders of the party, were present on the occasion.


Steps needed to protect rights of HIV patients
Swarleen Kaur

Chandigarh, April 24
Patiala-based Mohit Sharma was a surgeon on internship in 2002. During his training period, he happened to operate upon a HIV positive patient. In the process he caught infection. Not to talk of deserved sympathy or help, he was sacked from the job. No single thought was given to his career or future. A ruined and dejected man, he was left to fend for himself.

“My dream of becoming a good surgeon came to an end. I feel that the state government should take steps to protect rights of HIV patients like me. Left at the mercy of their relatives, we have nowhere to go. Considering the cost of treatment, it is desirable that those patients who want to eke out a living should not be deprived of the right to earn.” This was all he could say to this correspondent.

Many HIV positive people are denied the right to earn a livelihood. As a result they are facing acute harassment. Denied a dignified existence, they suffer from social ostracisation and are even denied medical care.

Veena Kumari of the Human Rights Law Network, Chandigarh, asserted that these patients should be given the right to employment and equal opportunity. Moreover, at workplace they should not face ‘social boycott’ from their co-workers since the disease is not communicable. Many hospitals refuse treatment to them, especially in surgery.

With social stigma attached to the disease, most of the HIV positive patients hardly approach a court to redress their grievances. Provisions must be made to ensure that they enjoy their fundamental rights enriched in the Constitution. Discrimination meted out to them is a violation of their fundamental rights. This necessitates the need to formulate laws to protect their rights.

A Bill drafted by the Lawyers Collective to secure the rights of HIV positive people was proposed last year and it is still in abeyance. The Bill proposed the right to equality, employment, autonomy and information. It also included the rehabilitation of commercial sex workers. It was also proposed that HIV positive people who intentionally try to spread the disease among the susceptible should be treated as criminals and appropriate punishment should be given to them.

However, Akash Gulalia, Lecturer of Social Service in Delhi University and international consultant in Public Health, said there was no need to make separate laws for HIV positive people. Fundamental rights of the constitution ensured fair treatment to them.

Shalina Mehta, Professor of Anthropology, Panjab University, who is working on an AIDS project said, “The number of full blown AIDS cases registered with the State AIDS Control Society, Chandigarh, till December, 2004, was 1080 in North India. The actual number of cases could be put at 10 times the figure. There was certainly a need to form laws which could protect their rights”.

(The name of the surgeon has been changed to protect identity.)


Help check AIDS, voluntary bodies urged
Our Correspondent

Abohar, April 24
Dr G.R. Garg, SMO, Nehru Memorial Civil Hospital, has claimed that the patient who was declared HIV positive had been under treatment at the hospital for chest infection only for three days and not for 20 days as reported in a section of the media.

Speaking at a seminar organised by the Punjabi Sabhyachar Manch at the Sidana Academy here today as chief guest, Dr Garg said the Health Department had made elaborate arrangements for preventive vaccination and a campaign against sale of substandard eatable, vegetables, fruits and adulterated soft drinks would be launched.

Mr Sunil Jakhar, Parliamentary Secretary and local MLA, said poor people must get priority in treatment, besides medicines free of cost.

Dr Garg appreciated the Manch for extending cooperation in implementing WHO-sponsored vaccination drives and sought its assistance in checking female foeticide and other social evils. He exhorted voluntary organisations to help in launching an awareness campaign to check the AIDS menace in the region.

Other speakers, including Mr Anil Malviya, a writer, Dr Harbans Singh Chahal, Principal, Government Senior Secondary Model School for Boys, Mr G. D. Gaba former Executive Magistrate, Mr Ajay Gilhotra advocate, Mrs Vidya Chaudhry, chairperson, Mahila Suraksha Samiti, Mrs Anju Bansal, Principal, Greenland Public School, Mrs Harbans Kaur, an expert on Punjabi culture, Mr Gurcharan Singh Gill and Mr Dalbir Singh, spoke on channelling energies of the youth promoting women in society and hygiene.


Vegetable markets closed from today
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 24
Vegetable markets in Punjab will be closed indefinitely from tomorrow in protest against the government move to hand over market fee recovery to private contractors. Mahender Kumar of the Kacha Arhtiya Association disclosed this here today.

Sources said earlier arhtiyas used to keep vegetable markets closed on 15th and 31st of every month, but after the implementation of contract system in fee recovery from April 1, they closed the markets on every Sunday. This was translating into a loss of Rs 1 lakh once a week to the contractor.

A contractors of the local vegetable market unloaded vegetables that had arrived from other places and sold it off after getting the locks of the market opened in the police presence today. This led to resentment among the arhtiyas who reportedly had an altercation with the contractor.

The arhtiyas alleged that the contractor, who got the contract at Rs 2.9 crore, was adopting “unfair means” to recover market fee from them.

Meanwhile, Mahender Kumar, said about 145 vegetable markets would join the statewide bandh call tomorrow. He said they were against the “harassment and forcible collection” of market fee by private contractors’ men.

He said the association had demanded immediate withdrawal of the contract system. He said they would also meet the Chief Minister in this connection on Tuesday.


Punjab to promote prawn cultivation
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 24
To diversify pisiculture and provide handsome return to fish farmers, the Punjab Government is focusing on propagating culture of fresh water prawn in the state. Already some progressive farmers have taken to fresh water prawn cultivation in Jalandhar, Patiala and Sangrur districts and got encouraging results.

Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang, Animal Husbandry, Dairy Development and Fisheries Minister, said in the first year of its introduction, the state had been able to produce 2,230 kg of prawns. The area under fish cultivation had been progressively increasing and already gone up from 6,654 to 9,032 hectares, while fish production had increased from 5,097 to 6,094 kg per hectare.

The minister said the state had achieved the distinction of maintaining the first position in the country with regard to average fish production per unit area. Besides this, he said, the production of fish from natural resources had also gone up from 58,023 to 83,650 tonnes. He added that the department had been laying special emphasis on increasing the production of fish seed at its fish seed farms.

It may be pointed out that the state is running fish seed farms at Hiyatnagar (Gurdaspur), Katli (Ropar), Bir Shikargah (Kapurthala), Bir Dosanjh (Nabha), Faggan Majra (Fatehgarh Sahib), Dhandua (Nawanshahr), Rajasansi (Amritsar), Hariana (Hoshiarpur), Benra (Sangrur) and five other places.

Mr Kang informed that the immediate priority of the state was to cultivate lands for fish farming which were otherwise infertile and unfit for agriculture purposes. Village ponds and low-lying lands were being developed for fish farming, said Mr. Kang.

In addition, he said, ornamental fish production had been introduced at Government Fish Seed Farm, Katli, Ropar.

This would meet the demand of ornamental fish of existing aquarists and develop an interest in aquarium keeping. This would also provide employment avenues for many, he added.


Action against CDPO recommended
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 24
The Child Development and Project Officer (CDPO) of Talwandi Sabo has been found guilty of showing favouritism in the appointment of anganwadi workers in two villages.

Sources said the CDPO had not taken the consent of the panchayat committee of Talwandi Sabo for the appointment of anganwadi workers. The anomaly came to light when the Sidh Baba Hira Das Sports Club of Jajal village drew the district administration’s attention towards the matter. The Additional Deputy Commissioner had ordered a probe into these appointments on March 31. The secretary of Zila Parishad, Mr Gurdarshan Singh, investigated the matter and recommended action against her through a letter dated April 5.

Sources said the CDPO, Ms Sunita, could not give a convincing reply during the probe. The panchayat secretary of Jajal village, Mr Tarsem Singh, said the village panchayat had sent five applications for appointments to the post of anganwadi workers. But the CDPO appointed Baljit Kaur as an anganwadi worker at Jajal despite the fact that the panchayat committee had not recommended her name in its merit list. The probe revealed that she made this appointment ignoring the recommendations of the panchayat and the panchayat committee.

As per norms, the CDPO has to take consent of the panchayat committee for these appointments, which has not done in this case. Similarly, an appointment made in Manuana village had come to fore.

The panchayat committee, Talwandi Sabo, had recommended the name of Virpal Kaur for the post, but the CDPO appointed Rachhpal Kaur there.

Sources said the panchayat committee had sought an inquiry into some other appointments made by the CDPO. The committee stated that one hand they were being given more rights, while, on the other hand government officials didn’t bother about the elected representatives of people.


PSEB staff stop laying of cables
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, April 24
Protesting against the government’s reported move to unbundle the PSEB, board employees here today thwarted the move by a private construction company of Gurgaon to lay a new line between Varpal and Patti.

According to information, over 100 employees of the board gheraoed engineers and labour of Prem Power Construction Company which has been given the contract to lay a new power line.

On the other hand, when a senior engineer of the board tried to stop the board employees from interferring in the laying of cables, a clash occurred.

Later the employees organised a rally at the site which was addressed, among others, by Mr Tara Singh Khehra, Mr Jagtar Singh Uppal and Mr Gurdev Singh Pannu. They threatened that they would not allow the private contractors to take up any kind of work which may result in their retrenchment.


Report ready in bribery case: SSP
Tribune News Service

Phagwara, April 24
Mr Arun Pal Singh, SSP, Kapurthala, and inquiry officer in the Noormahal police bribery case involving SHO Manjit Singh said yesterday that he had sufficient evidence and had prepared a report in the case, which would be submitted before a judicial court soon.

The SSP said Balbir Singh while in custody of the Kapurthala police had committed suicide.

He said the bail application of the Noormahal SHO and his accomplice, Chhinder Pal Singh, had been rejected. Both had absconded. Efforts were afoot to nab them. 
An NRI, Mr Joga Singh, had alleged that he had been illegally detained by the police and the SHO had demanded Rs 5 lakh for his release, saying he had to share the amount with senior police officers.

The SSP said Mr Joga Singh was in CBI custody for further investigations to ascertain his involvement in the Malta boat tragedy.


Expedition team returns
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 24
The four-member team, comprising Mr Dasvir Singh Dalee, Mr Amrik Singh Dulat, both advocates, Mr Gurminder Singh Grewal and Mr Mohinder Singh, a photographer, today returned to this town after touching the capitals of all states of the country as part of its “India Expedition of Adventure” programme. The team had left this town on April 3 in a vehicle.

A warm welcome was accorded to the team here today.

During the expedition programme, the team spread the message of peace and protection of human rights, environment and wild animals.


FCI workers stage dharna
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, April 24
The Jaina group of the FCI Workers Union today staged a dharna in front of the Satnampura police station, demanding action against a private contactor and his hirelings who were not allowing workers to do work at FCI godowns on the local Khera road.

Mr Jagdish Rai, leader of the protesters, alleged that the contractor, Ram Das, had sacked about 250 workers.

He was also not clearing their payments amounting to Rs 7.5 lakh.

Meanwhile, the police said it had called the other party for finding a solution to the matter.


Trade union leader ends fast
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, April 24
Trade union leader Chaman Lal ended his fast after he was assured by the local SDM, Mr Amarjit Pal, here yesterday, that the construction work of the local bus stand would be taken up within a fortnight.

Mr Pal offered a glass of juice to Mr Chaman Lal who had been on fast for the past seven days to press his demand for the early completion of the bus stand.

Mr Chaman Lal clarified that he would restart the fast if the construction work was not started in a stipulated period as promised by the SDM.


Free medical camp for children
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, April 24
The Lions Club, Aam Khas Bagh, Sirhind, today organised free medical check-up camp for children at Aulakh Children Hospital here. Mr Amarjeet Singh Cheema, former president of the District bar Association and state president of the Gandhi Vichar Manch inaugurated the camp.

More than 200 children, accompanied by their parents came for medical check-up. A team of doctors led by Dr Hardeep Singh Aulakh, child specialist, examined the children. Medicines were given free of cost by the club.

Capt Sewa Singh, project chairman, said the response was good and the common people as well as those living in the slumsg benefitted by the camp. He said more such camps would be organised in the rural areas.


Chetna manch gen secy condemned
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, April 24
Dr Harchand Singh Sirhindi, a renowned writer and patron of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Chetna Manch and Mr Sohan Singh Peerjain, president of the manch in a press note here today have strongly condemned the statement issued by Charnjeet Singh, General Secretary of the manch, against Bairagi Maha Mandal, Punjab.


SAD(A) activists in judicial custody
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, April 24
Jathedar Rajinder Singh Fauji, central working committee member of the SAD(A), and Mr Gurdial Singh Mananwali, party’s district press secretary, were today remanded in judicial custody till April 26.

Earlier, Mr Resham Singh Pappi, Phagwara circle president of the SAD(A), and Mr Gurmit Singh, a retired DSP and senior party leader, were yesterday sent to judicial lock-up till April 26.

All these activists were arrested under sections 107/151, Cr PC, as a preventive measure. They had planned to burn the effigy of SAD President Parkash Singh Badal here tomorrow as part of their party’s programme. However, SAD activists were also preparing to confront the rival Dal activists.

The police feared a stand-off and the possibilitry of a clash between the rival Dals and arrested SAD(A) activists. to maintain peace.

Meanwhile, SAD(A) general secretary Harjinder Jakhu flayed the arrest of activists.It was police high-handedness to prevent peaceful protest, he alleged.


Upward trend in cotton prices
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, April 24
The cotton prices in the Punjab region comprising Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan have started witnessing an upward trend and those cotton growers who had held back their produce have benefitted from the same. Narma (American cotton) has risen by Rs 200 per quintal and was being sold for Rs 1800 to Rs 1875 per quintal. The cotton prices had crashed in December and February to Rs 1550 to Rs 1650 per quintal and the cotton growers had to face losses.

The Punjab region is going to have a record cotton production of more than 40 lakh bales this year against 27 lakh bales last year. As a matter of fact, the country as a whole is going to record the highest production of cotton this year — 235 lakh bales — against 177 lakh bales of the last year. This is going to be the highest ever cotton production in the country.

According to Mr D.L. Sharma, Executive President, Vardhaman Group of Mills, the cotton prices have witnessed a rise of 3 per cent to 5 per cent in the country during the past few weeks.

The mandis of Punjab region are receiving 2000 to 3000 bales of cotton these days with Punjab mandis alone at 1000 bales daily. The All-India price of cotton was quoted Rs 16,000 to Rs 17,000 per candy (candy consists of 356 kg). Ginned cotton-in Punjab was quoted at Rs 14700 to 15800 per candy while Gujarat is higher by Rs 1000 to Rs 1200 per candy.

According to Mr Sharma, export of cotton to Bangladesh, Indonesia, Taiwan and China is likely to touch 8 lakh bales this year. Five lakh bales of Egyptian cotton are also being imported.

Meanwhile, there is strong scramble for Bt cotton in the mandis of the cotton belt and the belt has received a huge quantity of allegedly spurious Bt cotton seeds. The police of Bathinda, Mansa and Muktsar districts has seized huge quantity of spurious Bt cotton seeds during the past two months. The agents and farmers had struck deals before the release of six officially recommended Bt cotton varieties. Bt cotton seed was allegedly sold as high a price as Rs 3000 per packet of 450 gram against the price of Rs 1600 per packet. Last year the area under Bt cotton was 13 lakh acres and this year it is likely to double. Textile industry sources claim that there has been 40 per cent increase in average cotton yield during the past two years which is 440 kg per acre. This was possible due to the awareness created by the textile industry and the availability of improved seeds and pest management.

Experts of the Punjab Agricultural University have also cautioned cotton growers about the alleged sale of spurious Bt cotton seeds in the region and they have advised them to procure official receipt of the purchase of cotton seed.


Man booked for blackmailing woman
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, April 24
On the complaint of a mother of two children of Khanoor village under Sadar police station yesterday registered a case under Sections 376, 506 and 385, IPC, against Amit Kumar, her family friend, of the same village for her sexual exploitation and blackmailing.

According to police sources, the woman stated in her complaint that she was married about 10 years ago at Mehtiana. After the birth of her second child, her husband went abroad. She started living with her parents at Khanoor. Some time back her brother also went abroad.

Amit Kumar, a friend of her brother, used to come to their house. About two years ago, one day she was not feeling well and was alone at house. Amit Kumar came to the house and brought some medicines for her. She became unconscious after consuming the medicines. When she regained consciousness, she realised that she had been sexually exploited. When she protested, Amit Kumar, said that he had taken her photographs.

She alleged that Amit Kumar started blackmailing her and sexually exploited her for about two years. He also took gold ornaments weighing about 20 tolas from her.

When Amit Kumar came to know that she was filing a complaint against him with the police, he threatened to kill her.

Sources said that Amit Kumar has absconded.


Cop nabbed while accepting bribe
Tribune News Service

Moga, April 24
The Vigilance Bureau has caught a police constable red-handed while accepting bribe from a Charik resident.

According to sources, the complainant, Paramjit Singh, had alleged that Head Constable Mangal Singh posted at Badhanikalan along with Constable Kewal Singh stopped his father, Buta Singh, at Chakkar village where he had gone to a relative’s place. He alleged that both the policemen extorted Rs 4,500 and his scooter by threatening him to trap him in a case of poppy husk smuggling. After duping him of his money and the two-wheeler, they put him in jail.

The complainant alleged that when he met both the cops they demanded Rs 12,000 for releasing him. Later, a deal was struck for Rs 8,000. As they had already taken Rs 4,500 from his father he had to pay the remaining amount today.

The Vigilance Bureau laid a trap and caught Kewal Singh red-handed when he was accepting bribe from Paramjit. His other accomplice, Mangal Singh, escaped. A case has been registered against the accused under the Prevention of Corruption Act.


4 booked in murder case
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, April 24
On the complaint of Mr Avtar Singh, sarpanch of Dhade Kalan, the Mahilpur police registered a case under Sections 302, 201 and 34, IPC, yesterday against Rachhpal Singh of Khurdpur and four others for murdering Manjit Kaur of Nakodar. The body of Manjit Kaur was found in the village on August 5, 2004.

According to police sources, a decomposed body of an unidentified young girl was found from a pit in the village on August 5, 2004. The police Kot Fatuhi was informed which disposed of the body.

Sources said that Rachhpal Singh was running a gang of criminals and Manjit Kuar was one of his accomplice. It is suspected that Rachhpal Singh and his four accomplices murdered her and threw her body in the village.


Fake currency seized, two held
Tribune News Service

Moga, April 24
The Kot Ise Khan police has arrested two persons and recovered 26 fake currency notes of Rs 500 denomination from them.

Sources said following a tip-off, the police had set up a check post on Talwandi-Naubahar link road. The police party stopped a car and recovered fake currency notes worth Rs 13,000 from its occupants. Both the accused belong to Chatiwind village of Amritsar.

Meanwhile, in another case, 2 kg of opium has been seized from one Jagtar Singh and a case has been registered against him under the NDPS Act at the Mehna police station.


Industrialists oppose method of implementing VAT
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, April 24
Industrialists and traders of the Punjab are the worst affected in the country with the implementation of VAT, as VAT encourages local purchase in every state, whereas Punjab being basically a processing and export State with no local raw material, fuel and having only 25 per cent capacity of consumption of its manufacturing capacity and thus bound to export the remaining 75 per cent production of its hosiery, textile, steel, machinery and other products, so it is not going to be so easy and possible for Punjab traders to continue business, said Mr Dinesh Gupta, president of Patiala Chamber of Industries (regd), while addressing a press conference here today.

He said the traders and industrialists of the state did not oppose paying the tax or implementation of VAT, but the manner in which VAT had been implemented was faulty. He said the new system which was supposed to be simple, transparent and friendly had many drawbacks.

It should have facilitated the elimination of barriers to encourage free trade through VAT with in the states to remove all restrictions on the movement of goods throughout the country as all the 126 countries, which had implemented it had abolished barriers. Second, there should be amalgamation of taxes, which was supposed to replace and amalgamate all new taxes. Third, the rules should be simplified. Different rates of VAT from 0 to 20 per cent in six different categories 0,1,4,8,12 and 20 per cent had instead of simplifying the system raised the price line of all commodities.

Levying of exim forms along with C forms and other different forms of individual state has also added to the panic and confusion of trade and industry.

It had also flouted the Central Government directions to ensure that no harsh penalty than the existing ones in the present sale tax laws be levied in the new VAT system, but the increase in penalty from 30 per cent to 200 per cent had broken the backbone of the trade and industry.

He demanded that VAT should be made more friendly and CST on purchase be made vattable or eliminated, New harsher penalties be removed immediately, all purchases of industry should be vattable, octroi be replaced with LADT, maximum rate of VAT be brought to 4 per cent and six different tariffs of VAT be reduced to maximum three.

Mr Samsher Singh cashier, Mr Nakesh Jindal also addressed.

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