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Audit exposes irregularities in health institutions
Bogus purchase of medicines comes to light
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, June 18
The recently concluded internal audit conducted by the Finance Department in several health institutions, including the main store of the Health Department here, has exposed irregularities like bogus purchase of medicines and equipment, which were never purchased but were shown to have been supplied to different government hospitals, dispensaries and primary health centres.

The audit team, comprising a Deputy Director, an Assistant Controller, Finance and Accounts, and two section officers, was learnt to have conducted intensive scrutiny of records and physical verification of stocks in the office of the Civil Surgeon and a number of government health institutions for more than a month which exposed the dubious dealings of a number of senior officers.

The audit had further revealed that some of the guilty health officials had pressurised government health institution officials to make receipt entries for drugs and equipment in back dates and even previous years so that the bogus purchase worth several lakhs could be shown as genuine.

In a written representation to the Civil Surgeon, the president of the Punjab Health Department Subordinate Offices Clerical Association, Mr Sukhwinder Singh, has alleged that the coterie of health officials behind the purchase scam has successfully got adjusted a lot of bogus purchases while others who had resisted these attempts were being threatened in the name of high officials with dire consequences.

He further claimed that even after the audit team had brought the facts to the notice of senior officials, no steps were initiated to bring the guilty persons to book. Mr Sukhwinder Singh disclosed that certain former officials of the department were also reportedly pressuring the audit team sin to hush up its report so as to shield the guilty.

The representation levelled allegations of bogus purchase and actual purchase at much higher rates than those prevailing in the market against certain employees in the purchase and accounts section of the Civil Surgeon’s office and demanded strict action against the guilty, including those who had buckled under pressure to make adjustments of drugs and equipment in back dates.



Cops facilitating ticketless travel
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 18
A number of police personnel deployed for the security purposes on various trains are allegedly involved in facilitating ticketless travelling.
Police personnel deployed on trains taking money from the passengers for facilitating their hassle free journey has reportedly become a common practice now. They also facilitate the exit of such passengers from the railway station so that they are not caught by railway officials who check tickets at exit points.

Earlier, it was alleged that railway officials, including the travelling ticket examiners (TTEs), facilitated such ticketless travelling by charging less money from the passengers than what they would have to pay for a journey with ticket, but now cops have also jumped into this “profit making business”.

The TTEs have registered protest several times with the railway authorities regarding these tactics of the cops. However, with some of the TTEs themselves resorting to such practices, they find it difficult to counter the rivals among the cops.

The practice of deploying police personnel on trains started during the days of militancy. Although the situation has normalised now, the practice continues.

All trains are escorted by a few cops. And, at most of the times, the cops are found missing when it comes to checking incidents like robbery or harassment of passengers. Instead, there are a series of allegations against the cops that they harass passengers and even extort money from them on various pretexts.

Three police personnel were suspended for extorting money from a passenger last year.

Railway sources said they had taken up the matter with senior police officials also. “The practice stops from sometime, but only to resume sometime later,” they said.

It is learnt that the duty on a train is considered to be a “lucrative posting” as it fetches handsome returns. Since the practice has become common, the passengers themselves approach cops on duty for arranging comfortable seats. This way, they are not even required to stand in the queue for getting tickets. Moreover, it also ensures them handsome “discount” as they always pay less to the cops than what they would have to for purchasing a ticket.

Police personnel are always in search of such passengers. At every station where the train stops, they would get down and make enquiries from the passengers whether they have the ticket or not. And “the needy passengers” are always there to seek the “policemen’s cooperation and assistance” for a comfortable journey.

These police personnel guarantee “comfortable journey” along their duty route only and not beyond. The practice is more prevalent on the Pathankot-Ambala route
as the police personnel change at Ambala, from where the Haryana police takes over.



PSEB, Irrigation Dept blame MC for canal mishap
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 18
While washing their hands off the matter, the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) and the Irrigation Department have blamed the local Municipal Corporation for the canal electrocution mishap in which bodies of six victims have been recovered so far.

Launching investigation into the mishap, the city police has asked the PSEB, Irrigation Department and the Municipal Corporation to name the officials who had been assigned the task of maintaining the electricity poles on the banks of the canal.

Sources in the PSEB and the Irrigation Department claim that the maintenance of the poles was with the MC, which had not even got the design of the foundation of its poles approved from the Irrigation Department. The MC officials have reportedly accused the PSEB, saying that it was its pole that fell on the MC pole, leading to electrocution.

The police has also stopped the search for more bodies. The water level in the canal has also been raised to the maximum.

Meanwhile, the police has cremated the bodies of two unidentified victims, one of them was an 11-year-old boy and a 24 year-old youth. No one had claimed the bodies even after five days of the incident.

DSP R.K. Bakshi and SHO, Model Town, SI Rajesh Kumar said they had asked the PSEB, Municipal Corporation and the Irrigation Department officials to inform the police about the officials who were supposed to maintain the electricity poles on the banks of the canals.

An Executive Engineer of the PSEB has, meanwhile, already written to the Model Town police station, saying that the PSEB was in no way responsible for the mishap.

It has pointed finger at the Municipal Corporation, claiming that it was the electricity pole of the MC that had fallen on the pole of the PSEB Department that caused the mishap. The MC has, however, claimed that its streetlights were switched off at the time of the mishap.



City reels under blistering heat
Shivani Bhakoo

Ludhiana, June 18
The heat wave with mercury soaring to 42 degrees has restricted the human activity in the city to a great extent.
Sweltering heat wave, continuously persisting for the past few days, has forced the residents to confine to the four walls. As if it was not enough, regular power cuts have added misery to their problem. City residents prefer to reach their destinations before 10 am to avoid the scorching heat.

Most of the people prefer to switch on their air conditioners and coolers throughout the day to get respite from the heat-wave.

The roads, jam-packed with vehicles otherwise, present a deserted look during office hours. The working class, shopkeepers and others try to avoid the unbearable heat by not going out before six in the evening.

Mr Nikhil Chaudhry, working in a multi-national bank, said majority of his co-workers stayed indoors during office hours.

"Some of us have to go out to achieve our targets but we try to skip due to the unbearable heat. At times we get the wrath of our seniors but they also understand the problem", said Mr Chaudhry.

People residing on second or third floors find it more difficult to cope with the heat.

Ms Rekha Mahajan, who has got a flat on the second floor said temperatures remained high as compared to ground floor.

"Even if the ACs are on for hours, there is no cooling. We understand that we will have to bear the scorching heat but what irritates most is the regular power cuts. By the time, there is some respite, light is gone. They have already hiked the power rates, at least its regular supply be ensured", said Ms Mahajan.

The doctors in the city said severe hot weather was not good for small babies and they were getting a lot of patients (children) suffering from diarrhea and high fever.

"The heat-wave is dangerous. People should take ORS or Glucose on regular basis. Parents should avoid taking their kids out during day-time", said one of the pediatrician.

According to the officials with the Meteorological Department, the hot and dry weather is expected to continue for a few days more till the onset of monsoons, which are expected in the first week of July in this part of the region. 



Hosiery exporters meet Principal Secretary
over power supply
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 18
A delegation of Wool and Woollens Export Promotion Council met Principal Secretary Industry and Commerce, Punjab, S.C. Aggarwal and apprised him of the problems being faced by exporters of woollen and blended knitwear.

“The woollen industry, needs uninterrupted power supply to execute its export commitments,” Mr Ashok Jaidka, chairman of the council said.

He said the hosiery industry, being seasonal in nature, had to work for longer durations during the peak season and for that they need uniterrupted power supply.

Demanding exemption from Sections 51,52,54 and 56 of the Factories Act, 1948, the council said industry should be allowed to make workers work up to 60 hours a week against 48 as presently applicable.

Mr Jaidka said Mr Aggarwal had assured them that he would take up the issues with the departments concerned.

With regard to value added tax (VAT), the council discussed the procedure of refund. The Principal Secretary stated that the Punjab Government would soon announce the procedure of refund to exporters, Mr Jaidka said .

He said the exporters were also assured that the Punjab government would soon settle their long outstanding freight subsidy claims.



BJP threatens stir against power tariff hike
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, June 18
The BJP has threatened to launch a mass agitation in the state if the government did not take back the decision of increasing power tariff for all categories of consumers.

The party also called upon the people to put pressure on the government in order to force the withdrawal of this anti-people step.

In a statement issued here today, the party state general secretary, Mr Rajinder Bhandari, said by jacking up the electricity tariff continuously for the third time, the Congress government in Punjab had rubbed salt into the wounds of the masses, who were already suffering due to several other repressive policies of the government.

“The people of the state are sore and angry over the imposition of VAT and the arbitrary and unwarranted hike in power rates has come as a bolt from the blue, particularly for the trade and industry,” he said.

He charged the government with putting avoidable burden on the people by imposing taxes right from the day of its installation with the result that there had been consistent increase in the prices of essential commodities.

According to the BJP functionary, the performance of the Congress government, particularly as regards the state electricity board, had been dismal, directionless and wayward. Rather than streamlining its working, the PSEB top management had acquired the habit of inflicting punishment on the people for its own inefficiency and financial mismanagement.

He alleged the people were made to pay nearly 80 per cent more for power after the Congress government had taken over the reins since the power rates were increased three times during the period.

Commenting on the prolonged power cuts and power scenario in the state, he said the general public, including traders, farmers and industrialists, had been struggling hard due to power cuts. Even as the daily life of the people had been thrown out of gear, the government remained oblivious to the woes of the masses, and instead hike in power rates was given effect as if to add insult to the injury.

“The people of the state will definitely react at an appropriate time against the cruel action of the government,” he said.



Drive to seek information about tenants, landlords
Our Correspondent

Mandi Ahmedgarh, June 18
As a step to prevent subversive and anti-social activities by some members of banned terrorist outfits, the police has launched a drive against these elements living in the guise of tenants.

Having received a poor response to the orders promulgated by the civil administration, asking landlords for information about their tenants and other information regarding their own belongings, including vehicles and weapons, it has started a door-to-door campaign to get information.

The SHOs of all police stations in the state received directions from their district chiefs to maintain complete records of landlords and their tenants. Besides noting down the particulars of the persons living in a particular house, the police has to keep a record of the vehicles owned and used by the residents.

The residents have also been asked to disclose the particulars of weapons they have.

Referring to the orders received from Mr S.M. Sharma, IG, Patiala, Mr H.S. Chahal, Senior Superintendent of Police, Sangrur, said the decision had been taken after it was found that most of the accomplices of hardcore terrorist had been living as tenants under fake identities.

“Instead of waiting for the citizens to come to police stations to furnish information about their tenants, we have asked the SHOs to constitute teams, which would go from door to door and collect relevant information within a stipulated period,” said Mr Chahal.

Computerised data thus compiled about the ownership of vehicles would help the police take immediate action in case these vehicles were found used in any anti-social activity, he said

The local police has called upon members of various communities to provide information regarding strangers or suspected individuals so that their identity might be verified.

Mr Harinder Singh and Mr Harjinder Singh, SHOs of city and Sadar police stations, respectively, restrained the owners of mechanical workshops from doing denting and painting work of any vehicle without taking prior permission from the police.



Govt keen on pensioners’ welfare, says Harbans Lal
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, June 18
The Punjab State Pensioners Advisory Committee constituted by the state government, held its first meeting on June 15 in the Civil Secretariat Chandigarh, with Mr. Harbans Lal, Chief Parliamentary Secretary and Incharge, Department of Pension and Pensioners Welfare. Senior Vice-Chairman of the Advisory Committee presided over the meeting.

District nominees and the concerned officers from Department of Pension and Pensioners Welfare, Finance Department Health and Family Welfare Department Housing and Urban Development Department, and Transport Department were present, said a press statement by Mr B.R. Kaushal, member of the committee from Ludhiana.

Mr Harbans Lal, Chief Parliamentary Secretary, in his opening address said the state govt was anxious to provide benefits and concessions to the pensioners.

He further disclosed that Capt Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister, desired him to discuss the demands charter with Pensioners’ representatives and the concerned departments who should work out the financial implications and other aspects. The same would be referred to the Chief Minister and another meeting would be held thereafter soon by the Chief Minister himself as Chairman of the State Advisory Committee to take the necessary decision, he said.

The demands, which were put forth and discussed threadbare, included grant of house maintenance allowance; fixed monthly medical allowance, grant of 1 per cent old age allowance to family of the pensioners aged 80 years and above, leave travel concession to family pensioner; setting up of fifth Punjab Pay Commission, commutation of pension formula, grant of dearness relief to family pensioners with merger of 50 percent of dearness relief w.e.f. Ist April, 2004, medical reimbursement procedure simplification and de-centralisation of sanction powers.

Facility of free transport and reservation of at least 5 per cent of built-up houses/ plots for allotment to such pensioners/ family pensioners who are shelter-less. 



Bangles shed traditional shape
Asha Ahuja

Ludhiana, June 18
Bangles, which girls and women all over India, irrespective of their caste, colour, age and religion, love to wear, have been so far existing in their centuries old form — in nice round shapes.

As change is the only thing constant, bangles have shed their traditional shape. Now the bangles being fancied by young girls are of varied shapes. The most favoured bangles are square.

Rani, a college student, says, “I love square bangles. These come in very attractive pastel as well as bright shades. They go very well with western outfits. I was so bored with traditional round shaped bangles.”

A survey by Ludhiana Tribune in Basti Bazaar revealed that different shapes in bangles were the rage with college girls.

Sonu of RK store said, “Young school and college girls love to buy square, triangle, pentagon and hexagonal bangles. Metallic bangles, which are available in various shapes, are also very popular.”

Madhuri, a college student, said, “Delhi has got fabulous variety of bangles.” She displayed brightly coloured wavy glass bangles. “In Delhi, all my friends are wearing wavy, square and hexagonal bangles. They look so smart. We college crowd like experimenting with new styles and there is a lot of time for us to wear traditional kind of bangles later on,” she said.

“Such things are brought into fashion by models who wear them on the ramp with their designer dresses. Other sources of new designs are fashion magazines and Bollywood film stars. Once these have been displayed, the manufacturers go into churning out new designs and soon these become popular. And in no time, there is a craze for such items,” said the owner of Bobby General Store, Basti Bazaar.

However, there is a wide variation in the prizes of such bangles. While one shop is offering these for Rs 20 per pair, another is selling these at Rs 50 per pair. When asked as to why there was so much of differences in the prizes, pat came the reply, “Our quality is better. Though they appeared exactly the same.”

Gita, who has recently returned from a holiday in Mussorie, showed her new collection of different shaped bangles, both in plastic and glass.

“There was a large variety there. Even hawkers on the street were selling them. But they were so much cheaper there than out here in Ludhiana. I love the shapes and colours and am happy that bangles have turned around and have come out of their round shape.”



Taxation lawyers decry tax on PPF deposits
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, June 18
The Taxation Bar Association (TBA) has vehemently opposed the proposal to charge income tax on the maturity amount received by the tax payers against deposits made in Public Provident Fund (PPF) and other such type of specified accounts.

In a memorandum to the Union Finance Minister, Mr P. Chidambram, the association has cautioned against such a move, describing it as harmful to the interest of the tax-payers and assesses, who as a part of their tax planning, were making savings in these accounts from their hard-earned income.

The tax on PPF and other similar investments, would also defeat the very purpose of tax planning aimed at meeting future unforeseen contingencies and old age liabilities.

Mr Ashok Juneja, president and Mr B.R. Kaushal, convener of the study circle of TBA, remarked that ‘exempt, exempt and exempt’ (EEE) system of taxation should not be scrapped or converted to EET (exempt, exempt and tax) regime, otherwise some relief and relaxation given in the Union Budget 2005 would become meaningless.

They further told that Public Provident Fund (PPF) account could now be opened only by individuals in their own name or in the name of a minor.

“Now HUF’s or other juristic persons have been barred from opening a PPF account with effect from May 13, 2005 and similar amendment has also been made in NSC (VIII issued ) rules 1989 to provided that HUF’s or such bodies shall be barred from investing in NSC’s from the same date.”

Mr Juneja and Mr Kaushal further said amendments would not be applicable to existing accounts opened in accordance with the rules in operation prior to May 13, 2005 and these accounts shall continue till maturity with the provision that deposits/withdrawal in or from these accounts shall allowed to be made in accordance with said rules.

The TBA functionaries informed that PPF accounts opened by HUF’s or juristic persons on or date of amendment would be treated as void ab initio and such accounts shall be closed and deposits refunded without interest.

They had brought to the notice of the Finance Minister that deductions under Section 80 HHC of Income Tax Act in respect of profits from sale of duty entitlement pass book (DEPB) scripts was not being allowed to the exporters while calling upon the Central Board of Direct Taxes ( CBDT) to resolve these issues at the earliest.

Consequently, the CBDT had directed all the assessing officers to keep in abeyance, till June 30, all assessments and recovery proceedings relating to assessments reopened specifically to reassess the claim for deduction under Section 80 HHC unless such cases were not becoming time-barred.

The TBA also demanded that amended forms (nos. 1, 2, 2D and 3A) should immediately be made available in the income tax offices so that new statutory forms could be used since the last date of filing returns was approaching fast.



Paddy gets weather insurance
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 18
ICICI Lombard General Insurance Company has launched weather insurance for paddy crop in Ludhiana, Moga, Amritsar, Patiala and Sangrur. The weather insurance will protect farmers from additional expenses incurred on irrigation in case of less rainfall, the company said.

The company’s insurance cover is applicable from June 20 for 83 days. A farmer has to pay a premium of Rs 400 on Rs 4,000 insured per acre of irrigated land. The compensation, if applicable, will be payable within 30 days from the end of the policy period that is September 10.

Ms Smita Aggarwal, head, rural and agriculture business, ICICI Lombard General Insurance, said the scheme would ensure that a farmer was compensated on the basis of weather data provided by independent third party weather stations managed by IMD and other agencies.

The company promises simple and fast claim process. “Since payouts to farmers would be made on the basis of the data from weather station and on an agreed compensation formula the claim process would be simple and speedy,” Ms Aggarwal said.

She said the company would regularly collect weather data during the policy period and would be submitted to a professional weather data clearing and enhancing agency.


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