P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Free power to small, marginal farmers
tops CM’s agenda
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 26
"We will keep all promises we made to our electors in 2002," says the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, revealing that the announcement on free power to farmers with holdings of less than 5 acres besides the abolition of octroi are top on his agenda. Besides, the government will also clear all arrears of various welfare schemes, including old-age pension, to 30 lakh beneficiaries.

"The only reason for the delay in conceding these demands has been the finances. Now we have much- improved resources to concede these demands. We have generated an extra income of Rs 750 crore in the first three months of the implementation of VAT.

"Besides, we have an additional Rs 150 crore as market fee from the 8 million tonnes of increased farm production. Auction of vegetable markets has given us Rs 60 crore. We are setting aside this extra income of Rs 210 crore of the Punjab Mandi Board to offset the increased subsidy to the Punjab State Electricity Board for the free supply of power to small and marginal farmers with a land holding of unto five acres," reveals Capt Amarinder Singh.

In an exclusive interview with The Tribune on Friday —the first part of which appeared in these columns yesterday —the Chief Minister said 84 per cent of the farmers in the state had land holding of less than 6 acres each. Of these, 60 per cent had only 3 acres or less each.

"How can a small and marginal farmer pay rising power rates at par with bigger farmers? We have to help him to sustain him in agriculture by encouraging him to cultivate cash crops," says the Chief Minister holding that an increase in the minimum support price (MSP) of foodgrains or the withdrawal of hike in diesel prices may not be feasible because of global factors.

When asked about generating Rs 100 crore for the proposed Agri-Diversification Fund, the Chief Minister said no new tax or cess would be levied as a part of the additional income from VAT would be utilised for the purpose. Earlier, the government wanted to levy a cess on each bottle of liquor sold in the state to support the fund.

He said diversification was the only way out and his government was committed in converting agro-economy to industrial economy. Some major industrial houses, including Reliance, had evinced a keen interest in various agro-processing and bio-technology projects in the state.

Besides helping farmers to take to new cash and fruit crops, especially Malta, the government was also keen to generate employment in the private sector. He clarified that setting up of national biotechnology park in Punjab was under the active consideration of the Union Government as one 10-acre unit in bio-technology had started coming up in the private sector near Dera Bassi.

The Finance Minister, he said, had informed him of making available Rs 168 crore to offset losses to local bodies, including municipal committees, on account of the abolition of octroi. "We have taken our time, but we want to make sure that these local bodies do not become bankrupt because of the abolition of octroi," he added.

Coming to the controversial issue of the participation of the private sector in education and health care services, the Chief Minister maintained that his government was committed in improving the quality of education as well as the delivery of health care services.

"The present system is not working. While private schools have nearly 100 per cent pass results, the situation in government schools is alarming. I have a list of dozen government schools where only one student has passed in the matriculation examination. Fortythree per cent of all dropouts are from government schools. Of the remaining, 46 per cent failed in the Board examinations. Even government school teachers send their wards to private schools.

"Of late, I have not heard of any boy or girl from a government school making it to the top. There has to be a change to improve the quality of education. I must reiterate that there is no question of the transfer of government property to the private sector. What we are looking at is to hand over schools with poor results to the private sector for imparting quality education. The control will remain with the state," explained the Chief Minister. There were 23,000 vacancies of teachers in government schools.

Talking about the recommendations made by a committee headed by the Deputy Chief Minister, Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, about giving refreshments, including milk and eggs, besides uniform to all students of primary classes in government schools, the Chief Minister said the government was keener to improve the quality of education than luring boys and girls to schools with poor teaching facilities.

The same principle of private sector participation, he said , might be true in the case of health care services. "What if Fortis offers to run a hospital for us in a building for which we have no staff or infrastructure?" he asked.

Talking about the unbundling of the Punjab State Electricity Board, he said the issue was going to come up before the National Development Council again.

"The functioning of the PSEB has improved a lot during past three years. We have cut down the cash losses from Rs 2,500 crore to nil. We have also reduced the transmission and distribution losses from 27 per cent to 24 per cent, thus making a saving of Rs 300 crore. Each1 per cent of TD losses mean Rs 100 crore," he added.

The Chief Minister said with the commissioning of parts of Lehra Mohabbat and Shahpur Kandi projects, power availability position had improved. "Once our 2000 MW gas- based unit at Doraha is commissioned in 2011, we hope to be self sufficient in power," he added.

The money had started flowing from the special dedicated fund for various welfare schemes. Pensions and grants under the Aashirvad Scheme were now being paid in time. Arrears for 18 months of the past two years would be paid before the end of the year as the state had been able to earmark Rs 162 crore needed for the purpose, the Chief Minister said.

The Chief Minister said good governance, tremendous credibility and performance would stand his government in the next Assembly elections.


Congress leaders discuss advancing of elections
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 26
Serious discussions are on in the ruling Congress regarding the next Assembly elections in Punjab. There is one group of Congress MLAs and Ministers which is for advancing the Assembly elections, due to be held in January, 2007, to March next year. There is an equally strong lobby opposed to the advancing of the poll.

Informed sources said that the ruling party had got a “feedback survey” conducted recently to assess its popularity. The survey suggested that it would be better for the Congress to go in for early elections. Besides, the intelligence agencies have also provided inputs to the Chief Minister favouring an early poll.

In fact, the survey was conducted immediately after the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh’s visit to Pakistan in March this year. As the visit gave rise to the “feel-good” factor, intelligence agencies informed the government’s top political executives that early Assembly elections could prove a better bet. Proposals such as the bus service to Nankana Sahib from Amritsar had gone down well with the masses, especially the farming community.

Of late, even the government has given signals which indicate early elections. Repeated announcements to restore the facility of free power to the farm sector by the mid of August this year is said to be the main indicator. Then the government is also seriously thinking about octroi abolition, giving of other benefits to urbanites and filling vacant posts.

Those who support early elections argue that the Shiromani Akali Dal headed by Mr Parkash Singh Badal is not in the “election mode”. It has not been very successful in building up a strong campaign against the government yet. The issues being raised by the SAD are “routine”. “Though Mr Badal is a mature politician, he has failed to rock the government, despite its glaring failures on many fronts, so far”, say senior Congress ministers.

“If we announce a special relief package for farmers and urbanites and build a feel-good atmosphere on the development and services sector fronts now, we can perform better if the elections are held early,” say the supporters of an early poll.

However, those opposed to the holding of early elections say that it will be a “suicidal decision”. They say the government’s popularity graph has gone down several notches after the arrest of hardcore militant Jagtar Singh Hawara and his accomplices. Hawara had been moving about in the state and the police failed to arrest him. This has given a strong blow to the image of the government. And the latest controversy related to a visit to a gurdwara in Canada by the Chief Minister and his colleagues has further dented the Government’s image, especially among the trading and business class.

“Punjab’s trading community, which suffered a lot during the period of violence two decades ago, never trusts those who try in any manner to be closer to the radical political constituency in the state,” says the opposing camp.

“We have been resorting to high-profile symbolic politics such as the campaign against corruption, participation in various religious centenary celebrations, the visit to Nankana Sahib and so on. It has sent a good message to the middle class, which rarely turns up at the polling booths. However, we have so far failed to the relate to common man in the countryside and this can seal our fate at the hustings,” say the anti-early election lobby. Even the earlier campaign against corruption faded into oblivion. People talk more now about corruption under the present government.

Moreover, Congress activists, who are to work in the elections, are a “demoralised lot”. Without boosting their morale, it will be a difficult task for the party to perform well in the Assembly elections, if held early. “ Our first task should be to make the Congress activists partners in governance. A sense of participation, even on a minor scale, in governance will gear them up to work in the next elections. No party can win an election if its activists remain dormant during that period,” says the anti-early election lobby.


It was extra-judicial killing, alleges daughter
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 26
"My father was a victim of circumstances," alleges Ms Rupa Bhullar, a daughter of Gurinder Singh Bhullar, an accused in the smuggling of narcotics case, who died in judicial custody on June 1.

"His death in judicial custody amounts to extra- judicial killing using neglect, stress and incompetence. What did the prosecution agencies do in 43 days after his arrest as to hand him over as a dead man? Was he an accused or a victim?" asks Rupa wondering whether an accused and his family lose all rights to defend him.

''My father was arrested on April 16 at about 6 p.m. by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), allegedly for dealing in narcotics. He was stopped at the police naka of Asron, near Nawanshahr, while he was returning from Jalandhar. He called to inform us of his arrest and detention by the NCB at its office in Sector 2 here," reveals Rupa.

"Though he was suffering from high blood pressure and diabetes, he was allegedly tortured and shuttled between Chandigarh and Nawanshahr as the Punjab police and the NCB were in conflict with each other over his custody. If at all there were any charges against him, the job of the authorities was to prove it in a court rather than make him die a slow death by medical neglect, mental torture and humiliation'', she says.

She alleges that right from his first court appearance they tried to deny her father legal representation. Though the NCB informed the family that he would be produced in a Nawashahr court on April 18, he was taken to a Balachaur court to seek his 10-day police remand. The court, realising his bad health, remanded him in judicial custody and sent him to Ludhiana Central Jail.

Rupa , who is a student in the United States, says she met her father on April 19 in the Ludhiana jail. Because of his poor health, he was moved to the jail hospital where his harassment continued as money was demanded from the family for the issuance of a medically unfit certificate, she alleges saying, she met her father again on April 23.He looked quite unwell.

"I came back and met the investigating officer at the Narcotics Bureau. We were informed that in a narcotics case, one cannot apply for a bail until challan has been filed in the designated court. I requested him to expedite the filing of charges considering my father's poor health, but was told that it may even take six months," she says.

Rupa continues: "The Punjab police finally managed to take him on remand on the evening of April 29 in a petty theft case in a jewellery shop in a village. He was sent for a pre-medical check-up where the doctors declared him medically unfit to be taken on a remand. The judge allowed only two days of police remand against the 10 days demanded by the police. He was kept in the Balachaur police station that night and sent to the Joint Interrogation Centre in Amritsar the next morning. On the one hand they were accusing him of dealing in narcotics worth crores, on the other they were accusing him of a petty theft.

"On May 30, when he was produced again in the Balachaur court, the magistrate looked at his condition, realised its seriousness and ordered him to be hospitalised. His feet were swollen, he could barely walk. His toes were bleeding with no sign of any first aid.

"He was not sent to the hospital immediately. Instead he was taken to Ludhiana jail, sent to the Ludhiana Civil Hospital the next day from where he was referred to the PGI. All this time his condition deteriorated, but the family was not informed about it. He was admitted to the PGI where he died a few hours later .The cause of his death conveyed to us was heart attack. After two days and several hours of paperwork, his swollen and bruised body was handed over to us."

Rupa says, "The NCB blames the jail authorities for lack of care, while the jail authorities blame the Health Department for the doctor's conduct. The Punjab police is still unaccountable. The PGI blames the government for lack of resources saying it is equipped to handle only a fraction of cases that comes in. Everyone is simply passing the buck and fails to stand up and take the responsibility," says Rupa.

"I have gone from pillar to post in this time of devastation but no relief is in sight," she concludes.


Statewide protest by Left parties on June 28
Our Correspondent

Phagwara June 26
Comrade Lehmber Singh Taggar, member, Central Committee, CPM, today declared that June 28 would be observed as “virodh divas” in the state in protest against the hike in the prices of petrol and diesel despite opposition to it by the leftists.

He said as part of leftists nationwide protest programme, activists of the CPM and the CPI would block rail and road traffic besides holding rallies and dharnas at various places in the state.

Addressing a meeting of the party activists from Kapurthala and Jalandhar, Mr Taggar said a massive response was expected on the protest day and demanded rollback of the price hike. Kisan bodies, khet mazdoor unions, youths, students' bodies and employees' unions were supporting the protest programme, he claimed.

Reminding the UPA government that the leftists were supporting it just to keep the BJP away from power, Mr Taggar said though the leftists wont go as far as withdrawing the support to the government, yet they fully reserved their right to mobilise masses against the anti-people policies.

He demanded that a national oil fund should be set up.

Comrade Kulwant Singh, former MLA, and comrade Gurchetan Singh Bassi, senior CPM leader, also addressed the gathering.


Left parties get overwhelming response for June 28 protest
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 26
“There is an overwhelming response to a call for holding demonstrations on June 28 in protest against the hike in the prices of petrol and diesel announced by the Centre and increased rates of power supply in Punjab,” say Dr Joginder Dyal of the Communist Party of India and Mr Balwant Singh of the Communist Party (Marxist).

In a joint statement issued here today, they said there would be demonstrations and protest dharnas at 30 different places in the state where besides burning effigies of the Union Petroleum Minister, demonstrators would resort to rail and rasta roko.


Movement against Bt cotton varieties gains pace
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 26
Ever since Greenpeace India exposed the government nexus with Bt Cotton suppliers in Andhra Pradesh, Punjab farmers’ campaign against introduction of these varieties in their region has gained momentum.

For the first time since the introduction of Bt cotton varieties in Punjab, three partners in a cause —Greenpeace India, Kheti Virasat and Centre for Sustainable Agriculture Hyderabad — have decided to jointly assess the impact of genetically engineered Bt cotton varieties in Punjab. The three will conduct community monitoring of Bt cotton varieties in Punjab’s western belt. Bathinda, Mansa, Faridkot, Ferozepore and Muktsar will be covered.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace India which showed how Warangal’s farmers were cheated by over Rs 2 crore in a compensation package designed to bail them out of a failed Bt cotton crop, today urged the Punjab government to strictly regulate Bt cotton instead of proactively promoting it in the state.

It also took the campaign against Bt cotton ahead by propagating its Farmers’ Protection Shield (Kisan Suraksha Kavach) in Chandigarh today. Developed for Punjab with the help of Kheti Virasat, the shield is a legal manual which helps farmers reclaim their rights in the absence of a protective system that guards their interests.

Manish Kumar, Greenpeace India’s regional representative said, “The shield enables farmers to guard against corporate greed and regulatory failure. It has been launched in India and more and more farmers are using it to embrace the anti-Genetic Engineering struggle.”

Strangely, despite the economic ruin caused to Andhra’s farmers, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee allowed suppliers Monsanto Mahyco to market Bt cotton seed varieties in some Northern states including Punjab. To worsen the problem, the Punjab government not only released six varieties in the state but also used its official machinery to actively publicize the same.

Speaking to The Tribune today, Mr Umendra Dutt, Executive Director, Kheti Virasat which has warned of a bio-safety challenge due to promotion of genetically engineered cotton varieties in Punjab, said: “We refute the two grounds on the basis of which the Punjab Government is promoting Bt cotton varieties. The Government says these varieties will enhance per acre yield, but in reality Bt technology has little to do with yield increase. It only strengthens resistance.

Environment activists are now aggressively questioning Genetic Engineering Approval Committee’s eagerness behind promoting failed cotton varieties in other states. Kheti Virasat has even demanded a vigilance probe into the “nexus” which is converting small farmers into marginal farmers and marginal farmers into landless ones.

While the Punjab government publicises Bt cotton, those conscious of farmers’ rights are preparing to monitor the varieties in Punjab. Soon a team from Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Hyderabad, will land in Kheti Virasat’s Organic Farm School at Jaiton (Faridkot) from where the first community monitoring of Bt cotton varieties in Punjab will start.


UGC’s Punjabi exam or comedy of errors!
Rashmi Talwar

Amritsar, June 26
Glaring mistakes were found in the Punjabi examination conducted by the UGC-NET at the national-level today.

As many as 3000 students appeared in the examination here at 10 centres in the city.

Students complained to The Tribune that they were shocked to find the examination question paper, that was aimed to create “experts” in the field of this language and testing their skills, was full of conspicuous mistakes .

In question no-1 of section-1, Paper-III, Principal Teja Singh, an eminent writer of Punjabi, was written as ‘Principal Bhela Singh’.

In question no-14, ‘Jangnama’ by Shah Mohammed was referred to as ‘Bangnama’. Bhai Gurdas in question number 12 was referred to as ‘Bhai Surdas’.

In question-15, Janam Sakhi was written as ‘Janam Saathi’. ‘Kafi’ a literary work was written as ‘Mafi’.

Incidentally, question no-25 contained three mistakes in it . The word ‘bijli’ was written as ‘bilji’ ; the word ‘ambar’ (sky) was written as ‘andar’ (inside) and word ‘pani’ (water) was written as ‘padi’.

The objective of the test was far attaining “criteria of eligibility” for “Lectureship” as well as qualification as a JRF, said the aggrieved students.

However, these mistakes put a question mark on the alleged ‘negligence’ of authorities who set the paper and the proof reading staff of the UGC that failed to point out the mistakes before final draft, thus making a ‘mockery’ of the national-level test conducted by an institution of high integrity, they asserted.

As many as 10 centres in the city conducted the test, including six centres in Guru Nanak Dev University, one each in Khalsa College, BBK DAV College, SR Government College and Hindu College, here.

Students had arrived here from far off places, including Faridkot, Jalandhar, Gurdaspur, Ferozepore and around Amritsar for the examination.


Sekhon elected SAD dist chief
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, June 26
Former Irrigation Minister, Punjab, Janmeja Singh Sekhon was unanimously elected President of the district unit of the SAD (Badal) once again. Mr Kartar Singh and Mr Mohan Singh have been elected as patrons of the party while Master Gurnam Singh has been elected secretary general of the party district unit.

Other members are Senior-Vice Presidents: Mr Gurdial Singh, Mr Sukhdev Singh, Mr Sat Narayan, Mr Surinder Vohra. Vice-Presidents: Mr Darshan Singh, Mr Angrej Singh, Mr Bachittar Singh, Mr Ajit Singh. Secretary: Mr Sarbjit Singh. Press Secretary: Mr Tara Singh. Cashier: Mr Bhajan Singh.


No trace of Ludhiana schoolboy
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 26
More than a week after a class XII student of Bhartiya Vidya Mandir School here went missing under mysterious circumstances while on a school trip to Manali, his parents as well as the Sundernagar (Himachal Pradesh) police continue to grope in the dark about his whereabouts.

Investigations by the police have not led to any breakthrough even as a police team recorded statements of other students and teachers who had gone to the trip.

The school management had claimed that the boy, Dikshit Dhanda, was drowned in the Sutluj. Mr Ashok Dhanda, a yarn trader, and father of the boy, his wife and some other relatives have been camping in Sundernagar in search of the boy since the incident.

Mr Dhanda said the spot from where Dikshit allegedly fell into the Sutlej clearly indicated that he could not have fallen. He demanded that a case of negligence be registered against the teachers and the school management.

Mr M.M. Vyas, a senior member of the governing council of the school management, has stated that it was tragic accident but the teachers or the management could not be held responsible.


55 baptised at Nankana Sahib
Rashmi Talwar

Amritsar, June 26
For the first time after Partition a baptism ceremony has been organised at Nankana Sahib in Pakistan.

The SGPC undertook the initiative this time following requests from several quarters, especially Sindhs.

As many as 55 persons were baptised by the Beloved Five who were sent by Akal Takht at Gurdwara Janam Asthan, Nankana Sahib. Among those who were baptised were 42 Pakistani Sikhs, including six women.

The wife of the vice-president of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), Ms Manjit Kaur and wife of Tarjit Singh Nagi also participated in the ceremony along with Prof Inderjit Kaur, a principal from Kapurthala.

Mr Onkar Singh Shriefpura, a member of the SGPC and currently heading the 500-strong Sikh jatha to Pakistan, for the 166th death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh on June 29, informed the SGPC about the ceremony. Mr Shariefpura spoke to the SGPC from Pakistan, saying that an ‘Akhand Path’ also was organised prior to the ‘amrit’ ceremony.

Mr Avtar Singh Sanghera, a UK-based Sikh under whose supervision the ‘kar seva’ of the sarai at Nankana Sahib has been underway, acclaimed Akal Takht as supreme for the Sikhs . Mr Sanghera asked the SGPC to treat PSGPC like a “sister institution”.

“This meant that the SGPC could guide the Sikhs in Pakistan on the rehat maryada,” he stressed.

The PSGPC, President, Mr Mastan Singh, also sought cooperation for the Pakistan committee from the SGPC.

The SGPC also honoured Bhai Prem Singh, head granthi of Gurdwara Nankana Sahib, with a ‘siropa’ and also offered a set of ‘Shabadkosh’ (dictionary) on Guru Granth Sahib on the occasion.


CPI, residents want ‘false’ case withdrawn
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 26
The Communist Party of India (CPI) and residents of Chheharta are up in arms against the police for registering an alleged false case against Shamsher Singh and his two sons for stealing bricks by using ‘political pressure’.

The complainant is a Councillor of the Municipal Corporation.

Mr Amarjit Singh Asal, district secretary, CPI, said that the police arrested Shamsher Singh and his two sons, Karamjit Singh and Harjit Singh, on June 20 and booked him under a false case of stealing bricks.

The CPI secretary added the owner of dairy adjoining the houses of the alleged accused wanted to grab the passage, which was the sole property of Shamsher Singh as he had purchased the five houses along with the passage. Now the dairy owner wanted to use the passage by opening a gate to the passage and was using pressure tactics by getting them implicated in false cases.

Mr Asal said residents of the area had written to the Pollution Control Board, Patiala on June 7 as the dairy had failed to install pollution control devices over the chimney, which was causing health problems to people.

He alleged that senior councillors of the Corporation were instrumental in getting the ‘innocent residents’ booked under a ‘fabricated case’. He further said that they would meet the IG, on Monday and give him a reminder regarding the issue and demand withdrawal of the false FIR against Shamsher Singh and his two sons.


Healthcare scheme for rural areas
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 26
Punjab is all set to launch Sanjivni, a scheme to ensure affordable and quality healthcare for the rural population.

This will be a self-financed and insurance-backed scheme for comprehensive medical cover at low subscription. It is slated to be launched on October 2. A decision in this regard was taken at a high-level meeting on Friday.

The scheme will cover almost all medical treatment involving a minimum of 24 hours indoor hospitalisation at a select network of hospitals in the public and private sectors. Besides cashless treatment for all covered services, the identification of a member will be done through a photo ID card.

Referring to the scope of coverage, a spokesman said a member of a rural cooperative society, who had been a member for a minimum period of six months, and his dependants would be eligible for membership under the scheme. The age limit would be 75 years.

Contributions towards the corpus include those from members, the Punjab Government and state government agencies.

All members of societies registered under the Punjab Cooperative Societies Act, 1961, and their family members will be eligible for membership under the scheme.

Every member will have to contribute to build a corpus managed by a seven-member Sanjivni Trust under the chairmanship of the Chief Secretary.


Khera writes to Kalam over EC action
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, June 26
Mr Balwant Singh Khera, chairman, Malta Boat Tragedy Probe Mission and also a member of the national executive committee, Janata Dal (S), has sought intervention of President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam for directing the Election Commission to decide expeditiously his petition for de-registration of SAD (B) as a recognised registered political party.

Disclosing this in a press statement here today, Mr Khera, in a representation sent to the President, also urged him to advise the Election Commission not to resort to delaying tacties and decide the said petition soon.

The representation, copies of which were released here, urged the President that a registered notice was sent to the Election Commission on September 20, 2004 requesting it to derecognise SAD (B) as a political party as the latter had failed to abide by the commitment made before the Election Commission under sub-section 5 of Section 29-A of the Representation of People Act-1952 for adhering to principles of socialism, secularism and democracy.

Mr Khera alleged that breaching its Constitutional commitment, the SAD (B) took part in elections of the SGPC which was a communal body and its President Parkash Singh Badal issued tickets and campaigned for his party’s SGPC candidates. Mr Badal applied to the Gurdwara Election Commission for recognition and also for allotment of symbols for Gurdwara elections, he added.

He further contended that ‘amritdhari’ Sikhs alone could contest SGPC elections while only Sikhs can cast their votes for the body.

Mr Khera rued that the Election Commission kept mum for about six months over his petition and did not care to take due notice of his written notice sent through his counsels Dr Alok K. Sharma and Mr K.P. Singh.

Mr Khera claimed that his counsels had conveyed to the Election Commission that his petition was still maintainable. Besides maintainability, we had asked Commission for an early decision on our petition, he said.


VHP’s five-day convention starts
Tribune Reporters

Acharya Giriraj Kishore (right), vice-president, and Mr Parveen Togadia, national general secretary of the Vishva Hindu Parishad at the start of the annual meeting of VHP in Amritsar on Sunday.
Acharya Giriraj Kishore (right), vice-president, and Mr Parveen Togadia, national general secretary of the Vishva Hindu Parishad at the start of the annual meeting of VHP in Amritsar on Sunday. — Photo by Rajiv Sharma

Amritsar, June 26
Holy city of Amritsar, considered to be hub of Panthic politics till now, is emerging as a centre spot for the Hindutva also.

The Vishva Hindu Parishad, which launched a tirade against BJP leadership led by Mr L K Advani over his remarks on Jinnah during his visit to Pakistan and generated considerable controversy amongst the saffron outfits, which started their five-day annual meet at Madhav Vidhya Niketan School here today.

A galaxy of firebrand VHP leaders including Mr Ashok Singhal, International working President, Acharya Giriraj Kishore, vice-president and Dr Parveen Bhai Togadia, national general secretary have arrived here. This is for the first time that the VHP’s annual meet has been scheduled in Punjab.

Besides hotly debated issue of construction of Ram Temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya, effective and legislative steps for ban on cow slaughter. The meetings would also draw up programmes on various issues like bringing Hindus back to Hindu fold and to bring people of all castes and creeds, especially Dalits with Hindutva.

On the opening day of the international central committee meeting of the VHP, Mr Ashok Singhal released two books titled ‘Parde Ke Peechhe’ (behind the curtains) and Chhua Chhut (untouchability) written by Mr Ramphal Singh. In the meanwhile Dr Togadia also presided over the meeting of ‘Samajik Samarsta Manch’ (social equality manch).

However, with the large presence of media at the convention the senior VHP leaders declined to divulge the agenda and also refused to give any indication about the proceedings of the meeting. Meanwhile, the Spokesman of the VHP said that they would be briefing the media tomorrow about the discussions. 


VHP workers housed in Golden Temple serais
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, June 26
Objections were raised over undue preference to VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) workers in serais of the Golden Temple as well as institutions belonging to the SGPC.

The VHP workers and party activists were here for the five-day annual national meet at Madhav Vidhya Niketan school that commenced today. VHP activists were lodged at various sarais in the SGPC complex including Hargovind Nivas, Mata Ganga Nivas, Bhai Gurdas Hall besides other sarais.

Certain political parties feel that the SAD’s coalition with the BJP led to the special facility at ‘party level’ being extended to the VHP that was a sister organisation of the BJP, through the SGPC at the behest of the Akali party. They stated that while their party workers objected to, the facility has been extended to VHP perhaps as a special gesture to pacify them towards BJP after their backlash against the party (BJP )in the face of remarks of Mr LK Advani, president BJP, over Jinnah and Babri Masjid during his recent tour to Pakistan.

SGPC president Bibi Jagir Kaur when contacted expressed ignorance over any special treatment towards the VHP activists including its chief Ashok Singhal who have been camping here since yesterday.


Attacking class difference is his forte
Varinder Singh

Tribune News Service

JALANDHAR: His daily drudgery as a plumber has failed to diminish Manjit Sohal’s strong urge to become a poet and a fine example of his undying spirit is that despite unfavourable circumstances he has managed to write two poetry books, which depict innocence of a common man, his love for nature and surroundings and his sorrows as a deprived and an underprivileged worker.

Interestingly, Manjit Sohal, the 33-year-old young Punjabi poet does not believe in typical work culture and he handles his plumbling job as passionately as he is enthusiastic about his poetry.

After his first venture, “Waqt Di Dhoor Wich,” a small anthology, his latest venture is, “Mar Mar Jiyunde Lok,” through which he has made an allout effort to depict varied aspects of village life, sensitivities of an innocent villager, who has to go to a nearby city to earn his livelihood daily and his repeated setback caused by the harsh world which confronts him as he steps out of his small village — Sangal Sohal in Jalandhar district.

How he overcame his deprivation and managed to bring out poetry books is an altogether different and unusual story, which can inspire many a youngster.

“Nothing doing. What if I had to work hard and take the help of other near and dear ones, including my uncle Mohinder Singh. Since we belong to working class and are destined to work hard for even smaller pleasures, we should not be afraid of facing hardships,” says Manjit Sohal.

His poetry, too, is a satire, but there is hardly anything which he conceals as he attacks the class difference of humans.

Some of his impressions show pitiable lot of both — the poor and the rich, and particularly, aged parents of NRIs of Doaba region in this case, who have to spend lonely days in huge bungalows in the absence of their wards.

Why the poet in him is seen writing in favour of the poor and not the upper class or the powers that be? His answer is simple and straight. “I have seen deprivation, but at the same time I enjoy life and value age-old value system.” That is why he paid tributes to his parents in one of his poems, Main yaad karna chahaanga, jinha kaahi vadh vadh pashuan da dhidh bharia see…..

What makes Manjit Sohal a different poet is that his flight is limited to his daily life, his surroundings, and he does not hesitate to hit out at those who are responsible for the erosion of Punjabi culture.


Anti-drugs day observed
Our Correspondent

Barnala, June 26
The menace of drug abuse goes unabated despite many stringent laws framed by the government. These views were expressed by Mr S. M. Sharma, Inspector-General of Police, Patiala Zone, while delivering his presidential address today at Aarti Gardens auditorium here on the occasion of the international day against drug abuse and illicit trafficking.

Mr Sharma, who also laid the foundation stone of a drug de- addiction centre at Khuddi village on the Barnala-Baajakhaana road, made it clear that the government, civil administration and the police were ineffective sans public support.

SSP G. Nageshwara Rao thanked Mr Sharma, Mr V.K. Bhawra, DIG, Patiala Range, and Mr Hussan Lal, Deputy Commissioner, Sangrur, for making efforts to construct a drug de-addiction centre here.

Earlier, SP Surinder Pal Singh Parmar, welcomed Mr S.M. Sharma, the chief guest and other distinguished guests of the day.

Speaking on the occasion, the DC exhorted the police department for making efforts to liberate the town from drug menace that was assuming limitless proportions with the advent of new intoxicants, including synthetic intoxicants like injections, iodex and even boot polish.

DIG V.K. Bhawra while addressing the gathering stressed on the need for exploring better avenues of education and employment for the youth to prevent them to resort to this wicked path.

He informed that there were about 40,000 youths of the age group of 15 to 25 in the state who were in the grip of drug-addiction.

Dr Sandeep Kumar, a psychiatrist and Dr Surinder Singh, an expert from Chandigarh, too delivered a lecture on the occasion.


Monsoon session expected to be smooth: Atwal
Our Correspondent

Patiala, June 26
The Deputy Speaker, Lok Sabha, Mr Charanjit Singh Atwal, today said that notwithstanding verbal skirmishes between the Opposition and the ruling party, the forthcoming monsoon session of Parliament was expected to be a smooth affair.

Mr Atwal disclosed this while speaking to reporters after attending a one-day seminar on human rights organised at the Central State Library here by the Patiala unit of the Protection of Human Rights Dal (PHRD).

Mr Atwal, who reached the venue three hours behind schedule, also spoke on the issue of fundamental rights.


Delay in BSNL broadband launch rued
Tribune News Service

Phagwara, June 26
Even as the BSNL introduced its broadband services early this year in Jalandhar, the inordinate delay caused in installing the equipment in the neighbouring Phagwara is causing inconvenience to subscribers.

This has denied the subscribers an opportunity to avail the introductory promotional offer whereby no additional charges would be levied up to June 30, if they had opted for the service before March 31. The offer was valid for six months from the date of its commercial launch.

With no forms available for applying for the service, the subscribers said the officials directed them to download it from internet. The officials also gave no credence to online registration, as was displayed by the BSNL’s official site and insisted that they would have to fill the forms when the broadband facility would be launched in Phagwara.

The BSNL authorities at the SSA unit agreeing that the installation of the equipment had been delayed, said it was on account of some problem faced by the company supplying the equipment. He said the company had not brought the required equipment.

The BSNL DGM, Jalandhar range, said in the first phase the services would be launched in Kapurthala in July.


Pillar collapse hits traffic
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, June 26
The Gurdaspur-Mukerian road has been rendered useless for heavy vehicles following the collapse of one of the pillars of the brick-arch bridge near Tibri about a month ago. Though repairs have been carried out, the irrigation authorities have decided against allowing heavy traffic and only cars and four-wheelers are being allowed on the road.

After the construction of the bridge, the Gurdaspur-Mukerian road had become a vital connecting link between national highway, 1 and 15. The entire heavy traffic from the Mukerian-Pathankot road had shifted to the Mukerian-Gurdaspur-Pathankot road. Due to the shifting of heavy traffic, eight petrol stations had come up on the 22-km stretch of the Gurdaspur-Mukerian road.

The road had also cut the distance between Gurdaspur and Mukerian by more than 60 km.


50 workers have miraculous escape
Our Correspondent

Abohar, June 26
Fifty workers had miraculous escape when a mini bridge fell on a crane during replacement on the Abohar-Sriganganagar rail track last evening.

According to information available, the contractor had taken four-hour permit for suspension of the train traffic on this section to replace an outdated bridge near RD 383 of the Bikaner Canal outside Kotha-Pucci village.

Water was to be released next week in the canal on the completion of the remodelling process and replacing of the small bridge was urgently required.

The contractor, working under supervision of a railway engineer, deployed cranes to raise a ramp in the canal.

As a crane lifted the old bridge, it struck another crane throwing away its driver at a small distance.

Fifty labourers working near the site had a narrow escape as one end of the bridge was tied to a pillar that saved it from falling on the workers.

The bridge had to be cut into pieces to remove it. This forced suspension of traffic on the section for nine hours.


Two cousins drown
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, June 26
Two cousins, Sunil Kumar (11) and Rohit (11), drowned in Shah Nehar while they were taking bath for getting relief from the scorching sun at Chak Mirpur village, near Talwara, here yesterday.

According to police sources, Sunil Kumar, son of Rakesh Kumar, along with Rohit, son of his aunt, went to the house of his other aunt, Mamta, at Chak Mirpur village to spend holidays.

Both cousins went to Shah Nehar, located adjacent to the house of their aunt, for taking bath without informing anyone. Both did not know how to swim.

While bathing, they reportedly slipped into deep water and drowned. On getting information, villagers took them out from the canal and rushed to a nearby hospital where they were declared dead.


Rights body for follow up of Bhattal’s statement

Chandigarh, June 26
The Movement Against State Repression (MASR), a local human rights organisation, has said the statement of the Punjab Deputy Chief Minister, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, on the harassment of innocent persons, needs to be followed up.

The convener of the MASR, Mr Inderjit Singh Jaijee, said Mrs Bhattal had said following the arrest of Jagtar Singh Hawara that several people had been rounded up. She had also wanted intelligence officers to be screened.

Mr Jaijee said the police was blowing the episode in order to evade blame for their failure to track down the escaped undertrial. — TNS


Power cuts continue despite rain
Tribune News Service

Ropar, June 26
The rainfall in the parts of Punjab today brought relief from the intense heat to the people. However, the power cuts in the state continued as one unit of thermal plant was closed for maintenance causing loss of 50 lakh units.

Sources in the PSEB said the demand of power in the state declined to 1,400 lakh units from 1,500 lakh units today following decrease in domestic consumption and supply to tubewells for paddy plantation following rainfall. But the power supply also declined from 1,270 lakh units to 1,200 lakh units from all sources.

Sources said the unit-2 of Guru Gobind Singh Super Thermal Plant here was closed today and expecting to become operational tomorrow. 


Medical camp
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, June 26
A medical camp for patients suffering from piles was organised at Rana Hospital, Sirhind, today. Hundreds of patients were examined by Dr Ajit Kukreja from Ahmedabad.

Dr Kukreja said it was for the first time that operation were conducted through doopler. He said more such camps would be organised in the state.


SDM stops nullah’s construction
Tribune News Service

Kharar, June 26
The SDM, Kharar, today stopped Kharar municipal employees from constructing a nullah on a disputed piece of land on the Kharar-Landran road.

While the Municipal Council authorities claim that only a few acres on the road belong to the Central Government and this is under their control, a resident of Kharar, Gurbhajan Singh, claims that the land belongs to him.

The matter is also pending in a local court.

However, this morning the council employees started constructing a nullah at the “disputed” site to drain water from the road sides. Mr Gurbhajan Singh objected to this and showed the employees a stay order from the court. The Municipal Council employees, however, continued with their work calling for police force for help.

The SDM, Mr Darshan Singh, was called in order to sort out the issue. Mr Gurbhajan Singh reportedly showed the SDM registries of the land in his name and also the stay orders from the court. The SDM taking a decision in his favour ordered the employees and the police to leave the site.


Commissioner proposes, Mayor disposes
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 26
The Ludhiana municipal Commissioner had recommended disciplinary action against some officials for keeping the civic body in the dark in a park payment case, while the Mayor requested the minister concerned not to do so.

An MC park on Metro Road in the Jamalpur area was in the news when it was alleged that the civic body had released payments to a contractor for completion of work even though the work was not completed.

Following the allegations, the MC had ordered an inquiry into the case. After the inquiry, the Commissioner, Mr S.K. Sharma, wrote to the senior authorities recommending disciplinary action against a Junior Engineer, an SDO, an XEN and a Superintending Engineer for making recommendations to the civic body for the release of payments.

Naming these officials in his report, Mr Sharma had in his letter clearly stated, “These officials made the MC release the payments by keeping the civic body in the dark. Disciplinary action is recommended against them.’’

In his letter, he also claimed that after perusal of records and an inquiry by officials, it was found that two payments of Rs 3.25 lakh and Rs 4.90 lakh were made to the contractor in November while on December 4, 2004, there was supply of material on the spot. Even the concrete work shown was far less than the specifications.

Following the letter, the Mayor, Mr Nahar Singh Gill, wrote to the Local Bodies Minister on March 1, 2005, stating that some ‘‘disgruntled elements are making efforts to stop works and to demoralise officers by making fabricated and anonymous complaints.”

He said, “I understand that no such payment was made without the supply of material. This fact was brought to my knowledge by the councillor of ward number 17 in writing that the material like floor tiles was kept under lock and key in his supervision to avoid theft.”

The letter read, “Some persons may approach the government with false and fabricated facts. Some officials under political pressure may have made incorrect reports; therefore such reports may not be given any importance.”

Interestingly, an XEN, B&R Wing of the civic body, against whom the Commissioner had recommended disciplinary action, in his report, submitted that he had pointed out to the JE and the SDO concerned that rules do not permit a payment like this.

“The Mayor advised me that the contractor was short of funds and he wanted this work to be executed on priority. Moreover, he had a personal interest in the payments, Therefore, the payments be signed.”

“I as an obedient servant again informed the Mayor that the rules do not permit such payments without the execution of the work. However, the Mayor said he was the sanctioning authority and asked me to sign the bill,” he claimed in his signed statement. 


Rs 500 cr collected as taxes in May
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 26
The Government of Punjab collected Rs. 500.54 crore by way of taxes during the month of May. This was a rise of Rs 91. 54 crore over the corresponding period last year when Rs 409 crore was collected.

Also all officials have been directed to ensure the setting up of reception-cum-tax payers service centres in each district. The work is expected to be done by July next year.

Giving a detail on taxes, Mr Sardool Singh, Excise and Taxation Minister, Punjab, said VAT had been notified. To avoid postal delays, an e-mail system had been introduced on the department Internet.

The sales tax collections had registered a growth of 28.3 per cent, mainly during the past month due to the implementation of VAT. The entertainment duty registered a growth of 31.6 per cent, he added.

The minister further disclosed that the Directorate of Enforcement and its mobile wings continued with their efforts to curb tax evasion. A total of 167 cases had been registered under Section 51 of the Punjab VAT Ordinance during April 2005. 


Father, uncle held for killing daughter
Our Correspondent

Abohar, June 26
Pressure mounted by the Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) forced the district police to arrest Dalip Singh and his brother Sher Singh yesterday allegedly for murdering Gurparwinder Kaur, alias Pinky, daughter of Dailp Singh, on January 2 this year. The accused have reportedly confessed that they strangled her to death.

Pinky lost her life for marrying Jasbir Singh of Jhugge Gulab Singh village against her parents' wishes, sources said.

Jasbir had been running from pillar to post since January this year when Pinky went missing, but none of the officers whom he contacted was ready to investigate the case. He then approached the PSHRC.

He said Pinky's parents were against their marriage so they eloped and got "Anand Karaj" (marriage ceremony) performed at a gurdwara in Bhumal village near Ludhiana on August 19, 2004. They had been working as daily wage earners since then.

According to him, Pinky's parents approached his maternal grandparents in Badha village near the international border to convey that they had finally resolved to approve the marriage. On their request, Jasbir sent Pinky with her father Dalip Singh and other relatives for a week. Since then she had been missing. The parents asserted that Pinky had gone back, but she never turned up.

The police had registered an FIR only under Section 364 of the IPC, but it failed to make any progress in the case, Jasbir alleged in a communication addressed to the PSHRC and the Chief Minister.

Now, the Sarpanch of Badha village produced Dalip Singh and his brother Sher Singh before the investigating officer where reportedly disclosed that they using a piece of towel strangled Pinky to death. They later took the body to Waring village near Muktsar and drowned it in Rajasthan feeder. The police arrested them under Sections 302 and 102-B of the IPC.


Doctored photos of MLA: 2 in police net
Rajnish Sharma

Nabha, June 26
Former municipal councillor of Nabha Jagpal Singh Mehmi and his beloved Surjit Kaur have been booked under Sections 465, 468, 469, 471, 474 and 120-B of IPC for allegedly distributing doctored photographs of an MLA allegedly in compromising positions with Surjit Kaur.

A Bhawanigarh-based photographer, Roop Chand, who prepared the photographs was arrested today by the police.

Jagpal Singh Mehmi had already been arrested in the case and sent to the District Jail, Patiala while Surjit Kaur was still absconding.

According to the DSP, Mr S.S. Boparai, councillor Jagpal Singh Mehmi was never a PA to Kaka Randeep Singh as per some media reports.

He added that the woman in photograph, Surjit Kaur was also not a Congress leader.

The DSP said Surjit Kaur had illicit relations with Jagpal Singh Mehmi but their relations got strained later Surjit Kaur had complained to the Punjab State Human Rights Commission that Jagpal Singh had abducted her newly born baby two years ago and since then she had no knowledge of the whereabouts of her baby.

Mr Boparai said some other cases were also imposed on Jagpal Singh by Surjit Kaur.

He disclosed that Jagpal Singh had taken Surjit Kaur to Darbar Sahib, Amritsar, in May 2005 to impress upon her to withdraw case against him but a brawl had erupted between them following which Jagpal ran away leaving her at Gurdwara.

The DSP added that on June 11, 2005, they again stayed together at Gurdwara Nada Sahib.

He said it seemed that both were conspiring against the MLA as both went to the photographer at Bhawanigarh for getting the photograph developed.

This was also disclosed by the arrested photographer to the mediapersons today.

Mr Boparai added that he had received a copy of the photographs and complaint purportedly from Surjit Kaur in which she had alleged that MLA Nabha Kaka Randip Singh was blackmailing her on the basis of forged photographs and she demanded to register a case against him.

The DSP added that he got the pictures verified from forensic experts and found that the signatures on the complaint were forged by Jagpal Singh.

Mr Boparai had taken sample signatures of Jagpal Singh and sent it to the handwriting experts.

He said Jagpal Singh had done all this in order to degrade Surjit Kaur in the eyes of MLA so that he (MLA) might help him to get rid off Surjit Kaur.

He said Jagpal Singh was involved with the woman but their relations got strained over some issue. 


Wakf Board’s land worth crores usurped
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, June 26
A case of land mafia selling Wakf Board’s land worth crores has come to light. The land mafia used to take the board’s land on lease first and later sell it illegally earning huge profit.

Sources said a major part of the board’s land worth crores located behind a cooperative spinning mill on the Dabwali road had been sold by the mafia overnight. Sources said land mafia’s men were ready to carve out plots on the remaining land too, but the timely intervention of the district administration foiled their plans.

Sources said the Wakf Board had 18 acres of land behind the cooperative spinning mill having a market price of Rs 4.5 crore. The board had given this land on lease to a private party 20 years back.

Sources said the party started carving out plots on this land illegally and signed agreements with various people in 1992 allotting them 19 plots where they built their houses. The board didn’t take any action against the party at that time. When the matter was brought to the notice of Deputy Commissioner, Rahul Bhandari, the board issued them legal notices. The board has asked these plot holders to vacate its land through a notice dated June 5. Sources said another private party had reportedly struck the deal of the remaining land of the board, but the district administration foiled its plan. Now, the DC has written to the state government in this connection.

When contacted, the Wakf Board EO, Mohammad Edris, said the board’s land was under the possession of 20,000 persons in the city, of which some were booked, while others were facing court cases.

According to an estimate, 600 acres of Wakf Board land in the city was in the possession of private parties.


One held for sacrilege
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, June 26
The police has registered a case against Balraj Singh, a resident of Ajnali village, and Bagga Singh of Harbanspura village in the district for allegedly committing a sacrilege by disrespecting the Guru Granth Sahib. Balraj Singh had installed the holy book at his shop at Harbanspura village.

Angry locals caught Bagga Singh and thrashed him. The police has arrested Bagga Singh whereas Balraj Singh is still at large.

Mr Ramandeep Singh, SHO, said Balraj Singh committed the sacrilege last evening. The SHO said Bagga Singh was also present at his shop at the time of incident. Bagga Singh was produced in the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Fatehgarh Sahib, who remanded him in police custody till June 27. Meanwhile, many Sikh religious institutions have criticised the incident and demanded action against the guilty.


13-yr-old killed in road mishap
Our Correspondent

Rajpura, June 26
A 13-year-old girl died while her maternal uncle sustained critical injuries after a car, in which they were traveling, rammed into a stationary truck in Pilkhani village on the GT Road near here, this morning.

Anku, Resident of Samana, succumbed to her injuries at Civil Hospital Rajpura. Her maternal uncle Mr Anup Bansal is struggling for life in the PGI, Chandigarh.

According to the police, the accident victims were heading towards Samana from Khanna in a car (PB-11Z-5251) when Mr Bansal lost control and their vehicle rammed into a stationary truck.

Anku’s parents, who were in another car, extricated the injured and rushed them to the local civil hospital. A seriously injured Anku succumbed to her injuries while she was under treatment.

Her body was later handed over to the family without any medical examination.


22 buffaloes killed as trucks collide
Our Correspondent

Khanna, June 26
Twentytwo buffaloes and four persons were injured when a scrap-loaded truck rammed into another truck loaded with buffaloes near Mohan Pur village, 5 km from here today.

All the four injured were admitted to the Civil Hospital, Khanna, by the employees of the National Highway Authority of India.

Jaswinder Singh, driver of the scrap-loaded truck, said his truck was going to Mandi Gobindgarh from Ludhiana. When they reached near Mohan Pur village a truck (number H R 51 – C 9786) loaded with buffaloes rammed into his truck from the rear.

His truck overturned while the other’s body got divided into two pieces, which resulted in four persons getting injured. The injured persons were identified as Habib, a trader of animals, Shamshu Din and Sonu, all residents of Saharanpur district, and Mukhtiar Singh, a resident of Mehta Chowk in Amritsar district.

The condition of Habib is serious. Most of the buffaloes fell on the road as the body of the truck was broken after the accident.

Jaswinder Singh said that the truck coming from the backside was very fast and was trying to dodge a transport authority team.

Habib said that the driver of the buffaloes-loaded truck escaped unhurt in the accident and fled way from the spot.

He said a team of the National Highway Authority reached the spot and rushed the injured to the Civil Hospital, Khanna, where they were under treatment.


One arrested, two booked in death case
Our Correspondent

Malerkotla, June 26
The police has arrested a person and booked two others in the death case of a Paramjeet Kaur of Changli village whose body was found at Fridpur Kalan village on June 10.

The SHO, Mr Harjinder Pal Singh, said the body was found under mysterious circumstances. Some persons of the village took the body to the Malerkotla Civil Hospital for a post mortem examination.

It is said Maghar Singh of Changli village and Paramjeet Kaur of Ludhiana were married about six years ago. Before marriage, Paramjeet Kaur was a Muslim but she adopted Sikhism.

Maghar Singh has alleged that Harbans Singh of Shehbaz Pura village Daljit Singh of Raikot and Bhura Singh of Johlan were involved in her death.

During investigation, the police found that the accused were blackmailing her, due to which she consumed some poisonous substance. The accused got her admitted to a private hospital at Raikot, from where she was referred to Patiala.

When they were taking her to Patiala, she died on the way. They then threw her body at Fridpur Kalan village.

The police has arrested Harbans Singh.


2 cops nabbed for helping terrorists’ aide
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, June 26
The Sadar police, Hoshiarpur, has arrested two constables Deepak Kumar posted at Police Line and Manoj Kumar of PAP Battalion, Jalandhar, under Section 120-B IPC last night.

Mr Lok Nath Angra, Senior Superintendent of Police, Hoshiarpur, said constable Deepak Kumar had provided his police uniform to Romesh Kumar alias Mehshu, resident of Mohalla Aslamabad, for getting him photographed in police uniform to fix it on his fake identity card of a Police Head Constable. Constable Manoj Kumar had provided fake identity card to Romesh Kumar.

The SSP further said Romesh Kumar was a close associate of Babbar Khalsa International terrorists, Jaspal Singh Raja and Ashvani Dadwal alias Sonu alias Jangali.

He was arrested by Sadar police, Hoshiarpur, at Nangal Shaheedan on June 24, 2005 and a case under Sections 420, 465, 467, 471, 171, 489-C, 120 B and 392 of IPC had been registered in the Sadar Police Station, Hoshiarpur, against him.

One fake identity card posing him as a Police Head Constable and 10 notes of fake currency of Rs 500 denomination had been seized from him.

All the aforesaid accused were produced before the Duty Magistrate, Hoshiarpur, who granted police remand for all of them up to June 28, 2005.


Robbers strike at godown, watchman shot
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, June 26
Robbers struck at a scrap godown on the outskirts of Mandi Gobindgarh last night and allegedly murdered a watchman on duty. The second watchman saved his life by hiding himself.

The police has registered a case and started investigations. It has also taken into custody certain suspects.

It is learnt that two night watchmen were put on duty in a scrap godown belonging to Nakesh Steel Industries, Mandi Gobindgarh. At about 3 am four or five robbers scaled the boundary wall and entered the godown. One of the watchmen raised the alarm and the robbers fired at him, killing him on the spot.

He was later identified as Rajesh Kumar Yadav, a resident of Jhansi (MP), whereas the other watchman, Santosh Kumar Mishra, ran away and hid himself, escaping a bid on his life.

The robbers fled from the scene after committing the crime. Santosh Kumar immediately informed the godown owners, who came to the godown and also informed the police.

The owner took the injured watchman to the Civil Hospital, Mandi Gobindgarh, where he was declared brought dead. Senior police officers also visited the site of the crime and crime pressed into service a dog squad. They also called fingerprint experts.

Mr Harbans Singh, SHO, Mandi Gobindgarh, said the police was working on various theories from different angles.

He said personal enmity could also be a cause behind the incident. The police has started investigations.


Kerosene scam unearthed, 4 held
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, June 26
Vigilance sleuths yesterday arrested four persons including two officials of the Food and Civil Supplies Department, Punjab, for allegedly selling kerosene on the black market.

Mr Ram Asra, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Vigilance Bureau, Hoshiarpur, told mediapersons here today that the local Vigilance Bureau raided the business premises of M/s Puri Brothers, M/s Hakam Rai Labh Singh and Dialu Mal Gian Chand, all wholesale kerosene dealers of Indian Oil Company for Gurdaspur district in Pathankot.

During checking of their records, it was found that the firms used to sell kerosene in the Mukerian and Talwara areas on the black market since 1979. These firms had no licence for Hoshiarpur district. They used to sell kerosene meant for sale in Gurdaspur district in Hoshiarpur district in connivance with officials of the Food and Civil Supplies Department. Records from 2000 to 2003. revealed that the firms had sold 21,87,900 litres of kerosene in the Mukerian and Talwara areas in Hoshiarpur district.

Mr Ram Asra said Inspector Kamal Kumar, posted in the District Food and Civil Supplies Office, Hoshiarpur, Joginder Pal, at present Assistant Food and Civil Supplies Officer, Kapurthala, who was Inspector during the aforesaid period at Hoshiarpur, Darshan Singh, partner of M/s Hakam Rai Labh Singh, and Sunil Ghai, Manager Puri, Brothers, had been arrested.


2 killed in road mishap

Moga, June 26
Two persons were killed when their car collided with a truck near Baude village in this district today, the police said.

The deceased were identified as Jagsir Singh and Gurdev Singh, the police added.

The deceased were travelling from Barnala to Patnikalan in this district, the police said.  — PTI


PAU seeks Rs 100 cr from Centre
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, June 26
Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) has sought a one-time grant of Rs 100 crore from the Central Government on the pattern of the Indian Institute of Science and Technology, Bangalore, to intensify research on new aspects of agriculture, including diversification, biotechnology and reprocessing.

A corpus fund will be created with this grant which will enable the university to undertake better research work. At present, PAU is facing a serious financial crisis and a major thrust on research is lacking due to this.

In a communication to the Union Government, the Vice-Chancellor, Dr K.S. Aulakh, has stated that as a result of the overexploitation of natural resources and the ever-increasing cost of production, agriculture in Punjab has become highly unsustainable and uneconomical. The state has to reduce the area under paddy by at least 10 lakh hectares and divert it to other sustainable crops in the long run to conserve the state’s natural resources and increase farm profitability.

In view of the necessity of diversification in agriculture, it has become essential to redirect the research and development programmes for the generation of state-of-the-art technologies and the development of superior varieties of crops.

The Vice-Chancellor has pointed out that the university is mainly funded by state resources, but the pattern of funding is such that a major part of these finances is utilised as salaries. There is virtually no provision for contingencies to support research work under the state-sponsored non-Plan schemes, he has stated.

In order to ensure that PAU does not lag behind in developing much-needed advanced technologies, for which adequate funds are required, it is proposed to set up an agricultural research and development fund of Rs 100 crore. This amount will be used to support the corpus fund to earn a regular income. The research proposals for funding under this project will be formulated with the objectives of identification and development of new crops and varieties.


Govt schools fail to utilise grants
Perneet Singh

Tribune News Service

Mansa, June 26
While government schools across the state are crying for grants, some schools in this educationally backward district of the state have failed to utilise lakhs of rupees sanctioned to them.

Sources attribute non-utilisation of funds to differences between village panchayats and Village Education Development Committees. Ironically, those who had demanded grants for these schools themselves failed to make use of it.

Sources said the committees of Bir Khurd, Mehar Singh Wala, Khadak Singh Wala, Ghurkvi, Danewala, Talwandi Aklia, Ullak, Kanehri, and Harijan Basti, Bareta, failed to utilise Rs 1.2 lakh each granted to them for rooms and Rs 5 lakh for toilets and water supply despite strict instructions from the Deputy Commissioner. An amount of Rs 3 lakh granted to a school in Dashmesh Nagar, Bareta, for building could not be utilised. The school still has no building. Alisher Khurd panchayat could not use Rs 1.2 lakh granted for the room of headmaster.

Sources said these funds, sanctioned under the Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan, were supposed to be put to use before March 31, but due to alleged differences in committees and negligence of the people concerned these grants lapsed.

Similarly, the government had sanctioned Rs 35,000 each to various schools for water and toilet facility, but Bir Khurd, Dhaipai, Hirekala, Nandgarh, Harijan Basti, Jhunir, Deluana, Talwandi Aklia, and a few other villages failed to utilise it.

When contacted, the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Raj Kamal Chaudhuri, said the state government had sanctioned grants for 107 rooms in primary schools and 56 rooms in middle schools, while 398 schools were given funds for water and toilet facility.

He said about 90 per cent schools and panchayats had sent their grant utilisation certificates to the district officials and had made further demand as per their requirements.


College named after Gursewak Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 26
The Punjab Government has decided to name the Government College of Physical Education, Patiala, after late Principal Gursewak Singh, a former Vice-Chancellor of Punjabi University (Patiala), international hockey player and a member of the executive committee of the Indian Olympic Association.

Mr Tarlochan Singh, Chairman, National Commission for Minorities, who had taken up the issue with the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, after the death of Principal Gursewak Singh some months ago, said a copy of official notification had been received by him. The college would now be known as Principal Gursewak Singh Government College of Physical Education, Patiala.


Real estate prices crash, investors worried
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, June 26
Sudden crash in real estate prices has come as a nightmare for those who had invested money in the business hoping to cash in on it later. Today there are hundreds of people willing to sell their plots, but there are hardly any buyers in the city. Sources said many of these persons had almost finalised their deals, but the buyers went back on their word after making advance payments. New deals have come to a halt in both rural as well as urban areas. Sources said there had been a steep rise in real estate prices in the city for the last one year and land mafia made crores in a short span of time. Even the grocery shop owners jumped into the real estate business and the prices of plots doubled shortly. But, in the past two weeks there had been a sudden slump in the real estate market and the prices had come down by 15 to 20 per cent. Sources said the land mafia active in the city had stopped putting in money in the business and those who had bought plots from them were in a fix, as they could not find any new customer.

Sources said various land deals could not matrialise. In the past 20 days only 45 deals had broken, as none of the buyers reached the tehsil office for registration of property. The figure was 47 in the month of May. Earlier, there were only 21 such cases in January and February. Sources said only sometime back dozen registries of Gill Patti area were taking place, but now it had reduced to almost nil. Sources said a plot of 242 yards had a price of Rs 1.5 lakh in 2003, but the land mafia increased it to Rs 10 lakh. Now, all of a sudden the prices have become stable. Sources attribute this to the role of land mafia. Sources said there was a steep hike in the land prices near the proposed refinery in Rama Mandi, but currently there was some stability here too.

Sources said the land mafia struck gold on rumours like the bus stand was shifting out of the city, a Delhi-based company was carving out a new colony on the Mansa road, and Sahara was planning a colony on Goniana road etc. Sources said many people involved in property business turned millionaire overnight and every third person in the city became a property dealer hoping to make it big, but as of now the entire real estate market has plunged into gloom.

HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |