P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Tenure of delimitation panel extended
Centre to increase LS seats by 33 pc for women
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 19
While the Union Government today announced to bring a new draft of the Women’s Reservation Bill proposing 33 per cent increase in the Lok Sabha seats, it has also extended the tenure of the Delimitation Commission of India, headed by Justice Kuldip Singh, by one year. These 33 per cent seats will be reserved for women.

Informed sources told The Tribune today that the commission’s tenure, that was to end this month, had been extended till July 30 next year. Asked in this connection, Justice Kuldip Singh said the commission had received a communication from the Union Government regarding the extension in its term till July next year.

He, however, said the commission would finish the task assigned to it by March next year. “ I am doing my job fast and wanted to finish it at the earliest possible”, he said, adding that he had many other things to do. “Already the commission had completed the delimitation process of six states and of other four would be completed by November. “ We would finish the delimitation process of Punjab constituencies by September”, he added. All major political parties of Punjab are to meet the commission in Delhi on August 8 to discuss the delimitation of Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies.

However, as the Union Government announced to increase the Lok Sabha seats from existing 543 to 723, Assembly seats would also have to be increased in the same proportion. For instance, the number of Assembly seats would go up to 156 from existing 117 in Punjab, if the 33 per cent seats were increased.

It may be stated here that The Tribune was first to break the story that the Union Government was keen to increase the number of Parliament seats. This newspaper had reported a few months ago that the Union Home Minister, Mr Shivraj Patil, had told the Akali MP and former Union Minister, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, to convey to, Justice Kuldip Singh that he should slow down his work regarding the delimitation of constituencies because the Union Government was seriously thinking to enhance the number of Lok Sabha and Assembly seats in various states by presenting a new Women’s Reservation Bill in Parliament.

In the light of today’s development, Justice Kuldip Singh would have to begin a fresh the whole exercise of reorganising the Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies in the country. As per the earlier terms of reference, the commission was supposed to increase the number of reserve constituencies for the Scheduled Castes without enhancing the total number of Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies in respective states.

Asked about the latest development, Justice Kuldip Singh said he was not aware of it. “ I would have to go by what I got in writing from the Union Government in this connection”, he added. As I have no communication about the latest development, at the moment I am working as per the existing terms of reference of the commission, he added.

At present, Punjab has 13 Lok Sabha constituencies. However, with 33 per cent increase the number of these constituencies will go up to 17. And likewise, the number of Assembly seats will have to be increased from existing 117 to 156.


DGP Virk plays safe on Mann
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, July 19
Mr S.S. Virk, Director-General of the Punjab Police, today took a virtual U-turn asserting that he had never accused the Shiromani Akali Dal (A) chief, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, of bringing money to India from his foreign-based contacts.

He also denied that any ‘human bomb’ has been nabbed by the Punjab Police, so far.

Meanwhile, Mr Virk clarified that the ISI was not active in Punjab, but, in the same breath, said there was hardly any change in Pakistan’s policy of fomenting militancy in India.

Mr Virk, who was here to hold a meeting of heads of district police chiefs and other senior police officers of the Jalandhar Range, denied that he had ever levelled allegations against Mr Simranjit Singh Mann for bringing foreign money to India.

But at the same time, Mr Virk said that Mr Mann had been handed over a questionire, in which it had been asked as to whether he had been receiving foreign money and if yes, whether it had been duly accounted for?

He said any further action would be taken only after the police received answers of these questions from Mr Mann.

Referring to the terror generated by the arrest of alleged "human bombs", Mr Virk clarified that no "human bomb" had been arrested by the Punjab Police, even as the Delhi and Chandigarh Police claimed to have effected such arrests.

He further tried to remove the haze over human bombs by saying that no person could be described as a "human bomb" unless the explosion involving of a "human bomb" took place.

He, however, said as many as 66 terrorists had been arrested from Delhi, Punjab and Chandigarh.

Talking about the rising crime graph in the state, Mr Virk said all district police chiefs had been asked to make lists of anti-social elements, land mafia, unscrupulous travel agents, hawala dealers, those who were into usurping of lands forcibly or by deception and other criminals, so that a tab could be kept on their activities.

He asserted that all officers had been asked to deal with criminal elements sternly and firmly.


Terrorists going hi-tech, infiltration bids unabated, says General
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, July 19
Frustrated at their decreased strength in the Kashmir valley, terrorist groups are making desperate and increased attempts to infiltrate. The attempts of the terrorists have, however, been effectively thwarted by the Indian Army.

Lieut-Gen Hari Prasad, GOC-in-C, Northern Command, gave this information while talking to newspersons, here, today.

He was here to inaugurate a gate to the Pathankot Military Station named as "Triveni Dwar" which has been constructed in the memory of late Lt Triveni Singh.’

The General further said the terrorists had started using ultra-modern communication equipments. The Army had recovered satellite phones from many terrorists killed in encounters.

It was very difficult to keep track of the terrorists’ communication through satellite phone. However, despite all odds, the Army was trying to keep terrorism in check, the General added.

Following welfare programs launched by the Indian Army, the local support for the terrorists has also started dwindling.

More and more people are now coming forward to give information about the terrorists, he said.

While responding to a query, the General also said facilities for the kin of those killed in military operations were being increased.

Lt Triveni Singh attained martyrdom after killing two terrorists at the Jammu railway station on June 2, 2004.

He was awarded the country's highest peace time gallantry award Ashok Chakra, posthumously, on January 26, 2004.

Besides, the gate to the martyred officer's colony, known as South Colony, has now been named as ‘Triveni Vihar’.

Parents of late Lt Triveni Singh along with Brigadier R.K. Sharma Commander, 21 Sub Area, were also present on the occasion besides other civil and military dignitaries.

The Garrison Engineer (West), Pathankot, Mr Davinder Kumar, while talking to The Tribune said the 25 feet-high gate had been constructed in a record time of three months. The cost of the gate was Rs 6.08 lakh.


Hawara aides accept hand in attack on ashram
Kiran Deep
Tribune News Service

Ropar, July 19
Dharminder Singh, Amritpal and Sukhwinder, aides of the main accused in the Beant Singh assassination case, Jagtar Singh Hawara, were also involved in the bomb blast that took place in the ashram of Baba Piara Singh Bhaniarawale in Nurpurbedi a few months ago. The fact came to light during the interrogation of the three by the CIA staff today.

They were arrested by the police on the charge of possessing RDX and providing shelter to Hawara yesterday. The Ropar police today registered another case against them for hatching a conspiracy to eliminate Bhaniarawale this evening.

They revealed during the interrogation that they were against Bhaniarawale because they considered his preachings and literature against Sikhs. Due to this, they joined Hawara, but claimed that they had no link with the Khalistani movement.

One of Hawara’s accomplices, Dharminder Singh, told Chandigarh Tribune Hawara used him as he knew that he nurtured hatred against Bhaniarawale. Neither he had link with the Khalistani movement, nor did he believe in the demand for Khalistan, he said.

Giving details about his links with Hawara, he said Hawara met him in Morinda after five months of his escape from the Model Burail Jail. Thereafter, he motivated me to join him to eliminate Bhaniarawale.

“I came in contact with Hawara in 1999 when he was lodged in the Burail Jail. I was lodged in the jail in connection with a murder case. I used to play volleyball with Hawara. Hawara had given me black turban,” said 29-year-old Dhariminder.

“Hawara contacted me first time after his escape on phone. Without revealing his identity, he asked me about the turban he had given to me and then I identify him. Thereafter, he met me a number of times in Morinda. He asked Amritpal Singh, Sukhwinder and me to help him kill Bhaniarawale,” he said.


Listening to mentors cost Hawara dear
Rajmeet Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 19
In the first week of June this year, investigating agencies would have once again lost track of Jagtar Singh Hawara had he not paid heed to his mentors in Germany.

They had asked him to provide a hideout for the two accused in the Delhi cinema hall twin blast case, Jaspal Singh, alias Raja, and Vikas Sehgal, reveal sources in the police.

It was during the course of transit that Hawara, who had come in his black Hyundai Accent along with Jaspal and Vikas near the main gate of Punjabi University, Patiala, that he was nabbed by Delhi Police sleuths on June 7.

The Babbar was to hand over the duo to another contact for being taken to a hideout near Patiala. The contact, who was waiting in a black Tata Safari bearing the registration number of Haryana, drove away when he saw the trio being arrested.

The unsuspecting sleuths were rejoicing the arrest of Jaspal and Vikas and were not aware that the third person accompanying them was Hawara. They only realised that they had caught a big fish after the Babbar introduced himself to them. One of the investigating officers disclosed that Hawara sarcastically congratulated them for having nabbed him.

Sources in the police reveal after the arrest of Balvinder Singh and Jagannath in connection with the cinema blast, the special cell of Delhi Police tracked down the mobile numbers on which Jaspal would talk to the son-in-law of Wadhawa Singh in Germany.

Monitoring these calls, the police came to Chandigarh. A few days before the arrest of Hawara, the exchanges of cellular companies in the city became the control room of the sleuths.

The communication between Hawara and Jaspal revealed that they were going to Patiala. On the basis of the text of the communication between the duo, the police believes that Hawara did not know much about Jaspal and his plans.

While Hawara used to talk with Babbars in coded language, his communication with Jaspal was in plain language. The common contact between the two was the son-in-law of Wadhawa Singh. The police also intercepted a call in which Hawara had expressed his disagreement in carrying out the twin blasts.

After escaping from Delhi, Jaspal and Vikas had met Hawara at Dukh Niwaran Sahib Gurdwara, Patiala. Suspecting that police could track down Jaspal and his friend, Hawara had twice changed their hideout.


Curfew clamped on Gharsana
Our Correspondent

Abohar, July 19
The District Magistrate, Sriganganagar, Mr Kunji Lal Meena has clamped curfew on sub divisional town of Gharsana and the Rawla Mandi area.

Mr Meena made the announcement at a hurriedly convened press conference at Gharsana this evening. Mr Saurabh Srivastva was also present. Both senior most district officials had been camping at Gharsana since yesterday after clashes with the agitators who tried to jam traffic at sensitive junctions during the Chakka Jam call by the Kisan Beopari Majdoor Sangharsh Samiti. Mr Hemant Purohit Inspector General Police, also reached Gharsana and held meeting with the Deputy Commissioner and the SP.

Sources said the district authorities decided to put Gharsana and Rawla under curfew with effect from 10 pm today on receiving intelligence inputs suggesting that the samiti activists were planning to gherao office of the Sub Divisional Magistrate during a protest rally. Leaders of the CPM from New Delhi and state headquarters had given their consent to address the rally tomorrow.

Residents said vehicles fitted with loud speakers started moving in Gharsana and Rawla, immediately after the District Magistrate addressed the press conference, to inform the people about the orders. In December last curfew was imposed at such a short notice that some of the shopkeepers could not move out of their commercial establishments and spent seven days without proper food.

This time residents were asked through public address system to arrange essential commodities before 10 pm today. Shops were to be closed half an hour before the stipulated time. There was a heavy rush at vegetable, fruit and grocery shops as people were vying with each other to buy even poor quality vegetables and other essential commodities, witnesses said.


CPM workers protest against lathi charge
Our Correspondent

Abohar, July 19
CPM workers today marched to protest against police lathicharge and use of water canons on the farmers at Sriganganagar, 40 km from here. Different wings of the party carrying banners and placards condemning civil and police administration joined the procession, led by Mr Bhura Mal and Mr Naurang Lal. They marched through main roads of the city and converged at the office of the District Magistrate raising slogans from all corners of the complex. Officials tried to pacify workers by making it public today that former MLA and joint convener of Kisan Sangharsh Samiti Het Ram Beniwal, who was injured in the lathi charge by the police at Gharsana yesterday, was taken to Nokha Jail located on the Sriganganagar-Bikaner road. He was all right, officials claimed.

Security forces held a flag march in rural areas around Gharsana where farmers had clashed with the police during Chakka jam at the bridge of new grain market as uneasy calm prevailed in the border region. Officials said that five cases were registered at Anoopgarh, four at Gharsana and one at Bijanagar against scores of persons who allegedly threwing country-made bombs at the police besides hitting the force with lathies and sharp-edged weapons. The police refused to disclose names of the activists booked under different sections of the IPC for rioting. The police raided in some villages but functionaries of the samiti had already gone underground. Political activists and trade unions criticised the administration for clashes that took on Monday at least at five areas. The police had put even women activists in jails marked for men only at the police stations.


Spending to make CM inaccessible
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 19
Swank settings akin to those in an office of a multinational company, teakwood doors that open only when fed with an electronic code and an obtrusive electronic-gadget based security umbrella. All these make up for the new office of the Punjab Chief Minister, or the CMO, as it is known in its abbreviated form in official circles.

Located on the second floor of the Civil Secretariat here, the CMO has spent Rs 3 crore to renovate it. This has made access to the Chief Minister difficult, if not impossible. “It is like taking the government away from the people,” said a visitor while talking to The Tribune here today.

Sources in the Secretariat said all political delegations and persons who have grievances now prefer to call on the Chief Minister at his residence and not the CMO. The latter is for scheduled meetings with officials, planned appointments or for official work of the Chief Minister.

When renovation at the CMO was planned, very little change could be made to the exteriors of the 50-year-old building of the Secretariat designed by French architect Le Corbusier. The interiors have been changed to make it look like an “office of a leading company of the 21st century”.

Apart from the entry pass (commonly known as “entry parchi”) used for access to the Secraetariat, entry to the CMO is regulated through a separate photo ID-card-based system.

The Chief Minister, his immediate staff, including his Principal Secretary, his media adviser and other senior officers attached to his office, now sit in this exclusive zone.

Going right up to the Chief Minister is a task in itself. On reaching the second floor, the visitor is first asked by a securityman about his destination. After the routine check using a hand-held metal detector, the securityman sees the entry pass or the red card (issued to employees and mediapersons covering Punjab). The visitor is guided to a table where a computer monitor is placed. It has a small camera mounted on top of the computer screen. A photograph of the visitor is taken and the right thumb impression is taken digitally. The visitor puts the right thumb on a small gadget which records the impression and conveys it to the computer screen. The name and address of the person are also recorded.

A printout of the detail is taken and put into a transparent plastic ID card holder and the visitor has to sling it around his neck.

Once the photo ID card is made, the visitor has to again pass through a metal detector before reaching the first of the teakwood doors. A securityman feeds in an electronic code to open the doors. The walk through the corridor to reach the Chief Minister’s room is a distance of 100 ft. The latest glazed tiles dot the floor. The roof of this corridor has small overhanging black-coloured objects that look likes lamps but in reality these house hidden cameras. Before reaching the area where the Chief Minister has his room, one has to go through another check at another teakwood door.

From the point of view of security, movement in the corridors is watched through the cameras on a screen.

For mediapersons, a red card, issued by the administrative wing of the Civil Secretariat, has been allowed for entry purposes.


17-year-old girl raped at anganwadi
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, July 19
A 17-year-old daughter of a female worker at a aanganwadi centre in nearby Hirapur village was raped allegedly by a carpenter from the same village when the victim was working there in absence of her mother.

The accused, Sarbjit Sabi, was arrested immediately by residents of Hirapur village following an alarm raised by the victim.

Sabi was presented in the court of the Additional Sessions Judge, Mr K.K. Kareer, who remanded him in the judicial custody for a period of 14 days.

The 17-year-old victim was allegedly subjected to rape by the accused at about 7 pm on Sunday evening.

The victim was cleaning a room at the centre and was working as a substitute for her mother.

The said incident is said to have happened when Sabi, a carpenter by profession and a resident of Hirapur village, barged into the room being cleaned by the victim and locked it from inside. Thereafter, he allegedly raped her despite her resistence.

Victim’s shrieks attracted attention of some residents of the village, who converged at the place and thrashed the accused.

The accused, however, managed to escape from the custody of people and got himself admitted to the local Civil Hospital.

Mr Major Singh, ASI, and in-charge of the Basti Bawa Khel police post, said the accused was arrested after he was got discharged from the Civil Hospital by the police.

He said a case under Section 376 of the IPC had been registered against the accused.

Meanwhile, the victim alleged that Sarbjit Sabi had been eve-teasing her for quite sometime and she had dissuaded him from doing so a number of times.


Haunted by past, tormented by present
Former hostages now victims of false promises, debts
Kiran Deep
Tribune News Service

Dehlan, July 19
Even after a year, Antaryami, truck driver, still shudders thinking about 42 days of his captivity when he, along with six other truckers, was taken as a hostage by Iraqi militants.

Though he survived the ordeal yet he lost his passion for driving and has abstained from work since his release.

He spends time attending to household chores and remains confined to his home in the safe cosiness of his family members.

The seven captive truck drivers included three Indians — Antarymai, Sukhdev Singh and Tilak Raj — who were then employed by a Kuwaiti transport company.

A little known Iraqi militant group — Islamic Secret Army - Holders of Black Banners — took these truckers as captives from a checkpost near Fallujah on July 21, last year.

They were released later after spending six weeks in captivity on September 1, last year.

But the deadly experience has totally shattered Anataryami. He was the first hostage, among the seven, threatened to be killed by the militants if their demands were not met.

"It's the grace of God who brought me back to my hometown. Life is not same fo r me anymore. Neither I am excited about anything nor I have desire to achieve anything," says Antaryami, in the presence of his family members, at Dehlan village in Una district.

"After seeing death so closely during captivity, I did not get the courage to join any transport company and also lost the motivation to drive any private vehicle.

“For the first few months after the release, I met my relatives and visited many religious places to pay obeisance, but after that my life got confined to home only," he adds.

"The horrors of captivity still haunt me. The idea of losing family members, especially my 3-year-old daughter, was very painful when the militants paraded me in front of camera and made an announcement to kill me if their demands were not met," he recalls.

Among Antaryami's unforgettable memories are those of the hero’s welcome he received from the people of his hometown.

“Villagers were standing along both sides of road right from the entrance gate to Una,’’ he remembers. Rammurti, father of Antaryami, says that he has not forced his son to join any job. “He needs time to overcome the terror he has gone through. He is happy being with family members,” Rammurti says.

"We have taken up the matter with Himachal Pradesh Government to get Antaryami a job as promised by several Ministers during the hostage crisis. We have also met the Chief Minister and given him a representation but nothing has happened," he adds.

"I have no complaint against government as my son came back only with the effort of government and media which highlighted our plight," he said. But the story is entirely different in the case of Sukhdev Singh, one of the seven truckers taken captive.He still plans to go abroad, even to Kuwait, to earn money as a truck driver.

"Life is not easy here, I have to pay back a heavy loan that I had taken to recruit myself with Kuwait company last year," says Sukhdev Singh who hails from Makrona Kalna village.

"I have kept myself busy in agriculture work. But we do not have enough land to run family. I have old parents, brother and his family. All of us could not survive only the land we own,” he adds.

"I have met government officials and politicians to get a job which was promised to my family when I was in captivity, but all in vain. No one came forward, " Sukhdev Singh rues. “The thought of leaving the hometown is a difficult one. But I have been left with no option,” he says.


Better healthcare for Punjab prisoners in offing
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 19
Punjab would do well to pay its prisoners better than the dismal Rs 12 a day it is now paying.

It would also augur well for the state government to start caring for health, hygiene and welfare of the 15000 prisoners lodged in its 27 jails which have the capacity of just about 10,000.

The prisoners continue to use toilets without barracks, seek treatment from dispensaries of old designs, eat unhygienic food made in ill equipped kitchens and brave lung, skin and viral infections that are spreading faster due to neglect of basic hygiene inside prisons.

This and much more comprise the subject matter of the “Report on Prison Reforms in Punjab” which could not have been more blatant. Explicit and overt, it lists glaring deficiencies in the existing prisons’ realm, including poor living conditions for Punjab prisoners, congestion in jails, inadequate communication networks and security layouts inside prisons, lack of segregation of convicts leading to psychosomatic problems among them.

Objectively compiled, the report features several significant suggestions which, if implemented in right earnest, can put Punjab on the track of prison reforms. Most suggestions have been made to upgrade the quality of prisoners’ lives and ensure their proper rehabilitation.

Masterminded by Mr A.P. Bhatnagar, Adviser, Prisons Department, Punjab, the report, for the first time, lays great stress on segregation of convicts, as is practiced in most Commonwealth nations.

Speaking to The Tribune on the eve of the report’s release, Mr Bhatnagar said correctional services in Punjab jails needed to be improved drastically.

“We must start segregating convicts depending on the nature of crimes they have committed. We can’t view sexual offenders, drug peddlers and drug addicts with the same eye and expect them to behave normally after they have served their sentence. It is time to seek expertise in this regard from any of the Commonwealth countries who have upgraded their correctional services commendably,” he said, adding that regular psychiatric treatment for convicts with mental distortion must be introduced in jails immediately.

Healthcare provisions inside jails have also been reviewed extensively for the first time. It has been found that prisoners are increasingly suffering from communicable diseases due to frequent body contact.

To avoid the same, the report recommends construction of train like compartment births in jails. “Each such compartment should cater to four inmates and should have an attached toilet, and a separate cupboard. The design should be such as prevents body contact between prisoners,” said Mr Bhatnagar who has also stressed modernisation of kitchens and dispensaries in jails. He is for fitting kitchens with automatic vegetable peelers and chapati-making machines, and in using trolleys to supply food to inmates.

The report makes another ambitious suggestion to engage prisoners productively. It calls for setting up a corporation to run prison industries on profit making basis.

“The corporation should be allowed to strike partnerships with private sector which should provide for technical knowhow to manufacture products than can then compete in the open market. Such an arrangement will motivate prisoners to work harder.”


Irked over ‘police inaction’, Cong, workers
block GT road

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar July 19
Nearly 500 Congress workers and office-bearers, led by Maninderjit Singh Sikka, the state organiser of the Congress Sewa Dal, blocked the GT Road near local BSF chowk protesting against alleged failure of the Jalandhar police to arrest culprits, who, had attacked and injured Congress worker Charanjit Channi seriously at his BSF chowk residence, about three weeks ago.

Irked Congress workers and office-bearers also raised slogans against the Jalandhar police and alleged that the law and order situation was deteriorating and Congress workers and even common people, were being targeted by criminals openly.

Talking to The Tribune, Mr Maninderjit Singh Sikka, alleged that though the local police had registered a case against the identified accused under Section 307 of the IPC after the incident, but being influential, the accused was not being arrested by the police and he was roaming about freely.

According to Mr Maninderjit Singh Sikka, victim Charanjit Singh Channi, who ran a PCO at the BSF chowk and was a Congress worker as well, was attacked so badly with sharp-edged weapons that the attackers had left him for dead and he had to be treated in the ICU of a local hospital for a number of days.

Congress leaders, including, Kiran Sareen, the Block Congress Committee president, Sudesh Gulati, Gautamvir Singh and Dharmendra Sondhi also addressed the protesters, who blocked traffic at the GT road for about an hour, for which, the police had to divert vehicular traffic through alternative routes.

Mr Opinderjit Singh Ghumman, SP (Operation) and Mr S.K. Kalia, SP, reached the spot and pacified agitating Congress workers and on their assurance that the accused would be arrested shortly protesters lifted dharna and allowed vehicular traffic to move on the road.


Debt-ridden man disappears with family
Sanjay Bumbroo and Pawan Kumar
Tribune Reporters

Jandiala Guru (Amritsar), July 19
The disappearance of Mohinder Singh Bajaj and his family, who were caught in the vicious circle of debt trap continued to be shrouded in mystery.

Finding it difficult to pay back various loans taken from unscrupulous moneylenders and from a bank, an ailing Mohinder Singh, who is in his late 70’s along with his family of two sons and grandchildren, had gone into hiding seven day’s ago without giving any clue. The police has chosen a cautious approach although it had managed to get some definite clues.

According to information collected during the visit to small agriculture town on the main GT road, it was learnt that Mohinder Singh was a respected person in the area who got a number of loans to settle his family and marry four daughters.

The sources revealed that Mr Bajaj had started a small time business and later set-up a tent house which was converted into marriage palace over the years and continued to take heavy loans to offset his earlier loans at a hefty rate of interest which varied from 2 to 5 per cent per month which over shot the original amount by considerable sum.

According to rough estimate, Mr Mohinder Singh has taken loan amounting to Rs 20 lakh from a loan shark at 5 per cent per month to pay off the earlier debt and was caught in the vicious circle of moneylenders.

The family in its bid to send their ward Jatinder Singh, to Cyprus had taken a loan of about Rs 9 lakh from another moneylender but the travel agent duped him which resulted in total loss.

Meanwhile, contrary to the claims of the police that Mohinder Singh has sold his palace, the State Bank of Patiala, Manawala, today painted a notice on a wall of the Bajaj Marriage Palace saying that the property was pledged to them against a loan. The bank note said anybody dealing with the property would do so at their own risk and responsibility.

According to bank authorities, a loan of Rs 9 lakhs was pending against the marriage palace owner taken in 2001 for a period of five years. He, however, added that Mr Bajaj was regularly depositing the money but was unable to pay the principal amount.

The suicide note scribbled on the walls of their residence had alleged that besides Master Kulbir Singh Dhota, another moneylender Dimple Sethi of Shind Finance belonging to brother of Congress MLA were pressurising them to register the house and the palace on their names. 


Bir Devinder to skip grievances’ panel meeting
Tribune News Service

Ropar, July 19
The Kharar MLA and former Deputy Speaker, Punjab, Vidhan Sabha, Mr Bir Devinder Singh, today decided to stay away from the grievances’ committee meeting headed by the Education Minister, Mr Harnam Dass Johar, to be held on July 22 at Mohali in the district.

The reason he cited was that there was no use of attending the meeting as the grievances’ committee had failed to solve the grievances of the people in the past and it was a wastage of four to five hours to attend the meeting.

“I will also take up the matter with the Chief Minister to take action against the officials who ignore the problems of the people,” he added.

Mr Bir Devinder was here to discuss the problems of the people of his areas with the Deputy Commissioner, Mr H.I.S Garewal. The grievances’ committee meeting is held every month in the district under the chairmanship of the Education Minister, Mr Harnam Dass Johar, to solve the grievances of the people of the district.

The meeting is attended by the MLA of the district and leaders of the various political parties and senior officers.

“I will not attend any meeting of the grievances’ committee as it serves no purpose and the grievances of the people could not be solved here. It happened many times in the past. The same problem of the people continued to be listed in six consecutive meetings but it yielded no results,” Bir Devinder Singh told The Tribune.

“I have held meetings with the Deputy Commissioner and discussed the problems being faced by the people of my area.

When he was questioned as to why no action was taken against land mafia when the problem was listed so many times in the meeting, he said that certain people were a part of the land mafia. They had connections with politicians and also the administration.


Drain out water from villages: MLA
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, July 19
Akali Dal MLA Manpreet Singh Badal today demanded immediate draining out of water from a dozen villages in Muktsar district that have been flooded following rains.

“Standing water is an invitation to an epidemic and the administration has failed to react to the emergency,” the Gidderbaha MLA said in a statement issued here. He stated that large parts of villages were submerged and no attempt had been made to drain out water. Khidkianwala, Sukhna, Lohara, Doda, Dhulkote and Buttershri were among the most affected villages. Mr Manpreet Singh demanded that water should be drained out immediately.

He regretted that the administration could not even provide polythene sheets to those who had lost their homes due to rain. “A Rs 200-worth of polythene sheet is the least that the administration could have provided to the villagers,” he remarked.

He said the administration had refused to provide diesel to run the pumpset to drain out water. “So far no official of the Revenue Department has visited the affected villages,” he added.

Mr Manpreet Singh said he had informed Irrigation Minister Lal Singh about the impending disaster during the Budget session of the Punjab Assembly. He said the minister was told that the drains had not been cleared for the past three years. The minister had issued the House that money for clearing the drains had already been sent. He had promised that all the drains would be cleared by June-end.


Village Development Fund set up
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 19
The Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB) and the state Finance Department joined hands to create a Village Development Fund of Rs 750 crore, here today. This money will be used to launch a scheme to provide civic amenities in villages.

In the first phase of the scheme Rs 375 crore will be spent to provide amenities in 750 villages. The fund will be used for providing low-cost sewerage and toilets and the paving of streets. Another 750 villages will be covered in the next phase, a government spokesperson said.

A decision in this regard was taken by the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, while presiding over a meeting to review the development of infrastructure in villages. Already, the PIDB had cleared some projects covering 389 villages at an estimated cost of Rs 117 crore. The survey and design of these projects would be prepared by the Punjab State Council for Science and Technology and the Department of Water Supply and Sanitation.

The spokesperson further said the Chief Minister also reviewed the progress of work on link roads. All roads would be repaired by September 30.

Reviewing other infrastructure works, the spokesman added that the Chief Minister was informed that out of 108 works allotted under the Rural Infrastructure Development Fund, 50 had been completed and the rest were likely to be completed by March 31, 2006.


Plots for poor SC families in villages
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 19
The Punjab Government has launched a scheme to allot plots to Scheduled Castes families living below the poverty line in the rural areas.

Under the scheme plots of 10 marlas (250 sq yd) will be allotted to poor Scheduled Castes families on panchayat land. An area of 5 marlas is meant for the construction of a house and 5 marlas can be used as open space for other purposes. If the plot is not available in the vicinity of a village, the land for the allotment of the plot will be purchased by the state government.

A government spokesperson said the cost of the land would be no more than Rs 25,000. The second component of the scheme was a grant of Rs 20,000 for each housing unit. This would be for the construction of a new house or the renovation of an existing kutcha or dilapidated house. There were 2.63 lakh SC families living below the poverty line.


No shifting AC, says Civil Surgeon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 19
Reacting to a news-item “Operation theatre’s AC finds way to CS’ home” published in these columns on July 4, the Patiala Civil Surgeon, Dr Y.P. Singla, has clarified that no air conditioner was ever shifted from Nabha civil hospital’s mini operation theatre to his residence.

Referring to a letter written by him in this regard to Punjab’s Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, Dr Singla said he had so far not even occupied the residential accommodation meant for the Civil Surgeon. The building, he said, was in a “poor condition” and had not been repaired for past seven years.

Dr Singla said Nabha civil hospital’s Senior Medical Officer (SMO) was also contacted in the matter. The SMO told him that a surplus air conditioner had indeed been sent to Patiala, but for repair. After the rectification of the fault, it had been returned to the Nabha hospital. The news-report, Dr Singla concluded, had been published with malafide intentions.

The Tribune Correspondent adds: I stand by my story. The story was filed in the interest of patients visiting the Nabha hospital. There was no mala fide intention.


Free chest diseases check-up camp
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, July 19
A free chest diseases and TB check-up camp was today organised by the Nishkam Sewa Samiti at Sri Guru Ravidas Dharamshala at Dhuri. Dr Surinder Singla, Medical Officer-cum-In charge of the District TB Centre, Sangrur, was the key speaker at the camp.

Dr Singla urged the gathering to rule out TB in persons having cough or fever of more than three weeks duration, besides complaints of loss of appetite, loss of weight, and blood in cough, etc. He said under the Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP) complete treatment of TB patients was done free of cost.

Dr Rishi Pal Singh, SDM, appealed to all the social organisations and the NGOs to create awareness among common masses at a war footing about the TB disease by telling the people that TB was a fully curable disease.

About 200 patients, suffering from TB and chest diseases, were examined at the camp. Medicines were given free of cost to the patients.

Among others, who addressed the camp, were Mahasha Partigiya Pal, Mr Harbans Lal Goyal, both social worders; Mr A.R. Sharma, an industrialist; Dr O.P. Khangwal, District TB Officer, Sangrur; Dr Anup Kad, SMO, Dhuri Civil Hospital; and Dr Vijay Kumar, Nodal Officer, TB Control, Dhuri Civil Hospital.


Lions Club holds medical camp
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 19
The Lions Club, Patiala Fort, in association with the State Bank of Patiala, organised a medical camp at Jasdev Singh Sandhu Public School, Kauli.

According to the press note issued here today, as many as 250 students were examined for various dental and eye related ailments. The students of the primary wing were given tooth brushes and toothpastes.

On the occasion, Mr K.S. Sandhu, Assistant General Manager, SBoP, advised the students to fully take care of the their eyes and teeth.


Blow horn, invite trouble
Tribune News Service

Phagwara, July 19
The traffic wing of the police launched its drive against pressure-horns, here, yesterday.

Traffic in-charge Sucha Singh said as many as 200 pressure-horns were removed from buses outside the local bus stand. Even two-wheelers, using pressure-horns, were not spared.

The drive started in the morning and went on till late in the evening. The emphasis of the drive was on keeping a special check on vehicles using such horns.

Sources said the police was also cracking down on people who were using pressure-horns on two-wheelers in the interiors of the city.

“We have received complaints from residents that youths zoom around in the city blaring the pressure-horns causing noise pollution, they added.


Book colonisers, PUDA asks govt
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, July 19
After publication of a news item on July 6, “Hilly terrain being razed”, PUDA has swung into action and recommended to the Punjab Government to register criminal cases against the colonisers involved in carving up an illegal colony at Badhani village.

Colonies along the foothills of the Shivaliks have been posing a threat to environment.

According to sources, the colonisers from this town had carved up colonies by razing forests and hilly terrain in violation of the forest Act and the Punjab Property and Apartment Regulation Act. The colonisers had reportedly covered a portion of a rivulet of the Chakki river and converted it into plots.


Anganwadi workers to hold protest
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, July 19
To protest against the withdrawal of work from two anganwadi workers, the Anganwadi Workers Union will stage a dharna in front of the Finance Minister Surinder Singla’s residence here on July 25. The union has also given an ultimatum of seven days to the state government to withdraw its decision.

Addressing a press conference here today, the state union president Ms Hargobind Kaur, said if the issue was not resolved till July 25 they would launch a relay fast in Bathinda and Chandigarh from July 26. She said the union’s office-bearers from every block of the state were sending telegrams to the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, to make him aware of the truth.

She said the state government had exposed its “real face” by removing the anganwadi workers who spoke the truth and helped in unearthing rotten food scam. She said if these workers were not reinstated then they would launch an indefinite stir.

The union leaders demanded that the state government should take over anganwadi centres being run by the Child Welfare Council in Bathinda. Tarsika, and Sidhwa Bet. They also sought the removal of council Secretary Uma Ratra.


Bank men hold rally
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 19
On a call given by the United Forums of Bank Employees Federation (UFBEF), a rally was held in front of State Bank of Patiala head office on bank’s nationalisation day.

The rally was also held in culmination of United Forum of Bank Unions campaign launched to press the authorities concerned for effective recovery of loans.

The rally was addressed by Mr Yog Raj Gupta, vice president, Punjab Bank Employees Federation; Mr Gurbax Singh Dhillion, secretary, Punjab Bank Employees Federation; Mr S.K. Gautam, general secretary, SBOP Employees Union; Mr K.K Sehgal, joint secretary, SBOP Employees Union.


DPO refutes news report
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, July 19
The District Programme Officer has refuted the news report “Rotten eatables — anganwadi in charge punished” carried in The Tribune yesterday saying palatable food articles were supplied to anganwadis of Nehiawala and Mehma Sawai on July 11.


high court
Member challenges wakf board dissolution
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, July 19
The Punjab and Haryana High Court today issued notice of motion for July 29 on a petition filed by a Member of the now-dissolved Punjab Wakf Board.

The Member, Mufti-ul-Rehman, has challenged the decision of the Punjab Government to dissolve the board, alleging that it was done only at the behest of the Chairperson, Ms Razia Sultana.

Bitter infighting among the Members and the Chairperson, who is Congress MLA from Malerkotla, had practically brought the functioning of the board to a standstill. At least two petitions filed by Ms Sultana, one challenging the appointment of Punjab Police ADGP Mohd Izhar Alam as CEO and the second challenging her removal as Chairperson by the Members, are pending in the High Court.

In his petition, the Mufti, who is founder-member of the All-India Muslim Law Board, has stated that the decision to dissolve the board was taken only to remove the Members opposed to Ms Sultana.

After hearing counsel, the Bench of Mr Justice N.K. Sud and Mr Justice Virender Singh issued notice to the respondents.

Mann case

Mr Justice A.K. Goel of the High Court on Tuesday gave one weeks’ time to the Punjab Police to pursue the investigation in the sedition case of Akali leader Simranjit Singh Mann.

During resumed hearing of the bail plea filed by Mr Mann, the State Government counsel strongly opposed grant of bail to the petitioner. He also produced a transcript of the speech allegedly delivered by Mr Mann on the basis of which Section 121 of the Indian Penal Code had been added to the FIR. He also claimed that the police had evidence that Mr Mann was receiving money from abroad to foment trouble here.

However, Mr Mann’s counsel objected to the same and vehemently denied that his client had made any such speech. He claimed that his client was only exercising his rights in a democracy and had neither indulged in acts of violence nor ever incited others to do so.

Mr Mann has been lodged in Ludhiana Jail since June 14 on charges that he and his followers raised the demand for Khalistan and raised pro-Khalistan slogans at a rally. His bail application was earlier dismissed by a Ropar court, following which he approached the High Court.

The hearing will now resume on July 26.

Plea dismissed

The High Court on Tuesday dismissed a petition seeking Z plus security for Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Chander Mohan and his MP brother Kuldeep Bishnoi.

The petitioner, Mr Viresh Shandaliya, who is Chairman of the Haryana unit of the All-India Anti-Terrorist Front, had stated that Mr Chander Mohan and Mr Bishnoi faced threat to their lives as had transpired from the interrogation of terrorist Jagtar Singh Hawara.

During interrogation, he reportedly said that he and his accomplices had planned to assassinate former Haryana Chief Minister Bhajan Lal. Mr Bhajan Lal is the father of Mr Chander Mohan and Mr Bishnoi. However, the Bench of Chief Justice Mr Justice D.K. Jain and Mr Justice Hemant Gupta did not agree with the contentions.


Octroi contractor, son booked on theft charge
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, July 19
The district police has registered a case against octroi contractor of the Sirhind-Fatehgarh Sahib Municipal Council on a complaint of the manager of a courier company for allegedly stealing 10 mobile phones and other equipment from a packet at the octroi post. The police has also booked his son, who is partner in the firm. Both are at large.

Mr Ramandeep Singh, SHO, Sirhind, told The Tribune that Mr Manoranjan Sharma, manager of the On Dot Courier and cargo Ltd., had complained to the Deputy Commissioner and the SSP that on July 6 five packet containing 115 mobile phones and other equipment belonging to Reliance came through their courier but the bills and octroi draft of these packets came on July 12.

When he went to collect the packets from the octroi post, he was surprised to see that four packets were sealed, whereas the fifth was not.

The manager complained to the municipal council Executive officer, and the octroi contractor that 10 mobile phones and other equipment were missing but no one heard his grievances. He then complained to the police.

The SHO said the SSP marked an inquiry and employees of the octroi recorded their statements with the police that the octroi contractor had taken these packets to his residence and he might have stolen the phones. He said the previous record of the octroi contractor was not good and he was facing many cases. He said a case had been registered against Amarjeet Singh Chadha and his son Money Chadha on theft charge.

The octroi contractor told The Tribune on the phone that he was not involved in any theft case and the police had registered a false case against him.


Man booked for raping stepdaughter
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, July 19
Sonu Sharma has been booked for raping his stepdaughter here. The accused, who hails from Ludhiana, has absconded.

Police sources said the father of the rape victim, Mr Ashok Kumar, had died in an accident when she was just a year old. Later, her mother got married to a Ludhiana resident. Her elder sister started living with her maternal grandparents. About four years ago the victim’s family had shifted to Partap Nagar, Bathinda. The victim alleged that her stepfather raped her in January this year when nobody was at home. Her stepfather continued committing the crime when ever they were alone. A few months ago when she started vomiting her mother took her to the local Civil Hospital where her pregnancy came to light.


Mother kills 2 daughters, self
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, July 19
In a shocking incident, Amrik Kaur, wife of Gurmukh Singh Mokha of Bal village, killed her two daughters before committing suicide herself, while her son survived the fatal attempt.

According to information, the mother mixed some poisonous substance in lemonade and fed her three children, including two girls. The two girls, Rajwinder Kaur (11) and Harpreet Kaur (8), died in the hospital today, while nine-year-old Taranpreet escaped.

The incident that happened in Ajnala tehsil sent shockwaves all over Ajnala.

The police claimed that the woman was mentally disturbed for the past one year. The police has registered a case and send the bodies for a post-mortem examination.


No breakthrough in student murder case
Our Correspondent

Barnala, July 19
Even after five days of concerted efforts, police has failed to apprehend Gurmeet Singh, alias Kaala, main accused in July 14 clash between two groups near Railway Crossing here in which one student was killed and five others had sustained injuries. Kaala and his accomplice, Dhanna Singh, are still at large.

According to sources, raiding police parties had been sent to various places but so far the police had not got any success in apprehending the two accused in this incident.

It has been reliably learnt that the bone of contention between Kaala and Bitta, two warring groups, was the “underhand lottery business”. These two warring groups heads also enjoyed political patronage.

Th police has still to find out whose pistol shot killed Harjot Singh aged about 19.He belonged to the Kaala group.

Five others, including Mr Karamjit Singh Bitta, municipal councillor, Barnala his accomplices Mota Singh, Harbans Singh, alias Bansi, two-passersby Ramesh Kumar, alias Meshi, and Beant Singh sustained injuries in this brawl.

The police has booked six persons.


Father runs away with son
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, July 19
The feud between a husband and his wife took an ugly turn today when the husband stormed into the house of his estranged wife living separately in her parents home, thrashed her and ran away with his 11 month-old son after snatching him from the mother.

It was learnt this afternoon that Neeraj of Nihgahan mohalla Mehligate and Madhu of Bedian mohalla in the same locality had solemnised love marriage about two years ago.The couple was blessed with a son.

However, both fell apart three months ago. Madhu started living separately along with the child at her parents home after a dispute with.

The matter has been reported to the police.

It was learnt that search was on for Neeraj and the child.


Credibility of Baba Farid varsity dips
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Bathinda: There is a question mark over the credibility of Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, which has become merely a body for conducting examinations.

The university had kindled a ray of hope for the educationally backward Malwa region. Now known for goof-ups in examinations, it was a gift from a doting father to his son’s Lok Sabha constituency. The father was the then Chief Minister of Punjab, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, and the son Faridkot MP Sukhbir Badal. It was a politically motivated decision and the Akali regime never made sincere attempts to make it a university in the real sense of the term. Interestingly, the university came up with the taking over of the Akali regime in 1998 and Mr Badal had full five years to nurture it.

Although about 150 acres worth crores of rupees were acquired on the Talwandi road for setting up the infrastructure of the university, it is yet to acquire a boundary wall. The land is now being used for holding the monthly cattle fair, while the university continues to be run from rented accommodation of the Tourism Department. The university has neither teaching staff nor research facilities on its campus. The Rs 70-crore project for the providing the infrastructure could not take off due to fund shortage.

The university began on a promising note with Dr Livtar Singh Chawla taking over as its first Vice-Chancellor. He resigned after about a year and a half due to “personal reasons”. Sources say the real reason behind his resignation seemed to be a law passed by the Punjab Government. Under the Act, the Vice-Chancellor had not been made chairman of the Board of Management unlike other universities in the country.

Dr J.S. Gujral then took over the reins of the university on January 3,2000. The sources say soon he became the “lone power centre” and the successive registrars found themselves toothless, which spurred their exodus from the university. There have been five registrars in the past seven years. The three-year term of the Vice-Chancellor, who is a former Dean of the PGIMER, was extended in 2003.

The sources attribute various anomalies in the university to the recruitment of retired and temporary staff. People from certain cities of the state were allegedly given priority in recruitment irrespective of their qualifications. There were reports in a section of the media that the university compromised on prerequisites while filling certain higher posts. The sources say the appointment of certain persons with a “dubious” background to various key posts also hit the credibility of the university.

Over the years the university has only been conducting examinations and in that, too, it has failed miserably. Its lackadaisical approach can be gauged from many goof-ups in the PMET prospectus year after year. PMET aspirants lose sleep even before the examination as they are not sure whether their froms will be accepted. Also, unlike other universities, its process of setting question papers lacks secrecy. The sources say the university had identified some teachers for examination evaluation work and papers were often sent to them. The police probe into the PMET paper leak revealed that a peon used to take bribes for manipulating the marks of students.

The university proposed to take over Guru Gobind Singh Medical College and Hospital for studies and research, but this is yet to materialise. The university runs only a college of nursing.

The seizure of the previous year’s PMET result records, audit report and appointment records by the Vigilance Bureau shows that its credibility has hit an all-time low.


Budha Dal students win NASA contest
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 19
Students of Budha Dal Public School (BDPS) once again did the country proud by wining the 12th International Space Settlement Competition oganised by the Aeronautical Society of India at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

This is the second successive win for the school as it comes close on the heels of their performance in the same competition held in 2004.

“Our students were adjudged best both in design as well as in presentation,” said a visibly elated Principal, Ms Amrit Kaur Aujla.

The team which brought laurels included Navneet Kaur, Sahil Arora, Samrat Singh, Aaysuh Rai, Navnider Singh Saini, Harleen Kaur, Saurbh Anand, Ikwinder Kaur Chadha, Rahul Singh, Manpreet Kaur, Amiteshwar Singh, Kamalpreet Kaur. The team was accompanied by the its advisors Mr Nikhil Arora and Ms Anita K.J. Singh.

The Principal said the credit goes to the students and teachers who had burnt midnight oil for nearly two months. She said it was a tough competition as the students had to compete with the best teams of the world and prepared the project by working continuously for 43 hours. However, she lamented that although students of the school won this contest last year, nobody came forward this year to sponsor the team.

She added that they had also contacted Mr Kapil Sibal, Science and Technology Minister, but to no avail.


Vegetable market lacks basic amenities
Bharat Bhushan Dogra

PATHANKOT: Poor sanitation coupled with the negligent and callous attitude of the authorities concerned have made life of city residents miserable.

Big heaps of garbage lying in the new fruit and vegetable market developed near the railway station here exposes the poor functioning of the health and sanitation wings of the municipal council. As a result residents, shopkeepers as well as transporters all face problems.

Mr Pankaj Tuli, Mr Suresh Kumar, Mr Ajay Kumar an Mr Vimmi, all office bearers of the Arhtiya Union of the subzi mandi said the heaps of garbage lying at various places in the market had made the life of shopkeepers miserable. They fear outbreak of epidemic diseases any time with the start of the monsoon. Cattle keep roaming in the subzi mandi in search of rotten vegetables and fruits, they added.

They said the municipal authorities had not made any proper arrangements to lift the waist and garbage from the mandi. They resented the attitude of the authorities for realising the taxes from the businessmen with a promise to providing basic amenities like good roads, clean drinking water, and sanitation but doing nothing to improve conditions in the subzi mandi.

They said because of the poor sanitary conditions, customers avoided the mandi. They urged the authorities to take the matter seriously and make proper arrangements to improve the conditions in the subji mandi.


Mansa, Rampura Phul to have modern cotton markets
Tribune News Service

Kapurthala, July 19
The Technology Mission on Cotton (TMC), Government of India, has sanctioned projects of Modern Cotton Markets at Mansa and Rampura Phul at a cost of Rs 3.96 crore. Mr Sukhbinder Singh Sukh Sarkaria, Chairman, Punjab Mandi Board, stated this here yesterday.

The Chairman who was here to inaugurate Zila Mandi Bhavan said while the proposal for establishing the other two cotton markets in the state had already been sent to the TMC, the cases for the development of Abohar, Bathinda, Gidderbaha and Kotkapura mandis have also been forwarded.

In addition to it, the proposal of constructing cold stores to preserve fruits and vegetables to grant relief to the growers is also under the consideration of the board, said the Chairman.

To provide better infrastructure to farmers, the board has repaired 17235 km of roads at a cost of Rs 678 crore in the state in the past three years, claimed Mr Sukh Sarkaria.

Earlier, the Chairman presided over a function in connection with the taking over of the new team of the District Market Committee, Kapurthala, under the chairmanship of Mr Surjit Singh Sandhu, a farmer of Arianwala village.

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