P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Heart patients being ‘used’ as guniea pigs?
Unauthorised stents find their way to north India
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, August 1
Heart patients, going in for interaventional treatment, are at the risk of being used as guinea pigs a large quantities of unauthorised and unapproved drug eluting stents (DESs), imported by obscure companies and manufactured by the non-Federation of Drug and Administration (FDA-USA) approved small facilities of China, the Netherlands, Israel, Korea and France, are allegedly being pushed into north-India market by about 15-20 obscure companies based in different parts of the country.

Interestingly, the non-FDA-USA or non-CE approved DESs were banned in almost all of countries of their origin.

Nearly, about 100-125 DES are used in about 14-15 hospitals of Punjab and about 1,000 in other heartcare hospitals of north India, including Delhi, in a month. But, unfortunately, there is no authority at the Centre and at the state level, which, could regulate the inflow and ensure quality control of these major devices, used in angioplasty, even, as the Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, recently assured the Drugs Consultative Committee (DCC) that the setting up of an independent drug authority on the lines of FDA in next two years to ensure the quality control of drugs and medical-related devices.

The Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cracked down on about 20 distributing companies of DESs last month and apart from sealing their non-FDA-USA and non-CE (European Standards) stocks of DESs has asked them to show some certification, if they have any, within a two months’ time.

Drug eluting stent (DES) or non-DES is a mesh like expandable device, which, is used to remove blockage in blood vessles, especially, of the heart in the post-angioplasty or post-heart intervention period to reduce the chances of re-clogging of arteries after surgical intervention. The first DES, the advantage of which is that for being drug coated and polymer supported sustained-release of drug from it prevents inflammation of the arteries automatically for different periods, ranging between 15 days to over 45 days was introduced in India in 2003.

While the non-FDA or non-CE approved DESs were available in India for anything between Rs 40000 and Rs 55000, the FDA and CE approved DESs, which, are being supplied in India by just two companies, are available for Rs 1 lakh or Rs 1.2 lakh.

“The problem started in north India, where, these non-FDA and non-CE approved DESs made inroads after 2003, when, many obscure companies dumped their products in India and a price war got initiated between heartcare hospitals.

For these two factors, unauthorised stents, which, were hardly backed up with reliable and mandatory human test reports, came into circulation and everyone tried to fill his pockets with huge margins, which, were, particularly, high in case these were passed off to innocent patients at prices of reliable devices. In case of non-FDA or non-CE approved DESs, nobody, was able to measure the quality or quantity of all three components of the product-the metal stent, a polymer and the drug.

But, the problem surfaced when the patient came with same heart problem for which he had undergone surgery,” said one of trade sources and a leading cardiologist, who, requested anonymity.

These sources said after crackdown on them in Maharashtra and ban imposed by two major cardiac centres of Delhi, the lesser known companies dealing in non-FDA and non-CE approved stents, started targeting north India in a big way. But hardly any cardiologist was ready to come out with exact details. “Why should we make enemies in our fraternity?” questioned a doctor, when contacted by The Tribune.

In view of Dr. Balraj Gupta, a cardiologist at local Rattan Hospital, there is hardly any effect of surgical intervention in case of longevity of life of a person at all.

“Fakes are everywhere and in all spheres of life and so is case in a medical field. So there is a chance that certain people of the fraternity could be pocketing huge cost gaps,” said Dr. Balraj Gupta.

Dr. C. S. Pruthi, MD of the local BBC Heartcare Centre, advised that doctors and patients should ensure that only FDA-USA approved stents are used to avoid re-blockadge of arteries as chances of re-blockage are between 15 and 40 per cent and one of major factor involved is quality of stents. “Since, it is in our hands to ensure quality, we must not compromise on it,” said Dr Pruthi.

Dr Vijay Mahajan Managing Director of the Tagore Heartcare Centre said in no case, stents of obscure origin should be used as this could land the patient up in the hospital once again and make him bear cost of heart operation again.

Trade sources pointed out that since there was no check or regulation to prevent the use of “unauthorised’ stents in Punjab, Haryana and Delhi at the government-level, such stents could be finding their way to cities of Delhi, Gurgaon, Amritsar, Ludhiana and even Chandigarh in a big way.


Kin of youths lodged in jails write to Musharraf
Perneet Singh

Tribune News Service

Moga, August 1
Disillusioned with the state and Central governments, family members of about 60 Punjabi youths today shot off a missive to the Pakistan President, General Pervez Musharraf, seeking release of their sons, brothers, and husbands from Pakistani jails. They rued that when they approached the Punjab Chief Minister, they didn’t even get an appointment with him.

Talking to The Tribune at Gurdwara Rabjee Trust here today, Kamaljeet Kaur of Rajpura said her husband, Karnail Singh, had left for Italy after paying Rs 4 lakh to a travel agent, but he didn’t reach there. His son Bhinder Singh said that the travel agent assured them of a direct visa to Italy, but they were stunned when they received a mail from Karnail Singh lodged in a Pakistani jail. Karnail was caught while crossing over to Greece from where he was deported to Pakistan.

Having no source of income, his family is now putting up at a relative’s place. Surjit Singh of Nawanshahr said he sold off his land in Rs 3 lakh to send his brother Mahinder Singh to Greece, but he was nabbed in Iran.

In a letter sent from Kot Lakhpat jail of Pakistan, Mahinder Singh had narrated the sorry state of Punjabi youths lodged in that jail.

Santokh Singh of Kaithal village said he had talked to a travel agent for sending his 17-year-old son Karamjeet to Greece, but he usurped a huge amount and he was nabbed in Turkey. He said that he had gone to meet the Punjab Chief Minister for his son’s release, but he didn’t give him time.

He said he had met some top leaders of the country, including AICC chief Sonia Gandhi, but nobody helped him. They came to know about their son’s presence in Pakistan when they received a phone call.

Similarly, 22-year-old Rajbir Singh of Dumchheri village had boarded a plane with dreams of making it big, but was caught at Turkey border. His brother Harpreet Singh said his whole family was concerned about him since they received a letter on his poor condition inside jail.

Meanwhile, the chief of Bhai Mardana Yadgari Kirtan Darbar Society, Mr Harpal Singh Bhullar, revealed that Punjabi youths lodge in Pakistani jails went on a hunger strike from July 8 to 11 to protest against the conditions prevailing inside jails. He said all these youths lost their money. In a bid to move abroad, they landed up in Pakistani jails. He said he had written a letter to the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, stating that as per international norms, every person has a right to fight a legal battle for his kith and kin lodged in other country’s jail, which is not the case in India and Pakistan. He sought immediate measures for the release of 62 Punjabi youths lodge in Pakistani jails.


Delay in unit renovation costs PSEB Rs 50 lakh daily
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur August 1
The eight months delay in the renovation of the unit number 2 of Guru Nanak Dev Thermal Plant, Bathinda, has started raising hackles in the PSEB. The PSEB is losing 26.5 lakh units or more than Rs 50 lakh daily due to this.

Tenders for the renovation and modernisation of the unit were called by the PSEB in 2001. Four companies — Skoda, L&T, Nasl and BHEL, bid for the work. The bid of Skoda was lowest at Rs 200 crore. The initial bid of Nasl that has collaboration with Alstrom and National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) was Rs 248 crore. In post-tender negotiations, held by a committee headed by former Chairman Sudhir Mittal, Nasl had lowered its bid to Rs 180 crore.

After securing the bid, Nasl got certain terms and condition of agreement modified. Alstrom and NTPC were exempted from the liability for delay or poor quality work.

The work for renovating the unit was started in March 2004. It was scheduled to be completed in November 2004. However, till today the work has not been completed.

Sources in the PSEB said Nasl had sub-contracted some works. The dismantling of the boiler that was scheduled to take just one month took about four months. As per agreement, the company was to supply new steam valves. The old valves would have been used in another unit. However, the company did not supply new valves even for the first unit. The quality of material supplied was giving poor results.

The sources said, as per contract agreement, the company was to supply material for the renovation of other unit only after the work of the first unit was completed satisfactorily. However, despite the fact that the work on the first unit was pending the company had already supplied material for the renovation of the second unit.

Though the PSEB was suffering a generation loss of about Rs 15 to Rs 20 crore per month, the only penalty it can impose on the company was just 5 per cent of the total cost or Rs 9 crore.

The Member (Generation), PSEB, Mr H.M. Jain, admitted that the PSEB was suffering a huge loss due to delayed work. Due to repeated violation of deadlines by the company nothing certain could be said about the exact date of the commissioning of the unit.

As per provisions of the agreement, the PSEB has already imposed and recovered a penalty of Rs 4.5 crore from the company.


Bhakra records highest water level in 7 years
Kiran Deep
Tribune News Service

Nangal, August 1
The water level in the Bhakra Dam rose to 1,652 feet today. It is said to be the highest in the past seven years. Only 28 feet has been left to reach the maximum storage capacity.

The inflow of water was 64,870 cusecs while the outflow was 37,955 cusecs today. The release of water is more than the requirement of the consumer states. The authorities have decided to release about 38,000 cusecs every day.

The good news for the North is that increase in the water level has enabled the BBMB to supply sufficient water and power to Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, even during the lean period.

Sources in the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) said if the rainfall continued with its present intensity, the water level would reach its maximum storage capacity by the month end. But the authorities had decided to fill the dam up to its maximum capacity, but in a controlled manner.

They said the authorities had decided to monitor the outflow so that the dam could be filled to its maximum capacity by mid-September.

The water level was 1,652 feet today while 1,540 feet in 2004; 1,623 feet in 2003; 1,597 feet in 2002; 1,593 feet in 2001; 1,598 feet in 2000; 1,604 feet in 1999; and 1,633 feet in 1998.

The Chief Engineer, Power Generation, BBMB, Nangal, Mr Amrik Singh, said: “Due to increase in the water level, the power generation is almost double than the last year. Accordingly, the share of the states has also been much higher this year.”


Police assures security to Hoshiarpur social worker
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 1
On the directions of the Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC), the Punjab Police has assured security to Ms Davinder Kaur Aulakh, a social worker running a state-of-the-art nursing college in Hoshiarpur. She has allegedly been harassed by certain influential persons, including certain top functionaries of the Punjab Government.

The assurance has come from the Hoshiarpur SSP in a report submitted to the commission. The report says that adequate police protection has been provided to Ms Aulakh, who had moved the PSHRC alleging victimisation by certain influential persons and police’s indifferent role towards her plight.

The SSP categorically stated that timely help would be provided to Ms Aulakh as and when the need arose and the district police personnel had been directed not to harass her.

Acting on the woman’s complaint in May this year, Mr B.C. Rajput, a commission Member, had asked the Additional DGP, Law and Order-cum-Human Rights, to inquire into the matter and furnish a report before July 28.

“From the allegations levelled in the complaint, a prima facie case is spelled out for proceeding under Section 12 of the Protection of Human Rights Act,1993. The complaint is registered as a case,” the order had said.

Mr Rajput also urged the Hoshiarpur DC to ensure that the complainant was not harassed or humiliated by any public servant of the district illegally.

In her complaint, Ms Aulakh, Chairperson and Managing Director of the Guru Ram Dass College of Nursing, Hoshiarpur, alleged that since 2002 certain influential persons, in connivance with police officials, had been harassing her. The complaint alleged that these persons wanted to take over the management of the college through illegal means.

Eminent nursing bodies such as the Indian Nursing Council and Baba Farid University have appreciated the state-of-the-art facilities at the college. Despite this the Punjab Nursing Registration Council, Mohali, has served a notice on the institute on the basis of a “false” report submitted by a vigilance official.

And for the past about three years, she had repeatedly been harassed by miscreants.

Only after her repeated pleas to the higher authorities, including the Punjab Chief Minister, that she was provided security cover in 2003.


Head Constable on duty crushed to death
Our Correspondent

Rajpura, August 1
A Punjab Police Head Constable, Mr Avtar Singh, was crushed to death by a truck on the busy Chandigarh-Zirakpur-Patiala highway in Jansua village near here, late last night.

Avtar Singh was regulating traffic on the highway when a truck loaded with cases of liquor knocked him down. Avtar Singh and another Head Constable Rajinder Singh and constable Jagtar Singh were regulating traffic at a spot where heaps of rice-husk, spilled over on the road from another truck had blocked the highway.

The truck ( PAT-9427) driver escaped away from the scene after leaving Avtar Singh seriously injured. Rajinder Singh and Jagtar Singh rushed Avtar Singh to the Civil Hospital, Rajpura. They also flashed a wireless message to the Sadar police station, Rajpura about the escaped driver.

Avtar Singh, a resident of Khojpura village in Jalandhar, later succumbed to his injuries at the Civil Hospital.

Meanwhile, the cops chased the truck driver, who then lost control over the vehicle while negotiating a roundabout at Gagan Chowk. The truck then overturned. The truck was carrying liquor supply for a CSD canteen at Jalandhar from Dera Bassi.

The police has then arrested the truck driver and a case under rash and negligent driving was registered against him. Avtar Singh’s body was handed over to his family after the post-mortem.

Paramjit Singh, driver of another truck carrying supply of liquor to CSD Canteen at Jalandhar, complained that cops at Gagan Chowk stole a number of cases of whisky from the accident spot.

The cops used an ambulance to carry the liquor. He also alleged that the cops thrashed him when he resisted. He claimed that 600 cases of whisky were loaded in the truck when it met with the accident.

Reacting to his complaint, the police authorities counted the whisky cases and found 140 cases broken and 56 missing. Interestingly, the police has turned a blind eye towards “whisky stolen by the cops from the overturned vehicle”.


Married off to older woman, youth seeks justice
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, August 1
A 22-year-old youth has knocked the doors of judiciary to get rid of his wife who is 13 years older to him and was married off to him by concealing her age and tampering with her date of birth certificate of matriculation.

It was learnt today that Rajinder Singh of Palahi road got married to an anganwari worker Jasvir Kaur of Khajurla village on March 4. He was told before marriage that Jasvir was just three years older to him.

However, when he demanded her matriculation certificate after marriage for recording her name in the ration card, he smelt a rat. The photo copy of the birth certificate was tampered with and May 17, 1979 was mentioned as her date of birth by altering 1970 to 1979 to reduce the age by 10 years.

Rajinder procured the copy of the gazette of her matriculation certificate which mentioned her date of birth as May 17, 1970. Even the identity card issued to her as anganwari worker by the Children Welfare Project Officer mentioned May 5, 1970 as her date of birth.

Trusting her, Rajinder had earlier opened a joint account in a bank mentioning her age as May 17, 1979. Rajinder feels betrayed by his in-laws and wife. He said his wife had shifted to her parent’s house on July 3.


Mega industrial complex in doldrums
Varinder Walia and Gurbaxpuri

Goindwal, August 1
India’s first Industrial Nucleus Complex (INC), that was established 25 years ago with investment worth over Rs 1000 crore is in doldrums with more than 90 per cent units already closed down due to the apathy of authorities concerned.

With the ambitious project of the Central Government presenting a deserted look these days, industrialists of the border district are now apprehensive about the future of the proposed Special Economic Zone (SEZ), announced by the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, for Amritsar.

Mr Charnjit Chanana, the then Minister of State for Industries, had laid the foundation stone of the INC to mark the birth anniversary of Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, first Prime Minister of the country, on November 14, 1980. The then Prime Minister, late Rajiv Gandhi, had laid the foundation stone of Rs 240-crore Punjab Agros News Print in 1988. The state government had spent over Rs 1 crore to arrange the visit of Mr Gandhi. However, the foundation stone of the project is now missing. The state and the Central Governments had encouraged big industrialists by promising them attractive concessions. But the dreams of the investors were shattered a few years after the setting up of the INC.

As per the master plan, Goindwal was proposed to be developed as the fourth most populous town of the state. The industrial complex was proposed to be expanded on an area of 6,000 acres. The government had also promised to set up heavy industrial units, including unit a for manufacturing HMT watches.

Thousands of workers have been rendered jobless after the closing down of prestigious units, including Bawa Shoes Limited, Goindwal Cooperative Spinning Mills and Goindwal Steels.

The beautiful office of GIICO (Goindwal Industrial and Investment Corporation) has been locked for a long time. The tourist complex that was set up amid a lot of fanfare too is in a bad shape. It is not being used as hardly any industrialist from outside visits the town, which was put on the industrial map of the country.

The Goindwal Industries Welfare Association (GIWA), in a letter to the Chief Minister, has urged that the proposed SEZ should be developed at Goindwal Sahib, which was the most suitable place for the ambitious project. The association pleaded that a vast stretch of unutilised land was already available here whereas complete infrastructure, including roads, water supply, sewerage and power supply could be revived with a little investment.

The association said with the selection of this town for the proposed SEZ, the gestation period involving the acquisition of prime agricultural land and long procedural delays in acquisitioned notices, dealing with objections, negotiations for possession shall be nil. Otherwise crores of rupees would be spent on the acquisition of land if any other area was selected for the SEZ.


SGPC unlikely to present ‘siropa’ to Dullo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 1
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee is unlikely to present “sriopa” (robe of honour) to Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, president, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, during his proposed visit to Harmander Sahib here tomorrow .

Though the SGPC chief is away to Hyderabad and could not be contacted, yet senior officials of the committee confirmed that they had not received any communication from Bibi Jagir Kaur in this regard so far.

Earlier, the SGPC had declined to present a “siropa” to Capt Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister.

According to Mr M. M. Cheema, senior vice-president, PPCC, Mr Dullo would also visit Ram Tirath, Durgiana Temple and Jallianwala Bagh.


SGPC seeks ban on postage stamp on Guru Granth Sahib
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 1
Lodging strong protest over the flawed design of the proposed postage stamp got prepared by the Central Government to commemorate the 400th year of the installation of Guru Granth Sahib, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee today sought an immediate ban on its release.

Bibi Jagir Kaur, SGPC chief, said that the design of “parkash” (open) of Guru Granth Sahib in a palanquin was not as per tradition of Sikhism. She said the SGPC had supplied the design to the Central Government, but instead of using that design, the government preferred to use the “faulty design” which could not be tolerated by the Sikh panth. She said the government must withdraw the stamp.


IMA-Unicef health project to start by October
Our Correspondent

Barnala, August 1
The Punjab unit of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) will translate into actuality the “Aao Gaon Chalen” (a joint venture of IMA and Unicef) project by adopting 100 villages all over the state by October this year. The presentation of “Aao Gaon Chalen” project implementation report would be made during three-day-long national academic conference (ACADIMA-2005) of IMA which would be hosted by Punjab IMA at Ludhiana from October 21 to 23.

Disclosing this here today, Dr R.C. Garg, President of the Punjab IMA, informed that IMA branches had been asked to send the lists of adopted villages so that state IMA Council could finalise the proposals of adopted villages in its meeting to be held on August 14. Dr Garg divulged that this nation-wide project to address and improve village health would become operational in Punjab by October this year.

Punjab IMA chief further informed that IMA branches had been sent the required proformas for the purpose of getting certain formalities completed and proposal of the villages to be adopted. He said 60 branches of the Punjab IMA would adopt at least one village each whereas certain big branches could adopt even more than one, up to four to five villages too.

Dr Garg revealed that this project was aimed at holistic improvement in village health using existing infrastructure and promoting inter-sectoral co-ordination and networking through the active involvement of the IMA task force, the government healthcare delivery system and the community. He made it clear that this project envisaged not only the provision of curative services for rural population but also health awareness generation by constant and co-ordinated efforts of more than 1.6 lakh members in 1600 branches of IMA all over India.

Dr Garg, while highlighting aims and objectives of this mega IMA-UNICEF project, urged the branches of Punjab IMA to identify the needs of villages by laying more stress on preventive aspect and then going in for curative measures.

Dr Garg told that the project would be monitored by an administrative set up comprising central committees (central steering, standing, IEC, finance, monitoring and evaluation committee) and peripheral committees comprising IMA state level (state co-ordinator, standing committee) and IMA branch level (branchco-ordinator and implementation committee). Apart from this, partners in the project according to IMA plan could include international bodies, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and PVOs-nursing homes, hospitals, clinics, pharmaceuticals, surgical industries, national/state health bodies, CHC, PHC, hospitals, dispensaries, NGOs, like Lions Clubs, Rotary clubs, ladies clubs, community groups, local leaders, political/social representatives and religious leaders.


Residents protest over death of undertrial
Tribune News Service

Kapurthala, August 1
Residents of mohalla Shergarh staged a dharna and blocked traffic on Sultanpur Lodhi road in front of the local civil hospital today in protest against the mysterious death of Rajinder Pal (38), an undertrial at Kapurthala jail yesterday evening.

The deceased, Rajinder Pal, a resident of mohalla Shergarh and an employee of PRTC workshop, Kapurthala, was arrested by the police for possessing poppy husk on July 22, last. He was in judicial custody since then.

The Deputy Superintendent (Jails), Mr Sikander Singh, said “Rajinder Pal’s health started deteriorating at 5 p.m. yesterday perhaps due to the non-availability of drugs as he was a drug-addict and the doctor on duty in jail referred him to the civil hospital as he found his condition to be serious”. According to hospital records Rajinder Pal was brought dead to the hospital at 7.15 p.m. by the police.

Denying the version of jail authorities, Amrita, the daughter of the deceased, alleged that jail authorities were trying to hide their failure to provide proper medication to her father in time. She said her father was not a drug-addict.

“On Thursday my husband was hale and hearty when I and my daughter met him in the jail. Again on Friday, I and my sisters met him. Till then nothing was abnormal with him. My husband was with the police for the past 10 days, then how did he die within two hours due to non-availability of drugs as the police claims,” argued Shashi Thakur, the widow of Rajinder Pal. She said “the allegations of the jail authorities are baseless because if they claim that my husband died within two hours due to the non-availability of drugs then how do they explain his survival without drugs for the past 10 days?”


Exotic fish threaten native species
Vishal Gulati
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 1
Exotic fish species are threatening the existence of native species in Punjab. Many native species, including the rohu, the mrigal, the catla, the black rohu and the mahseer, have been declining alarmingly in the Harike, Kanjli and Ropar wetlands, says a field guide prepared by the Punjab State Council for Science and Technology.

The guide, “Fish Biodiversity in Wetlands of Punjab”, written by Dr Satnam Singh Ladhar and Dr Onkar Singh Brraich, says the black rohu, an Indian major carp, is the worst affected species. The council has recorded five exotic species — the crucian carp, the grass carp, the common carp, the silver carp and the mosquito fish — in the wetlands.

Dr Ladhar says the grass carp and the silver carp were introduced in India to control the growth of weed and algae.

Though the mosquito fish or guppy helps in controlling the population of mosquito larvae, it also creates an ecological imbalance due to its voracious feeding habits. It feeds on young fish species.

“Studies show the exotic carps have the edge over the Indian carps as these can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, are omnivorous, voracious and have a high reproductive potential,” says Prof M.S. Johal of the Department of Zoology, Panjab University.

The council has identified 90 species of fish in the three wetlands. Badis is the new species recorded by the council in the Harike wetlands. Owing to its fascinating colours, it is a popular aquarium fish. It is also used for experimental purposes to study fish behaviour.

The goonch is a unique species found in the Harike and Ropar wetlands. It is a commercial fish and is also called the freshwater shark because of its voracious habits and formidable teeth. It is a pre-monsoon breeder. If it lives long enough, its weight can go up to 40 kg.

The mahseer is the longest living freshwater fish. In Punjab, it is found in the Harike and Ropar wetlands. It has been declared endangered according to the Washington-based International Union of Conservation of Natural Resources.

The wetlands have a number of colourful aquarium fish species, including the goldfish, the chidu, the flying barb, the red barb and the olive barb.

The council has identified 26 “lower risk near-threatened” species. It says if conservation measures are not initiated, many species may slip into the endangered or critically endangered category.


Kisan, mazdoor mahapanchayat passes off peacefully
Raj Sadosh

Abohar, August 1
The Kisan Mazdoor Beopari Sangharsh Samiti had to shift the venue of mahapanchayat from Gharsana Township to 6DD village as the district administration at Sriganganagar, neighbouring Abohar, virtually sealed all roads leading to the town. The conference passed off peacefully.

Independent sources said that more than 10,000 farmers from different villages reached 6DD village despite measures taken by the authorities foil the mahapanchayat. More than 300 armed constables, riot police squads and lathi-wielding force had been deployed under the direct supervision of more than 20 gazetted police officers. Nine executive magistrates were put on duty at special nakas to control the situation. Gharsana looked like a police cantonment, as residents preferred to confine in their houses till this evening. Barricades were put up on all roads that connected the town with rest of the district. Policemen wearing iron helmets and equipped to face mob guarded the barricades without having lunch. The District Magistrate, the Superintendent of Police and their next in command had been camping at Gharsana since last evening. They had supervised all preventive measures.

Mr Sita Ram Yechuri, a member of the CPM Politburo, Mr Sheopat Singh former MP, Mr Chander Shekhar Vaid MLA from Taranagar, Mr Tara Singh state secretary CPM, Mr Jagan Nath Pahadia former Chief Minister and many other senior leaders of the CPM and the Congress party addressed the mahapanchayat. They saluted the farmers who had used bullock carts, camel carts and other vehicles to accept the challenge thrown by the BJP. The BJP Ministers and MLAs had been touring the district for the past 48 hours to mobilise people against participation in the mahapanchayat. The party held more than 24 public meetings in big villages and towns to condemn the Kisan Mazdoor Beopari Sangharsh Samiti for spearheading an agitation against the government led by Ms Vasundhra Raje Scindia.

Mr Yechuri and other leaders said that it was people’s movement to safeguard interests of the farmers who were backbone of the nation. The state government had not implemented the agreement reached with the Samiti after last agitation that led to killings of four farmers in police firing. He said that the matter would be raised in Parliament.


Maj Vinayak’s last rites performed
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, August 1
Major Kapil Vinayak became a victim of enemy’s attack in a blast in Srinagar last week, but none of the five ministers hailing from the district made it to the last rites that were performed at Geeta Mandir here today.

Only a few bureaucrats, including the Deputy Commission, Mr Ashok Gupta, and the Chairman of Improvement Trust, Mr Tejinder Bittu, were present on the occasion. Mr Gupta assured the family that they would get the dues on time. He also said he would press the officials concerned to ensure a job for his wife, Ms Kiran Vinayak. The family was consoled by other politicians from the opposition party and some defence officers in the martyr’s friend circle.


Durgiana Temple president dead
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, August 1
Mr Gopi Chand Bhatia (85), president of the Durgiana Temple, died after a brief illness here today. He is survived by one son and four daughters.

He remained president of the Durgiana Temple for 34 years. He worked diligently for its uplift and improvement. He was also associated with the Sewa Samiti, Amritsar, Andh Vidyalaya and several other social organisations.

He worked as president of the Indo-Foreign Chamber of Commerce for about 30 years and was now its patron-in-chief. He was part of the trade delegation of the Government of India, Ministry of Commerce, that was taken by the government in trade talks with Afghanistan. He was also associated with Amritsar Piece Goods Association.

Mr Surinder Arjun, working president of the Durgiana Committee, in a press statement said that Mr Bhatia would be remembered for his selfless services to the Durgiana Temple. He expressed his condolence to the bereaved family.

Mr Bhatia was cremated here this evening. The cremation was largely attended.


Doomra declines post
Our Correspondent

Fazilka, August 1
Mr Prithvi Raj Doomra, President, Block Congress Committee, who on Sunday, was nominated vice-chairman of Jalalabad Market Committee, 32 km from here refused the post as he wanted to be chairman of the market committee. He disclosed here today that he was president of Jalalabad Block Congress Committee and associated with the party for over two decades. He disclosed that during the SAD-BJP regime seven ‘false’ cases under Section 307 of the IPC (attempt to murder) were registered against him and his family members but he was not intimidated and worked for the party. Mr Doomra lamented that his claim for the post of chairman of the Market Committee had been overlooked and it was injustice to him.

Protest of Mr Doomra has caused ripples in the ruling party in this area as he was considered a front-runner for the post. Earlier too he staked his claim for the post of civic body’s chief three years back but his claim was ignored then also. Mr Doomra and his supporters feel that they have been left high and dry.

Mr Doomra added that he would continue be president of the Jalalabad Block Congress Committee till the Chief Minister and PPCC chief reposed confidence in him.


Power crisis aggravates
Tribune News Service

Ropar, August 1
The power crisis in Punjab further aggravated today as its demand increased to 1,450 lakh units while the supply from all sources is about 1,300 lakh units. To overcome the shortage, the PSEB has imposed power cuts for more than two hours in big cities and more than four hours in towns and rural areas.

The power supply from Ropar, Lehra Mohabbat and Bathinda thermal plants is 465 lakh units, while 490 lakh units from hydel projects and 400 lakh units from the central grid. The Member (Generation), PSEB, Mr H.M. Jain, said the state was supplying 20 per cent more power this year than the last year.


Anganwadi workers go on fast
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 1
The Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union today launched fast in front of Punjab Finance Minister Surinder Singla’s residence here in favour of its demands.

The union has been demanding reinstatement of two anganwadi in charge whose work was withdrawn following a rotten eatable scam at anganwadis. Protesters converged on the venue and raised slogans against the state government. The union also announced a change in its earlier programme and said the strike would be held in front of the Deputy Commissioner’s office tomorrow. The union leaders said the strike would continue till their demands were met.

They said they had met Mr Singla in Chandigarh and demanded action against those responsible for supply of rotten eatables. A number of workers who participated in the fast decided to include their children in it from tomorrow.


Relief granted
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, August 1
In a major relief to hundreds of employees of the Pepsu Road Transport Corporation (PRTC), the High Court has ordered that they will get arrears of revised pay-scales from November 3, 1989, to October 31, 1998.

Allowing the petitions filed by over 200 employees, seeking setting aside of orders of the PRTC Chairman under which they had been denied arrears of pay from January 1, 1986, to October 31, 1998, at the time of revision of their pay scales, the Bench of Mr Justice S.S. Nijjar and Ms Justice Nirmal Yadav ordered that the petitioners would be entitled to arrears with effect from November 3, 1989, till October 31, 1998.

All employees are posted at the central workshop of the PRTC. In their petition, they have contended that their counterparts in Punjab Roadways had been given the benefit of revised pay scales from January 1,1986.


Ministerial comforts: Punjab outdoes Haryana in cars
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 1
Ministers of the Punjab Government will now travel in comfort. The government has reportedly decided to buy Toyota Camry cars, each costing about Rs 17 lakh, for the Ministers, sources confirmed here tonight. The change of cars for Ministers will cost the government about Rs 2.5 crore.

The old cars being used by the Ministers were breaking down frequently and the need had arisen to change these said a senior Minister.

The Ministers had been moving around in Ambassador cars while their counterparts in Haryana had been allotted luxury cars like the Hyundai Sonata, each costing about Rs 14 lakh and providing for comfort.

The Ministers had to travel more and needed that kind of safety and comfort to carry out their tasks, was another reason for the change.

A decision to buy middle-level luxury cars costing up to Rs 11 lakh for Parliamentary Secretaries and a vehicle in the range of Rs 7 to Rs 8 lakh for MLAs, is yet to be taken. A meeting will be held soon in this connection.

The Cabinet had approved the purchase of vehicles and a group of Ministers had been formed to select a car for the Ministers.

If the government decides to provide new cars for the Parliamentary Secretaries and the MLAs, it will cost the state exchequer anything between Rs 8 crore and Rs 10 crore, depending upon which car is selected.

At present the MLAs have been allotted Toyota Qualis vehicles. This time around the MLAs may get an option between the Chevrolet Optra, the Mitsubishi Lancer and the Toyata Innova.

For the Parliamentary Secretaries cars like the Skoda and its equivalent are on the list. The Parliamentary Secretaries also travel in Ambassadors.

The companies supplying the cars will do it at a cost which is lower than the market rate as government purchases get sales tax exemption.

Sources in the government said that cars for the Ministers had not been purchased since the Congress government came to power in 2002.

The cars in neighbouring Haryana are changed more frequently, said a Minister.


Three booked for poppy husk smuggling
Blind murder case solved

Tribune News Service

Ajay Maluja, SP (D), shows the bunker where smugglers used to store popy husk at Bathinda.
Ajay Maluja, SP (D), shows the bunker where smugglers used to store po
ppy husk at Bathinda. — Tribune photo by Kulbir Beera

Bathinda, August 1
Three persons, including a woman have been booked for their involvement in smuggling of poppy husk.

Interestingly, the accused had made bunkers to conceal the huge stock of poppy husk.

Addressing a press conference here today, the SSP, Mr Kapil Dev, said SI Balwinder Singh got a tip-off that Asha Rani, Binder Singh, and Surinder Singh Matharu, were involved in the large-scale smuggling of poppy husk from Asha’s residence at Birla Mill Colony. When a police party raided her house a man and a woman escaped.

The two were identified as Asha Rani and Surinder Singh. The police gave them a chase, but failed to nab them. However, another person who was taking away a bag of poppy husk was nabbed.

The bag weighed 10 kg. The police recovered another two bags of poppy husk weighing 30 kg each during the search operation. A case has been registered against the accused under Sections 15, 61, and 85, of the NDPS Act.

In another development, the police claims to have solved a blind murder case of a widow who was killed at Maur Khurd village a couple of days ago. The SSP said the police had arrested Lakha Singh in this connection.

The deceased, Shimla Devi (72), had two sons who were staying at Bathinda and Maur Mandi, but she was residing alone at her ancestral home.

The accused was not well off and had been eying her property for long. He planned to eliminate her. On the fateful day, he offered her ‘kheer’ laced with some intoxicant. She strangulated her when she fainted. The SSP said her belongings were safe. He said the post-mortem report would reveal the exact reason of her death.

Meanwhile, the police has booked two persons for circulating fake currency. The SSP said Panpreet Singh of Kalra Hospital complained that Iqbal Singh and German Singh, whom he knew, came to his clinic and purchased medicines worth Rs 60 and gave him a Rs 1,000 note. When he approached a bank to check the authenticity of the currency note it turned out to be fake.

A case has been registered against them under Sections 489B, 420 and 34 of the IPC. The Hanumangarh police has arrested the two and seized fake currency notes worth about Rs 45,000.

He said they had contacts with some smugglers and had a huge network of fake currency trade. He said both of them would be brought here for interrogation.


Boy escapes from juvenile jail
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, August 1
A Bangladeshi boy today escaped from the local juvenile jail here. The absconder, 15-year-old Mohammad Munir, was lodged in the jail in March after he was caught illegally crossing over to Pakistan at Wagah Border.

According to sources, a doctor, who carries out check up of all the jail inmates in a week or so, had come to the jail today. When he was examining a batch of five inmates Munir sought permission to have a glass of water. Sources said he headed towards the water cooler on the campus, climbed over it before scaling a wall to flee. The incident took place between 2.30 pm and 3 pm.

Sources said seven constables and one ASI were deputed at the jail and they used to work in shifts. This was the fourth incident when a boy had escaped from the jail.

Earlier, three Indian, two Bangladeshis, and a Pakistani boy had escaped in three different cases. Police sources said guards on duty and even the jail superintendent may be booked for negligence. However, no case was registered against anybody till the filing of this report.

Sources said Munir had come to India along with his uncle about 8 years back. But, his uncle went away leaving him with his grandparents in New Delhi. Munir was left alone after his grandparents died earlier this year.

When India-Pakistan cricket series was on and people were coming to India in large numbers to watch matches, Munir considered it a great opportunity to return to his country among hordes of cricket fans. He soon reached Amritsar to cross over to Pakistan from Wagah border, but failed to hide himself from the prying eyes of BSF rangers. He was then sent to juvenile jail in Faridkot.

When contacted, the DSP (D), Mr Bakhshish Singh, said they had formed teams to trace him out and an intensive search operation was on. Dog squad had also been pressed into service. He said they were hopeful of an early breakthrough in the case.


Complainant turns out to be accused
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, August 1
Vinod Nishad, a complainant in a murder case has turned out to be the alleged perpetrator.

The police today arrested Vinod Nishad on the charge of murdering Chander Sahni, a 14-year old boy he had employed for his tea-stall on the GT Road near Mansurpur village. Vinod had himself lodged a report regarding the murder with the police on July 19 at Phillaur.

During interrogation, the police found that Vinod went to his stall that night carrying a bottle of liquor. He asked Chander to open the bottle but he refused. This enraged Vinod who attacked him in rage. Chander succumbed to his injuries and Vinod threw his body in bushes near the stall.

He went back home and came to the spot the next day and raised the alarm. He reported the matter to the police and concocted a story of Chander’s murder by some unknown persons.


Married woman elopes with paramour
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, August 1
Mr Balwant Singh of Mulanpur village has got a case registered against his wife Kulwant Kaur, who had fled with her alleged paramour Sohan Singh of Sohavi village, along with Rs 2.5 lakh withdrawn from a joint account and gold jewellery.

Mr Ramandeep Singh, SHO, Sirhind, said Balwant Singh had complained that her wife, who had gone to the local Civil Hospital for treatment did not return. The police had been making efforts to trace her for the past six days. The police succeeded in establishing the identity of her paramour after verifying the record of phone calls made by the woman. She was married to Balwant Singh 10 years ago and had no issue and she was getting treatment at the Civil Hospital.


Accused booked in acid attack case
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, August 1
While the acid attack victim’s condition continues to be serious, the B-Division police station has booked the accused persons for attempt to murder case.

The victim, Sunny, a resident of New Partap Nagar, was seriously injured when three persons threw acid on him and his friends in the Azad Nagar area on Saturday evening. He was rushed to a private hospital in serious condition.

Dr Ashok Nayyar, who is attending on the victim, said that he had been shifted to intensive care unit (ICU). He said although the condition of Sunny was stable, he was continued to be serious. The left eye of the patient was damaged, while he had deep burn injuries due to acid attack. He said he would remain under watch for about 48 hours.

Sukhpal Singh, a friend of the victim, alleged that Zimmi, Raju and another person, all residents of the Azad Nagar locality, had enmity with Kavi Sher Singh of New Partap Nagar area, who is a friend of Sunny. Sunny, who had come to Amritsar on leave from the Merchant Navy course, was standing near Kavi when the accused threw acid on him.


Man murdered
Our Correspondent

Kurali, August 1
Ranit Kumar, a guard of Mohali-based Parmar Construction Company, was found murdered at company’s godown located in Ban Majra village, about 5 km from Ropar, this morning.

According to the police, a partially decomposed body of Ranjit Kumar was noticed by Mr Shushil Kumar, an engineer with the company, this morning.

Hailing from Gopalpur locality in Sirsa (Bihar) Ranjit Kumar was working as a chowkidar with the company for the past seven years. His body was handed over to his relatives after a post-mortem examination this evening.

A case has been registered.


Patwari injured by miscreants
Tribune News Service

Phagwara, August 1
Some unidentified armed miscreants attacked a patwari and injured him seriously at Mohalla Gobindpura here late last night.

According to police sources, the patwari identified as Sodhi Singh of Mohalla Gobindpura, was coming back to his home after making some purchases from a provision store. Some unidentified miscreants attacked him with sharpedged weapons. He was seriously injured in the attack.

He was admitted to the local Civil Hospital where his condition was stated to be critical.

Till the filing of this report, the patwari was not in a position to give any statement about the identity of miscreants.

A case under Sections 323 and 324 of the IPC has been registered.


Woman held for ‘poisoning’ husband, in-laws
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, August 1
A married woman, Sukhwinder Kaur, allegedly mixed poison in the meal of the whole family of her in-laws at Aujla village in Phillaur subdivision last night as they were against her illegal relationship with a youth Sukha.

According to reports Charan Kaur mother-in-law of the accused, died soon after consuming the food, while Avtar Singh husband of the accused, and Resham Singh, her father-in-law, were admitted to the civil hospital in a critical condition.

The police has arrested Sukhwinder Kaur under Sections 302/3 of the IPC and sent the body for post-mortem examination.


Women foil kidnap bid
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, August 1
Two women were injured and robbed of their two golden chains after they resisted and foiled the bid to kidnap their boy at nearby Nangal Khera village this afternoon.

One of them, Mrs Asha Rani, was admitted to the Civil Hospital here with a head injury.

It was learnt that a youth, Sonu, of the same village today stormed into the house of Mrs Kaushalaya and her daughter, Mrs Asha Rani. He wanted to kidnap 10-year-old boy, Prince, a grandson of Mrs Kaushalaya and nephew of Mrs Asha Rani.

However, Mrs Asha Rani, who stays at her parental home as her husband had gone abroad, bravely resisted and foiled the bid of Sonu. Enraged at this, Sonu assaulted Mrs Asha Rani and tore her clothes. When Mrs Kaushalaya intervened, Sonu bit her. Sonu’s mother also came to the help of her son.

After his kidnap attempt failed, Sonu robbed the two women of their golden chains and fled.


Cop killed in road mishap

Bathinda, August 1
A person was killed when the car he was driving collided with a bus near Karamgarh Chhatra village this morning.

According to sources, the incident took place when the bus heading towards Abohar had a head-on collision with the car coming from the opposite direction.

Sources said the car got badly crushed under the bus leading to the death of its driver on the spot.

Sahara volunteers rushed to the spot and extracted the victim’s body. The deceased was identified as head constable Balkar Singh. — TNS


How many teachers are needed in govt primary schools?
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 1
The Punjab Government is now engaged in a great mathematical exercise to find out exactly how many teachers it needs to recruit to make functional all government primary and middle schools, which are also called elementary schools under the latest national educational policy.

Informed sources said that after doing a lot of statistical work, the officials concerned estimated that the recruitment of 4,000 teachers for the government primary schools would be adequate to run these institutions.

But this figure can increase as the exercise is still on. Moreover, it is not clear yet whether the government has also taken into account the vacancies which would occur because of the retirement of teachers in the months to come.

The Punjab Education Department( Schools) had earlier projected 13,423 vacancies in the primary schools. This figure was arrived at by taking the number of students as 15.5 lakh in these schools. However, the number of students has been found to be 13.8 lakh after the latest count. On the basis this figure, the total number of teachers required is 34,500 as per the nationally approved teacher student ratio of 1.40. The government authorities say that they have estimated that at present only 8,758 posts are vacant in government primary schools.

With the redeployment of the teaching staff, by shifting teachers from surplus staff schools, there will be need to recruit only 4,000 persons. The authorities say that nearly 1,200 teachers will become surplus from middle schools following the amalgamation of 1300 Government primary schools with middle schools in villages, where both these types of schools exist. However, there will be no need to make any recruitment of teachers for the middle schools where at present 47,274 are posted.

It is not clear whether teachers for primary schools will be recruited on a regular or contractual basis. However, the recruitments will be under the Sarav Shiksha Abhiyan. In fact, the issue has been discussed with the Union Human Resources Development Ministry by the Punjab Government. The Union Ministry has agreed to the state government’s proposals in this connection.

The sources said that under the Sarav Shiksha Abhiyan teachers could only be recruited on a contractual basis. And they get fixed wages. Various trained teachers organisations have been opposing the recruitment on a contractual basis. Obviously, this issue will have to be resolved by the government.

The government says that with the recruitment of 4,000 teachers, all primary schools (which number 13,592) will become double-teacher schools. How long will the government take to finally recruit the teachers, remains to be seen. It appears that the entire exercise will take at least three months for completion.


Nod to private varsity gets mixed response
Deepkamal Kaur
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, August 1
Recent approval by the Punjab Cabinet for the opening of the first private university in the state to the Lovely group has drawn mixed response from political leaders and educational circles.

Leaders of Communist parties have decided to oppose it. Some educationists believe that this could be a positive attempt provided necessary standards are maintained. Students, on the other hand, feel that if university education goes in the hands of private parties, it would be impossible for most of the students from lower economic strata to continue with higher studies.

Prof Balwant Singh, secretary, CPM, state committee, Punjab, said that the party had decided to launch a movement against privatisation in the state from August 16 to August 31. He said that the party would protest against the opening of private universities. He said that since fee structure of the university was bound to be high, only students from financially sound background would be able to take admission there.

He added that the ministers should, first, concentrate on filling of posts of teacher in government schools of the state and ensure effectiveness of literacy drive. He said that issues like the opening of private universities in the state should have been last priority.

Another economist and educationist, who wished not to be quoted, said that there was no harm in opening a private university provided it was worth it. “Almost all universities in the USA are being privately managed. Many private universities are being run in our country as well and they have shown good results. All that matters is appointment of qualified and duly paid staff, excellent team of research workers and regulation of norms laid down by the UGC. If it is going to be an unplanned venture like the one in Chhattisgarh, I am not for it”, he said.

The educationist also questioned, “While the state government was finding it hard to manage its own universities including Punjab Technical University and Baba Farid University of Medical Sciences, how could the officials in state-run Education Department be sure of the proper functioning of a privately managed university?” But he said that there was still a long way for the Lovely campus to get a university status by getting an Act passed in Legislative Assembly, a nod from the Governor and a sanction by the UGC.

Director of the Lovely Institutes, Ashok Mittal, however, seemed much excited with the move as he said that all his concentration was now on keeping up the standards of its 20 colleges being run on a sprawling campus near Chaheru bridge in Phagwara.


ETT course: govt scraps notification
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, August 1
In a major decision, the Punjab Government today informed the Punjab and Haryana High Court that it had decided to scrap the notice dated April 17, 2005, issued by the Director, SCERT regarding admission for diploma course in elementary teachers training (ETT).

In an affidavit submitted to High Court by Mr Bant Singh, Under Secretary, Department of Education, Punjab, it has been stated that the government will also formulate a fresh admission policy for the ETT course.

It may be recalled that many petitions are pending in the High Court against the decision of the government to change the mode of selection for admissions in the ETT course.

There are 3,400 seats in various institutes for the ETT course, with each district having 200 seats. The course is funded entirely by the Central Government and all candidates who undergo this course become eligible for appointment as teachers.

Over 80,000 candidates had applied for the ETT test when the schedule was announced, but the government changed the guidelines and since then the process is in a limbo.

As per the advertisement published in newspapers on December 30, 2004, candidates between the age of 17 and 32 could apply for the course, while the new guidelines fixed the age between 18-25 years. For candidates of reserved categories, there was a three-year age relaxation on the upper limit.

On the petition of Brij Lal, the High Court had restrained the government from selecting candidates as per the new guidelines. It had also directed the government to advertise in leading newspapers that the test would be held as per old rules.

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