P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Cops go mobile to handle road emergencies
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 23
In its endeavour to cut down fatalities on roads in the state, the Punjab police has decided to introduce highway mobile patrol vehicles. This will cut down response time in removing victims to hospitals.

At present, more than 2,000 lives are lost and 10,000 persons are injured in road accidents in Punjab every year. Fatalities on national and state highways have shown a phenomenal increase during the past five to eight years.

The 40-vehicle highway patrol, equipped with mobile phones for instant access, is all set to be launched in the first week of next month.

Once the mobile patrol becomes operative, road users in distress can call a specific mobile number for immediate attention and help. As of now, in the absence of any quick-response first aid to those trapped in the wreckage of vehicles, especially cars and heavy vehicles, many lives are lost.

Though the Punjab government had some years ago planned trauma hospitals on national and state highways, the scheme was subsequently given up for lack of funds. Haryana has been a step ahead of Punjab in providing traffic aid posts on national and state highways. The concept of trauma hospitals manned by orthopaedicians and neurosurgeons, however, has remained on paper only.

Under this initiative, says the Director-General of Police, Mr S.S. Virk, it will not only cut response time but also facilitate the restoration of traffic on the affected stretch. All 40 highway patrol vehicles will be equipped with Airtel handsets and the helpline can be used by anyone facing an emergency situation on the road. Those with Airtel connections will be required to call 1111 while others can dial a mobile number that will be dedicated for this service.

Mr Deepak Gulati, CEO, Bharti Cellular, North, says: “All the 40 mobile patrol vehicles will be networked on the same short code and mobile number and the call will only reach the vehicle in the specified area for quick response and help. A central control office in Chandigarh will also be equipped with the helpline which will have a 10 digit number to enable callers from other mobile operators to reach the emergency helpline for additional coordination, assistance and emergency call forwarding.”


Christians demand quota in govt jobs
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, August 23
Christians of Punjab have demanded 2 per cent quota in government jobs in the state. The demand was raised at a function organised at Kotli Surat Malhi here today.

Hundreds of Christians from all over the district who participated in the function submitted a memorandum of demands to Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and Bishop of Delhi Karam Masih.

Mr Kanwal Bakshi, president of the United Christian Front, Punjab, and member PSSSB, said Christians were among the most economically backward community in Punjab. Most of the Dalits who converted to Christianity were bereft of benefits of reservations granted to them by the Indian Constitution. Due to it they failed to progress economically.

Though political parties have been promising reservation to the Christians in every election nothing concrete has been done in the matter.

Since a large number of Christians in Punjab were living below the poverty line they should be granted minority status and given reservation in government jobs. He urged the Bishop of Delhi to take up the matter of reservation in government jobs for Christians of Punjab with Congress president Ms Sonia Gandhi.

Bishop Karam Masih assured to take up the matter at the appropriate forum. He urged the Christians of the area to educate children so that their status could be elevated.

A C-PYTE center has been opened in the Dera Baba Nanak area where the youth from economically poor families would be provided training for recruitment in the Army.

Mr Randhawa also distributed cheques of family and widow pensions among the needy on the occasion.


SGPC move on women as Panj Piaras draws flak
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 23
Move of the SGPC to involve baptised Sikh women in the Panj Piaras (five beloved ones) and at the time of administering ‘amrit’ has evoked a strong protest from the Sant Samaj, the Damdami Taksal, and former Sikh high priests.

Bhai Ranjit Singh, a former Jathedar of Akal Takht, the Damdami Taksal and the Sant Samaj have convened an emergency meeting at Ludhiana on September 1.

Bhai Ranjit Singh said that the Panthic organisations would physically remove Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti as Jathedar, Akal Takht if he would toe line of the SGPC and Mr Parkash Singh Badal, President, Shiromani Akali Dal.

However, Bibi Jagir Kaur reiterated that as per Panth-approved ‘rehat maryada’ (religious code of conduct), baptised women were allowed to become one of the Panj Piaras. She said the ‘rehat maryada’ had also allowed baptised Sikh women to participate in the ceremony of administering ‘amrit’. Expressing shock over the move of the section of Sikh Panth, she said that it was unfortunate that such religious leaders themselves opposing the ‘maryada’, approved by the Khalsa Panth.

However, Bhai Ranjit Singh said that decision to allow Sikh women to perform ‘kirtan’ from the sanctum sanctorum of Harmandar Sahib should be taken only after taking entire Sikh Panth into confidence. Endorsing the views of Bhai Ranjit Singh, Giani Bhagwan Singh, a former head priest of Akal Takht said that there was no tradition of women performing Kirtan from Harmandar Sahib. Baba Harnam Singh Dhumma, Jathedar, Damdami Taksal criticised SGPC chief Bibi Jagir Kaur for her statement that women would be included as Panj Piaras.


Gurdwara money used to pay rally expenses: Cong
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, August 23
Mr Harminder Gill, general secretary, Punjab Youth Congress, and Mr Harpinder Singh Rajan, brother of Congress MLA Jasbir Singh Dimpa and member Zila Parishad, in a press conference here today claimed to have proofs that money of Gurdwara Golak was to be used to pay the rally organised by SAD at Baba Bakala on the occasion of Rakhar Punian last week.

However, they added that due to the Chief Minister’, capt Amarinder Singh, announcement at a Congress rally in this regard, Mr Manjinder Singh Kang, former chairman of the Forest department had to pay the amount.

They said if SAD failed to pay the expenses incurred for organising the function, the Congress would file a petition in the Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission (SGJC) against Akali leaders. Besides, they said that the Akali leader should also deposit expenses, incurred in organising such political stages in Baba Bakala during last two years, in Gurdwara Golak which they allegedly had misused for political rallies. He produced a person belonging to a tent house who claimed that it was the gurdwara management which made the payments for erecting a pandal.

However, Mr Kang, said he still demanded the resignation of the Chief Minister.

Mr Rajan, refuting the allegations of Mr Kang that the Congress MLA involved in many land grabbing cases, said they were ready for any action if the charges were proved. He said instead it was Akali leader himself who grabbed the land of a community park in front of his house by constructing rooms for his gunmen. However, Mr Kang said it was constructed by the government for gardeners of the park.


Who will fund state-level Teachers Day function?
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 23
Where from will the money come to hold a state-level function to celebrate Teachers Day on September 5 in Ludhiana? This question has been posed by Mr Daljinder Singh, president of the Privately Managed School Managements Association, Punjab.

He told The Tribune today that last year also the state-level function was held in Ludhiana. Private schools were ordered by the officers concerned of the Education Department to contribute Rs 3,500 per institution for holding the function. There were about 40 private schools in Ludhiana alone. It was not known whether money was also collected from schools outside Ludhiana. No receipts were issued for the money collected from the private schools, said Mr Daljinder Singh.

He said there were indications that this time also private schools would be asked to contribute money on the pattern of last year. “We will not be able to pay the money,” he added. He said that because of the indifferent attitude of the state government, private schools were facing various financial problems. If the Education Department was sincere about celebrating Teachers Day, it should earmark funds for it. Private schools should not be forced to pay money.

He urged the Education Minister, Mr Harnam Dass Johar, to shift the venue of the Teachers Day function to some other district this year.

Mr M.L. Chopra, adviser to the Punjab Government Aided School Teachers and Other Employees Union, said that while on the one hand the government was not prepared to talk to teachers on issues affecting them on the other the Teachers Day function had been planned.

He said this year government-aided private schools had planned to observe Teachers Day as a protest day because of the failure of the government to resume pension for school employees who retired after March, 2003. He said other financial benefits were also being denied to such schools and their staff.


Meeting on energy bonus today
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 23
Upset over the adverse reaction from farmers and others concerned to the announcement on energy bonus, the Punjab Government has called a meeting of various departments to discuss the issue here tomorrow.

Sources said the government wanted to launch a campaign to educate farmers why it had to exclude farmers owning land above five acres. Farmers had criticised the government for going back from the promise of free power for all farmers. Even small farmers, who will be entitled for energy bonus, have apprehensions regarding the refund of their money in the form of energy bonus.

After every six months, the government will refund Rs 1,800 to eligible farmers except those who belonged to the kandi areas and 17 “dark” blocks. The Farmers of the kandi area and of these blocks will get Rs 2,700 as refund.

“There will be hassles in getting the refund. Despite the best intentions of the government and the best of the system in place to refund the money, there will be exploitation of farmers at one level or the other”, say farmers.

“If eligible farmers are to pay money and then get the same amount refunded, what is the logic of paying the money in the first place?” ask leaders of various unions of farmers. Moreover, the Congress had promised to extend the benefit of free power to all farmers, but now it had given it to a small section of farmers.

Sources said all these issues would come up for discussion at tomorrow’s meeting. Data has indicated that about 2.80 lakh farmers will be entitled to the energy bonus. The Punjab State Electricity Board had tabulated the data of tubewells on March 31. At that time, there were 1,00, 839 tubewells which were being run with 3 BHP motors and 3,60,206 tubewells with motors of 5 BHP. As many as 2,23,165 tubewells were operated with 7.5 BHP motors. In the kandi area, farmers using 7.5 BHP motors will be entitled to this benefit. Officers concerned say that there will be about 2.5 lakh farmers using 5 BHP motors and having land up to five acres. In the 7.5 BHP category, only 30,000 farmers will be eligible.

That means only 33 per cent of the farmers having tubewells will be covered. However, the exact figures will be available only after the government gets the relevant data in this connection from the Revenue Department.


Energy bonus an eyewash: BKU
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 23
Accusing the state government of going back on its word, the BKU (Ugraha) has termed the energy bonus announced by it as a mere eyewash.

In a joint statement here today, the state union president, Mr Joginder Singh Ugraha, and the state general secretary, Mr Sukhdev Singh Kokri, said the Congress government had broken its electoral promise of providing free power to the farmers. They said the government had not done anything for facilitating free canal water to the farmers.

They alleged that the government’s decision was enough to prove its “loyalty towards the World Bank”. The farmers having over five acres of land were also debt-ridden and they also had every right to such a subsidy.

They expressed apprehension that the energy bonus might meet the fate of paddy bonus, which was yet to be paid to the farmers. They said they would continue their stir for free power and water as they were getting it earlier.


Early repatriation of prisoners sought
Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, August 23
Even as family members and human rights activists of both India and Pakistan had been vociferously demanding the repeal of the death sentence to Sarabjit Singh by the Pakistan Supreme Court, the Pakistan delegation of South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA) today emphasized the need to early repatriation of the prisoners languishing in various jails of both countries.

Talking to The Tribune, the secretary-general of SAFMA, Mr Imtiaz Alam, a renowned journalist, urged the human rights activists and members of the bar association in both the countries to jointly take up much cases for their early release so that they could be easily repatriated to their respective countries.

He said that in large number of cases, it had been reported that the majority of prisoners had inadvertently crossed the border and had been sentenced to various imprisonment. He said the government and the people should take up their cases on sympathetic grounds.

Mr Alam said the time had come to totally relax the visa restrictions and opening of daily bus service between Amritsar and Lahore.


SGPC’s plea on Sarabjit
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, August 23
Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee President Bibi Jagir Kaur today pleaded with the Central Government to take up with the Pakistan Government the case of Sarabjit Singh, presently under death sentence.

Bibi Jagir Kaur, in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said that Sarabjit Singh, who had been sentenced to death as Manjit Singh was a clear case of mistaken identity. She said the Prime Minister must take the initiative and hold a high-level dialogue with Pakistan to save Sarabjit Singh from the gallows.


Civil Surgeon claims 7 cancer deaths in 18 yrs
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Mandour (Patiala), August 23
Residents of this village, where cancer has been devouring human lives for the past many years, finally felt that they, too, are counted in the ruling set-up when an army of medical professionals reached here to know their plight after a news-item on cancer deaths appeared in The Tribune today.

Though Civil Surgeon, Dr V.S. Mohi, who also visited the village, in a press note issued here today, claimed that only seven cancer deaths had taken place in the village since 1987, a section of residents of the village, falling in the home district of Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, pointed out that in most of the cases the kin of those who had died due to cancer had also burnt their documents on their pyre and hence the claim of the Civil Surgeon was not acceptable to them. They claimed that 21 deaths due to cancer had taken place so far in the village.

Dr Mohi claimed that so far seven deaths due to cancer had taken place in the village and in connection with nine other deaths, no relevant record was made available to ascertain the exact cause of death. He added that there was no need to panic as the prevalent rate of cancer in the country was 1.5 per cent of the population.

He pointed out that a team of medical specialists along with the Senior Medical Officer (SMO), Bhadson, visited the village to take stock of the situation.

He said that blood samples of some of the residents had been taken and Chemical Examiner, Punjab, had been contacted to examine the same to know whether the use of insecticides and pesticides by villagers in agriculture operations had been affecting the human body system.

He said a doctor would be posted in the village dispensary shortly and an awareness camp held in the village on August 29.


Violence: Tandon wants probe to identify root cause
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 23
A former Industries, Labour and Employment Minister and senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader, Mr Balramji Dass Tandon, says that a probe by a sitting Supreme Court judge into the turbulence in Punjab is a welcome step as it will expose the forces and reasons behind the unfortunate bloodshed witnessed by the state for almost two decades.

In a statement issued here, Mr Tandon said that both the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) had been blaming each other for the turbulence in Punjab. “An impartial probe by a judge of the Supreme Court into the root cause of the problem is welcome,” said Mr Tandon.

In 1980 when terrorism had started taking roots in Punjab, Darbara Singh was heading the government. At that time, Giani Zail Singh was the Union Home Minister. Both Giani Zail Singh and Darbara Singh were at loggerheads. It was during this period that Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale appeared on the scene with his fiery speeches. It was an open secret that Giani Zail Singh had held an open reception for the Sant.

Mr Tandon also referred to the boycott of the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections in Punjab by the Congress in 1991. At that time he said Mr Chandra Shekhar was the Prime Minister and Gen O.P. Malhotra (retd) was the Governor of Punjab. The Congress decided to stay away from the poll. As ill-luck would have it, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated a few days before the elections, leading to postponement by a few days.

Since the Congress was voted to power and P.V. Narasimha Rao became the Prime Minister, Punjab Congressmen were keen on getting the elections postponed. Though a large number of candidates, both for the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections, were killed by militants, the previous government headed by Mr Chandra Shekhar had decided to go ahead. But after a change of government, Punjab Congress leaders persuaded the Narasimha Rao government to postpone the elections just 24 hours before these were to be held, said Mr Tandon.

And when fresh elections were announced in 1992, the Shiromani Akali Dal decided to boycott these. The Congress won more than 80 Assembly seats, said Mr Tandon. Thus, the drama of the boycott of the 1991 elections by the Congress became obvious, he added hoping that an impartial probe into the reasons and forces behind the violence would be welcomed.


Debate on terrorism a political drama: Tandon
Tribune News Service

Phagwara, August 23
A debate on terrorism is a political drama of the Congress as it wants to divert the attention of the public from corruption plaguing the party and development issues in the state.

This was stated by former Local Bodies Minister and senior BJP leader Mr Balramji Tandon while talking to newsmen at the residence of former Improvement Trust Chairman Om Gupta here yesterday.

He accused the state government of having no funds for development works in the state.

When asked about the implementation of VAT in the state, Mr Tandon said it was a hasty decision of the state government.

On this occasion, BJP councillor Arun Khosla, former president of the Nagar Council Kharaiti Lal Gaba, Bira Ram Baljot and Chander Mohan Chawla were present.


PRTC to add 100 buses
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, August 23
The Pepsu Road Transport Corporation (PRTC) is all set to add 100 buses to its existing fleet of 920 transport vehicles by this year-end.

At the same time, the PRTC was in the process of re-doing its Patiala and Phagwara bus stands. The first instalment of 10 buses would be included in the existing fleet on August 25 when the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, would be flagging off these vehicles from Punjab Bhavan at Chandigarh.

Disclosing this here today, Mr Ved Parkash Gupta, Chairman of the PRTC, said the process of inclusion of 100 buses in the PRTC fleet would be completed by December 31.

Referring to the corporation’s fiscal position, he said it had registered an increase of Rs 9.50 crore on the front of sale of tickets within the past one year.


Roadways workers hold rally
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 23
The Punjab Roadways Transport Workers Union has decided to fight against the misdeeds of the authorities concerned and ban on the illegal plying of buses by private transporters.

This was announced jointly by Mr Natha Singh, President of the Centre of Trade Union, Punjab, and Mr Harbhajan Singh Kanganwal, President, Punjab Roadways Workers Union, PRTC unit, at a state level rally held in front of the head office of PRTC here today.

Mr Chander Shekhar, general secretary, CTU, while addressing the rally pointed out that on one hand the Congress Government in the state had banned further recruitment of staff and had not been paying a major part of salaries for the past 14 months to its employees and on the other hand it had been expenses.

He added that CTU had decided to make the people of Punjab aware of the fact that the state government had been misusing the money being earned by the PRTC.

Mr Tarsem Jodhan, former MLA, said PRTC had been exploiting the youths by recruiting them on commission basis to run its operations. Apart from it, the PRTC had not been regularising the services of those employees, who had been working in the corporation for the past 20 years. Even these employees were not being paid their wages. He added that PRTC management had been ignoring the fact that any private transporter, who was having only two or three valid permits for plying buses on two or three routes, had been plying the buses on a number of routes thus eating up the revenue of the state government.

The union leaders demanded that PRTC management and the state government should make arrangements to take people-oriented decisions, for speedy redressal of problems being faced by employees, setting up of two-tier committees having representatives of all unions and other sections at depot level to solve the matters amicably.

They said authorities concerned should take notice of the fact that spurious and substandard spare parts were being used to repair PRTC buses, decreasing fleet of buses, disappearance of PRTC buses from a number of rural areas and the non-payment of overtime wages to its employees.


PSEB executives discuss efficiency
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 23
The Punjab State Electricity Board’s (PSEB) top brass and 40-odd management executives attended a one-day workshop which was jointly organised by the Human Resources Department and management consultants CRISIL Infrastructure Advisory, a Mumbai-based management consultancy firm.

Injection of efficiency in the Board was the password during the deliberations which were attended among others by the Board Chairman Mr Y.S Ratra, management gurus Mr Umesh Aggarwal and Mr Lalit Jain, Mr L. Bhandari, who is a former Chairman of the Rajasthan State Electricity Board, the top executives of the North Delhi Power Ltd, Mr V.C Mathur and Mr Piyush Goel.

Mr Y.S Ratra said despite the fact that the PSEB had achieved various landmarks in the fields of generation, transmission and distribution, the Board was unable to touch standards maintained by power boards of Western countries as far as providing quality service was concerned.

He urged participants to formulate a policy which would enable the Board to transform itself into a modern, business-focussed and consumer-oriented venture.

Senior Board executives who attended the deliberations were Mr H.S Sohi, Member (Finance and Accounts), Mr H.M Jain, Member (Generation), Mr Raman Bhalla, Administrative Member, and Mr K.A.P Sinha, Secretary of the Board.


IMA rubbishes move on MCI Act
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, August 23
The Indian Medical Association (IMA), Punjab unit has taken exception to proposed amendments in the basic structure of the Medical Council Act, terming the move as draconian and aimed at wresting control of the autonomous body. It further challenged the contention of the Union Health Minister that the Medical Council of India (MCI) was a corrupt body.

State general secretary of the IMA Dr Gursharan Singh told The Tribune that two inquiry reports of the CBI and two different committees formed on the directions of the Supreme Court of India had given clean chit to the MCI and had described its working as ‘above board’. The IMA also opposed other proposed amendments.


Vinod Khanna bereaved
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, August 23
Actor-turned-politician Vinod Khanna received a setback at family front as his brother-in-law Balwant Walia died here today.

Walia, who was in his sixties and was a film financier and distributor, is said to have died a natural death.

As soon as Vinod Khanna learnt about the death of his brother-in-law, he rushed to Jalandhar and visited the Green Park residence of Walia. Vinod Khanna, who was accompanied by BJP leader Shiv Dayal Chugh and others, spent a couple of hours with the bereaved family and consoled his sister Heena.


Patrolling made mandatory
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, August 23
Ms Jaspreet Talwar, District Magistrate, through an order issued under Section 144 here today made patrolling and thikri pehra mandatory at sensitive points, including at bridges over Bhakra Canal, near power transmission lines, 220kv grid stations, transformers, railway tracks, government buildings, food storage godowns, petrol stations and banks in the district.

To avoid road accidents during night, he has also banned the plying of rickshaws, trolleys, tractor-trailers, cycles and every type of vehicle without reflectors.

In a separate order, she has fixed the timing of closure of the shops at 8.30 pm but the dhabas, sweet shops, restaurants, ahatas would close at 11 pm. The chemist shops have been exempted from the closing time. 


Ludhiana to have new bus stand
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 23
Ludhiana will have a new bus stand. The Punjab Infrastructure Board, along with the Infrastructure Development Corporation, has signed a contract with a Vadodra-based company to spend Rs 13.47 crore on the project.

The company will complete the work in 18 months. The new facilities will include additional platforms, board and lodging and green areas.


A clarification

Reacting to the news item, “Good weather, Bt cuts sale of pesticides” carried in these columns yesterday, Ms Kavitha of the Kheti Virasat Mission has clarified that refraining from pesticide use in itself makes a lot of change on the ground, in restoring natural eco-system. She said refraining from pesticide use is the essential thing — not that Bt cotton is used. This cannot be interpreted to say that pesticide use has come down with Bt cotton. It only means that in any growing condition, reduction and elimination of pesticide use requires a certain conviction and a mindset to be made up.


Life term for 5 in murder case
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, August 23
Mr K.K. Garg, Sessions Judge, Sangrur, awarded life imprisonment to five persons, namely Darshan Singh of Ubhyan village (Dirba), Malwinder Singh, an ex-serviceman of Ubhyan village, Nahar Singh of Kalwanoo village in Patiala district, Labh Singh and Gulab Singh, both from Kalar Bhaini village in Patiala district, in a murder case here today.

As per the case, the accused had made an attack on Amrik Singh of Ubhyan village on March 29, 2000, but he died on April 24, 2000. The police had registered a case in this regard on March 30, 2000, on the statement of Mr Surjit Singh, brother of Amrik Singh, as Amrik was declared unfit by the doctor for making a statement. The motive behind the attack on Amrik Singh was said to be a dispute over 24 acres.


high court
All accused in sex scam get bail
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, August 23
Mr Justice S.K. Mittal on Tuesday granted bail to all the accused in the infamous Amritsar sex scam.

All the accused — Jagdep Singh Arora, Subhash Chand Sharma, Bulund Iqbal Singh, Ganesh Puddar, Jaivir Kataria and Madan Lal Vij — have been presently in Patiala jail since June, 2005.

The investigation in the case is being conducted by the CBI on the orders of the high court. The challan is likely to be presented tomorrow in the court of designated CBI Judge, Patiala.

In their plea for bail, the accused had stated that they were not named in the FIR and no purpose would be solved by keeping them in jail.

DSPs’ petition

A Division Bench headed by Mr Justice J.S. Narang on Tuesday dismissed as infructuous a petition filed by some Deputy Superintendents of the Punjab police.

The petitioners, Mr Gurjit Singh and others, had challenged the deployment of officers of the allied services, including the Central Reserve Police Force, in Punjab. They had claimed that the presence of these officers had adversely affected their seniority, thereby hitting their promotion chances.

However, counsel for the Punjab government informed the Bench that the government had issued a notification as per which these officers had been classified under a separate cadre.

Following this, the Bench dismissed the petition as being infructuous.


Farmers decry govt policies
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 23
Five kisan oganisations, including the Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta), the All-India Kirti Kisan Sabha, the Jamhoori Kisan Sabha, the Khetibari Kisan and Vikas Front and the Punjab Kisan Sabha, yesterday staged a massive dharna and held a demonstration in front of the Deputy Commissioner’s office to protest against the anti-farmer policies pursued by the Central and the state governments.

Hundreds of demonstrators raised anti-government slogans carrying flags and mottos in their hands and expressed resentment against the government. Later a memorandum of demands was presented to the Deputy Commissioner.

A special resolution was passed at the dharna, demanding prosecution and punishment of Congress leaders and police officers indicted in the Nanavati Commission report, ensuring 16 hours’ uninterrupted supply for tubewells and 24-hour supply for domestic consumption. It said no fee be charged for extension of load and shifting of the connection by the electricity board, a ‘biana’ imposed on unirrigated land be abolished.

The resolution asked the government to withdraw the previous hike in the diesel and petrol prices and demanded to again start the Shagun scheme for agricultural workers with the amount increased to Rs 11,000. The resolution also asked the government to give old-age pension of Rs 500 to all persons who had crossed the age of 60 years and demanded immediate suspension of policy of privatisation of education, health services and sugar mills.

The Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta) president, Mr Pishora Singh Sidhupur criticised the government, saying it had shattered the confidence of people as `it had failed to implement the promises made in the election manifesto. He said the state government could not restore the facility of free power and water to the farmers in its three and a half years tenure and had failed to pay the remaining Rs 20 per quintal bonus announced on paddy in 2001.


400 farmers court arrest
Our Correspondent

Abohar, August 23
More than 400 farmers courted arrest after concluding their six-hour protest rally at 5 pm yesterday at the new grain market, Gharsana in Sriganganagar, neighbouring Abohar.

Meanwhile, Kisan Mazdoor Beopari Sangharsh Samiti activists at Nohar continued to keep an Assistant Executive Engineer (AEN) of the Irrigation Department under their captivity for the third consecutive day. The Superintending Engineer and XEN of the department rushed to his rescue. However, the AEN was freed after six hours on the intervention of some landlords.

More than 5,000 farmers gathered at the market site of the rally. They crossed barricades and nakas laid by the district administration. The market was virtually turned into a police cantonment. The riot-fighting squads, and special task force were also deployed. The authorities had made efforts to discourage farmers from participation in the rally. Farmers protested against the state government for better canal water management.

Mr Sheopat Rai, former MP, Mr Harchand Singh Sidhu, and Mr Sohan Lal Nayak, former MLAs and senior activists, Mr Bhura Mal Swami and Mr Rajinder Bhadoo of the Congress party addressed the rally. They said the agitation would continue till the unconditional release of former MLA, Mr Het Ram Beniwal, Sant Lekha Singh and other leaders of the samiti. Farmers of the Rawla area will court arrest at Gharsana on August 24, Ravatsar on 26 and border villages of Gharsana on August 27.

The administration had arranged 50 buses to take away the farmers. Officials said arrests were made under Section 151 of the CrPC and they would not be released without trial in respective courts.


Dhaipi tubewell corpn vice-chief
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 23
Mr Rampal Dhaipi has been appointed vice-chairman of the Punjab State Tubewell Corporation.

An order in this regard has been issued by Mr G.S. Sandhu, Principal Secretary, Irrigation Department, Punjab. Mr Dhaipi is general secretary of the PPCC.


Boy ends life
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, August 23
A young boy, Gurdep Singh, allegedly committed suicide by burning himself publicly in the Motia Khan area of Mandi Gobindgarh town of the district this afternoon.

Though the reason behind the suicide is not yet known but sources disclosed that after setting himself on fire, he walked on the crowded roads in the city and went towards the hospital. Surprisingly, none came forward for his help.

He received 90 per cent burns and died after sometime. The SSP said he was a drug addict.

The police has registered a case under Section 174 of the IPC.


Granthi commits suicide
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 23
Gurmukh Singh, granthi of a local gurdwara, allegedly ended his life today after hanging himself from the roof of the main hall of gurdwara.

As per the information gathered by the TNS, Gurmukh Singh allegedly committed suicide after finishing the daily morning prayers and distributing the ‘parshad’ to devotees. A case has been registered under Section 174 of Cr P.C, the police said.


Murder case solved, 1 held

Faridkot, August 23
The Faridkot police claims to have solved a 15-year-old blind murder case with the arrest of the main alleged accused Pala Singh, a resident of Moolianwali village in Ferozepore district.

The police sources said Pala Singh accompanied by five accomplices hired a taxi at Kotkapura on May 23, 1990 and fled away after killing its driver Jasveer Singh. A case under Section 302/34 of the IPC was registered at Kotkapura. — OC


Drugging case

Kharar, August 23
The police has failed to register a case against a person who posed as a beggar and drugged a woman here on Sunday evening.

The suspect had allegedly made Nisha Singla, a niece of a municipal councillor, Mr Jai Bhagwan Singla, unconscious when she was sitting in her father’s shop. The man was caught by residents, beaten up and handed over to the police. Mr Singla met the DSP, Mr Raj Bachan Singh Sandhu, today in connection with the case demanding strict action against suspect. OC


Teacher suspended for not teaching
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 23
The Deputy Commissioner, Mr Rahul Bhandari, today ordered suspension of Mrs Pushpa Garg, a teacher posted at Government Senior Secondary School, Paras Ram Nagar.

The Deputy Commissioner reached the school at 8.45 am and first checked the attendance register of the schoolteachers. Out of 26 teachers 12 were found to be on leave. When he questioned about their absence he was told that most of them were on medical leave. He also found a number of classes without teachers. He ordered medical examination of the teachers who were on medical leave and said strict action would be taken against those feigning illness. Students complained about Mr Swaranjeet Singh, a teacher, who, they alleged used to beat them up. The Deputy Commissioner asked the DEO to initiate departmental probe against him.

Following a written complaint from class VII A students about Mrs Pushpa Garg not taking their English classes, the Deputy Commissioner ordered her suspension. He inspected all classes and found that the students’ copies had not been checked since August 12. He sought reply from teachers on the matter and warned them that such an attitude would not be tolerated in future.


Without salary for 2 months
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, August 23
Principals, teachers, clerical and class VI staff working on plan posts in government schools have been waiting for their salaries for the past about two months.

Though the employees on non-plan posts have started receiving their salaries after a delay of two months, the plan posts employees are still waiting for their salaries.

Ms Sudha, who is working in government school of this district and is the sole bread earner of her family, said that electricity and phone bills of her house had been pending for the past two months due to delay in payment of their salaries.

Mr Jagroop Singh, another teacher, said that it had not happened for the first time. Last year also their salaries were paid after three months. He said that due to this attitude of education department, he had started keeping some reserve funds in case his salary was delayed.

When contacted, Mr J.R. Arora, District Treasury Officer, said that the Bills for the non-planned posts had already been received and salaries were being disbursed to the employees of non-plan posts.


Strike by colleges staff
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 23
On a call given by the Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers Union (PCCTU), four non-government aided colleges of the district — Public College, Samana, PNM College, Rajpura, Khalsa College and Multani Mal Modi Degree College, Patiala — observed a “save education day” by going on a two-hour strike.

Addressing the striking teachers, Dr Harcharan Singh, Secretary of the union, criticised the government’s policy of privatising the education sector.

He added that if the government went ahead with its privatisation policy, a majority of youth would be deprived of education, leading to unemployment besides creating other social problems.

Prof Balvir Singh, a state executive committee member of the union, urged the government to implement the Dr Johl committee report to save higher education in the state.

Dr Rashpaul Singh, district president of the union, said the government was adopting a negative attitude on the 50 per cent DA merger policy and the implementation of the pension gratuity scheme.

Prof Sharwan Kumar; unit president, said the teachers would again go on a two-hour strike on August 25 to remind the government of it’s poll manifesto promises which include 95 per cent grant and the pension gratuity scheme.


5,000 teachers hold gate rallies
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, August 23
As many as 5,000 teachers working in private aided colleges in the state along with activists of the Punjab and Chandigarh College teachers union (PCCTU) today observed “Save Education Day” and organised gate rallies and dharnas against the non-fulfilment of their demands.

Prof H.S. Walia, state vice-president of the PCCTU, criticised the government for its retrogressive policies such as ban on fresh recruitments, and diluting 95 per cent grand-in-aid scheme meant for paying salaries. Such policies, he said, would not only block spread of higher education but also were likely to dilute the quality of higher education.


Khalsa College strike continues
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, August 23
Students who were denied admission in Khalsa College did not allow other students to enter the college today. They raised slogans against the secretary of the College Management Committee as well as its Principal.

They also blocked the main gates of the college, which was being guarded by the police parties.

Dr Daljit Singh, Principal of the college, showed the documents claiming that the admissions were the prerogative of the academic council, which had admitted students after proper scrutiny and on merit.


Students meet PTU official
Tribune News Service

Ropar, August 23
More than 100 students of Bhattal Engineering College today met a senior functionary of Punjab Technical University, and urged him to change the decision of reducing their training period from six months to two months. The students who have been protesting against the varsity decision for the past two week were not allowed by the college authorities to enter the college premises.


Discussion on Puncom sell-off on Aug 25
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 23
A fresh process to disinvest Punjab Government’s stake in the Punjab Communications Limited (Puncom) is to start soon. The government intends to offload 74 per cent stake in the company. It is likely to be discussed at the meeting of the high-powered disinvestment board scheduled for August 25.

In 2001, the company was on the disinvestment list but the process could not completed. The Punjab Government intends to sell-off its stake to a private bidder and not through a public offer. The rest of the 26 per cent stake in Puncom is already held by the public. Well-placed sources said it was impossible for the government to keep pace in an industry where technology changes very fast and by the time it takes a decision the technology is on its way out.

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