P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Punjab's economic growth less than 3 pc: Kanwaljit
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 25
The former Punjab Finance Minister, Captain Kanwaljit Singh, today stated that every person in Punjab had a debt of Rs 13029 on his head, the highest in any state of the country.

"In its present state of financial crises, Punjab would require an investment of at least Rs 5000 crore every year for the next 10 years to achieve a growth rate of 8 per cent annually," he said.

Captain Kanwaljit Singh was speaking at a seminar organised in a local college here.

Stating that Punjab's economy was growing at a rate of less than 3 per cent compared to the national average of 6.8 per cent annually, Captain Kanwaljit warned that if the decline continues, "we would find ourselves in the company of the poorest states in the country."

Leveling allegations of mismanagement and lack of administrative skill in handling Punjab finances, the Akali MLA from Banur said the Congress government is responsible for the debacle.

"A recent study indicates that the Punjab farmer is indebted to the tune of Rs 15000 crore and 37 per cent of the farmers interviewed have indicated a desire to quit farming because it is no longer profitable," he pointed out.

Quoting a World Bank report on Punjab's development released in 2004, Captain Kanwaljit said the confrontationist stance adopted by the Congress in the state would discourage investment and hit economic growth.

"Citizens of the state wonder whether the younger generation will grow up in the most affluent and developed state in the country like their parents and grand parents once did…. Such anxieties are not without reason.

The economy and state's public finances are under severe stress, the economy has stagnated, employment opportunities are shrinking, quality of public service is deteriorating, interest groups are growing in influence and human development indicators are beginning to languish or even deteriorate," he observed.

Captain Kanwaljit added that the government had reduced government expenditure by 66 per cent in health and sanitation and by 70 per cent in education, the two most important sectors.

Suggesting that the state needs an economic vision, Captain Kanwaljit Singh said a 20-year policy that remains unaffected by political changes needs to be introduced. "The role of the state needs to be re-defined and the corridors of the bureaucratic system urgently need a whiff of fresh air," he concluded.

The former Finance Minister Punjab said the Shiromani Akali Dal would take up the issue of corruption raised by the Kharar MLA Mr Bir Devinder Singh in the coming session of the Vidhan Sabha. "Corruption is not a party issue. It is a public issue since it involves misuse or misappropriation of the tax payer's money and thus needs to be taken up on the floor of the House," he said.


‘Family, relatives forced me to accuse father of rape’
Tribune News Service

Balachaur (Nawanshahr) , November 25
Seema, who went back on her complaint of rape against her father in the Supreme Court yesterday, blamed her family and relatives for forcing her into it.

Ms Seema, who now works with a dance troupe besides running a beauty parlour in Balachaur town, told The Tribune she realised recently the gravity of the offence and felt that her conscience would not allow her to keep silent any more.

Narrating sequence of events, Seema mother of two sons, said that her parents were not on good terms and decided to settle scores with each other. “It was done under pressure from the police and family members,” she admitted.

Some relatives instigated her mother Kalawati to get a case filed against her husband Asha Ram to teach him a lesson. Being a minor at that time, “I did not know that serious charge of rape had been levelled against my father. Now I don’t want my old father to undergo life sentence for the sin he did not commit”. She claimed that she was aware that the case was pending in the court but was not sure that the things would go to such an extent. Earlier, I came to know that my father was going to face life term so an affidavit was filed in the Supreme Court, she admitted.

Today she wants to undo the wrong and live life as she is happily married to Mr Bhag Singh, a tailor by profession and residing in rented accommodation in Balachaur town 60 km from Hoshiarpur.

Ms Seema and her husband Bhag Singh want to forget all painful memories of the past. The family wants to forget the stigma it faced but scars are still there.

Seema, who allegedly was raped by her father while she was a minor met Bhag Singh in Tutu in Shimla when she was a teenager. They decided to marry against the wishes of their parents. After marriage, a decade ago the couple left Shimla and decided to earn livelihood in Punjab from where Mr Bhag Singh hails.

Mr Bhag Singh claimed they wanted to live and let his in-laws live in peace. He claimed to have married Seema even though he was aware of the facts. “I never recalled the past again. After marriage we never visited Seema’s parental place, Kunnehar, near Arki in Solan district of Himachal Pradesh,” claimed Mr Bhag Singh. “We are happy with sons -Ajay, a student of Class V and Hemant, of Class IV, he added.

The family was stunned when TV journalists descended on their house this afternoon and started questioning the couple.

In the beginning Seema was reluctant to face the media but later she agreed. She had been performing dance at marriage functions and recently visited Muscat with her dance troupe.


Amarinder to gift Rolex watches to Elahi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 25
The delegation led by the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, to Pakistan will carry watches and mobile phones as gifts for Chaudhary Pervez Elahi, Chief Minister of Pakistan Punjab, and his team of functionaries there.

In the past handicrafts and pashmina shawls had been gifted. This time the Indian Punjab delegation has settled for something more stylish — Rolex watches and the latest mobile phones.

Capt Amarinder Singh will go to the Nankana Sahib gurdwara, where a gold palanquin will be gifted on November 29. The Chief Minister returns home the next day.

The idea of giving mobile phones struck the Chief Minister when he saw outdated phones being used by Pakistan officials.

When Capt Amarinder Singh first visited Pakistan in March last year, Chaudhary Pervez Elahi gifted him an expensive Arabian stallion. The horse could not reach India due to delay in clearances and it’s developing a leg problem.

Chaudhary Pervez Elahi replaced it with another horse — Son of a Gun — that is expected to reach India shortly.

Capt Amarinder Singh reciprocated by giving Chaudhary Pervez Elahi a 75 horsepower tractor from a Punjab manufacturer — Sonalika.


Team leaves for Pak to bring gifted horse
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, November 25
A three-member team of the Punjab Government headed by Mr Dhanvir Singh, Secretary, Animal Husbandry, crossed over to Pakistan through the Wagah joint checkpost here today to bring the gift given by Pakistani Punjab’s Chief Minister, Chowdhury Pervez Elahi, to Capt Amarinder Singh. The team is expected to return on November 28.

It may be mentioned that Mr Elahi had gifted Arabi horse “Sultan” to Capt Amarinder Singh during his visit to Lahore in January 2004. The gift could not be get the requisite clearance to arrive here and subsequently developed medical complication. Now, it has been replaced with another seven-year-old horse.


Dying art form puppetry finds acceptance
Rashmi Talwar

Amritsar, November 25
Puppetry an ancient vibrant art form, that packed entertainment with political satire and involved a whole gamut of portrayals, found ready acceptance among the youth here today.

The two-day workshop that concluded as part of the Heritage Festival here was able to create interest. It was aptly handled by professional puppeteer Anuroopa Roy owner of the ‘Katkatcha ‘puppet theatre in Delhi, Deepti Durga and Radha Dayal of Heritage Education and Commerce Services INTACH.

Conforming to “rod” puppetry concept, with the inventive use of ordinarily available materials like, cloth, toilet paper, glue, saw dust, wool and buttons, the puppets came alive infusing new life into romantic characters of Heer Ranjha; the history of the holy “amrit sarovar” of holy city and it was also able to convey vividly the social messages against alcoholism.

Anuroopa with eight years experience in this dying art form has who performed at universities , for NGOs, at festivals and at conferences “Every workshop is like a touch of history of a certain place and community” Anuroopa said.

As many as 31 students from varying classes and schools participated in this least-expensive animated visual-art form that used creativity to the hilt .

Along with activities of drawing , painting, carving , clay, plaster modeling , costume designing it used the ingenuity of story, script writing, dramatisation, in addition to effectively set them to song and music composition.

The workshop served to convey how this art could be effectively kept alive by using it innovatively in education, for communication and for wholesome entertainment.


Efforts to float new Akali Dal fizzle out
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 25
Efforts to float yet another Shiromani Akali Dal by roping in senior Akali leaders today fizzled out when a former Akali minister, Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, and Bibi Kiranjot Kaur, both SGPC members, dissociated themselves from the six-member panel, announced by Mr Jaswant Singh Mann, president All India Shiromani Akali Dal at a seminar, organised by the World Sikh Foundation (WSF), to commemorate the death anniversary of Master Tara Singh here.

Visibly upset , Bibi Kiranjot Kaur said she had agreed to attend the seminar since it was held to commemorate the death anniversary of her grandfather after a long time . She , however, said it was disgusting that some vested interests started taking political mileage by raising the name of Masterji . Mr Calcutta, however, was quick to reject the proposal to induct his name in the six-member panel from the stage itself.

It is learnt that there was a move to appoint Mr Prem Singh Lalpura and Mr Calcutta as president and senior vice-president of the proposed Akali Dal, respectively, while the rest of the four members were to be elected office-bearers.

The seminar on Master Tara Singh assumed significance at a time when an urban Sikh, Mr Avtar Singh Makkar, was appointed the SGPC chief. Mr Tara Singh who was also an urban Sikh, had ruled the hearts of Sikh masses for about five decades. However, Ms Jaspreet Kaur, great grand-daughter of Master Tara Singh, who had done Ph.D on him, was disillusioned at the function because she was not invited to read her paper. Some other Sikh intellectuals who were supposed to attend the function were also conspicuous by their absence.

Though the six-member panel was formed to work out the modalities to bring Sikh renaissance, its “hidden agenda” was to form a strong Akali faction with the amalgamation of splinter groups of the Sikh Panth. Bhai Ram Singh, general secretary, SAD (Amritsar), also raised objection over the announcement of the panel without disclosing its agenda.

Mr Calcutta, who presided over the seminar set the tone and tenor in the beginning that the aim of the function was neither to target any individual nor any particular faction.

However, after the seminar, Mr Calcutta announced that instead of forming any Akali Dal, he would prefer to fight to save Sikh institutions by remaining in SAD (Badal).


Bailey bridge opened
Tribune News Service

Tibri (Gurdaspur), November 25
Traffic has become normal on the Mukerain-Gurdaspur road after more than six months. The Indian army has constructed Bailey bridge across the Upper Bari Doab Canal (UBDC) in three days after the PWD transferred material for the purpose to the army.

The bridge was inaugurated today by Punjab PWD Minister Pratap Singh Bajwa, who lauded the army’s of effort. After the old brick-arch bridge on the road got damaged the traffic had to be stopped. The government requested the Army to construct the Bailey bridge he said.

He added that with the Bailey bridge in place farmers of the area can take their produce to the sugar mills in Mukerian and Dasuya. The PIDB has also sanctioned a Rs 4 crore for the new bridge over the two branches of UBDC canal passing through Tibri. Work on the new bridge would start very soon, he said.

On other brick-arch bridges on state and national highways in the district, Mr Bajwa said the matter had been taken up with the irrigation department. Earlier the bridges were owned by the Irrigation Department. Now these have become part of roads. Decision on the agency taking up the construction would be taken soon.

Due to paucity of funds the government was trying to get most of the state highways constructed on Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis. The Kiratpur Sahib-Nangal road has been given on BOT basis by the government. The agency constructing the road would spend Rs 45 crore on it. In turn it would be allowed to collect toll for 15 years. The government would also get a share of Rs 3 crore per annum from the toll collected on the said road.

He also said that NABARD XI and NABARD XI-A schemes worth Rs 500 crore each would be implemented in the state soon. Under these schemes all roads in the state would be upgraded.

People of area organised a function to thank the minister and Army officials.


Rail coach catches fire, passengers safe
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, November 25
A coach of the Nanded Saheb-Amritsar train caught fire under mysterious circumstances at Ludhiana Railway station this evening. A part of the coach was reserved for women while the rest was being used as a luggage compartment.

There was no loss of life. Most of the women passengers in the coach managed to come out to safety in time.

Police sources said the fire took place when the train had just started moving. Though some passengers said they had heard a blast also, the police and the Railway officials denied it. Sources said a moped was recovered from the debris which was strewn on platform number II as well as on the track.

Sub-Inspector Harbans Singh of the Railway Police said they were working on several theories. He ruled out sabotage.

Normal traffic on the track was restored within an hour of the incident. The affected coach, which was attached at the end of the train, was removed and the train resumed its journey after some time.

Sources said the fire broke out in the Amritsar-bound train just after 8 pm. Fire Brigade and Railway staff managed to control the flames but not before the entire luggage was reduced to ashes.

The cause of the fire could not be ascertained. The flames caused quite a scare with the passengers in the other coaches of the train also rushing out.

The police got evacuated platform numbers-I and II immediately. The affected luggage was strewn all around on these platforms.


New cash-deposit scheme for property registration
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 25
The Punjab Government has decided to introduce a cash-deposit scheme for the registration of property, replacing the existing stamp-paper system.

Under the new arrangement, the payment of stamp duty of Rs 20,000 or more in a single transaction will be done only through the State Bank of India (SBI).

To begin with, this will be applicable to transactions at all district headquarters. A spokesperson said the state Revenue Department had already issued instructions to all the deputy commissioners that the payment of stamp duty of Rs 20,000 or more should be done only through the SBI.

While explaining the procedure, the spokesperson said the depositor of stamp duty would be required to fill the requisite challan form containing the head of account (for stamp duty and additional stamp duty). The challan form would be supplied by the treasury to the bank. The bank would issue a receipt.

The registering officer would verify the deposit of stamp duty in the SBI as shown in the receipt presented to him by the depositor from the SBI through the internet before releasing the property documents.


DC urged to stop gurdwara demarcation
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, November 25
Mr Ragubir Singh, secretary, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), today urged the Deputy Commissioner, with copies to the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and other authorities concerned to stop alleged illegal demarcation of the properties of Gurdwara Gurusar Satlani here.

He was appointed receiver of the properties of gurdwara by the court on October 13, who took possession of the gurdwara on October 18. However, Baba Gurpinder Singh of Gurusar Satlani allegedly tried to regain the possession, which led to firing and killing of two persons, besides injuring several of them. He (Baba Gurpinder) later had claimed that he was going to his dera which did not come under the properties of gurdwara.

In the letter to the DC, the secretary alleged that the revenue officials in their reports to him had given false facts as Baba Gurpinder Singh had nothing in his name and, therefore, he had no right to get the demarcation. He requested the Deputy Commissioner to intervene in the matter and stop this illegal act.


Bibi’s pictures removed from SGPC office
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 25
The pictures of Bibi Jagir Kaur were immediately removed from the offices of high officials of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee after her unceremonious ouster.

The first one to remove the big picture of the former SGPC chief was Mr Harjit Singh, an additional secretary and personal assistant to Bibi.


High Court
Life term of constable upheld
High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, November 25
A Division Bench comprising Mr Justice Mehtab Singh Gill and Mr Justice Pritam Pal has upheld the life imprisonment awarded to a Punjab Police constable for having murdered a man with his service weapon.

As per the prosecution story, constable Ranjit Singh had shot one Pritam Singh on April 21, 1994 at Barnala. Pritam Singh succumbed to the gun-shot injuries while he was being rushed to hospital.

Eye-witnesses told the trial court that they had clearly seen Ranjit Singh, who had some ill-will against the deceased, firing at Pritam with the intention of killing him. At the time of the incident, the constable was security officer of the DSP, Barnala.

In his judgement dated April 4, 1997, the Additional District and Sessions Judge, Barnala, convicted the constable under Section 302 of IPC and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

In his appeal against the judgement of the Additional District and Sessions Judge, Ranjit Singh challenged his conviction on the ground that almost all the witnesses, on whose testimony the judgement was based, were from the same locality from which the deceased belonged. Therefore, he added, their testimony could not be relied upon to build the case against him.

However, the Bench did not find any infirmity in the judgment and dismissed the appeal.


Govt fails to recover embezzled amount
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, November 25
The Rural Development Department has failed to recover the embezzled amount from the Sarpanches, who had been indicted in inquiry reports into embezzlement of government grants to the tune of lakhs of rupees in the district.

Though Ms Jaspreet Talwar, Deputy Commissioner has been taking the matter seriously at every review meeting and has directed respective Block Development Officers to recover the amount, only Rs 2,000 worth of embezzled amount has been recovered so far.

Expenses made on recovering the amount exceed the recovery.

According to the information, the Sarpanches in the district have been found guilty of embezzling government grants worth about Rs 40 lakh out of a total grant of about Rs 3 crore given to village panchayats for development works.

On complaints of Sarpanches from opposition groups, inquiries were conducted into many cases of embezzlement of the grant.

As per the Punjab Panchayati Raj Act, 1994, Clause 216, the notices for recovery of embezzled amount were served on the indicted Sarpanches. However, sources said the notices were a mere formality.

Ms Talwar admitted that the recovery had been going on a slow pace. She said now the BDPOs and tehsildars had been directed strictly to recover as much amount as they could because indicted Sarpanches must have earned money selling their produce.

If the erring Sarpanches did not pay back the embezzled money, their properties would be attached, she added.


GND varsity celebrates foundation day
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, November 25
Historian Barun De, Vice-President of the Asiatic Society, Kolkata, who presided over the 36th foundation day celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev University, said here yesterday the first Sikh Guru endeavoured to bring Hindus and Muslims closer across the Indian subcontinent.

Professor De said Guru Nanak Dev travelled across the subcontinent and beyond to teach his message of brotherhood. He said the Guru gave the concept of democracy first time in the country by starting langar.

Mr Virbhadra Singh, Himachal Chief Minister, who was to be the chief guest, did not arrive.

The eminent historian said the message from Guru Granth Sahib blends understanding of different cultural values of mutual respect, intermingling of not only in spiritual matters but also in secular and material affairs.

Earlier, the Vice-Chancellor of Guru Nanak Dev University, Dr S.P. Singh welcomed distinguished speakers.


Unemployed ETT teachers to protest at Lambi rally
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, November 25
Jobless ETT teachers have decided to stage a protest and disrupt the address of Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh during the ruling party’s much-hyped rally in Lambi on December 11.

In a press statement released here today, the senior vice-president of the Unemployed ETT Teachers Union, Mr Jagmeet Singh Sahota, said though the state government had decided to recruit 12,000 teachers, but ignoring the recommendations of the Bhattal Committee report, this recruitment would take place at the panchayat level. This had increased resentment among the jobless teachers and their parents, he claimed.

He said the union leaders held meetings in all districts and decided to totally boycott the recruitment process to protest against the contractual appointment by the Panchayati Raj institutions.

He warned that the government would have to “pay a heavy price” if it went ahead with the recruitment.

He claimed that the Chief Minister and his Cabinet colleagues had promised permanent recruitment to unemployed teachers, but now they were backtracking from their assurance.

He sought immediate appointment of 6,000 ETT teachers on a permanent basis so as to “save education system in rural areas”.

Mr Sahota disclosed that they had already started mobilising people for their protest against the state government for the rally at Lambi.

He said they would oppose tooth and nail all efforts for contractual appointment of teachers.


School staff dharna continues
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 25
The dharna by Punjab State Aided School Teachers and Other Employees Union entered its seventh day here today.

Addressing the protesters, Mr Manohar Lal Chopra, adviser to the union, urged the state government to implement the high court decision of September 27 which directed the government to grant pensionary benefits to employees of aided schools.

The other demands included the merger of 50 per cent dearness allowance with the basic pay and lifting of the ban on recruitment.

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