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Tree felling: forest officials deny knowledge
Forest contractors protest against The Tribune
Lalit Mohan

Tribune News Service

Pathankot, December 31
Senior officials of the Forest Department, including the DFO, Pathankot division, deny having any knowledge about contractors being involved in the felling of trees.

The contractors, however, seep into the tree felling work taking advantage of the ignorance of the poor farmers. Most of them are illiterate and poor. Taking advantage of their handicap, these contractors take up the role of middlemen between the department and farmers.

“We issue permits directly to the farmers and no contractor is involved,” said the DFO, Pathankot division.

However, what happened yesterday at Pathankot clearly illustrated that contractors ruled the roost as far as the schedule for felling of trees was concerned.

A group of “khair” contractors gathered at the department and took out a procession against The Tribune for exposing a scam in Japan bank-aided project and violation of tree felling rules. They also burnt a few copies of the newspaper in order to pressurise newsmen against exposing the scam.

The contactors clearly had the tacit support of department officials, who allegedly egged them on to create pressure on newsmen exposing the scam.

These contractors were seen visiting the offices of various Forest Department officials before carrying out the protest.

Sources said the contractors were to be issued permits for felling 5,000 trees in the Donera range of the subdivision yesterday. However, after the violation of the felling rules was reported in these columns, the release of permits was delayed.

The DFO, Gurdaspur division, Mr Sahota, had earlier said that senior officials of the department, including he himself, the Deputy DFO and the Conservator of the range, were yet to check the marking of the trees effected by the lower staff.

However yesterday, in his statements reported in a section of the Press, the DFO stated that the below-specification marked tree had actually dried up or were diseased. It was surprising that when the DFO was yet to check the marked trees, how could he label them as dried up or diseased.

The changed statements of the DFO clearly indicated officials’ connivance with the contractors.

When The Tribune team visited the forest areas, many marked trees were found pruned. Sources said the trees were pruned just to show these as dried up or diseased in papers.

Sources said the real earning of the forest contractors was in cutting trees that did not meet the specifications. They tell farmers that they had to grease the palms of the officials to get unspecified trees marked.

The farmers are paid just Rs 200 to Rs 300 for each such tree while real profit goes into pockets of the contractors and officials. Such trees are termed as “mudi” by contractors and farmers in local parlance.

Sources also alleged that if an inquiry was carried out into the assets gained by these forest contractors in the past five years, the fact that who was the real gainer in tree felling programmes of the department would become clear.

While the contractors are getting richer by the each felling season, the farmers, who are said to be the real beneficiaries, are living in abject poverty.


Hawara arrest: Delhi sleuths await award
Rajmeet Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 31
Seven months after laying their hands on the Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) chief, Jagtar Singh Hawara, sleuths of the inter-state cell of the Crime Branch of the Delhi Police are still waiting for the cash award to be released by the Chandigarh Administration.

On condition of not being quoted, a senior officer in the Chandigarh Administration stated that though separate funds had been allocated for the genuine claimants of the award money, no request for claim had been forwarded to the Administration by the Chandigarh Police.

The officer said the Administration had written to the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Chandigarh, to release the award money if any genuine claimant approached the Chandigarh Police.

Sources in the Delhi Police said the officers concerned had already written twice to the Chandigarh Police for claiming the award money. But the IGP, Mr Satish Chandra, said he was not aware about it

The BKI chief had been nabbed by a team of the Crime Branch after a hot chase outside Punjabi University, Patiala, on June 7, 2005.

After Hawara, along with three other associates, Paramjit Singh Bheora, Jagtar Singh Tara and Devi Singh, had tunnelled their way out of the high-security jail on January 22, 2004, the Senior Superintendent of Police , Chandigarh, had through a public notice announced a cash award of Rs 5 lakh for those who would nab him.

But after one-and-a-half year, the sleuths of the Delhi Police during the course of investigating the twin cinema blasts tracked down the BKI chief. They had intercepted a conversation between Hawara and his mentor in Germany, who was directing the former to provide a hideout for the two accused in the Delhi cinema hall twin blasts case, viz Jaspal Singh, alias Raja, and Vikas Sehgal. The conversation between Hawara and Jaspal revealed that they were heading for Patiala.

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

The unsuspecting sleuths were rejoicing the arrest of Jaspal and Vikas. They were not aware that the third person accompanying the duo was Hawara. They only thought that they had caught a big fish after the Babbar introduced himself to them. One of the investigating officers disclosed that Hawara sarcastically congratulated them for having nabbed him. A monitoring of these calls brought the police to Chandigarh. A few days before the arrest of Hawara, the exchanges of cellular companies in the city became the control room of the sleuths.

The leads picked up the sleuths were meticulously followed by a 25-member team of the Crime Branch consisting of Subhash Tandon, Pankaj Sood and Sandeep Malhotra, all Inspectors, and Ramesh Dabas, Ramesh Sharma and Manjit Tomer, all Sub Inspectors.


PSEB official found innocent after 26 years, awaits job
Prem Kumar Sharma

Barnala, December 31
There seems to be no end to the 28-year ordeal of Mr Jagtar Singh, who worked as a Junior Engineer with the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) at Piareana in Ferozepore district in late 70s. Despite coming clean in an inquiry in 1993, after 26 years of his being held guilty in a corruption case, he has been running from pillar to post to get reinstated. He has written to the Chairman of the PSEB and the senior authorities concerned time and again to reinstate him, but to no avail.

Now he has knocked at the doors of Capt Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister, Punjab, and the Chairman, PSEB. He met them in person and requested to give justice to him. He says after being cleared of the corruption charge in an inquiry, he should be reinstated with retrospective effect and promotions and pecuniary benefits be paid to him.

Mr Jagtar Singh, a Junior Engineer then, was convicted on April 6, 1978, by the court of Additional Sessions Judge, Ferozepore, in a case registered on May 4, 1977, against him under Section 5(2) of Prevention Of Corruption Act, 1947, and Section 161 of the IPC. He was sentenced to two-years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 300 was also imposed. He had to undergo imprisonment for one year as the sentence was reduced from two to one year by the high court.

But after 26 years, he was found innocent in an inquiry conducted by the police following instructions from the SSP, Ferozepore.

On being contacted on Jagtar’s case, Mr Y.S. Ratra, Chairman, PSEB, said, “How can I react to this because JE is not my level, not even the Chief Engineer’s level?”

Mr Jagtar Singh said here today that on December 26, Mr Vishavpreet Singh Chhina, OSD (Residence) of the Chief Minister, Punjab, had instructed Mr Y.S. Ratra to look into the matter and take necessary action to ensure justice to him. He further said he had met Mr Ratra on Thursday and requested him to take action at the earliest.

The Tribune had earlier carried a story on Jagtar’s ordeal on November 21.

It was found later that some persons had connived to implicate Jagtar in a false case of graft, which resulted in his loss of job, conviction as well as imprisonment for one year.

The fact that Jagtar was innocent came to light in 1993 when Mr Baaj Singh, a clerk at SDO of Subdivision Ferozeshah, deposed in the court of Mr Varinder Singh saying that Mr Jasmail Singh neither in 1977 nor before and after was given any agriculture power connection for 3HP motor from 100 KVA transformer in the field of Mr Bachint Singh as had been  alleged earlier.

It was Jasmail Singh, in connivance with Mohinder Singh, a Junior Engineer of the PSEB, who had got Jagtar falsely trapped in the Vigilance net on the charges of graft for offering agricultural power connection to Jasmail Singh in the field of Mr Bachint Singh.

Since February, 2005, Mr Jagtar Singh had made many representations to the Chief Secretary, the Home Secretary, the PSEB Chairman and other senior authorities of the board requesting them to reinstate him with retrospective effect, but all in vain so far.

Surprisingly, instead of making amends for blunder on their part, the PSEB authorities were not taking any action in the case either by reinstating Jagtar Singh or taking disciplinary action against those who had falsely implicated him in the case.


Crime up in six districts
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 31
Cases of abduction, theft, attempt to murder, fatal accidents and culpable homicide witnessed an increase in six districts of the Bathinda zone in 2005. This has been revealed in the annual crime report released by the Police Department here on Thursday.

As per the report cases of attempt to murder have gone up from 164 last year to 201 in the current year registering an increase of 57, while cases under Section 304 of the IPC, which include fatal accidents and culpable homicide, have shot up by 91 over the last year. Cases of housebreak and theft have also increased from 387 last year to 482 this year, though the recovery of stolen property has also gone up from 39 per cent last year to 47 per cent in 2005.

Abduction cases also saw an increase from 83 to 98 this year and the police attributed the rise largely to love affairs among youngsters and marital disputes.

Crimes that registered a decline, included murder, cases of grievous hurt and fraud. Murder cases decreased from 169 to 160, while fraud cases decreased by 13.

However, the police has done well in to control narcotics. In all districts, 1,566 cases have been registered under the NDPS Act, which is 698 more than the last year. Recovery of opium increased from 183 kg last year to 268 kg this year, while recovery of poppy husk declined from 47,818 kg last year to 38,672. The police claimed having checked the supply of poppy husk from neighbouring states. Cases registered under the Arms Act also went up by 76 over the previous year and 138 pistols/revolvers were recovered compared to 83 last year. Under the Excise Act, there has been an increase of 331 cases and a parallel increase in the recovery.

Meanwhile, the Bathinda zone IG Rajinder Singh today released Video VCD of a telefilm, “Thanedar”, made by sub-inspector Amarjit who is posted in Patiala. The one-hour film highlights various aspects of the police functioning.


Virk claims decrease in crime
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 31
The Director-General of Police, Punjab, Mr S.S. Virk, yesterday claimed that incidents of crime during this year were fewer than last year. Shockingly, changing social norms had resulted in more women taking to crime. In 135 murder cases, out of a total of 723 during the year, women were the perpetrators of the crime.

There had been a sharp rise in cases of crimes involving women as compared to last year, said the DGP at his annual press conference here. He went on to narrate a few sensational cases where the wives or women friends had got the men killed.

Giving data, Mr Virk claimed that cases of attempt to murder had come down from 562 last year to 411 this year. Cases of kidnapping were down from 513 last year to 509 this year. Also, fewer cases of road accident, burglary and cheating were reported. In the year 2004 a total of 788 persons were murdered as compared to 723 this year.

While assessing the work of the state police during 2005, the DGP claimed that comprehensive operations mounted against organised crime such as kidnapping for ransom, drug peddling, money laundering, hawala operations, bank robbery and human smuggling and trafficking produced encouraging results, leading to the arrest of many key persons linked with these crimes

The DGP sidestepped the crucial issue of corruption in the force. When it was printed out that a recent survey by ORG-MARG had said that the police was the most corrupt, he said: “I leave it to you people to judge.” He said 250 complaints of corruption had been received by him and 20 police personnel had been dismissed this year.

On why the Akalis were protesting against the cut in the security cover, the DGP said the norms for providing security to sitting MLAs and former MLAs were being followed.

Mr Virk, who was accompanied by four Additional DGPs and other senior officers, said the police planned to declare a total war against drugs in Punjab, especially in the rural areas, next year. Elaborating on his goals for next year, he said the police planned to step up action against organised criminals.

The focus would be on improving the functioning of police stations by involving senior officers to ensure the timely redress of grievances of people at the grassroots level. All-women police stations would be made functional at the district level to ensure speedy justice to women and children by involving women police officers and staff in complaint redressal and investigation of cases related to women.


Telecom staff hold rally
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 31
On a call by the National Federation of Telecom Employees (NFTE) of BSNL (headquarters), a rally was held at the main gate of Telecom Bhavan complex yesterday against harassment allegedly meted out by the administration by transferring certain NFTE members in different divisions and circles at an all-India level.

The federation members alleged that in Andhra Pradesh circle alone more than 1800 NFTE members had been victimised while in Punjab circle NFTE members of Hoshiarpur and Ludhiana districts had been transferred against rules.

The NFTE Patiala division members condemned this ‘partisan’ attitude of the BSNL administration and demanded that the transfers be cancelled.


Badal urges PM to stop farmers’ eviction
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 31
The Shiromani Akali Dal President, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, has urged the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, to intervene and stop the forcible eviction of 400 poor Sikh farmers from 1,100 acres in the Kanshipur area of Udham Singh Nagar district of Uttaranchal Pardesh.

He faxed a letter to the Prime Minister in this regard. The SAD secretary, Dr Daljit Singh Cheema, said today that Mr Badal was approached by the president of the Uttaranchal unit of the party, Mr Harbhajan Singh Cheema, who was also the MLA from Kanshipur.

Mr Harbhajan Singh had informed Mr Badal that the police had gheraoed the village and was planning to evict the farmers.

Mr Harbhajan Singh also told Mr Badal that the farmers were observing a fast.


Badal’s old-age home gets 15 inmates
Tribune News Service

Badal, December 31
Multipurpose Old-Age Care Home, which has been set up by former Chief Minister and SAD president Parkash Singh Badal here, yesterday came alive with the arrival of 15 elderly persons on its premises.

Over 40 elderly persons had enrolled themselves at the old-age home. A team of doctors from the DMC, Ludhiana, and Bathinda examined all new inmates. Though the Vice-President, Mr Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, had formally inaugurated the old age home on November 18, the enrolled elderly persons joined it today.

Mr Badal termed it as his New Year gift to the elderly persons and hoped that they would gracefully lead their twilight years at the old-age home.

Meanwhile, left alone by their children to fend for themselves, the old-age home inmates shared the agony of their soul with the mediapersons. Ms Satwant Kaur from Ludhiana rued that her three sons usurped all their property and money before throwing her out of their homes along with her husband Uttam Singh, who, too, joined the old age home today.

Similarly, 80-year-old Kartar Kaur’s sons showed her the door stating that they could not keep her with them, as their father sold off their entire land. Mr Sukhchain Singh from Dhurkot said his son was a drug addict and his daughter-in-law hardly cared for him. He had two acres that he gave on contract farming to facilitate his four granddaughters’ education and living.


CM, Dullo greet people
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 31
Greeting people on New Year’s Eve, the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, the Deputy Chief Minister, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, and the Punjab Pradesh Congress president, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, in separate statements sought the cooperation of the people to make the state a modern and progressive one in which all Punjabis could lead a life of dignity and self-respect.

They said that Punjab would become a frontrunner state soon with the efforts of all Punjabis.


Four cops held on graft charge
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, December 31
Four policemen have been arrested on the charge of releasing a rape accused after getting money.

Sources said a woman from Jhakharwala village was raped by a resident of Dallewala village. She lodged a complaint with the police following which the investigating officer, SI Mangat Pal, Head Constables Hardev Singh and Sukhdev Singh and constable Sukhmandar Singh brought the accused to the police station and allegedly forced him to pay Rs 40,000 to them before letting him off.

However, the sources said the charge levelled by the woman against the accused turned out to be false. He then complained against the policemen who took money from him for releasing him which led to their arrest.


Dept lists errant govt teachers
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 31
The Education Department has prepared a list of government school teachers who are running schools opened in the name of their relatives. The department’s survey reveals that 40 such cases were traced in a neighbouring district.

The department has also asked the district education officers to prepare a list of schools operating from residential buildings or rented accommodations in their districts.

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