P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Another scam in supply of levy rice to FCI
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 3
A section of rice millers in alleged connivance with FCI officials have found a new way of fleecing the government in the sale of levy rice. They are reportedly offering levy rice to the FCI in new gunny bags with the government trademark, which are only issued by government agencies for procuring wheat or paddy.

According to sources, the price of levy rice in once used (B Class) gunny bag was Rs 1,021 per quintal, while it is Rs 1,063 per quintal in case of new gunny bag (A Class). The sources said the new gunny bags, having the government trademark imprinted on it, were usually disbursed by inspectors of government agencies to arhtiyas for filling up procured paddy or wheat. They said some arhtiyas were supplying procured crop in old gunny bags while retaining the new ones with them. They then sell off these gunny bags to dealers, who further sell it to millers. In this way a nexus of arhtiyas, dealers and millers was operating in connivance with some government officials.

The sources said the millers, who were offering levy rice in these gunny bags, didn’t even have any bill of their purchase. They said the anomaly had come to light in some of the centres of Ferozepore and Bathinda districts.

When contacted, the Senior Regional Manager, FCI, Mr T.C. Gupta, admitted that they were accepting new gunny bags with the government trademark till a few days back as the government had not allowed once-used gunny bags for levy rice. He said there was no big deal if millers were offering levy rice in new gunny bags with the government trademark as they were printed in excess by Kolkata millers and were easily available in New Delhi.

He said the government had only issued orders regarding the acceptance of levy rice in once-used gunny bag on December 6, following which they were not accepting levy rice in new gunny bags with any trademark.

However, a miller, requesting anonymity, said though new gunny bags with the government trademark were available in the market in small quantity, he didn’t purchase it fearing Vigilance raid.

On the other hand, the Bathinda FCI Divisional Manager, Mr B.M. Khosla, said they had received no instructions from the top for not accepting new gunny bags. He said the matter also came up at a meeting of Divisional Managers in Chandigarh and they were only told to ensure the acceptance of good quality A Class gunny bags.

However, the Ferozepore, Divisional Manager, Mr A.C. Pubby, said no such case had come to his notice till now and he would surely ask a rice miller to produce bills of gunny bags if they came across this anomaly.


Modus operandi of the rice scandal
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 3
The rice scandal involving Rs 700 crore in Punjab is multidimensional. Obviously, bribe money in crores changes hands between officials and rice millers involved in the scandal to get substandard rice accepted in the Central pool. Punjab is a rice surplus state which contributes about 75 to 85 lakh tonnes of rice almost every year to the Central pool, that is controlled, managed and operated by the Food Corporation of India.

“ In the 1980s, the officials, who accepted substandard rice, used to charge Rs 150 per truckload of rice for acceptance in the Central pool. And now the rate has gone up to Rs 4,500 per truck”, says a rice sheller owner. “ We want to do fair business without paying any bribe. However, the existing system has become so polluted that one cannot survive in the rice shelling business without greasing the palm of the officials concerned”, he adds.

Two dimensions of the scandal are most visible. One is with regard to broken rice. There is a rice mafia which brings broken rice from Uttar Pradesh and Delhi at a price ranging between Rs 2.50 kg and Rs 4. And that broken rice is mixed with other rice that is to be supplied to the Central pool in such a manner that it is difficult to detect without making a thorough analysis of all bags of rice.

Sources said that an empty barrel of small diameter is placed in the middle of a semi-filled bag of rice and broken rice is put into the barrel to place it in the centre of the bag. Later, the barrel is removed from the bag. While drawing samples, most of the officials draw rice from the sides of bags of rice. Mixing of broken rice is a big business in certain parts of the Malwa belt.

The FCI is aware of this mischief being played by various rice millers in connivance with its officials posted in certain areas. It has been issuing warnings to rice millers and others concerned in this connection.

Only a week ago, Mr T.C. Gupta, who holds charge as Senior Regional Manager (SRM) of the FCI’s Punjab and Haryana offices, got published an advertisement in all major newspapers. It read: “It has come to our notice that one paddy rake from Roza (UP) has been unloaded at Sunam on December 19 and another rake of rice from Hardoi has been unloaded at Chandigarh on December 21. The rice stocks unloaded at Chandigarh are reported to have been shifted to various centres of Punjab.

“The mixing of rice stocks to be taken out from inferior quality paddy and inferior rice itself would lower the quality of the standard of rice to be tendered in the Central pool by both the states”. Such unethical and unbusiness-like practices followed by certain rice millers would naturally be taken notice of and if such an instance is detected, the rice consignments to be offered for the Central pool would be rejected.”

Mr Gupta got this information from the Railways because he had written to the latter some weeks ago that any consignment of paddy and rice arriving in Punjab or Haryana from other states should be intimated to the FCI.” As both Haryana and Punjab are paddy and rice-surplus states, there is no logic in bringing paddy and rice to these states from other parts of the country”, says Mr Gupta. “ The arrival of such consignments naturally leads to suspicion”, he adds.

Another dimension of the scandal relates to the shelling of rice. There are certain millers who only shell the outer layer of paddy grains. They do not remove a rice paper-thin brownish layer of brawn from the rice because this results in lowering of the weight of the rice grain up to 8 per cent. That brownish-looking rice is supplied to the Central pool, obviously with the connivance of officials. Many cases of the supply of brownish rice, which falls in the category of rice damaged beyond the prescribed limit, have been detected in Punjab in the past months. States like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala had lodged a protest against the supply to them of such rice from Punjab by the FCI.


Food & Supply Controller in Vigilance net
Tribune News Service

Moga, January 3
The Vigilance Bureau last night arrested the District Food and Supply Controller (DFSC), Mr Manish Narula, for accepting bribe from a rice miller from Jalalabad.

According to sources, the owner of Nilgiri Rice Mill, Jalalabad, Mr Sohan Lal, had stored 1.5 lakh bags of paddy in his godown against the capacity of 1.2 lakh bags.

When the DFSC came to know about it, he allegedly asked him to pay Rs 2 per bag for the excess 30,000 paddy bags and Rs 1 per bag for 1.2 lakh bags.

The Vigilance DSP, Mr Narinderpal Singh, said the rice miller promised the DFSC to pay the first installment of the amount sought by him on Monday.

The Vigilance laid a trap and nabbed the DFSC while accepting an amount of Rs 30,000 from Mr Sohan Lal in his office last night.

A case has been registered against him under the Prevention of Corruption Act.


SAD MLA Marar may join Cong at Maghi mela
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, January 3
The Congress appears set to give the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) another jolt on its home turf, as Akali MLA from Muktsar, Sukhdarshan Singh Marar, is likely to join the ruling party at its conference on Maghi mela. Earlier, Akali MLA from Rampura Phul, Gurpreet Singh Kangar, had joined the Congress at a rally in Badals’ citadel, Lambi last month.

Though Mr Marar was reluctant to come record on the issue, but sources said the matter had been taken up with Congress leaders and talks were on in this direction. He fought last Assembly election as an independent candidate after being denied ticket by the SAD. Later, he joined the Akali Dal on August 5, 2003. Sources said the SAD MLA also met Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh in Patiala last week to discuss the issue. Sources said the CM assured his support to Mr Marar at the meeting.

Sources said first the Congress had chosen January 29 to announce Mr Marar’s switchover, but later they chose the Maghi Conference to give a political message to the masses.

Sources in the Congress also admitted that Mr Marar’s inclusion in the party at Maghi mela was almost certain. Political analysts see this trend a major setback to the SAD, especially due to the fact that Muktsar and Bathinda districts were part of the Akali stronghold. Sources said the SAD was still making efforts to keep him in the party. Sources close to the MLA also said talks were on with the SAD and the Congress.

Meanwhile, Mr Marar said he would take any decision keeping in mind the interests of people and the development of his constituency and not personal gains.

He hinted that some local party leaders were “conspiring to reduce his powers” and these leaders were presenting distorted facts before the high command instead of projecting the real situation. On the other hand, local SAD leaders said Marar was staging this drama only to ensure ticket from the constituency.

Sources said the next couple of days would decide whether Mr Marar stays back in the SAD or join the ruling party and get grant for the development of his constituency.


Punjab plans subtle protest to
avoid Sudagar-type arrest

Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 3
After discussing the matter at the level of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, the Punjab Government has decided to lodge a protest in a subtle manner to the Chandigarh Administration with regard to the arrest of Sudagar Singh, an employee of the Punjab’s Revenue Department, by the UT’s Vigilance Department on
December 1.

Informed sources said that the issue of Sudagar Singh’s arrest discussed at the level of the Chief Minister by the Chief Secretary, Mr Jai Singh Gill and other top officers in the light of a letter written in this connection by the Financial Commissioner (Revenue), Mrs Rupan Deol Bajaj, since retired, to Mr Gill. Mrs Bajaj had taken a serious view of the manner in which Mr Sudagar Singh was arrested by Chandigarh Vigilance officials from the Punjab Civil Secretariat’s IInd floor where the Chief Minister’s office is also located.

Sources said even the Chief Secretary had not liked the way Mr Sudagar Singh was arrested though it was well within the legal rights the UT vigilance department to arrest him. “Legally, there was nothing wrong with Mr Sudagar Singh’s arrested by the Chandigarh Vigilance Department,” said a senior Punjab Government officer. “But there are certain niceties of administration which have been violated in the process,” he added.

The Punjab Chief Secretary is senior to all the officers posted in the Chandigarh Administration and he is also head of the Department of Punjab Vigilance Bureau. “ It would have been appropriate if the officers concerned had brought the matter in the notice of the Chief Secretary and requested him to take action against Sudagar Singh,” said the officer.

However, there are bigger issues involved, says the officer. There are a good number of officers of the UT Administration who live in Mohali or Panchkula. Obviously, they live in a territory that is in the legal jurisdiction of Punjab and Haryana Vigilance Bureaus, respectively. If the Chandigarh Vigilance Department can arrest Punjab officers in its territory that is Chandigarh, then Punjab or Haryana Vigilance Police can also arrest UT officers living in Mohali or Panchkula or elsewhere in these states.

As the Chief Ministers and ministers of Punjab and Haryana live in Chandigarh,action or inquiry against them can be initiated by the Chandigarh Vigilance Department on the basis even on a frivolous complaint. And legally, no one can challenge such an inquiry. However, it can lead to various kinds of political repercussions. Moreover, as the UT’s entire administration functions under the Union Government, it can use the Chandigarh Vigilance Department to armtwist or even embarrass Chief Ministers and ministers of Punjab and Haryana.

For instance, before March last year, Haryana was ruled by Mr Om Prakash Chautala, who belonged a party opposed to the Congress-led government in the Centre. And the Union Government could have easily targeted Mr Chautala and his ministers through the Chandigarh Vigilance Department. It is another matter that this was not done.

At the meeting, Punjab officers discussed all matters, including possible repercussions and ramifications of the Chandigarh Vigilance Department’s powers to arrest and to take action against Punjab officers, ministers and others officials as was done in case of Sudagar Singh.

Sources said that the UT Administration would be asked to avoid any action such as the arrest of Sudagar Singh in future. “And if it had any complaint against any Punjab officer or official, it can inform its counterpart in Punjab for taking appropriate action,” said a senior Punjab officer.


Carriappa’s guard gets pension after 44 years
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Harpala (Patiala), January 3
He guarded the first Indian Commander-in-Chief, Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa, but was left to fend for himself after being boarded out of the Army on medical grounds. For Sewa Singh it was a 44-year long struggle to get his pension.

Now nearing 80, Sewa Singh was enrolled in the Brigade of the Guards in July, 1950, and was discharged in 1957 with 100 per cent disability. While posted in Jammu and Kashmir he suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis and tub lymph adenites

His was initially sanctioned disability pension. His disability was consistently downgraded over the next four years till it was brought below 20 per cent in 1961 and his pension was abruptly stopped.

Here began his struggle. With a wife and five children, he found it difficult to make both ends meet. Poor health prevented him from taking up regular employment and he kept his family hearth going by doing odd jobs.

Age, illness and suffering have visibly taken its toll on what was once a strapping soldier. He was virtually unable to express any emotion on getting his pension after such a long time, simply stating that he has got what he should have got.

Owing to psychological problems resulting from illness, he now has only vague memories of his service life and earlier experiences.

He said that he had spent about three years in Delhi with the then General Carriapps’s guard detail. “He was a busy man, but I remember him once inquiring about our well being,” he recalled. Thereafter, he served in the North-East and then in Kashmir, where he developed his medical problem.

Disability pension consists of two elements - the service element, which is for service rendered, and the disability element, which is compensation for disability. According to rules, the service element is payable for life even if the disability element is subsequently discontinued on account of improvement in health. Sewa Singh was denied both.

“Initially, he did not react to it on account of ignorance as well as poor health,” his son, Hari Sharan said. “It was only later when a retired subedar apprised him of his rights and entitlement that he took up the matter with the authorities,” he added. He pointed out that no one else from the family joined the Army.

He wrote repeatedly to the Army and the Controller of Defence Accounts for resumption of his pension, but to no avail. Neither bothered to reply to his letters Finally, he moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2002.

The HC allowed his petition seeking payment of the service element of his disability pension last month.

The court, however, observed since Sewa Singh had retired way back in 1956, the payment of arrears will be restricted to the period of 38 months prior to the date of filing the writ petition.


2,612 killed in road accidents in 2005
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, January 3
Mr S.S. Sharma, Inspector-General of Police Traffic, Punjab, has expressed his concern over the increase in number of road accidents and said as many as 2,612 persons, including ladies and children were killed in 2,805 road accidents during 2005 in state.

He was addressing a traffic seminar organised jointly by the District Police and Punjab National Bank here this afternoon. He said more than 10,000 persons died and about 20,000 became handicapped in road accidents during the past four years. The owners of accidental vehicles had to bear a loss of Rs 2,200 crore during this period. He said 2.35 lakh new vehicles were being added annually in the state. There were only 5,000 vehicles in Punjab during 1950, the number of which had accelerated to 40 lakh now. Whereas, the growth rate of roads had only been increased to five times.

The IGP said lack of education and awareness about traffic rules had proliferated the road accidents. Majority of vehicle drivers intentionally violated traffic rules. According to a recent survey, it was found that 80 per cent of drivers of all types of vehicles were violated traffic rules. Only 20 per cent were strictly following traffic norms. He said 3.57 lakh violators had been challaned during 2005 as compared with 2.35 lakh during 2004 in the state. A fine of Rs 13 crore had been realised from them in 2005 as compared with Rs 7 crore last year.

He said books related to traffic rules and traffic signs etc for Class I to Class V had been prepared in English, which would be distributed to 1.50 lakh students of English medium model schools in the state this year. These books were submitted to the Chief Minister, Punjab, so that they could be translated into Punjabi and introduced in all government schools in the state. Books for Class VI to Class VIII were being prepared.

He stressed upon the formulation of improved driving licensing system and said driving license should only be provided after taking written and practical test.

To regulate the speed limit of vehicles, he recommended the state government to fix uniform speed limit for all types of vehicles on national and state highways and link roads in the state.

He said to check the drunken drivers, alcometers were being acquired by the state traffic police. He appealed to all road users to strictly follow traffic rules to avoid accidents. He also sought cooperation of the public in educating and making awareness about the traffic rules among all type of vehicle drivers.

Mr Paramjit Singh Gill, DIG, Jalandhar Range, Mr Lok Nath Angra, SSP, Hoshiarpur, Mr G. K. Sahni, General Manager, Punjab National Bank, Amritsar zone, Mr Chand Singh, Sr Regional General Manager, PNB, Hoshiarpur, and many others also addressed the seminar.


Third front to have CMP: Chandumajra
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 3
Prof Prem Singh Chandumajra, president, SAD (Longowal), said today that the forthcoming third front would be formed with a common minimum programme of like-minded parties.

Addressing mediapersons here, he contradicted the reports that he had secret meetings with SAD leaders for rejoining the party. He said he had not met Mr Parkash Singh Badal or any other SAD leader.

However, answering replies about joining the Badal camp again, he said “nothing is impossible in politics” and hinting that rapprochement between two parties was possible.

Prof Chandumajra said the party would approach all like-minded parties including the BSP, the SAD (Amritsar) and the Left, to ouster the Congress and the SAD. He criticised both the parties for their anti-people policies.

He said if all panthic parties become united under the leadership of Mr Surjit Singh Barnala, he would also accept his leadership.


Bandh observed in Kashipur
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 3
While the former Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, today spoke to the Uttaranchal Chief Minister, Mr N.D. Tiwari to stop the authorities concerned from carrying out further demolition of houses of farmers near Kashipur (Udham Singh Nagar), a near-complete bandh was observed in Kashipur town today against the government’s action.

Reports reaching here said that about 20 more houses were demolished today by the government. About 200 houses, mostly of Punjabi and Jat farmers, were demolished yesterday. The Uttaranchal Government wanted to remove farmers from what is known as Mehta farm spread over 1000 acres. The government had won a case with regard to the farm in the apex court.

However, except the ruling Congress, other political parties of Uttaranchal have protested against the displacement of farmers. They said the government had not presented a true picture before the apex court.

Meanwhile, Mr Badal, in a statement said the government had destroyed wheat and other crops at Mehta Farm where about 450 Punjabi and Haryanvi families were settled and engaged in agriculture activity.

The President of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, today blamed Mr Badal for the emerging situation in Kashipur. He said Mr Badal had let down Punjabi farmers, who were not ready for the inclusion of Udham Singh Nagar in Uttaranchal. Because of the intervention of Mr Badal, Udham Singh Nagar district was included in Uttaranchal and now Punjabi farmers were facing music there, said Mr Mann.


Visa-free travel likely for
journalists in SAARC nations
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 3
Journalists of all South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries may be able to travel in any or all seven countries of South Asia sans visa soon.

They would require, for attaining visa-free travel facility in SAARC countries and a sticker, to be pasted on the passport.

“No schedule for the extension of the facility for journalists has been outlined but, all SAARC countries agreed at a meet at Dhaka recently that the journalists, with experience of three years, should be extended visa-free travel so that they could work for people-to-people contact in these countries,” informed Mr Satnam Manak, Coordinator of the Punjab chapter of the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA).

The SAFMA has taken initiative to bring people of east and west Punjab closer. The organisation is holding a Punjab-Punjab Consultation in the Indian Punjab. The Indian chapter of the SAFMA has invited 50 delegates, related to trade, industry, tourism, agriculture, media and education, from Pakistan. They will participate in meetings with local industrialists, traders, agriculturists, journalists and writers.

The Punjab-Punjab Consultation would be held at Amritsar, Ludhiana and Chandigarh also. Its Jalandhar part would be hosted by the Jalandhar-based Lovely Institutes in association with the SAFMA on January 6. The Chairman and the President of the Lovely Institutes have invited journalists, industrialists, and educationists to participate in the meets.


Bureaucrats involved in land grabbing: MLA
Our Correspondent

Kharar, January 3
The Kharar MLA, Mr Bir Devinder Singh, said here today that he would be meeting the Prime Minister to expose the activities of the land mafia operating in areas around Chandigarh.

The MLA who was talking to mediapersons here today said he had sought an appointment in this regard and most probably would be meeting the Prime Minister by the end of the month. He said he wanted that the land grabbing mafia should be exposed after an inquiry was conducted by a team from the Central Vigilance Commission. He said the Punjab Government had failed to take any action in this regard.

The MLA alleged that senior bureaucrats, politicians and others were involved in grabbing land on the periphery of Chandigarh.

He said he would be providing a list of the names of persons who were acting as land sharks. He said that he had not complained about the matter to the Punjab Vigilance Bureau as certain bureau officials were also allegedly involved in grabbing land.

He said that a 220-kv substation was planned to be constructed near Jhanjeri village. The Punjab Chief Minister had even laid the foundation stone in this regard but the work could not be carried out as the land could not be got vacated from persons owning it. The project had to be shifted to Mohali.

He said that corruption was still going on and the government could not take concrete steps to stop it. He suggested that the fight against corruption should be started all over again with a fresh vigour.


NRIs extend help to schizophrenic sisters
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 3
Following media reports on the plight of two sisters suffering from schizophrenia, owners of Matrix Packing Company, Toronto, today extended a financial aid of Rs 50,000 to them.

Mr Rahul Bhandari, Deputy Commissioner, handed over the amount to their father, Mr Deewan Singh. Mr Bhandari has directed the District Social Security Officer, Mr Gurjinder Singh, to deposit Rs 25,000 each in the name of both the sisters hailing from Ghuman Kalan village of the district.

Talking to The Tribune, Mr Bhandari said earlier too he had received Rs 50,000 from an NRI, which was deposited in a Red Cross account opened in their names. Later, a philanthropist gave Rs 52,000 that was handed over to the family of these girls for their treatment.

He said the administration had shifted these girls to the Civil Hospital and one of them was recuperating well and was 70 to 80 per cent normal, while the other was also responding to the treatment. He said the administration had also provided them with clothes, medicines and fruits.


Cold wave claims 2 lives
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 3
The cold wave claimed two more lives in the district last night, taking the death toll to 11 this season.

Sources said the body of a 25-year-old youth was found lying in the verandah of Udham Singh Market, near Fauji Chowk. Sahara volunteers informed the police, which registered a case and handed back his body to them after a post-mortem examination and identification. Later, he was identified as Sukhjeet Singh from Goniana Mandi.

Sources said he had left home last evening for purchasing some medicines from here, but didn’t return. Today his family came to know about recovery of an unidentified body and identified it to be that of Sukhjeet.

In another incident, 40-year-old Jagsir Singh of Talwandi Sabo died of cold near a school last night. He too had gone out last evening. His family started looking for him and found his body close to a sewer in the morning. He was reportedly in an inebriated state at the time of his death.

Meanwhile, a woman lost her life in an accident that occurred near Dera Roomi Wala last night. The deceased, identified as Manpreet Kaur, fell from a running jeep that led to her demise. Her body was handed over to her family members after a post-mortem examination. 


Love-lorn couple consumes poison
Husband dead; wife in hospital
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 3
A youth identified as Amit Kumar of Dhuri town of Sangrur district, along with a girl identified as Manun, allegedly committed suicide by consuming Celphos tablets, in a local hotel today. The couple had got married against the wishes of their families a few months ago,

Amit and his wife Mamun of Karnal reportedly took the extreme step after they failed to convince their parents to accept their marriage. They had run away from their respective houses about five days ago. Since they were feeling that both of them did not have a job and hence it would be difficult for them to survive in absence of support of their families.

Amit Kumar, along with Mamun Ghosh, checked in at a local hotel near Gurdwara Dukhniwaran Sahib last afternoon. Amit Kumar identified himself as a resident of Ludhiana town and both were wearing bridal dresses.

However, today morning panic set in among the hotel employees when Mamun rang up the reception counter to say that Amit Kumar was serious following which he was taken to a hospital where he died within minutes. Manun, at the time of filing this report, was serious but responding to treatment.

This is second incident to happen in the city within two days due to the opposition of families to love affairs. Yesterday, a youth had shot dead a girl in this town after her family members refused to marry her off with him despite the fact that they were having an affair for the past many months. The youth also shot himself afterwards.

Information gathered by TNS revealed that Amit Kumar, while a student of Kurukshetra University, used to stay at his maternal uncle’s residence in Karnal as he was pursuing his postgraduation degree in commerce. Mamun’s family were tenants of Amit’s maternal uncle and soon an affair between both Amit and Manun ensued.

Both Amit Kumar and Mamun got married clandestinely and were living in their respective houses in Dhuri and Karnal. Whenever they tried to take consent of their families in connection with their marriage, they met with though resistance. While Amit Kumar left his house about five days ago on the pretext that he was going to Delhi for attending some religious function, Mamun, who was earlier working in a private bank, left her house on the same day on the pretext that she was to appear in an interview at Delhi.

After reaching at a common point, they came to the city and stayed in a hotel. After staying for a day or so, they checked out of that hotel and went at some other place. Yesterday, they again came back here and checked in a different hotel.

A three-page suicide note written in a notebook was recovered from the room of the hotel where they were staying since yesterday. Though the exact contents of the suicide note could not be known, sources said that both Amit Kumar and Mamun had written that no one should be held responsible for their death.

A case in this connection had been registered under section 174 of Cr PC. The post mortem of body of Amit Kumar would be done tomorrow. The parents of the girl had also reached Rajindra hospital and attending on her.


Sex tests: informers to be rewarded
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 3
Embarrassed at the declining sex ratio in the state, the Punjab Government has decided to adopt new strategies to provide more “teeth” to the field teams to check the conduct of pre-natal diagnostic tests (sex-determination tests). Also, a system of rewards has been introduced for informers.

The State Advisory Committee on the PNDT Act was apprised of these decisions at a meeting here today. These strategies would be implemented in a big way, said a senior functionary.

The state government has allowed the use of decoy customers to trap those running ultrasound centres which carry out such sex-determination tests. Also, persons, who provide the right information about such centres will be rewarded. The government has allowed the checking teams to give up to Rs 5,000 to the decoy customers. Financial rewards have been fixed for informers also.

Sources in the health sector said this system of rewards was needed as no complainants came forward because the parents and the ultrasound centres were consenting partners. Now even non-government organisations and aware citizens can inform the local health authorities about any wrong practices.

Also, the government has decided to reward the panchayats which achieve an “equal sex ratio” for boys and girls in the age bracket of less than six years.

The meeting, conducted by the Secretary, Health, Mr D.S. Guru, also informed the senior medical functionaries that the Balri Rakshak Yojna had been launched. The state government had approved a sum of Rs 50 lakh for the purpose. The parents of girls would get financial incentives till the girls attained adulthood, subject to the condition that both the father and mother opt to have permanent sterilisation.

The government has already asked the Deputy Commissioners to review the sex ratio situation during their monthly district-level meetings. The DCs will be in close contact with the ultrasound centres.

During the past year the Health Department initiated 75 court cases against ultrasound centres. The licences of 145 centres were suspended. A total of 1,265 ultrasound centres were registered in Punjab.

The Punjab Medical Council had been empowered to issue notices to ultrasound centres till the time charges were framed in court. During this period the council could issue a show-cause notice to the ultrasound centre concerned, asking why its licence should not be suspended, said the sources.


Warehouse workers go on relay fast
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 3
Three members of the Punjab State Warehouse Workers Union (AICCTU) this afternoon began a relay fast in front of the Deputy Commissioner (DC) office here, protesting against the removal of 16 daily-wage workers of the Warehouse Centre II, Sunam, and non-payment of wages to the removed workers for four months.

Earlier, the protesters staged a dharna in front of the DC office here and also held a demonstration.

They raised slogans against the warehouse authorities and in support of their demands. They were addressed by Rajwinder Singh Rana, state secretary of the CPI (ML) Liberation; Mr Harbhagwan Bhikhi, state secretary of All-India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU); and Mr Raghbir Singh Jawandha, state president of the Punjab State Warehouse Workers Union. They criticised the Sunam Warehouse authorities for removing 16 workers, who had been reportedly working in the godowns of the Warehouse for the past 16 years, and non-payment of wages to these workers for four months.

The leaders warned the district administration that if their demands were not met soon they would be compelled to convert the chain hunger strike into fast unto death. They also urged the Punjab Government to immediately reinstate the removed workers.


40 sheep crushed under train
Our Correspondent

Khanna, January 3
Traffic was disrupted on the Ambala-Ludhiana railway section this evening when more than 40 sheep were crushed to death under a super fast train, 5 km from here. The train remained stranded on the tracks as the accident caused engine failure.

After one hour of the accident, the train was sent back to Mandi Gobindgarh railway station with the help of another engine. The train was stranded at the railway station till the filing of the report.

According to information at about 6.15 p.m. Super Express Passenger Train number 2459 was coming from Delhi to Amritsar.

When the train crossed Mandi Gobindgarh railway station, more than 40 sheep came under the train.

The pieces of the sheep were mangled with the generators of the engine, which caused failure of power.


Don’t uproot Sikhs: SGPC chief
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 3
The SGPC took serious view of the situation in Uttaranchal and called for an end to the uprooting of Sikhs there.

The SGPC president, Mr Avtar Singh Makkar, expressing concern over the recent incidents of demolition and lathi charge on Sikh families in Kashipore, constituted a three-member subcommittee to probe into the incident.

The three members include, Mr Bhupinder Singh, Mr Sukhmeet Singh and Mr Harbir Singh. They were asked to submit their report on the incident within a week. 


Residents seek better facilities
Our Correspondent

Kharar, January 3
Residents of Sunny Enclave demanded that they should be provided better facilities in the area.

Mr Shivender Singh, general secretary of the Aawaas Welfare Association, said here today that various demands were made at a meeting held here with the chairman of the association, Mr J.S. Bajwa. He said that demands included metalled and clean roads, purified water electricity and security in the area.

He said that Mr Bajwa, who is coloniser, had promised to build a gurdwara, a mandir, a school, a tennis court and a community hall for residents of the enclave.


high court
MP challenges order of Special Judge
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, January 3
Former Punjab minister and Shiromani Akali Dal MP Rattan Singh Ajnala has moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court challenging the December 13, 2005 order of the Special Judge hearing the corruption case against him. The Special Judge had dismissed the plea of Mr Ajnala challenging the validity of the trial proceedings on the ground that the same were without the requisite sanction of the competent authority.

On July 27, 2005, a High Court Bench had directed the Special Judge to decide the legal issues raised by the petitioner. But, the Special Judge did not find any merit in the stand of the petitioner.

Mr Ajnala had been booked by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau on January 19, 2003, on charges that he had accumulated wealth much beyond his known sources of income by indulging in corrupt practices. The challan had been presented in the court of Special Judge on February 27, 2004.

The petitioner had contended that the charge-sheet had been filed against him even though the Vigilance Bureau had no sanction from the Speaker of the Lok Sabha to prosecute him, which was a mandatory requirement in case of any MP just as the Rajya Sabha Chairman’s Permission was required in case of Rajya Sabha MPs.

Citing the example of the cases against former Punjab Chief Ministers Parkash Singh Badal and Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, and also against other MPs and MLAs, including Mr Tota Singh and Mr Nirmal Singh Kahlon, Dr Ajnala had pointed out that the proceedings against them were stayed by the Supreme Court on question of sanction.

He had also challenged the legal validity of the trial on the grounds of territorial jurisdiction.

Today, after hearing his counsel, the Division Bench comprising Mr Justice N.K. Sud and Mr Justice A.K. Mittal issued notice of motion for January 9.


Rain brings smile to farmers
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 3
For Punjab farmers, the much-awaited rain has come. In fact, it has come a week late. However, the rain is welcome as it coincides with the second round of irrigation for the wheat crop on over 34.20 lakh hectares in the state.

This year the cultivation is a shade less than last year’s 34.80 lakh hectares. Farmers will now skip canal water irrigation to their wheat crop as the rain has compensated for it.

The sowing season in the state is over and all major long-duration varieties of wheat have been sown. Only very small pockets in the rainfed parts of the kandi area remain for sowing. This is insignificant for the state’s overall production. Also, being closer to the hills and being rainfed, late-sowing varieties are used by farmers. This was likely to push up the area under wheat cultivation to about 34.50 lakh hectares, expecting an output of 150 lakh tonnes, officials of the Agriculture Department based here said.

The winter rain hit parts of Punjab early today and the met office has predicted more rain in the next 24 hours. The Agriculture Department has forwarded the figures of the area under wheat cultivation to the Government of India for making an assessment of the production of wheat and its utilisation.

A major stock of the wheat crop in the state is purchased by central agencies for supply to states which have little or no production of wheat. Wheat requires four rounds of irrigation before it ripens by the second week of April. The rain is a godsend, said experts as it was the right time for the second round of irrigation. The rain will act as a shower. It will wash away the dirt and bring with it minerals that are not available in canal water or water drawn from tubewells.

From the area brought under wheat this year, it is clear that Punjab farmers are not ready to move away from the crop. This crop continues to be their top priority. There is an assured market for wheat in the country and it is picked up by government procurement agencies the moment it arrives in various grain markets.

Sources in the Food Corporation of India say that by April, when the wheat crop will mature for harvesting, there will be only a few lakh tonnes of wheat stock in Punjab’s godowns. On December 1, there was a stock of 32.74 lakh tonnes of wheat in the state’s warehouses, and of this about 7 lakh tonnes has been sent to wheat-deficit states during the past four weeks. This month, about 7 lakh tonnes more of wheat will be sent to other states.” We will have hardly 10 lakh tonnes or so of wheat by the end of March”, said a senior officer of the FCI. He said a lot of space would be available for stacking the fresh stock of wheat in Punjab by April.


Inside Babudom
Eight recommended for promotion to IAS
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 3
After a gap of more than eight years a group of Punjab Civil Service (PCS) officers are to be promoted to the Indian Administrative Service (IAS).

The state government has forwarded the names of eight PCS officers to the Government of India for approval and the issue of a notification. The notification will be issued by the Ministry of Personnel, allowing their entry into the Punjab cadre of the IAS.

Sources in the government said the PCS officer placed at the top of the seniority list, Mr Kulwant Singh, was not considered for promotion as he had reportedly expressed a desire that he may not be so considered. A committee comprising the Chief Secretary, Mr Jai Singh Gill, two senior IAS officers of the Punjab cadre and representatives of the Government of India then agreed to forward the names of the eight officers.

The principle of seniority had been applied for the selection, said a senior government functionary. The annual confidential reports of these officers were taken into consideration. Also, the quarterly update from the Vigilance Bureau on these officers was referred to before taking the decision.

The officers recommended for promotion are: Mr Manjit Singh, Mr V.K. Ohri, Mr Surjit Singh, Mr Khushi Ram, Mr Gurpal Singh Bhatti, Mr Bhagwant Singh, Mr Satwant Singh and Mr N.K. Wadhawan.

They will be given seniority with retrospective effect. Normally, two to four years of seniority is the norm from the date of promotion. For example, these officers may be allocated the 2001 or 2002 batch of the IAS. In this case there has been long gap since the last time PCS officers were picked for promotion to the IAS. They may even get an extra year of seniority.

The sources said in the case of these eight the age criterion was also looked into. It was then brought out that they had been available for promotion against a vacancy even before they had attained the age of 53. Certain officers have less than a year to go for retirement. However, once they are promoted, they will get two more years of service and retire at 60. 


Road safety week begins
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 3
The Transport Department, in collaboration with the district administration and the police, has launched Traffic Awareness-cum-Road Safety Week in the district.

“The aim is to create awareness among people about traffic rules so that number of accidents can be brought down,” said Ms Jaspreet Talwar, DC. She was addressing a gathering of truck drivers and prominent citizens after inaugurating Road Safety Week at Bassi Pathana town today.

The programme was organised by the Truck Union, Bassi Pathana. She said the use of mobile phones and intoxicants was dangerous while driving. She directed the DTO to strictly implement the instructions of the high court in that regard.

Mr D.P. Gupta, ADC, also spoke.


Undertrial escapes from police custody
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 3
Amrik Singh, who has been facing trials in a number of criminal cases connected with the smuggling of narcotics and others, escaped from the police custody late last night while he was getting treatment in the local Rajindra Hospital.

Police sources said Amrik Singh, who was admitted to the Rajindra Hospital on December 29 for the treatment of fracture on his ankle, escaped from the police custody after he made all the three warders, who were on duty, drunk. While escaping, the accused tied the handcuff with the bed in the ward where he was getting treatment.

Information gathered by the TNS revealed that the accused, who was a resident of Dirba town of neighbouring district Sangrur, had been facing about seven cases connected with the heinous crimes.

The sources added that a case in this connection had been registered against Amrik Singh and three warders under Sections 223 and 224 of the IPC at the Civil Lines police station.


Two killed in road accidents
Tribune News Service

Rajpura, January 3
Two persons were killed in separate road accidents in Dera Bassi and here since yesterday.

Lal Singh, a resident of Mathiana village, near here, was crushed to death by an unidentified truck early this morning when he was on his way to the Hindustan Liver Limited factory.

Surinder Singh, was run over by a car going towards Delhi at Dera Bassi when he was about to cross the highway.

Cases have been registered.


19 cartridges seized from Bihar resident
Tribune News Service

Rajpura, January 3
Bablu Kumar, a resident of Bihar, was arrested by the Government Railway Police (GRP) from onboard the Amritsar-Asansol Express on the charges of possessing 19 live cartridges of AK-47 assault rifle.

Bablu, who was carrying the cartridges in his pocket, was handed over to the GRP at Rajpura today.The motive of carrying the cartridges could not be immediately known. A case has been registered.


7 hurt in mishap
Our Correspondent

Kharar, January 3
Seven persons were injured, three of them seriously, in an accident involving a bus and a truck near Sahora village today.

According to the police, all the injured were taken to the local Civil Hospital from where three of them were referred to the GMCH, Sector 32, Chandigarh. Bhagwant Singh and Ashwini Kumar, driver and conductor of the bus, and a passenger, Niti, were referred to the GMCH. The others who received minor injuries were Subhash Kumar, A.S. Rawat, Ajay Kumar and Ramesh Kumar.

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