P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



‘Oust Badal campaign’ to be launched
from Nankana Sahib
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 4
Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev, is emerging as the new centre of Akali politics even as the various Panthic leaders from India have been vying to gain maximum political mileage by visiting this place.

Close on the heels of taking Golden Palanquin from New Delhi to Nankana Sahib by the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, now Shiromani Akali Dal (Longowal) president, Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra, has decided to take a jatha of 501 Sikhs to mark the 85th anniversary of “Saka Nankana Sahib” (massacre of Nankana Sahib) with a view to launching the “oust Badal campaign”. Earlier, the centre of politics was Amritsar and all morchas used to be launched from here only.

Talking to TNS, Mr Chandumajra said his Akali Dal had given a call to all “Panthic forces” to join hands to launch the proposed movement to restore “Maryada” (Sikh code of conduct) in the Sikh institutions. He alleged that Mr Badal was responsible for the denigration of Sikh institutions, including Akal Takht, who used them for his vested interests.

Mr Chandumajra claimed that the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PSGPC) would fully cooperate in organising the function in memory of the martyrs who were gunned down by Mahant Narainu. He said the “Saka Nankana Sahib” was the beginning of the Sikh Gurdwara Movement which culminated in the formation of the SGPC and Shiromani Akali Dal. He said this was the reason that his faction had decided to launch another gurdwara reform movement.

Mr Chandumajra alleged that Mr Badal had converted the SAD into a “family affair”, thereby causing a lot of resentment among the senior leaders. He alleged that senior posts in the SAD were given to relatives of Mr Badal by ignoring senior Panthic leaders who had made sacrifices for the sake of the party. He said the activists of his party would take pledge to oust Mr Badal from politics and religious turf.


Badal belittled Panthic institutions: Chandumajra
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 4
Image of Panthic organisations has been damaged under Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), president Parkash Singh Badal who had turned the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and Akal Takht into his party’s “allied outfits”, alleged SAD (Longowal) president Prem Singh Chandumajra at a press conference here today.

He alleged that the SAD and the Congress had failed to protect the state’s interests and had instead served only self-interest. He said Punjab once was leading on all fronts, but today it was fifth in terms of per capita income, 11th in health sector and ninth in education. He said the plight of Dalits and farmers was pathetic, while water and power scenario was also gloomy. He said in this situation a third front was the need of the hour and people should vote for it if they wished clean and transparent governance. He charged the SAD and the Congress with turning politics into business. He said both these parties had the illusion that people had no option but to vote for one of them.

Mr Chandumajra said he would visit Nankana Sahib as a part of 500-Sikh jatha on February 21 and pledge to free Sikh Panth from opportunistic people.

He flayed demolitions of Sikh property in Uttaranchal and blamed Mr Badal for it. He alleged that the former Chief Minister had softened his stand on the issue of Udham Singh Nagar under pressure from the BJP. He condemned SGPC chief Avtar Singh’s step of asking Spokesman staffer to leave his press conference stating that it was against the spirit of free press.


PM invited to flag off Amritsar-Lahore bus
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 4
The Punjab Government has requested the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, to flag off the inaugural run of the bus from Amritsar to Lahore on any day between January 20 and 27.

Official sources said the state government had told the Prime Minister’s Office that it would fix the day for the ceremony according to the convenience of Dr Manmohan Singh. The trial run for the bus service has already been held.

The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, is keen that the Prime Minister, who has played a crucial role in getting the proposal regarding the bus service between the two countries cleared, should perform the flagging-off ceremony himself. The state government also wants to organise a public meeting for the Prime Minister on this occasion.

Obviously, the government wants to get the maximum publicity for the starting of this bus service. The public meeting is part of the plan to get publicity. Moreover, as the current year is an election year, the addressing of the public meeting by the Prime Minister can be helpful to the state government for making some important announcements with regard to development projects in the state.

The state government would like the Prime Minister to travel in the bus from Amritsar to the Wagah border and address the public meeting near there.

The sources said the bus to Nankana Sahib from Amritsar would start plying between February 20 and 27. The necessary formalities in this regard were being completed.

Capt Amarinder Singh is expected to visit Pakistan in the third week of February in connection with the Indo-Pak Punjab Games to be held in Lahore. There are reports that he may travel to Pakistan in the inaugural run of the bus between Amritsar and Nankana Sahib. This will give him an opportunity to flaunt his achievement in the run-up to the elections.


Cement scam: SGPC orders high-level probe
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 4
Even as the record shows that a consignment of cement was dispatched in the name of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee for at Katarsinghwala Gurdwara (Bathinda), the Shiromani Committee authorities have ordered a probe into the ‘cement scam’, 
here today.

The Invoice-cum-delivery challan of Birla Plus Cement, Bathinda branch points out that 560 bags of cement were booked in the name of ‘SGPC, Teja Singh Samundari Hall, Amritsar’ with a stamp of ‘Non Trade Bag’. The Gurdwara management was surprised to know that the cement, dispatched for its expansion while no construction work was in progress in the Sikh shrine.

The owner of the Nursing College, near Katarsinghwala, Dr G.S. Nagpal told The Tribune that two of his employees had refused to accept the consignment when they came to know after unloading of 20 bags that the material (cement) did not match the order, placed by them. On this all the bags were put back into the same truck, he said. He further claimed that they had not placed any order with Birla Plus.

Meanwhile, an SGPC contractor, Mr Harpreet Singh Bhinder, who visited the site told The Tribune that the consignment was not meant for any gurdwara. Mr Manjit Singh, an Executive Engineer and Mr Dalmegh Singh, SGPC Secretary, said that the preliminary reports pointed out that some ‘unscrupulous’ person had used the name of Shiromani Committee to get the cement at cheaper rates. While the cement given to charitable organisations costs Rs 140, the actual rate is Rs 157. The SGPC Secretary claimed that the Shiromani Committee invariably gives advance drafts for supplying cement to cement companies and never used Birla Plus cement. He claimed that the preliminary reports point out that somebody had, fraudulently, used the name of the SGPC for personal benefit. The Shiromani Committee was contemplating strict action against those involved to ‘defame’ the Shiromani Committee.

However, the SGPC authorities allege that the Birla Plus Cement was being used by certain Babas of ‘Kar Seva Wale’.


Sapling plantation or ‘cover-up’
operation by Forest Dept?

Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Mehangrowal, January 4
In another ‘‘cover up’’ operation the forest department authorities are making fresh plantations in the Mehangrowal forest range of the Hoshiarpur division. The plantations are being made using migrant labourers rather than temporary employees of the forest department.

Former Wildlife Wardens Mr Sukhdeep Bajwa and Mr Gunraj Singh have video recorded operation in which planting of saplings is being carried out in the Mehangrowal range on January 2, 2006. A copy of the video recording is available with The Tribune. The recording reveals that a large number of saplings have been brought from forest nurseries to the area brought under a Japanese-bank aided project and migrant labourers are busy planting saplings in the forest. The labourers, when asked about planting saplings, said they were carrying out the operation on the orders of the forest department authorities.

The former wildlife wardens have alleged that the planting operation being carried out in peak winter months pointed towards large scale bungling in the project in Hoshiarpur and Gurdaspur districts. The authorities are now trying to ‘‘cover up’’ the scam by planting fresh saplings, they alleged.

A former forest department official, while speaking on the condition of anonymity, said it was futile to plant saplings in peak winter season as most of the saplings would not survive the intense cold weather. ‘‘The only justification to carry out plantations in this season is that the authorities concerned could be trying to increase the count in case an inquiry was carried out’’, he alleged. The expenditure on planting saplings cannot be justified in this season as per the norms and rules of the forest department, he said.

The DFO Hoshiarpur division, Mr R.R Kakkar, denied any knowledge about the fresh planting of saplings being carried out in the range. ‘‘Fresh plantations cannot be carried out in this season. I would look into the matter and take action against the officials involved in making planting saplings’’, he said.

However, Mr Sukhdeep Bajwa and Mr Gunraj said it was not possible that the lower staff of the department was carrying out the sapling plantation without the active connivance of higher officials. ‘‘The saplings were brought in tractor-trolleys from the nurseries. Then money was paid to hire labourers for planting saplings. The lower officials like forest guards neither have the authority nor the money to carry out such an operation’’, they said.

The Tribune had first reported the scam in the plantations carried under a Japanese-bank aided project in Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur forest divisions. The department has entrusted an inquiry into the plantations carried out in Gurdaspur division to the Chief Conservator Forests, Mr Kuldeep Singh. However, no inquiry has been ordered into the scam in Hoshiarpur division.

The former wildlife wardens have demanded that the department was planning to fell around 25,000 trees this year in Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur districts. This coupled with very little plantation work carried out in the past five to 10 years, could spell an environmental catastrophe in Kandi forests of Punjab. If the trend continues as it is there would be hardly any tree left in the forests of Punjab in the next 10 to 15 years.


Drastic changes in Plan schemes likely
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 4
At a meeting with the Planning Commission, the Punjab Government will put up concrete suggestions before the commission to make some drastic changes with regard to the approval of Plan schemes and allocation of funds in this regard.

Though the exact date of the meeting has not been fixed, it will be held in the last week of January or the first week of February. The Planning Commission has intimated the Punjab Government that its turn could come any day to discuss and approve the Annual Plan for the next financial year and it should keep its proposals ready.

Punjab’s current financial year’s Annual Plan was pegged at Rs 3150 crore. However, for the next financial year, it is expected to be jacked up to Rs 4,000 crore in the light of enhanced capacity of the Punjab Government to raise resources. Sources said that the state government was feeling very comfortable as far as its financial position is concerned. “Our revenue deficit, which had once gone up to Rs 4000 crore a few years ago, had come down just to Rs 67 crore last month. One can imagine the turnaround in the fiscal position of the state government from it,” Mr Surinder Singla, Finance Minister, said.

Unprecedented collection of revenue from stamp duty and VAT had played a big role in filling the coffers of the state government. A straight increase of Rs 900 crore in the revenue is expected from the stamp duty by the end of current financial year and a Rs 1,000-crore increase in the revenue because of the enforcing of the VAT system.

A meeting of the Punjab Planning Board would be held on January 11 here under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh. The meeting would discuss the proposed Annual Plan.

The state government wants that the Planning Commission should weed out the schemes which had become redundant. For instance, the million wells scheme. Punjab, which has a well-established irrigation network of canals and water courses besides over 10 lakh tubewells does not need traditional wells. So, Punjab does not need allocation of funds under this scheme. Actually, almost all farmers, who three decades ago used to irrigate their fields from drawing water from wells, have filled up those wells.

Likewise, the mid-day meal scheme which had been launched to encourage access of students to schools is of no use in Punjab. Access to schools in Punjab is not a problem. Punjab’s problem is a quality education. “Funds should be given to the state under the Plan to improve the quality of education by starting new training programmes for teachers, setting up modern laboratories in schools and improving infrastructure,” an officer said.

Giving another instance, he said, that the Union Government had allocated funds for setting up road network to various states under the Bharat Nirman scheme. However, Punjab has already best road network in rural and urban areas. So, the Union Government should give liberty to Punjab to allocate those funds elsewhere to start development projects.


Global Punjab Foundation honours Kuldeep Deepak
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 4
Noted Punjabi broadcaster in Canada Kuldeep Deepak was awarded the Global Broadcaster Award at a function organised by the Global Punjab Foundation here today.

Addressing a gathering, he said: “There was an urgent need to save Punjabi art and culture.”

Also a singer, Deepak added that Punjabi music had a great attraction for non-Punjabi communities there.

Foundation chairperson Amritpal Kaur said Deepak had been associated with talk show ‘Punjab De Gunj’ for the past 27 years and was the first to lend a voice to Punjabi poet Shiv Kumar Batalvi’s poetry in North America. He had been a cultural bridge for the Punjabis in North America, she added.

Foundation secretary general Dr Harjinder Walia said the foundation aimed at becoming a platform for Punjabis across the globe.

Director, Youth Welfare, Punjabi University, Sunita Dheer appreciated the efforts and achievements of Kuldeep Deepak.

Head, Department of Gurmat Sangeet, Dr Gurnam Singh, and president of the Ontario Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee Harbans Singh Jandali were also present.


BJP wants Karat’s role probed
Tribune News Service

Hoshiarpur, January 4
The state President of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Mr Avinash Rai Khanna today criticised Ms Brinda Karat, a politbureau member of the CPM, for levelling allegations against Swami Ramdev, a yoga guru. He demanded a probe into Ms Brinda Karat’s role.

In a press release, Mr Khanna said that allegations levelled against Swami Ramdas were a direct attack on the history, tradition and culture of the country. Levelling allegations seemed to be a tradition with the Communists as they wanted to ruin the Indian heritage with their self-made parameters and logistic scales.

He questioned the grounds of allegation that animal parts and human bones were being used in ayurvedic medicines prepared by Swami Ramdev’s pharmacy. Ms Brinda was not an authorised agency to make such allegations.

He asked Ms Brinda to reveal the source of information she was dispensing while making allegations against Swami Ramdev.


Bitta criticises Karat
Tribune News Service

Ropar, January 4
The president of the All-India Anti-Terrorist Front, Mr Maninderjit Singh Bitta, today crticised CPM leader Brinda Karat for levelling allegations against Swami Ramdev for using bone in manufacturing of ayurvedic medicine. The multinational companies and agencies were behind the whole episode to defame Swami Ramdev, Mr Bitta said while addressing a press conference here.

Giving details to support his claim, Mr Bitta said Swami Ramdev had been facing threat to life because of his success.

Mr Bitta alleged that some of the members of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee recently met some hardcore terrorists in Pakistan during their trip and their role should be probed by the investigating agencies

He said his organisation would soon be filing a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court against the release of former militant Daljit Singh Bittu involved in various heinous crimes.


Probe Amarinder’s Dubai visit: Mann
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 4
Expressing its concern over the changing social, political and moral scenario in Punjab, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) today said the biggest threat to Punjab was not from any other crime but from illicit and extra-marital affairs which “were proliferating in the state with impunity and engulfing bureaucrats, police officials, politicians and even some self-styled saints”.

The party also demanded a high-level probe into the Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s recent trip to Dubai along with ministers Partap Singh Bajwa and Lal Singh.

Addressing a press conference here today, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann and Mr Anoop Singh Minhas, president and general secretary of SAD (Amritsar), respectively, said moral values and culture of Punjab were in deep peril “as illicit and extra-marital relations were being encouraged in Punjab in a systematic manner”.

Referring to the Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s recent Dubai jaunt, Mr Mann alleged that people of the state did not understand as to why the Chief Minister and his colleagues had undertaken the trip at a huge public expense.

The SAD (Amritsar) also rued the displacement of a number of Sikh families from Uttaranchal in the name of clearing jungle land. “It is nothing but ethnic cleansing of Sikhs from Uttaranchal. If the government of India has condemned the use of force in Baluchistan, how it can be a mute spectator to the displacement of people from a part of India? asked Mr Mann.


Drive to recruit youth in Congress
Surinder Bhardwaj

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 4
A countrywide drive has been launched to recruit youths as members of Youth Congress so that the youth of the nation know about the sacrifices made by the party to get freedom as well as to acquaint them with public-oriented policies and programmes of the party.

These Youth Congress leaders would be given training and assigned the task of apprising the people at grassroot level of the various schemes initiated by the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, for the welfare of different sections of society and Ms Sonia Gandhi’s message of love, peace, development and communal harmony. This was stated by Mr Ashok Tanwar, president, All-India Youth Congress, while talking to mediapersons here today.

He said that dedicated and sincere youths having clean image would be given Congress tickets in all those states, where elections are due. The Youth Congress would be given due share while allotting the party tickets and decision by AICC has already been taken.

He stated that Mr Amla would remain the state president of Punjab Youth Congress and there is no second thought about it. Efforts are being made to strengthen the organisations. More and more youths impressed from the ideology of Ms Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh are joining Youth Congress.

He said that units of Youth Congress would be set up at village-level and it would be made a cadre-based organisation. Punjab Youth Congress would work in complete co-ordination with PPCC president Samsher Singh Dullo and the good works of Capt Amarinder Singh Government would be highlighted by the youths by organising functions.

Mr Ravinder Singh Sonda, president, District Youth Congress, Mr Vaneet Bittu, president, Block Youth Congress, Mandi Gobindgarh, along with their hundreds of workers accorded a warm reception to AIYC president and raised slogans in his and party’s favour.


“Congress govt a failure”

Phillaur January 4
Former Punjab BJP President and former minister Madan Mohan Mittal has described the Congress-led state government as a non-performer government.

Addressing a press conference here today, Mr Mittal said the Congress made high-profile promises to the voters during the last Assembly elections, but none of these have been fulfilled even in the four years of the Congress rule in the state. He alleged that the state government had failed to improve the condition of roads, water supply, sewerage and other basic amenities. — OC


Gadhrian canal inaugurated
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur January 4
The Irrigation Minister, Punjab, Mr Lal Singh, today inaugurated the 6.8 km Gadhrian canal, in the Kanuwan area of the district. He was accompanied by the local MLA and PWD Minister, Punjab, Mr Pratap Singh Bajwa.

Mr Bajwa, while talking to newsmen said the canal was a long-standing demand of the area. The area in which the canal had been dug was no water logged. In monsoon the area got inundated with water as there was no outlet.

Now the government has constructed the drain that would prove as an outlet for waste water in the area.

About 700-acre land, would be relieved of water logging after the construction of the canal.

The government has spent Rs 1.34 crore on the construction of the canal, he said.

Mr Lal Singh, while responding to the queries from newsmen said, work on the Shahpur Kandi project would start soon.

The government intended to finish the work on the project in the next 2 years.

He also indicated the work of the project would likely be handed over to a private firm.

Already the government had got the detailed project report (DPR) on Shahpur Kandi prepared from the NHPC.

The NHPC has pegged the construction cost of the project at Rs 2,600 crores.

The engineers posted at the Ranjit Sagar Dam had, however, pegged the cost at Rs 1,400 that included Rs 250-crore infrastructure already available with them.

The minister also ruled out the possibility of privatisation of the PSEB. He said the unbundling and privatisation of the electricity boards was the policy of the previous NDA government.

The power board in Punjab was doing well financially and there was no need to privatise it.

Mr Lal Singh announced a grant of Rs 50 lakh for the development of Kanuwan constituency.

Mr Bajwa while speaking on the occasion said, that till in the past four years the present government had spent Rs 685 crore on development of Gurdaspur district.

The border district had received liberal grants from the present government where as it was ignored by the previous government, he said.


Tributes paid to Jagat Ram Soondh
Our Correspondent

Nawanshahr, January 4
Tributes were paid to former minister Chaudhary Jagat Ram Soondh at the ‘Shardhanjhli Samaroh’ organised at Soondh village, about 20 km from here today to mark his 18th death anniversary. Chaudhary Jagat Ram Soondh was gunned down by the militants in 1988.

Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Deputy Chief Minister, while presiding over the political conference organised at the village, said it was due to sacrifices made by Congress leaders and workers during the fight against militancy so that peace and prosperity could be restored in the state.

Blaming Akalis for the black days of militancy in the state, Ms Bhattal said the SAD leaders had always played havoc with Punjab just to nourish their narrow political gains. While myopic political thinking and cowardice of the SAD leaders helped militancy rise in Punjab, the Congress leaders and workers fought militancy with courage during the decade-long period to keep the unity and integrity of the nation intact.

A large number of Congress leaders and workers had to sacrifice their lives for the sake of peace, communal harmony, unity and integrity, she said adding that the state government would setup suitable memorials of the martyrs and would develop their native village on priority basis.

Mr Harnam Dass Johar, Education Minister, while paying tributes said the name of the Government Senior Secondary School, Soondh, would be named after Amar Shahid Chaudhary Jagat Ram to inculcate the spirit of patriotism and sacrifice among the future generation. He announced a grant of Rs two lakh for the school and two lakh for the sports stadium in the village.

Mr Maninderjit Singh Bitta, president, All-India Anti Terrorism Front, exhorted the people especially youth to raise their voice against the growing terrorism. The terrorism is the biggest challenge before us and we should fight it out if we want peace and prosperity, said Mr Bitta.

Senior Congress ministers, MLAs and leaders, including Mr Mohinder Singh Kaypee, Mr Parkash Singh, Mr Jasjit Singh Randhawa, Mr Joginder Singh Mann, Mr Malkiat Singh Dakha, Mr Umrao Singh, Mr Raj Kumar Khurana, Ms Surjit Kaur Kalkat, Mr Charanjit Singh Channi, Mr Tarlochan Singh Soondh, MLA and son of Chaudhary Jagat Ram, among others, also addressed the gathering.


Warehouse workers continue relay fast
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 4
The Punjab State Warehouse Workers Union (AICCTU) at its state-level meeting here today decided to organise a rally on January 11 here in protest 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.

On the second day of the relay fast in front of the office of the Deputy Commissioner (DC) here today, Mr Jarnail Singh Bakhshiwala, Mr Jagsir Singh Maur and Mr Pala Singh Sunam observed fast in support of their demands.

They were addressed among others by Mr Sat Pal Behniwal, a state-committee member of the All-India Students Association; Mr Harbhagwan Bhikhi, state secretary of the All-India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) and Mr Raghbir Singh Jawandha, state president of the Punjab State Warehouse Workers Union (AICCTU).

The leaders condemned the Amarinder Singh government for its alleged “anti-worker” policies. They also criticised the Warehouse Corporation authorities and the district administration for not allegedly providing justice to them.

They warned the government that if their demands, including reinstatement of 16 workers, who had reportedly been working in the godowns of the Warehouse for the past several years, and payment of wages to the removed workers for four months, were not met soon, they would intensify their agitation in the days to come.


Dismissal of ex-FCI official sought
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 4
Reacting to news report of Rs 700-crore rice scam carried in The Tribune yesterday, ex-MLA Hardev Singh Arshi today demanded immediate dismissal and initiation of criminal proceedings against the then FCI, SRM, who is an IAS officer of Punjab cadre.

Talking to mediapersons here today, Mr Arshi said the then SRM had already been removed from his post, which held him prima facie responsible for the scam. He said responsibility should be fixed and strict action should be taken against each and every official involved in the scam. He said top officials often went scot-free in scams.

Expressing surprise on inaction of the Income Tax Department, he said the department should conduct raids on 164 officials pinned in the scam and check their legal and illegal properties. He said it could lead to recovery of at least a part of the money.

Raising doubt on the role of the CMO, the former MLA said a businessman-turned-politician, who was named in media reports when the supply of substandard rice to other states came to light in 2004 no action was taken against him. He said the politician also had close links with then FCI, SRM, apart from some other IAS officials. Mr Arshi said action against guilty officials should be expedited.


NRI-sponsored projects to get govt grant
Our Correspondent

Nawanshahr, January 4
As many as 28 community development projects will be under taken in 24 villages of the district by releasing matching grants to the NRI-sponsored development projects by the state government.

Under the new scheme, the state government has transferred CD-2.35 plan from the Rural Development Department to the NRI Affairs Department.

The government has constituted a high-level committee called the Punjab NRI Committee for Development (PUNRICD) to control funds allocated for the Budget under the scheme.

The Department of NRI Affairs has received various development proposals through Deputy Commissioners for release of matching grants to the NRI-sponsored projects on a 50:50 basis. The proposals have been approved by the state government.

While the Deputy Commissioner will be the Chairman, the vice-chairmen of different committees will be the donor NRI or his/her representative. Other members of the development committees are DDPO, sarpanches and a panch of the villages concerned.


Tributes paid to Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna
Our Correspondent

Bhakna (Amritsar), January 4
Villagers today gathered in this tiny border hamlet to celebrate the birth anniversary of Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna, a freedom fighter and founder of pre-independence ‘Gaddar Party’. The village shot into limelight due to this brave person and his movement directed to attaining freedom.

CPI leadership, including Mr Jagroop Singh, Punjab Secretary CPI, besides Mr Rajeshwar Singh, trustee Desh Bhagat Yadgari committee, Amarjit Asal (district CPI secretary) addressed the gathering, criticising populist and US-backed policies that were eating into the vitals of agriculture, public sector enterprises and leading to increasing crime.

Nearly 33 veterans of the party including two freedom fighters from pre-independence Kirti party Mr Karam Singh (80) and Mr Dhain Singh Kasel (81) apart from village children excelling in varied fields, were honoured on the occasion that marked the 80th year of the CPI, formed in 1925.

Mr Karam said he saluted women who formed the freedom struggle “It is women who actually deserved awards!

For their sacrifices for keeping home fire burning, raising children, caring for elders, single-handedly. Without their support freedom would have been impossible”, he added.

Mr Kashmir Singh, general secretary, Hindustan Samaj, Moscow a communist, who migrated to Russia in 1975 was here with his Russian wife Olga Singh, son Victor Singh and daughter Rashmi Singh. “This is my annual pilgrimage for past 30 years!

This time I have come with my family”, he added. Russian women were dressed in Indian clothes, much to the amazement of villagers that gave them curious looks! Mr Kashmir’s father Mr Darshan Singh was one of those who were given awards.

The function was held in Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna Senior Secondary school donated by the freedom fighter next to his ‘samadh’ where tributes were paid by panchayat and villagers. Leaders and villagers voiced concern over the neglect of this border village roads of which were pot-holed and muddy.

They demanded a museum a statue of the Baba at Khasa crossing, a hospital, girls college/school, employment to youth and supply of electricity.


Youth advised to shun drugs
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, January 4
Mr Ashok Tanver, President, All-India Youth Congress, criticising leaders of opposition parties said they were exploiting religious sentiments of the people for selfish ends for grabbing power. He was addressing a rally of Youth Congress workers, 20 km. from here today for thanking the govt for inclusion of Hoshiarpur district in the Gramin Rozgar Guarantee Yojna for overall development of the district. He highlighted achievements of the Congress Governments.

On Assembly elections in Punjab, Mr Tanver exhorted Youth Congress workers to work hard to retain power. He advised State’s Youth Congress leaders to organise workshops to prepare youths for development in the state. He also advised the youth to shun drugs and fight social evils like dowry etc. Mr Avtar Henry, Minister for Civil Supplies, Punjab, said that NABARD had granted Rs 200 crore for water supply in the Kandi area of Hoshiarpur district. Criticising Mr Parkash Singh Badal, President SAD, Mr Henry said that Mr Badal had no issue.

He said Fast Track Courts would soon decide corruption cases of Mr Badal. Mr Romesh Chander Dogra, Health and Family Welfare Minister, Mr Raghunath Sahay Puri, Housing and Urban Development Minister, Punjab, Mr Ravinder Aambla, President Punjab Youth Congress, Mr Neetu Sharma and Mr Jaspreet Brar, both general secretaries of the All-India Youth Congress, Mr Kuldip Nanda, President District Congress and Mr Arun Dogra, President District Youth Congress, Hoshiarpur also expressed their views.


Baby girl found in train
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 4
A baby girl aged about a month was today found in the Ambala-Bathinda passenger train. Sources said the baby was spotted wailing on a berth after all the passengers had alighted the train.

The railway authorities made several announcements, but nobody came forward to claim her. Some commuters said the baby was reportedly seen with a woman who got down at Rampura Phul railway station and didn’t return.

The authorities then informed Sahara Jan Seva, a voluntary organisation, about the baby. Sahara volunteers brought her to their office and arranged woollen clothes for her before admitting her to children’s hospital as she was weak and ailing.


Two kids die in wall collapse
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 4
A pall of gloom descended on Selbarah village today when two children died in a wall collapse.

Sources said the incident occurred when the deceased, Ravi and Banti, both six-year-old, were playing near their homes. The wall that collapsed was already in a dilapidated state.

They tried to swing on a cable put up on the wall, which led to its collapse. They were rushed to the Civil Hospital, Rampura Phul, where one of them died, while the other died on reaching Adesh Hospital in Bathinda.


Election for MC chief held
Our Correspondent

Malerkotla, January 4
The election for the post of president of the local municipal council (MC) was held here today under the supervision of the District and Sessions Judge, Mr K.K. Garg. The municipal councillors cast their votes through secret ballot.

The ruling party fielded Mr Mohd Ishaq Saka for the post of president. His name was proposed by Yaseen Khalid, a local municipal councillor, while the name of Mohd Jahid was proposed by Mohd Sardar Dara from the opposite side.

Ms Bholi Ismail, former president of the local MC, was absent during the polling. A total of 27 votes were polled, including the vote of local MLA Razia Sultana. The ruling group claimed the support of 20 members.


Kabari market shopkeepers threaten stir
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 4
Disappointment writ large on the faces of a section of shopkeepers, running the business of the sale and purchase of old tractors and spare parts in the local kabari market on the Bahera road after they were not allotted shops in Transport Nagar. They have been asked by the authorities concerned to shift from their present places.

The shopkeepers, who have been running their business for two or three decades, have approached the Chief Justice, Punjab and Haryana High Court, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Ms Preneet Kaur, MP, the Governor and the Chairman, Punjab State Human Rights Commission for getting alternative places to run their business before their existing business places are razed.

The shopkeepers alleged that the authorities concerned had allotted shops in Transport Nagar, being developed by the Improvement Trust, to around 185 shopkeepers of the market while there were around 300 applicants for these shops. The market is being shifted to Transport Nagar to decongest certain pockets of the city and give it a facelift.

The deadline for shifting the Market, the oldest in the country, was fixed for December 31. However, as the trust authorities have not been able to develop the nagar fully, shopkeepers of the market are running their business from their existing places.

They alleged that a second survey, which was conducted by the district administration to identify genuine shopkeepers of the Market, who had not been allotted shops in Transport Nagar, was a mere formality.

The local SDM, who carried out the second survey, said she went to the market on the direction of the Deputy Commissioner to look into that why certain shopkeepers were left out in the allotment process.

She said as per her information all shopkeepers of the market would get shops in the next allotment. It was also being verified that whether any shopkeeper had managed to get two shops allotted to him, she added.

Meanwhile, the aggrieved shopkeepers said they would launch an agitation after two days, if their existing shops were demolished without allotting them new ones in Transport Nagar.


Encroachments by shopkeepers removed
Our Correspondent

Kharar, January 4
Encroachments on various commercial areas were removed by the Municipal Council authorities here today.

The council employees, who were accompanied by the police, seized goods of some shopkeepers for violating norms.

Mr Charanjit Singh, president of the council said shopkeepers had raised temporary structures outside their shops for stocking goods. They had been warned many times against encroaching upon the area.

The shopkeepers had formed an association and approached him to get some time for removing the encroachments one month ago. But, even after one month they had failed to vacate the area.

He said a number of shopkeepers removed the encroachments on their own.

The encroachments on the Landran road, Badala road, Jandpur Jhugian road, main bazar and other areas were removed.

However, certain shopkeepers have alleged that the council staff was bias while removing encroachments. Mr Charanjit Singh said the allegation of the shopkeepers was baseless.


No quota for Christians
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 4
There is no possibility of reservation in jobs for Christians, says a senior Punjab Government officer.

He said that there were legal hurdles in doing so. Reservation in jobs could only be made on the basis of caste and not religion.


Youth killed in mishap

Sangrur, January 4
Kuljit Singh (30) was killed when he was hit by a vehicle on the Sunam-Jakhepal road last night. He along with Jagsir Singh and Balwinder Singh was going to Jakhepal from Sunam. The police said all three occupants of the car were under the influence of liquor due to which their car rammed into a tree. They came out of the car and tried to stop a vehicle, which hit Kuljit, who later died. — TNS


Cops remanded  in custody
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 4
Inspector Gurcharan Singh, Head Constable Sohan Singh and Constable Harnek Singh were remanded in police custody in connection with a corruption case here today.

They were arrested by the Vigilance Bureau for taking bribe from a transporter, Balwinder Singh, a few days ago and were produced in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) today. Gurcharan Singh was traffic in charge in the city.

The accused were produced in the court of Judicial Magistrate, Ms Lakhwinder Kaur Duggal, on December 22. The were remanded in judicial custody.

Balwinder’s counsel filed a revision petition in the court of Additional Sessions Judge, Mr Kuldeep Singh, against the order of Ms Duggal.

Mr Kuldeep Singh passed an order in which he directed the accused to appear in the court of the CJM today. A large quantity of liquor and some cartridges were seized from the house of Gurcharan Singh when a search was carried out there by a Vigilance Bureau team.


New Principal Secretary
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 4
The Punjab Government today promoted a 1979 batch IAS officer, Ms Kusumjit Sidhu, to the rank of Principal Secretary.

The Chief Secretary, Mr Jai Singh Gill, issued orders in this regard. She is likely to be to given charge of Labour and Employment. Till now she was working as Secretary, Power.

Meanwhile, the state government has also allowed the deputation of Mr Venkatratnam to the Andhra Pradesh cadre for a period of two years. Earlier, the government had allowed the deputation of two officers who had opted to go to Tamil Nadu and Jharkhand, respectively.

The Punjab Government has also asked the Government of India to send back, Mr A. Siva Prasad to his parent cadre. He was posted as Senior Regional Manager, Food Corporation of India, Punjab region. Mr Prasad was removed from his post by the FCI more than four months ago.

The Punjab Government has already sent a panel names to replace Mr Prasad.

The Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Mr Charanjit Singh Atwal, has asked the Punjab Government to post Mr Prasad as his Personal Secretary. The government has replied that Mr Prasad is already on Central deputation.


Docs, patwaris to be recruited
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 4
Fatehgarh Sahib district in Punjab requires the services of 138 patwaris to cater to the needs of people. The district administration has only 32 patwaris on its rolls at present.

Keeping in view the shortage of patwaris in Fatehgarh Sahib and other parts of the state, the state government has permitted the authorities concerned to recruit 378 patwaris, a top officer said today. The recruitment of 1374 doctors and other officials in the Health Department had also been cleared.

He said the Council of Ministers would decide whether 12,000 teachers to be recruited in Punjab would be employed on contract or a regular basis.


Stolen mobile handsets seized, 4 held
Tribune News Service

Moga, January 4
The police has busted a gang of mobile phone robbers and arrested four of its members, besides recovering 62 mobile handsets from their possession.

The SSP, Mr Pawan Kumar Rai, said the gang used to break open locks of mobile phone shops and escape with mobile handsets in bulk. Last night, the police received a tip-off that the gang was about to strike at a shop in Nihalsinghwala, following which SHO, Mr Tara Singh, and CIA staff in charge Mr Tehal Singh set up check posts to nab them. The police spotted a couple on two-wheelers coming from Rauke Kalan village at about 2.15 am and stopped them on suspicion.

On frisking them the police recovered 10 mobile handsets that they had stolen from a shop in Badhani Kalan.

They spilled the beans during their interrogation, which led to seizure of 52 more mobile handsets. They had also stolen the two-wheelers that they were riding on. The SSP said the mobile handsets recovered from them were worth Rs 1.25 lakh.


Authorities foil jailbreak plan
Our Correspondent

Amritsar January 4
Authorities in the high security Central Jail here have claimed to have foiled an escape plan drafted by some hardcore criminals lodged in the jail.

Mr Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh, the newly appointed SSP-cum-Jail Superintendent, today confirmed that he was informed by the SSP, Mr R.P.S Brar, about receiving written information that a number of hardcore criminals lodged in the jail were planning to escape.

Meanwhile, there were reports that 12 jail inmates had gone on an indefinite fast. But Mr Kunwar scoffed at the rumours and denied that Kulwant Kanta, main accused in the sensational abduction case of teenaged son of leading rice exporter Parbir Singh, had led the hunger strike by jail inmates. He said all jail inmates had taken their food and had been sent back to their barracks as usual.

He said some of the inmates had been segregated from ordinary criminals and this had helped in thwarting a jailbreak plan. In another move he had stepped up vigil inside and outside the jail premises and had kept a close watch on the activities of prisoners.

The SSP said the strict vigilance paid off two days ago when the jail staff managed to seize liquor being brought into the jail in a pack of edible oil from another hardcore criminal and a former cop Jagtar Boxer.

He said he would take action against anyone breaking rules and regulations of the jail.


Betting racket busted, six arrested
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 4
The police claims to have busted a gang of bookies with the arrest of six of its members, while the gang leader and his accomplices have absconded.

Addressing a press conference here today, the DIG, Bathinda range, Mr P.S. Sarao, said that the police got a tip-off that nine persons were running their betting operation from a rented accommodation at Guru Gobind Singh Nagar. They were duping people of their hard-earned money by persuading them to bet on cricket matches. They were not making payment to those who were winning bets. The police came to know that they had received bets on their mobile phones for a Sri Lanka-New Zealand one day international held on January 3 and were compiling details of the money collected.

A police team headed by SI Amritpal raided their hideout and arrested six persons involved in the betting.

They have been identified a Pawnesh Kumar, Deepak Kumar, Vijay Kumar, Yogesh Kumar, Lekh Raj and Hardev Singh.

The police has also recovered equipment used for tapping conversation on mobile phones, a tape recorder, nine mobile phones, a television set, 16 audio cassettes, Rs 43,000 by cash and booking record of cricket matches.

A case has been registered under Section 420 of the IPC and Section 13A of the Gambling Act.

Those who escaped the police net are Vishnu, Anil Kumar and Bablu.

The DIG said the gang was operating in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Chandigarh. He said the gang had got the equipment to record telephonic conversations prepared from Abohar in Rs 6,000. He said the police would scrutinise mobile phone records of the gang members to trace out their accomplices.

He said the gang had 40-50 members and police parties had been despatched to nab them and their leader Om Patheja who was in Chandigarh.


Youth dies in custody; father alleges torture
Ramanjit Singh Sidhu

Rajpura, January 4
Gurmail Singh (30), a resident of Kakrali village in Dera Bassi, reportedly died in police custody here early this morning. Alleging police torture, the father of the deceased alleged that the Rajpura Railway Police had picked up his son from his residence on Monday morning and kept him in illegal detention in connection with the murder case of two youths, whose bodies had been dumped on railway track near Ghaggar Railway Station.

A case of murder had been registered by the Government Railway police after the badly mutilated bodies of Rajesh Kumar of Sundar Nagar in Jind district and Gurcharan Singh of Mohar Tikhri village in Dera Bassi were recovered on December 31. The bodies had marks of sharp edged injuries.

Mr Charan Singh, father of the victim, alleged that a team of Rajpura Railway Police Post had picked his son Gurmail Singh from their village on Monday at around 6 am saying that they were taking him to Rajpura. The cops did not tell as to why they were taking his son in custody. Since that day he had no information about his son. The police had today called his family to the police station in connection with the arrest of his son, but when the family inquired about Gurmail, the cops refused to give any straight answers.

He further alleged that till about 2 pm the police did not disclose the fact that his son had died and kept the family in dark. In the afternoon, the cops took him to the AP Jain Civil Hospital, Rajpura, and showed him his son’s body lying in the mortuary. “Till that hour I was not told about the death of my son and suddenly they showed me his body,” said inconsolable Mr Gurmail Singh in the hospital.

On the other hand, the Railway Police officials, dealing with the case, maintained that at around 6 am Gurmail Singh had wanted to ease himself and he was taken to the toilet. As soon as he came out of the toilet, he collapsed. The cops tried to revive him, but in vain. He was immediately shifted to the hospital, where the doctors declared him dead.

The Railway Police officers further maintained that Gurmail Singh was picked up last night and not on Monday morning as alleged by his father.

Mr Charan Singh alleged that blood was oozing out of the nose and mouth of his son. He maintained that his son was not suffering from any ailment.

A three-member board of doctors conducted the post-mortem of the body, which was later handed over to the family. The findings of the post-mortem were awaited, said the police.

The DSP (Administration) Government Railway Police, Mr Pritam Singh, while denying the allegations of torture said Gurmail Singh had died a natural death. He further added that if anybody found guilty in this regard action would be initiated against him. “However, it would be premature to say anything in this regard and we are waiting for the post-mortem reports,” he added.


Teenaged girl jumps into canal, drowned

Barnala, January 4
A teenaged girl of Dhanaula, Kiranjit Kaur, jumped into a canal at Harigarh village, about 15 km from here this morning.

It was reliably learnt that the girl, a resident of Wagher Patti of Dhanaula, about 10 km from here, had been a victim of depression as her father and uncle were undergoing imprisonment in a murder case. The girl is reported to have reached the canal bridge on a bicycle this morning. Putting off her shawl and pullover, she jumped into the canal.

Mr Ginder Singh, an employee of the Irrigation (Canal) Department at Harigarh, on seeing the girl plunging into the canal also jumped to rescue her. But the current of the chilly water was so fast that he too could be saved with a great deal of effort.

The body of the girl remained untraced till the last reports came in. — OC


15 hurt as excise party, villagers clash
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 4
At least 15 persons, including four policemen and excise officials, were injured in a clash between residents of Lidhar village near Rayya and the raiding excise party, about 40 km from here today.

The trouble started when the Excise Department, accompanied by a large posse of police and wine contractors, conducted a surprise raid on the bootleggers in the village of Congress MLA Jasbir Singh Dimpa .

Ms Vibhu Raj, district police chief, Majitha, said the police was looking into the matter.

One Mr Nirmaljit Singh Randhawa alleged that many drums of illicit liquor were destroyed on the spot . He alleged that the bootleggers started pelting stones on the raiding party following the raid.


2.25 lakh ml of illicit liquor seized
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, January 4
The police has arrested two persons and claims to have recovered 2,25,000 ml of illicit liquor from their possession. The arrested have been identified as Dharampal and Sukhdev, both residents of Sujanpur, near here.

According to a press release issued today, the police said both the accused were nabbed yesterday when the police had set up a naka at the Chakki bridge.

The police has seized two scooters from the possession of the accused in which they were carrying liquor from adjoining Himachal areas.

A case has been registered against the accused under Section 61-1-14 of the Punjab Excise Act.


6 killed in mishaps

Patiala, January 4
Six human lives were lost in accidents which took place in various pockets of this district in the past 48 hours.

Information gathered by TNS revealed that while three accidents, which claimed three human lives, took place in the Rajpura and Dera Bassi areas of the district yesterday, three other road accidents, which took place in Dakala, Samana and this city today, also claimed three lives.

Information revealed that in an accident which took place on the Patiala-Sangrur road in the city claimed the life of 75-year-old Sooraj Pal. His relative, identified as Vishal Singh, was severely injured when a speeding heavy vehicle hit their motor cycle.

Daler Singh, an employee of Markfed, died when he was hit by a speeding vehicle near Bhanra village, located on the outskirts of this city. The deceased was a resident of this town.

Jasbir Singh, another resident of this town, lost his life after his vehicle was hit by a speeding tractor- trailer in Samana subdivision.

Three persons, including Lal Singh, Surinder Singh and one unidentified, lost their lives in the road accidents which took place yesterday. TNS


Youth duped of Rs 8 lakh

Hoshiarpur, January 4
A case of duping an innocent youth of Rs 8 lakh by travel agents was reported at city police station last evening.

According to police sources, Ranjeet Singh of Ghorewaha alleged in his complaint to the police that Deepak, alias Rissu, of Manakdehri village, Ravi and Rana, both of Ghaziabad (UP), took Rs 8 lakh for sending him to the USA. They neither sent him to the USA nor returned his money. — OC


GND varsity convocation on January 8

Amritsar, January 4
Above 500 postgraduate and graduate degrees would be bestowed on students of Guru Nanak Dev University during its 32nd annual convocation to be held in its auditorium on January 8.

Mr H.R. Bhardwaj, Union Law and Justice Minister, would address the gathering, while the Chancellor of the university, Gen S.F. Rodrigues (retd.), Governor of Punjab, would preside over the convocation.

Dr R.S. Bawa, Registrar of the university, said the varsity would honour Mr Bhardwaj, Dr R.A. Mashelkar, Director-General, CSIR, New Delhi, and Ms Ishar Judge Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairperson, Punjab Planning Board, for their contribution in their respective fields.

Col Harcharan Singh, a former hockey olympian, and noted Punjabi singer Amarinder Singh would also be honoured with gold medals.

He said the degrees would be conferred on candidates of various courses, including Ph.D, M.Phil, and first four positions holders of all other examinations. — OC


Nagar kirtans by schools, Singh Sabha
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 4
Various schools under the aegis of Chief Khalsa Diwan held a nagar kirtan procession on the eve of birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh.

Mr Dharam Veer Singh, Principal of Sri Guru Harkrishan Senior Secondary School, said that band teams of schools participated in the procession which started from the GT road.

The Guru Singh Sabha also organised a nagar kirtan and held through the main bazaars of the city.


Schools resent shifting of students during exams
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 4
A meeting of heads of aided, recognised and affiliated schools today criticised the Punjab Government Education Department policy of shifting students of one school to another in the annual examination of board classes this year.

The Association of Aided and Recognised Schools led by Mr J.P. Shoor, president, condemned the policy and said it would cause great inconvenience to the parents and students, especially the girl students, besides putting a question mark on the integrity and honesty of urban students.

Mr Shoor said at the time of admission to open schools it is promised that centres for board examinations would be provided in the same school.

He said the strength and availability of infrastructure varied from school to school. 


Hutch opens outlet at Patiala
Tribune New Service

Chandigarh, January 4
Hutch opened its second “Hutch Shop” at Patiala today. This shop, located at Twakli Morh, Near Midtown Plaza, Dharampura Market, Patiala, aims at delivering convenience and unique service experience to customers.

The new ‘Hutch Shop’ was inaugurated jointly by Mr Arun Kapoor, COO, Hutch, Punjab and Mr K.S. Kang, DC, Amritsar.

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