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Cong hasn’t ‘kept’ poll promises
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 16
Predicting absolute majority in the coming Assembly elections, Mr Avinash Rai Khanna, state BJP president, today claimed that the Akali-BJP alliance would form the next government.

Talking to mediapersons during “Jan Jagran Abhiyan Rally” here, Mr Khanna said there was no dispute on seat sharing with the SAD for the forthcoming elections. The Congress government had failed to address the grievances of the public.

“The people are fed up with mere assurances of the Congress leaders, who have even failed to fulfil the promises made in the election manifesto,” he said.

The farmers were forced to commit suicide due to anti-farmer policies. He said the BJP would organise “Kisan Morcha Rally” on February 4 in Fazilka to call upon the farmers to dislodge the government.

Mr Najot Singh Sidhu, BJP MP, said Amritsar had suffered due to wrong policies of the Congress government in the past 50 years. He said only announcements were made in the past four years and no concrete steps were taken to implement them.

He said the Prime Minister had announced the setting up of a biotechnology park here but the state government had shifted it to Dera Bassi. The government had failed to acquire even a piece of land for setting up Special Economic Zone, while Haryana was going to establish ninth economic zone that would provide employment to nearly 70,000 persons.

Mr Sidhu said had the government established two five-star hotels besides completing four-laning of the Amritsar-Jalandhar road and the Galliara (beautification of surrounding of the Golden Temple) project, the city would automatically become a major tourist destination.

He said there was no security clearance required for the passengers of the Delhi-Lahore bus service then why the government made it mandatory for the passengers of the Amritsar-Nankana Sahib bus to get clearance.

 

Four more villages threaten to boycott poll
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 16
A few days after three villages of Talwandi Sabo block threatened to boycott Assembly elections four more villages have joined them. Now farmers of these seven villages have resolved to stage dharna in front of the CM’s residence if their problem of canal water shortage was not redressed within 40 days.

Farmers from Jogewala, Tangrali, Gatwali, Malkana, Gayana, Phulokhari and Kanakwal villages have formed a 31-member action committee to pursue the issue.

They held a meeting at the government school of Gatwali village and announced to boycott the elections, besides issuing an ultimatum of 40 days to the government to redress their problems.

They also stated that if protest before the CM’s house didn’t yield any result they would even resort to fast.

All these villages are at the tail end of the canal and often complained of water shortage.

Ujagar Singh of Gatwali village said though he had 70 acres of land, he could sow wheat only on eight acres with the help of canal water. His remaining land was irrigated with ground water which was unfit for irrigation and human consumption.

Similarly, Balbir Singh of Kanakwal village could sow wheat only on one fourth of his 30 acres of land, while the rest of land was unutilised. Ex-sarpanch of Gatwali Bikar Singh rued — “If the government can’t provide jobs to our educated children it can at least ensure adequate water to our fields.” The farmers from Gatwali told that out of 1,750 acres of agricultural land in their village sowing in 90 per cent of the area was done with unfit ground water.

Jagsir Singh of Tangrali village and Kuldeep Singh of Malkana alleged that the Canal Department had not checked theft of canal water and illegal water outlets.

President of Joint Action Committee, Jaswinder Singh Gatwali, said they had written to the Chief Minister, the Irrigation Minister, Chief Engineer and executive engineer concerned in this connection.

When contacted, Senior Engineer of the Canal Department, Harbans Singh Sidhu said they would start de-silting of the canal in three four days and he had discussed the matter with the executive engineer.

The farmers of villages at the tail end of the canal would get a major relief once de-silting was over. On illegal water outlets, he said they would also set the things right on this front and grievances of the farmers having such complaints would be addressed simultaneously.

 

CM making wild promises on SEZs: SAD
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 16
The Shiromani Akali Dal today alleged that the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, was making “wild promises about setting up five new Special Economic Zones in the state while actually he is creating hurdles in the way of the only SEZ sanctioned for Amritsar”.

The general secretary of the SAD, Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, said: “It is ironical that Capt Amarinder Singh is promising SEZs in practically every district of the state while he himself stands as the biggest stumbling block in the way of the first such project for the state. The Chief Minister is allowing the indiscriminate change of land use.”

The Akali leader was commenting on the Chief Minister’s claims on Sunday that his government would set up SEZs in five districts, including Patiala, Fatehgarh Sahib and Hoshiarpur.

 

14 soldiers honoured
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 16
"My husband laid down his life for his motherland, but it would not deter me from sending my two sons to the Army." These are the brave words from Gyarsi Devi who received Sena Medal on behalf of her for her husband late Ptr Raju Singh at an Investiture Ceremony held at Takshila Hall, Chetak Corps,Bathinda cantonment, today.

Talking to The Tribune, a sentimental Mrs Prem Lata, who too received Sena Medal(posthumous) for her son Maj Pradeep Kumar Sharma, said : “Though I have lost my son it makes me feel proud that he died for his country.”

Mr Kulwant Singh, who got Sena Medal(posthumous) for his only son L/NK Lakhbir Singh , and his wife Mrs Harbans Kaur, were in tears remembering him. The 23-year-old attained martyrdom in an anti-terrorist operation in Baramulla. “We have a daughter who is married. We hardly have any reason to live now,” they said.

South Western Command,Army Commander, Lt Gen K Nagraj, honoured 14 gallant soldiers with medals.

Among the series of the gallantary medals were one Yudh Seva Medal, 12 Sena Medals and one Vashisht Seva Medal. Major Gen S.K. Jaswal, Officiating General Officer Commanding, Chetak Corps, and other senior Army officers of the South Western Command and Chetak Corps attended the ceremony.

The awardees included - Lt Col Pradipta Narayan Mahaptra, KC - Yudh Seva Medal, Brig Kothensth Surendranath (Armd) - Sena Medal, Maj Pradeep Kumar Sharma (Posthumous) (JAK RIF) - Sena Medal, Maj H Harish Kumar Pillai (Mahar) - Sena Medal, Maj Vijay Kumar Shah (Arty) - Sena Medal, Capt Sanjay Sharma (O PARA) - Sena Medal, Sub M Muniraja (Madras) - Sena Medal, Nb Sub Bhajan Singh (Sikh LI) - Sena Medal, NK Jai Singh (Raj Rif) - Sena Medal, L/NK Lakhbir Singh (Posthumous) - Sena Medal, Rfn Girver Singh (Raj Rif) (Posthumous) - Sena Medal, Ptr Raju Singh (Posthumous) (10 Para) - Sena Medal, Ptr Shakti Singh (Posthumous) (1 Para) - Sena Medal and Brig Rajinder Singh (Bihar) - Vashisht Seva Medal.

Later General Nagraj interacted with the awardees and their next of kin during tea and lent a patient ear to their grievances. A large number of gallant soldiers’ families, JCOs, jawans, ex-servicemen and civil dignitaries were also present.

 

Union Home Secretary to visit Wagah today
Amritsar-Lahore bus service
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 16
As the bus service between Amritsar and Lahore is all set to begin later this week, the Union Home Secretary, Mr V. K. Duggal, will fly to the Wagah border tomorrow to see the arrangements made in this regard and also find out whether there is need to upgrade the facilities there for visitors. The bus service is scheduled to begin in the second week of February.

Sources said the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, had recently written to the Union Home Minister, Mr Shivraj Patil, that it was necessary to upgrade the facilities at the Wagah customs checkpost.

Besides increasing the number of customs officers to quicken the process of clearance of visitors, there was also need to put up big X-ray machines to inspect goods transported to Pakistan through this border route. Owing to the lack of various facilities, traders have to face problems in getting their goods cleared for export to the neighbouring country. As four buses will start plying between the two countries in the next four weeks, the number of visitors from both countries will increase significantly. To handle the rush, there was a need to increase the strength of the staff at the customs office there.

Moreover, the issue of security clearance for persons interested in travelling to Pakistan in the bus from Amritsar to Lahore and Amritsar to Nankana Sahib, remains to be settled. While the Union Home Ministry said that security clearance for passengers in the bus from Amritsar to Lahore and Amritsar to Nankana Sahib was a must, the state government said there was no need for such an exercise.

The sources said this issue would be discussed with Mr Duggal by the state government authorities concerned in Amritsar tomorrow. “At the moment, it is a big issue and we want to settle it at the earliest”, said a senior officer of the state government.

The Pakistan bus from Lahore will arrive in Amritsar on January 20 and return the next day. The Pakistan Government has chosen Friday to start the bus service to Amritsar from Lahore. The Indian bus from Amritsar will reach Lahore on January 24 and return the next day.

The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, is not likely to arrive in Amritsar to flag off the bus to Lahore. The state government had requested him to spare some time on any day between January 21 and 27 to flag off the bus. However, the state government has got no response yet from the Prime Minister’s Office in this regard.

The sources said the Punjab Transport Minister, Mr Mahinder Singh Kaypee, Congress MLAs from Amritsar, four officers of the Union Government and an equal number of officers of the state government would travel in the bus from Amritsar to Lahore. It is not clear how many ordinary visitors will travel in this bus.

There are reports that Dr Manmohan Singh is keen on flagging off the bus that will start plying between Amritsar and Nankana Sahib.

“We have made arrangements to start the bus service on a regular basis between the two holy cities on any day between February 11 and 15”, said the officer.

The trial run of the Indian bus between Amritsar and Nankana Sahib will be on January 27. The Pakistan bus will reach Amritsar on January 29 and return the next day.

 

Badal alleges phone tapping
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 16
After political bigwigs Amar Singh, Jayalalithaa, Chandrababu Naidu and Prem Kumar Dhumal, today it was the turn of Mr Parkash Singh Badal, president of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) to make allegations of phone tapping by the Congress.

Mr Badal made the allegations at a press conference after holding a meeting with party workers here today. He said he had evidences to prove his accusations against the ruling party. He said not only his political conversation, but also his private talks with his family members were being recorded.

The SAD supremo said his phone was being tapped ever since Capt Amarinder Singh took over as the Chief Minister. He said he was not making such allegations for the first time. “I have complained about the matter on many previous occasions as well”, he stated.

Alleging connivance of the ruling party with the Vigilance Bureau, Mr Badal said bureau officials were threatening employees of telephone exchanges and other telecom companies for getting their involvement in phone tapping. He alleged that bureau officials were being used by ruling party leaders to suppress the judiciary as well. The SAD chief said the government must form an Act in this regard and punish all those involved in such immoral activities.

Flaying the eviction of Sikhs from Kashipur, Mr Badal said the SAD would hold a rally there on January 23. He said despite the fact that these people had appealed that their property and fields be not destroyed, no one bothered. He said even the tents, which the families had errected were razed so as to demoralise them.

When asked about any review of the party over its relation with the BJP following accusations against its MPs in the cash-for-query scam and MPLADS scheme, he said as many Congress MPs had been caught on camera, but the recordings of only a few of them was shown on TV channels.

Earlier, Mr Badal held separate meetings with party leaders from Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Nawanshahr, Kapurthala, Ropar and Fatehgarh Sahib exhorting them to mobilise workers for two forthcoming rallies.

He said a rally to support the demands of traders and industrialists was being planned on February 5 at Bathinda while another one to press for the demands of Dalits was scheduled for February 18 at Kartarpur.

 

Industry seeks facilities
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, January 16
The Punjab Government has planned to bring up special economic zones (SEZs) in the state with government and private investment. This means thousands of acres would be acquired for the proposed projects, depriving people of the valuable land.

Earlier industrial promotion centres brought by the state by spending crores of public money have failed to take off.

One industrial growth centre was brought up at Pathankot during the Congress government from 1991 to 1996. Hundreds of acres were acquired from farmers for the growth centre.

Roads were laid and plots offered for sale. After about 10 years now, the growth has become symbol of public money wastage. Hardly any industry has come up in the growth centre and owners of the industrial plots are looking to sell these to get back.

Besides, the state government had brought up focal points in various parts of the state. In these points also thousands of acres were acquired for promoting industry. The basic aim of the focal point was to promote the industrial units. In focal points also, roads and buildings were constructed. In many focal points, even residential accommodations were brought up for housing the officials to be posted there.

However, most of the focal points failed to take off.

The Punjab Small Scale Industries Development Corporation (PSIDC) had about two years ago floated the idea of selling land of the focal points in various parts of the state and residential colonies. The scheme was floated and the advance was collected for the general public. The PSIDC was to develop basic infrastructure for residential colonies and sell it to allottees of the scheme.

In many areas, including Pathankot, the PSIDC has failed move ahead with its residential colony schemes. The people, who had applied for the plots in the PSIDC schemes, are now running from office to another to get their advance back from the organisation.

The people whose land was acquired in the industrial growth centre and focal point schemes have demanded that the state government should develop SEZs in the existing industrial growth centres or focal points. The people had lost their land to the proposed centre with the expectation that industry would develop their area and they would get employment. However, the fact was that they have lost the land to the growth centres, while no industry has come up.

Experts are of the view that there was no use of developing the SEZs in the state till the basic infrastructure was provided to the industry.

The state was deficit in power. Compulsory cuts ranging from two to three3 days in a week were imposed on the industry in summers and extreme winter. In the past 10 years not even a single unit generation capacity has been added in the state.

In the neighbouring states of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir on the other hand, the industry was enjoying tax holiday, besides better infrastructure facilities. There was no wonder that the industry was shifting its base from Punjab to adjoining states.

 

Rajasansi airport gurdwara to be shifted
Tribune Reporters

Rajasansi (Amritsar), January 16
A gurdwara on the premises of Rajasansi International Airport here is likely to be shifted to some other place on the request of the Airport Authority of India (AAI).

This is perhaps the only airport in the world where devotees cross the runway and operational area to pay obeisance at a shrine. This can be a security hazard.

Talking to The Tribune, the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Kirandip Singh Bhullar, confirmed that the administration had received a request from the AAI to find an alternative and suitable site to shift the shrine. Mr V.S Mulekar, Director, Rajasansi Airport, also confirmed that the gurdwara would be shifted to a suitable place.

The government agencies have had a tough time trying to find a suitable solution to check the flow of ‘‘sangat’’ at the shrine, especially during every ‘‘sangrand’’ or anniversary of baba, when more than one lakh devotees throng the gurdwara. The arrangement of langar inside the shrine is also a serious flight safety hazard.

The devotees have faith in the shrine that was constructed some 55 years ago when the airport was under the control of the Indian Air Force. It is believed that the shrine as well as the airport remained undamaged during the massive air strikes in the 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan, even though it was the nearest and softest target for enemy aircraft.

Meanwhile, the AAI has urged the Indian Air Force to re-locate the signal area centre, office and residential complex to the west of the runway for the proposed expansion of the car park area . The AAI has also requested the state government to acquire additional land for the future expansion of the airport complex which is likely to grow at an annual rate of 15 to 20 per cent as large number of NRI Punjabis use this airport.

Mr Tarlochan Singh, a Rajya Sabha member and Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, has urged the Minister of Civil Aviation to have a high-level committee visit the airport to have first hand information about the development projects going on at the airport.

According to Mr Tarlochan Singh , Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel had assured that the second phase of the expansion plan worth Rs 80-crore would be taken up in the right earnest during the current financial year. The proposed expansion plan would include additional runway , ground lighting and CNS facilities besides additional link taxi ways.The departure lounge to handle 500 passengers is also likely to be commissioned by the end of this month.

 

Syndicate nod will help set up regional centre
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 16
If all goes well on January 21, the next date for the Panjab University syndicate meeting, the university would open the Swami Sarvanand Gir Panjab University Regional Centre at Bajwara, Hoshiarpur.

The society running the Swami Sarvanand Giri Institute of Information Technology from a sprawling 10 acres campus on the Una road, would be donating its land to the university provided it agrees to certain conditions that the society members have laid down.

This regional centre of the university would have to run engineering, nursing, BCA and law courses. However, the university would be free to start any other course it deems fit. Interestingly, the university would also have to run the charitable hospital that is housed on the 10 acres campus.

The hospital provides medicines to the poor patients from the area at a nominal cost. The society has asked the university to continue this practice for which it would pay the university each year.

Mr Lajpat Rai Munger, an NRI and president of the society, said he had started the institute in Hoshiarpur as a mission in the name of his revered Guru and now wanted the university to run it.

“We want the university to start running BE courses in computer science, electronics and communications, electrical and electronics and mechanical engineering and I have been told that if the syndicate clears the project on January 21 these courses can be started from the coming session,” he added.

Interestingly, the society’s original proposal had been given the green light by the PU Senate on December 18, 2005. However, the society made some changes in the proposal and sent a fresh proposal on December 28, 2005.

While the earlier proposal had laid down that other than the 10 acres of the institute’s campus, another piece of 22.5 acres of land in Tharoli village (about 6 km from the campus) would also be given to the university to be put to use for the development of the institute and the hospital.

However, in the revised proposal, the society has stated that it would sell this chunk of land and buy land nearer the 10 acre campus for the construction of a nursing and law college, handing over the new property to the university.

The revised society proposal also stated that the nursing college was under construction by the society and would complete it if needed.

The university is expected to run a three-year graduate law course and also a five-year integrated law course on the campus. Other than this the university would also run a Bachelor of Nursing, Ayurveda, homoeopathy, physiotherapy and radiography courses here.

“I am going to meet the Vice-Chancellor tomorrow and finalise the proposal. There is a possibility that we go ahead with the original proposal which has already been cleared by the Senate.

Then the university can immediately begin the process of starting some of these courses from the coming session,” said Mr Munger.

 

US college alumnae visit Amritsar
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 16
A group of 20 alumnae of Wellesley College, USA, arrived here today.

The leader of the delegation, Prof Nikky Guninder Kaur Singh, daughter of Sikh scholar Prof Harbans Singh of Punjabi University, Patiala, who authored the first Sikh Encyclopedia, said she was on a lecture tour of the country to acquaint the delegates with the rich Indian culture.

She said India’s religious philosophy, steeped in deep spirituality, had shown the world the path of leading a harmonious life.

Prof Nikky, who is teaching in Colby College, Maine, USA, said she had recently completed writing a book, “Birth of Khalsa,” which would hit the stands soon.

She said the book was a maiden attempt in the Sikhism to look at the birth of Khalsa from a feminine perspective and to bring out the real aim of the Sikhism for the understanding of a common man.

She delivered a lecture on the philosophy of Islam at Agra, on the philosophy of Hinduism at Udaipur and on the philosophy of Sikhism here.

She said these lectures had helped bringing about affinity between the two cultures, which had remained separated for many centuries.

She said her college was exploring the possibility of having a students exchange programme with the local Khalsa College for women, which would help understanding the education systems of both countries.

 

13 Punjab leaders inducted into AICC
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 16
As many as 13 Congress leaders from Punjab were tonight inducted into the All India Congress Committee (AICC), the apex decision making body of the party.

A from the list of names, it appears that the party has tried to accommodate all factions of the Punjab Congress. The Congress highcommand has done a balancing act and even the loyalists of Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, who was recently made a special invitee member of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), have been included in the AICC. The new members will be attending the plenary session at Hyderabad in the last week of January.

Among those inducted are Mr Gurbinder Atwal, Mr Ram Lubhaya, Mr Malkiat Singh Birmi and Mr Tarlochan Singh, MLAs from Noormahal, Sham Chaurasi, Ludhiana (rural) and Banga, respectively.

Former MP from Phillaur, Ms Santosh Chaudhry, has also been inducted. Others on the list are Mr Lakhwinder Singh, Mr Ramesh Goyal, Mr L.S. Bhinder, Mr Labh Singh, Mr R.K. Rathore, Mr Vijay Sathi, Mr Manjit Singh Jahalbhutti, Ms Amarjeet Kaur, a former Rajya Sabha MP.

 

Harmandar Sahib raagi suspended
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 16
For the first time, a Hazoori raagi of Harmandar Sahib, Bhai Bakshish Singh has been placed under suspension for moral turpitude.

Mr Dalmegh Singh, Secretary, SGPC told The Tribune today that the President of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Mr Avtar Singh, had issued orders to suspend the Hazoori raagi in the evening today. Earlier, Mr Daljit Singh Bedi, publicity in charge of the SGPC, was deputed to ask Bhai Bakshish Singh to resign. Mr Bedi, however, said that the Hazoori raagi had left for an unknown place without informing authorities concerned.

Earlier, Bhai Bakshish Singh was caught ‘red-handed’ with the wife of his colleague from the official quarters in the Golden Temple colony of the SGPC last week. Mr Ajaib Singh, Manager, Darbar Sahib, said that the SGPC had constituted a three-member committee to probe the charges. The committee comprises Mr Sukhdev Singh, Mr Gurdev Singh Uboke and Mr Joginder Singh had reportedly indicted the raagi for moral turpitude in their preliminary investigation.

The issue is likely to come up at the proposed meeting of the Sikh clergy, scheduled to be held at Akal Takht Secretariat tomorrow. The Sikh high priests may summon him at Akal Takht to clarify his position before being declared ‘Tankhaiya’. It is learnt that Bhai Bakshish Singh was appointed Hazoori raagi through a Takht Jathedar.

The USA-based delegation would also meet the Sikh clergy for action against Baba Daljit Singh Chicago, who also faces charges of moral turpitude.

 

Country planners’ congress concludes
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 16
The town planners participating in the 54th national town and country planners’ congress unanimously recommended the consolidation of areas under military use at Amritsar, proper infrastructure for the hotel industry, consolidation of different government offices, ensure that the heritage of the walled city is not disturbed, besides including all the proposals of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) in the master plan of Amritsar.

The congress, which concluded here today, also recommended to create a municipal planning committee to decide all matters pertaining to a JNNURM projects preparation and implementation. They urged to constitute district planning committees for consolidation of plans prepared by panchayats and municipalities.

The congress was organised by the Institute of Town Planners India (ITPI), New Delhi, in collaboration with the Guru Ramdas School of Planning, Guru Nanak Dev University, and the Ministry of Urban Development.

Terming the increasing population a biggest challenge, Prof Darbari Lal, Deputy Speaker, Punjab Vidhan Sabha, suggested that planning of the cities should be made keeping in view the available financial resources so that they could meet the international standard.

The planners further recommended that the master plan 2000-2021 for Amritsar should take into consideration the Census of India, 2001, population for Amritsar as a benchmark and accordingly the population should be projected for 2021.

The planners resolved that taking into consideration the opening up of border which would give boost to trade and commerce activities, the area earmarked under this activity needed to be increased considerably.

A special session was devoted to “development of border settlement: a case study of Amritsar”. Mr Sunil Dutti, Mayor of Amritsar, presided over this session, while Mr J.S. Ghuman, past president, ITPI, chaired. Earlier, Dr S. P. Singh, Vice-Chancellor, GND varsity, welcomed the dignitaries and delegates on the valedictory function of the congress.

 

Involve Sikhs in Kashmir talks, demands Mann
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 16
Opposing a Central Government move to include Kashmiri Pandits in the proposed talks to hammer out a solution to the Kashmir problem, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) has demanded that Kashmiri Sikhs should be associated with the talks as they had proved themselves as the “secular backbone” of the trouble-torn valley.

‘‘SAD (Amritsar) feels since Sikhs had not fled the valley at any point of time in spite of facing hardships, so they deserved a better deal and should not be ignored by the Centre, which is in the process of inviting several Kashmiri groups for a dialogue’’, he said.

“Kashmiri Sikhs have every right to be a part of the proposed dialogue. If Pandits are to be called for talks, then, why not the Sikhs? Kashmiri Sikhs have never fled the valley,” observed Mr Simranjit Singh Maan, president of the SAD (Amritsar), while talking to The Tribune here today.

Turning to Punjab, Mr Maan lamented the move of the state government to facilitate the setting up of the proposed Defence University on the Patiala-based National Institute of Sports (NIS) campus. “The NIS has been the lone Union Ministry of Education sponsored project in Punjab since 1947 and I wonder why the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, is out to uproot it?” questioned Mr Maan.

He suggested that instead, the proposed Defence University should be set-up at Anandpur Sahib for its strategical and historical importance. “Anandpur Sahib would be the most suitable location as it is the place where an ideology was born in 1699,” said Mr Maan.

 

Punjab’s forest cover reduced drastically: report
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, January 16
More than Rs 600 crore have been spent under a Japan aided scheme for afforestation in Punjab in the past one decade. In an advertisement issued by the Department of Forests, about 22,000 hectares have been brought under new plantations in the state.

However, the reports released by the Forest Survey of India (FSI), Dehra Dun, present a totally different figures. As per their latest report released in 2005, dense forest cover in Punjab has decreased by whopping 80,600 hectares.

Punjab was 11th amongst the states in terms of forest cover in 2001. However, in two years its position has dipped to the last in the country. As per the report, the forest cover in Punjab was now the lowest in the country. The percentage of forest cover in Punjab is 3.14 per cent of the total area. It is below the desert state of Rajasthan that has 4.62 per cent of its total area under forests. This despite the fact that hundreds of crores have been pumped into aforestation programs by raising loans from foreign banks.

The copies of the survey reports have been provided to The Tribune by the former wildlife wardens, Mr Sukhdeep Bajwa and Mr Gunraj Singh.

The reports also reveal some startling facts. The worst affected districts in terms of forest cover depletion are: Ferozpur that has witnessed 111 per cent depletion, Amritsar 106 per cent, Hoshiarpur 84 per cent, Bathinda 76 per cent, Gurdaspur 21 per cent and Ludhiana 55 per cent during the period extending from 2001 to 2003.

Hoshiarpur district comprised of 22 per cent of the total state forest cover as per the 2001 survey report. However, in just two years the percentage of forest in the district has gone down to 18 percent. The dense forest areas in Hoshiarpur have gone down by 51 sq km.

Mr Bajwa and Mr Gunraj Singh alleged that such a large-scale deforestation was a matter of serious concern. Despite the FSI reports indicating that Punjab has descended to a state with lowest forest cover, the Forest Department was planning to fell lakhs of trees this year. A complete ban should be imposed on the felling of trees in the forests till the state regains it meager 4 to 6 per cent forest cover. They also demanded an inquiry against the DFOs posted between 2001 and 2003.

 

Sujanpur to have Urban Estate
Our Correspondent

Sujanpur (Pathankot), January 16
The Punjab Urban Development Authority (PUDA) has cleared the establishment of an Urban Estate at Sujanpur in the border district of Gurdaspur.

Urban Estates have already been finalised at Nabha, Fatehgarh Sahib and Barnala with sites having been identified at the townships.

Talking to reporters here on Sunday evening, Housing and Urban Development Minister Raghunath Sahai Puri said the land had been identified for modern schools, a government college, a state-of-the-art modern hospital.

The minister said Rs 100 crore had been earmarked for the construction and repairs of the roads and to augment water supply in the district.

He said a multi-crore gateway of Punjab would be set up at Madhopur, entry point to the Jammu and Kashmir.

Mr Puri said the Amarinder government has sanctioned Rs 5 crore for the development of every Assembly constituency and all ministers and party MLAs had been asked to complete 27- km stretch of roads in their respective constituencies.

 

Rally in support of Bant Singh
Tribune News Service

Mansa, January 16
Various political and farmer outfits today held a rally in support of Bant Singh, a resident of Burj Jhabbar village, who lost his three limbs in an attack by some villagers, and formed an action committee to further pursue the matter.

However, the much-hyped rally could not attract much gathering as about 500 activists of different organisations converged on the village in the morning.

Mr Bhagwant Singh of the Majdoor Mukti Morcha has been made the convener of the committee. These outfits threatened to gherao the Deputy Commissioner’s office on January 25 if their demands were not met. A section of villagers, however, expressed their apprehension that political intervention of various organisations could widen the caste divide and the situation might go out of hand.

Various leaders, including the CPI (ML) state secretary Rajvinder Singh Rana, former CPI MLA Buta Singh, Mr Tarsem Jodha of the Lal Bhatha Majdoor Union, Mr Sukhdarshan Nat of Democratic Employees Front, Mr Jhanda Singh Jethuke, senior vice-president of the BKU (Ekta), and Ram Singh, district president, BKU (Ekta), termed the attack on Bant Singh as unfortunate and sought assistance for his family of eight. They demanded the arrest of the village sarpanch Jaswant Singh and his brother and ex-sarpanch Niranjan Singh for allegedly conspiring before the attack. They also demanded that an ASI and a doctor be booked for negligence of duty.

 

Rallies by Sikh bodies today
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 16
The Punjab Rights Forum would organise protest rallies in different places in the state, especially at Ludhiana, Hoshiarpur, Patiala, Chandigarh and Fatehgarh Sahib to seek justice for Prof Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar, who is on the death roll in connection with a bomb blast case, tomorrow.

Mr Kanwar Pal Singh, general secretary, Dal Khalsa, said in a press release here today that protest rallies would be organised outside the offices of Deputy Commissioners. He said they would raise three major issues, eviction of Sikh farmers in Uttaranchal, release of Sikh prisoners and commuting of death sentence of Prof Bhullar.

He said leaders of political parties, including the SAD (A), the SAD (Longowal) and Shiromani Khalsa Dal would participate in this series of protests.

 

Jan 17, 19 holidays in Sangrur district
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 16
Mr Husan Lal, Deputy Commissioner, today announced a local holiday in government offices and educational institutions on January 17 in Sangrur district in memory of the Kuka martyrs. The holiday has been announced under Section 25 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881.

Talking to The Tribune today, Mr Husan Lal said a state-level function in memory of the Kuka martyrs would be held at Namdhari Samarak at Malerkotla tomorrow. Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Deputy Chief Minister, would preside over the function, he added.

In another order issued here today, the Deputy Commissioner announced a local holiday on January 19 in the district in connection with the martyrdom day of Sewa Singh Thikriwala, a freedom fighter.

 

Bhag Singh is PADB Chairman
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 16
Bhag Singh Chanarthal of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) was today unanimously elected the Chairman of the Punjab Agriculture Development Bank (PADB), Sirhind.

A meeting of six directors of PADB, Sirhind, all belonging to SAD, was held to elect the Chairman and other office-bearers of the bank. It was decided at the meeting that Chanarthal would be the Chairman of the bank.

The meeting was also attended by former Punjab Finance Minister Kanwaljit Singh, former Punsup Chairman Kirpal Singh Libra, former minister Randhir Singh Cheema, SGPC member Didar Singh Bhatti, Swaran Singh Chanarthal, SAD district youth wing president Gurpreet Singh Bhatti and senior Akali leaders Ranjit Singh Libra, Balwant Singh Shahpur, Gurdev Singh Khalsa, Jagdeep Singh Cheema.

Talking to mediapersons after the meeting, senior Akali leader Kirpal Singh Libra said Mohinder Singh Kharuri was elected vice-president, Harmesh Singh Chana was elected state body member of PADB, Gurmeet Singh Dangherian was elected chairman, loan committee, PADB, Sirhind, Hardev Singh Bhamrasi and Ranjit Singh was elected as member, loan committee, PADB, Sirhind.

 

Govt flayed for cutting EPF rate
Tribune News Service

Ropar, January 16
Leaders of All-India Forward Bloc, Punjab unit, today criticised the Central government for reducing the interest rate on EPF from 9.5 per cent to 8.5 per cent in a meeting held here today.

They also demanded that the birthday of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on January 23 should be celebrated as Desh Prem Divas throughout the country, said the general secretary of the All-India Forward Bloc, Punjab unit, Mr V. P. Saini.

 

Consumer forum gives relief to farmer
Tribune News Service

Hoshiarpur, January 16
The District Consumer Forum has ordered a cold store owner to pay Rs 3.26 lakh compensation to a farmer of Hariana village for selling his potatoes without his permission.

President of the forum B.C. Gupta ordered the Hoshiarpur Co-operative Cold Store, to pay Rs 293520 as cost of potatoes to Mr Munish Vij, the cold store owner was told to pay Rs 30,000 as compensation and Rs 3,000 as expenditure in two months.

Mr Munish Vij, had filed a petition in the forum that the cold store owner sold his produce (2413 bags) in April 2004, which he had kept in his custody by paying the rent.

In another case, the forum has directed an immigration consultant to return Rs 84,000 to a resident of Garhshankar. On a petition of Ms Savita Walia, of Ward No. 4 of Garhshankar, forum president Gupta, directed Global Info-links Settlement Consultants to return the money with Rs 10,000 as compensation and Rs 10,000 expenditure in two months.

Ms Walia, had complained that she had paid Rs 73,000 to the company for sending her abroad. She had also demanded a compensation of Rs 25,000 from the company which neither sent her to abroad nor returned the money.

The forum has also directed the owner of National Bakery to pay compensation of Rs 5,000 to a resident of Central Town, Mr Tarunjit Singh had complained to the forum that he had purchased a cake on December 23, 2003. After eating the cake his members of family and certain guests had fallen sick, he has asserted.

 

Illicit relations behind murder
Our Correspondent

Batala, January 16
A murder case was solved by Batala police with the arrest of Harpal Singh, alias Bhala, of Staff Road, Batala.

While talking to media persons here today, Dr Jatindera Kumar Jain, SSP, said Prem Singh, a son of Partap Singh, along with Sukhdev Singh, a son of Balwant Singh, was going along the railway line from Murgi Mohalla to Kala Nangal Road when Harpal Singh, Sukhwinder Singh, alias Sukha, and Malkiat Singh, alias Bau, all residents of Staff Road, Batala, attacked them and caused injuries with knives and other sharpedged weapons.

Prem Singh had died while Sukhdev Singh escaped with injuries.

Today ASI Paramjit Singh of Simble police post arrested Harpal Singh on a tip-off along with one stolen scooter PB-18C-6776.

During interrogation, the accused confessed to have killed Prem Singh as he had illicit relations with a sister of Harpal Singh. The accused was already serving life imprisonment in a murder case and he was released on a parole.

 

Four of family killed in mishap
Our Correspondent

Barnala, January 16
Four persons were killed and two injured in a truck-car collision here last evening. The victims were travelling in car from Ahmedgarh to Sirsa.

Mr Surinder Singh, an octroi employee, took the victims to the Civil Hospital.

The killed were identified as Sanjiv Kumar, a teacher in a government school at Sirsa, and Rajiv Kumar, both brothers, Diksha, a five-year-old daughter of Sanjiv, and Abhishek, a two-month-old boy of Sanjiv.

Ms Rita Rani, wife of Sanjiv, and Mr Devinder Kumar, brother of Sanjiv, were injured.

Ms Rita Rani is a teacher in the school in which her husband was teaching.

 

Cong leader’s gangs beat up farmers, alleges sabha
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 16
The All-India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha here today alleged that a senior Congress leader based in Ludhiana was using repressive measures against farmers who were under debt.

Speaking to mediapersons, Mr Hardev Singh Sandhu, president of the sabha, said that though the police authorities had registered a case against the Congress leader, no further action had been taken against him.

Mr Sandhu said the Congress leader was a commission agent and his gangs had beaten up farmers to recover money from them. He said four farmers — Chamkaur Singh, Mehar Singh, Harpal Singh and Sukhdev Singh — were abducted by the musclemen of the Congress leader and forced to put their thumb impressions on certain stamp papers.

 

No case against arrested women
Our Correspondent

Kharar, January 16
The police has failed to register a case against six women who were rounded up for allegedly stealing jewellery and cash at a marriage function in Balongi on Saturday.

It is reported that a team of the Chandigarh police, headed by an Inspector, reached the Kharar police station yesterday to question the women rounded up on a charge of theft.

Six migrant women had gone to a marriage function and allegedly stole jewellery and Rs 4,000 in cash. When one of them tried to lay her hands on another purse she was caught by some guests. Though others made an attempt to run away from the area, they were also caught.

 

Woman, daughter assaulted

Kharar, January 16
A woman and her daughter were allegedly beaten up by two youths at their house in Rangian village near here. The girl had reportedly ignored the advances of one of the youths.

Both of them were admitted to the local Civil Hospital. While the girl sustained injuries on her nose, her mother, Ms Surinder Kaur, received internal injuries.

The girl, who studies in class IX in a local school here was ignoring the advances of a youngster living in the same village. OC

 

Missing cop found dead
Tribune News Service

Ropar, January 16
The body of Punjab police constable Santokh Singh was recovered from the Nangal hydel canal near Ganguwal village today. He had gone missing on January 8, said police sources.

The sources said Santokh Singh had taken two days leave on January 7, thereafter on January 8 he had left his home situated in Bandhlehri village in the afternoon. But, when he did not return home member of his family got a report registered with the police.

 

2 thieves held

Kharar, January 16
The CIA police has arrested two persons on a charge of theft and recovered a stolen motor cycle from them.

According to information available, the arrested persons are Rajesh Singh, alias Purli, and Pintu Kumar Saroj. Though both of them hail from Uttar Pradesh, at present they were living in Colony No. 5 in Chandigarh. — OC

 

Students restrained from attending classes
Our Correspondent

Vallah (Amritsar), January 16
As many as 21 students of Sri Guru Ram Das Medical Institute here faced the wrath of the college authorities which restrained them from attending classes today.

The MBBS students of third profession (pre-final) were allegedly restricted due to the non-payment of fees prescribed by the college authorities.

Students alleged that despite the request of their parents the college authorities were apathetic to their pleas.

However, Dr US Dhaliwal, Principal-cum-Director of institute, refused to comment when contacted.

On pressing him about the restraining order he said no such complaint had come his notice. He further added that since the matter regarding fees was in court he would not like to comment.

Meanwhile, Dr Megha Singh, convener of the Association of the Parents of Students said the attitude of the college authorities could play havoc with the career of students. He said the students were earlier harassed by the college authorities in the issuance of roll numbers to them for taking second profession examination thereby grossly violating the order of the Punjab & Haryana High Court. The matter was settled at the intervention of Vice Chancellor, Baba Farid University of Medical Science, Dr. Ravinder Singh, who made alternative arrangements in the Government Medical College, Amritsar, for issuing duplicate roll numbers for theory and practical examinations thus saving their year.

Dr Megha cited the order of the Punjab & Haryana High Court allowing students to pursue their courses in furtherance of their original admission after the payment of provisional fee fixed by the fee committee.

He said the students were suffering at the hands of college authorities as they had refused to deposit fee other than prescribed by the Punjab government Majithia Committee.

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