P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



SAD rally spurs govt into action on VAT refunds
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 8
Shaken by the sharp criticism of the imposition of the value added tax (VAT) regime in Punjab at a rally of traders, businessmen and industrialists organised by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in Bathinda last Sunday, the state Excise and Taxation Department has become active in processing VAT refunds.

Though, the state owes several hundred crores of rupees to traders, businessmen and industrial houses since the introduction of the new tax regime on April 1 last year, the process of refund has been accelerated now.

Officials deny that the acceleration in the pace of processing of refund of claims has anything to do with the holding of the rally by the SAD. but admit that some procedural practices, including the framing and implementation of rules, had delayed the refunds.

They maintained that within the next couple of weeks, all refund claims would be settled. The percentage of rejection of claims, sources reveal, is nominal. Those aggrieved by the rejection of their refund claims can appeal to the VAT Tribunal.

The tribunal to hear all such appeals is, however, yet to be set up. In Patiala district, for example, 89 applications for claim of refund were made before the Assistant Excise and Taxation Commissioner, Mr G.S. Randhawa. The amount claimed as refund was Rs 8.69 crore.

“Of these claims, 67 applications allowing a refund of Rs 6.18 crore have been already allowed and orders passed,” says Mr Randhawa, revealing that only four cases in which the refund claimed was about Rs 40 lakh were rejected.

Six other applications claiming a refund of Rs 1.25 crore were incomplete.

The remaining applications are being processed and decided in accordance with the law soon, he adds.

The same situation prevails in other parts of Punjab where refund cases are being processed expeditiously and payments released to traders, businessmen and industrialists.

The SAD at its first-ever rally of traders, businessmen and industrialists in Bathinda on February 5 had promised a fresh look at VAT on being voted to power.

After Punjab decided to go in for VAT, there have been protests as well as demands to review the rates of taxation under the new regime. Besides, traders and businessmen have also been demanding that the process of refund should be on a quarterly basis.

Though the state has amended the rates of taxation under VAT on a number of items during the past 10 months, there are still some areas where traders and businessmen are not happy with the new regime of taxation.

The State Excise and Taxation Commissioner, Mr D.P. Reddy, in a statement issued this eveneing said that since the introduction of VAT on April 1 last year, dealers were facing some problems in receiving refunds. The department found that the dealers were not able to collect C forms in time and, therefore, proposed that the production of C forms should not be a mandatory condition for giving refund.

Similarly, exporters requested that they should not be asked to produce H forms for indirect exports at the time of claiming refund because of the non-availability of these forms in time. The department felt that this was also a genuine difficulty and, therefore, proposed that H forms under the Central Sales Tax Act should be allowed to be submitted along with the annual statement instead of refund applications.

The government accepted these proposals of the department and notified these on January 25 this year. It had now done away with the mandatory requirement of C forms and other statutory forms under the CST Act along with the applications for the issuance of refunds. In order to expedite the grant of refunds a clarification was issued on February 3 making it clear that the provisions of the notification be made applicable to all pending refund applications which were received prior to January 25 this year.

He said that since the introduction of VAT, 1,450 applications for the claim of Rs 78.84 crore had been received in various districts for refund. It was found that 667 applications were incomplete and so deficiency memos were issued to the dealers in those cases. Out of 783 complete applications, 592 had been finalised by allowing a refund of Rs 25.22 crore. Besides, 62 applications had been rejected as they were not eligible for refund.


Punjab, Haryana CMs may meet PM on MSP
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 8
The Chief Ministers of Punjab and Haryana are expected to meet the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, on February 13 to urge him to enhance the minimum support price of wheat to ensure adequate and smooth procurement in both states for the national pool.

The Prime Minister has called a meeting of the Chief Ministers of all states on February 13 in Delhi to tell them to expedite power reforms. This occasion will be utilised by the two Chief Ministers to meet the Prime Minister to seek an increase in the MSP.

Official sources said yesterday that the Punjab Government authorities had informally discussed the issue of procurement of wheat in the state following a phone call from the Union Agriculture Minister, Mr Sharad Pawar, who wanted to know when fresh wheat would start arriving in various markets in Punjab.

The Centre wanted the Punjab Government to procure at least 8.5 million tonnes of wheat for the national pool in April. From the Haryana Government it wanted 4.2 million tonnes for the national pool. The Union Government had planned to procure 16.2 million tonnes of wheat, against last year’s figure of 14.7 million tonnes, for the national pool, in which the stocks came down to 4.7 million tonnes on February 1. However, by March-end, the stocks will further dwindle because of the distribution of wheat through the public distribution system in the country.

A senior functionary of the Punjab Government said it would not be possible to procure 8.5 million tonnes of wheat this year in the state without making a substantial increase in its minimum support price. Farmers will definitely hold back wheat stocks this time if the MSP, which was Rs 640 per quintal at present was not raised by at least Rs 60 per quintal. At present, the price is more than Rs 1,000 per quintal in the open market.

The sources said it would be in the national interest to increase the MSP of wheat. The Union Government had ordered the import of 5 lakh tonnes of wheat and it would cost about Rs 1,050 per quintal at the time of its arrival at various ports in the southern states. Holding back of stocks by farmers could lead to further problems for the Union Government making it place more wheat import orders at a very high cost.

Meanwhile, the sudden change in the weather has also become a cause of worry for agricultural experts in Punjab. Already, the rise in the temperature has adversely affected the tillering of wheat plants. Any further rise could hit the yield of wheat.


Calcutta spits fire against Vedanti
Sarna issue fuels outburst
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 8
Member of the Political Affairs Committee of Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) and veteran SGPC member Manjit Singh Calcutta is the first senior Akali leader to fire a salvo against Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar, Akal Takht, by describing him as a “puppet” in the hands of his political masters.

In a four-page communication to the Jathedar , Mr Calcutta alleged that Vedanti was playing a partisan role at the behest of some “powerful political leaders” which had made him the “most pliable, weak and helpless” Jathedar the Sikh history has ever witnessed.

Since the thought-provoking letter may put SAD (B) in a fix , the party high command may initiate strict action against Mr Calcutta in the near future .

The communication, duly acknowledged by the Akal Takht secretariat, stated that the “arbitrary directives (by Vedanti) have virtually trampled upon the age-old Sikh traditions.”

Mr Calcutta said the Sikh history wouldn’t forgive Jathedar Vedanti for his “biased directives” aimed at giving “political benefit” to senior political leaders.

Without naming his own party, Mr Calcutta alleged that the recent directive had finished his (Jathedar Vedanti’s) credibility among the Sikh masses.

He alleged that the call of “social boycott” of Sarna brothers (Mr Harwinder Singh Sarna , President DSGMC and his predecessor, Mr Parmjit Singh Sarna) and three other members of the Delhi Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), without giving them enough time to clarify their position, was unprecedented and hence shocking .

Meanwhile, Jathedar Vedanti and his secretariat is tight-lipped over the developments following issuance of the “interim directive”.

Posing a question to Jathedar Akal Takht, Mr Calcutta said he was used as a tool by the senior leadership of Delhi.

“Have you done great justice to Akal Takht with the issuance of above unprecedented interim directive in the name of Sikh Panth, calling for the social boycott of Sarna brothers?”, he asked .

Mr Calcutta alleged that Vedanti had denigrated the supremacy and sovereignty of the Akal Takht during his “worst-ever tenure” as the Jathedar.

The communication said the opposite faction of the DSGMC had also violated the directive of Jathedar, Akal Takht, by approaching Delhi High Court, which amounted to the contempt of the highest temporal seat of the Sikh Panth.

Mr Calcutta, however, said the DSGMC was constituted through the Gurdwara Act 1971, passed by the Lok Sabha and hence any violation of the act could have been taken to court instead of using the Akal Takht.

He said that brandishing of swords in the gurdwara premises by an opposite group of the DSGMC should also be described as violation of the edict issued by the Akal Takht, Jathedar.

The veteran SGPC member alleged that most of the panthic factions were feeling disillusioned with the partisan role of Jathedar Vedanti.

Coming down heavily on Vedanti, Mr Kulwant Singh Randhawa, SGPC secretary, also charged him of being biased.


Frost-hit potato growers to be compensated 
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 8
Potato crop in the state has suffered losses between 60 per cent and 70 per cent and potato growers will be compensated following a girdawari, stated Transport Minister Mahinder Singh Kaypee, who is also the chairman of a panel formed to assess the damage to potato and vegetable crops due to frost in the state, here today.

Talking to mediapersons minutes after visiting the frost-affected potato fields in different pockets of the district, the minister said the panel had earlier taken stock of losses in Jalandhar and Kapurthala. He said he had asked the horticulture and revenue departments to carry out girdawari of potato, tomato, green chillies, capsicum and other vegetables.

He said the panel would receive reports from both departments till February 10 and it would place it before the Chief Minister on February 11, following which a decision would be reached on compensation package to the farmers. Dr Kuldeep Singh, Director, Horticulture, said 1.58 lakh hectare in the state was under vegetable cultivation, of which 75,000 hectares under potato got affected. Deputy Director GS Dhillon said he had already sent a report regarding damage to vegetable crops to the state government.

Earlier, Mr Kaypee and Rampura Phul MLA Gurpreet Kangar interacted with the affected potato growers. Bant Singh of Karadwala village, who had sown potato over 25 acres, said for the first time firms from outside the state had evinced interest in the potato crop and had also made an advance payment of Rs 180 per quintal to them. “A spell of frost has frozen our hopes and it has become difficult for us to repay the advance payment to the firms,” he lamented.

An emotional Jangir Singh from Selbarah village requested the minister that girdawari should be conducted in a proper manner so that they were awarded fair compensation. Iqbal Singh of Gumti Kalan village, who had received many awards for his farming techniques, said his potato crop on 50 acres and capsicum on six acres got damaged in frost. Among the villages where potato crop was damaged included Selbarah-1,000 acres, Rampura Phul-900 acres, Harnam Singh Wala-700 acres, Mehraj-600 acres, Bhai Rupa-250 acres and Gumti Kalan-175 acres.

Meanwhile, conceding a long-pending demand of Rampura Phul residents, he announced the launch of Rampura Phul-Barnala-Chandigarh bus service. Rampura Phul SDM KPS Mahi and DTO Charandev Singh Mann also accompanied the minister.


SAD plans religious procession to Pak
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 8
After the much-hyped procession carrying the golden palki to Nankana Sahib, the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee also plan to take the “religious route” to Pakistan.

In a significant development in the election year in Punjab, the SAD and the SGPC plan to lead a religious procession (nagar kirtan) to Gurdwara Dera Sahib, on the banks of the Ravi in Lahore, to mark the 400 years of the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev. The tentative date of the procession will be close to June 16.

The procession is scheduled to start from the Golden Temple. It will go across the border to Dera Sahib, where a function will be held and conclude at Gurdwara Tarn Taran Sahib in India with the another function. It was at Tarn Taran that Guru Arjan Dev spent a lot of time.

The significance of the procession will not be lost on the Punjab political scene. The Akali thinktank will be projecting that Congress leaders were not the only ones who managed to provide access to Sikh shrines in Pakistan. The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh has been claiming in the past few weeks that he fulfilled the wishes of Sikhs by providing free access to the shrines in Pakistan.

This move by the Akalis and the SGPC comes less two months after Capt Amarinder Singh and a former president the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, Mr P.S. Sarna hogged the media limelight by taking the palki in procession to Nankana Sahib. The route was lined with people paying homage.

A delegation led by the SAD chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, and the SGPC chief Mr Avtar Singh, along with the leader of the SAD in Parliament, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, will meet the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh on February 11. The agenda is to seek his help in getting clearance for the procession from the Pakistan Government and also the cooperation of that government in holding it. The SAD and the SGPC will invite the Prime Minister to attend one of the functions.

The SAD will be demanding that the maximum number of people should be allowed in the procession. Nearly 4,000 persons were given visas by the Pakistan Government for accompanying the palki to Nankana Sahib.


Let’s quit, Singla tells Kanwaljit
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 8
The battle of wit between the Finance Minister, Mr Surinder Singla, and former Finance Minister Kanwaljit Singh, entered an interesting phase today. Mr Singla has invited Capt Kanwaljit Singh to visit the Speaker of the Punjab Assembly with him and resign as MLA from their respective constituencies and contest the elections afresh.

Mr Singla said: “Let Capt Kanwaljit Singh and I submit our resignations together to the Speaker to contest the election again to decide which political party is popular among people in the state at present”.

Earlier this week, Capt Kanwaljit Singh had stated that he was prepared to contest against Mr Singla even now.

“Our government would give security bonds to industrialists against the subsidy dues in April”, Mr Singla said. The SAD-BJP government had made the cities hell by not financially compensating them in lieu of the octroi that was abolished. “Our government would abolish octroi but give an alternative system to raise money for the development of towns and cities and to pay salaries to staff of municipal committees. We do not want to leave the municipal committees to fend for themselves”, he added.

He said the SAD-BJP government had got only Rs 5428.53 crore allocated from the 11th Finance Commission while the present government had got Rs 12,884.59 crore.


Paswan calls for reservation in private sector
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 8
Favouring reservation in the private sector, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, the Union Minister and chief of the Lok Jan Shakti Party, today said reservation in the private sector would bring more jobs to the countless jobless youths belonging to the SC, ST, OBCs and other categories.

Mr Paswan was here to participate in a three-day cadre camp of his party.

Mr Paswan is also one of the members of a group of union ministers which has been formed by the UPA to study the contentious issue of reservation in the private sector.

Expecting that reservation in private sector would become reality soon, he said he was of the opinion that such reservation would bring a lot more jobs to the burgeoning unemployed section of the society.

“If class I and class II jobs of private sector cannot be reserved for the time being, then things can start moving with reservation of class III and IV jobs,” he said.

Referring to the direction in which the group of union ministers was moving, he said the group was studying the vexed issue of reservation in the private sector and it would be coming out with its final report shortly.

Lashing out at the BSP chief, Ms Mayawati, Mr Paswan said Ms Mayawati had been projecting herself as a leader of Dalits but nothing concrete had been done for upliftment of dalits by her.

He also criticised Ms Mayawati for “confinement of BSP leader Kanshi Ram for the sake of money.”

Asked as to whether he was satisfied over performance of Captain Amarinder Singh government in Punjab, Mr Paswan said he did not want to say anything about anybody.

“We are here without own ideology and we will contest the Assembly polls on our own,” he said.

Turning to Bihar, Mr. Paswan said,” Three months of the Nitish government have passed and we will watch for another three months. Earlier, there were merely kidnappings but now kidnappings are followed by murders,” said Mr Paswan adding that the UPA allies and supporting parties were free to follow its own strategy as the organisation of the UPA was confined to the Centre.


Mann concerned at jathedar’s attitude
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, February 8
Simranjit Singh Mann, president SAD(A), expressed concern over the attitude of Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti towards Panthic jathebandis.
Talking to The Tribune here today, he said Panthic organisations at their meeting at his residence Kila Harnam Dass had unanimously urged the jathedar to withdraw his edict against the Sarna brothers, but nothing had been done.

He said acting in an dictatorial manner on the behest of Mr Badal, the jathedar had issued the edict, which was not acceptable to any Sikh.

Mr Mann said if the religious orders were not withdrawn immediately, it would be clear the Akal Takht Jathedar was not fair and his decisions were dictated by Mr Parkash Singh Badal and company.

Mr Mann said now the onus was on the jathedar to prove fairness.

He urged the Akal Takht chief not to become a tool in the hands of any individual or organisation. 


No documentary proof of Salem-Monica marriage
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Hoshiarpur, February 8
The CBI has not laid its hands on any documentary evidence that suggested that Abu Salem and Monica Bedi had entered into matrimony before their extradition to India.

The CBI, which has almost completed its investigation about the sensational Mumbai bomb blast case, is likely to present a challan in the case by the end of this month.

This was revealed by Mr O.P. Chattwal, DIG of the Special Task Force (STF) of the CBI, who had brought Abu Salem and Monica Bedi to India from Portugal.

Abu Salem has nine cases registered against him by the CBI, the Delhi Police, the Mumbai police and by the Bhopal police, while Monica Bedi, who originally hails from Chabbewal village, near Hoshiarpur, has been booked in two cases.

Monica is accused of acquiring two passports from Hyderabad and Bhopal in fake names of Faujia and Sana Malik, said Mr Chattwal.

“At the time of his arrest, Salem initially said that he was Asslan Mohsin Ali, a resident of Pakistan. He had a passport in that name. However, he later admitted that he was Abu Salem. He revealed during the investigation that he had organised his marriage in Los Angles in the USA, but could not produce any document to support the claim,” said Mr Chattwal.

Mr Chattwal was here in connection with the investigation of a case pertaining to Jaswinder Singh Bangar, a local tailor who had allegedly usurped insurance compensation of Rs 22 lakh of Sunil Oman (28), an employee of a Dubai-based construction company. Sunil hailed from Kotyam in Kerala and had died in a road accident in Dubai on February 5 , 1999. Bangar had claimed the insurance amount on basis of a fake power of attorney and had come to India after committing the crime.


55 jhuggis demolished
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, February 8
Improvement Trust officials here demolished more than 55 jhuggis near Shaheed Bhagat Singh Chowk here on Wednesday. The jhuggi dwellers, however, protested saying the demolition was illegal and the administration should have provided them with alternative units before ousting them from the place. They also raised anti-government slogans.

As local SDM Amarjit Pal, Trust Executive Officer Parminder Singh and SP Manminder Singh with police personnel monitored the demolition, the wailing families of jhuggis- dwellers said that the authorities did not allow them to take their belongings and ordered bulldozers to raze dwelling units. Their articles were gutted as some of the jhuggis were set on fire.

Narrating their woes to former BJP minister Master Mohan Lal who also reached the spot to console them Mr Surinder, leader of the jhuggi dwellers said, a demolition had taken place two years ago. The Administration later, allowed them to settle on the same spot and assured that the adminstration would provide them with alternative sites by allotting two marla plots to build dwelling units . But now their jhuggis have been demolished, they have no shelter.

They said while their huts had been demolished, the adjoining Wine shop on the trust land had not been touched due to polilical patronage to owners.

Improvement Trust EO Parminder Singh said, the trust was under pressure to develop the prime land measuring 170 marlas .

SDM Amarjit said , the adminstration had given hut dwellers a notice of three months to vacate the land but, encroachers had not done so. 


Sarpanch, BDPOs hold dharna
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 8
Sarpanches, panches, panchayat secretaries, Gram Sevaks, and Block Development and Panchayat Officers (BDPOs) of this district under the banner of “the Pendu Vikas Ate Panchayat Vibhag Sanghrash Committee, Sangrur” today held a dharna in the district administrative complex (DC office) here against Vigilance Department’s alleged interference in the functioning of Panchayati Raj institutions.

The protesters also raised slogans against the Punjab government when Mr Surinder Singla, Finance Minister, Punjab, left the DAC in his car after presiding over a meeting of the District Planning and Development Board here. Earlier the protesters raised slogans against the Vigilance Department.

Addressing the protesters, the speakers expressed concern over the increasing interference of the Vigilance Department in the functioning of Panchayati Raj institutions. They said the sarpanches, panches, BDPOs and employees working under them would not do any work, including distribution of pensions and scholarships, till interference of the Vigilance Department in their works was stopped.

The speakers said in place of the Vigilance Department, all inquiries against the representatives of the Panchayati Raj institutions and officers of the department should be conducted by the Director, Panchayats, or other senior officers of the Panchayat Department. They said after inquiry whosoever was found guilty, be punished.

Mr Sarbjit Singh, a member of Zila Parishad, Sangrur; Mr Amarjit Singh Badrukhan, an SAD leader; Mr Jagwinderjit Singh, BDPO, Amloh; Mr Preet Mohinder Singh Sahota, BDPO, Bhawanigarh; Mr Kulwant Singh Jolhian, president of the Sarpanch Union, Bhawanigarh block; and Mr Gurnaib Singh, president of the Sarpanch Union, Sangrur block addressed the protesters.


Withdraw Bill to ban lotteries, says Singla
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 8
The Punjab Government has urged the Union Government to withdraw the Bill from Parliament with regard to the banning of lotteries. The Bill was introduced in Parliament in 1999, however, in the absence of consensus among parties, it was handed over to the Standing Committee of Parliament headed by Mr Pranab Mukherjee which had recommended to evolve consensus at the national level on the issue.

On the recommendation of the committee, the Union Home Ministry had called a meeting of all states and representatives of parties in New Delhi on Tuesday.

The Punjab Finance Minister, Mr Surinder Singla, who represented the state at the meeting, told The Tribune here yesterday that he urged for the withdrawal of the Bill because banning lotteries would lead to illegal lottery business. He said not only he, but also other states and representatives wanted Union Government to withdraw the Bill.

However, the states have told the Union Government to ban online lotteries. The states have favoured those lotteries which are being run by the sale of tickets printed by the government authorities concerned.

Mr Singla said the states had emphasied on the need of regulating the lottery business in the country.The Union Government was informed that a good number of private companies were also doing lottery business without a formal permission from the state governments concerned. Most of these companies disappeared, thus committing a fraud with people. There was need to check the operations of such companies, he said.

The Union Home Ministry had decided to call a meeting of Finance Secretaries to take measures to regulate the lottery business, he added.

Punjab earns about Rs 150 crore per annum from lotteries run by it. Punjab’s lottery is one of the most popular in the country and the annual sale is worth Rs 4,000 crore.


Rs 25 lakh given for development projects
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, February 8
The Congress government has strengthened the Panchayati Raj institutions by giving them vast powers, bringing various government departments under them as well as implemented the 73rd amendment of the Constitution so that development officials and representatives of the gram panchayats do not indulge in dharnas, rallies and halt development projects to get their demands accepted.

This was stated by Dr Harbans Lal, Chief Parliamentary Secretary, while addressing a gathering at Talania village in the district today. He had come to distribute cheques worth Rs 25 lakh for various development projects in the village, which include grants for schools, dharmshalas, cremation ground, drains and streets, boundary walls of schools, repair of roads etc.

Talania is the native village of Simranjit Singh Mann, president SAD (A).

It is worth mentioning that Block Development Officers and sarpanches of the villages have gone on strike by boycotting their work and halted all development works in the district. They have gone on strike against the action of the Vigilance Department against the BDPO Amloh and have been demanding the withdrawal of FIR against him.

He asked if the Vigilance Department was doing its duty honestly and implemented the programme of Chief Minister to ensure corruption-free administration. Why the development officers were raising a hue and cry and had gone on strike against the Vigilance action against a BDPO of Amloh? He said no organisation could prove any corrupt practice against honest officials.

Due to the active role of the Vigilance Department to nab corrupt officials, people, in general, had got relief. He said people were coming forward in large numbers to get corrupt officials booked.

Lashing out at the SAD (B), he said it had no issues. The one-point programme of SAD (B) leader was to make his son Sukhbir Badal Chief Minister. He said there was great resentment among the party over this issue.

He said the economy of the state had strengthened and a new era of development had started.

Mr Charanjiv Channa, president, MC Sirhind, and Mr Arjun Kumar Talania, Congress leader, also spoke on the occasion.


Rs 19.43 crore for development works

Bathinda, February 8
Urban Development Minister Raghunath Sahai Puri,while chairing the District Planning Board meeting, here today sanctioned Rs 19.43 crore for the district under the Punjab Nirman Programme, of which Rs 13.65 crore was meant for the rural areas, while the rest would go to the urban areas.

According to a press note 25 per cent of the sanctioned amount has been released in the current financial year. The minister asked the officials concerned to prepare estimates of development works, proposals of which were received from different constituencies.

Deputy Commissioner Rahul Bhandari asked the rural development officials to complete the pending works. — TNS


Punjab to buy 1,000 medical vans for villages
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 8
The Punjab Government is working on a proposal to revamp the health services in the state.
The government plans to buy 1,000 vans to provide health services at the doorstep in the rural areas. Sources said the government had approached NABARD to raise a loan to buy the vehicles.

The sources said the vans carrying medical teams would move from village to village to provide health services. Each van would cover 12 villages in a week. The government wanted to introduce the vans in April during the Baisakhi festival.


CPM activists court arrest
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, February 8
In response to the call of “Jail Bharo Andolan” by the state unit, hundreds of CPM workers, including women, from the district, led by Prof Balwant Singh, Raghunath Singh, Darshan Singh Mattoo and Gurmesh Singh, courted arrest in front of the Mini Secretariat here this afternoon in support of 13 points charter of demands.

They held demonstration to show resentment against Capt Amarinder Singh’s government for not fulfilling its promises made in the state Assembly elections. As a result, the vehicular traffic on the Hoshiarpur-Chandigarh road remained suspended for an hour.

According to police sources, about 500 workers were rounded up. The police took them in buses to the different far away roads lead to Hoshiarpur and released them.


Pak journalists for ‘closer Punjabs’
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 8
A one-day seminar on “Closeness between two Punjabs” was held at the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, Punjabi University, Patiala, today.

Media representatives from Pakistani Punjab, while interacting with participants, were unanimous on the potential the two sides had in business, agriculture and other sectors if they worked together.

Tahir J. Malik, News Head, TV One, Lahore, said even though 65 per cent of Pakistanis were Punjabis, Urdu dominated journalism in that country. Press freedom was very much there as in India and elsewhere, he added.

Noted journalist Jalil Hasan Akhtar said media on both sides needed to rise above politics and focus on education, agriculture and other important sectors.

Nadeem Mirza lamented that even after 60 years, people had to seek visas to cross over from Lahore to Amritsar.

Dr Mohammad Umar Khan, Khalid Pervez and Omer Farooq Manna also echoed the same feelings.

Dr Sucha Singh Gill, Head, Department of Economics, and Dean Social Sciences, while presiding over the function explored the economic possibilities in the two countries.

Dr H.S. Walia, Prof Navjeet Singh Johal, eminent poet Kulwant Grewal, Dean Colleges Ranjeet Singh Ghuman, and former Ambassador of India to Malaysia P.S. Sahai were also present.


Irate villagers block highway
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, February 8
Tension prevailed in Goraya in Phillaur subdivison after hundreds of residents of nearby Dhaleta village, led by Punjab Bahujan Samaj Party general secretary M.P. Singh Goraya, blocked road traffic on national highway late this evening.

The protesters were demanding suspension of Goraya SHO Mandip Singh Gill and registeration of a murder case against him for his alleged involvement in the death of Balbir Ram, who had reportedly consumed celphos tablets and committed suicide due to police excess.

He had been summoned and interrogated by the police in a case of murder of Ram Asra on January 31.


Institute’s plea to Takht Jathedar
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 8
The Institute of Sikh Studies has requested the Jathedar of Akal Takht to convene a meeting of representatives of major Sikh institutions and eminent Sikhs to discuss problems and find ways to uphold the authority of Akal Takht.

Bhai Ashok Singh, secretary of the institute, said that its members held a meeting here today with regard to the recent developments related to Akal Takht. At the meeting, members expressed concern at the erosion in the authority of Akal Takht as indicated by media reports.


PM may flag off Nankana bus
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 8
The Amritsar-Lahore-Nankana Sahib bus service is likely to be flagged off from Amritsar by the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, on February 24.
The Punjab Government , that is already in election mode, has requested the Prime Minister to do the honours. It has also requested the Chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), Mrs Sonia Gandhi, to accompany the Prime Minister for the historic occasion. The Prime Minister’s Office has not conveyed the acceptance of the request.


Village panch dies in mishap

Phagwara, February 8
A panch was killed when his motorcycle was hit by a truck near Jagjitpur village last night, the police today said. The police arrested the truck driver Jeet Ram and impounded his vehicle. The deceased was identified as Gopal Dass panch of Bhabhiana village. — UNI


S.K. Sharma new Patiala Range IG

Chandigarh, February 8
Mr S.K. Sharma, IG, Traffic, Punjab, will be the new IG of the Patiala Range, replacing Mr S.M. Sharma, who has been promoted as Additional Director-General of Police.
Mr S.M. Sharma will be the ADGP, Computers and Telecommunication. The work of IG, Commandos, till now handled by Mr S.K. Sharma, has been given to Mr Rajinder Singh, IG, Faridkot Range. Mr S.K. Sharma will, however, continue to work as IG, Traffic. — TNS


High Court
Selection process set aside
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, February 8
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has set aside the process of selection of the new Director of Sant Longowal Institute of Engineering and Technology, Sangrur.
Disposing of the petition filed by Mr B.K. Kanungo, Professor in the Department of Chemistry, the Division Bench comprising Mr Justice S.S. Nijjar and Mr Justice S.S. Saron also quashed the advertisement issued by the authorities regarding the selection process. The Bench ordered that the respondents may start fresh selection process in accordance with law.

In his petition, Mr Kanungo had challenged the selection process on the ground it was vitiated and arbitrary. He had prayed for setting aside the advertisement dated February 20, 2005, by which applications had been invited for the vacant post of Director.

He had stated that the criteria for appointment was totally arbitrary and in violation of the guidelines of the All India Council for Technical Education.

He had said that when the post first fell vacant, the charge was given to the Additional Director as the senior-most Professor was out of the country. When he returned, he was duly appointed Director.

However, now, the norms had been changed to facilitate the appointment of a favourite of the powers-that-be, he had alleged.


Life term for killing 17 children
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 8
Serial baby killer Darbara Singh, who had created sensation in the country by ruthlessly killing 17 children in Jalandhar and its surrounding areas, was sentenced to life imprisonment by Fast-Track Court Judge I.S. Bajwa here today.

Darbara Singh, 55, an ex-Army official, was arrested by the Jalandhar police on October 29, 2004, after his seven-month-long terror, during which he had allegedly killed 17 children, 15 girls and two boys.

Darbara Singh subjected his victims to rape or sodomy even after sniffing out their lives. He was convicted on the basis of the eyewitness account of eight-year-old Nishu, daughter of a migrant labourer and resident of Punjab Avenue, Jalandhar.

Nishu, daughter of Kharga Ram, was kidnapped by Darbara Singh on October 18, 2004, while she was playing near her house.

After staging kidnapping, Darbara Singh tried to kill her by cutting her throat. Taking her dead, he dumped her at Mehndipur Arayian village, near Adampur, from where she was recovered by villagers on October 19. Clues provided by her led to the arrest of the serial killer.

His latent grudge against migrant labourers had reportedly driven Darbara Singh, a resident of Jallupur Khera, near Beas in Amritsar, to the world of crime. He held migrant labourers responsible for his predicament.

As he had been arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment for kidnapping and attempting to rape a minor migrant girl of Kapurthala, he nurtured an ill will against migrants.

After spending 10 years in jail as part of his first stint of life imprisonment, Darbara Singh was released from the Ludhiana Central Jail on December 3, 2003, keeping in view his “good conduct”.

So it is for the second time that he has been sentenced to life imprisonment.


10-year jail for raping minor
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 8
A Fast Track Court here yesterday awarded 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment (RI) with a fine of Rs 3,000 and five years’ RI with a fine of Rs 3,000 to Leela Singh (60) of Dhindsa village of this district. Both sentences will run concurrently.

In the order on the quantum of sentence, the Judge has mentioned that the convict had committed a rape of a three-year old girl.

Ajaib Singh, of Dhindsa village, lodged a complaint with the police on August 11, 2005, at Moonak that his granddaughter had gone to play in the street. At about 7 pm, he heard cries of his granddaughter from the house of Leela Singh, who was his neighbour. On this, he and his wife entered his house and found that Leela Singh was committing her rape. When they tried to apprehend him, he ran away from the scene.


Pull up socks, DC tells officials
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, February 8
The Deputy Commissioner, Ms Jaspreet Talwar, while presiding over the monthly meeting of district officials here today warned them to desist from wrongdoings.
She also warned the CDPOs not to send the false Actual Pay Reports (APR) regarding the disbursement of pensions to the beneficiaries. She said if any false APR was found it would lead to their suspension.

She directed the officers to ensure transparency and punctuality in the working.

Giving relief to the LPG gas consumers, she ordered that all gas consumers could transfer their connections to the nearest gas agency by giving an application to the DFSC and the gas agency.

The consumers had to face difficulty in getting cylinders as the distribution in Sirhind was erratic.

The Deputy Commissioner directed the Executive Officers of the Municipal Councils and Development Officers to file and pursue the cases in courts in coordination with each other to get vacate the stay orders against the encroachments on government land.

She said if any encroachment is found the officer concerned would be held responsible.

She also directed the DFSC and the Health Department to take the samples of eatables and ensure adulteration-free items. She directed the officials to send the utilisation certificates immediately.


Woman stabbed by brother-in-law on court premises
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 8
Ms Paramjit Kaur, a resident of Sunam town, was stabbed by her brother-in-law Gurnam Singh Nama and his associates in the premises of district court complex here while she was coming out of a court room after appearing in a divorce suit filed by her against her husband Mohinder Singh.

Ms Paramjit Kaur, who was taken to a hospital by people with the help of policemen, is battling for life. Her condition is stated to be serious. She received sharp-edged weapon wounds in her stomach and chest.

Ms Paramjit Kaur, who married Mr Mohinder Singh of Channa village of this district, was first caught by the associates of Gurnam Singh Nama, who were identified as Gurmit Singh Fauji, Bhola and Kaka. Then she was attacked with a knife by Nama.

People tried to save her when she raised the alarm. They were also attacked by the accused. Two of the accused were overpowered by the people and handed over to the police.

A case has been registered.


Dreaded gangster arrested
Tribune News Service

Ambala, February 8
The Ambala police has arrested a dreaded Uttar Pradesh gangster with a reward of Rs 50,000 on his head late last night.
Superintendent of Police (Ambala) Rajbir Deswal said Pradeep Thakur was wanted by the UP police and there was a reward of Rs 50,000 for him. Pradeep Thakur was a resident of Biralsi village in Muzaffarnagar district. Pradeep Thakur was involved in the kidnapping of a Naraingarh resident last month.

A complaint was registered on February 19 by Mr Om Prakash at Naraingarh. The complainant said a few days back, a resident of Subaheri Majra village had brought a sadhu to his home. The sadhu, who was from Ranipur village, had told his sons, Rajvinder and Pankaj, that a plot of land at Devdhar village was being sold by a person from Delhi.

On January 15, Mr Om Prakash left with his son Rajvinder for Saharanpur while the sadhu came on his motorcycle. They reached the Saharanpur railway station. Thereafter, the sadhu said that he would take Rajvinder on his motorcycle to meet a person from Delhi. However, Rajvinder did not return.

The next day, Mr Om Prakash’s son Pankaj received a call on his mobile and the caller said Rajvinder has been kidnapped. They demanded a ransom amount of Rs 35 lakh.

A special team was formed to arrest the kidnappers. Due to relentless police pursuit Rajvinder was let off by the kidnappers after a few days. “We continued to pursue the kidnappers and Pradeep Thakur was arrested from Shamli Road in Muzaffarnagar by our police team,” he said.

Pradeep Thakur became involved in crime during his college days. He said Pradeep Thakur was wanted in several criminal cases.

SP Rajbir Deswal said besides Pradeep Thakur, they had succeeded in the arrest of four persons planning to commit a dacoity in Ambala. He said Surendra Kumar, alias Bhura, alias Tony, Lalit, Satender Kumar and Ajay Kumar alias, Ganja, had been arrested.

He said two countrymade pistols, a live cartridge, an iron rod and a small sharp edged weapon had been recovered from them. His two accomplices managed to escape.

Mr Deswal said that CIA-II staff inspector received a tip off that some persons were sitting at an under-construction house in Prabhu Prem Puram and were armed. Two raiding parties were formed and they encircled the house. “On realising that they were encircled, they fired upon the police teams. The police fired in the air in retaliation,” he said.


Three killed in mishaps

Malerkotla , February 8
Three persons were killed in two different accidents in Malerkotla. Two persons were crushed by a car yesterday night while one person was killed by a truck today. The police has registered cases in this regard.

According to information Paramjit Singh (40) and Beere Lal ( 38 ) were going to KupKalan on their motorcycle on Ludhiana road when a car hit them near Bhogiwal village about 4 KM from here. Both the persons died on the spot. The driver of the car to escaped.

In another incident Mohd Latif son of Mohd Sadiq of Chand Colony Malerkotla was crushed to death by a truck near Raikot level crossing. — OC


Minor raped, one held

Phagwara, February 8
A schoolgirl was allegedly abducted and then raped by two youths while she was on her way to school in Bilga village today, the police here said.
According to the police reports the victim was taken to a deserted house in the village by the youths and raped.

The police, later, registered a case against the two youths, who were identified by the victim. The police has arrested one of the alleged culprit identified as Sandip Singh of Patti Mehna village while his other accomplice Rajinder Kumar alias Mintu was at large. — UNI


Posts of teacher to be advertised in 10 days: Singla
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 8
Mr Surinder Singla, Punjab Finance Minister, today disclosed that 12,000 posts of teacher, including 10,000 posts of elementary teachers, 1400 posts of doctor, besides posts of patwari, would be advertised in 10 days.

Talking to the mediapersons here, Mr Singla, in reply to a question, said all government employee-related issues, including setting up of new pay commission and promotional scales after four, nine and 14 years of service, would be addressed in the ensuing budget to be presented in the Assembly.

To another question, he said the Chief Minister was concerned over the Vigilance’s interference in the Panchayati Raj institutions. He said the Chief Minister had also received complaints against the Vigilance and the Cabinet had also taken a serious note of it. However, he expressed the hope that the Chief Minister would solve the problem soon in this regard.

With regard to unbundling of the PSEB, Mr Singla said the Prime Minister and Power Minister had convened a meeting of Chief Ministers, Power Ministers and Finance Ministers of states on February 13 at Delhi, in which power related all issues would be discussed.


Eco-Fest concludes
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 8
Two-day Eco-Fest (‘FREEDOM 2006’) organised by PSE Economics Association of Punjab School of Economics of Guru Nanak Dev University and sponsored by BSNL and BCES Admissions Abroad concluded here today after a prize distribution function.

Dr R.S. Bawa, Registrar of university distributed prizes among winners of paper presentation, quiz, poster making and slogan compactions whereas 20 teams from various universities and colleges participated.

Dr P.S. Raikhy, Dr Paramjit Kaur Dhindsa, Professor and Head of Punjab School of Economic, Mr Nandni Shah, CCS, New Delhi were present on the occassion.

Mr Harminder Singh and Navneet Bhatia of Panjab School of Economics, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar stood first while Mr Gitesh Dawar and Sidhant Bamra from Manav Public School, Amritsar won second position in quiz completion. In poster competition, Pawanpreet Kaur of SSSS College of Commerce for Women won first prize while Neeharika Vashisht of VBS, Chandigarh stood second and third prize was won by Pritpal Singh of Applied Physics Department, GNDU. In Paper Presentation, Anuj Verma of University Business School, Panjab University, Chandigarh received first prize and Lachhindra Mahajan of Department of Sociology, Guru Nanak Dev University got second prize while Abhinav Singhal of University Business School, Panjab University, Chandigarh was third.

Rupinder Kaur of Khalsa College of Education, Amritsar and Amit Sharma of University Business School, Panjab University, Chandigarh stood first and second, respectively, in slogan competition.

Earlier, Dr Avtar Singh Padda, Medical Superintendent of Government Medical College emphasised on health including physical, mental, social and spiritual, and advised youth to shun junk food in favour of nutritious cuisine in its inaugural session.

Dr Parth J. Shah, President, Centre for Civil Society, New Delhi delivered keynote address while Dr Paramjit Kaur Dhindsa, Professor and Head of Punjab School of Economics presided over.

Dr Padda and Dr. J Shah while speaking on the Working on Right to Information Act, said even as the Union government had made bureaucracy accountable to general public, there was a dire need to highlight the act amongst general public .

Dr P. Kaur Dhindsa, Head of Punjab School of Economics in her remarks said India was poor because people tried little to improve themselves and tend to blame others for failures .

Prof Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, Faculty Adviser in said the theme ‘Freedom 2006’ of this festival is to provide young people a platform to debate, discuss, interact and freely speak their minds on various issues. More than 200 students from the various University Departments and affiliated colleges were participating in various events during this festival.

Mr Rishi Kochar, Mr Varun Cheema Mr Nishant Khanna of Webberz also presented their views.

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