P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



CM offers sops to traders
No deadline for octroi abolition
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 19
Leaving no scope for any doubt that the Congress will go to the coming Assembly election on its own, the Punjab Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, however, today remained non-committal about fixing any deadline for abolition of octroi in the state.

At the same time, Amarinder Singh, who was here to attend a meeting of industrialists convened by the Northern Chamber of Small and Medium Industries’, doled out sops to small and medium industrialists of Jalandhar and accepted their long-pending demands.

Amarinder Singh predicted that t SAD, led by Mr Parkash Singh Badal, would not be able to lay its hand on not more than five seats even from Muktsar, Moga and Faridkot areas. These areas are the traditional strongholds of SAD.

Amarinder Singh, who was accompanied by Mr Shital Vij, patron of the chamber , Punjab ministers Avtaar Henry, Mohinder Singh Kaypee, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh and Rana Gurjit Singh, MP, however, dashed the hopes of traders when he said his government was still looking for viable alternatives for removal of octroi.

Though abolition of octroi was one of the poll promises of the Congress, but he remained non-committal about fixing of any deadline for abolition of octroi. “It is my commitment to abolish octroi, but we are looking for alternatives as we need to generate Rs 760 crore. Where do I get this money is a big question. So I cannot say when we will effect abolish octroi. But we will do the needful within five-year period of our government,” he said.

Responding to a query as to whether the state government was planning to waive water and sewerage bills of people of the state, he said since the issues needed intervention of the Central Government also, so, he would have to verify the facts.

Responding to problems put forth by the industrialists, he said the state government would solve all problems of industrialists as industry was the backbone of Punjab economy.

Efforts were being made to ensure 24-hour power supply for agriculture and industrial sectors. As far as problems of the industrialists were concerned, they would not need to pay the enhanced price of their industrial plots in the focal point. No industry, set up there for over three years, would be shifted from Gadaipur industrial area and industrialist would not required to pay anything extra for water,” said the Chief Minister.

Mr. Avtaar Henry, Punjab Minister for Food and Civil Supplies, accused former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal of “doing nothing” for welfare of industrialists.

Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, Mohinder Singh Kaypee, both Punjab Ministers, and Rana Gurjit Singh, MP, also spoke.

Later, the Chief Minister also presented a cheque for Rs 50 lakh to Dr Barjinder Singh Hamdard, Managing Editor of “Ajit”. The amount would be sent to the Prime Minister’s National Calamity Fund by the management of “Ajit” through a relief fund, initiated by it.


No case of bird flu in Punjab
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 19
Though not a single case of bird flu has been detected in Punjab so far, however, the sale of chicken and its meat has crashed in the state in a big way. Informed sources said while the rate in the retail market came down to Rs 65 per kg from Rs 75, the fall in the price of chicken meat in the whole sale market was quite heavy.

Market sources said the chicken price at farm-gate (poultry farms)crashed to Rs 22 per kg today from Rs 36 per kg yesterday. In other words, the fall in the price in the wholesale market was about 40 per cent. And there was also a heavy fall in the sale of broilers at the farm-gate. The demand for broilers at the farm-gate had come down to 40 per cent. When a year ago, reports of bird flu had appeared in the media, the farm-gate price of broiler had come down to Rs 8 per kg. Obviously, the meat market, which was very sensitive, had reacted sharply to reports appearing in the media about confirmed cases of bird flu in Maharashtra.

“In this region, eating of cooked chicken is completely safe because not a single case of bird flu has been detected so far”, says Mr D.S. Bains, secretary, Animal Husbandry Punjab. He said broiler meat should be cooked at above 60°C temperature and should be taken without any fear. He said people should not stop eating chicken in panic.

Similar views were expressed by Mr Surjit Singh, general Secretary of the North Zone Broiler Breeders Association.

Mr Bains said medicine was available in plenty with the Union Government of India. In fact, the Union Government had stocked medicine at Indira Gandhi International Airport to lift stock immediately in case of an emergency demand from any part of the country. He said 161 human cases infected by bird flu had been found in various parts of the world. “We have put all senior veterinary officers on duty in the state. Deputy Commissioners have also been alerted in this regard,” said Mr Bains. “We are fully alive to the emerging situation with regard to bird flu in Maharashtra,” he added.


BJP raps UPA govt, defends support on Iran issue
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 19
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today criticised the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre for its “all round failure”. However, the party defended its support to the government on the issue of IAEA vote against Iran. Addressing a public rally here today, senior BJP leaders also asserted that the party was committed to the ideology of Hindutva and nationalism.

Leading the tirade against the government, the party vice-president and former Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr Shanta Kumar, maintained that the prices of essential commodities had risen by several proportions during the UPA regime. He pointed out that even sugar, wheat and rice had become so expensive that these were beyond the reach of the common man.

The BJP leader wondered as how could the country face such an economic crisis when one of the best economists of the world was the Prime Minister and the government was being supported by the Communists, who claimed themselves to be the champions of the poor and the downtrodden. He recalled that during the NDA government, the then Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, would personally monitor the prices of essential commodities. He claimed that Mr Vajpayee would seek the daily reports from the Cabinet Secretary and wherever corrections were needed he would order these.

Coming down heavily on the Punjab Government, he alleged, there was nothing to its credit. He claimed, first the government had made huge promises and levelled serious allegations against people (obviously meaning Parkash Singh Badal and his son) and later neither it fulfilled the promises nor could it prove the baseless charges. Mr Shanta Kumar said the countdown for the Congress government had begun in the state and people were feeling alienated and disillusioned.

Addressing the rally, the state unit BJP president, Mr Avinash Rai Khanna, announced an agitational programme against the Congress government. He said the party would launch a week-long dharna in Chandigarh from February 27 to mark the “four years of failure of the government”. He claimed that the government had failed all its promises. The BJP leader said today’s was the sixth rally of the party in the state and three more would be held one each at Nangal, Rajpura and Hoshiarpur.

Prominent among those present at the rally included former MP Lala Lajpat Rai, former Deputy Speaker in the Punjab Assembly Satpal Gosain and others. Cricketer and Amritsar MP Navjot Singh Sidhu was also expected to address the rally. However, he failed to turn up.


Sukhbir trying to rake up controversy, says Sukhi
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 19
In his bid to clarify confusion around him and the Punjab DGP Mr S.S. Virk, former militant Sukhwinder Singh, alias Harjit Singh Kahlon, today revealed that his services were “utilized” by the police and he was declared dead by the Punjab Police in 1992 “in order to ensure his safety”.

Sukhi said that since “misinformation campaign launched by some vested interests” has thrown his personal security in jeopardy and since his image was tarnished by a section of the press, he took up the issue with the Press Council of India so that many “others like him are not put to harassment and mental agony.”

In a statement sent to The Tribune office, Sukhi, who also appeared for an interview with a news channel at his residence here today, also clarified that “Tezpal Singh of village Jallowal had cheated a UK based NRI Mehar Singh of more than Rs. 17 millions and a case was registered against him by the Kapurthala police after a thorough enquiry. The case is still pending in the court.”

The statement signed by Sukhi under his assumed name Harjit Singh Kahlon also questioned media as to whether “a former militant who has joined the national mainstream and has lived life peacefully in the society not have a right to exist? Should vested interests, consisting of a few disgruntled police officers, a few frustrated politicians and a few irresponsible people from the press hound me only because it suits their selfish interest?”

Sukhi, alias Harjit Singh Kahlon, informed that he was first arrested by the Amritsar police in 1987 and was impressed upon by investigating officers to join the national mainstream and was sent to Nabha jail, where he spent nearly three years, during which, he did his graduation from Panjab University in first division.

He was again picked up by the Hoshiarpur police a week after his release in January 1990 and was released only to be picked up again by the Ludhiana police in February1992.

“It was the time when I was tortured and the police planned to kill me, but I escaped.” In 1992, Sukhi claimed, he was “picked by the CRPF at Jalandhar, was goaded to shun violence”.

“Police decided to use my knowledge and understanding of militant activities for their operational strategy. As information given by me produced good result for police and large number of arms, ammunition and explosives recovered, the police declared me dead to ensure my safety,” said the statement purportedly written by Sukhi, who, said his role was that of an ideologue only.

He said he was at present aligned to the Shiromani Khalsa Dal, led by Bhai Daljit Singh Bittu and was working for the Sikh periodical “Sikh Shahadat.”

Sukhi also lamented that SAD leader Sukhbir Singh Badal and All India Anti Terrorist Front chief Maninderjit Singh Bitta were “needlessely” trying to rake a controversy by issuing statements about him.


Arrest Virk for harbouring militants: Sukhbir
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 19
The General Secretary of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, today demanded: the sack and arrest of the DGP Punjab, Mr S.S. Virk for harbouring, aiding and abetting terrorists in the state. Mr Badal said, It was a strange case where the DGP of the state is openly stating that these elements lived under assumed names.

Mr Badal challenged the DGP to come out with the exact number and list of such unidentified persons who had been allowed by his force to live under assumed names after making false depositions.

Mr Badal said the DGP’s claim was wrong that Khalistan Liberation Force militant Sukhwinder Singh Sukhi was allowed to live under an assumed name under the state government’s policy of rehabilitating reformed militants. 


Syndics to discuss shortage of teaching staff
Payal Pruthi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 19
The immense shortage of staff being faced in B.Ed, B.P.Ed and law colleges with regard to non-appointment of qualified and regular principals and teaching staff will draw the attention of syndics at the Panjab University Syndicate meeting, scheduled for February 22. The issue was put forth by the Punjab Government and was discussed with the Vice-Chancellor who then constituted a committee headed by Professor Veer Singh, Dean of University Instruction, PU.

The committee has, however, recommended that a notice of 15 days be given to the colleges facing the shortage to complete and update the record of the college as per the format approved by the university. The committee also in clear terms recommends that surprise inspections would be conducted by the university and that the records should be kept ready for the inspection by the university committees.

Keeping in view the non-availability of the qualified staff the committee has recommended that relaxation up to the age of 65 years be given as done by Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, and Punjabi University, Patiala. In addition to this the report directs the colleges to appoint qualified staff latest by May 30, 2006. The committee has also laid down the minimum requirement for the session 2006-07 which would be one qualified principal and at least four qualified and regular lecturers.

As per its recommendations, the affiliation granted to the new colleges was only for the session 2005-06 and in case the college failed to appoint the minimum regular and qualified staff by the stipulated date the affiliation would immediately stand terminated and the college will not be allowed to make any admissions for the next session. 

February 22 meeting agenda

  • Reconsideration of the proposal of MCM DAV College, Sector 36, to start B.Sc course in Microbial and Food Technology.
  • Restructuring of the Department of Evening Studies
  • Proposal of Sri Guru Gobind Singh College, Sector 26, to start two new courses
  • To consider the academic calendars for PU teaching departments and affiliated colleges for the session 2006-07. 


Unemployed teachers’ protest from today
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 19
Unemployed Elementary Teachers Union (UETU), DIET Students’ Welfare Association (DSWA), Navniyukat Elementary Teachers Union (NETU) and some other organisations at a joint meeting here today rejected the state government’s decision relating to recruitment of the primary teachers through Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) and Urban Local Bodies. The meeting was presided over by Mr Mohinder Pal Singh Kaleke, district president of the UETU, and Mr Jagtar Singh Ilwal, district president of the DSWA.

Mr Sukhvir Singh, district press secretary of the UETU, termed the decision of the government as anti-people, as it would adversely hit the education standards in the villages due to the prevailing groupism and factionalism in villages. He further said with this decision the temples of learning would also become akharas of dirty politics while the teachers would have to wait for their salaries months together as village panchayats now waited for development grants.

The meeting also adopted a resolution to launch a drive in villages and cities against this decision. The unemployed teachers also decided to take part in the rally to be organised by the unemployed teachers at Chandigarh on March 2.

Mr Sukhvir Singh said the gherao of the ministers by the unemployed teachers in the state would continue. The unemployed teachers would also begin indefinite fast in front of the Punjab Assembly from February 20 to air their voice and compel the government to accept their demands, relating to recruitment of all unemployed teachers by the state government on regular basis in full pay scale.

The meeting was attended among others by Mr Tarsem Lal, district general secretary of the Democratic Teachers Front; Mr Sher Singh Ballewal, a leader of Adhiapak Dal; Mr Neeraj Aggarwal, a leader of Government Teachers Union; Mr Balbir Singh Jhaloor, a leader of the BKU (Ugrahan); Mr Ram Murti Goyal, a leader of Government School Lecturers Union; Mr Sanjiv Mintoo, president of Punjab Radical Students’ Union (PRSU); and Mr Govardhan Sharma, a leader of NETU.


Ritu Kumar dazzles Patialvis
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 19
A fashion show by popular designer Ritu Kumar and a kavi darbar were held last night for the ongoing Patiala Heritage Festival. Well known models walked down the ramp to showcase the collection of the Amritsar-born and internationally known designer at Old Moti Bagh Palace. The collection titled ‘Tree of Life’ was put together by Harmeet Bajaj.

The rich tradition of designs and textile material from Rajasthan was followed by a round of white for summers. The embroidery and khadi rounds followed by sections where models showed off creations with block printing, zardozi, bandani and chiken. The bridal round with lehangas and zari sarees drew applause. Ritu Kumar has dressed many beauty queens who have competed for Miss Universe and Miss World titles.

Well-known poets, including Anup Virk, Darshan Buttar, Surjeet Pattar, Pritam Sandhu, Sardar Anjum, Pakistan’s Bushra Aijaz, presented their compositions at Kila Mubarak.

On the last day today of this nine-day extravaganza of well-known artists was inaugurated at Punjabi University here. Eighteen famous painters, including Prem Singh, Padmini Mehta from Benaras, Satwant Singh, Kiran S. Chauhan, Ashwini Verma, Satish Kaushik, Hardev Singh and Shiv Singh are participating in the workshop.

The painters were taken to varied and famous bazaars of the old city, beside other heritage sites to have a feel of the city. The paintings executed here would be given to the university.

Dogs of various breeds competed for and prizes at the All-Breed Championship Dog Show at the spacious Polo Grounds today. There were 317 entries for 39 breeds, including Siberian hunks, great Danes, chow chows, st bernards and rottweilers. The judges were Aramis Joey Lim from Australia and C.V. Sudarsan from Chennai. Exhibitors came from all over the country.

This year’s show was dedicated to the memory of late judge Vijay Singh, who was killed last year. He was the founder president of the Patiala Kennel Club.

In another event, a heritage walk was organised from the Baradari Gardens to National Institute of Sports. Besides sportspersons from the NIS, students from Senior Secondary School Pheel Khana, Budha Dal Public School, St Peters School, cricket players from Dhruv Pandove Stadium took part in the walk. 


Brar lauds CM for bettering state’s fiscal health
Our Correspondent

Barnala, February 19
Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, a senior Congress leader and former MP gave credit to Capt Amarinder Singh, Punjab Chief Minister, for improving the financial health of Punjab but expressed dissatisfaction over his lack of inter-action with Congress party MLAs, workers and masses.

Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar,a Congress Working Committee Special Invitee from Punjab, expressed these views while talking to newsmen at local Simmy Resorts here today where he had come to attend a marriage.

Mr Brar expressed surprise that after four years, a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP)of Punjab was being held tonight at Chandigarh. He made it clear that Congress Party activists and workers in Punjab were not happy with Capt Amarinder Singh’s style of functioning.

Mr Brar said that he was not in favour of import of wheat to India as it would adversely affect the interests of farmers in India. He very strongly advocated linking minimum support price (MSP) of crops with price index of the nation.

When questioned about his future role in Congress party and ensuing Punjab Assembly polls, he said he was ready to abide by any assignment given to him by the Congress party high command.


Thai Mangoor available despite SC ban
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, February 19
Despite directions from the Supreme Court and notification by the Punjab Government, the banned Thai Mangoor fish is being sold openly in the state. The seed of the banned fish is also being imported.

The Mangoor is available in the markets of Gurdaspur, through the major markets of fish are in Jalandhar and Ludhiana. When The Tribune teams, posing as fish farmers, talked to some fish suppliers on the phone they assured them the supply of seed as well as fish.

The seed of Thai Mangoor was being smuggled into India through Bangladesh. There are many breeding farms of the fish in West Bengal also. The boneless fish can be transported live in tankers in moist conditions. Environmentalists, however, moved the Supreme Court for a ban on its culture in the country. They pleaded that the Thai Mangoor was an air breathing scavenger fish. It had the capacity to feed on waste meat as well prey on other fish. In ideal conditions it grows very fast. While a normal Indian species of fish grows upto 1 kg in a year the Thai Mangoor grows upto 5 kg.

Environmentalist also alleged that if the Mangoor escapes into the Indian river system it would destroy many Indian varieties. Being air breathing this fish, it can move from one water body to another on land also.

On the basis of the petition, the Supreme Court banned the culture and rearing of Thai Mangoor in the country.

Mr Sukhdeep Singh Bajwa, a farmer who has diversified into fish farming alleged that most of the local farmers had stopped rearing Thai Mangoor after the Supreme Court banned it. However, the fish was still coming into the market.

Thai Mangoor is cheap and boneless due to which the demand of local fish is law. Law abiding farmers are suffering losses. Sources say that the fish had already escaped into the Gaggar river and its impact is yet to be assessed.


MLAs for reining in bureaucracy
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 19
The Congress Legislative Party, which met here tonight after a gap of two years, indicated a shift of gears in the state politics. The nature of demands by MLAs further indicated a shift towards the “election mode”. The MLAs asked the Chief Minister to rein in the bureaucracy, which, according to them, was delaying works of public interest.

The CLP met for the second time since Capt Amarinder Singh took over as Chief Minister in February, 2002. The MLAs, especially Mr Bir Devinder Singh, MLA from Kharar, had been demanding a meeting of the CLP in the past. The Budget session of the Vidhan Sabha starts tomorrow.

Today’s meeting did not witness the expected “political fireworks”, but the demand of the MLAs was that officers, who are in “tuning” with the ruling party and its elected representatives, be posted in their constituencies.

The bureaucracy had come under fire during the last Vidhan Sabha session was again the topic. The Chief Minister has told his MLAs to bring to his notice cases of indifference by the bureaucracy and any other official. The Chief Minister is reported to have assured of action on his part to control the officialdom. The President of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee , Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, was also present at the meeting.

The MLAs elucidated the fact that the benefits the government had been promising to the Dalits as well as traders, and these should be given immediately as these two classes of people form a major chunk of the voters in the state.

Meanwhile, the Shromani Akali Dal also held a meeting at the residence of Mr Parkash Singh Badal, where the strategy for the Budget session was discussed.


Fake certificates: Dr Ranu issued show-cause notice
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 19
The Punjab Government has served a show-cause notice to the Chairman of the Council of Homoeopathic System of Medicine, Punjab, Dr Paramjit Singh Ranu, asking why he should not be removed from chairmanship /membership of the council.

The matter pertains to the issuance of duplicate registration certificates to two doctors. Dr Ranu, when contacted, termed this as conspiracy, saying the certificates were purportedly issued at a time when he was not even the Chairman of the council. It was being done to malign him ahead of the elections to the Central Council of Homoeopathy on March 6, which he is contesting, he added.

It may be mentioned that the case dates back to 1996 when two duplicate certificates were allegedly issued in the names of Dr Gobind Ram and Dr Harjinder Singh, living in New Delhi and Jalandhar, respectively. The original applicants had never applied for any duplicate certificates. The duplicate certificates were issued in Sangrur on the basis of alleged fake documents. An inquiry was conducted by Dr K.C. Batish that had said that Dr Ranu, had “received” the duplicate certificates. However, he had added that to initiate proceedings against him, a report of an handwriting expert was desired.

The matter was also probed by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau. In 2000, the then Chairman of the council, Dr Bhupinder Singh had recommended action against Dr Ranu.

Sources in the Punjab Government confirmed the development saying, the show-cause notice was issued more than a week ago.


Foundation stone uprooted
Our Correspondent

Nabha, February 19
Situation is tense in Tohra village following uprooting of the foundation stones of the memorials laid in the name of Jathedar Gurcharan Singh Tohra and Akalis and Congress leaders trading charges against each other.

A long time associate of Jathedar Tohra and now Congress leader and chairman of market committee Patiala, Rajinder Singh Tohra, today accused village sarpanch and Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee member Satvinder Singh for uprooting the foundation stones to divert attention of the masses from his corrupt practices and to defame Congress.

A couple of days earlier, foundation stones of the stadium and park to be constructed on 90 bighas of common land were found uprooted and Satvider had termed it the handiwork of Congress.

Speaking to a huge gathering in the village he said the Sarpanch had misused the revenue collected of the Shamlat village and inquiries were going on. Satvinder had not only failed to give account of the revenue collected but also converted his land with prime Panchayati land.

Police today arrested Balbir Singh, Malkit Singh and Lakhbir Singh had been arrested earlier.

Punjab Youth Congress general secretary Paramjit Singh Khatra also condemned Akalis for playing petty politics and involving a great leader, who was no more, to settle personal scores.


Tension after woman’s death
Our Correspondent

Abohar, February 19
Dr Amarjit Singh Chawla, posted at the civil hospital Raisinghnagar, in the neighbouring Sriganganagar area, reportedly fled along with his family last night following death of a woman due to alleged negligence in termination of pregnancy, sources said today. His official residence was found locked when agitated people marched here to express their resentment over the incident.

According to information, Ms Munni Bai was admitted to the hospital for termination of five-month pregnancy, as bleeding remained unchecked. Dr Chawla reportedly asked her mother Ms Durga Devi to take the patient to his personal clinic inside the official residence.

Mr Om Saraswat, a BJP worker, said he donated blood to save the patient Dr Chawla later reportedly asked her mother to take Ms Munni Bai to the district hospital.

The patient in the meanwhile died. A large number of people gathered near the hospital and started shouting slogans demanding immediate suspension of the doctor. Senior civil and police officers including the ADC Mr Dinesh Sharma reached there and told the mob that action against Dr Chawla had been recommended to the Secretary Health Department.

The demonstrators regretted that 6 cases were brought to the notice of senior officers earlier regarding unfair practices on the part of the same doctor but no action had been taken.


Migrant worker hangs himself
Our Correspondent

Abohar, February 19
Kanta Prasad (40), a migrant worker, reportedly hanged himself early this morning.

According to information, Kanta Prasad (40), son of Mr Mani Ram, had migrated to this area from Hakimpura village in Mainpuri (Uttar Pradesh) district a few years back. He was living in a rented house in Thakur Singh Colony near Balluana village 9 km from here, on the Abohar Malout road along with his wife, three sons and two daughters after finding a contract job at the nearby brick kiln.

Family sources said they found him missing in the morning today. Later, his body was noticed hanging with a tree near the brickkiln.


Dharna by ‘Kar Sewa’ babas

Amritsar, February 19
Kar seva babas headed by Baba Amrik Singh staged a dharna at the Dharam Singh Market crossing near the Golden Temple for nearly two hours disrupting traffic, here yesterday.

Trouble arose when traffic police stopped and disallowed Baba Amrik Singh who was in a kar seva truck to proceed to Golden Temple at Dharma Singh Market crossing. — TNS


Boy shot dead at marriage party
Our Correspondent

Abohar, February 19
Aman Kumar (10), a resident of Mansa, was killed as a member of a marriage party resorted to pleasure-firing at Sadulshehar, 31 km from here last night, sources said.

According to information, Aman had come to participate in the marriage of his cousin brother. As the barat was proceeding towards marriage palace, Sanjiv Kheechad, a senior functionary of the Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha allegedly opened fire from his rifle indiscriminately. A shot hit Aman, killing him on the spot. Kheechad, fled the scene with the weapon, the sources added.

Post-mortem has been conducted at the Civil Hospital, Sriganganagar and the police has registered a case. 


PSEB JE held for fraud
Tribune News Service

Moga, February 19
The Vigilance Bureau has arrested a junior engineer of the Punjab State Electricity Board for reportedly perpetrating a fraud with a farmer hailing from Samadh Bhai village.

Sources said the JE, Mr Avtar Singh, who is currently posted at Patto Hira Singh division, had taken Rs 7,000 from Kuljeet Singh, a farmer, in 2004 for extending a temporary motor connection to his agricultural land. Then posted at Samadh Bhai office of the board, the JE had told the farmer while accepting the amount from him that Rs 5,000 was the government fee for temporary connection and the remaining Rs 2,000 were for his “expenses”.

Though the farmer got a temporary connection, a PSEB team soon conducted raids for checking illegal motor connections.

At that time the JE got Kuljeet’s motor shut, but when the latter demanded receipt of Rs 5,000 paid to him as fee for the connection he ignored the matter. The farmer then lodged a complaint with the Vigilance, which caught JE Avtar Singh on Friday from Patto Hira Singh village. 


1 held for kidnapping girl
Our Correspondent

Batala, February 19
Dr Jatindra Kumar Jain, SSP, said here today that the police raided a school yesterday in Ghuman where three persons had kept a girl, Pawandeep.

They had allegedly kidnapped the girl then raped her in government school. At the time of raid, the school was found locked from outside. The police tried to scale the wall. Hardip Singh and Avtar Singh managed to escape while Amrik Singh jumped down from the roof at which his both legs were fractured.

The police seized a foreign made unlicensed pistol with 17 bullets from the spot. The girl was also recovered. A case was registered. 


Woman killed in accident
Tribune News Service

Rajpura, February 19
Kamal Bedi, a resident of Ludhiana, was killed and her husband injured seriously when their car rammed into a truck near the octroi post here this morning.

The car rammed into the truck when Mr Nobel Justin Bedi, who was driving the car, lost control. The couple was on way to Faridabad from Ludhiana.

While Kamal Bedi died on the spot, Nobel sustained injuries. He was admitted to Christian Medical College, Ludhiana.


Lecture on architecture of Chandigarh
Tribune News Service

Ropar, February 19
A lecture on “Art in Architecture of Chandigarh” was today delivered by S. Shiv Singh, sculptor, painter and designer at the Indo Global College of Architecture.

On the occasion a slide show was presented by Shiv Singh depicting the essence of art in the architecture of Chandigarh and the buildings, including High Court, Secretariat, Gandhi Bhawan, City Centre, Government Museum and Paintings were specifically discussed.

This was followed by an interactive question-answer session with Shiv Singh who said every architect should be sensitive and well informed about fine arts.


Workshop on disaster management
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 19
The three-day workshop on disaster preparedness sponsored by the Punjab State Council for Science and Technology ended at the State College of Education here.

Dr Kanwaljeet Singh, DPEI, Colleges and Dr Neelam Gulati Sharma and Dr Kulbir Singh Bath from the Punjab State Council for Science and Technology presided over the proceedings.

Addressing the audience, Dr Kanwaljeet Singh shared his experiences on the issue. Dr Neelam stressed upon conserving faith in traditional prudence which had descended through generations. She put special emphasis on the application of science and technology in academic endeavours.

A book on disaster management, edited by Dr Rajeev Sharma was also released. Experts on earthquakes, floods, tsunami, landslides, fires, snakebites, blood donation, first aid and road safety and traffic rules delivered lectures. The fire brigade units of Patiala demonstrated how to control a fire. Teachers and students of colleges from Patiala, Fatehgarh Sahib, Sangrur and Ropar attended the workshop. 


Annual day of St. Xavier’s
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 19
The annual function of St Xavier’s International School was held at the Central Library here yesterday.

Children of the school presented colourful items that included Saraswati Vandana, rhyme, mela dance, English comedy, cartoon dance, remix folk dance, Kathak dance and Punjabi folk dance. The items were lapped up well by the audience.

The prizes were distributed by Mr Raja Malvinder Singh in the presence of the Principal of the school, Mrs Gurpreet Dhaliwal, who on the occasion also presented the annual report for the year 2005-06. Prominent among those present were Director of the school, Dr K.C. Kalia, Chairman, Mr B.S. Dhaliwal, Vice-Chairman, Wg Cdr P.S. Sibia (Retd) and member of the Board Dr A.L.J. Rao.


Drug manufacturers seek relief through budgetary provisions
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 19
The Punjab Drug Manufacturers Association has sought the intervention of the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, for making budgetary provisions for safeguarding the interests of the small scale industry (SSI) engaged in manufacturing drugs.

The association wants that recommendations made by the specially constituted task force to suggest ways and means of safeguarding the interests of the SSI manufacturing drugs in non-exempt states be incorporated in the coming Union Budget so that the future of as many as 5,000 such units was secure.

In a letter addressed to the Prime Minister, the president of the association, Mr Jagdeep Singh, said since the recommendations already stood approved by the Union AD Ministry and had been forwarded to the Revenue Department for implementation, it would be unfortunate if the SSI units were exterminated. It would be a sad day for the SSI units and the democracy in the country if redress was not provided in the Budget, he said in his letter.

Mr Jagdeep Singh referred to the 17 advertisements in Drug Today and said hundreds of others were carried by other periodicals and magazines about the flight of the SSI from non-exempt states to the tax exempt states. These ads, he said, were from units that had migrated from the non-exempt states after the MRP-based excise notification of January 7 last year was implemented. Under the 2005 notification, the methodology of calculation of excise was changed resulting in increased disparity between exempt states and others. Many more units would be coming in production in the exempt states in the current year.

Mr Jagdeep Singh further observed that today, a small-time drug trader from any obscure town in the country could stuff money in his pocket and board a train to any of the destinations in exempt states and order any number of items in his own new brand name. He did not need to buy drugs from the 5500 other units in the country, where high taxation reduced their profits compared to the exempt states.

A trader was privileged to excise-free goods under a third party or contract manufacturing basis while 5500 SSI units elsewhere in the country that had made investments (more recently on compliance of Schedule M) and generated employment had been rendered non-competitive overnight by the MRP-based excise notification of January last year even for their own bona fide brands.

Mr Jagdeep Singh further held that since there was no pressure of excise on MRP in exempt states, a trader could order whatever MRP desired by him. As such there had been no price control.

Besides, huge capacities being created or already created by large units in exempt states, many might just procure goods on third party or contract manufacturing basis so as to evade excise, and all other kinds of taxation would be evaded in the process. It was a known fact that 70 per cent of the produce would be shifting to exempt states, meaning thereby that 70 per cent of revenue would be lost in the current year.

The Union Government, rued Mr Jagdeep Singh, had virtually ordained that SSIs in non exempt states should perish for units in exempt states to flourish. “Your professed policy of growth with economics of equity and justice by addressing the needs of every citizen to equality of opportunity does not stand the test in this case ,” wrote Mr Jagdeep Singh hoping that 5500 SSIs would not be allowed to be exterminated because of the apathy of the Union Government.


Privatisation of health-care costly experiment for Punjab
Our Correspondent

Mohali, February 19
There is a decline in expenditure in the social sector, especially health, in almost all states in the country. The lack of resources at the state level and the declining share of the Centre have compelled the states to accept privatisation as a new framework for the health sector.

These were the findings of a report presented by Prof Shree Mulay, McGill University, Canada, and Dr Atul Sood of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi, at a workshop on the “Impact of liberalisation and international trade regimes on access to medicines and health services in India (case study: Punjab and Haryana)” held here yesterday.

The workshop was jointly organised by the Institute for Development and Communication (IDC), Chandigarh, and JNU. It was sponsored by the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, New Delhi.

The study said the privatisation of primary healthcare in Punjab turned out to be costly experiment and led to a severe decline in the healthcare infrastructure. The Punjab Health Systems Corporation (PHSC), which was created in 1996, led to the state ending up with more debt and worse health services. Finally the state Disinvestment Commission recommended the closing down of the PHSC in 2002.

However, Mr T.R. Sarangal, Managing Director, PHSC, was of the opinion that the setting up of the corporation in the health sector in Punjab had, in fact, increased the access of poor people to the health system.

The study, in which the IDC was also involved, said that another dimension of the changing healthcare scenario in the country was guided by the changing nature of Centre-state fiscal relations. The priorities of health at the state level were implicitly decided by the Central Government by increasing the focus on national programmes, often funded by grants from international agencies. The fiscal burden for health had shifted to the states with a change in spending priorities. There had been a noticeable decline in health expenditures which had contributed to the overall decline in the health services in all states of India over the past decade. This had hit the health status of citizens.

The study found that the incidence of morbidity was marginally higher among women in Punjab and Haryana. Lifestyle diseases were more common among females than males in Punjab than in the case of Haryana. Asthma appeared to be more frequent among females which correlated directly to the type of fuel used for the chullah.

In developed states like Punjab and Haryana, the lack of basic infrastructure for clean drinking water, sanitation and hygiene was found to be a major source of morbidity. Two-thirds of those reporting diarrhoea used drinking water from open wells or handpumps in both states, while two-thirds of those who reported this disease in Haryana did not have sanitation facilities in their homes.

Mr Rajesh Khullar, Director, Agriculture, Haryana, highlighted the initiative for controlling diseases which were spreading due to pest control chemicals and fertilisers.

Dr Pramod Kumar, Director, IDC, said that along with certain social security measures, livelihood issues must be made integral to the state policy.

Mr Rajan Kashyap, Punjab State Chief Information Commissioner, observed that the advantage which the pharmaceutical industry could have under WTO must percolate to the people for keeping the prices of medicines under control. 

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