P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Amarinder’s no to CBI probe into Sukhi case
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 24
Rejecting the demand for a CBI inquiry made by Opposition leader Parkash Singh Badal into the case of Sukhwinder Singh Sukhi, a militant-turned police “cat”, the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today came out with a new proposal in the Punjab Assembly. He said “let us take some positive decision on all Punjab militants still lodged in various jails and police officials facing trial for fighting militants to make a new beginning in the state”.

Taking part in a special debate on a motion moved by Mr Badal and others for a discussion on “ the volatile situation arising out of the possible dreadful outcomes of the rehabilitation of Sukhwinder Singh Sukhi and 300 other terrorists under assumed names with the connivance of state police chief and state government”, Capt Amarinder Singh said: “ Let us dismantle the past full of painful history to make a fresh beginning with a clean slate”.

Seeking cooperation from the Opposition in this regard, Capt Amarinder Singh, said it was not in the interest of the state to reopen tragic events of the gory past. Justifying the rehabilitation of Sukhi, who was living under a changed name in Jalandhar, Capt Amarinder Singh said the rehabilitation of militants, who had agreed to join the mainstream and helped the police wipe out terrorism in Punjab, was part of the national policy. This policy was now being followed in Jammu and Kashmir, the North-East and other parts of the country. One should play politics to put Punjab on the road to development and not to demolish it. “ All political parties have suffered because of terrorism in the state and no purpose will be served by accusing each other” he said.

Appearing to be emotionally charged and aggressive in tone, Capt Amarinder Singh said Mr Badal rehabilitated persons like Amarjit Singh Chawla, Virsa Singh Valtoha and Rajinder Singh Mehta but remained quiet following the return of Wassan Singh Zaffarwal and Jagjit Singh Chohan. Refuting the allegation that he wanted to win elections with the help of rehabilitated militants, he said “ My party will win the elections on its own and Mr Badal should not be in doubt in this regard”.

Capt Amarinder Singh said 2145 militants were rehabilitated in Punjab. The Barnala government released and rehabilitated 1068 militants, and 986 were rehabilitated by Beant Singh government. As many as 67 were rehabilitated during Governor S.S. Ray’s time and 17 during the tenure of the Badal government. “Two were rehabilitated by my government”, he added.

Mr Badal said the Treasury Benches had tried to sidetrack the issue by beating about the bush. He had no objection to the rehabilitation of militants and bringing them back into the mainstream. He had raised a specific issue of militants like Sukhi who had been rehabilitated under assumed names by the police after using them as “ cats”. He said that the DGP had admitted that there were 300 such militants. “Who were the persons killed in place of the militants who were alive today and had been rehabilitated by the police under changed identities. Under what policy was it done?

“I only want that their names should be disclosed and what they were doing now should be made public”.

He said even after rehabilitation Sukhi was involved in extortion. Mr Badal narrated in detail how Sukhi’s writ ran at the police headquarter and how he was involved in getting police officials transferred. He repeatedly sought a CBI inquiry into the Sukhi case.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh said there was a big conspiracy to rehabilitate militants under assumed names. He said these militants were to be used by the ruling party in the coming Assembly elections. “ In their speeches ruling party leaders often give threats to beat us up”, he added.

He said the Congress had made all efforts to ruin Punjab. As many as 50,000 persons were killed in Punjab because of wrong policies pursued by the Congress governments at the Centre and in the state.

In the House, the ruling party, which was apparently uncomfortable on the Sukhi issue, seemed to have drawn up a strategy to sidetrack it by referring to what happened during the violent period in Punjab and blaming Mr Badal and his party for it. Giving examples of Congress leaders killed by militants, the ruling party held the Akalis responsible for such incidents in the state.

Laying stress on not reopening wounds, Mr Bir Devinder Singh and Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, both from the Congress, held the Akalis responsible for misguiding youths who later took to arms.

They asked Mr Badal why he remained silent on these issues when he was in power in the state. “What is the need to rake up this issue now? “Peace has returned to Punjab after a lot of sacrifices made by politicians and police officials. 


Story behind Sukhi’s “death”
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 24
How and why was Sukhwinder Singh Sukhi declared dead by the Punjab Police?

Making disclosure in this regard, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said in the Punjab Assembly today that a group of militants had kidnapped a son-in-law of a former Congress MP in Ludhiana. They had sought the release of Sukhwinder Singh Sukhi from the police custody in lieu of the son-in-law of the Congress leader.

However, the police played smart with militants. It showed Sukhi as dead in a fake encounter. When militants sought proof of Sukhi’s “death”, the police devised a trick. It made Sukhi lie on the ground pretending he was dead and took his photographs by sprinkling sauce all over his clothes, said the Chief Minister.

Then close relations of Sukhi were called to identify Sukhi in the photographs and declare that he had been killed.

The Chief Minister was responding to the Opposition’s demand that the police should reveal that who had been killed in the encounter in place of Sukhi.

However, question arises that who issued death certificate for Sukhi’s death to get the criminal cases registered against him dropped or closed by showing him dead? How were documents prepared to fulfil official formalities in this regard?


Dal Khalsa seeks ‘police cats’ list
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 24
Asserting that there were hundreds of “police cats” like former militant Sukhwinder Singh Sukhi, the Dal Khalsa has said it would seek the list of 300 militants from the Punjab Police under the Right to Information Act.

The Dal Khalsa decision comes in the wake of “disturbing admission” by the Punjab DGP, Mr. S. S. Virk, that there were 300 militants in Punjab who helped the police in counter-insurgency operations.

The Dal Khalsa leadership has decided to initiate a two-day march from Akal Takht in Amritsar to Anandpur Sahib from March 12 to create awareness among Sikhs.

Addressing a press conference here yesterday, Mr Harcharanjit Singh Dhami, the former president of the Dal Khalsa, Mr Jaspal Singh Dhillon, the vice-president and Mr Kanwar Pal Singh, a spokesperson of the party, said: “Since former DGP K.P.S. Gill has already admitted that there was a war like situation in 80s and that since the Punjab DGP Virk has also admitted that there were 300 counter-insurgents active at that time, so it means that the Punjab Police has committed war crimes.

“As they have committed war crimes, we will not only approach the UN and international human rights organisations for an exhaustive probe, but also seek a list of those 300 counter-insurgents from the Punjab Police under provisions of the Right to Information Act.”

Late Chief Minister Beant Singh had admitted in the Punjab Assembly that 41,000 persons were offered bounties in Punjab for their role in dealing with militancy. So, the Dal would also seek their lists under the Act, he said.

The spokesman said it was a surprising fact that even after admission of the Punjab DGP about prevalence of the “cat culture” in Punjab, no court or the National Human Rights Commission has come forward to take a notice of it. “We have already filed a PIL about it,” said the Dal Khalsa leaders.

Mr Kanwar Pal Singh said the Dal Khalsa would also contact Sikh NGOs based in other countries, so that this serious matter, which, allegedly involved killing of hundreds of people, could be raised at forthcoming international-level meet on human rights in Geneva in March.


Amend water pacts termination Act: SAD
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 24
In a move that has the potential to ignite a political debate on the sensitive river waters issue in the region, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has decided to demand the deletion of Section 5 of the Punjab Termination of Water Agreements Act, 2004.

Section 5 of the Act guarantees that the existing allocation of water of the Sutlej, Ravi and Beas rivers to Haryana and Rajasthan will be protected even after the Act came into being. This also fully protects the current utilisation of water by the neighbouring states through the existing canal systems.

Notice for a Private Member’s Bill has been sent to the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Secretariat by the SAD President, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, senior Akali leaders confirmed to The Tribune today. This is the second time that the Akalis have sought the deletion of Section 5 of the Act. The last such bid was made in March last year that was defeated on the floor of the House.

The Bill seeks an amendment to the Act with a view to deleting Section 5. The Akali stand is that the purpose of the Act stood defeated by the insertion of Section 5. If the usage of water by non-riparian states had to be protected, there was no point in having the riparian principle.

Separately, a senior Akali leader, Mr B.S. Bhunder, today demanded on the floor of the House that Section 78 of the Re-organisation of State Act, 1966, should also be contested. This section lays down riparian rights on these rivers.

The termination of water agreements Act was passed on July 12, 2004, and has been the topic of debate in the region since then. This had come about after the Supreme Court had passed its orders on the construction of the SYL canal in June, 2004.

This Act annuls the December 31, 1981, agreement between Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan signed by the three Chief Ministers concerned in the presence of the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, and also all other agreements relating to the waters of the Ravi and the Beas.


CM made false promises, say jobless teachers
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 24
Protesting against the state government's move to recruit teachers through Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), jobless ETT teachers today burnt the effigies of the Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, and AICC President Sonia Gandhi.

Hundreds of unemployed ETT teachers converged near the bus stand and condemned their cane charging at the Congress rally held in Nihal Singh Wala yesterday.

Addressing the protesters, the senior vice-president of the Unemployed ETT Teachers Union, Mr Jagsir Singh Sahota, said they had gone to the rally just to ask the CM as to why they were not being recruited through the Education Department.

He alleged that instead of allowing them to air their grievances before the Chief Minister, the police and the Youth Congress workers “tortured” them.

He alleged that the jobless ETT teachers rounded up at the rally were again tormented behind the bars.

He claimed that this “undemocratic” act had exposed the real face of the police and the state government.

The union leaders said they would not hold any meeting with the Chief Minister now, as till now they had only got false promises from him.

They threatened to intensify their agitation against the move to recruit teachers through PRIs. They sought recruitment on the lines of 1998-2000 batch.

They alleged that by implementing policies of liberalisation and privatisation, the government had hit the interests of common man.

Meanwhile, Democratic Teachers Front also held a protest against the government’s move of handing over elementary schools to panchayats, extending time period of schools, and merger of primary schools.

The district secretary of the front, Major Basant Kumar, claimed that the government had made up its mind to give 4,181 rural and 232 urban schools to their panchayats. 


Alliance with Cong a compulsion: Bardhan
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 24
Admitting that Left parties have differences with the ruling Congress government on economic and foreign policies, Mr A.B. Bardhan, general secretary, CPI, and vice-president of AITUC said today that alliance with the Congress was a “compulsion” as the alternative government could be worst government led by a communal party.

Mr Bardhan was talking to mediapersons on the sidelines of a rally organised by the Bhartiya Khet Mazdoor Union (BKMU) and AITUC. He said the Left parties were in confronting situation and was not happy with the Central Government’s economic and foreign policies, which was not benefiting the common man.

He said the FDI could prove harmful for mediocre investors.

He criticised the Congress Government over nuclear agreement with the USA. He claimed that certain nuclear experts were also against this pact. He said India was already running its nuclear programmes even after America’s ban. He said the Congress was under pressure to vote against Iran issue.

He said the Left parties, along with various other organizations, would protest against the US President’s visit on March 2 at New Delhi. He said the protest would start from Ram Leela Ground and culminate at the Parliament street.

Addressing the rally, Mr Bardhan called upon agricultural and unorganised labourers and workers to launch a movement to force the government to enact a comprehensive Central legislation for taking their long standing due share in the national income and welfare schemes for the poor.

The general council of the BKMU chalked out a nationwide programme of campaign taking the 23-point charter of demands of agricultural workers in the country. The council also discussed concrete organisational and agitational steps to ensure the implementation of the National Rural Employment Programme Act in the country rather than a certain number of districts.

They also demanded the enactment of Tribal’s Rights Act, distribution of the wasteland to landless farm labourers, strict implementation of minimum wage Act, etc.


It’s politicians vs bureaucrats
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 24
Growing distrust of elected representatives, especially MLAs, in Punjab’s bureaucracy has made the Punjab Government to find a solution to this problem.

Sources today said that the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, had asked the Chief Secretary, Mr K.R. Lakhanpal, to bridge the widening gap between the bureaucracy and elected representatives. Mr Lakhanpal has reportedly sought copies of the speeches made by MLAs of the ruling and the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly yesterday, highlighting how state’s bureaucracy had been ignoring elected representatives.

The government has realised that there was need for a reconciliation between MLAs and bureaucracy by removing functional flaws in the administrative setup.

Sources said after studying the speeches, Mr Lakhanpal would put up a proposal before the Chief Minister to resolve the issue. He would also consult senior officers in this regard.

Minister for Parliament Affairs Chowdhary Jagjit Singh had given an assurance in the House yesterday that the concerns of the MLAs would be addressed by the government. There are reports that a committee of the House would be set up to deal with the issue and frame rules in this regard.

There are reports that bureaucrats were peeved at the way they were targeted in the House. Some of them are pressing the IAS Officers Association to take up the issue with the Chief Minister. They are saying that they should not be “attacked” in the House where there is no provision for bureaucrats to defend themselves.

Meanwhile, the bureaucracy came under fire in the House for the second today. The leader of the Opposition, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, took potshots at the bureaucrats today. He said while officers were looting Punjab, they were calling politicians corrupt.

The treasury and the Opposition benches had a hearty laugh when Mr Badal said that those CID officers, who submitted survey reports to Capt Amarinder Singh during the day, also supplied a copy to him (Badal) at night. “I am aware of the contents of the report that intelligence agencies have submitted to Capt Amarinder Singh about the ruling party’s expected performance in the coming Assembly elections,” he said.


In spite of VAT, Sales Tax Tribunal still functioning
Maneesh Chhibber
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 24
Following the coming into effect of the Value-Added Tax regime in the country, the Capt Amarinder Singh Government in Punjab too introduced VAT from April 1, 2005. Since VAT was aimed at doing away with all other types of taxes, including sales tax, the Punjab government repealed the Punjab General Sales Tax Act, 1948.

With the introduction of the VAT regime, the Punjab Government also constituted a Punjab Value Added Tax Tribunal headed by former bureaucrat S.S. Dawra. A former Member of the Customs, Central Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal constituted by the Union Ministry of Finance, Mr P.S. Bajaj, was appointed member of the VAT Tribunal.

However, in a questionable move, the government did not wind up the Punjab Sales Tax Tribunal, which is presently headed by a senior IAS officer of the Punjab cadre, Mr P. Ram. Mr Dawra, it may be recalled, had proceeded on leave till the end of this month after taking over as Chairman.

A piquant situation has arisen with the Tribunal headed by Mr Ram, constituted under an Act which stands repealed since last year, continuing to hold sittings and deciding appeals under the Punjab General Sales Tax Act, 1948, while the new Tribunal under the VAT Act, presently headed by officiating Chairman P.S. Bajaj, which is located in room number 6, sixth floor, Punjab Civil Secretariat, is without any work.

Legal experts also question the validity of orders being passed by the Tribunal headed by Mr P. Ram, saying that the Tribunal lost its legality the moment the Act under which it was constituted was repealed.

However, Mr Mukul Joshi, Financial Commissioner (Taxation), Punjab, asserts that there is nothing wrong in the continuation of the Sales Tax Tribunal despite the constitution of the VAT Tribunal.

“There is no anomaly. The Tribunal headed by Mr P. Ram will deal with all cases that are pending before it. It will continue till the government decides otherwise,” Mr Joshi said. Ironically, while Mr Joshi is defending the continuation of the Sales Tax Tribunal, an order issued by him says that the Punjab VAT Tribunal, constituted under Section 4 of the Punjab VAT Act, 2005, will also be the Tribunal under Section 3A of the Punjab General Sales Tax Act (now repealed) for the purpose of disposal of appeals and revisions instituted and pending with the Tribunal constituted under the repealed Act.

Incidentally, an official communiqué from the office of Excise and Taxation Commissioner, Punjab, sent on December 9 last, to the Additional Secretary, Department of Excise and Taxation, Punjab, clearly says that the Tribunal constituted under the Punjab General Sales Tax Act had the powers to hear appeals under the Punjab VAT Act during the “transition period”.

But, the government continues to dither on fully disbanding the Sales Tax Tribunal.


Self-immolation threat: four riot victims held
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 24
The spark ignited by Gopal Krishan Kashyap, who committed self-immolation in the town recently, is still flickering. Today, the police swung action and took into custody four members of the `November,1984 Widows Jatha’ who had threatened immolate themselves in front of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence in New Delhi on February 28.

The four members today visited the residence of Gopal Krishan Kashyap and after addressing him as a martyr they addressed a press conference at the Gurdwara Dukhniwaran Sahib, barely a stones throw away from where Kashyap had committed suicide. The women also paid floral tributes to Kashyap at his residence.

The police immediately swung into action and reached the press conference venue.

The four women were taken in custody and later sent to judicial custody in the Central jail after being produced in the court of the local Subdivisional Magistrate (SDM). The police have booked them under Sections 107 and 151 of IPC.

The Jatha was led by Darshan Kaur, Sukwinder Kaur, Kulwant Kaur and Bhagwani. Addressing mediapersons, Darshan Kaur claimed that during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots she had lost 12 of her family members, while Kulwant Kaur claimed that eight of her kin were killed in the riots. The Jatha members claimed that they were fed up of the policies of the Central Government towards the riot victims and thus were contemplating such a step.


Bir Devinder issue closed, says Dullo
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 24
Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief Shamsher Singh Dullo today said that senior party colleague and Kharar MLA Bir Devinder Singh, who had been facing charges of indiscipline, had been “advised” to desist from airing his grievances through the media. However, the issue of corruption by certain civil servants and ministers had been referred to the CM for action.

He was here to take part in a religious procession and also met party workers here this noon.

Mr Dullo said that he had accepted Mr Bir Devinder’s explanation that the latter had erred and not raised issues at the party’s platform. The MLA also assured me that he would abide by the party discipline. “He is highly respected senior party leader and as far as I am concerned, the matter is closed. However, it is for the CM to get charges of corruption investigated at his own level,” he added.


618 dispensaries have no doctors
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 24
The Health Minister of Punjab, Mr Ramesh Chander Dogra, admitted in the Assembly here today that 618 dispensaries in the state did not have doctors while 172 persons had died of cancer in Muktsar district alone.

The minister was replying to separate questions on the shortage of doctors in the state and cancer deaths in the Malwa region. While replying to a question by Mr Manpreet Singh Badal of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Mr Dogra also admitted that not a single high-level meeting had been held on cancer deaths. “Meetings have been held at the lower level. However, meetings at level of the Chief Minister had to be cancelled on two occasions,” Mr Dogra said

On cancer deaths, Mr Dogra said a fresh house-to-house survey would be carried out. Mr Manpreet Badal contended that the figure of 172 deaths was wrong. In Gidderbaha alone, he claimed to have details of 201 persons dying of cancer.

On the dispensaries without doctors, Mr Dogra provided details along with a districtwise breakdown of the shortfall. The minister said the vacancies of doctors would be soon filled.

The Deputy Chief Minister, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, said there was no proposal to raise the retirement age of government employees from 58 to 60.

On the issue of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Mr Raghunath Sahai Puri, Housing and Urban Development Minister, assured the House that none of the victims, who had been legally allotted a house, had been evicted. Also, 5 per cent reservation had been introduced for these victims under future residential and commercial schemes of PUDA.

To a separate question, the Transport Minister, Mr Mohinder Singh Kaypee, replied that the government proposed to hire buses on a lease basis from private operators for routes allotted to Punjab Roadways.

The state government failed to disburse any attendance scholarship to Scheduled Castes girls studying in primary classes in the financial year ended March, 2005. A sum of Rs 17 .10 crore had been earmarked for this in the Budget which could not be used, the Minister of State for Social Welfare, Ms Gurkanwal Kaur, told the Assembly.

The Minister for Power, Mr Lal Singh claimed: “Within three years Punjab will be power surplus as several new projects are coming up.”

Latter in the day, during the discussion on the Governor’s Address, Mr Ashwani Sekhri of the Congress said a consensus had to be evolved on the issues of female foeticide, drugs and unemployment.

Mr B.S. Bhunder reminded the Congress that the rising prices of land would sound the death knell of farmers. He said the Akalis would welcome big manufacturing units in Punjab. However, the use of agricultural land to set up housing projects was not a wise step.


Jakhar for campaign against foeticide
Our Correspondent

Abohar, February 24
Exhorting that women were foundation of a family, society and the nation, Dr Balram Jakhar, Governor, Madhya Pradesh, in a convocation address at Gopi Chand Arya Mahila College (GAMC) here today, asked academicians and NGOs to launch an awareness campaign against foeticide.

Dr Achla Kant, Principal, and the teaching staff welcomed the Governor on his arrival.

Mr Jakhar, who too was a founder member of the institution, said the DAV campus had emerged as a fountain of education with a senior secondary school, separate college for girls, a postgraduate arts and science college, besides college of education.

Dr Jakhar said everybody should vow to fight against female foeticide and other social evils. Swami Dayanand Saraswati had historic efforts to bring in social reforms. Mahatma Hans Raj paved the way for Vedic education. Teachers of the present century should adopt their ideals.

Mr Sunil Jakhar, Parliamentary Secretary, Punjab regretted that Punjab stood at number two in female foeticide and Ferozepore topped among all districts. There had been no improvement in the literacy rate. He asked the male-oriented society to bring a change in their outlook towards girls.

Mr Rajnish Ahuja, a Ludhiana-based industrialist and old student on the campus, presented a cheque for Rs 5 lakh for development of the college.

Principal Dr Achla Kant read out the annual report and awarded degrees to graduates.


Death in custody: Mann seeks relief
Our Correspondent

Batala, February 24
Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, President, Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) yesterday protested against the killing of Harjit Singh (15), resident Murgi Mohalla, by the police while in custody.

He stated that the police had broken all the previous records of such “in-human activity” in which Harjit Singh and his brother Nirmal Singh and his mother Satto were beaten up brutally which resulted into the death of Harjit Singh.

Mr Mann stated that no information regarding Satto has been provided. He demanded that the police officials concerned should be arrested and brought to book.

He demanded Rs 20 lakh compensation to the family of the deceased and Government job for his brother and declared that a protest rally will be held on Feb. 27, at Achal Sahib, 6 km from here on Batala-Jalandhar Road, Batala.


Vacant houses create trouble for BBMB
Bipin Bhardwaj
Tribune News Service

Talwara (Hoshiarpur), February 24
Hundreds of vacant residential units in different sectors of the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB), Talwara township here, have become a problem for its management for the past couple of years.

The BBMB management has been unable to decide what to do with these vacant residential units following protests by different unions of its employees for the last many years.

Sources said efforts of the BBMB management to dispose of these dwelling units to the Punjab Government, the Punjab Urban Development Authority (PUDA) and certain land developers have proved futile. The management has even taken up the issue with the BBMB management board for disposing of the land, including buildings worth over Rs 45 crore.

The vacant houses have become safe hideouts for anti-social elements, drug paddlers and migrant labourers. Moreover, certain employees of the BBMB have been using the units as cattle sheds besides storing dung-cakes and other waste material.

The sources added that over 675 dwelling units of type (T-1, T-2, and T-3) were surplus even after the management had allotted houses to employees of different departments of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana Governments serving within 10 km from Talwara township.

The management had evacuated 520 houses till date and identified four more blocks for eviction, the sources added.

A large number of members of the Joint Action Committee, BBMB Employees Union, have been protesting against the move of the management for evacuation these houses for their demolition. The protestors have been demanding allotment of the residential units to retired employees of the BBMB and other seekers on monthly rental basis.

While talking to The Tribune, Mr N.K. Jasrai, Chief Engineer of Beas Dam, BBMB Talwara township, claimed that the board comprising members of the BBMB, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh, had been chalking out various plans to solve the issue amicably.

“The board is working on a plan to dispose of the land in open auction for some co-operative house building society. The land will be auctioned on certain terms and conditions that it should be used for residential purpose and for commercial use. Preference will be given to a society owned by retired employees of the BBMB,” disclosed Mr Jasrai.


176-member jatha leaves for Katasraj
Our Correspondent

Wagah, February 24
A 176-member Hindu jatha, including 20 women, left for Pakistan on a week-long pilgrimage to Katasraj shrine in Chakwal district of Pakistan through the joint check post here today.

Inder Mohan Goswami of the Sanatam Dharam Pratinidhi Sabha led the jatha.

Alleging discrimination in visa allotment, jatha head Goswami, Surinder Arjun, president of the Durgiana Temple Management Committee and Mr Surinder Kumar Billa ,president, All-India Hindu Shiv Sena, said the matter of increasing the quota of Hindu jatha would be taken up with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Mr Billa said they had demanded to raise the pilgrim quota to 1,500 besides allowing four pilgrimages in a year against the two—one on Kartik Poornima and the other on Shivratri.

Apart from this, Arjun said the Durgiana management would also take up the matter of ''blacklisting'' some organisations which were engaged in profit-making, towards business and trading practices in the garb of pilgrimage.

The pilgrims were sour as 30 names were deleted on the visa list of 230 applications.

Ms Laxmi Kanta Chawla, BJP state vice-president who also joined the jatha, demanded easing travel conditions for pilgrimages for either countries.

Mr Arjun stated that visas were cleared barely a day before the yatra. Hence many could not make it as they were not hopeful of getting clearance. 


Father, son die as tractor overturns
Our Correspondent

Abohar, February 24
Pappu Singh Mazhabi (45) and his son, Jagga Singh (17), were killed when a tractor-trailer overturned near a sub-canal bridge on the Bhagsar-Achadiki link road here this afternoon.

According to information, the victims had yesterday gone to Rajasthan to transport rice bran for a Malout-based farmer. As the loaded vehicle was crossing the narrow bridge, Pappu Singh lost control of the tractor fearing collision with another vehicle.

The tractor overturned, killing Pappu Singh on the spot.

Some farmers rushed Jagga Singh to a nearby hospital but he too succumbed to his injuries after a few minutes.

The victims were residents of Gopal Nagar here.


Auction of octroi contract put off
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, February 24
Under pressure from traders and statements by Congress ministers regarding abolition of octroi, the Pathankot municipal Council today postponed auction for the octroi contract till March 31. The octroi collection contract expired in January this year.

The council had scheduled the auction for the new contract today. However, the auction was postponed. The president of the council, Mr Sarwan Kumar, while talking to The Tribune said that keeping in view the sentiments of the traders the auction for collection of octroi had been postponed.

Many government functionaries had declared that octroi would be abolished by March 31. The council would wait for the government decision on the issue. However, if the government failed to abolish octroi till March 31 they would be forced to auction the contract, he said.


1,459 riot victims apply for grant
Tribune News Service

Ropar, February 24
The district administration has received total 1459 applications from the victims of 1984 riots for the grant of Rs 2 lakh. All the cases of riots victims would be sent to the Financial Commissioner (Revenue), Punjab by February 28 after the verification of the cases, said the Deputy Commissioner, Mr H.I.S Garewal after holding a meeting with all the SDM’s of the sub-division.

Giving details, Mr Garewal said that 916 cases of the riots victims belong to Mohali sub-division 230 cases from Ropar sub-division, 104 cases of Anandpur Sahib, 91 cases of Kharar and 118 cases of riots victims who have been living in district but belong to other districts.


8-year-old girl killed in jhuggi fire
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, February 24
Eight-year-old Kirti, daughter of Mr Charan Singh, was burnt alive when a fire broke out in jhuggis of migrant labourers this afternoon at Jian (Chabewal) village, about 10 km from here. All the household articles were reduced to ashes. Two fire engines of the Municipal Fire Brigade, Hoshiarpur, rushed to the spot, saved about 100 jhuggis.

Mr Pritam Singh, SDM, along with other officers, including Mr Amarjit Hamrol, secretary, District Red Cross Society, reached the spot soon after the incident. Mr Pritam Singh said that as many as 38 jhuggis were destroyed in the fire and 182 migrant labourers living in them were affected.

He said that an immediate relief of Rs 5000 had been given to Charan Singh, father of Kirti.


2 students hurt in mishap
Our Correspondent

Kharar, February 24
Two students were injured when they were allegedly hit by an escort vehicle of a VIP near Mundi Kharar here today.

The injured persons are Balraj Singh and Jaswinder Singh. Both were on a motorcycle when the accident took place. They were taken to the local Civil Hospital from where Jaswinder Singh was referred to the GMCH, Sector 32, Chandigarh.


Jail Supdt denies branding of Dalit
Tribune News Service

Ropar, February 24
The Superintendent of Nabha Jail today denied the charge that a Dalit undertrial, Narinder Singh, was branded with demeaning word on his back by the jail officials, in a reply submitted in the court of the Additional District and Sessions Judge, Mr S.K Goel, here. Mr Goel has fixed the next hearing of the case for March 4.

The Superintendent in his reply claimed that Narinder, in connivance with other inmates had inscribed demeaning word on his back by using hot mustard oil with spoon. The inmates and other jail officials during inquiry of the case had denied that Narinder was beaten up by the jail officials and paraded naked, he added.


Man held for enacting cheating drama
Our Correspondent

Nawanshahr, February 24
The police has booked Surinder Singh who runs a money changer office here for allegedly enacting a drama of snatching a money bag containing more than Rs 2 lakh from him near Khatkar Kalan village on Tuesday.

Arun Pal Singh, SSP, in a press note issued here today, said the accused had informed the police that two unidentified persons attacked him with a sharp-edged weapon, while he was returning to Banga after withdrawing cash from a bank at Nawanshahr at about 11.50 am on Tuesday.

On the basis of his complaint,the police had registered a case under Section 392 IPC at the Banga police station. Mukhtiar Singh Dahiya,SP(D) and Jatinder Singh Benipal, DSP, Banga, were asked to enquire the case. During inquiry, they became skeptical about the authenticity of the complaint.

He confessed that he had fabricated a story with a view of grabbing the whole amount withdrawn from the bank which belonged to his two customers.


Seminar on welding technology begins
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 24
A seminar on welding technology today began at Sant Longowal Institute of Engineering and Technology (SLIET), Longowal. Nearly 500 delegates from various parts of the country are taking part in it.

Inaugurating the seminar Prof Vijay Gupta, Director, Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh, urged the technical institutions to introduce research activities at the post-graduate level courses in place of under-graduate courses in their respective institutions.

Mr S. Shankaran, Head, Welding Division, Larsen and Toubro, Mumbai, who was guest of honour said technical institutions should pay special attention towards the industrial training of their students in different industrial units, so that they could learn more practically and implement the same in their professional career in future. He also said that fabrication industries were growing in the country in a big way, due to which there was a big scope for engineers.


Punjab to develop rural business hubs
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 24
The Punjab Government will develop selective villages as rural business hubs to ensure a self-sustained economy.

This was stated by the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, at the CII while taking part in deliberations on rural business hubs organised here today. These hubs will be developed with the participation of farmers/ artisans from selective villages of Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Patiala, Amritsar, Bathinda, Sangrur and Ferozepore districts , in a phased manner, he said.

The Chief Minister said that the state government would soon constitute a Rural Business Hub Council to identify the potential areas. An awareness campaign for establishing these would also be launched soon. ‘‘ This concept will go a long way in supplementing the income of small and marginal farmers,’’ he said.

On this occasion, Mr Sunil Munjal, Former President of CII, said that rural hubs would be groups of 10 to 15 villages where specialised product development would flourish. These would be built through skill support and inputs from industry and NGOs, in collaboration with Panchayati Raj Institutions, he said.

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