Unholy nexus in the Holy City
City lawyer now a member of Income Tax Tribunal
Evolving new educational concepts
Marriage of disabled couple solemnised
NGO publishes booklet on environment
Land sharks, in connivance with politicians and bureaucrats, are eating into the city’s green spaces. What is even more alarming is that black money is being pumped into the real estate business in
Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s dream of building Amritsar as the most modern city with green spaces all around the periphery lies shattered. Concrete monoliths are dotting the city’s landscape today. All this is thanks to the land sharks, coupled with unimaginative vision of the Town Planning Department, Municipal Corporation and Improvement Trust authorities.
The Maharaja wanted to pay his tribute to Guru Ram Dass, founder of the city, by ensuring smooth and planned development of the city by providing adequate infrastructure all around.
Unfortunately, the land mafia is slowly but surely erasing the not-so-distant memories of the famous green boulevard of the city. It is changing the land use of the major thoroughfares, including the Mall Road. Old trees that carry ‘heritage value’ are being axed to pave way for concrete jungles.
People, unmindful of the consequences, have started investing in real estate for speculative purposes by taking huge loans from banks.
Giving thrust to the rampant colonisation, recently Chief Minister Amarinder Singh came to Amritsar to lay the foundation of a private real estate. He, however, chose to ignore the inauguration of the high-tech bus stand.
The most disturbing factor is that the lush green fields, including famous orchards on Amritsar-Jalandhar, Rajasansi, Majitha and bypass roads, have been converted into new residential and commercial colonies, much to the chagrin of environmentalists who rue the wanton destruction of green patches.
All this has given a boost to private builders and colonisers to come up with all conceivable new colonies in and around Amritsar, enticing NRIs and local residents with tall promises of providing ‘world class infrastructure’.
Hundreds of such colonies, both legal and illegal, have sprung up in the periphery of the city. Majority of them are being promoted by land sharks, who have a nexus with politicians and top bureaucrats. Many Delhi- based builders, too, have joined the fray to promote the colonies. Majority of these new colonies are being promoted by ruling party functionaries, throwing to the winds all bylaws and site plans.
The whole thing works out quite simply. A farmer sells his fertile land on Amritsar-Jalandhar road for Rs 10 lakh per acre only. But an influential coloniser prepares attractive drawings of the ‘dream colony’ on costly, glazed paper to attract the NRIs, and sells the land for Rs 6000 per square yard!
A large chunk of black money has been invested into the real estate by many senior politicians, top bureaucrats who have virtually purchased benami properties in the periphery of the city.
All this is in stark contract to the builders from Delhi who have offered infrastructure with broad roads, green spaces, round the clock power and water supplies, besides offering security to residents.
The nexus between politicians and bureaucrats who have high stakes in the real estate has ensured illegal sewerage and water supply facilities in the newly-developed unauthorised colonies in various parts of the city.
Shockingly, the government has been losing huge revenue due to ‘benami transactions’ through the ‘power of attorneys’.
With the lopsided and ill-planned growth of the city, freedom fighters and stalwarts who have been the pillars of Amritsar’s rich historical tradition are likely to pass into oblivion. Our leaders have no time to install the statue of Master Tara Singh, a great Sikh leader, which has been gathering dust in Delhi for the last about four years. Similar treatment has been given to other freedom fighters belonging to Amritsar.
There has been an alleged disregard of norms and bylaws in the sale of prime government lands that could not have been sold without proper auction.
The Improvement Trust seems to have forgotten that it is a ‘custodian’ of the public property and enjoys no rights to abdicate its responsibilities and also it has no right to hand over the land arbitrarily. Interestingly, the Shiromani Akali Dal supremo, who had promised to run his government on the pattern of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s government, had turned a blind eye to the rampant encroachments on way to Harmandar Sahib, say observers. So much so, the widening of the road from Jallianwala Bagh to the Golden Temple by giving huge compensation worth crores to the owners had served little purpose, as the powers-to-be at that time allowed shops to open up opposite Jallianwala Bagh. (This led to frequent traffic bottlenecks.)
Many ‘non-historical’ and ‘unauthorised’ shrines also sprung up in the periphery of Harmandar Sahib allegedly to safeguard the interests of shopkeepers, say observers. Intriguingly, the Badal government “allowed” the unauthorised construction during its five-year term.
However, the ‘beautification of the surroundings of Harmandar Sahib’, an ambitious project of the Central government, could not be completed during the Badal regime.
Interestingly, the Congress MLA, Mr Birdevinder Singh, has raised his voice against the land mafia operating in the Holy City. He has provided enough evidence on the floor of the Punjab Assembly about the nexus between land sharks, politicians and bureaucrats.
Apart from embarrassing his own government, he provided enough ammunition to the Opposition Akali Dal /BJP to start a war of words, leading to adjournment of the House. But observers say that while cornering the ruling Congress, the SAD/ BJP “forgot its own apathetic attitude” towards the planned development of the city.
Calendar depicting Hindu deities released in Pakistan
The Hindu Jatha that returned from Pakistan brought back calendars bearing pictures of Hindu gods and goddesses released for the first time there during their holy Katasraj pilgrimage.
Released by the Krishna Temple Trust at Lahore by the trust’s founder president, Mr Davender Kumar Ghai, and secretary, Mr Munawar Chand, to mark Shivratri, the calendar shows pictures of Lord Shiva and his consort, Parvati, besides Lord Ganesh.
The calendar has also been sponsored by the Anglo Asian Friendship Society.
It mentions all important dates corresponding with the occasions, including Basant Panchami, Baisakhi, Buddh Purnima, Divali and Holi. Although some spellings have been miss-spelt according to the norms here, like “Ram Navami” has been written as “Ram Nami” .
Mr Surinder Arjun, president of the Durgiana Temple Management Committee, welcomed the release of the calendar.
The 176-member Hindu Jatha, including 20 women, led by Mr Inder Mohan Goswami of the Sanatam Dharam Pratinidhi Sabha, returned after a week-long pilgrimage to Katasraj temples located in Chakwal district of Pakistan. The jatha’s head presented a memorandum to the Chairman of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), Gen (retd) Zulfikar Ali Khan, demanding early commencement of a bus from Amritsar to Katasraj on the pattern of the Amritsar-Nankana Sahib bus service.
Besides, the pilgrims demanded due attention to efforts at preservation and restoration of historical shrines in Katasraj that continue to be in ruins despite announcements of restoration.
Mr Surinder Kumar Billa, president, All India Hindu Shiv Sena, said the number of pilgrims in each Hindu jatha should be increased from the present 200 to 1500 and the frequency of pilgrimages be raised to four times in a year. He said the matter would be taken up with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in consonance with other organisations.
City lawyer now a member of Income Tax Tribunal
What if a strapping swimmer is told to concentrate
his mind to just keep his balance, to remain afloat?
That’s how tough is to sit in judgment after a vibrant and energetic career as a top-notch tax lawyer fighting cases, countering points, hunting for loopholes and presenting a case that makes ones adrenalin flow, Mr Salil Kapoor says.
Mr Kapoor is only the second lawyer from the city to be elevated to the post of a judicial member of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal in Mumbai in the tribunal’s 66 year history. The coveted selection, cleared by the Union Cabinet, presided over by the Prime Minister, is equivalent to the post of the Additional Secretary, Government of India (Ministry of Law and Justice).
“The Income Tax Act came into being under the British rule in 1922 and the tribunal in 1939. Before that, there was only a haphazard taxation regime,” Mr Kapoor added.
After the selection of Mr Vimal Gandhi — a resident of the city— who is presently President of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal as a judicial member in 1986, Mr Kapoor has been the first person from the city in the past 20 years to be selected as a member of the tribunal.
As many as 52 Income Tax Tribunals operate nationwide in 25 cities, with one for Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir and another for Chandigarh.
It is no mean achievement that this former lawyer and now a tribunal member has the added distinction of representing the country in an international swimming championships in Colombo.
“Sports teaches not only toughness but also how to keep a level head in the face of extreme pressure. This foundation gives one an added balance in life,” he says.
Mr Kapoor has fought several cases up to the level of the Supreme Court in his career spanning 22 years.
On a serious note, he says, “Ones personal life changes drastically as one sits in judgment in cases involving top guns of the country including the crème de la crème of film, fashion and music industry, diamond merchants, shipping tycoons, bulls of the share market, besides MNCs and airlines, involving legal disputes to the tune of thousands of crores of rupees in revenue.”
Mr Kapoor, whose wife, Ms Bela Kapoor, is also a lawyer, besides his father, Mr Sudarshan Kapoor, considered as one of the sharpest brains in taxation law, says casual socialising is curtailed and one is always conscious about environment, people and freely airing views and opinions.
On the thousands of pending cases in courts across the country, Mr Kapoor says only “computerisation” and subsequent “bunching of similar cases” could solve the problem.
For Dr Kuldip Singh Thind, an NRI, spreading the message of Gurbani and Sikhism through the Internet and computer technology is a mission.
This Amritsar-born doctor settled in the US for about 30 years, is rendering this service for many years.
He has been producing CDs on Gurbani since 1984 and distributing these all over the world free of cost.
Dr Thind was in the Holy City recently to give a presentation on such a Gurbani
The doctor has even produced some Gurmukhi and Hindi fonts for the computers and since 2004 he has been making Unicode Gurmukhi fonts based on international standards.
His Gurbani CD project led to the computerisation of text of Guru Granth Sahib to near perfection. This Unicode runs only in Microsoft Windows XP and are freely available on www.gurbanifiles.org.
Dr Thind said that for the use of the text of Gurbani on the Internet, he developed databases relating to Guru Granth Sahib, besides developing many other specialised files of the holy book to help Sikh scholars.
He also converted fi9les of Guru Granth Sahib to Devnagri and did phonetic transliteration of the text of the holy book.
Talking to The Tribune, Dr Thind said he also created specialised files to allow easy searching and printing of Gurbani Kirtan.
Dr Thind also put the translated text of Bhai Manmohan Singh on the Internet in sentence-by-sentence format. “It was a labourious work.”
He said he had also helped make web pages of a number of websites relating to the translation and phonetic transliteration of Guru Granth Sahib.
Dr Thind has made major contributions for www.srigranth.org — a website maintained by his son, Mr Jasjeet Singh Thind.
The site is an advanced search engine and a repository of many translations and teekas of the holy scripture of Sikhs in an interactive format.
Annual convocation at Government Dental College
Twentynine graduates and 11 post graduates students were conferred with BDS and MDS degrees respectively at the 49th annual convocation of the Punjab Government Dental College and Hospital here recently.
Dr Ravinder Singh, Vice-Chancellor of the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences was the chief guest.
Also present was Mr Jugal Kishor Sharma, MLA and Chairman, Improvement Trust.
Dr Amarjit Singh Gill, Principal of the college, while presenting the annual report, said that the government had approved a grant of Rs 8.27 crore for upgrading facilities in the college and add new specialties on areas like community dentistry, dental medicine and dental pharmacology.
He said the work had already been initiated. Dr Gill added that the government had also increased the number of posts in the college from 32 to 44.
Set up in 1952 by Dr M. L. Watts, the college has produced a large number of professionals. Established as fragment of De Montmorency College of Dentistry, Lahore, the college, still has its connection with Pakistan with instruments brought by students and staff who had migrated to India after the Partition.
The college offers degrees in BDS, MDS, pedodontics, prosthodontics, periodontology, conservative dentistry and oral maxillofacial surgery and others.
The four new specialties being planned include orthodontics, oral pathology, oral medicine and community dentistry.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr Ravinder Singh stressed on the need to improve the education system with special emphasis on practical knowledge. He said the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences was contemplating compulsory computer courses in all the medical institutions under it.
A grant of Rs 2 lakh was given to the college by the university for the development of the college.
The students who had excelled in sports and other activities were also honored on the occassion.
City girl to represent India
Inspired by her coach, 13-year-old Keerat Kullar chose gymnastics as a career over three years ago, even though she never thought of making it big.
Last month, Keerat was chosen to represent India at the Commonwealth Games to be held in Australia later this year.
Keerat says she never took her exercises and training schedules lightly. “I had a feeling to do better than the previous day.”
A student of seventh standard in Spring Dale Senior School, Keerat has an array of gymnastics titles under her belt. She clinched three gold and two silvers medals in the National Junior Gymnastic Championship held at Imphal (Manipur) in February. On the merit of her performance, she was absorbed in the national team for the Junior Asian Games.
She was adjudged the second best all-round gymnast in the 51st Schools National Gymnastics Championship held in January at Warangal, Andhra Pradesh.
Apart from this, she also secured three bronze medals in the 44th Junior National Gymnastic Championship held at Coimbatore in March 2004, and two silver medals in the 49th National School Games Gymnastic Championship.
Besides, she has also won four gold and one silver medals in the Punjab State Junior Championship and five gold medals in the Open District Championship held last year.
Presently, Keerat is preparing for the international event by taking part in the India camp for the Commonwealth Games at NIS, Patiala.
Acknowledging her performance, the Sports Authority of India granted her a Rs 6,600 scholarship.
Evolving new educational concepts
Angel’s Paradise, a pre-school for tiny tots, has a new educational concept.
The newly-opened school has replaced classroom education by indoctrinating theme education. The principal of the School, Ms Muskan Kapoor, who had learnt the art of pre-school teaching from Mumbai, said it had been a concern of all the parents that the present generation of children should have an overall development and not traditional educational curriculum.
She said the new concept of the present day education system was based on multi-activity syllabus, so the children could pick up the strings from a young age and adapt themselves to the new pattern independently. Explaining the basic fundamentals, she said the conventional environment of study had to be changed and the children were to be educated through activities like drawing, music, sport, theatre and toys.
She said the entire school had been provided with modern infrastructure and designed as an amusement park — a “dream world for the child to get involved in the activity-based education system”, so that this method could help them to get attuned to the changing environment.
‘Sunny’ side up for Bollywood
Punjabi flavour, according to actor Sunny Deol, is today Bollywood’s reigning mantra and it sells across the world unlike anything else. The cine star was in the city to shoot for “Kafila”, a film which dwells on Punjabi youths leave the country illegally in search of green pastures abroad.
Sunny said that given a chance, he would like to act in a Punjabi movie. “I do not have any mental barrier. It all depends upon the subject.”
Countering a question that most Punjabi directors and script writers felt that the reason behind lack of interest in movies from the state was due to the increasingly use of Punjabi folk songs and music in Hindi movies, the actor said Punjabis at large must feel good that their culture and language was being projected across the globe through Bollywood.
Sunny said it would be parochial to divide culture for a particular region. “One must understand that Bollywood is playing a uniting role by projecting various cultures of the country.”
On the prominence of Punjabi culture in Hindi movies, he said it could be attributed to the large presence of people from Punjabi background in the industry.
Sunny said he considered “Apne” as his dream project since his father, Dharmendra, and younger brother, Bobby Deol, were acting in it with him. The film, he said, would be released later this year.
The star of “Gadar”, along with the cast and crew of the film, visited the Wagah border on March 4 to witness the beating retreat ceremony.
Sunny said he always wanted to join the defence services. “But fate had something else in store for me.”
Pakistani actress Sana, who is playing the role of the heroine in “Kafila”, said that 90 per cent of the movie had been shot. “The remaining part will be completed in Mumbai.”
Tracking the past through monorail
They had seen the operational monorail train standing as a museum piece in the railway workshop here. The father-son duo, residents of Green Avenue here, then found a monorail train of the same make and manufacturer standing in the National Rail Museum in Delhi.
Major (Retd) Gill and his son, Lieut-Col Gill said that in the museum, there were a number of engines and bogies brought from various provinces and princely states.
The duo clicked photographs and a curiosity propelled them to know in detail about the monorail train in the Holy City.
Subsequently, they discovered that not only were both the engines were of the same model, but also manufactured by the same German company— Orenstein and Koppal— in 1907.
The monorail train in Delhi was earlier owned by the princely state of Patiala and later, the train became the property of the Indian Railways.
While one of the wheels of the train is on the track, the other bigger one runs on the road to keep the train upright.
She dreamt of a wedding in lavish style. But she had apprehensions that her dream may not be fulfilled, as she had been hearing impaired since birth. Also, she did not have the “gift of speech”.
Her family’s economic resources, too, were limited. However, on March 6, Kulwant Kaur tied the nuptial knot with one Swaran Singh working as a munshi in the local court. He is physically challenged. It was a dream come true for Kulwant.
She is thankful to Mr Pradeep Singh Walia, chairman of the Guru Nanak Bhalai Mission, who roped in the Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia Memorial Society to make the wedding grand.
— Neeraj Bagga
NGO publishes booklet on environment
The Amritsar Vikas Manch (AVM) has come out with a small booklet titled “Pollution Primer”.
Authored by Dr Bhajan Singh Lark, a retired professor of chemistry at the Guru Nanak Dev University, the booklet is divided into 10 chapters, which covers aspects of pollution in a lucid question and answer format and helps acquire crisp information in a quick form.
There are around 450 questions on environment, earth, air pollution, ozone layer depletion, global warming, water pollution, population, forests and deforestation and noise pollution.
The book advises youngsters on harvesting rainwater, preserving drinking water, reducing usage of plastic bags, blowing pressure horn, harnessing solar energy and preserving trees.
Mr Charanjit Singh Gumtala, the AVM president, said that an Environment Awareness Test would be held for the students under the aegis of the Punjab State Council for Science and Technology, Chandigarh, and certificates would be given to the successful candidates.
Over 50 clients participated in the customer’s meeting organised by the Punjab and Sind Bank (PSB) held recently. Mr G.S. Matta, Executive Director of the Bank, said the aim of direct interaction with the customers was to know their grievances. He also reviewed business growth of the branch. A meeting of the local branch managers was also held during which Mr Matta exhorted field functionaries to make optimum use of favourable policies towards recovery of bad loans. The Executive Director stressed that all out efforts must be made to enhance lending to key areas, including farm sector, housing, education and retail sector. He informed that around 50 branches of the Bank would be inter-connected by the end of this year. Besides, ATMs at major centres would also be installed.
Mr Satinderpal Singh has been nominated as General Secretary of the Punjab Pradesh Youth Congress (PPYC) with immediate effects by Mr Raminder Awla, president of the PPYC. This was informed in a press release issued here.
Sri Guru Harkrishan Public High School (Chief Khalsa Dewan), Mehal Jandiala, celebrated the Parkash Utsav of tenth Sikh Guru Gobind Singh with great fervor and enthusiasm. After bhog of sehaj path, elaborated Diwan were arranged and decorated in open Pandal. Hazuri Raagi Bhai Harnam Singh Jatha enthralled the Sangat by reciting religious and holy shabads. Dr Ratan Singh Ajnala, MP, inaugurated the newly-constructed block of the school on the occasion. He applauded the achievements and development of the school.
Mr Sunil Datti, the city Mayor, and Mr Jugal Kishore Sharma, the chairman of Amritsar Improvement Trust, inaugurated the latest Provogue studio at Kapoor house here. The exclusive studio would retail Provogue’s entire range of menswear, womenswear and accessories.
(Compiled by Pawan Kumar)