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Wheat price down but flour still sells at Rs 11 per kg
Prices of dals, other items too rising
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 18
Although the wheat price has come down in the open market, the government authorities have failed to bring down the price of wheat flour. Private traders are buying wheat at Rs 655- 670 per quintal but selling wheat flour at Rs 11 per kg. Branded flour is selling at Rs 14 per kg.

It gives a clear indication that traders and flour millers have ganged up to keep the flour price high. Nearly 93 per cent of the wheat has been procured by the government agencies at the minimum support price (MSP), which is Rs 650 per quintal in Punjab and Haryana. In Punjab, 41.53 lakh tonnes of wheat had arrived in the mandis till last evening.

Of it, 3.42 lakh tonnes has been purchased by traders and flour millers and the rest by the government procurement agencies. Traders have bought wheat by giving Rs 10 to Rs 20 above the MSP, which means at a price ranging between Rs 660 and Rs 670.

A trader has to pay taxes and other levies on wheat to the state government and commission agents to the tune of Rs 80 per quintal. In the Chandigarh grain market, one has to pay lower taxes and levies. The rate of flour should be lower in the local market as compared to Punjab and Haryana markets. But that is not so.

By including transport and other charges, wheat costs about Rs 780 per quintal to a trader or flour miller. On the basis of this calculation, the wheat flour price should be in the range of Rs 9 to Rs 9.50 per kg. However, flour continues to sell at Rs 11 which was the price in November-December when the wheat price in the open market was about Rs 850 per quintal.

" If wheat flour is selling at such a high price now when the markets are flooded with wheat in Punjab, Haryana and even Chandigarh, but what will happen to its price after September?" says Krishan, a labourer. The Union Government's announcement to import 15 lakh tonnes of wheat has not even impacted the flour price.

Although the Union Government claims that inflation is under control, this claim is far from the truth. The cement price has gone up by Rs 70 per bag in the past few months. The price of steel has also gone up. Sugar is selling at Rs 21 per kg while its rate was in the range of Rs 18 last year.

Besides, their is about 50 per cent increase in the prices of various dals. About six months ago, mahan dal was available at Rs 38-40 per kg. Its price is now Rs 50 per kg. And washed mahan dal is priced at Rs 65 per kg. Take the case of moong dal. Washed moong dal is now selling at Rs 60 per kg. Its price was below Rs 40 only a few months ago. And then see the prices of diesel, petrol and cooking gas. These are shooting up .

" The UPA government has miserably failed to keep prices in check. Traders are making a fast buck. Cement factories have earned a huge profit in a short span. Even Left parties, which are supporting the UPA government from outside, have failed to protect the common man's interest. The Left parties speak almost on every issue except the rising prices", said Gurdev Singh, a middle-rung employee of the Punjab Government.

Obviously, not only poor sections but even the middle class has been hit hard because to the spiralling prices of various commodities, says Mr Gopal Chand, a Class III employee.


Private players rule roost in wheat procurement
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 18
Sheer economics has led to the private players playing a more active role in wheat procurement from the various mandis of Punjab. By offering anything between Re 1 to Rs 20 per quintal more than the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of Rs 650 per quintal , the private players have entered the Punjab market in a substantial way this year.

This year has seen the highest procurement of wheat by the private players. As compared to 2.45 lakh metric tonnes procured by the private traders in the entire rabi season last year, the private players have already procured 3. 42 lakh metric tonnes of wheat in Punjab till date. The percentage share of wheat purchase by the private traders is at an all time high of 8. 2 per cent as compared to the procurement by private traders and millers remaining static between 0.1 and 2.7 per cent in the past five years.

Till yesterday, 41.5 lakh metric tonnes of wheat had arrived in various mandis of the state. As of now, almost 70 per cent of the total expected wheat production is estimated to have reached the mandis. As the remaining produce arrives, the private traders are likely to buy more stocks.

When the procurement season had began on April 1, the private traders were initially purchasing over 20 per cent of the stocks, and paying farmers anything between Rs 700 - Rs 800 per quintal. In fact, a private company NCDX has offered farmers in Khanna as high as Rs 900 per quintal, if the farmers pledged their ;produce with them for sale in November.

However, as the mandis were flooded with wheat, the percentage share of procurement by the private traders vis -a -vis government agencies, has reduced to 8.2 per cent now, and the price offered above MSP is also just Re 1- Rs 20 more than the MSP.

Well placed sources in the Directorate of Food and Civil Supplies, Punjab, informed TNS that the role of the private players had remained restricted to a few mandis like Khanna and Rajpura - where the truck unions were not operational. The high freight charges (almost double the charges levied at mandis where unions are not there) quoted by the truck unions have kept the private millers away. While in Khanna and Rajpura, the private traders are paying Rs 10- RS 22 per quintal more than the MSP, in places like Samana, the farmers were getting just Re 1 over the MSP of Rs 650 per quintal.

It is alleged that many private traders, millers, commission agents, and even farmers are now stocking their produce, in the hope that a bonus of Rs 50 will be announced by the Central government. This is one of the reasons that less produce is arriving in the mandis. The state Agriculture department had initially predicted that 146 Lakh metric tonnes of wheat would be available this year. "The crop yield , too, is less and we had predicted 85 lakh metric tonnes would be arrive in the mandis. But with a low MSP, and the low profit offered by the private traders could have led to stocking by farmers," said a senior official in Food and Civil Supplies.


Chandumajra wants Rs 100 bonus on wheat
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 18
In light of a meagre increase in the minimum support price (MSP) of wheat for the current wheat procurement season and per acre low yield of the crop this year, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Longowal) today asked the Union Government to announce a Rs 100 per quintal bonus on wheat. It also asked the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, to prepare a case in this regard for presenting the same before the Centre.

Talking to The Tribune today, Prof Prem Singh Chandumajra, president of the SAD (Longowal), asked Capt Amarinder Singh not to support the wheat import policy of the Centre. He said in place of supporting the Centre’s policy, Capt Amarinder Singh should present the case of Punjab’s agitating farmers before the Union Government to stop import of wheat.


Farmers continue boycott of mandis
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 18
On the second consecutive day, farmers today boycotted the grain markets at several places in this district to protest against the import of wheat and the silence of the Union Government on increasing the minimum support price (MSP) of wheat.

The activists of the three BKU factions, — BKU (Rajewal), BKU (Lakhowal) and BKU (Ekta-Sidhupur) — today put up tents at some places in the district to make the boycott call a success.

According to the information, the farmers today also boycotted the grain markets at Sangrur, Bhawanigarh and Sunam in this area as they avoided bringing wheat to the grain markets.

Mr Gurjant Singh Mangwal, district president of the BKU (Rajewal), said their two-day call of the grain markets’ boycott remained successful as the farmers responded to the call in a big way.


Insurance scheme for BPL families succumb to red tape
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 18
An ambitious scheme of the Punjab Government to provide insurance cover for 2.50 lakh families living below poverty line (BPL), has been lost in the official red tape. No premiums are being paid by the government , hence no insurance payments are being made in case of deaths.

In 2003-04, the Punjab Government in partnership with the Central Government, launched the Jan Shree Bima Yojna. The state government released a sum of Rs 2.50 crore and a similar sum was released by the Central Government. As many as 2.50 lakh families were insured - Rs 25,000 in case of natural death and Rs 50,000 in case of accidental death. The scheme also provided for Rs 100 scholarship for all children of BPL families studying in class IX, X, XI and XII.

In the past two years, no premiums have been paid. Though a sum of Rs 3 crore was set aside in 2004-05, however, it was never released, said sources in the Punjab Government. During the financial year 2005-06, that has just ended, the government set aside a sum of Rs 1 crore again which was also not released. When the state government did not pay its part, the Central Government also backtracked.

Now the issue is being taken up within the government after the Deputy Commissioner of a district wrote to the government about four weeks ago, asking for funds or else the scheme would not benefit the targeted BPL families.

Now an approval is being sought from the Finance Department to release the money and revive the scheme. This will require payment of premium of Rs 2.5 crore so that the insurance cover of BPL families is restored and a matching grant is obtained from the Central Government.


Govt to take up raids issue with Centre
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 18
Disturbed over the raids on the residences of the two senior IAS officers of the Punjab cadre by the CBI last week here, the Punjab Government has decided to present it as an issue of violation of the Centre-state relations at the national level. The CBI has conducted raids in connection with the Forest Hill Golf Resort case.

Informed sources said the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, would raise this issue at an appropriate platform at national level. The issue is also expected to figure at his meeting with Prime Minister later this week. The Chief Minister is to meet the Prime Minister on April 20 or next day.

Source said the Punjab Government was under lot of pressure from the state bureaucracy which wanted that this issue should be taken up forcefully with the Union Government. In fact, sources said, bureaucracy had conveyed to the state government that it would not take any major decision if it (state government) failed to protect the two IAS officers, whose residences were raided.

As it is an election year, the state government needed the whole-hearted support of the bureaucracy to gear up the development work and to get several other “works done”. The help of IAS and PCS officers, especially those posted as sub-divisional Magistrates, is needed most during the election year for getting the things done”, says a senior politician. That is why the Chief Minister has taken a strong stand in support of the two IAS officers, he added.

The Chief Minister had strongly criticised the CBI for conducting raids on the residences of the two officers. The state government is of the view that many officers take confidential files to their residence for detailed study. And in case during raids, such files are taken away by the CBI, and the confidentiality element is compromised.

“The CBI should have taken the Chief Secretary or the political establishment in confidence before conducting any raid”, says a senior government functionary.


Ageing govt hospitals may turn young
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 18
With broken beds, leaking roofs and empty wards summing up the state of government-run chain of hospitals here, which include 115-year-old Victoria Jubilee Hospital, Guru Nanak Dev Hospital, TB Hospital and Ram Lal Eye Hospital, spread over 150 acres in separate buildings, the government has proposed relocation, conversion and optimum utilisation of these hospitals.

The project, submitted by former Medical Education and Research secretary Sarvesh Kaushal, is now pending with Chief Secretary K.R. Lakhanpal.

The report states that only 25 acres are required to set up a new medical college and a 500-bed hospital.

According to the report, the government medical college and its attached hospitals have around 1,000 beds and run nursing and other para-medical courses that require not more than 50 acres with modern planning and architecture.

The state government wants rational utilisation of “extremely precious existing under-exploited and idle assets” by converting these into state-of-the-art world-class health and education facilities.

In yet another proposal, Mr Kaushal has sought to convert the MSS (Maharaja Sawan Singh) Charitable Hospital, Beas, into a medical college/dental college.

The hospital has a vast complex near the “dera”, which has been providing medical facilities to people.

However, as per the norms of the Medical Council of India, only 25 acres are required for a medical/dental college.

A team of qualified doctors mans this 35-acre hospital, built at a cost of around Rs 40 crore.

Both, para-medical staff, and other skilled and unskilled employees are housed in a well laid-out residential colony planned to provide all necessary amenities.

Visiting doctors, both Indian and those from abroad, who serve at the hospital for short periods, are provided with residential accommodation.

The hospital complex also encompasses a “serai” (inn) for the free accommodation of dependents accompanying the patients. The “serai” has a capacity to accommodate 450 persons.

It is the first fully charitable health institution of the state, where medicines and food are given free of cost, besides medical treatment.

Dr J.S. Dalal, Principal, Government Medical College, in his report sent to Mr Kaushal states that Sri Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital is the erstwhile Victoria Jubilee Hospital built in 1891 to commemorate the 55th year of the reign of Queen Victoria.

This hospital was attached to a medical school for imparting clinical training to students in 1920. However, the medical school was upgraded to a medical college in 1943.

In 1954, another complex, Ram Lal Eye and ENT Hospital, was constructed, while Children Hospital came into existence in 1960.

Later, Guru Nanak Dev Hospital was built in 1974, while TB Hospital is being run in a separate building.

Mr Kaushal has proposed to the Chief Secretary to engage building consultants engaged in hospital construction.


Qila Ahluwalia restoration an ‘uphill task’
Ashok Sethi and Neeraj Bagga

Amritsar, April 18
On World Heritage Day today, conservationists felt that the over 150-year-old Qila Ahluwalia located in the heart of city needed a herculean task for restoration.

INTACH has prepared a preliminary conservation plan for the restoration of the Ahluwalia fort, which was built by the great Sikh warrior, Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, in the middle of the 19th century. Later, it was auctioned by the British Government in the early part of the 20th century and now it is owned by over 50 persons.

According to the present status report of the fort, which remained intact till Jassa Singh Ahluwalia stayed there, due to multiple ownership and pressure of urbanisation the fort is in a dilapidated state as a shopping-cum-residential complex. The interest to restore the historical fort was rekindled during a visit of the Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission, Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, at the beginning of this year.


No end to Durgiana panel row
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 18
The feud between the Durgiana Managing Committee (DMC) and its former president seems to be unending as the latter has fired another salvo against the new committee.

Mr Surinder Arjun, ex-president of the DMC, yesterday urged the Deputy Commissioner and the Senior Superintendent of Police to restore the management to the legally elected committee headed by him. He also urged the DC and the SSP to register a case of breaking open the toshakhana, grabbing of cash and valuables, trespass and illegally taking control of the managing committee. He urged the district administration and the police not to give credence to any communication of the unauthorised persons on behalf of the DMC.

Talking to the media, Mr Arjun said it was the duty of the district administration to enable the legal DMC headed by him to function in a normal way to run the affairs of the historic shrine. Regarding the claim and complaints of self proclaimed DMC, Mr Arjun said it had no locus standi to file such complaints on behalf of the committee. He said complaints against these persons about their trespassing the office of the committee and using the letterhead had been sent to the police and other authorities concerned. He said no elections could be held to the DMC by the executive members or any other committee as per the orders of the court of March 31,2001.

Meanwhile, Mr Harnam Das Arora, president, DMC, said the allegations against Mr Arjun were not baseless and everything was in black and white. He said the committee had no grudge against him and he was welcome to explain his position before the committee.


Canal repaired to check seepage
Our Correspondent

Abohar, April 18
Repair of a branch canal emanating from the Hussainiwala headworks has been completed in 100 days only. This is part of the Rs 100 crore project taken up by the government for augmenting the supply of water in canals in Ferozepore district.

Dr Mohinder Rinwa, Chairman, Punjab State Tubewell Corporation (PSTC) said here today that monitoring was undertaken to ensure qualitative construction. He inspected the works.

He said the branch line, with 67.29-km length was constructed in 1927 and had capacity of 2410 cusecs but its discharge had fallen to 2000 cusecs due to erosion in the banks. This resulted in the scarcity of water for irrigation and drinking in the Fazilka region. The Irrigation Department had to run sub-canals by rotation. The government had undertaken a project for reinforcing of the branch canal and sanctioned Rs 4108.67 lakh. It got approval from the NABARD. The works were inaugurated on January 8, 2006 and completed by now.

Dr Rinwa said the command area of the canal was fixed at 102760 hectares but only 76641 hectares of land got water due to seepage etc. Now besides irrigating the existing attached area spread over 26119 hectares it would be possible to add 7473 hectares also. The practice of running subcanals by rotation could easily be dispensed with now, he claimed. The repairs will usher in a new era in agricultural prosperity, Dr Rinwa hoped.


HC notice on plea by Russia-educated doctors
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, April 18
The Punjab and Haryana High Court today issued notice of motion for May 2 on a petition filed by Dr Prabhjot Singh and six others. The petitioners, all of whom have done their MBBS from colleges in erstwhile USSR, are seeking directions to the Punjab Government to consider them at par with the doctors who did their MBBS from elsewhere, including India.

They have challenged the criteria fixed by the Department of Rural Development and Panchayats, Punjab, with regard to the proposed selection of doctors on contractual basis for running dispensaries in rural areas.

The petitioners have stated while the other candidates have marks awarded to them in their MBBS degrees, they were awarded grades. The grades, they have stated, are accepted by the Medical Council of India, which clears their degrees only if they pass an examination conducted by the MCI in India.

However, during interviews conducted by the Punjab Government, they were told that all candidates whose original MBBS certificates contain percentage of marks obtained by them would be placed en-bloc above the applicants, like the petitioners, who had grades and not marks in their degrees.

Today, after hearing counsel for the petitioners, the Division Bench comprising Mr Justice J.S. Khehar and Mr Justice P.S. Patwalia, while issuing notice to the respondents for May 2, ordered that the selections made by the respondents would be subject to final outcome of the case.


Farmer commits suicide, lenders booked

Bathinda, April 18
Two private money-lenders were today booked in a case related to the suicide by a poor middle-aged farmer, Guradita Singh, of Kot Shamir village, near here, who took his life by consuming poison yesterday.

The FIR lodged by the members of the 44-year-old deceased’s family alleged that Guradita Singh took his life as he faced harassment at the hands of two Bathinda-based arhtiyas (money-lenders), Girdhari Lal and his son.

The Bathinda Sadar police has registered a case under Section 306/34, IPC, against the duo on the complaint of the deceased farmer’s son, Gurpreet Singh.

The farmer’s body was handed over to the bereaved family after a post-mortem examination at the Civil Hospital here. Guradita Singh’s wife has died due to sickness a few months back.

As per the complaint, Guradita Singh had been under pressure for the past few months as he was being harassed by the money-lenders for not returning their money.

Yesterday, Guradita, unable to bear the ‘’mental torture”, consumed poison at his home in the village, 10 km from Bathinda.

According to the complaint, Guradita disclosed at the hospital, where he died, that he had consumed poison as he was being harassed by the arhtiyas for not returning the loan amount.

A large number of farmers from Kot Shamir and nearby villages and local leaders and activists of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta) and the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugraha) had yesterday reached the hospital where Guradita Singh died.

According to Bathinda police station SHO Sukhdev Singh, the police was investigating the case. — UNI


2 killed in road accident
Our Correspondent

Malerkotla, April 18
Two persons were killed and two injured near Raikot village in an accident today.

According to information available, Nacchatar Singh and Sohan Singh were coming on scooter on the Raikot road when a car hit them. Both of them died on the spot.

The car, after hitting them, dashed against a tree. Two persons travelling by the car also got injured. The injured were admitted to a local hospital.


10 pc extra seats for Punjabi varsity
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 18
A meeting of the college development council of Punjabi University was held here under the chairmanship of the Vice Chancellor, Mr. Swarn Singh Boparai, in which, apart from the deans and officials of the university, as many as 28 principals of government and affiliated colleges took part.

In continuation of the initiative taken by the authorities to give a boost to higher education to rural people, the college development council gave approval to the VC's suggestion that 10% extra seats be created in all courses at college level from the next academic session. In postgraduate courses, at university level, this proposal is already under consideration for implementation.

In another significant decision, the scholarship scheme as well as providing free books to poor students from the college development fund has been extended from the coming session also.

Giving a brief overview of the developments that took taken place during the last academic year, the Dean, College Development Council, Prof R.S.Ghuman, appraised the members that now a total of 118 degree as well as professional colleges are affiliated to the university. Dwelling upon the fruitful outcome of academic tour of college principals to reputed 21 colleges of the South, he said that some new valuable courses are being introduced in various colleges as vocational value added courses and 60 such new courses were being identified for adoption.

Taking note of the non- serious attitude of some of the unaided affiliated colleges in recruiting the regular and qualified faculty, the college development council asked the university to take tough steps to streamline educational standards of these colleges. The Vice Chancellor immediately ordered that show cause notices be issued to all those who do not comply with the guidelines immediately. The council also approved the annual inspection reports of the various colleges.


BA III exams rescheduled
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 18
Panjab University here today re-scheduled some of the examinations of BA/B.Sc (General) Part-III, according to a press note issued by the Controller of Examinations.

Philosophy (paper II) scheduled to be held on May 1 will now be held on April 22 and the statistics (paper A) scheduled to be held on April 12 will now be held on April 20.

The principals of the colleges concerned as well as the centre superintendents have already been informed.


Govt should ‘fund’ maintenance of heritage sites
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 18
Nearly 200 students from schools, colleges and university formed a human chain around Summer Palace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh on World Heritage Day (WHD) observed here today under the aegis of the Amritsar Chapter of INTACH.

Dr Charanjit Singh Gumtala, President, Amritsar Vikas Manch, said the government should make provision in the Budget for maintaining heritage sites and send a delegation to Lahore to study how the Pakistan government had been maintaining Lahore Fort and Shalimar Bagh. He said the Pakistan government was getting $3 million from UNESCO for the maintenance of these two heritage sites.

Mr Sukhdev Singh, state convener, INTACH, appealed to the gathering to maintain their heritage not only of the holy city but even small articles of heritage value belonging to their forefathers. He said politicians and bureaucrats without applying minds and with mala fide intentions were approving maps of commercial and residential buildings around these sites thus threatening the existence of heritage sites.

Ms Sara Hundal, a student of Springdale Public School, said there was great neglect of heritage sites in Punjab and urged people especially the youth to save the heritage of the holy city. All these priceless works of art were under serious threat, she added.

Many school teachers present on the occasion said though there was need to upgrade the infrastructure and provide facilities to the general public but it should not be at the cost of any heritage sites. A painting contest and old game “Kotla Sipahi” were also held for schoolchildren.


Handing over of schools to panchayats resented
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 18
Protesting against the state government’s move to hand over 4,181 primary schools to panchayats, activists of the Anti-privatisation Action Committee today took to the streets here.

The rally that began from Teachers’ Home culminated at the mini-secretariat, where the protesters gave a memorandum to the Deputy Commissioner. Addressing the agitators, the committee leaders alleged that the government was shirking from responsibility of extending basic amenities like health and education to its populace, besides allowing big industrial houses and multinational firms to exploit people.

They alleged that the government was pushing the education system towards destruction by handing over these schools to panchayats and merging the rest with middle and high schools. They sought immediate withdrawal of this decision. They also demanded that the teacher-student ratio be made 1:25 as per the recommendations of Kothari Commission. 


National Children’s Festival begins
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, April 18
About 900 children from across the country dressed up in their traditional attire held a sadbhavana rally on the first day of the six-day National Children’s Festival at Chheharta, near here, today.

Gandhian leader Dr S.N Subba Rao, known for inspiring hundreds of feared dacoits of Chambal to surrender, flagged off the rally.

The festival was being hosted by the local Recognised and Affiliated Schools Association (RASA) under the aegis of the National Youth Project, New Delhi, at Government Senior Secondary School, Chheharta.

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