P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



SAD workers hold protest rally
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur April 25
Workers of the Youth Akali Dal today organised a protest rally against the alleged discrimination against farmers in Punjab. The workers organised a march through Gurdaspur town raising slogans against the state government and later organised a rally in the grain market.

The youth leaders termed the Rs 50 bonus on wheat announced by the Centre as insufficient. While the government was importing wheat at over Rs 1,000 per quintal, the farmers in the country were being paid just Rs 700, they alleged.

The youth leaders flayed the government decision against paying Rs 50 as bonus to the farmers who had sold their produce to private buyers. The farmers were forced to sell their produce to private buyers as the government was not paying them an appropriate price. If the farmers who sold their produce to private buyers were not compensated about 20 per cent of them would receive less than the latest minimum support price (MSP) announced by the government.

The youth leaders alleged that the Congress government at the Centre had failed to check the black marketeers and hoarders.

A large numbers of farmers had committed suicide due to the economic depression they were facing. However, the Punjab Government had failed to convince the Union Government for releasing any economic package to help the families in distress.

SANGRUR: Members and activists of the SAD youth wing, led by Mr Khushpal Singh Bir Kalan, district president, staged a dharna against the alleged anti-farmer policies of the Punjab Government and the Central Government near the new Grain Market here on Tuesday .

Addressing the dharna, the speakers asked the Union Government to announce a minimum support price (MSP) of wheat as Rs 1,000 per quintal. They also criticised the government for paying only Rs 650 per quintal as MSP for wheat and Rs 50 per quintal as bonus on wheat now.

They said it was a cruel joke with the farmers as on the one hand the Union Government was procuring wheat at Rs 700 per quintal from its own farmers, on the other, it was purchasing wheat at Rs 1,000 per quintal from abroad.

They said this attitude of the government would not be tolerated by the SAD and the farmers. They also held the government’s policies responsible for the suicides being committed by farmers in the state.

The protesters were addressed, among others, by Mr Khushpal Singh Bir Kalan, Mr Amarjit Singh Titu and Mr Vijay Sahni, all Youth Akali leaders. Later, the protesters handed over a memorandum, relating to their demands, to the Assistant Commissioner (General).


Aiyar upset over affairs of local bodies
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 25
The Union Minister for Panchayati Raj and Youth Affairs, Mr Mani Shankar Aiyar, today came face-to-face with the harsh reality of empowerment of Panchayati Raj institutions at Buladhewala village, near here, where the district administration was ill at ease explaining how much grant the village had received under various schemes. The ignorance about government schemes and funds sanctioned among panchayat representatives contradicted the rosy picture of the panchayats being painted in the state.

Visibly unhappy over the prevailing state of affairs, the Union Minister pulled up the officials. He said political leaders should also interfere in the working of the Panchayati Raj institutions. He minced no words in stating that red tape was hampering proper allocation of funds to the panchayats and added that he would raise the matter with the Chief Minister.

The minister was surprised when the village panchayat failed to reveal as to how much money they received under different schemes. The panchayat made it clear that none of the officials pay heed to its representatives.

The sarpanch and panches were also astonished to know from the minister that the Centre had first released funds to Punjab as per the 12th Finance Commission in July 2005, but the grants were yet to reach villages.

However, the Punjab Panchayat Minister, Mr Lal Singh, was quick to add that the state Finance Commission and Finance Minister, Mr Surinder Singla, were releasing so much money for rural areas that funds released under the 12th Finance Commission were not needed. When the Union Minister asked sarpanch Manjit Singh about any funds received from the state Finance Commission he could not come out with a reply.

The panchayat secretary concerned was sweating at that moment. The minister said there was no mention of the state Finance Commission grant in the documents given to him. He said the village panchayats should know about their rights. It was imperative for sarpanches to lodge a complaint when funds didn’t reach them. Interestingly, when the minister asked the sarpanch of Behman Deewana village about health and education in the village, her husband started replying.

The minister asked him to take his seat and let his wife reply to his query. Panchayat representatives could not reply many of the minister’s queries, which was a pointer to the fact that the real power still lied in the hands of government officials.

Later, addressing a gathering, Mr Aiyar said political interference was a bottleneck in the autonomy of Panchayati Raj institutions. He said he wasn’t against the Finance Minister granting funds to rural areas, but people should know about the schemes under which they received grants. He said the charge of six departments was not handed over to the panchayats in a scientific manner, which was why the panchayat representatives were still dependent on government officials. The minister was again shocked at a meeting with members of the Zila Parishad where its members seemed unaware about their rights and funds.

Interacting with mediapersons, the minister said the government was decentralising powers, but there was a need to improve the system for achieving this aim.


Wheat bonus: traders make fast buck
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 25
The Union Government's delayed announcement with regard to bonus on wheat has put the government procurement agencies in trouble in the region.

Agencies are facing a problem regarding the resale of wheat by traders at a revised rate of Rs 700 per quintal that includes minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 650 plus Rs 50 per quintal as bonus.

Informed sources said in various markets, traders had started disposing the stock of wheat, which they had bought at a price ranging between Rs 652 per quintal to Rs 670 during the past two weeks, at revised price of Rs 700 per quintal.

During the last two weeks, traders had been aggressively buying wheat from farmers by offering price slightly more than that of the MSP (Rs 650 per quintal).

However, the Union Government on April 21 announced to pay Rs 50 as bonus on wheat. After that traders started disposing the wheat stock purchased by them in the market to make a fast buck, it is learnt.

“We cannot stop traders from reselling the wheat which they bought only a few days ago”, said a senior official of a government agency. He said supposing if one trader had bought about 25,000 quintals of wheat from farmers at a rate of Rs 660 per quintal a week ago, he would straightway earn Rs 40 per quintal as profit by selling the wheat to government procurement agencies now. That meant that he would earn Rs 10 lakh even without sowing and harvesting a single grain of wheat, said the official.

In fact, the bonus had come as a gift for private traders. According to an estimate, traders have bought about 20 lakh tonnes of wheat in Punjab and Haryana. If they dispose that wheat at a revised rate of Rs 700, they would earn straightway Rs 80 crore in just two weeks.

At present, almost all wheat crop has been harvested. About 73 lakh tonnes of wheat has arrived in various grain markets till date in Punjab. About 8.5 lakh tonnes has been bought by private traders from various grain markets in Punjab. This purchase is part of the government record. Besides it, traders have also bought wheat direct from villages.

“We have no mechanism to stop traders from reselling the wheat. They can even sell the same in their own name as there is no legal hindrance to it”, said the agency official.

And farmers, who sold wheat to private traders, are not entitled for bonus as of now. However, the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, has asked the Union Government to give bonus to those farmers also who have sold wheat to private traders.

If the Union Government also pays bonus to farmers who sold wheat to private traders, it will be a double financial burden on it. On the one hand, it will have to pay bonus to farmers who sold wheat to private traders and on the other hand it will also be paying to private traders, who bought wheat from farmers at a less rate than that of Rs 700 per quintal during the past two weeks but are now selling the same to the government agencies at Rs 700 per quintal.

Meanwhile, there are reports that the Union Government had promised to increase MSP of wheat by Rs 50 to the Punjab Government.

This impression was also given to the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh and his team of officers by the Prime Minister on April 21 at a meeting in Delhi. However, when later, the Union Agriculture Minister, Mr Sharad Pawar, met the Prime Minister, the Union Government decided to give Rs 50 as bonus and not to increase the MSP of wheat from Rs 650 to Rs 700 per quintal.

Even till the midnight of April 21, the Punjab Government's senior officers continued to claim that the Union Government had increased MSP by Rs 50 per quintal though at a separate press conference on the same night, Mr Pawar had announced that it would be bonus on wheat and not MSP.


False report: suitable action against SI recommended
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 25
For allegedly implicating a Gurdaspur district family in a dowry harassment case, a Punjab Police sub inspector (SI) not only “fabricated a false report”, but also “destroyed” another report initially prepared in the matter. After being indicted by a senior Punjab Police officer, SI Jasvir Kaur has now been booked for forgery and other offences.

The case has once again brought into sharp focus the functioning of the Punjab Police at the subordinate level. Several cases of harassment to the groom and his family by police officials at the behest of the bride and the in-laws are already being probed into by senior functionaries.

In his report submitted to the Punjab State Human Rights Commission in the current case, Punjab’s Director-General of Police (Crime) recommended “suitable legal action under criminal laws against SI Jasvir Kaur — in charge of women's cell at Gurdaspur — for fabricating a false report with wrong dates and destroying the genuine first report”.

The DGP added that “due to her wrong doings a false FIR was registered” in the matter. The case, alleging subjecting a married woman to cruelty, was registered on June 11, 2004, under Section 498-A of the IPC at Police Station Dhariwal against Nirmal Kaur of Gurdaspur district and her family on a complaint submitted by her son’s father-in-law.

Recommending the cancellation of the FIR against Nirmal Kaur and her family, the DGP observed that the inquiry report prepared by the SI in the matter was “devoid of merit” and “prepared due to reasons other than facts of the case”.

He also recommended the “initiation of departmental inquiry against SI Jasvir Kaur for refusing to accept summons properly served on her in connection with the inquiry of the complaint”.

After considering the recommendations, the state Human Rights Commission, comprising chairperson Justice N.C. Jain and members B.C. Rajput, V.K. Sibal, N.K. Arora and Justice R.L. Anand, observed that “the recommendations incorporated in the DGP’s report were based on correct appreciation of facts of the case”.

The commission added that the “reply furnished by SI Jasvir Kaur in response to a show-cause notice under Section 16 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, does not carry any conviction.

She was given full opportunity to explain her position before the Inquiry Officer. Cogent reasons have been recorded in the report for indicting SI Jasvir Kaur for preparing a false report….”

The commission concluded that even the “role of senior officers, including the DSP and SP concerned in the whole episode, deserved to be looked into at the level of some senior ADGP of the state government.

After going through the report received from the DGP, we feel that their conduct may not be above suspicion. However, this may not be construed as any direct indictment of these officers since actual position may emerge only after the matter has been looked into….”


Merit overlooked in selection of teachers!
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, April 25
If the manner in which the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) has been sitting over the selection of Associate Professors in the government- run medical colleges is any indication, it can be safely concluded that in the process of recruitment, the merit has been given a go by and it is the will of the political leaders that matters the most.

The PPSC had advertised the posts of Associate Professor in pharmacology, microbiology, TB chest and ENT in May 2004 and the interviews of the eligible candidates were conducted in January this year. While selection of the candidates in all other subjects was completed within a fortnight or so, the fate of the aspirants for the post of Associate Professor in microbiology still hangs fire, allegedly due to political interference.

Information made available to The Tribune revealed that three candidates, fulfilling the desired qualifications and other criteria, had appeared for interview for the post of Associate Professor in microbiology. These included two MDs and one Ph.D.

An expert in the subject (a Professor at the PGI, Chandigarh, in this case) had reportedly selected an MD candidate from Ludhiana on the basis of experience and publications, showing a marked preference for a medical post graduate candidate rather than a Ph.D aspirant. The decision of the expert virtually threw a spanner in the working for the PPSC big wigs who wanted to appoint the Ph.D candidate on the recommendation of a senior political functionary of the ruling party.

While no one was prepared to go on record, it was learnt from sources that the said PGI Professor was subsequently called twice by the PPSC with a view to getting the result changed in favour of the Ph.D candidate without success. The expert, sources maintained, had stuck the ground saying there was no justification for such selection when a post graduate candidate with adequate experience was available for the post.

Repeated attempts to have the version of PPSC on this issue proved futile. A woman employee, identifying herself as PA to the Secretary said on the telephone: "Saheb busy hain. Ik hafte baad gal karna (The boss is busy. Contact after one week)."


Retired DSP plays conman at exam centre
Helps undertrial nephew in copying
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 25
A retired Haryana Police DSP and his younger brother, a drawing teacher with the Punjab School Education Board, who posed as an Assistant Sub Inspector, created ruckus in the examination centre at Khalsa College here today. According to reports a nephew of the two persons, who is undergoing a sentence in the high security Central Jail, was appearing for the M.A (Part II) examination at the centre.

The retired DSP and his brother reached the examination centre and pretended to be on guard duty with the undertrial, Prabjot Singh, who had been brought to the centre handcuffed. The undertrial was made to sit in the ‘‘solitary examination centre’’. Manoj Kumar, who posed as a policeman in mufti, insisted on sitting with the ‘‘student’’ on the plea that he had been directed by his senior not to leave the undertrial alone.

However, when the Superintendent, Prof Baljinder Singh, and the Deputy Superintendent, Prof Tarjit Singh, reached the examination centre, the commission agent was seen helping Prabjot Singh attempt the questions with an open book. When the Superintendent threatened to report the matter to the university for framing UMC, both the DSP and ‘‘imposter ASI’’ started threatening him. However, Dr Daljit Singh, Principal of the college, who immediately rushed to the examination centre noticed that the DSP belonged to the Haryana Police. On further investigation, the identity card of the officer established that he had retired in 2001.

Interestingly, policemen from Majitha police district, who were on guard duty with the undertrial remained mute spectators while this drama unfolded before their eyes.

The retired DSP has been identified as Harbhajan Singh. The other imposter was later identified as Sukhwant Singh.

A police team from Sadar Police Station immediately reached the examination centre. But the two persons were let off after they tendered a written apology to the college authorities.

Mr Harmanbir Singh Gill, S.P. (City), admitted that wearing uniform after retirement was a serious offence and added appropriate action would be taken against the two persons even though they had given a written apology. According to reports the undertrial had taken last examination also by adopting the same modus operandi but nobody had noticed him copying.

Khalsa College has been in news due to the use of unfair means in examination earlier also. As many as 32 students of BA (final), including national players, had fled with answer sheets and question papers when they were not allowed ‘‘mass copying’’ on April 17. Though Guru Nanak Dev University authorities took prompt action and framed UMC against these students, the police has not registered any case so far.


SAD (A) to back Haryana Sikhs
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, April 25
The Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) announced that it would support Sikhs of Haryana in protesting against SAD Chief Parkash Singh Badal’s arrival to inaugurate the SGPC-constructed Miri Piri Institute of Medical Sciences and Research at Shahabad Markanda (Haryana) on April 26.

Addressing media persons here today, Mr Ram Singh, general secretary, SAD (A), made it clear that the support must not be construed as his party was favouring separate committee for Sikhs in Haryana. He stressed that his party was in favour of the All-India Gurdwara Act.

Coming down heavily on the BJP’s Bharat suraksha yatra, he said its two-day journey in the state from May 3 would vitiate the communal harmony. In the same breath, he denounced Mr Badal for supporting the yatra. He said it made clear that Mr Badal was not only towing the line of the BJP but also its mother organisation RSS.

He said his party, employing democratic ways, would stop the yatra from entering the holy city.

He said the SAD (A) would hand over a memorandum to the Deputy Commissioner to be forwarded to the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, for stopping the yatra from entering Punjab on April 27.


BSP seeks resurvey of BPL families
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 25
A deputation of the Bahujan Samaj Party, led by Mr Ran Singh Mehlan, general secretary, Punjab unit, today met the Deputy Commissioner, Mr S.R. Ladhar, and submitted a memorandum of demands to him.Their demands included resurvey of persons living below the poverty line (BPL) in the district, fix per quintal price of the wheat at Rs 500 for the labourers and provide houses to the homeless.


Thermal units’ closure worsens power crisis
Tribune News Service

Ropar, April 25
A major power cut was today imposed in Punjab as the four units of the three thermal plants in the state, including two in the Super Thermal plant, Ropar, one in Lehra Mohabbat and one in Bathinda remained closed.

The PSEB has extended five to eight hour cuts in the cities, while 12 to 14 hours in rural areas triggered by shortage of 200 lakh units surfaced in the state.

PSEB sources said the Unit-1of the 210 MW in thermal plant, Ropar, and one of 210 MW capacity in the Lehra Mohabbat thermal plant were shut down since yesterday and required more days to become operational.

With the closure of these two units, the state has been suffering a loss of 100 lakh units per day. While unit-6 of 210 MW capacity of thermal plant, Ropar, and one unit of 110 MW capacity in Bathinda has been shut down for the annual maintenance. The power consumption in the state has been increased to 925 lakh units, while power supply from all sources is 725-lakh units.

The power supply from thermal plants in the state is about 300 lakh units, 160 from hydel projects, 280 from other sources.

The power supply from the hydel project is less besides the Mukerian hydel project.

The power generation at the Ranjit Sagar Dam has also been stopped due to maintenance of Madhopur headworks, added the sources.

The General Manager, thermal plant, Ropar, Mr N.K. Arora, said due to leakage in the boiler, the Unit-1 had been shut down, the engineers had checked the damages and it would most likely become operational within two days, he added.



Forest cover only 6.33 pc: Joshan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 25
The Forest Minister, Punjab, Mr Hans Raj Joshan, here today inaugurated a two- day national seminar on “Trees outside Forest”. The seminar is being organised by the Department of Forest and Wildlife Preservation.

Mr Joshan said there was a need to grow trees outside the forest areas also to maintain environmental balance. He said there were problems in increasing the forest cover in predominantly agricultural states such as Punjab, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.

There is a national policy to have 33 per cent forest cover in a state. However, Punjab's forest cover is only 6.33 per cent of its total land area.

In the country, 23.68 per cent area is under the forest cover. However, the Planning Commission wanted it to be increased to 33 per cent till 2012. At the seminar, Dr G.K. Prasad, Additional Director-General of Forest, delivered the keynote address.


3 hurt in accidents

Kharar, April 25
Three persons got injured in separate accidents around Kharar here today. Jagdeep Singh got injured when a collision took place between his Indica car and a tractor-trailer near Basanwali Chungi.

Two persons sustained injuries in another accident near Daon Majra village. OC


Rs 4.4 lakh robbed from SBI branch
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, April 25
Three armed robbers today struck at the State Bank of India (SBI) branch at Bam village located on Muktsar-Abohar road, 15 km from here, and fled with Rs 4.4 lakh after injuring the cashier with a gunshot.

According to sources, the robbers reached the bank on a red Hero Honda motor cycle, which didn’t have any registration number, at about 12.15 p.m. and switched off all lights. They had covered their faces and two of them were sporting turbans.

Armed with pistols, they entered the cabin of bank manager Ravinder Singh Mehra and asked him to hand over the entire cash kept in the bank. When the manager said he didn’t have any cash, they headed towards cashier R.C. Sedhwal who resisted their attempt to loot money.

Irked at his opposition, one of the robbers fired at him, following which the cashier along with three other staff members ran towards the bathroom and locked themselves in it. The robbers didn’t stop and broke open the door before forcing them to open the locks of safe and hand over the cash to them.

They fled with the cash on their bike.

Eyewitnesses said one of them was continuously keeping an eye on the situation outside the bank while his aides were robbing the bank.

Surprisingly, the bank didn’t have any guard on duty at the time of robbery. Sources said the guard, Nachhatar Singh, had not been coming to the bank since April 15 without giving any information. No alternative arrangement had been made for the bank’s security.

Meanwhile, the cashier, who received a bullet injury in his right arm, has been admitted to the Civil Hospital, Muktsar. The cashier said the robbers also took away his mobile handset.

Top police officials inspected the crime scene and said checkposts had been set up at various points to nab the culprits.


18 persons rounded up in murder case

Amritsar, April 25
The district police has rounded up 18 suspects for questioning in the sensational Sunil Bhatia, a goldsmith, murder case. The police continues to be under a lot of pressure from the agitating goldsmith fraternity which had downed their shutters for the past four days.

Sunil Bhatia was killed by six unidentified persons while he was returning home after closing his shop in Guru Bazaar on April 21. The accused robbed him of his valuables worth crores of rupees and escaped. SP (City-11) Harmanbir Singh Gill said the police was expecting vital clues from the suspects. — OC


Five held for cheating
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, April 25
On the intervention of local persons, the Dasuya police has arrested five members of a gang of cheaters, including their leader Jasbir Singh of Uchhi Bassi, for duping Sohan Singh of Kalran village of Rs 25,000 in the name of getting his son Gurpreet Singh recruited in the Army.

According to police sources, they were identified as Kuldip Singh of Garhdiwala, Ravinder Kumar of Uchhi Bassi, Happy Singh of Lohgarh and Sukhjinder Singh of Bulhowal. Sources said that Jasbir Singh demanded Rs 1.20 lakh from Sohan Singh to get his son recruited in the Army. He paid Rs 25,000 as advance on April 4, 2006. Last evening Jasbir Singh, along with his accomplices, came in an Indica car (HR-51-H-9394) to the house of Sohan Singh for collecting the remaining amount. Sohan Singh informed the Sarpanch of the village in this connection. The villagers at once assembled there and overpowered them when they tried to flee.

Later they handed over them to the police. The police has impounded the Indica car and seized Rs 70,000 from their possession and booked all of them under Section 420, IPC.


Engineering students given farewell

Rajpura, April 25
The Chitkara Institute of Engineering and Technology bid adieu to its first batch of engineering students on its campus at Jhansla village here.

With the theme “Abientot” meaning “see you soon” (in French), junior students presented cultural items, dances, songs and skits showing hard work and enjoyment of college life.

Varun Ojha and Seema Arora were adjudged Mr and Ms Farewell. While Mohit Rai was adjudged the most deserving all-rounder student for the college colour, Pranav Arya was declared sports star of the college.

The best dressed male and female titles went to Kushal Verma and Damanpreet Kaur, respectively. Dr Ashok Chitkara, chairman of the Chitkara Educational Trust, also launched the college souvenir at the function.

The following students were given the Abhinav Award for cultural activities: Amandeep Singh Sidhu, Hardeep Singh, Sarabdeep Singh, Seema Rani, Harsimrat Kaur and Birsimran Singh. TNS


All girls’ school band makes debut
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 25
As the resounding thuds of hoof beats receded, the melodious notes of “Rajasthani” filled the air with pipers, drummers and buglers attired in green checked skirts marched down the dusty tracks.

It was the all-girl band from Kirpal Sagar Academy (KSA), Nawanshahr making its debut public performance at the Chandigarh Horse Show today. It is among the two all-girl school bands performing at the week-long show.

The KSA Senior Girls Band, as it is called, comprises 27 musicians, with equal numbers on bagpipes, drums and bugles, besides the band leader.

“We set up the band just about a year ago and it has been played only in the school so far,” the band instructor, Harbans Singh said. “We are thinking of expanding it and also setting up a boys band in the academy,” he added.

“We practice twice a day, at PT and during games classes daily,” the band leader, Sonia Parmar said. “We have performed many times at school functions, but to play at events like this is a big boost,” she said.


2,141 teachers promoted
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 25
The Punjab Government today promoted 2,141 ETT and JBT teachers to the master cadre which includes 214 teachers of mathematics, 412 of science, 271 of Punjabi, 303 of Hindi and 881 of social studies, a press note issued by the government said.

Mr Harnam Das Johar, Minister for School Education, Punjab, said he had desired to promote the teachers earlier but due to the ongoing academic session and the annual examination process, it was not possible.

The promotion process would be completed before the summer vacations in the schools. The promotions of teachers under the category of classical and vernacular subjects, ministerial staff, masters, lecturers, head masters and principals would be promoted at the earliest and directions to the senior officers, have been issued in this regard.

Mr Johar said the 15 per cent quota out of total sanctioned strength of master cadre, was being filled through promotions of ETT and JBT teachers. A total of 3075 vacant posts are to be filled through this process. Out of this, 2141 teachers have been promoted, the remaining vacancies would also be filled through promotions.

The promoted teachers have to report at the transferred station within one month, otherwise it would be deemed that the teacher has not accepted the promotion. Such teacher would be debarred for promotion for the next two years, said a spokesperson for the Punjab Government.

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