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Panchayat Union serves ultimatum on govt
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 29
Buoyed by the support given by the Union Minister for Panchayati Raj, Mr Mani Shankar Aiyar, regarding the rights of panchayats, the Panchayat Union, Punjab, today served an ultimatum on the state government asking it to either empower panchayats in the real sense or face an agitation.

The president of the union, Mr Sukhdev Singh Bareke, told The Tribune that the state government had assured the union that it would implement the decisions taken on all demands by March 31 last. However, nothing had been done in this regard. " We have no alternative except to launch an agitation", said Mr Sukhdev Singh. He said the union had held a meeting with the Chief Secretary and other officers concerned in February with regard to its demands.

"Our delegation will leave for Delhi to meet Mr Aiyar on May 10. He has invited us to a meeting there", Mr Sukhdev Singh added. " I had met Mr Aiyar during his recent visit to Punjab to inform him how successive state governments had been denying powers, which had been given under the Constitution, to the panchayats", he said.

Neither the previous SAD-BJP government nor the present Congress regime had given any power in the real sense to the panchayats. " In government files, village-level jobs of six departments have been handed over to the panchayats. However, in practice nothing has been done in this connection", he asserted.

He said the panchayats had been given the responsibility to operate waterworks but had no control over the government officials posted there. In such a situation, it was difficult to operate the waterworks efficiently.

The union's main demand is the provision of all facilities, including those relating to health, education, development, drinking water, the telephone service, banking services and power supply, on a par with those available in the urban areas. " What is disturbing us is that the government is downgrading all facilities in the rural areas. School education and the health services are in a shambles. The same is true in the case of power supply, drinking water and other services," said Mr Sukhdev Singh.

He said that the panchayats had not been given employees to run their affairs. The government had also been taking a share of 20 per cent from the auction of panchayat land. He said the income of panchayats could increase substantially if these were given tubewell power connections on panchayat land on priority.

Mr Sukhdev Singh said that funds should be allocated in the Union and state Budgets for the rural areas on the basis of their ratio in the population of the state; planning committees should be set up for the development of villages freeing these from the control of district officials; and grants should be ensured for each village without any political discrimination.

He also said that the development of the rural areas should be on a modern pattern; 50 per cent share should be given to panchayats from the income from market committees and cattle fairs; and allowances should be given to the members of panchayats on the pattern of West Bengal, Kerala and Karnataka.


Tarn Taran to be 19th district
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Tarn Taran, April 29
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, has taken the final decision to elevate Tarn Taran as a district to mark the 400th martyrdom day of Guru Arjun Dev in June. Meanwhile, the state government has decided in principle to set up a third Regional Centre of Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) at a cost of Rs 5 crore here. The state government would earmark 25 acre for the Regional Centre of GNDU in the proposed Guru Arjan Dev Nagar on Amritsar-Tarn Taran road.

The assurance in this regard has been given to Mr Harwinder Singh Sarna, President, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, by the Chief Minister. Talking to The Tribune here today, Mr Sarna said Capt Amarinder Singh had assured him that the state government would ensure overall development of the ancient city, founded by Guru Arjan Dev in 1596.

The name Tarn Taran originally belonged to the sarovar, a name given by Guru Arjan Dev. Literally it means “the boat that takes one across” (the ocean of existence). Tarana in Sanskrit is a raft or a boat.

However, the decision to set up the Regional Centre of GNDU at Taran Taran was taken on the suggestion of Dr S. P. Singh, Vice Chancellor, GNDU. The GNDU Vice Chancellor suggested that the proposed Regional Centre should come as an extension centre of the proposed Institute on Guru Granth Sahib, announced by the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, to mark the 400th anniversary of the compilation of Guru Granth Sahib.

The proposed centre would be responsible for research on the life and teaching of Guru Arjan Dev and compilation of Guru Granth Sahib. When contacted, Dr S. P. Singh confirmed that the Chief Minister had agreed to set up the Regional Centre of the GNDU to coincide with the elevation of Tarn Taran as district headquarters in June.

Dr S. P. Singh said the proposed regional centre would provide job oriented courses like B.Tech (Computer), B.Tech (Electronic), five year MBA /MCA, apart from courses like tailoring and cutting.

He said the proposed Regional Centre would be virtually a university minus examination and administrative branch which would continue to work from Amritsar .

Meanwhile, the DSGMC President held a meeting with various social and religious organisations to chalk out programmes regarding nagar kirtan from New Delhi to Lahore via Tarn Taran from June 10.

On the other hand, Baba Jagatar Singh of Kar Sewa Wale has started the facelifting of Tarn Taran. Gates are being constructed on all sides of the Holy City.


Order reserved on Badal’s plea to leave country
Tribune News Service

Ropar, April 29
The Special Court Judge, Mr S.K. Goel, today reserved an order on the application moved by former Chief Minister and SAD President Parkash Singh Badal, to allow him to leave for the USA for his eyes treatment, along with his wife Surinder Kaur, for May 1.

Mr Badal and Ms Surinder Kaur Badal are facing a case of corruption registered against them by the Vigilance Bureau, Punjab, and a case was pending before the Special Court here.

Badal had moved an application that he may be allowed to leave the country for the USA from May 13 to June 6 to get his eyes treatment, along with his wife.


Kang takes forest officials on reality tour
Our Correspondent

Kharar, April 29
Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang, Punjab Minister and MLA from the Morinda Assembly constituency, took the Minister and senior officials of the Forest Department to Naya Gaon, Kansal and Karoran villages to show the exact position, and the ground realities where despite thick habitation, PLPA (Punjab Land Preservation Act) and FCA (Forest Conservation Act) had been enforced.

Among those who accompanied Mr Kang were Minister of State for Forest, Mr Hansraj Joshan, Principal Secretary, Forests, Mr D.S. Jaspal, and the Chief Conservator Forest, Mr A.S. Dogra. The team also met the local residents and had an interaction with them. The locals lamented that because of PLPA and FCA, the notified area committee in these villages could not be formed because of the unnecessary objections raised by the Forest Department, although the state government had already issued a notification to this effect and had sought objections from the public.

Mr Kang pointed out that in spite of these villages being in the vicinity of Chandigarh, they were deprived of the facilities of sewerage, pucca streets, lighting, drinking water supply, proper power supply and roads. He urged the Forest Department officials to take immediate appropriate action to take these areas out of purview of PLPA, so that the NAC could be formed immediately in public interest.


Custodial death: FIR against cops cancelled
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Batala, April 29
Harjeet Singh, a Dalit youth of Niko Sarai village in the Dera Baba Nanak area, was allegedly killed in the Batala police custody due to torture on February 10 this year. Police officials accused in the matter also consigned his body to flames at night without informing the family members.

The incident created a furore in the area. The family members of the deceased youth met the Parliamentary Secretary from the area Mr Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, who took up the matter, after which the DIG border range conducted an inquiry into the matter.

After the inquiry, four police officials, including the SHO posted in the city police station, an ASI and two constables were dismissed from service. An FIR under Section 302 of the IPC was registered against the accused.

However, just after one month, the FIR against the accused police officials has been cancelled by the Area Magistrate. Sources here said that the FIR was cancelled after the main complainants and witnesses turned hostile in the case. Human rights activists are surprised how the legal formality of cancelling the FIR was completed in just one month, while in other cases the police takes years to file a chalan in the court. Some of them have moved the court of District and Sessions Judge Gurdaspur against the cancellation of the FIR.

The District and Sessions Judge issued a notice of motion on the plea while staying the cancellation of the FIR. In the notice that was issued yesterday, the judge has stated that the FIR was also registered under the prevention of the SC/ST Atrocities Act. The FIR under the Act could not be cancelled by the Area Magistrate. Only the special court had the jurisdiction to cancel the FIR.

SSP Batala L.K. Yadav, when contacted, said he had no knowledge about the case. The formality of cancelling the FIR was completed before he joined at Batala. He, however, assured to look into the matter.

Harjeet Singh, along with his brother Nirmal Singh, were picked by the police on charges of theft and kept in the civil line police station of Batala.

Harjeet Singh allegedly died due to severe torture in police custody. Instead of handing over the body to his family members, the panicked police officials themselves cremated the body of the deceased.

Leaders of the Opposition and human rights activists have alleged that dismissing police personnel from service was just an eye-wash. After the cancellation of the FIR, the police officials would be reinstated, they alleged. 


13-year-old mentally challenged girl raped
Tribune News Service

Tarn Taran, April 29
In a shocking incident, a 13-year-old mentally challenged, deaf and dumb girl, who is daughter of a widow, was raped today in border village Teja Singh Wala, 12 km from here, by a drunkard youth.

The girl, who had suffered polio attack in the childhood, had slightly strayed from her house when one Jasbir Singh, alias Sonu, who was under influence of liquor, took her to the adjoining fields and raped her.

The mother of the girl used to tie her with ropes before going out for doing labour. The widow has been living with her brothers along with her handicapped daughter.

Mr Parveen Kumar Sinha, district police chief, said Sonu was arrested under Section 376 of the IPC immediately after the crime. The crime was committed in broad daylight.

Meanwhile, villagers in large numbers held a massive demonstration in front of the Jhabal police station.

The SSP said the medical of both the victim and the accused woud be conducted at a forensic laboratory.

The accused proposed to go to Dubai to work in a firm there.

Mr Tarsem Singh Ahir, Mr Wassan Singh Gill and leaders of the BSP sought exemplary punishment to the accused.


Missing boy traced in Muktsar
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, April 29
The District Police here traced a missing class X student of the local Jain Day Boarding School in Muktsar last evening. The boy had been missing for two-and-a-half months.

Mr Lakhwinder Pal Singh Khaira, Deputy Cuperintendent of Police (R), Hoshiarpur, said Harpreet Singh, son of Paramjit Singh of the local mohalla Ravi Dass Nagar, left his house after annoying his father on February 15 due to his poor performance in exams. His father lodged a complaint regarding his missing son on February 17.

He said that Shan, a friend of Harpreet, received a call from the latter at 8.15 a.m. yesterday. He informed the police, and after verification, it was found that the call was made from an STD PCO of Muktsar. A police party, led by Malkiat Singh, was sent to Muktsar, where on seeing the photograph of the boy, the owner of the STD PCO confirmed that Harpreet Singh made a phone call in the morning.

Later, Harpreet Singh was found with the employees of Sethi Tent House of Amritsar, who were doing some job there. The police took Harpreet in custody and brought him to Hoshiarpur today.


Free eatables being served with liquor
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 29
The liquor business has been witnessing a drastic change. The cut-throat competition among the liquor vend owners has been proving a blessing in disguise for the Bacchus lovers as they are being given freebies by them to give a push to their sales.

After the end of monopoly of a handful and influenced contractors in the liquor trade with the introduction of single-vend licensing policy, the present liquor vend owners have been making efforts to promote their sales by offering potato chips, two eggs, a plate of curd, a packet of peanuts and a plate of ‘chana masala’ with every bottle of liquor to those who drink in the “ahata” (a place adjacent to liquor vend for drinking the liquor).

Information gathered by TNS revealed that a section of liquor vend owners had been offering these freebies with two bottles of beer to the customers. Almost all the liquor vends owners, who had also been running the “ahata”, had fitted ACs there to the tipplers comfortable.

Information revealed that a major section of liquor vends owners had also put up banners and placards for advertising their schemes announcing freebies with liquor.

Mr Amrit Pal, a leading liquor contractor of Punjab, said that this was for the first time in Punjab that liquor vend owners had been resorting to these types of tactics to woo the customers. He added that as the monopoly in the liquor trade had come to an end and the prices of liquor had come down drastically, the liquor vends owners had been left with no option but to increase their sales thru these gimmicks so as to break even.

Mr Narinder Mittal, another liquor contractor, said that not only the tipplers had been getting freebies with liquor bottles, they were also getting brand of their choice, which had become a rarity in the past few years. He added that no every manufacturer had been trying to sell out his product by making them available on almost all liquor vends.

Meanwhile, due to huge reduction in the price of beer, its sale had gone up. In certain pockets of state the liquor vend owners had been finding it difficult to arrange beer according to the demand. The prices of beer had come down to such a level that it had started costing low than a bottle of carbonated water.

Due to low price of beer, almost all beer bars in the urban areas have been witnessing great rush, including youngsters, in large quantity. Not only this, a large section of people had started drinking beer instead of hard liquor.

A senior functionary of the Sale Tax department said that so far the department could not make any comment on the fact that whether the sale of beer had gone up this year or not as compared to sale in the corresponding period in the previous years as it was yet to receive the relevant figures. 


Six biomass-based power projects to come up soon
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 29
To tackle the problem of paddy and wheat straw burning by farmers, the Punjab Energy Development Agency (PEDA) will commission six biomass-based power projects in the state with the help of private developers.

Talking to TNS, Mr Vijay Inder Singla, Chairman, PEDA, said he was aware of the practice, which resulted in huge losses in terms of soil nutrients and also caused environmental pollution. As a pilot project, six plants with a capacity of 66 mw would be allocated to private developers with the stipulation that these would be operational by December 2007.

“The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, is seized of the huge power deficit and has said that all projects which added to the power pool would be cleared on a priority basis. For this, non-conventional sources would be tapped and more funds would be got allocated from the Centre,” he pointed out.

Mr Singla said that he had also impressed on the CM that it should be made mandatory that all new buildings, government or private, should effectively harness solar power. No permission should be given to the people who did not meet the guidelines. A case in point is the PEDA complex in Sector 33, Chandigarh, which uses only 80 kw of power as compared to over 200 kw for a conventional building, he said.

He said the agency was also developing a small solar power apparatus for the benefit of the poor people and farmers, the worst affected by the power cuts, which would light a fan and a bulb for only Rs 18000. Other such cost-effective devices would also be commercially launched soon, he added.

Mr Singla said they had identified 136 sites in the state for mini micro hydel projects in the state. As many as 55 sites have already been allocated to private parties and the remaining would be allocated soon. Once completed, these projects would contribute 136 mw of power to the state grid.

He said the CM was coming to Ludhiana tomorrow to inaugurate the 1 mw high rate biomethanation cattle dung-based power project at the Haibowal Dairy Complex. The project has been set up at a cost of Rs 13. 66 crore and more such plants were in the pipeline, he added.

Referring to the projects under planning, he said these include the 1 mw grid interactive solar photovoltaic power plant for Merhraj village in Bhatinda, 10 mw co-generation power plant in Nawanshahr Cooperative Sugar Mill, 143. 5 mw biomass and small/ micro hydel power projects to be built with Japanese government assistance and 10 biomass power plants having a total capacity of 91 mw.


Muslims seek representation in Waqf Board
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 29
The state unit of the Indian Union Muslim League has asked the Punjab Government to initiate proceedings to hold elections to the Punjab Waqf Board on the pattern of the SGPC.

Talking to the mediapersons here yesterday, Mr Maqsood-ul-Haq, state president of the league, said elections to the board was a need of the hour to give representation to the Muslims from all parts of the state.

In reply to a question, Mr Haq said at least one member should be elected from every district to manage the affairs of the board in a smooth and proper manner. He said at present only Muslims from Malerkotla and Patiala had been nominated on board.

He said the state unit of the league would contest the ensuing Assembly elections in alliance with the third front if it came into being, otherwise it would contest on its own.

He demanded action against the member secretary of the Punjab Khadi and Village Industries Board for using an “objectionable” word against the Muslim community. 


Talk on yoga for jail inmates
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 29
A motivational talk on "Yoga and meditation" was organised today for the women prisoners at the District Jail here. Dr Pardeep Jain, Assistant Professor and Head of the Department of Entrepreneurship Development Programme, Sant Longowal Institute of Engineering and Technology, Longowal, delivered the talk.

Besides 48 women prisoners, Mr D.K. Sidhu, Superintendent of District Jail, Mr Kaur Singh, Deputy Superintendent of jail, and Dr C.S. Naik, Medical Officer of the jail, were present.

Dr Pardeep Jain told the women prisoners about the importance of yoga and meditation to reduce stress and strain in their life. Dr C.S. Naik explained to the women prisoners the usefulness of various yogic exercises to eliminate ailments. Women prisoners were also motivated for self-employment through small and cottage industries to become self-reliant after their release from the jail.

The women prisoners also practised meditation and yoga on the occasion. They also promised to become a useful and productive part of society after their release from the jail.

Mr D.K. Sidhu talked about teaching to women prisoners manufacturing of candles, bookbinding and other such activities in the jail. 


Haryana officials inspect projects
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, April 29
A team of senior officers of the Haryana Government, comprising Mr Raj Kumar, Financial Commissioner, Rural Development Department; Ms Shakuntla Jakhu, Principal Secretary, Urban Development Authority; and Mr S.S. Dhillon, Chief Administrator, Urban Development, yesterday visited Kharaudi village in the Mahilpur block to witness various on-going development projects. They appreciated NRIs for setting up the Kharaudi Life Style Improvement Board for starting various development projects worth Rs 1 crore in the village.

The team showed interest in treatment plant and septic tank constructed in the village under the project and exchanged views with the sarpanch and the vice-president of the board. They appreciated the board for providing sewerage facility to all houses in the village.

Dr A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, President, visited the village on March 23, 2003.


Hawara’s aide remanded in police custody
Tribune News Service

Ropar, April 29
Gurinder Singh alias Vicky, an accomplice of Jagar Singh Hawara, BKI chief, was yesterday remanded in two-day police custody by a local court. Vicky was arrested under Chamkaur Sahib police station for allegedly helping Hawara to wage war against the nation. He was also alleged to have provided shelter to Hawara at his residence in Chamkaur Sahib and also kept arms and ammunition.

Besides, he was also alleged to have helped Jagtar Singh Tara, another accused in the Beant Singh assassination case, who had escaped from the Burail jail with Hawara but had not been arrested so far.


Court relief to Hawara’s counsel
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 29
Granting relief to the defence counsel of Jagtar Singh Hawara, Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) chief, a CBI court today directed the Chandigarh police to file a reply by May 6 on an application filed by the defence counsel.

The Special CBI Judge, Mr Jagdeep Jain, directed the police to file the reply on the application filed by Mr A.S. Chahal and Mr Arvind Thakur. In the application, the counsel had expressed the apprehension that they might be arrested inside the Burail Jail where the Beant Singh assassination case was being conducted.

Notice issued: A local court issued a notice to the Chandigarh Administration for May 2 regarding erratic power supply to the District Courts. The notice was issued by the court on an application filed by the District Bar Association.


Wheat production likely to fall
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, April 29
Wheat production in Punjab may fall due to inclement weather conditions during the months of February and March. The state agriculture department has been projecting wheat production estimates at 94 lakh tonnes this year against 92.5 lakh tonnes last year.

However, the arrival of wheat in mandis so far indicates that the department estimates may not be achieved. Officials of the state Food Supplies Department estimate that wheat production is likely to fall by about 10 per cent this year due bad weather conditions and the wheat arrivals may not go beyond 85 lakh tonnes.

Grain markets in the state have so far received as many as 72.6 lakh tonnes and the daily arrivals have started dwindling now. The markets are receiving 1.50 lakh tonnes of wheat these days. Interestingly, the markets registered highest wheat arrivals during the two-day boycott of the mandis by various factions of the Bharati Kisan Union (BKU) to protest against the decision of the government to import wheat. The mandis received 5 lakh tonnes to 6 lakh tonnes of wheat during April 17 and 18, according to the officials.

Traders continue to buy wheat from the mandis at higher rates i.e. above Rs 700 per quintal, which is now the minimum support price after adding Rs 50 as bonus per quintal on wheat. The highest rates were quoted in Rajpura and Khanna at Rs 771 and Rs 764 per quintal, respectively. The traders have purchased 8.50 lakh tonnes so far against 2.50 lakh tonnes purchased last year. Traders from other states are also buying wheat from mandis.

Enquiries revealed that the farmers who had sold their wheat produce to private traders were never paid the enhanced bonus in the past too. This year, the Chief Minister has written to the Prime Minister that those farmers who had sold their produce to the traders should be paid the enhanced bonus of Rs 50 per quintal. So far, the government has not received any response from the Centre.

Enquiries further revealed that some of the ahartiyas in the mandis while making purchase for the traders procured affidavits from them that they would pay the enhanced bonus if the same was agreed by the government. But the number of such affidavits was not very big.

The traders have purchased nearly 6 lakh tonnes of wheat at Rs 651 to 660 per quintal before the announcement of the bonus.

The fall in wheat production would be more in Ferozepur and Patiala divisions of the state, according to official reports. Jalandhar division may not register much loss in production.


Govt anti-farmer: Rajnath
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, April 29
The Bharat Suraksha Rath Yatra of BJP President Rajnath Singh today entered Punjab from Kangra district of Himachal on its way to Jammu and Kashmir.

The yatra was received by the workers and leaders of the BJP led by the former minister, Mr Mohan Lal, at Hariyal village. Mr Rajnath Singh, while addressing the gathered workers today, termed the Congress government in the state as anti-farmer.

Referring to the problem of the Kandi area farmers, the BJP President said this year most of them have suffered more than 50 per cent damage to their crops due to inadequate rain. The Punjab Government has, however, not provided them any kind of compensation though its claims to champion the causes of farmers.

During his stint as Union Minister for Agriculture in the NDA government, a policy for providing crop insurance to farmers was framed. However, the present government has shelved the scheme. Had the scheme been implemented, the farmers would have been given compensation by the insurance companies for the climatic losses to crops. They would not have been begging before the government for meager compensations, he said.

Mr Rajnath also flayed the UPA government for failing to control the prices of essential commodities. The price of essential commodities, including wheat flour, sugar, pulses, edible oil and cement, have skyrocketed since the UPA government took over.

The rising prices of essential commodities have made life difficult for the poor of the country. The price of cement have gone up by Rs 50 in a single day and the government has not done anything regarding it. It is also surprising that Left parties who claim to stand for the poor are mute spectators to the exploitation of the poor in the country, Mr Rajnath said.

Toeing the line of the RSS, the BJP President said that forced religious conversions was the most serious threat being faced by the country. The BJP would oppose any kind of forced conversions as it threatens the security of the country, he said.


2 crushed to death
Tribune News Service

Ropar, April 29
Two cyclists of Bela village, Gian Singh and Harbans Singh, were crushed to death by a Tata Sumo near Jagatpura village here today. The two who were working in a factory were on their way from Ropar to Bela when the Tata Sumo rammed into them. The two died on the spot. The police has registered a case of causing death due to rash and negligent driving against the driver who ran away.


Land dispute: 12 rounded up
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, April 29
Local Congress leaders are one against another over the possession of a prime land in the heart of the city belonging to three England-based NRI brothers. The police has sealed the disputed property and rounded up as many as 12 persons, including women.

Tension rose high in the area when members of one the groups organised “Akhand Path” at the disputed site, yesterday.

Mr Navdeep Goldy, district Youth Congress president, along with NRI Gurdip Singh Virdi complained to the SDM, who marked an enquiry to the district police. The police informed the SGPC about holding of path which sent its task force to the venue.

The members of the group had locked the gate of the property. The police teams broke open the locks and the SGPC task force took away Guru Granth Sahib. The police then sealed the property and took all those holding the path in custody.


15 nabbed for gambling
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 29
The police nabbed 15 persons, who were indulging in gambling, from a lottery shop located in the busy Anardana Chowk area of this town yesterday evening. At least six persons had come from different towns of Haryana to try their luck.

The arrested persons were Sushil Kumar, Raj Kumar, Lalit Kumar, Ashok Kumar and Sarup Singh (all from Ambala), Gulshan Kumar and Ashok Kumar (both from Karnal), Amarjit Singh, Mahesh Kumar, Tarsem Kumar, Kishore Kumar, Gurwinder Singh, Sukhwinder Singh and Kuljit Singh (all from Patiala).

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