P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



34 Cong MLAs uneasy following SC order
Office of profit row
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 9
Though political circles in Punjab are confident that 34 Congress MLAs, facing disqualification for having allegedly held an “office of profit”, will be saved by a state legislation framed in 1952, but these MLAs are keeping their fingers crossed.

The outcome of a petition that is pending before the Election Commission of India, is expected to decide their political fortunes.

The Supreme Court, pointed out senior functionaries of the government, has upheld the 1952 legislation in at least seven separate cases in the past.

Yesterday's Supreme Court dismissal of a petition, filed by actress-turned-politician Jaya Bachchan challenging her disqualification as Rajya Sabha MP, has created a bit of anxiety among the political circles.

Legal experts and bureaucrats have been holding discussions on this issue and have arrived at the conclusion that “the Punjab State Legislature (Prevention of Disqualification) Act, 1952, shall be suffice” as all MLAs are covered under the Act and their offices are exempt from the classification “office of profit”.

There will no need for a separate or a new Act in Punjab on the lines of a Bill that is expected to be presented in Parliament in the session starting May 11.

Sources in the government said that all MLAs holding such “offices of profit” in Punjab are not drawing salaries or allowances from the boards or corporations and are actually drawing the salaries and compensatory allowance as admissible to MLAs.

Legal expert Satya Pal Jain of the BJP, who is contesting a similar case against Congress legislators in Himachal Pradesh, says: “If the salary of a Chairman of a corporation is more than an MLA's prescribed salary, then the MLA has to be disqualified even if he has not drawn the salary from the corporation”. This will be deemed to be an office of profit as per the Supreme Court decision yesterday, Mr Jain added.

Last month, the Advocate-General, Punjab, Mr Rajinder Singh Cheema, conveyed to Governor Gen S.F. Rodrigues (retd) that no action, including removal from the legislature, can be initiated against the 34 Congress MLAs against whom the Shiromani Akali Dal had submitted a complaint.

In the complaint, the SAD had claimed that these MLAs, including those who were Chief Parliamentary Secretaries (CPS) and Parliamentary Secretaries (PS) in the present government, were holding offices of profit and hence should be disqualified from the Vidhan Sabha.

Mr Cheema has reportedly informed the Governor that under Article 191 (A) of the Constitution, any office that has been exempted from being an office of profit by the legislature, does not fall under this category and no action can be initiated against the MLAs holding the same.


Govt beats about the bush on land to RIL
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 9
Unable to contradict the facts mentioned in The Tribune story which appeared yesterday on the front page under the headline“ Punjab out to gift land to Reliance”, the Punjab Government has tried to beat about the bush in a statement issued today.

The state government did not deny the facts though its spokesman in a statement today said: “The report lacked objectivity and was based on surmises and conjectures and was factually incorrect, ill-informed and misleading.” However, the statement did not mention how it was misleading and factually incorrect.

The government spokesman has not denied that the high value premium 20 acre of land is being offered to Reliance Industries Limited ( RIL) at a throwaway price at Mohali. Rather, the spokesman has remained totally silent on what price it is being offered to the RIL.

The commercial worth of the land is about Rs 1,000 crore as per the prevailing market price. Even if the land is sold by earmarking plots, it can fetch a price of Rs 200 crore.

Neither, the spokesman has denied that the government has offered 169.49 acre of land at Goindwal for Rs 2.53 lakh per acre. The land belongs to the Punjab State Industrial Export Corporation (PSIEC).

The government itself has repeatedly admitted that even the agricultural land in rural areas was fetching a price ranging between Rs 10 lakh to Rs 25 lakh per acre, especially in those villages which are in a range of 10 km to 15 km from the urban areas.

Why is the RIL being offered the land at such a low price at Goindwal? The government has not addressed this question in its statement. And why the RIL required such a vast piece of land just to set up a vegetable and fruit etc market yard there.

The government has also not denied that it has offered 347.22 acre of land for Rs 41.28 crore at Malout, Abohar, Muktsar, Mansa and Tanda.This land also belongs to the PSIEC. The price of the land in these towns is very high because all these are upcoming urban areas. Both Mansa and Muktsar are district headquarters while Malout and Abohar are among the best cotton markets.

The government spokesman said the land available with the PSIEC in Gobindwal, Malout, Muktsar, Mansa and Tanda was lying unutilised for the last 10 to 15 years. The land represented a dead investment which was giving no returns to Punjab's farming community. It would now be sold to the RIL, there by giving PSIEC some return on its investment.

Why some return? And why not full return? Let the PSIEC sell the land at a public auction and if the RIL wanted to buy the same, it should take part in the auction. Unofficially, PSIEC officials are also opposed to the sale of the land to the RIL at a price quoted by the government.

The government has also not contradicted that it was offering the concessions to the RIL for 30 years, which is obviously an unprecedented step.

The government has been offering concessions to various industrial groups but usually for 10 to 15 years. Also the government has not denied the vast range of concessions such as exemption from stamp duty, registration duty, market fee, milk purchase tax, rural development fund etc.

The thrust of the entire statement of the government is on the market operations to be launched by the RIL, beginning with an investment of Rs 500 crore and later expanding it to Rs 3,000 crore in three to five years.

The government claims that farmers will be hugely benefited because of the RIL's entry in the marketing of vegetables and fruits in Punjab. The Tribune story also stated that the RIL wanted to launch countrywide operations from Punjab by selling vegetables and fruit grown in the state in other parts of the country.


Amarinder’s tough stand on land to RIL
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 9
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today declared that land at Mohali would be given to Reliance Industries by the Punjab government free of cost to attract its investment of Rs 6,000 crore in the fruit and vegetables sector.

Accusing Shiromani Akali Dal leadership (SAD) (Badal) including MP Sukhbir Badal of making attempts to scuttle the economic progress of Punjab, the Chief Minister said, “come what may, the land will be given to RIL”. The RIL would use that land to store vegetables and fruits grown by it at 52 centres in Punjab and then to transport the same in all parts of India and foreign nations. This would give major boost to agriculture in Punjab, he claimed.

“To give a piece of land worth Rs 200 crore in lieu of investment of Rs 6,000 crore in Punjab for strengthening economic base of farmers in all villages of state is a good deal and it will be struck by the Punjab government,” said the Chief Minister to medi-apersons here. He added the West Bengal government had offered land worth Rs 1,400 crore to TATA group of industries to make investment in that state for its overall development.

A section of MLAs belonging to the SAD (B) had reportedly given legal notice to a section of senior officials of Punjab against the move of the Punjab government to offer 20 acres at Mohali to RIL at throwaway prices. They had alleged that there was a scam of thousands of crores in the move of state government to transfer prime land to RIL at throwaway prices.

When asked on one hand the Punjab government had been offering land worth Rs 200 crore to RIL to promote agriculture related industry then on the other hand the Punjab government had been denying payment of subsidy to the existing industries in the state, a major section of which had been facing closures Mr Amarinder Singh said that Punjab government was supposed to pay Rs 600 crore in the shape of subsidy to the existing industries and for the same, it had been making efforts to issue bonds after taking permission from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

When asked why Trident group of industries had been contemplating to shift to some other state, the Chief Minister said that the SAD (B) leadership had been instigating a section of land owners, whose land was acquired for the setting up of industry by that group near Barnala, for taking to agitational path and hence the group was thinking on those lines. Out of 36 owners of land, whose pieces of land were acquired for the setting up of the industry, 34 owners had given their consent and only two were making a mischief.


Govt determined to give land to RIL: CM
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 9
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today said the state government was determined to give land to Reliance Industries Limited (RIL). He said RIL representatives would visit Punjab next week to remove the misgivings with regard to their project.

Speaking to mediaperson after the oath taking ceremony of the newly appointed Chairman and Members of the Punjab Public Service Commission, he said that earlier also land had been given to other industries at low rates. “No one objected to it”, he added. The RIL would be given concession as had been given to other companies, he said.

When asked that whether the RIL would give any guarantee to the state government that it (RIL) would not use the land for real estate and any other purpose except for which it would be given to it, Capt Amarinder Singh said there would be no such guarantee. He said the RIL was a big company and people buy its shares because they had faith in it.

He said as the RIL would set up its main hub at Mohali, it would be given land there by the state government. The RIL would be opening 52 market centres in the state but its over-all operational centre would be at Mohali. He said 16 sites had been selected by the RIL to set up its market centres to sell fresh vegetables and fruits from Punjab to other states.

However, officers of various departments say they had not been shown any of the project report of the RIL.


Sukhbir alleges deal between CM, RIL
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 9
The General Secretary of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, today alleged that “a massive deal” had taken place between the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh and Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Group of Industries to “sell out” land belonging to panchyats, boards and corporations of the state at throwaway prices.

Mr Badal, while addressing a press conference, alleged that the Chief Minister chaired a meeting of the heads of the Mandi Board, the Punjab Small Industries and Export Corporation (PSIEC) and the Director, Panchayats, Punjab, where instructions were issued to identify land belonging to the first two and to transfer it to the Reliance group at the price at which it was acquired many years ago.

Mr Badal alleged “this was biggest scam in the history of the country” which he pegged it at Rs 5,000 crore.

Mr Badal produced a list of land which he alleged had either been transferred to Reliance or were in the process of being transferred. He alleged that 326 acres of panchayat land, spread across 11 villages, had already been given.

Mr Badal said Capt Amarinder Singh had instructed the Director, Panchayats, to identify all available lands. The Gram Panchayats Act and Punjab Village Common Lands Act had to be amended and only the legislature was empowered to do so. Once these panchayat lands were taken away, this would completely throttle the development of the area.

As per the law, no panchayat can give land to a private party on long lease and can only sell it with government permission through open auction. He alleged that rules were being illegally amended so panchayat land could be given on a long lease of 99 years.

The PSIEC is being asked to hand over 350 acres of land for only 40 crore. This can cause a loss of Rs 700 crore to the PSIEC, he said.


Dust storm claims five lives
3 killed in Rajpura, 2 in Ropar; power, water supplies hit in city
Tribune Reporters

A damaged electricity pole in Sunny Enclave, Kharar
A damaged electricity pole in Sunny Enclave, Kharar. — Tribune photo by Vicky Gharu

Rajpura/Ropar/Chandigarh, May 9
A powerful dust storm played havoc with life and property in Rajpura subdivision last night. It claimed three lives, while six persons were injured. Besides uprooting several trees, it also resulted in disruption of power supply in the area.

In Ropar, a man and a woman lost their lives in separate incidents while trees were uprooted and property damaged due to dust storm last night.

In Chandigarh, the dust storm, which was followed by a thunder squall, caught the city napping and threw essential services like electricity and water supply out of gear.

Winds with an average speed of 74 km/hr swept the city, uprooting poles and trees, snapping telephone and electricity wires and raking up a lot of dust.

The dust storm in Rajpura started around 10.30 pm. It spelled tragedy for the family of Mr Narata Singh. His son, Darshan Singh, died when the roof of his house situated in Nalas Kalan collapsed. While Darshan’s wife, Mohinder Kaur, was seriously injured, his son, Tarlok, and Narinder Kaur were injured.

In another incident, Raj Kumar, a small-scale entrepreneur of Guru Nanak Nagar, was killed when some bricks fell on his head. His two workers, Dharamvir and Ramesh, were also injured in the incident.

In the third incident, Charanjit Singh, an Army personnel posted at Ludhiana, fell from the roof of his house during the dust storm. He was rushed to a private hospital from where he was referred to the Command Hospital, Chandi Mandir. However, he died on way to the hospital.

Meanwhile, life was affected as uprooted trees blocked traffic on various roads and the power supply could not be restored till today evening. People reeled under inclement weather conditions as various electrical appliances did not function.

In Ropar, Damodar Das (50) was killed at the at railway station when a tree uprooted due to heavy winds fell on him. Surjit Kaur of Kidi Afgana village of Chamkaur Sahib was killed when a wall of her house collapsed. A numbers of animal deaths were also reported in the area.

The transmission lines were damaged and the thermal power plant had to be shut down. This led to a blackout in the district.

Commuters on the national highway had to face inconvenience due to uprooting of trees and snapping of their branches.

Though the squall did not cause any serious damage in the city, it forced residents to sweat the night out with the city experiencing a virtual blackout. By the morning, the problem of power breakdown was compounded by low water pressure in various sectors.

The water pressure was low on ground floors of houses, while most first-floor residents and above had to go without their morning supply.

Practically the entire city went without electricity till around the wee hours. The supply was restored in phases by evening.

Power supply was restored to southern sectors, including parts of Sectors 30, 34, Panjab University and the PGI by afternoon, while villages of Dhanas, Khuda Lohara and Sarangpur got it only in the evening. The workers undertaking repairs cited the paucity of staff as the reason behind the delay.

The local Meteorological Office said the squall was the consequence of a cyclonic circulation over central Pakistan, northwestern Rajasthan and southwestern Punjab. The Director, Mr Chhatar Singh Malik, said the disturbance moved southeastward right across Haryana.

“The squall was also the result of a convection in the air besides the disturbance. We are expecting light showers tonight as well. This will bring down the temperature even further. Even if it doesn’t rain, it will take a few days for the temperature to climb up again,” Mr Malik added.

The city experienced 15.2 mm rainfall last night while the highest recorded wind velocity was 102 km/hr. The minimum temperature dropped by 3°C, coming down from 27.6°C to 24.8°C, today. The maximum temperature came down marginally to 37°C today. It had soared to a new high of 42°C earlier this month.

PANCHKULA: The dust storm left a trail of destruction in various parts of the district last night. Trees were uprooted at many places. Electricity transformers and poles were also damaged thus disrupting the power supply to a couple of sectors and villages.

Power failure forced residents to spend a sleepless night. Water pressure was low in the morning which affected normal life. Uprooted trees disrupted traffic on various link roads and highways.

Fruit crops, especially mango, plum and peach, were badly affected by the high velocity winds in Barwala, Raipur Rani, Morni and surrounding areas.

Kharar: A dust storm and rain caused damage to property, electric poles and trees at various places last night .

In one incident , three shops on the Landran road suffered damage when a tree fell . A shed of two fruit shops and a cycle repair shop was also broken. Traffic was adversely affected when the tree blocked a part of the road.

In one of the residential enclaves in Kharar, an electric pole fell disrupting the power supply in the area. Near Jain Mandir a wall got damaged.


Storm damages fruit crop
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, May 9
Last night storm spelled doom for horticulturists in Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur districts. The crop of mango, lichi and kinnow was severely affected.

As per information, 15 per cent damage of the fruit crop has been reported by farmers.

Officials of the Horticulture Department said this year due hostile weather the yield was expected to be low. However, the storm worsened the condition further. Due to poor flowering and pest attack, the mango crop is expected to remain just 15 per cent of what was recorded last year. Due to sudden rise in temperature mango flowers were damaged.

Mr Prtipal Singh Badh, Horticulture Development Officer, Gurdaspur, said the fruit crop had suffered large-scale damage. When asked if the department would recommend compensation for the horticulturists, he said there was no hard-and-fast rules for that.

“Generally the compensation is recommended for the horticulturists if there is more than 50 per cent damage to the crop,” he said.

The farmers said the government provided immediate compensation for the climatic loss to wheat and paddy crops, but the loss to horticulturists was generally ignored.

The farmers demanded that they should be given a compensation on a pattern adopted by the Himachal Government to compensate the apple farmers.

BATHINDA: Power supply in the district was adversely affected due to storm.

Nearly 240 electricity poles were uprooted and eight transformers were damaged in the district. In Bathinda, the power supply remained disrupted from 11pm to 9am.

Mr Rahul Bhandhari, Deputy Commissioner, said PSEB had suffered a loss of Rs 8 lakh. He said the storm also uprooted 125 trees in the district.


Members of Bajigar community surrender
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, May 9
Members of the Bajigar community of the local Mohalla Aslamabad, who were struggling to retain their old graveyard and cremation ground located on the periphery of the city on the Hoshiarpur-Chandigarh road, and for which they experienced alleged severe beating by the police, surrendered today before leaders of the local ruling political party and the district administration.

Earlier, to lodge a protest against their alleged beating by the police and for demolishing the structure at cremation ground and graveyard and for taking forcible possession of the land last evening, members of the Bajigar community, led by their president, Mr Mohinder Ram, and other leaders staged a dharna in front of the mini-secretariat here.

Mr Mohinder Ram told the mediapersons that about 25 persons, including 10 women, were injured due to severe lathi-charge by the police. He produced men and women who got injuries during the lathi-charge before the mediapersons.

Briefing about the disputed land, he claimed that members of the community had been using this land for cremation and for burying the dead according to Hindu rites since 1954. The area was a choe bed and being an outer area of the city, it remained undeveloped. But with the passage of time, residential colonies and business establishments were set up in most of this area and the cost of the land increased manifold.

He said that the entire land of the area belonged to members of in-laws family of Ms Ambika Soni, Union Minister for Tourism. Mr Kuldip Nanda, president of the District Congress Committee, called the members of the Bajigar community about five days ago and instructed them to vacate the land of cremation ground and graveyard. Mr Nanda said he would get them allotted a piece of 15 marlas in lieu of the crematorium in the adjoining village Shergarh, about 1 km from the existing place.


Embezzlement of Rs 2.11 cr of Durgiana Committee funds alleged
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 9
The Durgiana imbroglio fails to settle down as the former president of the Durgiana Managing Committee (DMC) fired another salvo against some members of the present managing committee here today.

Mr Surinder Arjun said some of the members of the present DMC, which include Mr Ram Gopal Mehra, Mr Nand Lal Nagpal and Mr Ramesh Kapoor who were Vice-president, general secretary and finance secretary, respectively, in the earlier DMC in 1997-2001 had embezzled around Rs 2.11 crore on account of ‘Bhog bhandar’ by filing wrong Income Tax return by showing the income as donation and purchase as consumption. He said the chartered accountant who had filed the return on behalf of the DMC was also accountable for this.

Giving details of expenditure on ‘Bhog Bhandar’ during his tenure Mr Arjun said around Rs 1.25 lakh per month was spent on the ‘Bhog bhandar’, which comes to Rs 16 lakh per year while the above persons had filed wrong statement by showing Rs 2,27,55,177 as expenditure on ‘Bhog bhandar’ thus siphoning off Rs 2.11 crore. He said the matter came to his notice when he took over as president of the DMC in August 2005.

Mr Arjun said that Mr R.L. Bhatia, Governor of Kerala, who is also the chief patron of the DMC should hold an independent inquiry by appointing an arbitrator to solve the matter. He said that Mr Bhatia should get all accounts audited by an agency from 1997 to March 2006 so that the truth could prevail. He said he had already informed Mr Bhatia about the whole situation and the ball was in his court.

When contacted Mr Harish Taneja, Joint Secretary, DMC said the allegations leveled by Mr Arjun were mischievous as the balance sheets were internally audited and the Income Tax return filed by the chartered accountant on behalf of the DMC had already been accepted by the IT department. He said if he (Mr Arjun) had found anything wrong with the return filed by the earlier DMC he should have called the general body meeting of DMC and brought it to the notice of the members.


Youth Akali Dal leader joins Congress
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 9
With the assembly elections drawing near the Congress and the SAD have started indulging in the game of political oneupmanship with both parties trying to engineer defections in each other’s camp.

SAD President Parkash Singh Badal scored a point over his political rival, Capt Amarinder Singh when he managed to bring a local Congress municipal councillor, Mr Sukuwinder Singh Minta, into his party fold by organising a small function here on May 6.

Capt Amarinder Singh today gave a big jolt to the SAD when Mr Kulwinder Singh Lovely, who was former president of the Youth Akali Dal (Urban), Patiala, announced in his presence that he had joined the Congress against the anti-panthic policies and nepotism being pursued by Mr Badal. Mr Lovely appreciated Capt Amarinder Singh for his pro-farmer and pro-Sikhism policies.

Mr Lovely said that a number of activists and leaders were eager to leave the SAD because nepotism had prevailed in that party. Not only this, the workers and other rank and file were not being given any sort of respect by the SAD leadership.

Mr Lovely, who was a close confidant of Prof Kirpal Singh Badungar, former SGPC chief, alleged that Mr Badal and his associates had always made the people fool by raising the slogans of Sikh panth but whenever they came to power, they always indulged in anti-panthic activities.

Capt Amarinder Singh, while welcoming Mr Lovely into Congress fold, said these leaders would be given due respect and honour in the party and the government.


Aviation facilities to figure in panel meeting
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 9
The May 12 meeting of the Parliament Committee on Civil Aviation is expected to be stormy.

Many issues related to Punjab will come up at the meeting. The state has been expecting better treatment from the Civil Aviation Ministry. However, the ministry is moving slow on the issues relating to starting flights from Amritsar to certain international destinations.

Following continuous nudging, the Civil Aviation Ministry has increased the frequency of daily flights from Amritsar to Toronto six day a week.

However, Dr M.S.Gill, Member of the Rajya Sabha from Punjab, who is also a member of the Committee on Civil Aviation, said a lot more required to be done to enhance the air linkage of Punjab to other parts of the country and world.

He said at the proposed May 12 meeting, he would ask the Union Civil Aviation Minister, Mr Praful Patel, to fulfil his promise of starting low tariff Air India express service for workers from Punjab to Dubai on the pattern of Kerala and Mumbai.

Dr Gill said Mr Patel had promised to start these flights from Punjab in May or June. He said on Air India express flights, workers would have to pay very low tariff for travelling to Dubai.

He said Mr Patel would also be asked to expedite the launch of direct flight of Jet Airways from Amritsar to London.

“I am also trying hard for direct flights between Amritsar and Vancouver and Amritsar and New York and direct flight from Amritsar to Birmingham”, said Dr Gill. He said the frequency of flights between Amritsar and Singapore had improved considerable.

The other issue is of the expansion and modernisation of the Raja Sansi Airport in Amritsar. The Union Government had given Rs 78 crore for building halls for passengers.

However, the space available for passengers is not enough. “ I would ask Mr Patel to allocate at least Rs 500 crore for the Amritsar airport to make it look like an international airport”, said Dr Gill.


Rs 4 crore excise duty evasion detected
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 9
Certain pipe manufacturers of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pardesh have allegedly evaded payment of Excise Duty Rs 4 crore and Central Excise Commissionerate Chandigarh has launched penal and recovery proceedings against these business firms.

Sources said nearly 20 pipe manufacturing units in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pardesh supplied pipes to the Punjab and the Himachal governments for setting up water treatment plants by availing exemption of Excise Duty on it extended by the central government. But these units charged 10 per cent Excise Duty on the cost of pipes from the Punjab and Himachal governments.

After charging 10 per cent Excise Duty on the cost of pipes supplied to Punjab and Himachal governments, the manufacturers concerned never paid it to Central Excise Department and pocketed it.

Official sources said after the Central Excise commissionarerate detected the fraud, they initiated proceedings against the guilty units. Senior officials of the commisionerate has started compaign to find out more frauds of this kind.

Sources said while six pipe manufacturing units in Dera Bassi, Gobindgarh and Patiala areas of Patiala and Mohali districts had committed fraud of Rs 1 crore, 14 manufacturing units in Rohtak, Gaziabad and Faridabad areas of Uttar Pardesh and Haryana states had committed fraud of Rs 3 crore.

Sources said that the Central Excise Commissionerate might take up this matter with the departments concerned of Punjab and Himachal to whom the pipes had been supplied for setting up water treatment plants and had been charged Excise Duty by the suppliers, for action against them.

The authorities concerned also said such incidents might be taking place in other states also where pipes were being supplied for water treatment plants and a comprehensive probe could reveal the magnitude of the fraud.


45 kiosks gutted
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, May 9
Nearly 45 illegal structures outside the Housing Board Colony on the Pathankot bypass were gutted yesterday night. Sources here said a fire broke in one of kiosks at 2.30 am just after the storm subsided.

As per one theory the fire broke when some inflammable material stored in a kiosk caught fire. Soon due to strong wind the fire spread in the entire market. The fire tenders of the Municipal Council were pressed into service. However, they failed to control the fire due to strong winds and inflammable material in some kiosks. The local administration then called for fire tenders of the Army Air Force. Fire tenders of the Army and the Air Force brought the fire under control.

However, before the fire could be controlled the kiosks were destroyed. Victims of the fire tragedy claimed the loss was of Rs 1 crore. They demanded compensation from the government.

It is second time in one year that a major fire has broken in illegal kiosks out side the colony. A large number of illegal kiosks have come up outside the colony. Most of structures are owned by illegal occupants of the colony.

The Housing Board colony was developed on the Pathankot bypass in eighties. However, the original allottees never got possession of the houses for which they paid the price. The district administration initially allotted the houses to people, who migrated to Pathankot from rural areas of the district due to terrorism on a temporary basis. Most of the migrants who were allotted the houses on a temporary basis have returned to their villages after normalcy returned to the state. However, they sold the structures to other persons who now are illegally occupying the houses.

The possession has not been restored to the original owners despite directions in this regard from the Punjab State Human Rights Commission.

Instead the encroachers have illegally occupied outer areas of the colony and raised kiosks there. A shopping complex of the Housing Board lies closed behind these kiosks.


Red Cross Day celebrated
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 9
The World Red Cross Day was celebrated under the chairmanship of Mr Rahul Bhandhari, Deputy Commissioner, at the local Red Cross Bhawan yesterday. Mr Bhandhari inaugurated a blood donation camp, organised by United Welfare Society, Bathinda.

The DC also distributed Rs 2193 each to 41 rural handicapped girls under a scholarship scheme of the Centre.


Pak delegation arrives
Tribune News Service

Wagah, May 9
An 18-member Pakistan delegation of Members the National Assembly, farmers and the 1947 migrants from India, led by Rana Shamshad Aahmad Khan, Transport Minister, arrived here today to participate in a cultural festival to be held in Patiala.

Mr Khan said that besides participating in the cultural festival, the delegation was here to study the rich Indian culture and the system of public and private transport. He said the migrants from India would also visit their ancestral places.

He said due to the lack of visa facilities at the border, only a small section of people were using bus services. He said both countries must liberalise the visa regime so that more and more people could utilise these services, which would help to further improve relations. He further said that keeping in view the wishes of the people, visa collection centres should be opened at Amritsar and Lahore.


Boards told to draw up land lists

Chandigarh, May 9
Following the controversy over land allotment to Reliance Industries Limited, the Chief Secretary, Mr K.R. Lakhanpal, has asked Mr P.K. Verma, Financial Commissioner, Development, and Mr Himmat Singh, Managing Director, Punjab Agro Industries Corporation, to draw up a detailed list of lands which are held by various boards and corporation. — TNS


Operation of notification stayed
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, May 9
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has stayed the operation of the notification by which Dr Paramjit Singh Ranu had been declared elected as a member of the Central Council of Homeopathy (CCH) from Punjab.

Taking up the petition filed by Dr Tejinder Pal Singh, Director, Shri Guru Nanak Dev Homeopathic Council, and member, Council of Homeopathy System of Medicine, Punjab, challenging the election of Dr Ranu to the CCH, the court also issued notice of motion for July 24.

The petitioner was also a candidate for the post, but could not contest as his nomination papers were rejected.

In his petition, Dr Tejinder Pal Singh has alleged that the Returning Officer, Dr A.S. Thind, Registrar, Council of Homeopathy System of Medicine, Punjab, rejected his candidature on flimsy grounds to favour Dr Ranu.

The hearing of the petition will resume on July 24.


New PPSC chief takes oath
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 9
The Punjab Governor, Gen S.F. Rodrigues ( retd), today administered the oath of office to Mr S.K. Sinha, IAS (retd) as Chairman of the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) at Punjab Raj Bhavan here.

He also administered the oath of office to Brig D.S. Grewal (retd) and Dr Satwant Singh Mohi as Members of the commission.

Mr Sinha, who took voluntary retirement yesterday from the IAS, is a close confidant of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh.

Though Mr Sinha belongs to Orissa, but now he is more or less known as a Patiala man because he has served for many years in Patiala in various capacities, including as Deputy Commissioner and Divisional Commissioner from August 1990 to March 1997. Mr Sinha had also served as Director in the Union Home Ministry in 1989.

Dr Satwant Singh Mohi is also a staunch loyalist of Capt Amarinder Singh. He is associated with Capt Amarinder Singh for the past 20 years.


One killed, 3 hurt in clash
Our correspondent

Abohar, May 9
Mr Veer Singh (55) of Mallangarh village (Muktsar) was killed and three others were hurt in a dispute between brothers over cultivating of ancestral land in Gaddandob village in this subdivision yesterday evening.

According to information Jagjit Singh had some dispute over 10-kanal-land with his brother Amrik Singh at Gaddandob village here. A revenue official was to visit the village to decide the dispute on Monday evening. Amrik Singh had called in his brothers-in-law Balbir Singh and Shanta Singh along with Veer Singh from Mallangarh village for help.

As they were heading towards fields Jagjit Singh and 12 other armed persons allegedly attacked them killing Veer Singh on the spot, Amrik Singh, Balbir Singh and Shanta Singh were injured seriously. The assailants reportedly used a rifle and some sharpedged weapons, preliminary investigation said.

The injured were admitted to Nehru Memorial Civil Hospital here.

The sadar police station registered a case.


Rs 5.71 lakh robbed from 2 officials
Our Correspondent

Malerkotla, May 9
Two unidentified robbers looted Rs 5.71 lakh from two officials of the Co-operative Agriculture Service Society of Kila Hakima village near here yesterday.

According to information, Sukhwinder Pal Singh and Nirbhai Singh, salesman and secretary of the society, respectively, were on their way to deposit the money collected from farmers of the area in a co-operative bank branch of Kanjhla village on their scooter.

When they reached near Kanjhla village two robbers who were chasing them on a motor cycle allegedly tried to stop them. The robbers fired four shots in the air, but one bullet hit and injured Nirbhai. The robbers fled with the bag containing the money.

Sukhwinder in his statement to the police said one of the robbers was masked while the other was wearing a turban. He the motor cycle used by them was without any number.

The police has registered a case and rounded up two persons for interrogation. Superintendent of Police (D) Surjit Singh Grewoal said the area had been sealed and the hunt was on to nab the culprits.


Police seizes khair wood
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, May 9
The police today seized khair wood allegedly felled illegally from the forests in Dhar subdivision. Sources here said the illegally felled khair wood was stored in a dump on the Madhopur- Shahpur Kandi road.

The police officials raided the dump on a tip-off and seized khair wood dumped there. The SSP, Gurdaspur, Mr P.S. Umranangal, when contacted, admitted that khair wood had been confiscated. He, however, said the matter was being examined and any action would be taken only after verifying the facts.


Inquiry conducted into answer-sheets case
Kiran Deep
Tribune News Service

Ropar, May 9
Officials of the Punjab School Education Board today conducted an inquiry into the recovery near a bridge of three unmarked answer-sheets of the Class X physical education examination, held on March 21.

A committee constituted by board chairman Harbans Singh Sidhu conducted a three-hour inquiry and questioned officials responsible for keeping answer-sheets safe at the collection centre here.

The inquiry committee, headed by Assistant Secretary Layake Ram, met the coordinator of the collection centre and questioned the teachers from whose custody the three answer-sheets had gone missing.

He said the answer-sheets were of private candidates, adding that a report would be submitted to the chairman of the board tomorrow.


University plans to check cheating in examinations
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 9
Nearly a year after the pre-medical entrance test conducted by Faridkot-based Baba Farid University of Health Sciences were cancelled due to paper leakage, the university authorities have announced a series of measures “to maintain the sanctity of tests”. The steps include prevention of impersonation and other unfair means of cheating, by obtaining not only the signatures, but also the thumb impressions of the candidates actually sitting for the post-graduate entrance examinations at the centres.

In case of doubts, the signatures obtained during the tests will be compared with the ones available in the records maintained by the institutes where the candidates are studying.

Besides this, fresh thumb impressions of the candidates seeking admission to various courses will be compared with the ones taken during the entrance examinations. The authorities have also worked out the modalities to capture the entire entrance examination process in video cameras.

The sources in the university assert that in any case the information about the location of examination centers was kept a secret till “almost the last moment”. Though the entrance tests for admission to MD, MS, and postgraduate diploma courses are scheduled to be held on May 14, the information about the centers was communicated to the students only today.

Giving details, Registrar Dr P.L. Garg says, “The intention behind the move is to give the candidates just enough time to reach the centers in comfort, but to give them very little opportunity to make arrangements for cheating at particular centers”.

Dr Garg adds: “Besides these steps, we are keeping the identity of the invigilators a strict secret. This will go a long way in ruling out the possibility of any student indulging in cheating after influencing the supervisory staff”.

Claiming that the university has taken “some bold steps to regain the confidence of the masses” during the recent past, Dr Garg says they are committed to the concept of complete transparency. “As such, even during the interviews for various courses, the information about the vacant and the filled seats will be displayed on giant screens set up all over the counselling centres.”

Welcoming the steps initiated by Vice-Chancellor Dr Ravinder Singh and Dr Garg, President of the Punjab Civil Medical Services (PCMS) Association Dr Hardeep Singh says the measures will not only go a long way in preventing cheating and impersonation, but will also improve the university’s functioning.


School timings changed
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 9
Keeping in view the heat wave in the region, Mr Rahul Bhandhari, District Magistrate, yesterday changed the timings of all primary, elementary, high and secondary schools, falling in this district.

As per the order, all schools will now open at 7.30 am instead of 8 am while these schools will close at 1 pm instead of 2.45 pm daily.

The morning prayer will be held for 15 minutes instead of 25 minutes while the recess period will be for 20 minutes instead of 25 minutes.

These orders will be implemented on all government, private, semi government, recognised and aided schools. The changed timings will remain effective till the start of summer vacations.

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