P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Land deal raises eyebrows
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 31
The “fishy” deal of a prime property, worth crores of rupees, by relatives of some senior leaders of the ruling party has raised many an eyebrow and put revenue officials in a fix.

The land, located near Gagan Theatre, was sold by some relatives of Congress leaders by allegedly getting the revenue records changed in connivance with revenue officials.

The land in question was mortgaged to a bank and nobody who indulged in the deal could produce any proof of its ownership so far.

The beneficiaries of the “shady land deal” included a brother of the District Congress Committee (Urban) president, a former Chairman of Amritsar Cooperative Bank, organising secretary, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, and son of a former Municipal Commissioner, who is a close confidant of a local MLA and the Chairman of a state corporation.

The disputed land, measuring 5,800 yards, was originally mortgaged to the New Bank of India by a Mumbai-based firm. However, leaders of various parties, having nexus with land sharks, had been eyeing the land.

It is alleged that the senior Congress leaders succeeded in getting the “girdawaris” in the names of their near and dear ones by exploiting revenue loopholes. After changing the “girdawaris,” the land was sold for about Rs 3 crore without proving ownership rights.

However, revenue officials, who are already in a fix, said they had confirmed “tenancy rights” only.

When contacted, Mr Rajesh Sharma and Mr K.S. Randhawa, both Tehsildars, claimed that they had dealt the case “on merit.”

However, it is learnt that they were reportedly under pressure from the ruling party to favour some particular leaders in the deal.

The “scam” came to light when two, out of eight, beneficiaries tried to sell the land to two different parties. Though the land is worth Rs 10 crore, yet it was sold for less than Rs 3 crore in a hush-hush manner.

Though one of the persons had complained to the CIA staff, yet the inquiry might be hushed up since certain senior Congress leaders have high stakes in the deal.

Mr Yoginderpal Dhingra, District Congress Committee president, said he had nothing to do with the deal as his brother, who was one of the beneficiaries in the sale of the land, had a separate business.

On the other hand, Mr Subash Mahajan, organising secretary of the PPCC, admitted that his son, Mr Sumit Mahajan, had got the “girdawari” of 100 yards only in his name.

The land had been lying vacant for many years since it was mortgaged in the name of the bank. The actual owner of the land in Pawan Nagar, near Gagan Theatre, had taken a huge loan from the bank. Having failed to return the loan, the land became the property of the bank.

Since the bank did not bother to take the possession of the land, a resident of Putlighar, in connivance with land sharks, tried to grab the property by getting the “girdawaris” in their names.


Villagers support widow in ‘land grab’ case
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 31
Supporting a widow, possession of whose land was reportedly taken over by a family “with the aid of the police,” residents of Jhumba Bhaika village have formed an action committee to “protect her life and property from unbridled police force,” besides expressing their intent to launch an agitation on the issue.

According to a statement released by the committee members, including CPI state executive member Jagjeet Singh Joga, Ms Veerpal Kaur, widow of former sarpanch Amarinder Singh, was staying with her three-year-old son at her residence on her nine-acre field.

The panel members alleged that on May 29, the force from Sadar police station and Baluana rounded up the widow’s brothers and five of her other relatives before putting them in a lockup at Baluana.

They alleged that the police then put her and her son under “house arrest” and destroyed her crop under its “supervision.” The entire operation continued for about six hours and the police kept the vigil during the period, they charged.

Ms Veerpal Kaur alleged that the Sadar police had snapped the power supply to her tubewell and also threatened her to vacate her residence on May 25.

She said she had sent telegrams to the DGP, Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and Human Rights Commission in this regard. She alleged that the police also took away her brother’s licensed firearm during the operation.

Amarinder had married Veerpal without divorcing his first wife after he lost his only son in a firing incident. Amarinder died of a heart attack in February, 2004, and the property dispute among his two wives reached the court.

The SDM in his verdict on December 8, 2004, rejected the claim of Ms Veerpal and her son Ravatinder over Amarinder’s property and mutated his belongings in the name of his first wife Amanpreet Kaur and her daughter Guneet Kaur.

Later, Ms Veerpal appealed in the court of Deputy Commissioner Rahul Bhandari, who in his verdict delivered on November 18, 2005, stated that there were enough evidences to prove that Ravatinder was the son of Amarinder Singh.

The Deputy Commissioner declared Ms Amanpreet Kaur, Guneet Kaur and Ravatinder Singh as the owners of Amarinder Singh’s land.

Ms Amanpreet Kaur challenged the Deputy Commissioner’s verdict in the court of the Faridkot Commissioner.

Meanwhile, a deputation of the CPI, led by Mr Joga, met the IG, Bathinda zone, Mr Rajinder Singh, and voiced their protest against the encroachment on Veerpal Kaur’s land.

The CPI termed it as a clear violation of the Deputy Commissioner’s verdict and sought action against the police officials involved in the incident.

When contacted, the SSP, Mr Varinder Kumar, denied the allegations leveled against the police.

He said the DC orders were yet to be implemented and the division of land had not taken place. He said the family of Ms Amanpreet had lodged a complaint that Ms Veerpal’s kin were not allowing them entry into ‘their field,” following which the police might have taken some preventive measures.

He said he would still order a probe into the matter. 


Sarpanch violates norms, allots plots to Dalits
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 31
Though the state’s efforts to allot land to Reliance hit political roadblocks, the sarpanches of the ruling Congress Party have allegedly allotted panchayat land to Dalits with an eye on the forthcoming elections in the state.

Mr Harvinder Singh Pappu, former chairman of the Market Committee, Majitha, talking to The Tribune alleged that Mrs Raj Kaur, Sarpanch of Kotlan Gujran in Majitha block, in connivance with Mr Harbans Singh, a former Sarpanch and sitting MLA of the ruling party, had allotted plots on its four-acre land to some Dalits affiliated with the ruling party.

Mr Pappu alleged that the matter came to light during his recent visit to the village and when he inquired about it from Mrs Raj Kaur, also a Dalit, who feigned ignorance about the whole issue as she is illiterate. He said in the absence of quorum in the village panchayat the allotment of plots by it to Dalits was illegal.

He alleged that Labh Singh, son of Jagtar Singh, also a Dalit, had been denied a plot because of his affiliation with the Akali Dal.


RIL presentation wins over Dullo
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 31
The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee’s president, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, who had serious reservations on the Reliance Industries Limited’s (RIL) proposed field-to-fork project in the state, was visibly bowled over by the presentation given to him relating to the project in the presence of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, at Punjab Bhavan here today.

After seeing the presentation, Mr Dullo told a group of mediapersons that he was convinced now that the project would benefit farmers of Punjab.

“I am ready to give my own land for this project to the RIL,” he added. The presentation was given to Mr Dullo after the meeting of the Council of Ministers.

Besides Capt Amarinder Singh, senior ministers and some officers were also 
present at the time of presentation.

Earlier, expressing his reservations on the project, Mr Dullo had stated that he was not sure that whether the project would benefit Punjab farmers and poor sections of the society. Now, however, he has changed his mind and extended all his support to the project after seeing the presentation.

In fact, the concept of the project has been designed by the RIL in such a manner that it impresses everyone who gets a chance to see it.

When practically implemented in the state, what gains farmers and the state itself will make from this project remains to be seen.

Will the implementation of the project really raise the income of Punjab farmers four or five times? This is the question being raised repeatedly.

Mr Dullo said he had got the required clarifications after seeing the project.

“The state government should depute its agriculture officers to educate people in the countryside with regard to the important aspects of the project,” he added.

However, he said the government would not give the land to the RIL free of cost.

“The government would negotiate with the RIL and land would be given on the basis of some terms and conditions,” he added.

Meanwhile, when asked that the RIL had also approached the West Bengal Government to start similar project there, Capt Amarinder Singh said there was nothing to worry in this regard.

“The RIL has planned to start similar projects in 10 states and West Bengal is one of them,” said Capt Amarinder Singh.

As the RIL is to cater to the different requirements of the market, which it will enter through its countrywide network of retail outlets, it has planned to start projects in predominantly agricultural and horticultural states to procure different varieties of vegetables and fruits to cater to the market.

The Punjab Government, sources said, had been given an impression by the RIL that the West Bengal Government was offering it more concessions than what was being offered by it (Punjab). Because of this reason, the Punjab Government wanted to quickly get the issue clinched with the RIL 


Rising prices: middle-class families turning to PDS
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 31
Burdened with the rising prices of essential commodities, even middle class families in Punjab are now turning to the public distribution system (PDS) to buy wheat and rice. So much so that the Punjab Government has now ordered the release of an additional 88,000 tonnes of wheat to meet the sudden surge in demand.

This was required as people who are categorised as living above the poverty line are also making a beeline for buying wheat through the PDS where it is sold at Rs 6.36 per kg. Wheat sells at Rs 9 or Rs 10 per kg in the open market.

These people were earlier not drawing wheat through the PDS as the price difference was marginal with wheat being sold in the open market at Rs 7 per kg. More than 48 lakh people in Punjab are living above the poverty line and mainly belong to lower middle class and middle class families. Sources in the Food and Supplies Department said the additional wheat had been released. No more than 10,000 tonnes of wheat is normally sold through the PDS during the year.

Normally, consumers of this wheat are 4.8 lakh people living below the poverty line (BPL) who get the commodity at Rs 4.34 per kg. Other consumers come under the Antodaya Aan Yojana (AAY) who buy wheat at Rs 2 per kg through the PDS.

The sources said many middle class families, who are now turning to the PDS, had not even bothered to renew their ration cards for a long time and had almost forgotten about the PDS. The additional wheat was provided after reports from the field said that more and more people were coming to avail themselves of the PDS facility.

Also, the Punjab Government has asked the Union Government to allow the sale of sugar and pulses through the PDS. The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, has written to the Union Agriculture Minister, Mr Sharad Pawar, stating that the common man could not afford to buy pulses. Since pulses were largely imported, the Government of India should provide subsidy and send pulses for supply through the PDS.

The prices of pulses have almost doubled in the past few months. Some pulses are selling at more than Rs 50 per kg.

Pulses, sugar, oil, rice, wheat and soap were available through the PDS till this was discontinued in February, 2004. Now only wheat remains on this list.


Hospital trust divided over reinstatement of college Principal
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 31
The Sri Guru Ram Das Charitable Hospital Trust (SGRDCHT) seems to be divided over the reinstatement of Dr U.S. Dhaliwal, as Principal of the SGPC-run Medical College, who was suspended on February 3 for allegedly indulging in ‘unconstitutional charges’.

However, it is learnt that the SGPC has made up its mind to re-instate Dr Dhaliwal keeping in view his ‘services’ to the institution though he was earlier removed ‘unceremoniously’.

Interestingly, Dr Dhaliwal was not served a charge sheet so far. Mr Avtar Singh, President SGPC told The Tribune that it was the decision of the SGPC’s Trust not to serve charge sheet on Dr Dhaliwal. To a question, the SGPC chief said that the Inquiry Committee, constituted to look into the charges against Dr Dhaliwal would hold its meeting as per schedule.

Earlier, Dr Davinder Singh, member-secretary and trustee had written to the SGPC to fix fresh date for inquiry committee’s meeting . Originally, the meeting was fixed for June 4 which was advanced to May 30 at the behest of Mr Harbeant Singh , Secretary SGPC, who is not even secretary of the Trust. However, the SGPC Chief said come what may the meeting would be held to decide the fate of Dr Dhaliwal as per schedule.

Mr Sucha Singh Langah, a former Akali Minister and chairman of the Sub Committee said that the case would be decided on merit.

Dr Dhaliwal was the third Principal in a row since the inception of the SGPC-run medical college in 1997, who was removed unceremoniously. Earlier, Dr Hardyal Singh and Dr Surinder Singh Cheema were not allowed to complete full terms.

While announcing the suspension of Dr Dhaliwal in February, the SGPC chief had told media persons that a high-level probe would look into the misappropriations and irregularities, allegedly committed by Dr Dhaliwal during his stint as principal. He had also alleged that Dr Dhaliwal had withdrawn his security deposits, amounting to about Rs 52,000, by writing a letter addressed to himself and then allowing the same in the capacity of a Principal.

Dr G.S. Grewal, a member of the Sri Guru Ram Das Charitable Hospital Trust, had urged the president of the trust to conduct a high-level probe against Dr Dhaliwal.

Dr Grewal in a letter to the president, Mr Avtar Singh, had alleged that Principal Dr Dhaliwal, spent crore without submission of any project or viability report to the trust for approval. Levelling serious charges, he said he even tampered with college records and fabricated these to his convenience. However, Dr Dhaliwal had described the charges as baseless and misleading.


Rs 1-cr fraud rattles Dept of Posts 3 employees suspended
Rajmeet Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 31
A fraud, to the tune of Rs 1 crore, has been unearthed in the Punjab Circle of the Postal Department.

During a preliminary inquiry, officials of the department have found that cash and postal stamps, worth Rs one crore or more, were missing from the treasury at the Postal Head Office, Dasuya.

At least three employees, including a cashier, have been suspended on the basis of preliminary findings.

A complaint has also been forwarded to the Punjab Police to investigate the matter.

The Chief Post Master-General, Punjab Circle, Ms Manjula Prashar, said the exact amount misappropriated by the employees was yet to be ascertained as the inquiry was at a preliminary stage only.

Incidentally, teams of officials were camping at Dasuya Post Office to look into the intricacies of the case.

Sources in the Postal Department revealed that the erring officials — Hardev, Cashier, Sukhbir Singh, Computer Maintenance Manager, and Dev Raj, Post Master — had been suspended.

Though the officials refused to comment on the modus operandi of the erring employees, the sources said as per the practice money running into several lakhs, which was collected from various sub-post offices, was deposited at the treasury daily.

Apparently, the money was being deposited on papers only and, in a similar fashion, the sheets of postal stamps were stolen from the treasury but entered on the records. The practice was continuing for the past few years.

It must be mentioned that Hardev, Cashier, was handling the work of three posts.

The sources said it was being ascertained whether the irregularity was noticed during the routine inspection and annual audits or not.

The possibility of involvement of more employees could not be ruled out at this stage, said officials.

It is learnt that the new Post Master, Mr Fakir Singh, noticed the irregularity and tipped the postal headquarters about it.

The sources further revealed that since the records were computerised in 2004, there were anomalies in the records which too could have led to misappropriation.


Septuagenarian couple left homeless
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, May 31
Septuagenarian couple has lost all its property to illegal financiers and is now forced to live in a religious dera. Bereft of their only house and belongings, they are still being harassed by the financiers.

“They want to extract a pound flesh for every penny we owe them on papers,” says Satnam Singh, a retired Subedar Major from the Army. In a complaint to the SSP, Gurdaspur, Punjab, Chief Minister and Governor of Punjab, Mr Satnam Singh has alleged that he owned a house and a dairy in Pathankot.

During his stint in the Army, he was generally posted out of station. His illiterate wife Gurmeet Kaur used to stay in the house and run dairy business. Wife of a local financier who used to take milk from them lured his wife into joining a chit fund scheme. They got her signatures on some papers and cheques in lieu of the formalities of chit fund.

However, later they started harassing them into paying them huge interest. Even according to papers, they owed just Rs 25,000 to the financiers. However, the financiers multiplied the amount to Rs 1 lakh and then further.

On the garb of charging interest from them, the financiers initially took away all their house holdings and dairy animal. Later, they forced them to sell their house. The couple was forced to put up in Radha Sowami Dera at Beas as they were left paupers by the financiers.

These days Satpal Singh and his wife came to Ram Sahay village to visit their daughter. Here also the financiers turned up and started harassing them.

The local police was also supporting them, alleged the old couple.

Mr Satnam Singh, in his letter to the state functionaries, has alleged that if he and his wife die or commit suicide due to harassment by financiers, the latter should be held responsible for the same. He has also named a few financiers in the complaint. A caucus of financiers has been functioning in the district illegally. As per rules, each financier has to register with the RBI to run a finance company. The financiers also cannot charge interest more than what is specified by the RBI.

However, here most of financiers are charging interest rates up to 10 per cent per month from their victims. The poor and illiterate persons are victims of these financiers. The financiers gather before the government offices and banks to collect money generally from the class IV employees who fall in their trap. The signature on blank cheques is the weapon in the hands of financiers who use it to take legal course against the victims.


Surinder Kaur on path to recovery
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 31
Flooded with phone calls from Surinder Kaur’s fans across the world, the US-based daughters of the legendary singer today confirmed that their mother was on the path to recovery.

Speaking to The Tribune from New Jersey, Surinder Kaur’s daughters Nandini Singh and Pramodini Jaggi said their mother was still in intensive care unit, but she was gradually responding to treatment, and was looking fine.

Thanking the fans who have been concerned about Surinder Kaur’s health ever since The Tribune reported her condition, Ms Singh said her mother had long been suffering from rheumatoid arthritis but was being treated for something else. “She had a minor heart attack. In fact there has been no damage to her heart. Her lungs are a bit affected due to pulmonary fibrosis, but overall her organs are responding,” said Ms Nandini Singh, allaying the fears of fans.

Pramodini Jaggi for her part said Surinder Kaur had been ill for a very long time, and had not received the right treatment. “She is in safe hands now, and all we need to tell her fans is that she is fighting her disease very bravely. She has oxygen help; she is moving her limbs and she is also opening her eyes.”


Mann resents Suu Kyi’s detention
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 31
The President of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), Mr Simranjeet Singh Mann, has said his party was upset by the Burmese military juntas’ order of not releasing the Nobel Prize Winner, Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, who stood for democratic rule in her country.

Mr Mann said she had been incarcerated by the junta for more than a decade-and-a-half. It was even more sorrowful that the American and European governments, which stood for democracy, had not done enough to mount pressure on this regime.


Irked by faulty sewerage, residents stop Lahore bus
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 31
The police today had a tough time to control the irate residents on the Batala road who stopped the Amritsar-Lahore-Nankana Sahib Bus ''Punj-Aab'' in protest against faulty sewer system in their locality here today.

The police made repeated requests to the agitating residents to allow the bus to reach its destination, but they did not pay any heed. The police force was requisitioned from Sadar police station to handle the situation .

The root cause of the protest dharna was inundation of the parts of the Vijay Nagar (Batala road) locality with sewer water and road with full of pit holes. The road is considered ''no man's land'' since both PWD and Municipal Corporation claim that it does not belong to them.

The residents suddenly moved to Verka bypass where they had blocked the traffic for more than two hours. They also burnt the effigies of Sunil Dutti and Mr Jugal Kishore, Mayors, Municipal Corporation, and Improvement Trust.

It is learnt that the bus carrying a few passengers was stopped for about an hour.

The Mayor, Municipal Corporation, claimed that the road did not belong to the corporation. He alleged that the residents at the behest of certain local leaders wanted to take political mileage by resorting to traffic blockages, causing inconvenience to the public. He said the inundation of the locality was result of burning of disposal pumps after the city was hit by storm.


Councillors accuse 2 chairmen of duping people
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 31
In a significant development, a section of Municipal Councillors of the local Municipal Corporation, members of panchayats and block samitis belonging to the Congress, while accusing two chairmen of state government departments of collecting money by befooling the people, urged the Chief Minister today to initiate legal action against them.

In a letter written to Capt Amarinder Singh (copies of which were circulated to mediapersons), the complainant alleged that Nirmal Singh Bhattian, Chairman, Punjab Backward Class Development and Financial Corporation and Prem Gupta, Chairman, Pepsu Town Development Board, Rajpura, had collected crores of rupees from the people of Punjab and Haryana on the pretext of installing the statue of Rajesh Pilot in this area. They demanded that a probe should be conducted into this matter through an agency.

They alleged that both had collected crores of rupees for installing the statue of late Rajesh Pilot in this area from traders, Congress workers and members of the Gujjar community. They added that for collecting the funds, both had been using the name of Capt Amarinder Singh.

They urged the Chief Minister to consider the background of these two Congress leaders and requested him to make arrangements to stop them from collecting money from the people in this manner. They added that family members of Rajesh Pilot should also be made aware of their activities.

The Chairmen, while denying the allegations levelled against them, said they were open to any sort of probe. They alleged that the letter had been written on the behest of Punjab Power Minister Lal Singh because they had exposed him for his misdeeds.

Mr Bhattian said he had talked to the councillors, whose signatures were put on the letter written to the Chief Minister, and they had told him that someone else had put their forged signature.

He added that Mr Lal Singh had done this to divert the attention of people and Congress workers away from his misdeeds.

He said the installation of statue of Pilot at Sanaur road of this city had been deferred and now a function would be organised on June 11 to mark his 6th death anniversary of. 


Vigilance checks trees marked for felling
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur May 31
The Punjab vigilance has started an inquiry into the marking of trees in the Gurdaspur forest range. Sources available here said a Vigilance team was in the forests in Donera range these days to check the marking of trees.

The Vigilance had started inquiry into the tree felling scam after new items in this regard were carried in these columns.

However, the methodology being adopted by the Vigilance in the case has raised many questions. The authorities are taking the help of local forest officials who are accused in the case for checking the marking. The local forest officials would not guide the Vigilance authorities into the areas where illegal felling has been carried out as they are the accused in the case.

Besides, the Vigilance authorities should have taken the revenue authorities along for the inquiry. Most of the illegal felling has been carried in the village common lands. The trees or protected forests on the village common lands is government property. No feeling can be allowed on village common lands.

However, the Forest Department has not yet got the village common lands demarcated. The fact has been admitted by forest officials in a question asked under right to information by a former Wildlife Warden from the area, Mr Sukhdeep Singh Bajwa.

The sources told The Tribune that the some influential people of the area had got converted village common lands in their names in revenue records. However, in old records available with the Forest Department the land is still shown as village common land.

The Vigilance authorities could have ascertained the fact that the trees have been marked or felled on village common lands only if the services of revenue authorities had been sought.

Interestingly, the Vigilance had earlier sought the help of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) authorities for carrying out the inquiry. However, the PSEB authorities turned down the request.

Despite the fact that the Vigilance was carrying out the inquiry, the illegal felling was carried out in the Donera forest range at a large scale. As per the felling rules no felling permit can be given after March 31. However, the felling in area started in April. As per the rules transit of wood is also not allowed after April 15.

However, the illegally felled wood was still being carried out. The Forest Department also, despite an affidavit submitted in the court by the Secretary of the department that no permits would be issued, gave the felling as well as transit permits under political pressure.

The Tribune has in its possession the transit permits issued by the forest authorities at Gurdaspur.


Death after tubectomy: final report awaited
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, May 31
Though the police has initiated proceedings under Section 174 of the CrPC into the death of Rajinder Kaur (25) of Kammomajra Khurd village, near here, after a family planning operation at the Civil Hospital on May 29, the post-mortem report says massive blood was found in the peritoneum cavity of the deceased. She became serious during tubectomy operation and died after two-three hours. Rajinder Kaur is survived by her husband, two daughters and two sons.

According to sources, this is the first such case in the history of the Sangrur Civil Hospital, in which a woman had lost her life either due to alleged negligence on the part of doctors or any other reason whatsoever.

The sources told The Tribune today that a medical board had mentioned in the end of its post-mortem report that in its opinion, the cause of the death was shock with haemorrhage. However, lung and heart were sent for pathological examination and the final opinion would be given after getting the report of pathological examination.

Dr Inderjit Singh, District Family Planning Officer (DFPO), said Dr R.K. Garg from the family planning branch of the Directorate of Family Welfare, Punjab, had visited the town the previous day and gathered information about the death of Rajinder Kaur. He also said the district health authorities would also hold a comprehensive inquiry into the circumstances in which Rajinder Kaur died after her operation for family planning.

Dr Inderjit Singh also said the office of the Civil Surgeon had sent a cheque for Rs 50,000 to the SMO, in charge, Civil Hospital, Sangrur, for the family of the deceased. 


Polluted water irks Muktsar residents
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, May 31
Even as the Chief Minister promised to check the supply of polluted canal water at a recently held martyrdom anniversary function of 40 “muktas”, water containing harmful effluents has started flowing into the district in large quantity again.

The supply of polluted water has spread panic among the residents who were already grappling with water crisis in the wake of soaring mercury. Sources said the water being supplied was polluted to such an extent that even animals were not consuming it.

It gave out a peculiar stench and the pollutants that it contained could be seen with naked eyes. Sources said a large number of fish had died due to this contamination. Sources said the stinking water being supplied through taps was not fit for even bathing purposes.

The supply of polluted water came to light sometime back when water level in the Sirhind feeder was reduced to a large extent for its repair work. The feeder caters to drinking water and irrigation water needs of the entire Malwa region, as groundwater in the area contains heavy metals and is unfit for human consumption.

The CM had stated that water from some “nullahs” and industrial units might be getting mixed with canal water. He had promised to resolve the matter within a few days.

Though the situation improved for some days, the flow of polluted water has begun once again. Unconfirmed reports said this time polluted water was also flowing into the Rajasthan feeder.


Tobacco claims 50 lakh lives a year
Tribune Reporters

Sangrur, May 31
Due to excessive use of tobacco about 50 lakh persons die every year in the world, including 2,200 persons daily in India.

This was stated by Dr S.K. Bansal, Civil Surgeon, Sangrur, while presiding over a function organised to observe No tobacco day here today. The function was attended, among others, by wholesale cigarette and tobacco dealers and owners/ managers of the hotels and restaurants.

The Civil Surgeon emphasised on the no-use of tobacco products to curb various diseases like lung cancer, throat cancer, and larynex cancer, etc. He said if the present rate of tobacco use continued then it would cause one crore deaths every year in the world by the year 2020. He asked the tobacco venders not to put advertising boards of any kind of tobacco brand at 
public places.

Dr Bansal said that the tobacco products should not be sold to minors.

Hoshiarpur: On the occasion of World Tobacco Day, the Health and Family Welfare Department organised an awareness camp for the inmates of the district jail here on Wednesday to apprise them of the ill-effects of tobacco consumption.

Elaborating on the theme, “Tobacco is deadly in any form or disguise”, of this year’s World No Tobacco Day, Dr Paramjeet Singh, Assistant Civil Surgeon, Hoshiarpur, stated that consumption of tobacco in the form of cigarette, pipers, chewing forms like gutka, paan, etc. was 

Dr M.L. Puri, District Health Officer, told the inmates that chewing 
form of tobacco was a leading cause of oral cancer in India.


Ultra-modern bus stand for Kharar

Kharar, May 31
The local municipal council will construct an ultra-modern bus stand here at a cost of Rs 2 crore.

A decision to this effect was taken at a meeting of the block samiti members held yesterday. The meeting was also attended by the Kharar MLA, Mr Bir Devinder Singh, the SDM, Mr Darshan Singh Sandhu, the president of the civic body, Mr Charanjit Singh, and the District Development and Panchayat Officer, Mr Daljit Singh Virk. It was decided that the council would spend Rs 2 crore on the construction of the bus stand from its own resources.

As per the decision, the bus stand would be constructed on a piece of land measuring over 19 kanals owned by the block samiti.

The civic body was empowered to remove illegal encroachments from the present bus stand area while the legal occupants would be adjusted after the new bus stand gets constructed. OC


2 killed in road mishaps
Our Correspondent

Batala, May 31
Pritam Singh, a son of Barkat Singh of Kohali village, was killed, and his wife, Swaranjit Kaur, injured when the scooter they were riding collided with a tractor-trailer at Bahadur Sen village today.

According to the police, Pritam Singh and his wife were coming to Batala from their village on a motor cycle (PB-18D-1353). When they reached near Bahadur Sen village, the motor cycle collided with a tractor-trailer. Pritam Singh died on the spot, while his wife was injured.

The police sources said the driver of the tractor-trailer fled. The Rangar Nangal police has taken the tractor-trailer in possession.

In another accident Shinghara Singh, a son of Pura Singh of Sangrwan village, was killed when his scooter collided with a “Peter rehra” near Massania village, about 10 km from here, today.


Tree plantation project on the anvil
Tribune News Service

Ropar, May 31
In a move to protect the designated wetland area of international importance spread over 1365 hectares area in the district, the Forest Department has decided to do tree plantation. The plantation will be done in 250 hectare area of the wetland area that was natural habitat for a variety of flora and fauna, in the next five years.

The Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Mr S.S Bhatti, today sent the project report of the tree plantation to the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Alok Sekhar, to give a final nod and the Department of Science and Technology, Punjab, to provide funds for the project.

If the project is fully implemented, it would help to save the natural habitant of more than 250 species of birds, include local and migratory birds, besides the varieties of fish. The need to protect the wetland area was felt as the strength of the migratory birds that arrived in October from Central Asia declined in the past few years following the degradation of the wetland area.

The wetland area has been facing constant threat of soil erosion from the Shivalik hills that accumulate tones of silt in the Sutlej. As a result, a large number of area in the river has been filled with silt. The high level of pollution in some of the area has reduced the fish population.

The DFO, Mr S.S. Bhatti, told The Tribune that the protection of the wetland area was important for the flora and fauna. To prevent soil erosion, we have decided tree plantation in 250-hectare area for the next five year.


Front hails decision on DA merger
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 31
The Progressive Front has hailed the decision of the State Finance Minister, Mr Surinder Singla, to merge 50 per cent of the DA with pay scales of employees of Punjab Government aided schools.

In a press note, Mr Gurdish Singh a spokesman of the Progressive Front , said it was due to the efforts of the front that the Finance Minister was forced to take this decision. Mr Gurdish Singh also thanked the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, Patiala Member Parliament Mrs Preneet Kaur and Education Minister Mr Harnam Dass Johar for implementing the decision.

Mr Gurdish Singh added that the Front appealed to the Chief Minister to immediately consider the other demands of the teachers of aided schools to ensure that good 
quality education was imparted by teachers to students.


Major tragedy averted
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 31
A major fire broke out in the generator room of a petrol station located near the 22 no phatak flyover, near the head office of the State Excise Department, causing panic among residents of the locality this afternoon.

Two fire tenders were pressed into service and the firemen managed to douse the leaping flames after much difficulty.

A major mishap was averted as both the tanks of the station were filled to the brim while a tanker was also stationed on the premises of the pump ready to unload petrol. Sensing danger, the employees of the station removed the tanker to a safe place even as the flames threatened to engulf the entire pump. 


No regular bail for murder accused
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, May 31
The Punjab and Haryana High Court today disallowed the plea of Dr Ravdeep Kaur, an accused in the murder case of Patiala Judge Vijay Pal Singh, for grant of regular bail.

In her petition for grant of bail, Dr Ravdeep Kaur, who is presently in jail, had stated that the prosecution had failed to complete its investigation in the case within the stipulated 90 days, a fact reflected in the filing of a supplementary challan after the 90-day period.

While the prosecution had filed the main challan against her much before the end of the 90-day period, a supplementary challan was filed later. This fact, her counsel asserted, was the reason why she should be released on bail.

However, Mr Justice Rajive Bhalla did not find merit in the arguments and dismissed the petition.


Civil Defence officers transferred
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 31
The Punjab Government today ordered the posting and transfer of officers of the Home Guards and Civil Defence Directorate.

Mr Darshan Singh Mehmi has been posted as Division Commandant, Ferozepore, while Mr Baldev Singh Tiger has been posted as Division Commandant, Jalandhar.

Mr Anantjit Singh has been posted as Battalion Commandant, VIth Battalion, Fazilka.

Mr Sukhjinder Singh goes as District Commander, Gurdaspur, while Mr Inderjit Singh will be the new second-in charge, IV Battalion, Patti.

Mr Manohar Lal will be the new District Commander at Mansa, while Mr Sohan Lal will be the new District Commander at Sangrur.

Mr Rajbir Singh Walia will hold the additional charge of District Commander, Amritsar, in addition to his existing duties. 


3 arrested on murder charge
Our Correspondent

Kharar, May 31
The police has arrested three persons in connection with the murder of a middle-aged person at Radiala village yesterday.

Those arrested are Balwinder Singh and his two sons, Surjit Singh and Dilbar Singh.

Shamsher Singh was killed following a dispute over drainage of rain water. When he was getting the drain cleared of silt as rain water had entered his house, he was attacked with knives by Surjit Singh and Dilbar Singh. Shamsher Singh had died on the spot while his elder brother, Mr Fateh Jang Singh, and son, Mr Satwinder Singh, had sustained injuries. Both were taken to the local Civil Hospital from where Mr Fateh Jang Singh was referred to the PGI, Chandigarh.


2 held with hawala money
Tribune News Service

Ropar, May 31
The Ropar police has arrested two persons Achit Walia of Delhi and Satpal of Pinjore with 7 lakh of hawala money besides a .303 bore pistol and live cartridges from them. Three of their accomplices, however escaped.

Addressing press conference in this evening the SSP, Mr Kapil Dev, said that the five accused had gathered at Behrampur Jimidrna village near SYL canal to divide Rs 7-lakh among them which they had got through hawala and to commit dacoity. The police on a tip off arrested the Achit Walia and Satpal while their accomplices escaped. The police has registered a case.


Youth shot
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 31
A youth identified as Ranjit Singh Anand, alias Dimpy, was shot by two unidentified youths at his house located in a thickly populated Raghomajra area of the city late night today.

Though the police could not arrived at any conclusion in connection with the murder.

Though the victim was rushed to the local Rajindra Hospital immediately, he was declared brought dead. The police authorities had launched the investigation to track down the culprits. 


Panjab varsity B. Com I results

Chandigarh, May 31
Panjab University here has declared the result of the B.Com. Part I examination conducted in April 2006 The result would be available on the university website www:puchd.ac.in at 2 p.m. on June 1, 2006. No result inquiry will be entertained on the telephone as per the press statement issued by the Controller of Examinations, PU. — TNS


Panel clears rules on running sawmills
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 31
The Empowered Committee of the Union Forest and Environment Ministry has approved the rules with regard to the operation of sawmills and the setting up of plywood factories in Punjab.

Sources today said that the set of rules would be presented at the next meeting of the state Council of Ministers for approval.

Following approval by the council, committees comprising officers would be set up at the district level to issue licences to operate sawmills and for setting up plywood factories in accordance with the rules.

Following an order of the Supreme Court in 2002, the Empowered Committee had directed all states to take certain measures regarding the operation of sawmills and plywood factories. However, the authorities in Punjab did not bother for four years, until recently, to take adequate measures in this regard because there was no licensing system in general for setting up sawmills in the state. A few hundred licences were issued by the Punjab Mandi Board under a particular Act, it is learnt.

Recently, when the committee issued notices regarding the operation of sawmills, the Punjab Government got closed all sawmills which were set up after 2002. The Mandi Board also cancelled the licences of the sawmills which had started operations after 2002, it is learnt.


New co-operative model launched
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 31
Iffco-Tokio General Insurance Company Ltd. (ITGI), a trusted player in general insurance, and Iffco, the world largest fertiliser cooperative, today announced the launch of a new cooperative model to enhance the reach of insurance to people in rural areas. The model will help in building and establishing a cooperative channel by making agents from cooperative societies.

As part of the cooperative model, a new bima centre was inaugurated at Rajpura, 22 km from here, today by Mr Ajit Narain, MD and CEO, ITGI. Others who were present included Mr N.K. Kedia, Executive Director, ITGI, Mr P.S. Sidhu, zonal manager, IFFCO and Mr A.S. Bhinder, area manager, Iffco. Local farmers, members of cooperative societies and IFFCO employees were also present at the launch.

The model will map cities and districts where both the ITGI and Iffco had a presence so as to ensure an effective coordination.


Chamber resents PSIEC’s move
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, May 31
The Patiala Chamber of Industries have demanded the waiving of penal interest on IFL scheme and refund of excess meter rent charged by the PSEB. The chamber at its meeting held here today has strongly criticised the autocratic attitude of the PSIEC towards the industry.

According to Mr Samsher Singh, president of the Patiala Chamber, the state Finance Minister had assured the delegation to favorably consider and decide the issue of waiving off penal interest on the interest-free loan scheme. But till today nothing concrete had been done. He said the PSEB had charged excess meter rent from the industry since 2003.

He said as per the instruction of the PSERC, the PSEB would charge the reduced rent from April, 2005, but it had not refunded the excess rent already charged which amounted to more than Rs 250 crore.

He strongly criticised the “autocratic” attitude of the PSIEC in levying the charges on the plot holders for installing submersible pumps in their units in focal point to meet their additional demand of water.

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