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Govt in a fix over loan waiver to farmers
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 10
The Punjab Government is in a dilemma over the waiving of loans worth Rs 26,000 crore against farmers in the state.

Its think tank has been deliberating with regard to enacting a law to give relief to farmers and regulating the system of money lending, especially by private persons.

However, apprehending its adverse political effect, the government has been holding back the draft of the Bill, which is to be passed, for the past several months.

In fact, the draft of the Bill was to be presented during the last session of the Punjab Assembly but the move was dropped at the last moment.

Now, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has set up a high-level committee of ministers under the chairmanship Rural Development Minister Lal Singh to hold meetings with all stakeholders to know their views with regard to the passing of the Bill.

Other members of the committee are Amarjit Singh Samra, Avtar Henry, Surinder Singla and Jasjit Singh Randhawa.

The state government wants an ordinance to be issued to give relief to farmers on loans against them. Later, the ordinance is to be converted into law in a two-day session of Punjab Assembly, which will be the last of the present Assembly, on September 14 and 15.

However, all will depend on what report is given by the committee to the Council of Ministers.

Sources said the government wanted that the payment of loans to farmers by moneylenders be regulated by making a provision in the law.

Only money paid through cheque by moneylenders to farmers concerned should be considered as a genuine loan and its recovery from farmer by moneylender should never be more than double the amount paid to farmer.

Any money paid to farmers without cheque should not be considered as loan.

For instance, if money lender has paid Rs 1 lakh to farmer as loan through proper channel then the farmer should not be asked to return more than Rs 2 lakh by including all interest, etc.

And all disputes with regard to loans among moneylenders and farmers should be heard by a three-member tribunal proposed to be set up under the chairmanship of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate in each sub-division.

Sources said there was a provision of several safeguards in the draft of the Bill to save farmers from alienation of their land in case of default of loan payment.

The draft of the Bill has been prepared on the basis of the law enacted by Sir Chhottu Ram in 1930s when debt against farmers had emerged as a big issue in the region.

There is perception among certain senior officers as well as ministers that the passing of such a law can annoy commission agents, which traditionally vote for the Congress.

There will be several technical problems for commission agents of paying money through cheque.

They will have to maintain the account and file returns of income tax and they will have to also pay income tax on income from interest.

And any deficiency in maintaining account can land them in trouble with income tax authorities concerned.

Obviously, the committee will discuss these issues with commission agents, officials concerned, farmers, and commercial and cooperative banks.

They feel that the law will favour farmers and it weighs heavily against commission agents, who have been advancing money to farmers on the basis of mutual trust.

According to a government estimate, out of the total debt of Rs 26,000 crore against farmers, Rs 12,000 crore is of moneylenders and remaining Rs 14,000 crore of cooperative and commercial banks.

Recently, the Punjab Government had approached the Union Government asking for Rs 2,059 crore to at least waive interest of loans pending against farmers.

The Punjab Government has estimated that the amount of interest on loans advanced by commercial and cooperative banks ran into Rs 859 crore and of moneylenders Rs 1,200 crore.

However, there is no response from the Union Government as far as giving assistance of Rs 2,059 crore to the state government is concerned to waive interest.

 

Delayed monsoon hits farmers hard
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 10
Delayed arrival of monsoon in this part of the region has proved costly for farmers. The monsoon has come late at least by a week.

It usually reaches Punjab, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh around July 1.

The entire region witnessed first heavy showers only yesterday, indicating the arrival of monsoon. The region had been by and large experiencing dry spell for the past several weeks.

“Cost of cultivation has gone up substantially because of the delay in rain. Farmers have to spend a lot of money on costly diesel to continue their on-farm operations smoothly,” said Director, Agriculture Department, Punjab, Balwinder Singh Sidhu.

Power generation and distribution system had remained under tremendous pressure because of the delay in the arrival of monsoon, said a senior engineer of the Punjab State Electricity Board associated with the distribution of power.

He said people, who had been experiencing lengthy power cuts in the sultry summer, were venting their anger against employees posted in the countryside to manage power distribution system by the PSEB.

At certain places they had turned violent and damaged property of the board.

Meanwhile, the area under cotton in Punjab has increased by 60,000 hectares this year.

Sources said around 6.20 lakh hectares of land had been covered under the cotton crop this year, where as the last year’s figure was 5.57 lakh hectares.

Last year, farmers got a good return from the cotton crop and owing to this, the area under the crop had increased this year.

There had been a shortage of expert migrant labour for the transplantation of paddy this year.

However, farmers had managed the situation by motivating the local labour to transplant paddy. Farmers offered more money to local labour to engage them for sowing paddy.

Already, around 22 lakh hectares of land had been covered under paddy crop.

Experts expected that around 26 lakh hectares would be covered under the crop against the last year’s 26.42 lakh hectares.

 

Include Jats in OBCs, say farmers
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, July 10
A large number of members and activists of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Lakhowal) and the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) today blocked vehicular traffic for two hours at Mahavir Chowk, near the Civil Hospital, here in support of their demands. They were led by Mr Gurjant Singh Mangwal, district president of the BKU (Rajewal), and Mr Gurdev Singh Amargarh, district president of the BKU (Lakhowal).

The protesters asked the state government to waive their loans without any delay and provide them loans at an interest rate of 4 per cent per annum.

They asked the government to make the payment of their produce through cheques to them. They urged the government to roll back the hike in the prices of diesel and petrol.

The farmers asked the Punjab Government to include Jats in the category of other backward classes (OBCs) on the pattern of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. They also demanded linkage of the minimum support price (MSP) of the crops with the price index, grant of Rs 50 per quintal as bonus on wheat to all farmers and 10-hour power supply daily to tubewells.

The protesters were addressed, among others, by Mr Mangwal, Mr Amargarh, Mr Kapoor Singh Chhahar, Mr Malkiat Singh Lakhmirwala, Mr Naranjan Singh Dohla and Mr Raghbir Singh Chhajla.

 

CM calls meeting to give provisional NOC to mega projects
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 10
Even as the Union Ministry of Environment takes its own time to grant environmental clearance to the much-touted mega projects in Punjab, the state government is likely to give another provisional No Objection Certificates (NOC) to the projects and ensure that these are not delayed.

Senior officials in the state government informed TNS that a meeting had been convened by Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on July 12 to grant provisional NOCs to these projects for another term (6 months).

The NOCs issued earlier by the Punjab Pradesh Pollution Control Board have been rendered invalid after the term of the provisional certificate elapsed.

Each mega project, with an investment of Rs 50 crore or more, requires environmental clearance from the Union Government.

For want of regular clearance, most of these projects, which have been projected as engines of growth and employment in the state, are not making the needed headway.

Though the government prides itself for sanctioning mega projects (with majority of these being major housing projects, multiplexes and malls ) worth almost Rs 68,000 crore in the past three years, the actual investment that has come to the state till date is around Rs 6,500 crore only.

With the state Assembly elections round the corner, and the Congress government's inclination to use the investment attracted in the state as a major achievement, it has also been decided to take up the matter of expedition of these projects with the Prime Minister.

On the other hand, the Industries Department, Punjab, has now gone in an overdrive to ensure that the projects approved by the Empowered Committee for Mega Projects, are launched in the state at the earliest.

Officials in the Industries Department are following up the progress of the projects with the developers, urging them to start the construction and to launch their operations soon.

Sources in the Industries Department informed TNS that in the past three months they had been able to attract investment worth Rs 1700 crore, as against an investment of Rs 4800 crore made in the state in the past three years.

"By the end of this year, we hope to realise investment worth

Rs 10,000 crore in the state," informed a top official in the department.

 

No move to advance Assembly poll, says CM
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 10
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today justified the use of force by policemen against agitating activists of the ETT Union, the Unemployed B.Ed Teachers Union and the PTI Union recently, saying that this was must to maintain law and order.

Capt Amarinder Singh made it clear that he never asked the policemen to resort to lathi charge on agitating activists. But he said he was in favour of the policemen who use force to maintain law and order.

Capt Amarinder Singh made this statement while answering queries of mediapersons after presiding over the function organised in connection with the signing of memorandum of understanding (MOU) to develop the local historical Rajindra Kothi as Punjab’s first Heritage Hotel in Baradari Garden.

The Neem Rana Hotel Group is known for its expertise in developing the heritage sites. The group has been entrusted with the conservation of Rajindra Kothi as Heritage Hotel on the basis of lease agreement for 30 years and the project was likely to be completed by 2008.

When questioned about the pre-poning the next Assembly elections in the state, Capt Amarinder Singh said he was not a fool to pre-pone the elections.

He alleged that SAD (Badal) President Parkash Singh Badal had been making such statements out of fear.

Replying to another query about the shifting of the old record of the State Archives Department from Rajindra Kothi, he said it would be preserved in a scientific manner under the supervision of National Museum, New Delhi.

Unfolding the plans to develop Patiala as a major tourist destination, he said the old monument of Sheran Wala Gate would be rebuild and its original design with inbuilt gurdwara, temple, church and mosque as a testimony to the age old cultural and secular values would be restored.

He said Mohindra Kothi, from where the newly established Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law was functioning provisionally, would also be preserved as a heritage site along with ‘Mai Ji di Saran’ .

He said the state government was also committed to preserve the monuments like Quila Mubarak, Old Moti Bagh Palace, Sheesh Mahal and Bahadurgarh fort as Patiala had been declared as Counter Magnet Town under the NCR Plan. 

 

Congress to field new faces, says Dullo
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 10
Punjab Pardesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief Shamsher Singh Dullo today said that new faces would be recommended to the party high command for ticket for the coming Assembly elections.

Talking to mediapersons after formally installing Mr Prem Krishan Puri as president of the District Congress Committee (DCC), Patiala (Urban), here, Mr Dullo said before recommending the names of new faces , their winnability would be given due importance and consideration.

Capt Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister, his wife Preneet Kaur, MP, Patiala, his son Raninder Singh, general secretary, PPCC, along with senior ministers of Punjab were present on the occasion.

Mr Dullo, who has given a new shape to the party's organisational setup, carrying out major changes in the recent past, said the party high command would take the final decision on nomination of candidates. The state PPC unit was to mobilise workers for the elections.

He said a campaign to take the policies and programmes of the state Congress government to the doorstep of the people would begin on July 20 and it would run till August 15. It would cover all 117 Assembly segments of Punjab. The grievances of the people would be referred to the concerned quarters for quick redressal during this mass contact programme.

He said the Congress high command was yet to take a decision whether or not the president of the state unit of the Indian Youth Congress should be replaced . He said the Congress was a secular party and it was not an issue whether a Hindu or a Sikh should be made president of the Indian Youth Congress.

Asked whether Mr Raninder Singh would be nominated as party candidate, Mr Dullo said his potential to win would be considered in such an eventuality.

The Chief Minister called upon the Congress workers and leaders to work towards strengthening the position of the party in the state in view of the coming elections.

 

Raninder not to contest poll
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, July 10
Making an impressive debut in the state's political arena and putting all speculation to rest, Punjab Chief Minister's son and newly appointed Congress general secretary Raninder Singh today said he would not contest the coming Assembly elections.

Taking over as in charge of the Bathinda (Urban) constituency at a ceremony here, he said :" I'm not here to win elections, I'm here to make my party win," he announced at the start of his address to party workers. Talking to mediapersons, Mr Raninder said the Congress was a national party and nobody was made an MLA or a minister on his entry into the political scene.

"This happens in regional parties like Shiromani Akali Dal," he said, in an apparent dig at the Badals . Asked as to how he saw his political future shaping up, he said he had absolutely no political aspirations except for serving the party and strengthening its base in and around Bathinda as long as the PPCC president wanted him to.

He struck an almost instant rapport with party workers . He alleged that the Akalis had prepared 'marjivdas' and pushed the state into turmoil in the past. On the Manji Sahib episode, he charged the Akalis with violating 'maryada' . He alleged that the Badals, who sought votes in the name of the Panth, had built a luxury hotel and a palatial farmhouse worth crores.

He said he would ensure that the Congress won all Assembly seats in Bathinda district. During the press conference, the Finance Minister clarified that he had spent money on a party thrown by his wife to celebrate his grandson's birthday. "There was no misuse of government funds as reported in a section of the media," he added.

PPCC president Shamsher Singh Dullo said Mr Raninder's appointment would galvanise party workers not only in Bathinda but also in neighbouring districts of Faridkot and Mansa. Bathinda (Urban) president Ashok Kumar and Bathinda (Rural) chief Narinder Singh Bhuleria also took over charge at the ceremony.

There were reports of a Congress leader allegedly having an altercation with security personnel when the former tried to move close to the helipad area at the time of Mr Raninder's arrival.

 

Boy enacts kidnapping drama
Chander Parkash and Ravi Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 10
For a while it seemed that the Chief Minister’s home- town was rocked with the sensational kidnapping of 14-year-old boy Vipan from his house located in Gurbax Colony, here this afternoon, but the kidnapping turned out to be a farce that kept the police on its toes for about four hours.

The kidnapping drama was allegedly enacted by the boy. It had sent shockwaves among residents. Almost all police officials of the district, including the SSP, reached Vipan’s house which was overflowing with wailing relatives.

The police heaved a sigh of relief when it became known that the mischievous boy had been putting up at one of his relatives place in Mohali. The police had constituted about a dozen teams apart from putting up nakas, in the district to trace the boy.

Mr Mandeep Singh Sidhu, SP (City), said the police was informed about the kidnapping by the boy’s parents around 1.30 pm. He said that the police swung into action and made investigations. After some time, the police managed to find out the teacher from whom Vipan was taking private tuition. The police came to know that Vipan had enacted a similar drama on June 19. At that time, he was found from his relatives house in Rajpura.

Though the police would come to know about the reasons which compelled him to enact the drama only after taking to him, a police party, along with his parents, had been sent to Mohali to bring him back. No case of kidnapping had been so far.

Mr Sidhu said the police would also try to find out whether the boy had been suffering from some psychological disorders.

 

Punjab may impose Goonda Act to curb music piracy
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 10
Underlining Punjab Government's concern for growing audio-video piracy in the state, the vice-president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) and chairman of the Punjab Arts Council, Mr Kewal Dhillon,said here today that the Goonda Act to curb piracy would be brought in the forthcoming session of the State Assembly.

Talking to reporters after addressing a gathering of singers, artistes and others related with audio-video film industry in Punjab here, Mr Dhillon said he met the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, this morning, who gave his nod for the implementation of the Goonda Act.The Act will be taken up in the September session of the Assembly.

"The Chief Minister has also directed the Cultural Affairs Minister, Mr Pratap Singh Bajwa, and officials concerned to complete necessary formalities in this regard", Mr Dhillon said.

Mr Dhillon said a delegation of the artistes, including Gurdas Mann and Jasbir Jassi, had called on the Chief Minister recently in this regard.Even film director Yash Chopra had brought to the notice of Capt Amarinder Singh the havoc caused by piracy during his recent visit to Chandigarh, he stated.

Earlier, making a strong plea for the implementation of the Goonda Act against the pirators, Mann alleged that piracy was killing the entertainment industry. Leading singer Jasbir Jassi alleged that the Punjabi culture was facing a serious threat from the ever-growing piracy menace.

Dolly Guleria, president of the Punjab Sangeet Natak Akademi, and daughter of Punjab's nightingale late Surinder Kaur, lamented that piracy was causing huge loss to the film and music industry.

Gaurav Trehan of the Catrack Music Company said the piracy had a direct effect on Punjab's economy as about five lakh persons were directly or indirectly getting employment from the music and film industry. Actor Gurkirtan and Rajinder Singh, President of the Music Association of India, said that "piracy was eating into the vitals of the Punjabi culture".

If the Punjab Government could not curb piracy it should legalise it by appointing a "Minister for Piracy,''comedy king Jaspal Bhatti, said in his characteristic style. The government should set up a "special economic zone for pirators" to encourage piracy, Bhatti said in a lighter vein.

Anil Deepak, general Secretary, Cinema Owners' Association of North India, said there were 1290 cinema halls in Punjab, Haryana, J & K and Himachal Pradesh till a few years ago. However, on account of rampant piracy, their number had come down to just 290, he added.

 

Police clueless to malkhana theft
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 10
The Patiala police is still clueless about the looting of the malkhana of Sadar Police Rajpura Station, on December 29 last year in which huge amount of ransom money, contraband, recovered from the kidnapers of Prabir, son of Amritsar’s rice miller were kept.

The police has already interrogated more than 150 persons, mostly policemen in this connection. The money, included Rs 12 lakh in cash (genuine) and Rs 4.50 lakh (fake). Highly placed sources in the police said it was an insider who was involved in the crime. Mr Maninderjit Singh Bitta, President All-India Anti-Terrorist Front (AIATF) said that he had confirmed information that the crime was committed at the behest of a ‘senior police officer’ of the state. He sought a CBI probe into the incident.

However, a senior police official , on condition of anonymity said that though the ventilator of the malkhana building was found broken after the theft but it was not possible for a person to enter and escape with the stolen material . It is believed that some insiders had entered the malkhana by opening the gate with a master key and locked it after the theft.

After eluding the Special Investigating Team (SIT) for nearly two months Sukhjit Singh, alias Sukha and Kulwant Singh, alias Kanta, responsible for the kidnapping of Amritsar boy Prabir on February 7, last year were finally arrested by the Rajpura Police in April last year at a special naka at Bapraur village on the Ambala - Rajpura road.

Though the police was silent on the ransom issue, sources said the suspects had received a ransom of nearly Rs 1.25 crore from Prabir’s family.

AIATF chief, Bitta said malkhanas were rarely looted even during the peak of militancy hence hand of high police officials in the theft at Rajpura’s police Station could not be ruled out .

Earlier ,many firearms were found stolen from the ‘Sadar Malkhana’ in an investigation in September 2002. Interim report of a senior IPS officer had expressed apprehension that the ‘stolen weapons’ might have been passed on to ‘terrorists or criminals’ for a song. A senior police officer had given a ‘clean chit’ to the head constable who was found to be involved in stealing and selling of the firearms from the malkhana.

 

Distillery being set up without approval
Our Correspondent

Fazilka, July 10
A distillery is under construction in Ghallu village of Fazilka sub-division, 18 km from here, without the approval of appropriate authorities.

According to reports Bhankerpur Distilleries Ltd started construction on 17 acres in Ghallu village in violation of rules. The project has not been cleared by the Punjab Pollution Control Board. Besides this the panchayat of Ghallu village has also not issued no objection certificate for the distillery.

Panchayat of Ghallu village and 14 other panchayats opposed the construction and have resolved to this effect. The panchayats are of villages of Khippanwail, Bodiwala Pitha, Churiwala Dhanna, Nihal Khera, Kabulshah Khuban, Katehra, Azamwala, Dangar Khera, Wazidpur Kattianwali, Hiran Wali, Mammukhera Khatwan, Banwala Hanuwanta and Beganwali.

Moreover, Mr Paramjit Singh Sandhu, sarpanch of Ghallu village has sent copies of the resolution to the Punjab Pollution Control Board, the Chief Minister of Punjab, other officers, demanding that the distillery should not be set up in the village as it would increase environment pollution and cause many problems.

He also stated the distillery was likely to be a health hazard for people of surrounding areas. The Punjab Pollution Control Board has called the panchayat for the hearing of objections on July 14 at the site in village. Mr Paramjit Singh has also been nominated a member on the panel formed for supervising the public hearing. It is said the owners of the distillery enjoyed political patronage and had started construction without seeking no-objection certificate from the panchayat of Ghallu village. Such a certificate is mandatory. For the time being construction has been halted due to objections of the panchayats. Mr Sandhu said villagers and farmers would oppose pollution clearance certificate to the distillery on July 14 before the representatives of the board at the time of hearing.

He added representatives of the distillery were trying to persuade him and members of panchayat by offering them financial package. He said he was being pressurised by the administration and politicians of the ruling party not to oppose setting up of distillery. He apprehended that since he was not yielding to pressure there is a threat of his being sacked from the post of sarpanch, kidnapped or implicated in a false case.

Farmers feel the project is likely to cause them losses. Watertable is likely to fall further if tubewells, as proposed in the project report were installed for the distillery. Besides this effluents of the factory will render irrigation water brackish. They reveal some of the land where the distillery is being set up was reportedly purchased for the purpose of horticulture in different names. Later it was transferred in the name of the owners of distillery.

Mr Jaspreet Singh Virk, Liaison Officer of the distillery, says that there is no question of wooing sarpanches and members of the panchayat. He says with the setting up of the distillery the youth of the area will have more employment avenues. He denied the distillery would pollute environment, lower watertable or damage land of farmers.

 

SGPC withdraws kar seva from deras
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 10
In a surprise move, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has withdrawn kar seva from Baba Jagtar Singh and Baba Lakha Singh for alleged anti-SGPC activities .

It is learnt that the step has been taken to “punish” the babas of kar seva wale for joining hands with “anti-Badal” forces.

Sources said the action was taken against Baba Lakha Singh for allowing Panthic organisations, including the SAD (Amritsar), to hold a meeting at Gurdwara Toot Sahib, while Baba Jagtar Singh was not present to accept “siropa” on the 400th martyrdom anniversary of Guru Arjan Dev.

On the other hand, the SGPC and the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) today approached Akal Takht separately for demanding action against each other for the clash between activists of the Badal and Mann factions. They also accused each other of denigrating Guru Granth Sahib and Akal Takht on July 2.

Bhai Mohkam Singh, a spokesman of Damdami Taksal, warned Mr Parkash Singh Badal against using violence against SAD (A) at Ludhiana yesterday. He said removing of turbans could not be tolerated.

However, Mr Harbir Singh Sandhu, district president of the SAD (A), alleged that the members of the SGPC task force misbehaved with a deputation of his party when they went to the Akal Takht secretariat to submit the memorandum.

According to a press release issued by the publicity cell of the SGPC, its executive committee had requested Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar of Akal Takht, to award strong religious punishment to Mr Mann and leaders of his party, allegedly responsible for the unsavory situation on July 2 at Gurdwara Manji Sahib in the Golden Temple complex.

The decision was taken at a meeting held under the chairmanship of Mr Avtar Singh, President, SGPC. In another decision, the committee decided to set up 84 centres to distribute “birs” of Guru Granth Sahib at different gurdwaras.

The committee decided to stop its earlier practice to deliver “birs” of Guru Granth Sahib to private societies which were responsible to install them in deras and samadhs.

In another important decision, the executive committee decided to withdraw kar seva from Baba Jagtar Singh and Baba Lakha Singh, who were involved in anti-SGPC activities. It announced to form a three-member committee to study the cases of the affected military men of Operation Bluestar.

It gave an increment each to those SGPC employees who took part in taking possession of the land of Gurdwara Sri Guru Granth Sahib at Badra village in Barnala subdivision.

 

Badal sees Cong hand in attack on Akali, BJP leaders
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 10
President of the SAD Parkash Singh Badal today alleged that the armed assault on a peaceful meeting of Akali and BJP leaders in Ludhiana yesterday was the handiwork of the Congress and criminal elements acting at the behest of Simranjit Singh Mann’s SAD (Amritsar).

“The violent attack was executed under the direct command from the criminal coterie around Chief Minister Amarinder Singh,” Mr Badal alleged, adding that it was part of a conspiracy to criminalise and communalise Punjab polity for cheap political gains on the pattern of 1980s and 1990s.

The role of Mr Mann was to “lease out” his party’s banner to the Congress government, alleged Mr Badal.

Mr Badal claimed that Mr Mann would not succeed in setting Sikhs against Sikhs to help his brother-in-law Amarinder Singh.

“Mr Mann stands discredited in the community and has been defeated in one election after another over the past 10 years. His only claim to public life lies in his relevance and usefulness to the Congress and other enemies of the Panth who have always used him to defame the community.”

Mr Badal also asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to break his silence on the “mounting evidence of involvement of the Chief Minister in a conspiracy with anti-social and criminal elements to destabilise peace and communal harmony in the state”.

The Akali leader claimed he had rung up the Deputy Commissioner, Ludhiana, to apprise him of the crisis and to request him to make adequate arrangements to ensure peaceful assembly of Akali leaders.

Mr Badal claimed: “We had information that Mr Mann had deputed some of his party men to mingle with these goons to create the impression of an intra-Akali feud.”

The DC took no steps to prevent these people from marching towards the circuit house, he alleged.

Mr Badal alleged that the conspiracy to disturb peace in the state had been hatched at the level of the Chief Minister.

He went on to add that he would apprise all national-level non-Congress political parties of the serious danger posed to peace in the state by the Chief Minister’s “political designs”.

 

Sikh institute deplores July 2 incident
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 10
The Institute of Sikh Studies has condemned the events that took place in Golden Temple complex on July 2.

The president of the institute in a statement here today said: “Members of the institute express deep anguish over the deplorable happenings that occurred in Amritsar on July 2 during a solemn function organised to celebrate the august status of Sri Akal Takht Sahib. Members of the institute unreservedly condemn the irresponsible conduct of participants and hope all of them would have realised the gravity of their misconduct.”

He has urged those involved in the incident to offer their penitence at Akal Takht. The statement in this regard was issued by Bhai Ashok Singh, secretary of the institute.

 

Terrorists regrouping, says Bitta
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 10
The All India Anti-Terrorist Front chief, Mr Maninderjit Singh Bitta, today apprehended that militants of various outfits had started re-grouping with inflow of foreign funds .

He alleged that certain senior officers of the Punjab Police had been instrumental in weakening the cases of former militants who were involved in the massacre of innocent persons in the state.

Talking to The Tribune here today, Mr Bitta alleged that Kulbir Singh Bira and other hardcore militants were being extradited from foreign countries in connivance with certain senior police officers so that they could be re-grouped after their release from jails.

Certain police officials had been pressurising eyewitnesses not to appear in the witness box so that they could be released at the earliest, he alleged.

Quoting an example, he said Wassan Singh Zaffarwal , self-styled chief of the Khalistan Commando Force had been leading a normal life though he was responsible for a number of killings. Zaffarwal was brought to Punjab in a hush-hush manner .

The front had decided to raise the morale of terrorists victims by giving them financial aid so that they could fight cases against Kulbir Singh Bira and other militants without any fear.

Mr Bitta sought a high-level probe against those senior police officers who were not pursuing the cases of terrorists properly. He said he had mentioned the names of three top police officials of Punjab in his personal diary, who should be held responsible if any harm was caused to him in future.

He said raising slogans of ‘Khalistan’ on the court premises was a dangerous development.

 

8-hour continuous power to rural areas: Bhattal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 10
Reviewing the position of power supply in Punjab, Deputy Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal today directed all programme implementation committees to ensure eight-hour supply of uninterrupted power in the rural areas so that farmers are able to irrigate the paddy crop.

Ms Bhattal said the demand for power had increased tremendously in the current paddy season and had touched 1,789 lakh units per day, which was a all-time high against the last year’s maximum demand of 1,470 lakh units.

She said the PSEB had already purchased power to the tune of Rs 1,000 crore from outside sources during the current financial year to cover up the gap between demand and availability.

She said it had been decided to ask the Punjab State Electricity Board to release tube-well connections to panchayats on priority to increase their income.

Power Minister Lal Singh said he wanted the implementation committee of the PSEB to provide a presentation on the road map prepared for reduction of transmission and distribution losses.

 

Villagers protest against 16-hour power cuts

Ropar, July 10
Hundreds of villagers, including women and children, blocked the Ghanauli road for about two hours today in protest against the over 16-hour power cuts imposed on villages. The villagers complained that life had been virtually paralysed. due to the acute shortage of power for the past month. The villagers also decided to block the roads of the thermal plant tomorrow as the Chairman of the PSEB, Mr Y.S. Ratra, scheduled to visit the plant to meet officials of thermal plants from Germany who are coming here.

Villagers of Ghanauali, Nuhun, Chak Tera, Lohgarh, Fate, Thali and Biknauwala are holding the protest. A large number of police personnel were deployed to control the situation. The blockade was lifted after senior officials of the plant persuaded the villagers.

Gurinder Singh Gogi of Ghanauli said their land was used to build the thermal plant, therefore, the authorities had entered into an agreement with them to provide power round the clock. The thermal authorities had provided us power round the clock till 2001 but power supply from February 2002 was disrupted.

He added that the villagers living in the surrounding areas had been facing problems due to the pollution and seepage of ash-mixed water from the dumping ground into the groundwater. Agricultural land in the nearby villages was also affected. — TNS

 

Lathicharge on teachers condemned
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 10
The Protection of Human Rights Dal (Punjab) has condemned the lathicharge by the police on unemployed B.Ed teachers at Rampura Phul, near Bathinda, yesterday.

In a press note, Mr Narinder Nindi, propaganda secretary, said on earlier occasions too the Punjab Police had resorted to such tactics to subdue the voice of the unemployed teachers and the policemen had also registered false cases against many of the protesters.

Mr Nindi added that instead of providing the teachers with jobs, the government was showering them with lathi blows.

He added that if such violation of human rights continued, it would be difficult for the present Congress government to win the forthcoming Assembly elections.

 

Lathicharge on unemployed teachers flayed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 10
The Centre of Trade Union (Punjab) has condemned the brutal lathicharge on unemployed teachers at Rampura Phul yesterday injuring a number of them.

A press note here today said it was regrettable that even women teachers had been targeted. "Instead of implementing the election promises, the Congress government is making all out efforts to repress teachers, students and farmers.", the note said.

The Unemployed PTI Teacher Union, meanwhile, criticised the anti-teacher policy of the Congress government. The union has demanded that a case should be also registered against the inhuman police action at the rally yesterday in which the women teachers were brutally "assaulted".

 

Traffic blocked

Ropar, July 10
Workers of the SAD (Amritsar), Lok Janshakti Party and truck operators today blocked the traffic on Nangal Chowk for more than one hour protesting against the hike in the prices of various items, including petrol and diesel.

They alleged that the Central and state governments had failed to protect the rights of poor persons. TNS

 

Farmers offer arrest
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, July 10
Activists of farmer organisations offered their arrest against the Punjab Government’s decision to give 376 acres in Sangrur district to private concerns.

Earlier, they gathered at Ram Bagh and held a protest march, raising slogans against the government and its policies.

As many as nine farmer groups joined hands and gave a memorandum to the SDM to be handed over to Capt Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister. Some of the leading farmer groups participated in the march were the Kisan Sangharsh Committee, Punjab, the Jamhoori Kisan Sabha, the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta) and the Punjab Kisan Sabha.

They stated in the memorandum that under the ‘’ZaminBachao satyagrah’’ farmers would offer their arrest. They demanded that the notification for acquiring the land must be annulled, families of farmers who committed suicides given compensation of Rs 5 lakh and their all loans should be waived.

In the evening, Mr Pravin Kumar, ADC, said that no farmer would be arrested and assured them that their local level demands would soon be met.

 

Farmers protest acquisition of land
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, July 10
A large number of farmers, belonging to some farmer organisations, held a rally in the SDM office complex at Sunam, 13 km from here, today against acquisition of land in the state, especially in three villages of Barnala, by the state government. Earlier, they also held a rally in the Sunam grain market.

The farmers presented themselves for arrest as part of their agitation programme, but the administration did not arrest them on the plea that it had no instructions from the government in this regard.

The farmers also held a protest march from the grain market to the office of the Sunam SDM and raised slogans in support of their demands.

The farmers were addressed, among others, by Mr Joginder Singh Ugrahan, state president of the BKU (Uprahan), Mr Bant Singh Namol, district president of the Punjab Kisan Sabha, Mr Malkeet Singh Wazidke, district president of the Zamhoori Kisan Sabha, and Mr Baldev Singh, a leader of the Punjab Kisan Sabha.

 

Doctor held on graft charge
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, July 10
The Vigilance Bureau today arrested Dr Kulwant Singh Brar posted at the local Civil Hospital while he was allegedly accepting bribe from a Mehraj resident.

Sources said the complainant, Darshan Singh, had approached the doctor seeking a medico-legal report (MLR) of his brother-in-law for getting a case registered against the latter’s rivals under Section 326 of the IPC.

His brother-in-law, Gurcharan Singh of Bhagta Bhai, had sustained injuries in a brawl and his MLR was due. Sources said the doctor reportedly demanded Rs 3,000 for the job.

Dr Brar was nabbed at his residence by a Vigilance team led by DSP Gurmeet Singh while he was accepting Rs 2,000 from the complainant today. A case has been registered against him under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

 

SHO held for firing at youths

Hoshiarpur, July 10
Mr R. N. Dhoke, SSP, Hoshiarpur, said here today that on the basis of the preliminary inquiry report submitted by the DSP (D), Mr Himmat Singh, in the case No. 133 relating to the exchange of firing between the occupants of a Qualis van and Sub-Inspector Paramjit Singh, SHO, Mahilpur police station of this district, at Dadian village on June 8, 2006, the latter was arrested today.

Mr Dhoke said in his preliminary report the DSP (D) stated that during investigation it came to light that the SHO first scuffled with them and later fired with his service revolver on Devinder Singh and Chander Pal. — OC

 

SDMs told to conduct checks of schools
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, July 10
Mrs Jaspreet Talwar, Deputy Commissioner, while presiding over the monthly meeting of the district officials here today directed the SDMs to conduct regular checks of schools.

They should check the presence of teachers, students, condition of buildings, infrastructure as well as the implementation of various children and student's welfare schemes of the government.

She directed DEOs and the CDPOs to regularly check proper distribution of ration goods, its quality in rural Anganwari Centres and schools under the mid-day meal scheme. She directed the DEO(E) to co-ordinate with District Welfare Officer to ensure that all the welfare schemes for the SC\BC students are implemented.

Ms Amrit Bala, District Social Security Officer, told that as per the new notification of the government all pensions would be verified and distributed by the respective Executive Officers of the Municipal Councils in urban areas in place of CDPOs. Earlier, CDPOs used to verify and distribute pensions.

The Deputy Commissioner directed Executive Officers to ensure pure drinking water supply in all the towns of the district. He directed them to co-ordinate with health officials and to take regular samples of drinking water. They must ensure cleaning of water tanks and proper chlorination.

Taking stock of the progress under Punjab Nirman Yojna, she directed the officers concerned to submit utilisation certificates by July 20 of the 1st installment and by September 30 of the second installment. She directed them to send monthly progress report under this scheme.

She directed the officers to ensure transparent and corruption-free administration and warned that if anyone was found indulging in corrupt practices, he would not be spared.

She said that the prime aim of the administration should be to redress grievances of the public on a priority basis and to give them speedy justice.

 

Principal invited to present paper
Tribune News Service

Ropar, July 10
The Principal of the College of Architect-IET, Bhaddal, has been invited by the Architectural Society of China to present a paper on “Search for sustainable cities in Asia — suggestive approach for evolving energy efficient designs of urban settlement” in the Asian Congress of Architects being held at Beijing, China from September 17 to 22.

Architects from 20 countries are participating in the congress.

 

Pact between govt, Reliance by Monday
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 10
The Punjab Government is ready with the draft of an MoU to be signed with Reliance Industries Limited with regard to its farm-to-form project in the state. Official sources today said the MoU would be signed by next Monday.

The government has got relevant documents from the RIL also, it has been learned. “The MoU is likely to be signed between the representatives of the RIL and the state government officers concerned,” said a senior officer of the Punjab Government.

 


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