P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Health officials start collecting cola samples
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 5
The Punjab Government has directed the Health Department authorities to examine the content of pesticides in various soft drinks, including Coca Cola and Pepsi.

Health Minister Surinder Singla today told The Tribune that the officials concerned had been directed to take samples of all soft drinks and to get them examined at government laboratories. In fact, teams of health officials had already started collecting samples of soft drinks in various districts, he added.

He said the government would initiate punitive action, if required, only after getting the samples tested. It had been reported that the content of pesticide residue was 17 to 20 times higher in Coca Cola and Pepsi in Punjab and certain other states.

“I have told the officials to ensure the examination of samples from government-authorised laboratories. I do not want to depend on the reports of private laboratories,” he added.

On August 2, the Delhi-based Centre of Science and Environment (CSE) had stated that soft drinks were still unsafe because these contained cocktail of three to six pesticides many times higher than the BIS norms in various parts of the country.

Meanwhile, Mr G.S. Nagpal, a promoter of organic crops, said the organisations like the CSE were ignoring the real issue of quality of drinking water. He said drinking water, which was used by the manufacturers of soft drinks, had a very high content of pesticides as well as toxic metals and salts.

Citing an example, he said, most people in the state drew drinking water from hand pumps installed up to a depth of 120 ft in subsoil. He said it was a fact that the water available at 120 ft was not fit for use even for agricultural purposes because of high content of various salts, metals and some toxic substances.

Mr Nagpal said the government should get tested the quality of subsoil water at places where water was drawn through hand pumps for drinking purposes.

Amritsar (OC): After the startling revelations by the Centre of Science and Environment (CSE) of having contents of three to six pesticides 24 times higher than the BIS norms in 11soft drinks of Coca-Cola and Pepsi, the district health authorities today took the samples of various depots of the companies here.

The authorities have taken the samples reportedly after the directions of higher authorities.

Dr S.P.S. Sohal, Civil Surgeon, said a team led by Amit Joshi, District Food Inspector, were asked to collect the samples from various distributors in the area.

Mr Joshi said the team took six samples— five soft drinks and one mineral water — of Pepsi from distributor Brothers Enterprises on the Fatehgarh Churian road here. He said the samples would be sent to Chandigarh for examinations. There was panic among the people after the reports highlighted in various media agencies.

Dr Sohal said the authorities had also taken samples from Crown Caps, Coca-Cola bottling plant, Amritsar, yesterday. He said the team took four samples from the plant, which had also been sent to Chandigarh for examination.

Ms Sunita Narain, Director, CSE, had revealed that the organisation had taken 57 samples from 12 states, including Punjab. In Punjab the samples were collected from Ludhiana, Faridkot and Amritsar in which the CSE found the pesticides residue contents to be 17 to 20 times higher than the permissible BIS limit. 

Absconding Kar Seva Baba holds meeting 
with dera chief

Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 5 
The absconding Baba Amrik Singh of Kar Sevawale yesterday held a secret meeting with dera chief, Baba Jagtar Singh, in the presence of Mr Parmjit Singh Sarna, president, Shiromani Akali Dal, New Delhi, and Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, a veteran SGPC member, in the high security Punjab Bhavan, Chandigarh.

Interestingly, a criminal case under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code had been filed against Mr Amrik Singh on a complaint by Dera Baba Jagtar Singh at Tarn Taran.

Though the meeting was arranged to bring rapprochement between the dera chief and his absconding follower at the behest of Mr Sarna, it ended without any result. Both accused each other of collecting donations from various parts of India and abroad in the name of Kar Seva. Though Baba Jagtar Singh alleged that Mr Amrik Singh had purchased prime land in Hoshiarpur district, the latter claimed that it was not purchased with donated money.

Meanwhile, Baba Jagtar Singh told Mr Sarna that there was no pilferage of gold used for the golden palanquin, taken from New Delhi to Nankana Sahib by the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee .

It may be recalled that Mr Amrik Singh went underground in the first week of July from the Dera Baba Jagtar Singh, Tarn Taran, under mysterious circumstances. However, Mr Amrik Singh had alleged that he was kept in illegal custody at the dera and was meted out mental torture for many days.

The alleged culprit, Mr Amrik Singh, who had supervised the Kar Seva of the holy tank of the Golden Temple, gold plating of Darbar Sahib, Tarn Taran, and Sikh shrines in Pakistan and had collected huge donations was kept under captivity for many days in the Dera before he went underground. Baba Jagtar Singh, chief of the dera had cancelled the general power of attorney, given to Mr Amrik Singh. The dera chief had also given public notices , warning the Sikh Sangat against the activities of Mr Amrik Singh.

A Scorpio vehicle was also purchased in the name of Mr Amrik Singh. Baba Jagtar Singh alleged that Mr Amrik Singh had embezzled funds running into crores by purchasing ‘benami’ land too .

Mr Amrik Singh, who is only about 38 years old, had joined the dera of Baba Jagtar Singh at the young age of 17 years. He had won the confidence of senior Sikh Sants and was brought to Tarn Taran, the headquarters of Kar Seva. Since he was found ‘smart’, he was given general power of attorney in July 1998. He had visited many developed countries, including the USA with a view to collecting donations.


Punjab to seek fiscal concessions like HP
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 5
Finance Minister Surinder Singla said today that Punjab would also seek fiscal concessions on the lines of Himachal Pradesh and he had received a positive response from the Prime Minister in this regard. He stated this while addressing a press conference minutes after holding a party workers’ rally here.

When asked as to whether the state would seek rollback of extension granted to Himachal or similar concessions for itself, the minister said the latter would be their priority.

Mr Singla announced that the state government had released Rs 75 crore for repair of water channels in various districts, including Bathinda, Mansa, Faridkot and Sangrur.

Meanwhile, there was a scuffle between the police and the protesting BEd teachers who raised slogans while Mr Raninder Singh, PPCC general secretary, was addressing the rally.

Mr Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu, Mr Gurjant Singh Kuttiwal and Mr Gurpreet Singh Kangar, all MLAs, and PPCC vice-president K.K. Sharma were also present on the occasion.


Badal seeks economic package for Punjab
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 5
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief Parkash Singh Badal today demanded a special economic package for industry in Punjab in the wake of alarm and dismay caused by the Centre’s decision to extend industrial concessions to Himachal Pradesh up to 2010.

“No state ever had a stronger claim on a preferential treatment from the Centre than Punjab. This is not only due to the contribution of the Punjabis in the cause of freedom and defence of the country but also to their proven record as outstanding entrepreneurs and because of the presence of strong logistics and infrastructure required for the industry,” Mr Badal wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

He said as a state rich in raw materials, skilled manpower and strong infrastructure base, Punjab always deserved to be put on the top margins of economic decision making of the country. “But quite the contrary had always happened. As a result, industrial activity in the state continues to suffer and needs a major dose of central input to help it survive.”

The Akali leader lamented that the state had never been among the industrial priorities of the government. 


First advocate disappears, then his junior ‘dies’ in accident
Kiran Deep
Tribune News Service

Ropar, August 5
The case of disappearance of Rajesh Gumber, an advocate of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and resident of Chandigarh from here under mysterious circumstances, became more peculiar with his junior advocate, Ramesh Chahal, who was providing vital information to the police in the case, also dead in an accident.

Ramesh Chahal died in a road accident on July 8 near Balachaur.

Even after two months, investigations into the Gumber case are at a stand-still. Initially, the police believed that he had committed suicide as his mobile phone, wallet and credit card were found in his car (CH-03Q-0473) at Ahmadpur near the Bhakra canal on June 5. Later on June 7, a suicide note was recovered from his residence in Sector 39-A, Chandigarh.

During the course of investigation, several facts surfaced which made the police to look into the case from different angles. Gumber was working for a Holland-based company dealing with scrap along with his associate from Ludhiana.

Gumber was hired by a client to hand over money to the CBI to hush up a case pending with the investigating agency. But it is yet to be ascertained if Gumber met the CBI officials or not. He was also handling the case of a drug peddler. According to the police, Gumber had taken Rs 4 lakh as fee from peddler.

Father of Gumber Saravan Kumar, a resident of Sector 38, Chandigarh, told The Tribune that Ramesh Chahal was taking care of all the cases after his son’s disappearance.

When contacted, the SSP, Mr Kapil Dev, said: “We have come to know about the death of Ramesh Chahal who had been providing vital information to us. Now we will investigate the cause of his death. We are working on different theories and will continue our investigation from different angles. We will soon solve this case.”


Four Sangrur residents’ names in Limca book 
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, August 5
The names of four persons from Sangrur, including Mr Dasvir Singh Dalee, advocate, appear in the Limca Book of Records 2006 following an all-India expedition undertaken by them in 2005.

In the latest edition of the book, it has been mentioned on page numbers 354 and 355 that Dasvir Singh Dalee, Amrik Singh Dullat, Gurminder Singh Grewal and Mohinder Singh of Sangrur, Punjab, covered a distance of 16,070 km in a Tata Safari in 19 days, 23 hours and 10 minutes. They started their journey from Sangrur at 9.50 am on April 3, 2005, and finished it at Jammu on April 23, 2005, at 9 am touching all state capitals, their high courts and secretariats during the course of their journey. They also travelled to the Union Territories of Chandigarh, Pondicherry and Daman.

Talking to The Tribune here today, Mr Dasvir Singh Dalee, group leader, said they had now decided to go on a world tour in a Tata Safari or other such vehicle to get their names entered in the Guinness Book of World Records. He said under their world expedition programme, they would tour about 140 countries. He appealed to the government and multi national companies (MNCs) to extend financial assistance to them for the world expedition. He said even if they would not get any financial assistance from the government or MNCs they would fund the expedition from their own sources.

Meanwhile, Mr Jeet Singh Alloarkh, district president of the SAD (A), while expressing happiness over the entry of names of four persons from Sangrur in the Limca Book of Records 2006, told this reporter that he, along with his party men and friends, would organise an impressive function here soon to honour all the four persons as they had brought laurels to the town by spending thousands of rupees even from their own pockets. 


Oppn trying to malign me: Kathunangal
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 5
‘‘The Opposition is trying to malign me by levelling baseless charges’’, Mr Sawinder Singh Kathunangal, Congress MLA from the Majitha Assembly constituency, said here yesterday.

Refuting the allegations of threatening Mrs Paramjit Kaur, who had won a case against Mr Kathunangal in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate here on August 1, he said he was not involved in the land grab case. He said the honourable court had erred in giving judgement that he had attested the general power of attorney (GPA) of Amar Singh whereas he had attested GPA of Joginder Singh who was alive at that time.

He said he would prefer an appeal in the higher court against the judgment.

Commenting on the protest rally by Mr Vikramjit Singh Majithia and his supporters here on thursday, Mr Kathunangal said to draw political mileage the Opposition was raising a hue and cry against him on the basis of wrong facts. He had sufficient proof with him and was not involved in any way in the land grab case, he added.

Coming down heavily on Mr Parkash Singh Badal, SAD president, Mr Kathunangal said Mr Badal was promoting the interests of his family by fielding them in various constituencies by ignoring the aspirations of local residents. 


Quota for Valmikis: CM calls meeting
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 5
As the agitation launched by the Valmikis and Mazhbi Sikh Reservation Bachao Sangharsh Morcha has started gathering momentum in the state, the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, has convened a meeting of his Cabinet colleagues and Congress MLAs here on August 10 to resolve the issue of reservation for the two sections.

On a call given by the morcha, a bandh was observed in many towns and cities yesterday in support of the demands of Valmikis and Mazhbi Sikhs. Rallies and demonstrations were also held.

A government spokesman today said that keeping in view the relative social, economic and educational backwardness and inadequate representation of these two sections, the government was contemplating the filing of an SLP in the Supreme Court. The SLP would be against the order passed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.


Power situation grim
Tribune News Service

Ropar, August 5
The power situation in Punjab continues to be grim. The scant rainfall in the state has put power generation under pressure. The situation got worst as the supplies from the Naptha Jhakri hydel project stopped and one unit of the Bathinda thermal plant has been shut down.

People have been facing four to eight-hour power cuts in the urban areas and seven to 10 hours in the rural areas, said PSEB sources.

The state has been suffering a shortage of 250 lakh units per day. The power supply from all sources is 1300 lakh units while power demand has increased up to 1550 lakh units.

With a view to meeting the increased power demand, the PSEB is purchasing 530 lakh units every day from the other states. Besides it, the PSEB has been getting power supply from its own sources, including 451 lakh units from thermal plants in the state, 200 lakh units from PSEB hydel projects and 160 lakh units from BBMB hydel projects, the sources added.


Singla asked to help stop harassment of doctors
Our Correspondent

Patiala, August 5
The Rural Medical Service Providers Association has claimed that politicians at the district level were using pressure tactics for getting their relatives appointed in dispensaries across the state. It also urged the Health Minister, Mr Surinder Singla, to stop the harassment of women doctors at the hands of sarpanches and local MLAs.

In a memorandum submitted to Mr Singla at the Central State Library, the president of the association, Mr Aslam Parvez, claimed that hundreds of electricity bills of various dispensaries, which earlier fell under the jurisdiction of the Health Department, were still pending. This led the PSEB into disconnecting power connections to various Secondary Health Centres.

Dr Aslam, who presented the memorandum to Mr Singla, also complained that medicines were not being made available on time and whatever medicines were being given to them were of poor quality.


Man behind Rs 220 cr tax evasion evades arrest
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, August 5
A team of the Vigilance Department conducted raids to arrest scamster Sachin, a resident of Sirhind town who is allegedly involved in tax evasion to the tune of Rs 220 crore. Sachin, however, managed to escape.

While talking to The Tribune, Mr H.S. Bhullar, SSP, Vigilance Bureau Flying Squad, Chandigarh, said that the vigilance department had registered a case against certain traders and officials of the Excise and Taxation Department.

The Additional District and Sessions Judge, Ropar, had cancelled the bail application of Sachin in the tax evasion case.

Giving details about the modus of Sachin and his men, Mr Bhullar said that the culprits had registered firms on different names, made transactions between firms and indulged in tax evasion worth Rs 220 crore.

He said that the Excise and Taxation Department had given some records and the Vigilance Department had demanded more record from the firms. He said that the vigilance department would also investigate the role of the officials of the Excise and Taxation Department.

Meanwhile, after the cancellation of the bail of the kingpin there was anxiety among the traders and the officials of the department here. Sources disclosed that Sachin was a small fry, whereas there were bigger culprits operating in Mandi Gobindgarh town.


Notice to Punjab on ex-servicemen’s plea
Change in eligibility norms for post of DSWO
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 4
The ex-servicemen community in Punjab is upset with the recent change in eligibility criterion for the post of District Sainik Welfare Officer (DSWO) and Deputy Director Sainik Welfare as it restricts officers of the rank of Major as well as Short Service Commission officers for applying to the said posts.

Taking up a petition filed by an ex-major in this regard, the Punjab and Haryana High Court issued a notice of motion to the Punjab Government on Thursday.

The court also directed that the interviews for the said posts should be subject to the outcome of the case. The interviews are scheduled to be held on August 7.

Terming the change in criterion as unjust and arbitrary, many retired officers as well as welfare organisations have also registered their protest in this regard with the Punjab Government.

The 1986 statutory rules for the said posts provided that ex-officers of the ranks of Second Lieutenant, Lieutenant, Captain and Major were eligible for appointment to the posts.

In 1998, the Centre, which shares 50 per cent of the expenditure of the department, directed the state government to change the qualification criterion to the ranks of Major, Lieutenant Colonel and Colonel, or Short Service Commission officers with 10 years’ of service, and also to enhance the status of the said posts.

The state government at that time did not take any action but amended the said rules only in June 2006 on the basis of Centre 's instructions.

While the criterion was changed to include retired lieutenant colonel and colonels, majors were “arbitrarily” left out despite the instructions.

Officers say that the Centre’s instructions should be followed in letter and spirit and majors and short service officers should not be left out.

The pay scales and the status of the posts have also generated a debate since the post of a DWSO has a starting pay of Rs 7,880 which is even less than the starting pay of a Lieutenant of the Army which is Rs 8,250. 


Farmers’ bodies announce agitation plan
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, August 5
To oppose the acquisition of agricultural land and compel the state government to scrap the notification, regarding acquisition of land in Dhaula, Sangherra and Fatehgarh Chhanna villages in the Barnala subdivision, a high-level meeting of the nine farmer organisations yesterday drew up an agitation plan.

Talking to The Tribune over the phone today, Mr Joginder Singh Ugrahan, state president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta-Ugrahan), said the meeting had drawn up a plan to burn the effigies of the Punjab Government and hold demonstrations at all district headquarters and subdivision headquarters from August 28 to August 31 to compel the Amarinder government to scrap the notification related to the acquisition of land in three Barnala villages, and give up the policy of acquiring agricultural land forcibly for the big industrial houses.

Mr Ugrahan said besides the burning of effigies, flag marches would be held in villages from August 28 to August 31 to mobilise people against the acquisition of land. He said after that a massive farmer rally would be organised on September 13 at Chandigarh where next action programme would be announced to teach a lesson to the government for its “anti-farmer” policies.

The kisan leader asked the state government to withdraw “false cases”, registered against farmers during their agitation. He sought a job and Rs.10 lakh as compensation for the family of Sarmukh Singh Jethuke, who had lost his life in jail during the farmers’ agitation. He also asked the Punjab Government to write off all bank loans of the farmers, as they were unable to pay the same.

The meeting was attended prominent kisan leaders.


Attempt to abort foetus 
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 5
Following a tip-off, a team led by Deputy Commissioner, Mr Rahul Bhandari today raided Thukral Nursing Home at Civil Lines and foiled a lady doctor's bid to abort the foetus of a woman. The raiding team comprised the Civil Surgeon, Mr Dilip Kumar, and the DSP (City), Mr Ashish Kapoor.

The DC informed that Dr RR Thukral of the nursing home had carried out a sex determination test of Ms Sukhwinder Kaur, a resident of Kalliwali village in Haryana, yesterday and had called her for abortion today.

He said when they raided the nursing home, the lady doctor had already administered her some pills for terminating her pregnancy. While the doctor was not present at the nursing home at the time of the raid, her lower staff spilled the beans before the team.

The name of the Talwandi Sabo SMO, Dr SL Thukral, has also come up in the matter, as his wife is running the nursing home. Mr Bhandari said the SMO had allegedly struck the deal for abortion for Rs 3,000.

He said they would register a case against the lady doctor and those who assisted her under the PNDT Act and the MTP Act. The ultrasound machine of the nursing home was also being sealed, besides checking its record.

He said they had called a gynaecologist from the Civil Hospital who had managed to extract the pills administered to the woman and efforts were on to save her foetus. Regarding any action against the SMO, he said he would order a probe into his role and would also take up the matter with the Punjab Health Minister, Mr Surinder Singla. 


Boy kills mother
Our Correspondent

Abohar, August 5
A minor boy allegedly killed his mother with sharp-edged weapon at Siyagawali village in the Sriganganagar area yesterday.

He told the police that she had illicit relations with some residents of the village. This is the second such incident in the village in less than three months.

Sources said some persons who rushed to the house of Sohan Lal Nayak on hearing the cries of help reportedly found Kalu Ram (16) hitting his mother Krishna Devi (38) with a sharp-edged weapon. He tried to flee but was nabbed by the police at the bus stand.

In another incident, Moman Ram Kumhar allegedly beat his wife Bimla to death at Ajitpura village. His son told the police that on return from school he saw his father hitting his mother with a rod.


3 held for murder

Ropar, August 5
The CIA staff of the Ropar police today arrested three persons, including a history-sheeter and a retired Army man, for murdering a 60-year-old man, Harjit Singh, following a land dispute. The suspects drowned the body of Harjit Singh after chopping his head with spade in a canal passing through Bhojau Majra village near Morinda town on July 18.

The suspect — a retired Army constable Bahadur Singh, Sukhwinder Singh who has been facing ten criminal cases in different police stations and Jatinder Singh — were arrested from Morinda town. Sukhwinder Singh a relative of the deceased, had hatched a conspiracy to eliminate the old man the police said. — TNS


Clerk held with bribe money
Our Correspondent

Kharar, August 5
A registry clerk working in the tehsil complex was caught red-handed by officials of the Vigilance Bureau while allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs 3,000 here yesterday.

According to information available, Piara Singh had allegedly demanded Rs 5,000 from Mr Jaspal Singh, a resident of Marolli Kalan, for getting land registered on the name of the latter. However, a settlement was struck at Rs 3,000.


Teachers protest over suspension order
Our Correspondent

Abohar, August 5
Hundreds of teachers working in private aided schools and colleges today boycotted work and held a rally to express their resentment over the “illegal, arbitrary and vindictive” act of the managing committee of Singh Sabha Kanya Pathshala headed by Mr Jaspinder Singh Jakhar, general secretary of the PPCC.

The managing committee had placed Ms Rajwinder Kaur, headmistress, under suspension after getting her reply to a show-cause notice. She had been debarred from entering the school premises. Her belongings, including documents, had been allegedly seized by breaking open some almirahs.

Some members of the managing committee while deposing before the Additional Deputy Commissioner during an inquiry had stated that Mr Jakhar had neither informed them about the meeting nor took them into confidence before taking action against her.

Mr Jakhar had not appeared before the ADC despite reminders, they said. 


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