P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Ignoring rules, Punjab virtually gifts land to RIL
Maneesh Chhibber & Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 26
In its haste to virtually gift government land worth hundreds of crores to Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), the Amarinder government threw all norms to the winds.

Not only has the government forced state-owned Punjab Small Industries and Exports Corporation (PSIEC) to part with land worth crores at a fraction of the current market price, procedural norms, including those finalised by this government, have also been ignored to favour the company.

In doing so, the government also completely disregarded objections filed by the then MD, PSIEC.

Surprisingly, the onus of disregarding procedural norms has been laid at the door of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, who, it is said, personally directed that all procedures be dispensed with in this case.

Allotment of land by the PSIEC requires submission of a detailed project report by the applicant, in this case the RIL, the examination of the report by the Department of Industries in order to judge its viability and justification for the quantum of land sought. Thereafter, a committee headed by the Chief Secretary makes the allotment. However, in the RIL case these procedural steps were dispensed with as these issues were “examined at the level of the Chief Minister”.

What has also raised eyebrows is the fact that in trying to help a company, whose only motive is profit, not only has the government ridden roughshod over the interests of its own corporation, it has also promised that the land, which is left with the PSIEC after giving it to the RIL, will not be sold to any other party for the next five years.

And, who decided this? The Cabinet led by the Chief Minister.

According to documents available with The Tribune, at its meeting on June 26, the Council of Ministers had approved the proposal that of the total 325.57 acres available with the PSIEC at various points in Malout, Abohar, Mansa, Tanda and Muktsar, 292.98 acres (90 per cent) be allotted on freehold to the RIL.

As for the remaining 10 per cent land, Capt Amarinder Singh, at a meeting with RIL Chairman Mukesh Ambani, agreed that the PSIEC would not dispose off this land for at least five years. This has been done “to avoid the possibility of any conflict with the business plans of the RIL”.

The government has also given an absurd reasoning to the PSIEC to prevent the sale of the remaining land. It has told the PSIEC that with the development of 90 per cent of the land by the RIL, “the cost of the remaining land would also appreciate” and it can be sold after five years.

That the RIL has been given the land at industrial reserve price, despite the fact that industrial activity is the last thing on the company’s mind, is another point.

What is also surprising is that the company has been given a carte blanche to use the land for whatever purpose it wants. As per the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the government and Reliance Retail Limited, a sister concern of the RIL, inked on August 1, the company can set up supermarkets, greenhouses, warehouses and even education, healthcare and entertainment units.

Despite repeated attempts, senior officials of the Department of Industries or the PSIEC did not agree to comment on the issue.

However, it is learnt that the PSIEC had made its reservations about the project to the government through a letter dated May 1.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has issued a notice of motion for September 11 on a PIL filed by SAD MLAs, challenging the MoU between the government and Reliance. 


Damdama Sahib gears up for tercentenary 
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 26
Perhaps for the first time, Takht Sri Damdama Sahib has been hogging the limelight in the wake of tercentenary celebrations of compilation of Guru Granth Sahib from August 28 to 30.

Turning pages of Takht’s glorious history, head granthi Bhai Maan Singh said Guru Gobind Singh arrived at Talwandi Sabo in 1705 after fighting his last battle with the Mughal army in Muktsar and decided to take up the compilation of Guru Granth Sahib. He engaged Bhai Mani Singh for transcription and handed over the responsibility of arranging stationery for the job to Baba Deep Singh.

The Guru would recite “Bani” in the morning hours as Bhai Mani Singh would transcribe it. He would narrate the same to 48 Sikhs along with its meaning in the evening.

It took the Guru around nine months to complete the compilation in which he also incorporated hymns composed by his father, Guru Teg Bahadur. Baba Deep Singh prepared four copies of this “Bir”, which were sent to four Takhts.

The quills used by Bhai Mani Singh and Baba Deep Singh for writing the “Bir” were immersed in the sarovar of Gurdwara Likhansar Sahib, located on Takht premises, after the completion of the work.

The place where the Guru used to sit and get the “Bir” written is now known as Damdama Sahib. Guru Gobind Singh accorded the status of Guru to “Bir” at Takht Sri Hazoor Sahib in 1708.

Known as “Guru ki Kashi” (seat of learning), Talwandi Sabo was the last point of departure of the Guru from the state. After leaving Talwandi Sabo, he never returned to Punjab.

The other historic gurdwaras at Talwandi Sabo are Gurdwara Damdama Sahib, Gurdwara Manji Sahib, Gurdwara Jandsar Sahib, Gurdwara Tibbi Sahib, Gurdwara Baba Bir Singh Dhir Singh, Gurdwara Mata Sahib Kaur, Gurdwara Mahalsar Sahib, Burj Baba Deep Singh and Bhora Baba Deep Singh.

Meanwhile, a “nagar kirtan” from Akal Takht, Amritsar, led by Panj Piaras today reached Takht Sri Damdama Sahib as part of the celebrations.


Water level goes up at Bhakra
Kiran Deep
Tribune News Service

Nangal, August 26
The water level of Bhakra Dam reservoir today reached a comfortable position for the second consecutive year, which will enable it to supply water to the northern states as per their demand till next year.

The water level in the Gobind Sagar reservoir was recorded at 1,673 feet this morning, just 7 feet short of its maximum capacity (1,680).

As the level was 3 feet higher than that for the same day last year, the reservoir was expected to reach its optimum water storage capacity much before the filling period got over i.e. around September 20.

A senior functionary of the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) said keeping in view the rise in the inflow of water in the reservoir, the release of water to consumer states like Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Rajasthan had been increased.

Besides, all 10 turbines of the dam were running simultaneously for the maximum utilisation of the water discharged during the day.

The rise in the water level has been significant due to heavy rainfall in the catchment areas during the past one week.

The water inflow in the reservoir stood at 53,390 cusec today, while discharge was at 37,000 cusec.

While on the same day last year, the inflow of water was 28,144 cusec and discharge 30,000 cusec, and the water level was 1,670 feet, the official added.

The official said the water level had reached its maximum capacity of 1,680.26 feet on September 21, last year.

If the inflow in the reservoir, caused due to rainfall and melting of the snow in its catchment areas, continued at the present rate, then the water level was expected to reach its optimum level much before the end of the filling period.

The BBMB had thus increased the inflow so that optimum water level could be reached by September 20, he added.

When contacted, Chief Engineer (Generation) BBMB Nangal H.S Nag said due to good inflow of water, the discharge had also been increased.

As a result, the total power generation of the BBMB hydel projects was about 450 lakh units per day.

“By using the total outflow of water, we have been running the turbines of the dam to get maximum power generation,” he added.


SGPC suspends ‘anti-Badal’ man
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 26
In an attempt to humble “anti-Badal” employees, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) today placed its secretary Raghbir Singh under suspension with immediate effect.

Raghbir Singh had been projecting himself as candidate of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) from the Rajasansi constituency for the forthcoming Assembly elections.

SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal, who was reportedly perturbed over the growing dissent in Amritsar district, had told the SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar to take strict disciplinary action against Raghbir Singh.

His headquarter had also been shifted to Gurdwara Satlani, near Pakistan border.

Confirming the suspension, the SGPC chief said Raghbir Singh had been misusing the office of the SGPC to fulfil his political ambitions. Legal opinion was sought before taking action against the SGPC secretary.

Raghbir Singh was instrumental in organising a rally in Ajnala on August 19, with the support of expelled Akalis, which gave sleepless nights to sitting MLA from Rajasansi Veer Singh Lopoke and senior Akali leadership.

Meanwhile, Delhi Akali Dal president Parmjit Singh Sarna has offered to appoint Raghbir Singh as secretary of its office to be set up in Amritsar in near future.

Mr Sarna condemned the SGPC chief for placing Raghbir Singh under suspension. He alleged that the SGPC was an extension counter of Badal faction.

When contacted, Raghbir Singh claimed that he had not violated any rule of the SGPC by organising political rallies.

Raghbir Singh had written a hard-hitting letter to the SGPC chief on May 14 for accepting “Siropa” from a Sikh Baba who had been fighting legal cases against the committee.

The communication apprehended that the “honouring” of the SGPC chief would embolden such Babas to “attack him” (Raghbir Singh) since he had dared to get the control gurdwaras on the orders of the Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission (SGJC). Raghbir Singh had also criticised the decision of withdrawing his security by the SGPC.


PU puts re-employment issue in abeyance
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 26
Contrary to the expectations, the Panjab University Syndicate has declined to grant a formal approval to the proposal for re-employing retired teachers till the age of 65 years despite deliberating the matter till late on Saturday night. The proposal, which was initially sent by the Education Secretary, Ministry of Human Resources and Development, in April 2006, has been kept pending subject to the approval of the Punjab Government.

The syndicate’s decision to keep the matter in abeyance is surely going to bring some cheer, at least for the time being, to the thousands of unemployed educated youths who are looking for employment avenues. The proposal was mooted on the grounds that the quality of education in the university was getting affected in the absence of regular teachers, as contract teachers and low-paid and ad hoc teachers were not able to play the role of teachers in the colleges and universities.

While academicians were resentful of the proposal, an earlier letter of the UGC, sent to all universities in March 2006, had clearly stated that while universities were advised to make use of existing provisions to re-employ superannuated teachers as per the norms of the UGC, the state governments should take immediate action for filing vacant posts.

The syndicate also considered the evaluation report submitted by Prof M. Chandra Kumar of Mysore to the university regarding allegations against Prof J.P. Sharma, a faculty member of the Department of Physical Education, that he had plagiarised portions of his PhD thesis. It was decided that a committee would be formed to look into the issue.

The report of Prof N.P. Manocha regarding the award of zero marks to some candidates of MA II (History) examination 2005 was also discussed in the meeting. While one examiner had given zero marks to three candidates, the second, third and fourth examiners had given these candidates more marks. After going through the answer sheets, Prof Manocha had come to the conclusion that while two candidates had not been given zero marks, the one candidate, who was given zero marks on the pretext that the copy was illegible, did not deserve a zero. Stating that the copy of the candidate was legible, Prof Manocha had recommended that the answer sheet of the candidate be rechecked and the results of the other two candidates be declared forthwith.

Upholding Prof Manocha’s decision, the syndicate members decided that the result of the two students should be declared while the result of the third student would be considered in the next meeting. The syndicate also decided and approved to re-advertise the post of the Finance and Development Officer.


UK NGO to open 2 hospitals at Nankana Sahib
Our Correspondent

Prof T.H Kirmani
Prof T.H Kirmani

Amritsar, August 26
The South-Asian Association of Regional Countries Foundation (SAARCF), UK, an NGO founded by citizens of SAARC nations, with the help of Indian and Pakistani chapters, will soon open two hospitals at birthplace of first Sikh master, Guru Nanak Dev, Nankana Sahib.

Prof T.H Kirmani, a Britain-based Ophthalmologist of Pakistani origin and president of the SAARC Foundation, said the Sikh holy city was located in the central Punjab, which was the most backward region of the state.

The Foundation, which came into being in 1995 with the support of people of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal origin is receiving an annual grant of £20,000 for maintaining four hospitals, including three in Pakistan and one in Nepal. He said the foundation desired to improve people-to-people contact between the two neighbouring countries by investing in healthcare.

He informed that two residents of Nankana Sahib had donated land to construct two hospitals and Rs 3 crore would be invested to create infrastructure.

The president of the foundation, Lord John Nicholas Rea, Member, House of Lords, had donated £ 9000 for the project. The Indian chapter had also pledged to offer a considerable amount.


Commuters stranded on bridge for hours
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, August 26
Apathy of the Punjab and Himachal authorities led to chaos at the Chaki river bridge on the Pathankot-Kangra road today. Commuters remained stranded for hours on the road due to the traffic jam on the bridge.

Thousands of pilgrims visit the Nurpur area of Himachal to pay obeisance at the Nagni Mata shrine these days. A narrow 100-year-old bridge over the Chaki river is the only connecting link between Punjab and Himachal in the area. Generally, vehicles from one side are allowed over the bridge due to its poor upkeep and lesser breadth.

However, it was free for all today. With no one present at the site to regulate the traffic, the vehicles of pilgrims coming and going to the shrine got struck in the middle of the bridge. This led to traffic jam which extended upto to kilometers. The commuters had to suffer hot and humid conditions for hours trapped in traffic.

A large number of vehicles and thousands of the people got struck on the bridge. This posed a threat to the bridge itself. The people had to take their tractor-trolleys on pavements of the bridge to let other vehicles pass.

Generally, the cops of Punjab and Himachal police are posted on either side of the bridge. They regulate the traffic from both sides. However, nobody was present to regulate the traffic on the bridge that led to traffic chaos.

The agitated commuters raised slogans against the local administration. They alleged despite having knowledge that a large number of pilgrims come to visit the holy shrine these days, no arrangements were made by the administration for smooth regulation of traffic.


Tension in village over plot
Our Correspondent

Kharar, August 26
Tension prevailed in Ballomajra village here today following a dispute between two groups over a piece of land.
Heavy police force was deployed in the village till late in the evening.

It is learnt that the dispute was regarding a 2 kanal plot. On this plot, a small bridge existed which connected two ponds of the village.

One group started erecting a gate on the plot. The other group opposed it.

Mr Manjit Singh Kaka, member of one group, alleged that Mr Sukhwinder Singh Shindi and others had constructed a gate on the plot where the bridge existed. This would obstruct the flow of water. He claimed that the other group could not carry out the construction as the matter was in court and a stay had been granted.

However, Mr Shindi reportedly claimed that the plot belonged to him and he could erect a gate. There was no stay on the plot, he claimed. 


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