P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


PM may announce tax relief for border areas
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 25
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today said the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, might announce tax concessions for the border districts of Punjab on the pattern of hill states to promote industry. He went on to add that the Prime Minister had done a lot for Punjab.

The Chief Minister was talking to mediapersons at the taking-over ceremony of Mr Vijay Inder Singla as the new president of the Punjab Youth Congress at Punjab Congress Bhawan here. A good number of Congress workers and senior leaders had gathered at the ceremony.

When asked about the reported opposition of the Union Finance Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, to the waiving of credit to farmers, Capt Amarinder Singh said: “I was not present when the Finance Minister reportedly made these comments. The Prime Minister is sympathetic to the demands for waiving the credit of farmers.”

He announced said that Mr Singla would continue to hold the post of Chairman, Punjab Energy Development Agency. Meanwhile, sources in the government said the announcing of tax concessions for the border areas would not be easy. May be a special package would be announced.

Earlier, while speaking during the ceremony, the Chief Minister said the Congress was committed to taking Punjab into the 21st century but the Akalis due to their narrow outlook and vested interests were bound to push it into the 18th century. He said the Akalis only opposed each and every move that ensured development and progress in the state. They had yet to give their programme and the only announcement they were making was to close down all new projects. This would be a retrograde step.

He criticised the SAD general secretary, Mr Sukhbir Badal, for making tall claims in a section of Press regarding the generation of 5,000 MW of power in the state if the SAD was voted to power. This was nothing but a “canard”.

In his address the PPCC president, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, said the culture on the Youth Congress was Changing. People were running to become office-bearers and did not want to shoulder any responsibility. He said sons of rich families were joining the party while the real flag bearers should be boys in villages.

The Union Minister of State for Finance, Mr Pawan Bansal, echoed the sentiments of the Chief Minister saying the Akalis had no agenda and no vision. The people of Punjab could compare the terms of the Congress and the previous BJP-Akali regime.

Mr Vijay Inder Singla and Mr Raninder Singh, son of the Chief Minister, had a common point. They both asked the youth to be ready to “fight it out”. Both exhorted the youth to give a befitting reply to Akali workers if any of them tried to create trouble. They said the Congress did not want to disturb anybody’s political rally. However, any attempt by the Akalis to disrupt any function of the Congress should be given an adequate response.

The speakers included the All-India Youth Congress president, Mr Ashok Tanwar, and the outgoing Punjab Youth Congress president, Mr Ravinder Amla.


Rs 2-crore penalty for poor quality coal
Kiran Deep
Tribune News Service

Ropar, September 25
The PSEB has imposed a penalty of Rs 2 crore on the export companies that supplied the poor quality Chinese coal to the plant and the one in Lehra Mohabbat, a PSEB senior official said.

As per the directions of the Ministry of Power to import coal, the PSEB had ordered the import of Chinese coal worth Rs 350 crore for the two thermal plants in Punjab in November last year.

Besides suffering on account of poor quality coal, the decision of the Power Ministry to use the imported coal that cost the PSEB double the Indian coal did not improve the efficiency of the plants.

Sources at the PSEB said the price of the Chinese coal was Rs 4,800 per tonne while Indian coal was available at Rs 2,250 per tonne. In order to produce one unit of power the plant was using 664 gm of Indian coal. After mixing Indian and Chinese coal, the consumption was between 638 to 661 gm, the sources added.

An average 60 lakh tonnes of coal is used in the thermal plant per year. However about 2 lakh tonnes of Chinese coal was used from December to August. The blending of the Chinese and Indian coal was in the 20:80 ratio. The reason is the that the standard coal required to be used in the thermal plant should be of 4,800 calorific value. But the Indian coal has an average calorific value of 4,000 while the Chinese coal has 6,800 as per agreement.

Besides, the PSEB is suffering losses of 1.20 lakh tonnes every year in terms of transit losses while receiving coal from mines in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand.

The General Manger of the plant, Mr N.K Arora, confirmed the penalty. He further said the benefit of the Chinese coal was that it produced less ash in comparison to the Indian coal. Moreover, we set power generation record in the last financial year. Regarding transit losses, he said it varies from 1 to 2 per cent.


7 truckloads of stolen foodgrains surrendered
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, September 25
The scam in which 86 trucks loaded from Gurdaspur godowns went missing, a few trucks have started surrendering stolen foodgrains back in Jammu-based stores of the FCI. Sources here said the stolen foodgrains were deposited back after the permission of the CBI office in Jammu.

The CBI started investigating the theft of foodgrains sent from Punjab to FCI stores in Jammu and Kashmir.

SSP Gurdaspur Paramraj Singh Umranangal said till date seven stolen truckloads of foodgrains had been deposited in the FCI stores at Jammu. The police was looking for the accused in the case.

Deposit of foodgrains by truckers indicates their connivance with officials. The sources said many more truckers, accused in the scam were ready to deposit stolen foodgrains. However, they feared that even after the deposit they might not be absolved of the theft case registered against them.

Meanwhile truckers boycotted tenders called recently for lifting foodgrains from Gurdaspur-based stores of the FCI to Jammu and Kashmir. They demanded conditions like deposit of double the cost of foodgrains as security should be withdrawn due to which they would not lift foodgrains of the FCI.

If truckers boycott lifting of foodgrains, the FCI will be forced to send it by train which is little costly.

As many as 86 truckloads of foodgrains sent by the FCI to Jammu and Kashmir had been missing. The contract for sending foodgrains from Gurdaspur stores to Jammu and Srinagar was given to Chadha Enterprises.

The Chadha Enterprises hired trucks from various parts of the district to carry foodgrains. However, a large number of trucks never reached the destination. The trucks that were meant for FCI stores in Jammu and Srinagar were unloaded at Kathua and border areas of the state. The modus operandi of culprits in the case was that they were awarded the job to carry foodgrains from stores of the FCI in Gurdaspur, to Kashmir and far-flung areas of Jammu.

The foodgrains were, however, unloaded right on the border areas of the state and swindled. It takes two days for a vehicle to cover the distance up to Srinagar. However, in many cases the trucks were available again for unloading in the local truck union they very next day. The fact clearly illustrated that foodgrains sent through those vehicles were swindled. In the present case the FCI has forfeited security of the company involved in the case.

However, investigating officials said they were surprised when the truck operators told that they would provide them the receipts that the foodgrains had been delivered in the stores.

Despite assurance, till date no truck operator has been able to produce the receipt.


Confusion marks first day of paddy procurement
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 25
Confusion marked the first day today of the paddy procurement operations by official agencies in various parts of Punjab. The agencies and others concerned were not clear whether the Rs 40 per quintal announced as bonus by the Union Government on paddy should be included in the J form (sale voucher) or its billing should be done separately for payment to farmers.

Whan asked in this regard, Mr Balbir Singh Rajewal, general secretary of the BKU, said that in the Samrala and Khanna mandis, officials were not clear about the mode of payment of the bonus. The main reason for the confusion was the ambiguous instructions issued by the authorities with regard to the bonus.

“I took up the issue with a senior officer of the Punjab Food and Supplies Department. He assured me that clear instructions would be sent by tomorrow to all officials concerned to include the bonus in the J form,” Mr Rajewal said. As the announcement of the bonus had been made in advance, Mr Rajewal said it should be entered in the J form, which was given to farmers to enable them to get payment at the time of the receipt of the sale proceeds of paddy, sold at the minimum support price of Rs 610 per quintal.

He said if its entry was not made in the J form, most of the farmers would be at a disadvantage. “It will be in the interest of farmers if the necessary instructions are issued regarding the mode of payment of the bonus by the state government at the earliest,” he asserted.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, reviewed the arrangements for paddy procurement to ensure smooth, transparent and hassle-free operations. He directed all Deputy Commissioners and the heads of the procurement agencies to undertake procurement in accordance with their allotted share.

Presiding over a high-level meeting of the Deputy Commissioners and the heads of the procurement agencies — Pungrain, Markfed, Punsup, the Punjab State Warehousing Corporation and the Punjab Agro Food Corporation —held here to monitor the procurement operations, Capt Amarinder Singh said the Union Government had approved the official procurement of paddy from today.

He said the state was expecting a production of 136.75 lakh tonnes of paddy during the current year. Of this, the marketable surplus would be 130 lakh MT. For this purpose, 1,504 purchase centres had been set up for the procurement of paddy this year against 1,492 during the previous kharif season.

The Chief Minister told the Deputy Commissioners to launch an awareness programme for farmers, combine harvester owners and arhtiyas to ensure the procurement of clean and dry paddy as per the norms. He said the state government would not tolerate any harassment of farmers at the hands of officials of the procurement agencies or commission agents. He asserted that the farmers would get their payments within the stipulated time. 


Dalbir Kaur slams rumours in Pak media
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, September 25
Ms Dalbir Kaur, sister of Sarabjt Singh, imprisoned in Pakistan for allegedly carrying out explosions there, slammed the Pakistan media for spreading rumours that she was not the sister of Sarabjit Singh.

She said that she came to know about it from a Pakistani television reporter that media circles there were abuzz with the talk that Dalbir Kaur was not the sister of imprisoned Sarabjit Singh. Refuting the rumours she displayed old family photographs figuring Sarabjit and herself.

She was of the opinion that such misinformation was being spread in the neighbouring country so that she was made ineligible for fighting the case in favour of her brother.

Speaking about souring of relations between the wife of Sarabjit Singh and herself, Dalbir Kaur said the family received a letter from Sarabjit on September 18 in which he had asked his wife not to issue separate statement. He also mentioned that some individuals in order to extricate benefit out of it might be persuading her against her own family members.

Dalbir Kaur felt that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should have raised the issue of Indian prisoners languishing in Pakistani jails, besides terrorism, with President Pervez Musharraf during his recent meeting. 


SAD to act tough against errant cops
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalal (Bathinda), September 25
On regaining power, SAD will act tough against certain police and civil officials against whom it has enough proof of amassing assets disproportionate to their known sources of income, stated SAD MP Sukhbir Singh Badal, while addressing a press conference minutes after a party rally here today.

Mr Badal named a top police official, currently posted in the Malwa belt, and claimed that he had full proof of how and where this official had grabbed land, built property and made his juniors pay him huge amounts of money. He further claimed that he had got affidavits from his juniors in this connection.

He said within three months of coming to power, action would be initiated against police officers who “implicated SAD workers in false cases”.

On the coming Prime Minister's visit, he claimed that the two major projects — Chandigarh-Ludhiana rail link and an overbridge in Ludhiana — that he would inaugurate were launched during the SAD regime. He alleged that the Congress didn’t have a single achievement to show to Punjab’s people.

He accused the state government of adopting double standards and shielding its own people in the City Centre scam. “The Congress government used to arrest our workers first and then register cases against them, but now it is yet to book its partymen who are involved in the scam. We will shortly move the Punjab and Haryana High Court over the matter,” he added.

On the recent police action against the protesting veterinary doctors in Ludhiana, he said it was disgraceful for a Chief Minister to justify such an action and added that he should publicly apologise for it.

He alleged that the City Centre scam was merely a tip of the iceberg and similar scandals would be unearthed in Mohali, Jalandhar and Amritsar.

Accusing the Congress government of being neck deep in corruption, he said: “If Captain Amarinder Singh and his men are innocent why he is not handing over the probe into the scam to the CBI. The Chief Minister is scared and is running away from facing an impartial inquiry.”

BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu, SAD MP from Bathinda Bibi Paramjeet Kaur Gulshan, MLA Gura Singh Tungwali and ex-minister Sikander Singh Malooka were also present. 


No pact with Uma’s party, says Khurana
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 25
The President of the Punjab unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Mr Avinash Rai Khanna, yesterday said his party and its alliance partner, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), were strong enough to win the forthcoming Assembly elections in Punjab. There was no need to enter into seat sharing agreements with either Uma Bharti’s Bharatiya Jana Shakti Party or the Bahujan Samaj Party, said Mr Khanna.

Mr Khanna was addressing a press conference here. He said the number of seats for the BJP under the seat sharing formula would be decided soon. He, however, sidestepped questions on what had the BJP demanded from the SAD or what would be the BJP’s strategy in case the SAD offered the party fewer seats than the last time. The alliance had a social, religious and political dimension to it, he said.

The BSP had no base in Punjab while both the alliance partners were not keen on tying up with Uma Bharti’s party. The BJPs core committee shall be meeting to draw up a schedule for election rallies. The party would field new faces. The party was yet to take a decision on fielding Mr Navjot Sidhu.

Mr Khanna said the BJP was not satisfied with the apology tendered by SSP, Ludhiana, Mr A.S. Rai, yesterday over the lathi charge on veterinary students. He said the BJP and the SAD would jontly hold the first dharna at the Ludhiana City Centre site on September 27.


Report against Madhu sent to high command
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, September 25
Supporters of the former president of the Mahila Seva Dal, Ms Kamlesh Saini, today submitted a report on the alleged involvement of Madhu Khanna in criminal activities to all-India organising secretary Raj Narayan Yadav.

Madhu Khanna was accused of extorting money to sort out a social issue of a family. The complaint also said a written complaint was also given to the DGP about her involvement in criminal activities.

Although no action was taken on that complaint as it was found to be anonymous.

It may be mentioned that Kamlesh Saini and her supporter had beaten up another Madhu Khanna took place on September 20. While the Congress high command dissolved the Women Seva Dal, it was too late. 


SAD to take city centre scam to logical conclusion
Tribune News Service

Patiala, September 25
Gearing up for the forthcoming Assembly elections, the SAD leadership has started taking issues connected with deprivation of facilities to the people and resolved to take the issue of multi-crore Ludhiana City Centre scam to a logical conclusion. In the coming days, the SAD would target the Congress on issues like the city centre scam, manhandling of girl students by the police in the presence of Chief Minister in Ludhiana, closing down of around 750 government schools and 2,300 dispensaries in the past four years by the state government.

To put pressure on the state government to hand over the probe of city centre scam to the CBI, a large contingent of the SAD led by former Finance Minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh would stage a dharna in front of the City Centre Complex on September 27. Talking to the TNS here today, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, who is also SAD general secretary, said: “The party will force the Congress government to institute a CBI probe into the scam, in which a section of ruling politicians have pocketed crores of rupees and caused huge loss to the state exchequer.”

He added that though the Congress government had admitted the occurrence of the scam by dissolving the Ludhiana Improvement Trust (LIT) and launching a probe by the Vigilance Bureau, it was avoiding a CBI inquiry into the scam. He said by launching a probe by the Vigilance Bureau into the scam the ruling Congress was trying to hush up the matter.

He said bureau was a department of the state government and hence it could not inquire into various acts of omission and commissions of Capt Amarinder Singh and his Cabinet colleagues. He claimed that there was resentment among masses over the role of Capt Amarinder Singh and his Cabinet colleagues in the suspension of Opposition MLAs from the Vidhan Sabha. He accused the Vidhan Sabha Speaker of acting in a partisan manner.


BDPO made to reverse order
Our Correspondent

tarn Taran, September 25
Hundreds of Akali workers and residents of the nearby Naushehra Pannuan today gheraoed the office of the BDPO against appointing officiating sarpanch replacing the pro-Akali officiating sarpanch. Mr Ranjit Singh Brahampura, MLA, led the workers.

Dr Surjit Singh was the officiating sarpanch of the village having a population of about more than 10,000. The BDPO, Mr Lakhbir Singh Butter, who is a son of Mr Sukhwinder Singh Butter, former Congress MLA, Patti, in his order issued on September 21 nominated Mr Kashmir Singh the new officiating sarpanch by showing a meeting of the members of the panchayat.

The agitating Akali workers made the BDPO withdraw the order and by amending his own order, the BDPO issued revised order to permit Dr Surjit Singh to work as officiating sarpanch. — OC


BJP feels ignored, seeks 8 seats in Malwa 
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, September 25
Leaders of the BJP Malwa zone —Sangrur, Patiala, Bathinda, Mansa, Moga and Barnala — today demanded eight seats during the seat-sharing between SAD and the BJP in the ensuing Punjab Assembly elections.

The leaders said their workers in the area felt ignored as they had never got a chance to contest the Assembly elections. In a warning tone, they said if leaders wanted to strengthen the SAD-BJP alliance, they should allot eight seats to the BJP in these districts, including Fatehgarh Sahib. Mr Satwant Singh Punia, in charge of the BJP's Malwa zone, said if the Malwa belt leaders failed to get justice, they would approach the BJP high command in Delhi to get their due.

The BJP leaders also stated that in case of seats' allotment to the BJP, they had always faced discrimination due to which no BJP leader from the seven districts had ever got the Assembly or Lok Sabha ticket. They also asked the BJP high command to take care of the sentiments of the workers of the Malwa zone before effecting an agreement with SAD.

In reply to a question, Mr Harjit Singh Grewal, national secretary of the BJP, said the BJP in Punjab would contest at least 23 seats as the SAD-BJP alliance partner. He said there might be a change in the seats contested by the BJP in the past.

He also expressed the hope that the BJP would get its due share in the alliance.

Mr Grewal said in case the SAD formed an alliance with the BSP, the BJP would contest 23 seats as the SAD-BJP alliance partner. However, he said the final decision on the seats would be taken by Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Mr Rajnath Singh and Mr Parkash Singh Badal at a meeting.

He also said the BJP would also present the demand of the Malwa-belt's BJP workers before SAD, but the BJP's alliance would not break on this issue.


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