P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


PM: process to open Hussainiwala border on
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 28
The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, who held a meeting here today with senior office-bearers of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, including its president, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, gave an assurance that the below poverty line (BPL) criteria would be amended to include those belonging to poor sections in the state among the BPL beneficiaries.

Dr Manmohan Singh, who interacted with the PPCC delegation for about 40 minutes, was told by Mr Dullo that the BPL criteria had been fixed in such a manner that only a few thousand poor persons were covered under this scheme in the state. Mr Dullo explained to the Prime Minister that in Punjab the number of poor persons was very high but they could not get the benefits available under various schemes meant for the BPL sections.

The Prime Minister said he was aware of this problem and had also discussed the issue with the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, to find a solution.

When told that the Union Government, which was compensating farmers who owned land beyond the fence on the Indo-Pak border in Punjab, had stopped this scheme, the Prime Minister said he would get it resumed soon. He was told that the Union Government was giving Rs 2,500 per acre as compensation to those farmers who owned land across the fence. The compensation was given because the farmers were unable to fully utilise their land across the fence owing to various technical reasons.

Responding to a demand raised by certain PPCC members, including Mr Parminder Singh, general secretary, Dr Manmohan Singh said the process to open the Hussainiwala route on the Indo-Pak border at Ferozepore had been set in motion. He said he was hopeful that like the Wagah route, the Hussainiwala route would also become functional.

He said he had applied his mind to the issue of giving a package to border areas for the development of industry. “I will come next month and do something in this regard”, he said, adding that he would also like to meet farmers in the border belt.

The Prime Minister also told Mr Dullo that the Union Government was examining a proposal to help terrorist victim families in Punjab. The government would help them on the pattern of riot victims.

Mr Dullo also took up the issue of advancing credit to poor sections by banks. Mr Dullo told the Prime Minister that nationalised banks were only serving the rich and poor persons had failed to derive any benefit from them. He said the credit norms for farmers and poor persons should be relaxed.

Mr Dullo also urged the Prime Minister to deal with the problem of indebtedness of farmers and landless labour in Punjab. “I have discussed this issue in detail with Capt Amarinder Singh”, Dr Manmohan Singh told Mr Dullo.

A deputation of farmers from the border belt met the Prime Minister to apprise him of the problems being faced by them. A deputation of industrialists sought various concessions from the Prime Minister for their units.


PM forms panel to look into farmers’ plight
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 28
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has set-up a two–member committee to deal with the problem of rural indebtedness in Punjab and other parts of the country, with specific reference to farmers.

Sources said Mr T.K.A. Nair, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, and Dr B.N. Yugandhar, a member of the Planning Commission, would be dealing with the issue. Mr Nair is a former Punjab cadre IAS officer and knows the problem of the farmers in Punjab first hand. Dr Yugandhar is former Union Secretary in the Ministry of Rural Areas and Employment, hence is well-versed to deal with the issue.

The sources said both officials had been told to submit report before the end of October.


Centre ignoring state: Badal
Tribune News service

Patiala, September 28
SAD supremo Parkash Singh Badal, while dubbing Capt Amarinder Singh as incompetent Chief Minister, said whenever the Congress ruled the Central Government, it always discriminated with Punjab.

Mr Badal, along with a galaxy of party leaders, addressed three rallies in this district today. He said as Capt Amarinder Singh was trying to use a section of Punjab Police personnel for ensuring the victory of party candidates by terrorising people. He said a delegation of SAD would meet the Election Commission next month to urge him to make arrangements of the deployment of Central forces in Punjab to conduct the assembly elections in free and fair manner.

Mr Badal said Dr Manmohan Singh failed to announce any package for Punjab during his yesterday's visit to the state because Capt Amarinder Singh had never succeeded in making his impact on the Centre.

He said it had also been proved that whenever the Congress ruled into the Centre, a step-motherly treatment was meted out to Punjab. He said while the Centre was announcing packages for other states, it had been delaying it for Punjab. Residents of Punjab had been tolerating the most incompetent Chief Minister.

Disclosing that SAD would carry out a legal fight for ensuring a CBI probe into the multi-crores City Centre scam, Mr Badal said the party had got the information that Capt Amarinder Singh was going to post some police officials as district chiefs to get their support for Congress candidates in the assembly elections. SAD had also been preparing a list of such police officials.

Those attended the rallies included Capt Kanwaljit Singh, Mr Surjeet Singh Rakhra, Mr Manpreet Singh Badal, Mr Kushaldeep Singh Dhillon (all MLAs) and Mr Tejinder pal Singh Sandhu, former Chairman of the PSSSSB, Mr Harmail Singh Tohra and Mr Ajaib Singh Mukhmailpur (former ministers) and Mr Balwinder Singh Saifdipur, general secretary of the party.

Mr Badal said now the people had come to know that the Centre would not give any package to the state because as elections were coming near, the code of conduct could be imposed any time in Punjab. He added that the visit of Dr Manmohan Singh had generated disappointment among common men.

Mr Sunny Dhillon, a Congress activist, today joined SAD alongwith his hundreds of associates.


MES engineers save two children’s lives
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, September 28
Efforts of Military Engineers Services (MES) officer Devinder Kumar and his junior Mr Madan Lal at present posted at Pathankot has saved life of two poor children suffering from blood cancer.

Prof AA Kazi, Chairman of the Cancer Aid and Research Foundation, has written to Secretary defence, Shekhar Dutt, Engineer in chief ministry of Defence “Lt Gen B.S. Dhaliwal and Maj-Gen Gautam Banerjee, Chief Engineer Western Command recommending names of Mr Devinder Kumar and Mr Madan Lal, junior engineer, for social service award.

Prof Kazi has written two poor children, Nikhil Singh and Abhishek Bharve, were suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia (a type of blood cancer). The foundation issued an advertisement in a paper seeking financial help for the treatment of the children.

Mr Devinder Kumar posted as Garrison Engineer (West) Pathankot, read the advertisement and decided to help the children. he along with his junior engineer Madan Lal started a campaign to collect donations to save the poor children. Both MES officers collected Rs 1,11000 in a few days. The amount was sent to the foundation to be used for treating the children.

Today both children have got a new lease of life due to philanthropic effort of the two MES engineers from Pathankot.

Efforts of the engineers besides the foundation have also been lauded by Army authorities.

Mr AK Mittal Chief Engineer MES, Pathankot Zone, has issued a certificate commending the efforts of the engineers.

Mr Devinder Kumar, belongs to remote jahalman village in Lahaul, and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh. hailing from a poor and remote area he could feel the pain of minor poor children suffering from cancer which moved him to start collecting donations for them as he read the appeal in this regard.


India to sign MoU with Pak on Panchayati Raj system
Tribune News Service

Patiala, September 28
The union minister of Panchayati Raj, Youth Affairs and Sports, Mr Mani Shanker Aiyer, today said India would sign an MoU with Pakistan for making arrangements to study the panchayati raj system prevailing in that country.

Disclosing that the Ministry of External Affairs had given its consent for signing the MoU, he said talks were on with the Pakistani government in this connection. He said the MoU would enable the panchayats falling in border states of the country to pick up the best things prevailing in the panchayati raj system of Pakistan.

Mr Aiyer, who was here to inaugurate a two-day yuva shakti sammelan organised in the local Central-State Library by the Punjab Government in association with the Nehru Youth Centre and the Department of Youth Affairs, said that though in reality this exercise was not a step of confidence-building measures (CBM) with Pakistan, it could play that kind of role also in future.

He said that not only this, the Indian Government had initiated efforts to study the panchayati raj system prevailing in the Commonwealth nations so that the panchayati raj system of the country could be made best to deliver goods.

To take the yuva shakti campaign to the international level, about 100 representatives would go to Pakistan shortly and about 200 representatives of the youth of Pakistan would visit India shortly.

Mr Aiyer said empowerment of panchayats in Punjab by the state government was drawing appreciations from different quarters. He said that action of appointment of medical service providers in rural areas by the panchayats of Punjab had fetched applause for them from the countries like Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Brunei.

Talking to media persons, Mr Aiyer made it clear that the National Institute of Sports (NIS) located in this town would remain a sports centre. While claiming that the Commonwealth Federation was happy with the ongoing preparations for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India, he said that efforts were on to set up a laboratory accredited with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in Delhi and infrastructure for the same was being developed.

When asked that the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, was trying to convert the NIS into a defence university, he said that was the claim of Capt Amarinder Singh in which the Union Ministry of Sports was not involved in any manner.

Interestingly, Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi, Chief Parliamentary Secretary, Youth Affairs and Sports, Punjab, who also attended the function and took a contrary stand, demanded from the Union minister that adequate funds should be given to uplift the facilities in the NIS.

The Rural Development Minister, Punjab, Mr Lal Singh, said the state government would be handing over two more departments to panchayats shortly to make them more powerful.


Tussle hits working of pollution control board
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 28
Crucial issues in managing the all-important Punjab Pollution Control Board have cropped up in the past few weeks. The government and the board have been issuing orders that are contradictory to each other. Sources said this was part of the ongoing tussle between the Minister for Environment, Mr Avtar Henry, and the Chairman of the board, Mr Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa.

Matters have already reached the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh.

Another matter relates to the continuation of Mr Bajwa as Chairman of the board. His term ended on September 12. No orders to extend his tenure have been issued despite the Chief Minister having sent written instructions in this regard to the Department of Environment. His tenure was to be extended till March 31, 2007.

The board keeps not only a tab on polluting industries discharging effluents into rivers but also gives temporary environmental clearance for mega projects.

In the latest episode of the two-month-old tussle is a letter written by Mr Bajwa to the Chief Minister last week. He says the Principal Secretary, Environment, Ms Romilla Dubey, had issued the wrong orders on August 11 which had taken away his powers with regard to transfers and postings and the initiating of disciplinary proceedings against board employees.

The powers were to be exercised by the government, which means by the Minister, Mr Avtar Henry. The Chairman of the board had told the Chief Minister that the Prevention and Control of Pollution Act, 1974 says the powers have to be with the Chairman while the government is only the appellate authority.

Technically, under the rules and regulations all powers of the board are with the Chairman, who works directly in coordination with the Central Government and has to follow the rules and guidelines laid down by the Central Pollution Control Board. The Department of Environment, now headed by Mr Henry, can just issue instructions when the board is not performing its duties as prescribed under the Act. Mr Bajwa, who is the MLA from Qadian, has said that the orders to usurp his powers are illegal as the government cannot do it under the Act. He has requested the Chief Minister to rescind the orders.

The orders that are contrary to each other include an order of the Principal Secretary to form a three-member environment protection squad (EPS) that was to report to the Minister every Monday for obtaining orders and to submit reports on action taken. The Chairman put his foot down, asking how the EPS was constituted. Not only this. Last Friday he sent instructions saying the EPS would not visit any industry without the permission of the Chairman. Representatives of industries called for a hearing on September 25 have been asked not to appear before the Minister. Officials of the board connected with the EPS have been asked not to attend the hearing where the Minister is supervising matters.


Late MLA Sajida Begum’s maid ‘assaulted’
Aditi Tandon/Akash Ghai
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 28
The property of late Sajida Begum, who was an MLA from Malerkotla continues to cause controversy. Sometime ago, a dispute had emerged over ownership rights of Sheesh Mahal in Malerkotla. Now, her two-canal house in Sector 2, Chandigarh, is causing bad blood.

Late tonight, a group of goons, allegedly led by late MLA’s nephew, Sajjid Ali, barged into house number 22, Sector 2, and manhandled the housekeeper and her 15-year-old son. They locked the servant quarter and allegedly threw the maid’s family out.

“I had come to the verandah to fetch water when Sajjid, accompanied by his helper, Manu, and two others gatecrashed and started assaulting me. I was kicked and punched, so was my son, Afzal. They kept hitting me till a police team arrived there,” said Shakeela Khatoon, who has been residing in the said house for eight years. She served the late MLA till her death.

The police, however, had a different version to offer. ASI Balbir Singh, who visited the spot, said: “Nothing had happened. No one was hit. Everything is fine.”

The victim, however, maintained she was beaten up. Neighbours also said the same thing. No medical examination was conducted. Someone even pointed out: “The police personnel went back to the police station in the car of the alleged offenders.”

Shakeela’s husband, Rehmat Ali, was taken to the Sector 3 police station. When contacted, ASI Balbir Singh said, “We now have in writing from Rehmat Ali that nothing had happened.”

The case seems to be one of forcible eviction, as the property is a matter of dispute between Sajjid Ali and Sajida Begum’s brother, Fayyaz Khan, who lives in Pakistan. In Chandigarh these days, Fayyaz Khan claimed: “The Muslim Law is clear on this point. If a woman without any issue dies, her property is legally bequeathed to her parents. If they are also dead, it goes to her brothers. And I am the only living brother of Sajida. But unfortunately, Sajida’s house has been causing heartburn among family members. I am here to sort out the issue. I will file a case to get succession to the house. Let the law take its course.”

Aware of the alleged fracas at the Sector 2 house tonight, he said he did not mind if Sajjid Ali wanted to depute his servants in the house. “Both Shakeela’s family and Sajjid’s servants can share the house till the time the issue of ownership is sorted,” he added.


HC seeks pass percentage of students in govt schools
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, September 28
The Punjab and Haryana High Court today asked the Punjab Government to inform it about the pass percentage of students in government-run schools in rural areas.

Taking up a PIL filed by a Chandigarh resident seeking directions to the respondents not to force small schoolchildren from participating in such programmes that have a direct affect on their studies, the Division Bench headed by Mr Justice Jasbir Singh also asked the government to tell the court as to what steps, if any, had been taken to improve the pass percentage. The Bench also sought details of the number of vacant posts meant for teachers in the state.

In his petition, Mr Balwinder Singh Bhinder stated that recently over 400 children of two schools in Lakhan Ke Padde village in Kapurthala district were forced to stand for over two hours in the open to welcome Chief Minister, Punjab, who was visiting the village. This, he stated, was highly irregular. After hearing him, the Bench issued notice of motion to the respondents for October 17.

A PIL has been filed in the High Court seeking strict action against the Punjab Police personnel involved in the incident of molestation of young girls during lathicharge on protesting students of the Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University at Ludhiana on September 21.

The students, who were protesting against unemployment, were beaten up and girls were molested, with police personnel even tearing the clothes of some of the students.

News reports and photographs carried in newspapers the next day showed police personnel molesting girl students with the active connivance of lady police officials.

The PIL filed by the World Human Rights Protection Council through its president, Mr Ranjan Lakhanpal, prays that a case be registered against the cops involved in the matter and investigation be handed over to the CBI as the state police could try to help its personnel.

Hearing of the PIL is expected to be held tomorrow. Meanwhile, the Punjab State Human Rights Commission is learnt to have ordered an inquiry into the matter.

The inquiry, which will be conducted by the IGP, Punjab State Human Rights Commission, was ordered today at a Full Commission meeting. The Commission has taken suo motu note of reports in the media about the incident. In a move aimed at providing succor to litigants, the Punjab and Haryana High Court Bar Association today decided to discontinue the practice of suspending work on the death of sitting or former Judge of the High Court and lawyers practising in the High Court.

This decision was taken at a general house meeting of the association held here today.

The members resolved that there would be no suspension of work in future in case of unfortunate death of any member of the Bar or in any other circumstances.


Nagra Punjab Khet Mazdoor Cong chief
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 28
Mr Kuljit Singh Nagra has been appointed president of the Punjab Pradesh Kisan-Khet Mazdoor Congress.

Mr Randeep Singh Surjewala, chairman of the All India Kisan-Khet Mazdoor Congress, made the appointment after a formal approval by Mrs Sonia Gandhi, president of the All India Congress Committee.

Mr Nagra has been a prominent student leader from Panjab University. He also has a long association with the farming community and stood for their cause on different fora at different point of time.

He was president of Panjab University Students Union between 1989 and 1993.

He was also an elected member of the university senate between 1996 and 2000.


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