P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Govt to regularise illegal colonies: CM
Chander Parkash
Tribune News service

Patiala, October 7
With an eye on the coming Assembly elections, the Congress government in Punjab has initiated the process of regularisation of unauthorised colonies, which have come up at various places in the state in the past few years due to massive urbanisation.

The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, while disclosing that the state government would shortly tackle the case lying in the Punjab and Haryana High Court in connection with the unauthorised colonies, said after regularisation of such colonies, basic amenities would be given to its residents after charging a token money from them for the same. He said a formal decision had been taken in this connection.

He said he was not aware of the exact number of unauthorised colonies in Punjab, adding that most of those people living in such colonies belonged to the Scheduled Castes, Backward Classes and lower income groups and hence they should not be denied any basic amenities.

The Congress government was committed to provide better living conditions to the people of Punjab.

Capt Amarinder Singh, who presided over a state-level function organised in connection with the birth anniversary of Bhagwan Valmiki held here today, said the Congress government was also thinking of giving promotional pay scales to its employees after completion of four, nine and 14 years of service. He said what was being taken into consideration was how the state government would arrange Rs 750 crore, which was needed to give promotional pay scales to its employees.

He said a committee headed by the Deputy Chief Minister, Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, was yet to give its report to the state government on the issue connected with promotional pay scales.

He said if the state government managed to give promotional scales to its employees, there was no need of calling a special session of Assembly for sanctioning the same as it could be done by issuing a special ordinance.

The Chief Minister said the Punjab Government had been leaving no stone unturned for the uplift of those, who belonged to the Scheduled Castes and poor section of society.

The Chief Minister said it was being considered that some of the party MLAs who were weak candidates for the coming Assembly elections should be changed with new faces.


Suicides: farmers’ bodies to meet in Hyderabad
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 7
Perturbed over the apathy of the Union Government towards the growing incidence of debt-induced suicides, a national-level meeting of various organisations of farmers has been convened in Hyderabad for October 9.

The main agenda of the meeting, says Mr Bhupinder Singh Mann, former member of parliament and President of the All-India Kisan Coordination Committee, will be to deliberate upon a national action plan to combat the economic policies responsible for the miserable conditions leading to suicides among farmers.

“Our national system has become immune to farmers’ miseries and suicides by over one lakh farmers during the past few years hardly matter. News stories of suicides by farmers are dismissed as routine,” says Mr Balwant Singh Brahmke, general secretary of the Bharti Kisan Union (BKU).

While both the Center and state Governments have been coming out, from time to time, with special incentive schemes to waive loans of the industrial sector, little has been done to give relief to the farming community.

“There cannot be a bigger tragedy than a farmer committing suicide in a grain market where he had brought his produce for sale,” rues Mr Sukhdev Singh Kokri, a leader of the Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta). All our agitations, including dharnas, rasta and rail roko programmes, have failed to move the Punjab Government which has been sitting over a proposed Act to regulate moneylending in the state.

Though the BKU (Ekta) may not be represented at the Hyderabad meeting, all organisations of farmers will be watching with interest the deliberations at that meeting.

“The problems of farmers are innumerable. Unremunerative procurement prices, rapidly rising prices of farm inputs, including diesel, power, seeds, fertilisers, insecticides and pesticides; high rates of interest on loans, and a plethora of taxes, including mandi tax, are the major issues confronting the farming community. Besides, farmers are also being victimised under the Essential Commodities Act,” adds Mr Brahmke.

Realising that the country is again heading for a shortage of foodgrains in general and wheat in particular, the Union Government has been consulting various farm experts to find ways and means of meeting this challenge.

“Farmers are cut up. Unless they are offered remunerative prices and bailed out of the current fiscal mess because of their mounting debt, self-sufficiency in foodgrains may not be feasible in the near future. We do not want to beg for any concessions or relief but farmers, as nation builders, should be treated on a par, if not above, industrialists and business houses of the country,” adds Mr Kokri, maintaining that only “an economically viable agricultural sector can accelerate the industrial growth of the country.”

Mr Sharad Joshi, who once spearheaded a countrywide agitation by farmers in the 80s, will be joined by among others, Mr Lal Shankar Upadhaya (Gujarat), Mr Prem Singh Dahiya (Haryana), Mr Avinash Partap Singh (Madhya Pradesh), Mrs Saroj Kashikar (Maharashtra), Mr Shankar Reddy (Hyderabad) and Prof Babu Joseph (Kerala) at the Hyderabad meeting.


Row over land for sports complex
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, October 7
The issue of a chunk of land in the Rajasansi area, reportedly donated to the local panchayat by Ms Bhajan Kaur, wife of former Punjab Revenue Minister late Maj Harinder Singh, for the construction of a sports complex there, has kicked off a controversy.

Local politicians, including municipal councillors, have threatened to start an agitation in protest against the taking back of the donated land.

After the death of her husband, Ms Bhajan Kaur reportedly donated around five acres of land to the panchayat to construct a sports complex in 1972. But neither the panchayat nor the local politicians took up the matter. Nothing was done to acquire the land for the sports complex.

Seeing that the authorities were not doing anything to construct a sports complex there, Mr Gurpal Singh, who is said to be the legal heir of Maj Harinder Singh and is the son-in-law of Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, reportedly decided to take back 1.5 acres of the land. He also decided to give the remaining land for the complex on lease for 99 years at a minimal amount of Rs 100 per annum.

Even after repeated efforts, Mr Gurpal Singh, presently living in Delhi, and his manager, Mr Vasdev, could not be contacted for comments on the issue.

Mr Harinder Singh Vikki, councillor from Rajasansi, said, “The land was donated to the panchayat to construct sports complex around 34 years ago. Since then, nothing was done in that regard. However, it is not fair on the part of the donators to take back the land knowing that the cost of the land has shot up in the area.”

He said he contacted Ms Bhajan Kaur and informed her that Mr Gurpal Singh, through his managers, Mr Vasdev Singh and Mr Jasbir Singh, was trying to take back a piece of the donated land. She assured to take up the matter seriously, he added.

He said about one month ago, Mr Vasdev Singh started construction on the 1.5 acres of land that they wanted to take back. “After our protest, they stopped the construction. However, the work was restarted two days ago,” said Mr Vikki.

According to Mr Inder Jeet Singh, vice-president of the Amritsar Zonal Rural Congress and councillor of Rajasansi Nagar Panchayat, The land was donated to construct a sports complex. It was 2.5 acres. Half acre was used to make a water tank. Thereafter, they further donated 1.5 acre land and now the trust had sufficient land to make a park there. These people are raking up the issue unnecessarily. The land in question is actually owned by their sister concern, Pritam Sandhu and Sons, he said.


Recoveries to be made from dam employees
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, October 7
The Punjab Government has decided to affect recoveries from the employees posted at the Shahpur Kandi dam project. The Accountant-General (AG), Punjab, in a communication issued recently has directed the Finance Department of the dam to calculate the amount to be recovered from the employees of the dam.

The Finance Department was also forcing the employees to give an affidavit that the recovery could be made from their retirement dues before the pension was released to them. The orders have created a flutter in about 6,000 lower rung employees at the dam who are likely to face recoveries worth lakhs.

Mr Raghunath Sahai Puri, Minister from Transport, in whose constituency the employees form a sizeable vote bank, has already requested the Chief Minister to intervene in the matter. Besides, the employees have also threatened an agitation.

An anomaly crept into the salaries of the work charge employees of the dam during the construction of the Ranjit Sagar Dam. A large numbers of employees were given increments by their officers in violation of the rules. Many employees were given five to 30 extra increments on the pretext of appreciation for good work.

The extra increments given to the employees were protected in their basic pay at the time they were absorbed as regular employees. The result was that instead of the basic pay of about Rs 3,000, the work charge employees got initial basic pay ranging from Rs 3,500 to Rs 5,000.

The Department of Finance later detected the anomaly. Now the department officials are maintaining that no employee can get more than one increment in a year. The extra increments paid to the employees would be recovered from them.

Initially, the department had decided to recover the extra amount paid from pensioners only. However, now the preparations are being made to recover the amount The Finance Department in the recent past stopped the allowances being paid to the dam employees.


PAU, bureaucrats on collision course
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, October 7
Authorities of Punjab Agricultural University and bureaucrats of the Punjab Government are on the path of confrontation. The autonomy of Punjab Agricultural University is being eroded and the bureaucrats have allegedly adopted a lukewarm attitude to help the university in tiding over the financial crisis being faced by it. The PAU authorities allege that the state bureaucrats are not ready to entertain the genuine financial difficulties of the university.

The Punjab Government had conceded the autonomy of the university on the issue of auditing of the university accounts after a struggle but the Examiner, Local Fund Accounts (ELFA) officials are not ready to implement the instructions of the Principal Secretary, Finance, Punjab Government in this regard.

Enquiries by The Tribune show today that the authorities of PAU have been pressing upon the state government to enhance the annual grant to the university from Rs 80 crore to Rs 113 crores as there has been no increase in the same for the past four years. The university had also written to the Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, on July 11, 2006 stating that the PAU was reeling under severe financial crisis. The university was not able to meet the salary component with the annual grant of Rs 80 crore and there was depletion in the pension fund as well. The university had listed salary deficit at Rs 10.19 crore, GPF deficit Rs 6 crore, pension deficit for 2006-2007, Rs 15 crore and LTC deficit Rs 2 crore.

It is learnt that the Chief Minister had directed the Finance Department to meet the financial needs of the university. The Chief Minister, came to PAU on September 21 to inaugurate the Kisan Mela and he was told that the university had not received any financial help so far.

The Chief Minister immediately contacted the Principal Secretary, Finance, on his mobile but he was not available. Then the Chief Minister spoke to his Principal Secretary and asked him to convey to the Finance Secretary to do the needful with regard to the finances of PAU.

The Vice-Chancellor, Dr K.S. Aulakh contacted the Principal Secretary, Finance, later and a meeting was fixed for discussion on the financial needs of PAU for September 26 at Chandigarh. A three-member team of PAU comprising Dr V.K. Sharma, Registrar; Dr B.S. Dhillon, Director Research and Mr A.C. Rana, Comptroller of the university, went to meet the Principal Secretary, Finance. Besides, the Principal Secretary, Finance, Mr D.S. Kalha, Mr B.S. Sandhu, Secretary Finance, Department of Finance, was also present.

The PAU authorities allege that they were shocked at the attitude of the Principal Secretary, Finance. The Principal Secretary, Finance told the PAU officials that block grant was being sanctioned to all the universities in the state and no other university was facing financial crisis except the PAU.

They further allege that the Principal Secretary also observed that there was financial mismanagement and the performance of the university was sliding. The PAU team tried to explain to the Finance Secretary that PAU was basically a research institute in agriculture and the mandate of the university was different than that of other universities. Moreover, the number of students in other universities was very high and they were teaching and affiliating universities.

The Principal Secretary, Finance, was also annoyed with the university and said that the atmosphere at the PAU had been vitiated as PAU employees were resorting to rallies against the local audit staff and no such problem was there in other universities.


Russian envoy calls on CM
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 7
A five-member delegation from Russia, led by its Ambassador to India, Vyacheslav I.Trubnikov, called on Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh here yesterday. The delegation evinced keen interest to further strengthen economic ties with Punjab through import of sports goods, hand-tools, leather goods, cycle parts and carpets from the state.

The Chief Minister assured Mr Trubnikov that he would extend full support and cooperation to promote bilateral trade and commerce activities with Russia.


CPI, CPM to work as team in poll
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 7
The CPI and the CPM, which had been engaged in a wordy duel in Punjab, today resolved to work as a team to defeat the SAD-BJP combine and also not to form an alliance or make any adjustment with the ruling Congress in the coming Assembly elections in the state.

Sinking their differences, the leadership of both parties met here at the office of the Punjab unit of the CPI and prepared a common minimum programme vis-a-vis the Assembly elections. The broad contours of the political line to be adopted in the poll are: to work for the defeat of the SAD-BJP alliance; no alliance or adjustment with the Congress; expose to the anti-people policies of the Congress and corruption in its ranks, and to strive to win meaningful representation in the Assembly to provide alternative pro-people policies.

Sources said that first a meeting of the Secretariat of the CPI was held yesterday. At that meeting a decision was taken to avoid confrontation with the CPM and work unitedly to build a strong Left movement in the state. After taking over as secretary of the state unit of the CPI months ago, Mr Jagroop Singh had taken on the ruling Congress strongly.

In fact, he had made the ruling party the number one target of his campaign. And he had drawn a line that he would not enter into an alliance with the Congress in the state in the Assembly elections. However, the CPM had been saying that its first objective was to stop the SAD-BJP combine from coming to power. This was also part of the political line followed by both the CPI and the CPM at the national level.

In short, there were differences between the two parties at the state level over the approach and political line to be adopted in the Assembly elections. Because of this there has been an exchange of letters between Mr Jagroop Singh and his counterpart in the CPM, Prof Balwant Singh.

At today’s meeting, the CPI was represented by Mr Jagroop Singh, Dr Joginder Dayal, Mr Bant Singh Brar, Mr Bhupinder Sambhar and Mr Harbhajan Singh. The CPM was represented by Prof Balwant Singh, Mr Charan Singh Virdi and Mr Raghunath Singh.

After the meeting, Dr Dayal, a member of the national executive of the CPI, said there was a misunderstanding between the two parties and it had been removed. Both parties would now strive to tie up with other like-minded parties to form a third front in the state. He said an alliance with the Lok Bhalai Party was almost certain. “Our entire effort will be to bring around the BSP and make it a part of the third front”, he added. “The Left parties have been fighting for decades for poor people and the BSP, too, has been doing the same. In the past the Left parties had no conflict on any issue in the state”, he added.

Mr Jagroop Singh said the Coordination Committee of both parties would meet soon to decide the next course of action with regard to the elections.


CM’s road show a poll stunt, says SAD
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 7
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) today dismissed the proposed “road show” of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, as an election stunt.

The SAD general secretary, Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, said that Capt Amarinder Singh, who had not even spent 38 hours amidst the people in four and a half years of his tenure as Chief Minister, now believed that he could make the people, with a 38-day miracle, trust him on his love for them.

“Why this sudden desire of the Chief Minister to meet the very people whom he has ignored all these years?” asked Mr Badal.

The SAD general secretary said the people of the state were facing an unprecedented price rise, making even day-to-day subsistence difficult. Unemployment was at its peak, with the government not giving a job even to a single Punjabi in all these years. The peasantry was facing a crisis, with thousands of suicides reported due to the debt burden. Industry, said Mr Badal, was in a state of flight from the state because of the indifferent attitude of the government.


DC’s transfer ‘victory’ of Congress workers
Tribune News Service

Moga, October 7
District Congress Chief Col Babu Singh has termed the transfer of the Deputy Commissioner, Mr VK Meena, as the victory of Congress workers. Mr. Meena has been transferred as Director, Welfare of SCs/BCs within about a fortnight of Babu Singh’s demand to shift him.

Talking to The Tribune, Babu Singh said the Congress would be benefited with Mr Meena’s transfer as a `positive’ message would spread among the general public that he had been shifted on the demand of DCC’s chief. This was the victory of Congress workers as a whole and not of any individual, he added.

Interestingly, DCC chief formally wrote a letter to Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president Mr. Shamsher Singh Dullo last month in which he had stated that Mr. Meena be transferred immediately as his presence in Moga district could adversely affect Congress party’s poll prospects.

DCC chief alleged that the DC had been coming in the way of the implementation of development works in the district. Col Babu Singh accused him of delaying clearance for the shagun scheme cases and work relating to arms licences.

A number of cases of shagun schemes and issuance of arms licences were pending for the past several months, he alleged, adding that a number of residents of the district had contacted him about complaints about the DC.

The outgoing DC could not be contacted to know his reaction over his transfer. However, he had termed the accusations levelled against him as baseless earlier and had said that the social security officer held charge of three places and that was the reason for delay in clearance in shagun scheme cases.


Rift reports baseless: BJP
Our Correspondent

Abohar, October 7
State BJP president Avinash Rai Khanna, BJP national secretary Harjit Singh Grewal and member of the national discipline committee of the party Prof B.L. Rinwa have described as totally baseless, planted and ill-motivated stories which indicated that differences between the BJP and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) had cropped up over seat-sharing for the coming Vidhan Sabha elections.

Talking to mediapersons here today, they said the alliance would contest the elections as a united team under the common minimum programme and throw Congress out of power.

The BJP leaders this morning visited the villages affected by hailstorm during last month.

A deputation of senior party leaders will meet the Punjab Governor next week to demand Rs 15,000 per acre compensation for the farmers who had suffered in 32,000 acre area. Mr Khanna will raise the issue during the winter session of Parliament.

Mr Khanna said the BJP would organise a conference for women here on October 15. Ms Vijya Raje Scindia, Chief Minister of Rajasthan, and Mr Navjot Sidhu, MP, will attend.


Akali workers join Congress
Our Correspondent

Kharar, October 7
With the Punjab Vidhan Sabha elections approaching, the SAD received a big jolt today, in Morinda Vidhan Sabha constituency, as more than two dozen Akali sarpanches and panches along with their supporters joined the Congress at a function held at Saini Majra village in Majri block of Kharar subdivision.

Prominent among those who had joined the Congress were Mr Gurdial Singh, sarpanch of Saini Majra, Mr Baldev Singh, sarpanch of Ferozepur Banger, Mr Ranvir Singh Rana, sarpanch of Bhagatmajra, Mr Jaswant Singh, sarpanch of Mastgarh, Mr Harjit Singh, president of the sports club and Mrs Kirpal Kaur, president, Mahila Mandal, Saini Majra, alongwith their supporter panches and workers.

While welcoming the new entrants, Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang, Minister for Animal Husbandry, assured them of all possible help , co-operation, due respect and regard in the party set-up.


HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |