P U N J A B    S T O R I E S

Rs 755 cr package for employees approved
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 27
The Punjab Council of Ministers today gave formal approval to a package of Rs 755 crore for employees, which was announced last week by the Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh. The council has made certain other important decisions with an eye on the coming Assembly elections.

The council approved the career progression scheme — to grant the next scale in the hierarchy after completion of four, nine and 14 of service w.e.f. November 1. The financial liability on this account would be about Rs 200 crore per annum.

The council approved the grant of Interim Relief to employees and pensioners at the rate of 5 per cent on pay, pension w.e.f. November 1. The financial liability on allowing 5 per cent interim relief would be about Rs 300 crore per annum, said the spokesman.

The amount would finally be absorbed in the pay revision allowed by the state government on the recommendations of the proposed fifth Punjab Pay Commission. The council gave approval to enhance the fixed medical allowance of government employees/pensioners for outdoor treatment to Rs 350 from Rs 250 at present.

About 5 lakh government employees and pensioners are likely to benefit from this decision and the total financial implication would involve Rs 60 crore per annum.

The council also approved to reduce the discount rate from the existing 8 per cent to 4.75 per cent for commutation of pension w.e.f. October 31, 2006 on the recommendations of the cabinet sub-committee.

The Council also approved the new restructured defined contribution pension scheme for new entrants to Punjab Government service on or after January 1, 2004 to be notified in due course.

The transfer of Guru Gobind Singh Medical College and Hospital, Faridkot, to Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, Faridkot, was also okayed.

It approved the merger of 50 per cent Dearness Allowance in the Basic Pay of retired teaching and non-teaching staff of the private aided schools from April 1, 2004 with the condition that the arrears payable to the retired employees of these schools up to March 31, 2006 shall have to be deposited in the National Saving Scheme. The retired employees would be paid in cash from April 1 this year.

The draft policy for regularisation of services of work-charged, daily wage workers and employees working on 89 days, adhoc, temporary basis, keeping in the light the recent judgment of Supreme Court was also approved.

The upgradation of sub tehsil Nangal as sub-division of Ropar district and the creation of posts for the subtreasury in Dera Bassi in Mohali district were also approved.

The council has decided to pay compensation to the next of kin of Jodhpur detenues who had already expired and the release of this ex-gratia grant of Rs 1 lakh each may be treated as a legal claim which could be passed on to their next of kin.

The council approved a special package of incentives to super mega projects by amending clause 11.1 of industrial policy 2003 notified by the state government. Under the policy, the super mega projects with fixed capital investment of Rs 1000 crore or above (Rs 250 crore or above for food processing projects and for projects proposed to be set up in border districts of the state and Rs 250 crore providing employment to 5000 persons for IT, ITES and biotech projects) would be entitled for grant of a special package of incentives to be determined by the council on a case-to-case basis.

The investment may be spread over more than one location in the state, if the council is satisfied that the nature of the project required investment in multiple locations subject to the condition that the project is implemented by the same company or by any of its affiliate in which the parent company shall always hold its share of 51 per cent or above.

The progress of the super mega projects would be reviewed and monitored by an implementation committee headed by the Chief Secretary and would consist of Administrative Secretaries of the concerned departments and the investors/ promoters of the project.

The council gave its nod to the amendment of the Punjab One-time Voluntary Disclosure and Settlement of Violations of the buildings constructed in violation of the Building Bye-laws in the Corporations and the Municipalities Act, 2004.


Amarinder meets Sonia, seeks package for state
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 27
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today sought the intervention of the Congress president, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, for a package for debt ridden farmers and industry from the Union Government.

Informed sources said Capt Amarinder Singh, who flew this morning to Delhi and returned here in the evening to hold a meeting of his Council of Ministers, has conveyed to Mrs Sonia Gandhi that the delay in approving a package for Punjab by the Union Government had created an awkward situation for him and the party in the state.

People of the state had been made to believe in the past that the Union Government would come out with an impressive package for the state to give relief to debt-ridden farmers. However, the Union Finance Ministry proved a hard nut to crack on this count. In the past few weeks, senior officers of the Punjab Government have held several rounds of discussions with their counterparts in the Union Government on the package and other important issues related to Punjab but they failed to make any progress on this front because of the stubborn attitude of the Union Finance Ministry.

Sources said that Capt Amarinder Singh had requested Mrs Sonia Gandhi, to help the state government in this crucial period when Assembly elections were only four months away. The state government had sought a package of Rs 2,060 crore for farmers alone from the Union Government. As Akali leaders like Mr Parkash Singh Badal have been pressing the Election Commission to enforce the code of conduct with immediate effect, the Union Government would not be in position to announce the package if the Election Commission conceded the request of Mr Badal.

In fact, already, Capt Amarinder Singh has got a report from the Punjab Farmers Commission that has clearly indicated that indebtedness is a primary reason for suicide by farmers in this state. Sources said the report had also been sent to the Union Government. The Commission’s report has strengthened the hands of the Chief Minister to further press the Union Government to extend a helping hand to small and marginal farmers in the state. Moreover, farmers in the border belt have been facing serious problems. They could not grow crops fully in their fields which are on other side of the fence on the Indo-Pak border in this region. Earlier, the Union Government had been giving Rs 2,500 per acre as compensation to them but it had been stopped by the Congress-led government in the Centre. The state government has urged to resume the same.

The other issue on which Capt Amarinder Singh laid emphasis was to seek concessions for industry in the state on the pattern of Himachal Pradesh and other hill states. Sources said Capt Amarinder Singh did not oppose the package to the hill states but had sought similar package for industry for his state. Mrs Sonia Gandhi had been conveyed that in the absence of concessions to industry in Punjab on pattern of hill states, serious problems were being faced by the state government in promoting industry in the manufacturing sector. He has urged Mrs Sonia Gandhi to find some way out to help the industry in Punjab.

Sources said the Chief Minister also shared his political concerns with Mrs Sonia Gandhi. He has told her that various surveys got conducted by the state government and reports of intelligence agencies had indicated that there would be need to change at least 25-30 candidates, who contested on the Congress ticket the last time, in the coming Assembly elections. Among them are some MLAs and other senior leaders.

Sources said that the Chief Minster had sought the approval of Mrs Gandhi to change such candidates. He had told her that approval should be given in this regard at the earliest possible so that new candidates could be prepared to enter the election arena. He has reportedly, requested Mrs Gandhi to direct all senior Congress leaders to maintain discipline and harmony in the party till the elections were over. Whether, Capt Amarinder Singh has invited Mrs Sonia Gandhi for the November 14 party rally at Ludhiana or not, is not yet clear.


15 pc HRA for Bathinda city
govt employees approved

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 27
The Punjab Council of Ministers here today approved to grant an honorarium of Rs 500 per month to headman (lambardar) w.e.f. April 1, 2006.

In another decision, Bathinda city was placed in the list of B-2 class cities for the purpose of grant of House Rent Allowance at the rate of 15 per cent to government employees working within the limits of Bathinda Municipal Corporation with immediate effect.

Mr Anil K. Bhola and Mr Inder Singh Sahni, both senior Congress leaders, said that it was a long pending demand of employees of Bathinda which had been fulfilled by the Chief Minister and the Finance Minister, Mr Surinder Singla.

The council also approved the creation of the Council for Citrus and Agri juicing in Punjab, the Council for Value-Added Horticulture in Punjab, the Organic Farming Council of Punjab and the Viticulture Council of Punjab.

The Council of Ministers also approved to revive and fill 2614 posts of teachers in the school cadre. These posts include 500 posts each in social studies, Punjabi, Hindi, mathematics and science. Besides this, 54 posts in DPE and 50 each in Urdu, music, Sanskrit and agriculture would be filled.

The transfer of property of Aam Khas Bagh (Moulsari Tourist Complex, Sirhind) from Punjab Tourism Development Corporation to the Department of Tourism was also approved.

The Council of Ministers sanctioned an action plan to control pollution in Sutlej, Beas, Budha Nallah and Kali Bein. It was also decided to enhance the supervisory grant for mother Non Government Organisation from 7.5 per cent to 10 per cent to assist NGOs in participating in the development activities of the state. 


PVC winner Bana Singh honoured
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 27
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh yesterday honoured Hony Capt Bana Singh (retd), who was decorated with the Param Vir Charka, India’s highest award for gallantry, at a function organised here.

The Chief Minister presented a cheque for Rs 10 lakh, a shawl and a sword to Capt Bana Singh in recognition of the valour shown by him in the face of the enemy on the world’s highest battlefield, Siachen, almost 20 years ago. The post which he wrested from Pakistani troops has been named after him.

In June, 1987, Bana Singh of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry, had led his men at a height of 21,000 ft and, displaying courage and bravery, killed five Pakistanis single-handedly in a hand-to-hand fight.

Later, addressing a gathering of ex-servicemen, the Chief Minister said the state government would soon convene a rally of ex-servicemen to implement the remaining welfare measures for defence personnel. He also urged the youth of Punjab to emulate Capt Bana Singh’s example of exceptional courage, and selfless devotion to duty to maintain the honour and Integrity of the country.

In his address the Chief of Staff, Western Command, Lt-Gen A.N. Aul, said the unprecedented gallantry of soldiers in various Army operations to tackle internal insurgency and external aggression would ever inspire the younger generation of recruits in the Army. 


Banks observe strike
Tribune Reporters

Hoshiarpur, October 27
On the call given by the All-India Bank Employees Federation, employees of nationalised banks observed a complete strike in the district today in protest against the non-acceptance of their demands.

The bank employees staged a rally in front of the main branch of the State Bank of India. Mr Karam Singh and Mr Parduman Joshi, of the Bank Officers Union and Mr Yoja Singh and Mr P. C. Sharma, of the Employees Union while addressing the rally criticised the Central Government for its delaying tactics to accept their demands. They demanded employment to a kin of employee after his death and to stop the privatisation of banks.

SANGRUR: Employees of various local commercial banks today observed a strike and held a rally in front of the main branch of the State Bank of Patiala here in support of their demands. The rally was addressed among others by Mr B.S. Sidhu, secretary of the local unit of the Punjab Bank Employees Federation, Mr Pali Ram Bansal, national secretary of the All-India Gramin Bank Officers Association and Mr Sunil Jain, secretary of the local unit of the SBoP Employees Union.

Their main demands include one more option for pension, adequate recruitment in banks, appointments in banks on compassionate grounds. They also opposed outsourcing in banks, merger and acquisition of banks, and attacks on the rights of trade unions. 


Resort land: nothing illegal, asserts owner
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 27
Lt-Col B.S. Sandhu (retd), promoter of the Forest Hill Resort (FHR), today claimed that land for constructing the resort in Karoran village was duly purchased from land owners.

Reacting to a news item published in The Tribune today under the headline “Panchayat land worth Rs 2500 crore grabbed”, Colonel Sandhu said: “Earlier, a large chunk of land in Karoran village was declared panchayat land in the year 1977. The land owners filed an appeal against this decision which was dismissed. The order was then challenged before the Financial Commissioner (Revenue), Punjab, who set aside the earlier orders in the year 1990-91.”

He added that it was clear that the court case with the Revenue Department, which went on for over 16 years, achieved finality in 1993.

He asserted that the land on which the FHR was built was not shamlat deh and it never belonged to the panchayat as it was under cultivation by actual land owners since 1950.

He also said that the entire chunk of land bought by his company from land owners was duly registered and mutation of the same was done.

Referring to the ongoing probe by the CBI into alleged irregularities in the construction of the FHR, Colonel Sandhu asserted that the investigations were inconclusive and since the matter was sub judice, nothing could be said with finality on the subject.


Dist status for Barnala: residents upbeat
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, October 27
As the news about the carving out of Barnala as 20th district of Punjab reached Barnala this evening, Barnala residents started beating drums, lighting lamps and candles on rooftops of houses to express gratitude to the Almighty for fulfilling a long-standing desire to see Barnala as a district. Residents of Barnala are also preparing to distribute ladoos in the town tomorrow. Welcome gates are also being erected to thank the Amarinder government.

The Punjab Cabinet this evening when approved Barnala as 20th district of the state with Tapa and Barnala as subdivisions of the new district, information in this regard from Chandigarh to Barnala and Sangrur started spreading fast as residents of Barnala town were waiting to hear a good news about the creation of Barnala as a district.

In carving out new districts in Punjab, the Congress has created of history of sorts as its four Chief Ministers has created nine new districts in the past more than three decades. Giani Zail Singh created Faridkot district while late Beant Singh carved out Mansa and Fatehgarh Sahib districts. Mr Harcharn Singh Brar created Muktsar, Moga and Nawanshahr districts, and Capt Amarinder Singh carved out Tarn Taran, Mohali and Barnala districts.

The credit of the creation of Barnala as 20th district of Punjab reportedly goes to Mr Kewal Singh Dhillon, vice-president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) and a claimant of Congress ticket from Barnala Assembly constituency who has been making efforts to get district status for Barnala by persuading Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh in this regard. Mr Dhillon told The Tribune this evening on the phone that a notification, declaring Barnala as district, would be issued in two-three days. He also said this was the victory of Barnala residents and other areas of the Barnala.

Some people are of the view that there is no doubt that Mr Kewal Singh Dhillon has made sincere efforts for getting district status for Barnala but on the other hand creation of Barnala as a district was also political compulsion of the Congress .


SAD (A) men burn Badal’s effigy
Our Correspondent

Barnala, October 27
The activists of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) Amritsar today burnt an effigy of Parkash Singh Badal to express their wrath against an attempt on the life of Simranjit Singh Mann, by SAD (Badal) activists at Kathunangal in Amritsar on Wednesday.

The SAD (Amritsar) activists of Barnala gathered at the 22 Acre Scheme Complex near local Improvement Trust Office to begin their protest march. While passing through local Gadda Khaana Chowk, Sadar Bazar and College Road, they reached Courts Chowk. The SAD (Amritsar) activists were carrying banners saying "Sikh Kaum De Tin Gaddar-Badal, Dhindsa and Avtar" The three traitors of the Sikh community— Parkash Singh Badal, Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and Avtar Kingmaker).

They also raised slogans against Badal; Avtar Singh Maker, SGPC chief; and Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar of Akal Takht. They called Badal an “agent of RSS”.

Surjit Singh Katabolic, an SGPC member, said what happened at Kathunangal was a well planned conspiracy of the Badal gang and the Congress to finish Simranjit Singh Mann, who is the most popular and favourite leader of the Sikh community and the minorities.


“RSS, Badal harming Takht”
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 27
Akal Takht is the main source of power of Sikhs and to finish this power some vested interests, including some anti-Sikh forces, have been making continuous efforts.

These views were expressed by Mr Paramjit Singh Sarna, president, Shiromani Akali Dal, Delhi, at a seminar organised by it in association with Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) in a local hotel today under its second phase of Gurdwara Reform Movement launched by these two organisations.

A galaxy of Sikh leaders, including Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra, Mr Daljit Singh Bittu and Mr Manjeet Singh Calcutta, who participated in the seminar, alleged that some Akali leaders alongwith RSS wing of BJP had been making efforts to cause damage to the authority and sanctity of Akal Takht.

Mr Sarna alleged that former chief minister and Akali Dal leader, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, was staunch supporter of the policies and principles being followed by RSS and BJP and hence he had causing great damage to Sikh tenets, traditions and thoughts.

He added that as Mr Badal had grabbed a control over the functioning of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee (SGPC) hence he had been using offerings of various gurdwaras for furthering his political interests.

Mr Sarna said under the second phase of Gurdwara Reform Movement, those organisations, which strongly believed in principles of Sikhism, would work hard to make the general Sikhs to follow those messages, which were delivered to Sikh community by the Tenth master, Guru Gobind Singh, on one hand and on the other efforts would be made to stop Mr Badal and others to use the offerings of gurdwaras for furthering their own political interests.

Mr Chandumajra said Sikhs had been suffering a lot due to the fact that Mr Badal had managed to make a control over the functioning of SGPC and Akal Takht. He added that this situation had led to deterioration in Sikhism. He said the main duty of all the Sikh organisations was that they should work hard to bring these sacred institutions out of control of Mr Badal and party.

Mr Calcutta alleged that despite the fact that SGPC was having huge money, the same was not being spent on the spread of religion as the same was being diverted to fulfil the desires of Mr Badal.


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