P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


SGPC election on Nov 25
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 3
The countdown for the annual election of the SGPC Chief and other office-bearers of the ‘mini Parliament’ of the Sikhs has begun. The Executive Committee of the SGPC has fixed November 25 as the election date.

This was conveyed by Mr Daljit Singh Bedi, Assistant Secretary and Publicity In charge, SGPC, here today. He said the decision in this regard was taken in the Executive Committee meeting held at Anandpur Sahib under the presidentship of Mr Avtar Singh today.

Meanwhile, the SGPC executive has also decided to confer ‘Panth Rattan Award’ on Bhai Jasbir Singh Khannewale posthumously for his contribution in the field of ‘kirtan’. The SGPC has recommended to the Jathedar, Akal Takht, to organise a suitable function in the near future in this regard.

While the SGPC Chief, Mr Avtar Singh, is campaigning for his re-election to the coveted post, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, the Shiromani Akali Dal supremo is said to be under pressure to field a ‘strong candidate’ in wake of the forthcoming Assembly elections, scheduled for February next year.

The SGPC Chief is considered ‘weak’ due to his frequent volte-faces on certain Panthic matters. However, Panthic circles feel that a change of guard in the SGPC at this crucial stage would send a wrong signal among the voters.

On the other hand, the SGPC executive has unanimously decided to bear all the expenses of the legal case being fought by Mr Ripudamdan Singh Lamba against the Denmark government on the keeping of the ‘kirpan’.

Taking strong exception to the serving of ‘halal meat’ in Shatabdi trains, the executive body has also decided to take up the matter with the Railways Ministry. It was alleged that certain multinational companies were supplying ‘halal meat’ to Indian Railways without marking it on the packed food being served to passengers, thereby hurting the sentiments of the Sikh masses.


Candidates for posts of teacher face harassment
Our Correspondent

Nabha, November 3
The recruitment process for 1314 posts of school lecturer/headmaster and 2614 posts of school teacher started by the Department of Education, Punjab, has generated hope for many unemployed youth. The process for admission to the ETT course has also been initiated. But the process of filling forms for recruitment and ETT admissions has become a nightmare for the candidates.

The contract for online filling of forms has been given to the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) Mohali. C-DAC has contracted Punjab Infotech and it has assigned the work to CAL-C. CAL-C has its centres in all major towns of Punjab where the candidates can come with drafts of the requisite fee along with certificates of educational qualifications. There is provision for filling the registration forms online and the centre will not charge any fee for filling the forms.

However, lack of trained staff and infrastructure at these centers is causing harassment to the candidates. Many centers are equipped only with two computers while some others have only one.

The candidates have to visit these centres a number of times to check their turn. Rural candidates face a major problem as they have to spend the entire day in travelling and filling forms. They complain that the government was introducing these high-tech methods when most of the candidates were not computer savvy and even 1 per cent did not have computers/Internet.

Though Mr Partap Singh Bajwa, Education Minister, Punjab, has ordered opening of 150 more centres, the problem is likely to persist for rural candidates.

Many candidates opine that instead of opening more centres, the government should advertise the format in newspapers and the online process could be continued along with applications through post.

Owing to great rush and inadequate centres, persons at CAL-C centres are asking the applicants to go to nearby private cyber cafes and fill forms there and thereafter submit them at CAL-C centres. Private cyber cafes are charging as much as Rs 50 to Rs 60 for filling each form for the posts of teacher and Rs 35 for admission to ETT. Many candidates are applying for 3-5 posts, and as such are paying Rs 150 to Rs 300 for filling there forms.

The CAL-C centre owners have their own problem. The owner of one such centre asked how could one person fill the forms of 100 candidates in a day.

Hence a list of candidates is prepared and they are called turnwise. He added that now he had received fresh orders that candidates applying for the posts of headmaster and lecturer could fill their forms from 10 am to 2 pm and for teachers the time is from 2 pm to 5pm but ETT candidates could come anytime.

When contacted, some cyber cafe owners admitted that they were doing brisk business a few days ago. They said now-a-days the website of C-DAC, Mohali, was not working properly and usually the computers got hanged every three minutes whenever they tried to submit the forms. It took unexpectedly long to fill the form but they were charging Rs 50 to Rs 60 even when the form was filled in two hours.

This correspondent had a chance to visit some C-DAC centres at Nabha, Patiala, Chandigarh and Mohali. At a CAL-C centre in Sector 34 and Manimajra, there was a long waiting list of candidates as it takes 15-20 minutes to fill one form. The waiting list at Nabha centre is so long that it would be completed on the last date itself.

Another problem is about payment of fee. The general category candidates have to pay Rs 80 while the same is Rs 20 for candidates of the reserved category through bank drafts. Candidates complained that many banks refused to make drafts for these amounts while others were charging Rs 50 surcharge for making a draft. Some reserve category candidates said they had paid Rs 20 to Rs 50 as surcharge for making drafts for Rs 20.


Over 2 lakh trees felled to widen roads
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, November 3
Strip of forest along the roads in the state is under serious threat. Widening of roads by the Punjab government in the past two years has claimed over two lakh trees along roads.

In an statement filed before the Punjab and Haryana high court last year the state Forest authorities had admitted that 45,000 cubic metres trees have been removed along the roads. It works out about one lakh trees. Since then trees along many other roads including the Kiratpur-Nangal, the Hoshiarpur-Dasuya have also been felled. the trees that have been removed were decades old fruit bearing trees including indigenous mango, jamun and acacia variety trees including ‘tahli’ declared as the state tree. The trees are not likely to be replaced as these require a lot of time to grow.

However, these trees could have been saved had the Department of the PWD acted with little caution. The PWD pays Rs 9.25 lakh per hectare to the Department of Forest to use the land from which the trees are felled. Besides, double the cost of growing is also paid to the forest department.

However, the PWD can save the old trees by acquiring extra land with the same money that is paid to the forest department. By acquiring extra land the standing trees can be compensated in the middle of the road.

A former DFO Garhshankar, Mr Harbhajan Singh, has proposed to the PWD authorities to compensate the trees along the Garhshankar-Hoshiarpur road. However, the department did not pay any heed and thousands of decades old fruit trees were felled for the construction of three-lane road.

The Sources also said at many places the road was being widened from two to three lanes, it is being extended by five feet on either side. However, the PWD authorities are felling trees from both sides of the road. They can at least save trees on one side of the road by extending the road to just one side. The Kiratpur Sahib-Nangal road is the case where decades old green cover is being removed from both sides of the road for the widening of the road.

The disappearing strip forest in the state needs to be protected as the forest cover in the state has already been reduced to lowest in the country. As per latest Forest Survey of India report the forest cover in the Punjab has been reduced to just 3.11 per cent of the total area, the lowest in the country. The percentage of land under forests in Punjab is now lower than even the desert state of Rajasthan and arid region of Haryana.

PWD minister Punjab Pratap Singh Bajwa admitted there was need to protect the strip forest. He said if the forest Department came up with some proposal in this regard the PWD would definitely consider it for saving the strip forest.

Besides the roads, illegal constructions along the road was threatening the strip forest. Commercial activities have started along almost all main roads state. Due to apathy of the Forest Department construction along the road are eating away the strip forest.


SSP told to probe PSOs’ deployment with councillor
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 3
The Additional Director-General of Punjab Police looking after security matters has asked the SSP, Ferozepore, to conduct an inquiry to ascertain how two personal security officers (PSOs) along with assault rifles have been provided to a councillor of Ferozepore.

The ADGP, Security, has acted on a compliant lodged by Mr Balkar Singh of Bhagwanpura village, Ferozepore. In his complaint he alleged that the PSOs were a threat to law- abiding residents of the area.

In the message sent to the SSP, the ADGP, Security, said that no orders had been issued from his office for deployment. The SSP has been asked to withdraw the PSOs and also confirm who ordered the attachment of the PSOs.

The misuse of the services of lower level police personnel by the high and mighty has become a big issue in Punjab in the past six months or so. The DGP, Mr S.S. Virk, had sought to streamline the system and asked people to send back unauthorised security personnel. All SSPs had been then asked by the DGP to determine the status and place of posting of all personnel in their respective districts.


Filmi-style duel leaves 1 dead, 3 injured
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Mullanpur Dakha, November 3
One person was killed and three were injured in a clash between two groups, including some drug addicts and smugglers, at Rakba village, near Mullanpur Dakha, this evening.

In the clash, guns, swords, knives and rods were used between the two groups — one led by Rinku, who was one of the managing persons of a religious place, and the other by Pal Singh, a farmer.

Resham, elder brother of Rinku, died on the spot after being shot several times. He had a deep wound on the neck. He was attacked by a sword also. Rinku and his friend Lucky were wounded after suffering three gunshots each, besides stab injuries.

Dalbir Singh, a friend of Pal Singh, was also wounded with stab injuries. All three injured were admitted to the DMCH here.

Pal Singh and his four gun-wielding henchmen absconded from the spot. They left behind a Scorpio car. The car overturned when they tried to speed away. The police seized narcotics, including opium and poppy husk, besides intoxicating capsules and many swords and knives from the car.

The groups belonging to Rakba and Boparai villages clashed this morning besides clashing twice earlier over the issue of release of a grant to a religious place.

The SSP, Mr R.K. Jaiswal, said as per investigations the rivalry between the two groups began last month. He said Rinku had organised a fair at the religious place, where Pal Singh announced a donation of Rs 1 lakh for the upliftment of the place. However, he had not paid the amount till date.

A week ago Rinku reminded Pal Singh of the grant. Both had an argument and come to blows. Pal Singh was allegedly injured with his own knife with which he had allegedly attacked Rinku. His friend Dalbir Singh had separated the two but Rinku nursed a grudge against Dalbir Singh for helping Pal Singh.

Today, Rinku and his friends waylaid Dalbir Singh and beat him up. As tempers flared, both the groups then challenged each other and used weapons.


NRI from UK provides homes to poor
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Rajpura, November 3
Mr Surinder Singh Nijjar may be a building contractor in the UK but his heart lies in Punjab. In fact Mr Nijjar has taken upon himself the noble cause of providing homes to scores of poor residents in the Ghanaur area, whose homes were destroyed in the 2004 floods.

Mr Nijjar, who was on a visit to Sandharsi village, near here, played saviour to two villagers, Amar Kaur and Jagdev Singh, today by initiating the construction of their houses, bringing smiles on their faces. Not only that, since August 2004, Mr Nijjar has helped about 340 families to construct their houses. And all this had been accomplished without any government support.

In fact Mr Nijjar has ambitious plans for several villages, including Ghungra, Naugawa, Salempur, Salempur Kalan and Kuthaheri, for the construction of about 240 houses by June, 2007.

Mr Nijjar said it was through the media reports that he came to know about the devastation caused by the floods in the Ghanaur area in 2004.To have an on-the-spot assessment of the situation, Mr Nijjar, originally hailing from Jalandhar, visited the area and shortlisted the needy persons.

Thereafter, he initiated the housing project by buying construction material in bulk and hiring masons and labour. Mr Malkit Singh Jalandhar, a supervisor, informed that Mr Nijjar has decided to rehabilitate about 200 jhuggi dwellers and poor persons every year.

Mr Jalandhar said the NRI visited Punjab twice a year to supervise the construction activity and hand over the houses to the beneficiaries. Besides this, Mr Nijjar was also engaged in other social activity, including providing medicare for the poor and marrying poor girls.


Cong to get into poll mode from Nov 14
Our correspondent

Hoshiarpur, November 3
To encounter the rallies of the SAD, rebut its propaganda and to launch a campaign for the forthcoming election to the state Assembly, the Congress will organise a state level rally at Ludhiana on November 14. Mr Partap Singh Bajwa, Minister for Public Works Department and Education, stated this while talking to mediapersons at Green View Park here today.

He said 50 buses each would be provided to all segments of the state Assembly to ferry people to Ludhiana. Replying to a question, Mr Bajwa said to ferry people, 5000 buses would be obtained from Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan and Haryana to avoid harassment to the regular passengers.

He said to mobilise the Congress workers for the rally preparatory rallies were being held in all segments of the state.

Mr Bajwa said the Congress would go to people for seeking their mandate for the second term for the completion of ongoing development process.

Punjab was an agro-based state and almost all its farmers were following the traditional cropping pattern of wheat and paddy. On account of climatic changes in the region and the use of water ruthlessly for irrigation, the water level was falling day by day. To tackle the problem, the state government had taken steps for the diversification of agriculture. Horticulture was being promoted, he said.

Regarding the recent shifting of industrial units of Punjab to neighbouring states of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, Mr Bajwa blamed the Central Government for discriminating against Punjab while announcing industrial packages.

Referring to power crisis in the state, he said the government had made a comprehensive plan to generate at least 7500 MW power during the next five years. It had also arranged the supply of 2500 MW from Jharkhand where the Union Government was installing a power plant of 4500 MW. It would generate 1000 MW from a gas-based power plant at Doraha, increase production capacity of 500 MW each at Lehra Mohabat and Goindwal Sahib.

He made it clear that no land of any farmer had forcibly been acquired for the rich. They were selling their lands according to their own will, he claimed.

All those farmers who were from hand to mouth had become multi-millionaires by selling their unproductive lands.

He said the appointment letters to 4,000 newly appointed teachers would be given in the rally at Ludhiana on November 14. The process for the recruitment of 1,600 computer teachers and 700 PTIs was under progress. The control of 995 elementary teachers would soon be handed over to Zila Parishads in the state.


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