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Taking a U-turn, Forest Dept now opposes NAC
Maneesh Chhibber
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 6
On October 31, at a meeting held in the office of Punjab Chief Secretary K.R. Lakhanpal to discuss the issue of alleged violation of various forest laws in the constitution of a Notified Area Committee (NAC) for Nayagaon and surrounding areas, Financial Commissioner (Forests) D.S. Jaspal reiterated his department's stand on the issue.

The stand: the land cannot be used for housing purposes, as the land in question is forestland.

Now, here is what the same officer wrote in an official letter sent to the Director-General (Forests), Government of India, on August 17: nearly 40,000 inhabitants of village Karoran, Nayagaon and Nada (now part of newly created district of SAS Nagar/Mohali, earlier part of Ropar district) in the periphery of Chandigarh are facing extreme hardship on account of inclusion of the whole area of these villages in the list of forest areas due to a technical error on the part of the state government itself.

In the same letter, the department requested that two of the three conditions imposed by the Centre while excluding over 65,670 hectares of cultivated and habitation land from the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA), 1900, be withdrawn.

These included the ban on commercial activity on the de-listed land and that it would be used only for bona fide agriculture purposes and for sustaining the livelihood of the owners of the land.

In a previous letter to the Union Government dated July 31, the same officer had written that the inhabitants of the area had been facing extreme hardships on account of "erroneous inclusion" of the area in the forest areas.

Residents of the area also point to the fact that no attempt was ever made by the Forest Department to check construction of houses, shops etc on the land which it now claims is forest land.

"Did 10,000 houses come up over-night? Were the forest officials sleeping earlier? Also, since it is only now that they have realised that the land is forest despite earlier accepting that it had been wrongly included in the category, who will shoulder the blame? This is a serious issue and some heads must roll. But, at least tell us where the forest is?" asks an angry Sunil Sharma, a resident.

Forest there is; a forest of concrete. A brief visit to the Nayagaon area is enough to know that today there are more houses than trees in the area.

Ironically, even as the Forest Department officials have now started claiming that the areas in the NAC fall in the purview of various forest acts, an affidavit filed by Mr J.S. Kesar, the then Financial Commissioner (Forests), Punjab, in the Supreme Court in October 1999 in the case - Environment Awareness Forum, etc, versus State of J&K and others - gives out an interesting twist to the entire controversy.

The affidavit says all areas that were closed under the Punjab Land Preservation Act, 1900, were included in the forest areas "regardless of the fact whether they actually bore any forest cover or were under cultivation/habitation".

The affidavit further says government included the cultivated/habitated areas closed under the PLPA, 1900, in the list of forest areas only because these stood included the annual administrative reports of the department as "areas closed under the PLPA, 1900! Mr Kesar further acknowledged that due to this faux pas, the inhabitants of these areas were facing lot of hardships. The affidavit said the government had taken a decision to exclude from the list of forest areas all those areas closed under the PLPA which were under cultivation or habitation.

A subsequent letter written by Mrs Gurbinder Kaur Chahal, Financial Commissioner (Forests), Punjab, to the Inspector-General of Forests, Government of India, on July 4, 2000, reiterated the same stand.

In a note sent by the Chief Minister, Punjab, Capt Amarinder Singh, to Financial Commissioner (Forests) on March 1, the Chief Minister also pointed to the same fact.

"..it is quite evident that the notifications issued under PLPA have not been issued by following the due process and the land which are under cultivation, habitation and the land which are not susceptible to any erosion have also got notified under this Act. It is evident that these notifications are bad in law and should be set aside and a fresh survey be ordered for the villages of Karoran and Nada to be completed within 30 days," Capt Amarinder Singh wrote.

Nobody knows if the survey was got conducted.

But, today, even as the Forest and the Local Government Departments of Punjab continue to make claims and counter-claims, residents of the area, worried about their future, wonder what will ultimately happen.

However, even as the controversy over the legality of the NAC notification issued by the Local Government Department persists, the local MLA, Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang, who is also a minister in the Capt Amarinder Singh government, is all set to reap rich dividends in the next Assembly elections. Locals say he was single-handedly responsible for getting the NAC notification issued.

Residents say Mr Kang even went to New Delhi to plead the case of the government for exclusion of certain areas from the purview of the PLPA.

 

Polio case reported from Rajpura
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Factfile

  • Fifth case in Punjab since 2003; third this year
  • First case from the native population
  • Health Dept confirms polio-positive status
  • Pulse polio campaign on November 12

Rajpura, November 5
Barely week ahead of the annual pulse polio campaign, Punjab’s dream of becoming polio-free state has suffered another setback with a five-month-old child from Jansui village, about 10 km from here, testing positive for the disease, giving sleepless nights to the Health Department.

According to sources, the case came to light when the family noticed weakness in the left leg of Gurdarshan Singh.

The child was reportedly admitted to the Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH), Sector 32, Chandigarh, where tests were done on the child.

Confirming that the child had tested positive, the State Immunisation Officer, Dr V.K. Goyal, said it was the case of “acute flaccid paralysis”.

However, the confirmation of polio would take at least a month when the final report came in from the government-run polio laboratory in Mumbai.

Dr Goyal asserted that there had been a rise in the number of polio cases in the country, particularly in the UP.

While all four cases reported from the state since 2003 have been from migrant families, the current case is from a Punjabi family, Dr Goyal added.

It may be noted that this is not the first polio case in the state this year. In September, a one-year-old child — Jatinder Kumar — from Dasuya (Hoshiarpur) was found carrying the disease. In this case, the polio status was confirmed by the Central Drug Laboratory (CDL), Kasauli.

Another child tested positive for the disease at Naya Gaon in Chandigarh’s periphery recently.

Stating that the department was taking polio threat seriously, Mr D.S. Guru, Health Secretary, Punjab, told Chandigarh Tribune that the Punjab Government would organise an intensive pulse polio campaign on November 12 to immunise children below the age of five against polio.

Two Secretary-level officers, four Director-level officers and 10 middle-level officials would supervise the vaccination programme.

On November 13 and 14, a door-to-door campaign would be organised to cover the remaining children, he added.

 

9 sim cards seized from high-security jail inmates
Three booked under NDPS Act
Tribune News Service

Nabha, November 5
Nine sim cards and currency notes were recovered from certain inmates of the high-security jail here in a surprise check by Mr Nilabh Kishore, Commandant, Patiala Jail, yesterday.

This is second such incident, in the high security jail, where militants are lodged, in the past two months. Earlier, a mobile phone with a sim card was recovered from Daya Singh Lahoria, allegedly involved in terrorist related crime. Then the jail authorities did not take any action in this connection.

Sources said the jail authorities had directed a senior official to carry out a surprise check of the high-security jail following information that inmate lodged there were being pampered and provided all types of facilities by certain jail officials.

Mr Prem Sagar, Superintendent, high-security jail, told The Tribune check by high-ranking official was carried out when he reported the matter to the Punjab jail authorities.

He added out of nine sim cards seized from inmates, six were outdated while three were active. He added no mobile phone set could be recovered. Since he was posted to handle the jail administration recently he could not say who was responsible for malfunctioning of jail administration.

Apart from sim cards, less than one gram of opium and a small quantity of tablets was also seized from inmates. Some inmates were also found carrying currency notes. Detail report of seizure would be sent to the state jail authorities tomorrow.

A case against three inmates — Harnek Singh, Jaswinder Singh and Sukhminder Singh, involved in criminal cases, had been registered under the NDPS Act by city police station.

The state jail authorities were conducting an inquiry in regarding sim cards.

He said about 22 inmates had been punished for violating jail rules. Their punishment had been sent to the District Sessions Judge for appraisal and approval.

 

Farmer cremated; PSEB staff still at large
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, November 5
The body of Buta Singh, the farmer who died yesterday after the alleged manhandling by the PSEB staff, was consigned to the flames at Jangirana village today.

Earlier, members of a village committee formed on the issue and activists of various farmers’ bodies converged on the Civil Hospital where the post-mortem examination was being conducted on the victim's body.

They raised the demand of the arrest of the PSEB employees involved in the incident, registration of a case against them under Section 302 of the IPC and compensation to the deceased's family with the DSP (Rural), Mr Surinderpal Singh, and district administration officials present on the spot. They indulged in intense sloganeering against the state government.

They were adamant on their stand of not cremating the farmer's body till the arrest of the accused. However, after a long discussion followed by the assurance from the officials they agreed to perform his last rites.

Regarding the registration of a case under Section 302, the DSP said the Sangat SHO would investigate the matter and on the basis of his report the future course of action would be decided.

Meanwhile, the district president of the BKU (Ugrahan), Mr Shingara Singh Mann, claimed that the Executive Engineer concerned had intimated the police about the names of the team members who had conducted raids at Jangirana yesterday and demanded that their names should be included in the FIR.

The chief of the district BKU (Sidhupur), Mr Hardev Singh Jaisinghwala, warned that if the accused were not arrested within three days they would resort to agitation. When contacted, the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Rahul Bhandari, said the District Red Cross would extend an appropriate financial aid to the victim's family.

 

Company allays fears of poultry farmers
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 5
Putting record straight on mega projects in the poultry industry in Punjab, Suguna Poultry Farm Limited, which was in the line of fire of the yesterday's protest by the poultry farmers, today allayed fears of farmers, claiming that the company wanted to be a "partner in prosperity" of the people in the state.

"The propaganda against us is motivated and launched by the vested interests, who have traditionally been exploiting the poultry farmers. We have come to Punjab on the invitation of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, who wanted the diversification of agriculture for state's farmers in wake of the shrinking land holdings," Mr K. Gangatharan, Deputy General Manager (Operations) of the Coimbatore-based poultry giant, told The Tribune here today.

Countering the allegations of the North Zone Broiler Breeders Association that the mega projects would deal a death blow to the state's poultry industry, Mr Gangatharan claimed that the association should collaborate rather than confront the poultry companies as "we are ready to share our expertise with them". The times are changing and the poultry industry must change to survive in the highly-competitive world, he added.

Nowadays the poultry industry is capital-intensive and small broiler farmer would not be able to survive on his own resources.

The companies provided effective utilisation of the available infrastructure for risk-free business for the farmer. And there is no threat of financial loss in the crisis like bird flu, he asserted.

In fact, the contract farming would go a long way in the rural development in the wake of the creation of self-employment opportunities and women empowerment.

Since Punjab has a huge ex-servicemen population, it is ideally-suited for their rehabilitation, asserted Mr Amarjit Singh Dhillon and Mr Harpal Singh Sidhu, Sales Managers.

Mr Gangatharan claimed that it was the vision of the Suguna Managing Director, Mr B. Soundarajan, to establish direct contact with the poultry farmers and Punjab was the only state where the company was facing resistance from the "vested interests". The feed supplier-medicine dealer-commission agent lobby was seemed to be behind the agitation as they feared that its business would be adversely affected with the advent of the "professionally-managed" companies.

 

ASI accused of allowing smugglers to escape
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, November 5
The police authorities in this district are in a shock as Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) Manjit Singh, posted at Nangal Bhoor chowki, let two smugglers escape allegedly at the behest of a local minister yesterday evening.

Sources said the police got the information that narcotics were being smuggled on the Mukerian-Pathankot road. On the directions of the SSP, the DSP, Pathankot, laid a naka and arrested two smugglers, Karnail Singh of Damtal and Ramesh Pal, a dismissed Punjab Police constable from Pathankot. Ramesh Pal had recently served a sentence under the NDPS Act.

According to the police, the narcotics consignment was being carried by the smugglers to Kangra. The vehicle in which the smugglers were travelling was also taken into custody.

The DSP handed over the smugglers and their vehicle in the custody of the Nangal Bhoor Chowki in charge, ASI Manjit Singh. However, the ASI let the smugglers leave, along with their vehicle, allegedly at the behest of a local minister as soon as the DSP left.

The higher officials of the police were left fuming after they came to know that the smugglers had been let off by the ASI. The SSP allegedly ordered the registration of a criminal case against the ASI.

However, the intervention of the minister mellowed down them. Instead of registering the case against the ASI, he was put under suspension and inquiry was marked into the incident. The SD (D) Gurdaspur has been given the task of inquiring into the case.

The SSP admitted that the inquiry into the allegations against the ASI had been marked to the SD (D). He also admitted that the ASI allegedly let the arrested smugglers and their vehicle go.

The involvement of the ruling party minister in rescuing the smugglers clearly indicates the strong nexus of criminals, politicians and policemen in the area. Recently, a packing centre where the narcotics were repacked for retail selling was also busted at Pathankot.

The higher police officials, however, remained tightlipped about the involvement of the minister in the case.

The local minister, Mr Raghunath Sahai Puri, denied the charges. “I have never supported anti-social elements. I would resign for active politics if somebody proves his involvement in the case.

 

PPCC united, says AICC member
Our Correspondent

Abohar, November 5
AICC member Bal Mukand Sharma said here today that he would request the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, at the November 7 meeting of MLAs and former MLAs of the Congress to lay the foundation stone for a Rs 15 crore overbridge to replace the existing railway bridge at Ferozepore.

Mr Bal Mukand Sharma, a former minister and PPCC vice-president, who was here to attend a social function, spoke to newspersons on a variety of subjects.

While claiming that the Punjab Pardesh Congress Committee was united and would cooperate with the Chief Minister in making the “vikas yatra” a grand success. He added that the SAD and BJP were a divided house internally.

 

With eye on poll, Bhattal lays stones, gives grants
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, November 5
In view of the ensuing Assembly elections, Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Deputy Chief Minister, Punjab, and MLA from Lehragaga, has increased her activities, related to laying of foundations stones and distribution of grants, in her assembly constituency.

Ms Bhattal yesterday laid the foundation stone of a community centre at Shahpur Therri village (near Khanauri) and gave Rs 1.26 lakh for construction of public toilets for the Scheduled Caste families in the village. She said a grant of Rs 25 lakh had already been given for the development of the village.

She also laid the foundation stone of a road from Bahmani Wala to Rampur Gujjran at Bahmani Wala village (near Khanauri). She also gave Rs 90,000 for the kutcha houses of the Scheduled Caste families and Rs 1 lakh for construction of toilets for the SCs in the village.

Addressing a gathering, Ms Bhattal claimed that development works had been executed in all the villages of Lehragaga Assembly constituency. Besides, almost all demands of the people of the constituency had also been fulfilled. She said if any demand was pending, that would be fulfilled soon. Lauding the achievements of the Amarinder Government, she said when it came to power, it had no money for development works and for running the affairs of the state. But it remained successful in overcoming all the problems in a short span of time.

 

Impose poll code: BJP leaders
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, November 5
BJP leaders Madan Mohan Mittal and Manoranjan Kalia have urged the Election Commission to impose election code immediately on Punjab to prevent the ruling Congress to attract people with so many grants, being distributed by Congress MLAs just four months before the assembly elections in the state.

They were talking to newsmen here today.

 





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