P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Waiving farm loans not possible, says Dullo
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, November 6
Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief Shamsher Singh Dullo has made it clear it was impossible for the state government to waive loans of farmers in Punjab.

He also maintained Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had never promised that the farmers’ burden of loans would be waived.

Mr Dullo wanted discipline in the party’s rank and file, asserting indiscipline in the party would not be tolerated. The workers and leaders, whose activities were fomenting bickerings in the party, would be shunted out.

“Who can waive loans of farmers? Nobody. It is impossible for the government to rid farmers from cooperative and other loans. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, at no point of time, had assured that his government was in the process of waiving loans. Which government can afford to waive huge loan of Rs 25000 crore. At the most, something can be done in the light of the Reserve Bank of India guidelines, which, advocate one-time settlement as is in the case of industry. The Congress-led state government has already lowered the rate of interest on cooperative loans to 6 per cent.

“Moreover, we have sought relief for Punjab farmers from the Centre,” said Mr Dullo, who, was accompanied by his confidant and Congress leader Bobby Sehgal and Jalandhar Mayor Surinder Mahey.

Mr Dullo criticised the hike in prices of essential commodities and assured to take up the matter with the Chief Minister.


Stir: arrests to hit sowing operations
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, November 6
With a view to failing nine farmer organisations' plan to sow wheat on the acquired 376 acres at Fatehgarh Chhanna, Dhaula and Sangherra villages (near Barnala) on November 8, 130 leaders of the organisations were arrested in Sangrur, Barnala and Mansa districts in the past 24 hours in raids on their houses.

Mr Ruldu Singh Mansa, convener of the Punjab Kisan Union, Mr Malkiat Singh Wazidke, Sangrur district president of the Zamhoori Kisan Sabha, and Mr Bhupinder Singh Channu, senior vice-president of the Muktsar district unit of the BKU (Ugrahan), were some of the leaders who have also been arrested. However, Mr Joginder Singh Ugrahan, state president of the BKU (Ugrahan), was able to escape when the police went to arrest him at his village.

Mr Sukhdev Singh Kakori Kalan, state general secretary of the BKU (Ugrahan), told this reporter this evening that the police had been raiding the houses of farmer leaders, but it could not succeed in arresting any of the top leaders, except Mr Mansa.

He said the farmers were adamant to sow wheat on November 8.

Mr S.K. Asthana, SSP, Barnala, told The Tribune that 130 farmers had been arrested in Sangrur, Barnala and Mansa districts under Sections 107/151 of the CrPC as a preventive measure.

He said more than 60 farmers had been held by the Barnala police. He added that the police was patrolling near the acquired land and would continue raids.


Telemedicine project for state cleared
Kulwinder Sangha

Mohali, November 6
There is good news for the poor, especially those living in villages of Punjab. The Union Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has cleared an ambitious telemedicine project for the state under which 17 district hospitals and three tertiary–level medical institutes would be interlinked to provide multispeciality healthcare at an affordable cost to all.

The project was sent for approval to the Central Government in July 2005.

The telemedicine project, which involves a tie-up between the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) and the Punjab Health Systems Corporation ( PHSC), envisages the customised development of telemedicine application and its subsequent use in the rural areas. As many as 168 locations have been identified for the project ranging from community/primary centres to civil/ regional hospitals. A link will be established under the project with the PGI, Chandigarh.

Mr T.R. Sarangal, MD , PHSC, said the Central Government’s Department of Information Technology wanted to start a telemedicine project on a trial basis and had selected Punjab for the purpose. He said that all districts of Punjab except the newly-formed ones of Tarn Taran and Barnala would be covered. Although Mohali was also a new district, it would be part of the project.

Mr Sarangal said Punjab already had three telemedicine linkages which were provided by ISRO-Ahmedabad and inaugurated by the Prime Minister on April 13 last year. Mata Kaushalaya Hospital, Patiala, Civil Hospital, Dasuya, and Sub Divisional Hospital, Ajnala, were linked to the PGI, Chandigarh, through a V- satellite link and a good response was received from these places, he added.

Mr J.S.Bhatia, Director, C-DAC, Mohali, who has put in immense efforts to make the project technically feasible, said today that it had been proposed that the implementation of the project be done in phases. In Phase I as many as 20 locations had been identified by the PHSC for the provision of the telemedicine facility as a pilot project. In Phase II the project would be implemented at the remaining locations and the hospital information system would be integrated with the telemedicine solution at the district/ general hospital level under arrangements of the PHSC.

The present proposal is limited to Phase I. The total project cost of Phase I will be Rs 414 lakh. Out of this, financial support of Rs 267 lakh is to be given by the Department of Information Technology of the Union Government and the balance of Rs 147 lakh will be borne by the PHSC.

Mr Bhatia said that the project would involve the provision of basic medical diagnostic equipment like the ECG, the microscope, the BP meter, a glucometer and scanners for X ray , ultrasound and CT scan, computer work stations and 384 kbps of telecommunication link at each community health centre/primary health centre/hospital. The general hospitals and the nodal centre of the PHSC would require more work stations and servers. The patient’s data from the diagnostic equipment could be sent using the browser-based software package to a wider network for which broadband/leased lines would be used for communications.


Badal calls meetings on SGPC chief poll
Our Correspondent

Chohla Sahib (Tarn Taran), November 6
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) supremo, Mr Parkash Singh Badal has convened a meeting of the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) and the SGPC members of his party for November 23 and 24, respectively, to decide on the next President of the SGPC.

Addressing media persons here today, Mr Badal claimed that the next SGPC chief and other office-bearers would be elected in a democratic way by taking everybody into confidence. However, according to Panthic circles, the forthcoming PAC and SGPC meetings would authorise Mr Badal to nominate anybody to the coveted post of the SGPC.

Mr Badal, while addressing a political conference after laying the foundation stone of the Sri Guru Arjun Dev College for Girls to be run by the SGPC, said the Congress had remained anti-Punjab and Punjabis from the very beginning and it was for this reason that the state had gone much backward not only in the fields of education, health and sanitation but has failed to provide the basic civic amenities to the general public.

The SAD chief alleged that all the decisions of the state government were taken under mala fide intention. Giving an instance in this regard he said the announcement by the government regarding free electricity to the farmers was far from truth as the amount was being debited to the accounts of the farmers, which would be recovered in case the Congress came to power again.

The SAD leader, while attacking the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, a Punjabi and Sikh, criticised him for failing to announce any relief for the debt-ridden farmers of the state, whereas he had announced remarkable relief to the farmers of the southern states.

He said Capt Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister, would have to pay heavily for his alleged misdeeds as soon as the SAD came to power in the state. He alleged that crores of rupees from the state exchequer were being spent on the propaganda of the Congress.

Mr Badal said the interests of every section of society would be considered while preparing the party manifesto for the coming Assembly elections.

Mr Avtar Singh, President, SGPC, while commenting on the allegation of interference of Mr Badal into the SGPC affairs by his rivals, said the SAD supremo was doing nothing unprecedented. He said that earlier too Baba Kharak Singh, Master Tara Singh, Sant Fateh Singh, Sant Channan Singh and others remained presidents of both the SAD and the SGPC.

Dr Rattan Singh Ajnala, MP, Mr Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, Mr Alvinderpal Singh Pakhoke and Mr Veer Singh Lopoke also addressed the gathering.


Girl gangraped in Anandpur Sahib, 3 held
Tribune News Service

Anandpur Sahib, November 6
Six youths two of them sons of Punjab Police personnel allegedly gang-raped a 19-year-old girl of Talwara by posing as police persons in the forest near Dashmesh academy here. The police today arrested three accused Amrik Singh, Sarabjit Singh, Baljinder Singh, who later were remanded in police custody till November 9 by a court here. Three accused Mintu, Sukhminder Singh, Naresh Kumar are at large.

The six youths of Anandpur Sahib gang raped the victim when she along wih her sister (21) and her fiance were on their way to visit Naina Devi temple. The victim yesterday complained to the police that she along with her sister came from Talwara here on October 16 and waiting for her sister’s fiance to pick up them from the bus stand. As the victim sister fiance got late by half an hour, six youths gathered there. In the meantime her sister’s fiance reached there and they left that place, the police said.

When three reached near the forest area academy, the same youths stopped them claiming that they were policemen and later overpowered them, the police added.

In the beginning initially the youths beat up my sister and her fiance. Thereafter two were tied with a rope near a canal and I was raped by the accused. The accused threatened us with dire consequences if we revealed anything about the incident to anyone, said the victim to reporters here in the afternoon.

For delay in reporting the matter to the police she said next day of the incident we went to the police station, but we were asked to come later. Now when we got the support of our relatives and other people we again reported the matter to the police yesterday.

SHO (Anandpur Sahib), Ajvinder Singh, said that we had registered a case against the six under Sections 376, 341, 170 and 382 of the IPC. Three accused were arrested and remanded in police custody till November 6, while we are conducting raids to arrest the three others. Among the accused one is a son of a serving police person and another of retired cop, he added.


Government gives details on career assurance scheme
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 6
The Punjab Government today issued detailed instructions on the new assured career progression scheme for its employees on completion of four, nine and 14 years of service.

The Governor of Punjab has granted sanction to the scheme from November 1. It is optional. An existing employee, including those having put in less than four years in service, would have the option either to continue in the existing assured career progression scheme that is given after a service of eight, 16, 24 and 32 years or opt for the new scheme.

An employee, who wants to opt for the new scheme would have to exercise an option within two months. A proforma, along with a sworn affidavit, would be required to be submitted by the employee. Service rendered by an employee before November 1 would count for getting benefit under the scheme.

Under the new scheme, an employee would be granted the pay scale next higher in the hierarchy of pay scales as per the first schedule of the Revised Pay Rules, 1998.

The procedure for assessing the work and conduct for placement in the higher scale would be the same as applicable to the case of promotion. The placement in higher scale would be allowed only to those employees whose overall service record during a satisfactory service, is adjudged as “good” and the he is otherwise suitable for promotion.

The “good” record shall mean that more than 50 per cent annual confidential reports are good and out of past three years report at least two should be “good”. For all remaining years the benchmark may be “average”.

On placement in the next higher scale under this scheme, an employee would continue to do the same work with same designation and there would be no need for creation of any separate post and the employee would remain on the same cadre.

An employee, who is dismissed or is under suspension or on leave, would be allowed to exercise his option under this scheme within two months from the date he or she joins duty.

If the higher scale is not granted on account of unsuitability, it will not be considered a punishment under the Punjab Civil Services Punishment and Appeal Rules, 1970. The competent authority for granting higher pay scale would be the same as in the case of promotion.

Representations and appeals against the non-grant of higher pay scale under this scheme would also be taken up in the same manner as in the case of promotion.


Jobless BEd teachers head for showdown with govt
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 6
Unemployed BEd teachers are preparing for a showdown with the Punjab Government during its Punjab Vikas Yatra starting on November 8. The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, will lead the yatra.

“The government has gone back on what it had promised to us during our meeting with the Chief Minister and the senior officers concerned. We have been left with no option except to launch an agitation to seek justice”, said Mr Sukhdarshan Singh, a spokesman of the Unemployed BEd Teachers Front. “At a meeting with unemployed teachers, the state government had promised to concede various points raised by us but none has been actually implemented”, said Mr Sukhdarshan Singh.

The government had promised to raise the recruitment age for unemployed BEd teachers to 42 years but it did not do so. For the past 10 years, no recruitment was made and there were several hundred unemployed teachers who had become ineligible because of the age factor, he added.

Then the government had fixed the criteria to recruit teachers purely on merit. He said this had been done to “deny jobs” to those belonging to the rural areas. While on the one hand the government had been admitting that the education system had collapsed in rural schools and colleges, on the other it was talking of merit. He asked how those who had studied in rural schools and rural colleges could compete with their counterparts in urban schools where relatively better facilities were available for education.

Mr Harjit Singh Jida, a member of the planning committee of the front, said the government had promised to find some way out to give weightage to those applicants who obtained the BEd degree a few years ago.

On the basis of the criteria fixed by the state government for the selection of BEd teachers only those who passed the examination in the past two or three years would be selected and those passed it in 1997, 98-99 and even in 2001-02 would not be selected.


Punjab may have more HIV cases than estimated
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 6
The first meeting of project managers from the Punjab implementing Targeted Intervention (TI) for high-risk behaviour group on HIV has indicated alarming trends in the state where the number of persons with high-risk behaviour has surpassed the expected numbers. Though the exact picture will become clear towards the end of the year when all data is tabulated by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), the more than expected number of “risky” people has sounded the alarm bells.

Representatives of 13 non-government organisations (NGOs) from 11 districts of the state, who met here today, revealed that some of them had met their year-long targets of identifying the persons who are at maximum risk. These include intravenous drug users (IDUs), commercial sex workers (CSW) and men having sex with men (MSM). Shockingly, this indicates that not only the number of persons taking drugs is increasing but also suggests that prevalence of HIV/AIDS may be much higher than anticipated.

Some of these organisations have overshot their targets thrice over in half the time allocated for the purpose. In other words, if a particular NGO was asked to identify at least 75 CSWs in one year, more than 225 CSWs were identified in less than six months. It is for the first time that Punjab is trying to ascertain the extent of HIV/AIDS in the state to this extent under the aegis of the NACO nationwide programme.

The NGOs now will meet on the 5th of each month to review their findings, submit fresh inputs and tweak the ground approach, if required, as per NACO guidelines. What has shocked the TI project managers the most is the fact that they have found the number of IDUs, CSWs and MSMs is three times higher than they had expected. The figures are likely to show an upward trend.

After identifying such persons, who are most prone to HIV/AIDS, the Punjab State AIDS Control Society now has advised them to expand the scope of their work to include awareness drives. They will also be holding camps to diagnose sexually transmitted diseases among vulnerable groups and provide the appropriate treatment. They now will use one-to-one, one-to-group counselling, besides the free distribution and social marketing of condoms.

After the data being collected by these NGOs is submitted, the NACO will be able to prepare a baseline report that will help identify trends in sexual behaviour and judge the awareness levels. It will also be able to predict trends and the extent of prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the state. NGOs and those involved in HIV/AIDS-related work are trying to reconcile themselves to the fact that the disease has spread itself much beyond their expectations, almost assuming alarming proportions.

The HIV/AIDS awareness campaign is likely to receive a boost around December 1 — the World AIDS Day. Till the NACO sentinel surveillance report, likely to be released towards the end of the year, brings out data about HIV/AIDS in Punjab, all involved in the projects are keeping their fingers crossed, but at the same time believe that the results are going to be more startling than anyone could imagine.



Cong leaders battle own men in Ferozepore
Anirudh Gupta

Ferozepore, November 6
The Congress seems to be fighting a different battle in this border district, ironically not against the Opposition but its own cadre. In most of the Assembly segments here, there is almost a vertical divide amid Congressmen.

The Congress leaders, including MLAs, are facing resistance from their own men who are themselves aspiring for ticket. This trend is visible in Zira, Ferozepore Cantt, Ferozepore City, Guruharsahai, Jalalabad, Fazilka, Abohar and Balluana.

In the Zira segment, represented by Akali MLA Hari Singh Zira, Congress leader Naresh Kataria has locked horns with Mr Kuldeep Bhullar for the party ticket. Mr Bhullar was party candidate during the last elections when he lost to Mr Zira.

In Ferozepore City, almost a dozen Congress leaders are sweating it out to secure nomination. The key contenders are former Urban and Development Minister Balmukand Sharma, Mr Parminder Singh Pinky, PPCC general secretary, Major H.S. Bhullar, OSD to CM, Mr Raminder Singh Awla, president of the Punjab Youth Congress, Mr Anoop Singh, PPCC vice-president and Mr Narinder Sandha, Vice-Chairman of the Market Committee. There is speculation that Mr Jagmeet Brar would lobby for his brother or contest himself from this seat.

Party insiders feel that as the CM’s confidant, Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi, Chief Parliamentary Secretary, wields influence in the area and his son or some other family member may stake a claim.

Mr Javed Akhtar and Mr Gurdeep Dhillon, both councillors, are also trying to secure a ticket.

In Ferozepore Cantt, MLA Ravinder Singh Sandhu is facing resistance from DCC president Gurnaib Brar, both of whom are adversaries.

In Guruharsahai, MLA Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi is not facing any potential threat from within the party but some influential leaders are reportedly working in a clandestine manner to dent his prospects.

In Jalalabad, Mr Hans Raj Jossan, Minister of State for Irrigation and Forests, is the MLA. He, too, is facing a similar situation as some leaders like Mr Prithvi Raj Doomra are not happy with his style of functioning.

The situation is equally bad in Fazilka, where Dr Mohinder Rinwa, MLA, is facing resistance from Mr Jaspinder Jakhar and Mr Parminder Pammi.


SAD devoid of issues: Cong
Our Correspondent

Nabha, November 6
Excise and Taxation Minister Sardool Singh has said the Congress is set to face the challenge of the SAD in the coming Assembly elections. He said on November 14 a rally would be held in Chandigarh to show the popularity of the Congress regime. He was addressing a gathering on the occasion of the finals of 31st Gurdarshan Singh Memorial Tournament.

He claimed that in the recent rally organised by the Akalis, only 20,000 persons participated while in the Congress rally over five lakh would take part.

He appealed to local workers to campaign for MLA Kaka Randip Singh.

Mr Randip also addressed the gathering.


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