P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Protests ahead of CM’s yatra
Tribune News Service

Ropar, November 7
In view of Punjab Vikas yatra of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, slated to start from Nangal tomorrow, hectic activity was witnessed in the district since early morning. Senior leaders of Akali Dal (Badal) accompanied by the members of Zila Bachao Sangharsh committee carried out protest march throughout the city here as the Chief Minister had failed to fulfill his promise to add one more sub-division and to gave divisional headquarter status to Ropar district.

The Chief Minister had made these promises to the Zila Bachao Sangharsh Committee after Mohali was carved out of Ropar district. On the call of the Zila Bachao Sangharsh Committee, shops will remain closed for two hours in protest tomorrow.

The SAD chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, today assured the delegation of Sangharsh committee that he would fulfill all their demands if his party was voted to power in the coming Assembly elections.

Senior leaders of the various parties, including the Chamkaur Sahib, MLA (Akali Dal), Satwant Kaur Sandhu, former minister in Akali government Tara Singh, general Secretary of the Netaji Scubas Foundation V.P Saini, chairman of the Sangarsh committee Dr R.S Parmar, and SGPC member Gurinder Singh Gogi accompanied the representatives of various organizations in the protest march.

“We have observed protest to remind the Chief Minister about the promises he made to the people of Ropar. All the shops would display black flags, while members of the Sangharsh committee and Akali Dal (Badal) would wear the black badges to show their resentment during the yatra,” said the chairman of the Zila Bachyo Sangarsh Committee, Dr R.S Parmar.

Security arrangements in the district were reviewed in view of the yatra.

Keeping in view the CM’s Vikas Yatra to start from Nangal tomorrow, the commuters from Chandigarh for Nangal, Una and Bilaspur will have to follow diversion route. Commuters of Chandigarh bound for Una will have to divert from headworks crossing at Ropar through to Nurpurbedi sub-division and Bilaspur through the Pinjore-Nalagarh route. Similarly form Patiala to Fatehgarh Sahib, the traffic would be diverted from Morinda, Chamkaur Sahib.


CM disagrees with Dullo over MLAs
Tribune News Service

Patiala, November 7
Disagreeing with the claims of Punjab Congress chief Shamsher Singh Dullo that no Independent MLA supporting the party would be given ticket in the forthcoming Assembly elections, Capt Amarinder Singh said these people had the right to seek Congress nomination for the same and a final decision in this connection would be taken by the high command.

Addressing mediapersons after presiding over a school function here today, he said it was the sole prerogative of Ms Sonia Gandhi, president, All-India Congress Committee (AICC), to select the candidates for the forthcoming Punjab Vidhan Sabha elections. He mentioned that the party would welcome anyone who joined it. He added that the party high command would decide who would be the next Chief Minister if the party regained power in Punjab. 


Employees’ stir hits PSEB
Tribune Reporters

Patiala, November 7
Barring the local head office, the functioning of all other offices of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) were adversely affected today as employees of different unions struck work.

Thousands of employees went on strike since last night on the call given by the joint struggle coordination committee, PSEB, to lodge their protest against the indifferent attitude of the PSEB management in connection with acceptance of their demands and to register their opposition against the privatisation move of the management.

Though the functioning of the head office remained normal, cash counters, complaint centres and grid offices remained closed throughout Punjab. Apart from it, the employees also held gate rallies.

Mr Dev Raj, convener of the committee, in a press note issued here said the committee had also condemned the management for threatening activists of various unions and associations.

He alleged that the PSEB management had implemented the Electricity Act, 2003, and had been making efforts to privatise it. He added that due to the implementation of the Act power tariff had gone up while customer-care was declining.

He said the PSEB management had abolished the vacancies created due to death of employees, which were otherwise to be given on compassionate grounds to the next of the deceased. In this manner, the PSEB had declared 15,000 posts surplus, he added.

Bathinda: Employees of the Guru Nanak Dev Thermal Plant (GNDTP) and Guru Hargobind Thermal Plant (GHTP), Lehra Mohabbat, on Tuesday struck work in support of their demands.

Mr Satinder Singh of the Technical Services Union claimed that about 85 per cent employees participated in the strike at the GHTP. He said employees working in private companies and a section of the clerical staff at the plant also supported the strike.

On the other hand, the Chief Engineer of the GNDTP, Mr N.S. Thethi, said only 29 per cent of the employees were on strike and it didn't have any effect on the production. Similarly, the GHTP Chief Engineer, Mr K.K. Gupta, said 27 per cent of the employees took part in the strike and the power generation was normal.


Baba to be declared proclaimed offender
Varinder Walia and Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Amritsar/Patiala, November 7
The process to declare Amrik Singh, an absconding baba of Kar Seva Wale, a proclaimed offender has been initiated even as the police of Tarn Taran, Ludhiana and Patiala is clueless about his whereabouts.

The court had issued arrest warrant against Amrik Singh thrice earlier following the registration of criminal cases against him for fraud.

Mr Mandip Singh Sidhu, SP (City), Patiala, said raids had been conducted in various parts of the country but he could not be nabbed.

The news that Amrik Singh had fled after embezzling donations worth crores had come as a shock to Sikhs.

The Patiala police also found documents pertaining to the purchase of prime land in Punjab and bank accounts in the name of the accused.

He had supervised the kar seva of the tank of Harmandar Sahib, gold plating of Darbar Sahib, Tarn Taran, and Sikh shrines in Pakistan. Huge donations had been collected for the purpose. He was kept in captivity for many days at the dera but he fled on the pretext of purchasing medicines from Amritsar.

The Patiala police registered a case against him on the intervention of the DGP yesterday when Baba Gurmit Singh submitted more documents pertaining to the purchase of land.

According to an FIR against Amrik Singh, he had bank accounts in the Centurion Bank of Punjab, Patiala. The perusal of his account statements revealed the manner in which he and his associates, including Guriqbal Singh and Amandip Singh, used to embezzle funds. Amrik Singh had purchased land measuring over 27 kanal at a village near Bahadurgarh.

An FIR was lodged against the supporters of Amrik Singh at Kum Kalan, Ludhiana, on behalf of Kuldip Singh, a former driver of the baba who alleged that he and other followers of Baba Jagtar Singh were beaten up by the supporters of the absconding baba.

A manager of the SGPC who had been sheltering Amrik Singh has also been arrested. Baba Jagtar Singh, chief of the dera, had cancelled the general power of attorney given to Amrik Singh after his disappearance. The dera chief has also issued public notices, warning the Sikh sangat against the activities of Amrik Singh.

The absconding baba, however, alleged that the dera chief and his followers had inflicted "mental torture" on him for several days and hatched a conspiracy to "finish all proofs of embezzlement" collected by him.


He suffers discrimination at employers’ hands
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 7
This might well be the beginning of an end to the woes of those who get disabled on duty and spend their lives braving official apathy of worst kind.

Taking up a petition filed by Ludhiana-based Bharpur Singh who lost his locomotor ability after meeting with an accident on duty, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has issued a notice of motion for January 22, 2007 to his employer — the Punjab State Electricity Board.

The petitioner has alleged discrimination by the employers which, he says, denied him the rights granted to other regular employees in similar conditions.

Way back in 2002 when he was posted as a work charge employee at sub-divisional office, PSEB, Ludhiana, Bharpur Singh met with an accident while repairing an electric wire. Within moments, he was incapacitated for life - something the office of the Civil Surgeon, Ludhiana, certified.

He was issued a Certificate of Disability to enable him access to rights guaranteed under the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act.

With a wife and two small children to fend for, Bharpur Singh kept pleading with the Board for compassion before finally resorting to the legal course with the help of Human Rights Law Network. “Just because I was a work charge and an irregular employee of the board, I was not given a job on compassionate grounds nor was I given pension despite the high degree of my disability.

My wife’s representation for a job was also turned down on grounds of irregularity of my job,” says Bharpur Singh who had worked for the board for 10 years before meeting with the serious accident.

All he got was Rs 3 lakh as solatium, which he insists, be treated as compensation for the mental and physical turmoil he underwent.

Despite repeated requests, he failed to manage the benefits granted under Section 47 of the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 which states: “No establishment shall dispense with, or reduce in rank, an employee who acquires a disability during his service.

If an employee, after acquiring disability is not suitable for the post he was holding, he could be shifted to some other post with the same pay scale. No promotion shall be denied to a person merely on the ground of his disability.”

Taking Section 47 of the Act as a base, Bharpur Singh has moved the High Court to quash the board’s discriminatory policy of November 23, 2004 which is in violation of Article 21 and 14 of the Indian Constitution and Section 47 of the Persons with Disabilities Act, and has sought help in his rehabilitation as he is the sole breadwinner of the family.

At stake in this case is the dignity of thousands who lose their earning capacity while on job and are not even fully compensated for the irreparable loss. Says the petitioner,

“The Act does not discriminate against the work charge employees or other employees as it refers to ‘employees who acquire a disability during service.” But in my case, no such consideration was heeded to.


BSF jawans cool down at Wagah
Tribune News Service

Wagah, November 7
BSF jawans have toned down their aggressive postures during the Beating the Retreat ceremony but their Pakistani counterparts have yet to respond.

Though the decision to tone down aggressive postures was taken during a four-day meeting held in Lahore on March 24, 2004, its partial implementation has taken over two years. Pakistan Rangers had agreed to bring gradual changes in the ceremony.

The decision was effected on the orders of the Inspector-General, BSF, Mr Arvind Ranjan, who found that the drill was not being done as per the manual. He said as both countries were moving towards friendship, there was need to change the body language of the jawans.

Mr Raj Kumar Vishav Karma, DIG, BSF, expressed hope that Sutlej Rangers would also follow suit.


Price rise, unemployment main issues, says Dullo
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 7
Just a day before the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, is to launch his Vikas Yatra, the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, has suggested to him that a check on the rising prices of essential commodities and unemployment were the main issues bothering people in the state.

Mr Dullo was addressing a meeting of party leaders, including ministers, MPs, MLAs and district presidents of the party here today. The Chief Minister was also present.

Mr Dullo, who spoke last at the meeting, said backward classes (BCs) in the state must be given the same benefits, including free power, as were provided to the Scheduled Castes. He said during his “mass contact programme” in the state, which ended yesterday, party workers and the public complained to him about the rise in the prices of essential commodities and the failure to extend benefits to the BCs.

“I have apprised Chief Minister Amarinder Singh of the two issues and he sounded positive in doing something on these fronts,” the PPCC chief said. He then turned to the Finance Minister, Mr Surinder Singla, saying: “We are told the coffers are full. Then why are the poor not being provided with subsidised commodities?”

He said the Deputy Chief Minister, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, would accompany Capt Amarinder Singh for a brief period during his Vikas Yatra.

Mr Dullo said party workers and leaders would apprise the public of the Amarinder Singh government’s achievements and policies through booklets. The booklets, titled “Taath Bolde Haan” (facts speak), were handed over to party workers today for distribution in the Assembly elections. He exhorted the party workers to make the proposed rally in Ludhiana on November 14 a huge success. Mr Janardhan Diwedi, party in charge for Punjab, will preside over the rally.

Mr Dullo said the Shiromani Akali Dal had no economic agenda and nor was it doing anything for the Panth.

At the meeting a resolution was passed praising the Chief Minister, the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, and Ms Sonia Gandhi for the development of Punjab.

Earlier the Chief Minister, told the party workers about the development that has been carried out in the state which included the construction of roads, bridges and railway overbridges.

Mr Jagmeet Brar left the meeting after a few minutes of its commencement.

Later, while talking to reporters, Mr Dullo said the government would take effective steps to distribute ration from PDS depots to the needy in villages in the wake of the rising prices of essential commodities.

Reiterating that “winnability” would be the sole criterion for the allocation of the party ticket for the Assembly poll, he said: “No one, including myself, is sure of the Congress ticket.” The PPCC chief said the Congess high command was the final authority in deciding the names of the party candidates.

When his attention was drawn to the claim for the party ticket by Independent MLAs who had supported the government for more than four years, Mr Dullo wondered how he could recommend their names to the party high command when they were not even primary members of the party.


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