P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Contractors, govt officials made money using FCI foodgrains: CBI
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur November 12
Contractors, government officials and flour mill owners made money using the FCI foodgrains sent to Srinagar. The CBI officials investigating the case said probe had established the nexus which used the government foodgrains for making money.

The FCI authorities at Gurdaspur used to send foodgrains from the stores here in Jammu and Kashmir. Delivery of the foodgrains according to papers was to be made in the name of the FCI Srinagar.

However, the food grains never reached its destination. Instead there were unloaded in flour mills at Kathua. The mill owners made flour from FCI foodgrains and sold it in the open market. The amount or cost of the foodgrains was then deposited in the accounts of the FCI.

The profit from the entire exercise was distributed among the contractor who was given the contract for transporting the foodgrains, FCI officials and mill owners. The accused in the case made crores from the racket, the CBI investigation has revealed.

The matter besides financial loss to the FCI is also of profit made by the erring officials and contractors using the government property, the CBI officials said.

The CBI has confiscated entry registers of the FCI at Jammu and Srinagar that do not show any receipt of foodgrains. Number of missing foodgrains has reached 196 truck load.

When CBI started investigating the case those involved in the scam deposited proceeds of 28 truck loads of foodgrains. CBI officials have taken note of that and are likely to use there as a proof against the accused.

Earlier the CBI had also recorded statements of small transporters engaged by contractor Cadha transport company for shifting foodgrains from Gurdaspur to Srinagar.

The contractor to shift the onus of the missing foodgrains on small contractors had got a police complaint registered against them at Gurdaspur.

The complaint filed at Gurdaspur alleged the small transporters had swindled 86 trucks of foodgrains.

However, small transporters maintained they were given the task of transporting foodgrains to Kathua by the contract.

They were paid full freight by the mill owners where they offloaded the foodgrains. They do not have any knowledge regarding the fact that the food grains were for Srinagar and were being misappropriated.

With the CBI making small transporters who carried the foodgrains prime witnesses in the case the noose is likely be tightened against the accused in the scam.

A senior CBI officials said legal proceeding against the accused in the scam are likely to be initiated very soon.


Chandigarh belongs to Haryana, says Hooda
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 12
Mr Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Chief Minister of Haryana, said here today that the transfer of Chandigarh was linked to the completion of the Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal.

Mr Hooda said they were waiting for Presidential reference regarding the inter-state river water dispute. He claimed that other problems between the two states would be solved automatically once the SYL issue was finalised. However, he hastened to add that Chandigarh was a part of Haryana and would remain so in future too.

The uncompromising stand, taken by Mr Hooda, here, might put the Punjab Congress in a fix especially in view of the forthcoming Assembly elections.

The Chief Minister was in the city today to preside over the annual prize distribution function of the SSSS College of Commerce for Women. He gave away prizes to 23 outstanding students of the institution and also honoured two eminent personalities.

Though the Anandpur Sahib Resolution, passed by the Shiromani Committee in 1973, had sought the transfer of Chandigarh and other left out Punjabi speaking areas to Punjab, the issue would come alive during the Assembly elections, following the statement given by Mr Hooda. When asked to comment about the decision of his government regarding the setting up of a separate SGPC for the state, Mr Hooda said a committee had been constituted under the Chairmanship of Haryana Agriculture Minister Mr H.S Chatha to look into the issue. He said the decision on the issue would be taken in accordance with the wishes of the Sikhs of Haryana.

In reply to a query regarding the investigation being conducted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against former Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala, Mr Hooda said the CBI was a reliable agency and it had been investigating the matter. However, he made it clear that his decisions were not coloured by political vendetta.

Commenting on the issue of acquiring land for setting up Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Haryana, Mr Hooda said the state government had acquired not even an inch of land. He said as per the state government’s policy only 25 per cent land would be acquired by the state government for the companies interested in setting up SEZ in Haryana.

Addressing the students of Sant Singh Sukha Singh School after prize distribution ceremony Mr Hooda said Amritsar was not only the face of Punjab but was also the heart of the country.


Liquor brewing takes a backseat in border belt
Ajay Banerjee & Anirudh Gupta
Tribune News Service

Indo-Pak border (Ferozepore), November 12
All along the border in this district the signs of distillation of illicit liquor are waning. No homegrown facilities for distilleries are visible in the area that was once known as the den of illicit liquor business.

Members of the Rai Sikh community, who live all along the border, here have turned away from the trade that had earned much disrepute for the community. Today, they are into growing vegetables and are even working in the nearby cities.

However, the change was not an overnight phenomenon, it has come gradually in the past few years. One major reason being that a large number of Rai Sikhs have turned towards the Radha Soami sect and hence have given up the liquor distilling business.

Hansa Singh, who lives right next to the Indo-Pak border says, " It was a stigma that we had to wash away". He adds that large number of people have also become devotees of the Dera Sacha Sauda, Sirsa, and this too has helped in weaning them away from the liquor business.

The root cause of this unjust brandishing of the Rai Sikhs was a report of the Criminal Tribes Act Enquiry Committee that notified the community, earlier known as "mahatmas" of Ferozepore as a criminal tribe indulging in illicit brewing of liquor during the late 1940s. The report, however, had specified that all "mahatmas" were not members of the criminal tribe and only a notorious section notified as criminal.

Since Independence, the backward Rai Sikh community has continued to live with the label of a "criminal tribe" given by the state during the days of British Raj. Although they were denotified from the list of criminal tribes way back in 1952, the community leaders here allege that the police continued to treat them as suspects. The police and the Excise Department frequently attributed crimes, especially those relating to the illicit distillation of liquor, to them.

Today these people want more schools in the area. Mr Pathana Singh of Gati Choori-ke village said more schools were required. Echoing the long standing demand of the community, a group of Rai Sikhs, who met The Tribune team on the right bank of the Satluj, said, "We should be immediately granted the status of a Scheduled Caste community only then can the community be helped truly".

With elections around the corner the Rai Sikhs will play a key role not only in Ferozepore, but also in the adjoining constituencies of Jalalabad and Mamdot, among others. Actually no candidate can even win an election without having Rai Sikhs on his side.

The general secretary of Congress, Mr Parminder Singh 'Pinki', says his party is well aware of the needs of the Rai Sikh community and adds: "All efforts are being made to get SC status for them." The community needs to be uplifted and schools are needed. The opening of the border will also open possibility of exporting the vegetables grown here to Pakistan.

Interestingly, the Rai Sikhs are also known as "tigers" of the border belt as they have been working in close coordination with the Indian Army. “During Operation Parakaram in early 2002, the Army trained our youth to lay mines”, said Jagga Singh while adding that able bodied youth should have been taken into the Army or into the para military forces.

A large number of Rai Sikhs had migrated to the area from Sheikhupura district in Pakistan in 1947. For them life along the border has been tough. Each war with the neighbouring country has seen them move to safer areas with only a handful staying back.


Indo-Pak delegates hail move by PM, Pervez
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, November 12
Joint move by Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Pakistan’s President General Pervez Musharraf augurs well for breaking the impasse in the Indo-Pakistan relations, which received a setback earlier.

A former judge of the Lahore High Court Justice Mohammad Akram stated this at the concluding session of the second annual Sai Mian Mir Indo-Pak mela organised by the Sai Mian Mir Foundation here today.

He urged people of both countries to bury the past and move ahead to build a new bilateral accord for both neighbours to live in peace and harmony.

He regretted both nations had fought many wars and the time was opportune to forget old animosity and dream up new course the new generation was not interested in the past history. He said the Pakistanis would welcome the opening of a visa centre in Lahore and added this initiative would be reciprocated positively by their governments. This would help easy access between people of two nations.

President of the Lahore Chapter of the Foundation Rana Shaukat felt the media could play a definite role to mould opinion of the policy makers of both countries. Media could usher in an era of cooperation and peace for the people of India and Pakistan, he said.

Lashing out at fundamentalists of both countries who for vested interests were vitiating the peaceful atmosphere of both countries.

He pointed out people must rise above the narrow parochial approach of fundamentalists. Advocating removal of visa restrictions he said this singular act would pave the way for improvement in relations. He blamed bureaucracy of both countries for creating hurdles.

Former chairman of the National Minority Commission Prof Bawa Singh said people to people movement could help to establish universal brotherhood and harmony between the two nations. He lamented the security situation in the area had warranted huge defence expenditure and triggered and arms race between the two nations. People of both nations could play a significant role to establish permanent peace in the region. He urged governments of both nations to devote more attention for the welfare of the people and alleviate poverty and unemployment.

General Secretary of the foundation Ms Nargis Khan said the fear which had eclipsed minds of the people of both nations was disappearing gradually and suggested the governments must take initiative to improve relations.


Punjab needs to tap tourist potential, says expert
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 12
Punjab needs to repackage itself for presenting places of tourist attraction in a more effective manner - this is what non-resident Indian-cum-Chief Executive Officer with a New York-based advertising group Sharanjit Singh Thind has to say.

In Chandigarh for attending the Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI) convention, Thind says the government has not been able to tap its tourist potential following its failure to showcase its uniqueness.

Talking to The Tribune, he said Chinese were touring the whole world, but even they were not visiting the state just because they had very little idea of what the state had to offer in terms of tourist attractions.

As of now, even the second generation of Indians settled abroad was not aware of the beauty existing in the state. “They want to go to Mumbai and other places of tourist interest in India, but they do not wish to see the greenery and feel the warmth existing in the state,” he declares.

Offering a solution, he asserts that the state government should seek professional support for coming out with a unique selling proposition (USP) or hire brand ambassadors. Himachal Pradesh, for example, was presenting itself as the land of gods for attracting tourists from across the world.

Besides this, the government should use the medium of movies with sub-titles for projecting itself in the right prospective. Movie makers like Harbhajan Mann should be invited for talks and asked to help the state government in projecting the hidden wonders existing in the state,” he says.

Quoting the example of countries with pro-active approach like Malaysia, he said as much as half the budget of the movies being shot there was sponsored by them as they knew the flicks would bring in a lot of tourists once released.

He added that the government, instead of just concentrating on the setting up of five-star hotels in the state, should go in for affordable “bread and ginger hotels”.


Man kills son, injures wife, two kids
Our Correspondent

Fazilka, November 12
A man committed murder of his minor son and seriously injured his wife and two other children early this morning. According to an FIR lodged with the Sadar police by Ninder Kaur, a resident of Kandhwala Hazarkhan village in this subdivision, her sister, Jaswinder Kaur, was married to Amarjit Singh of Bandala village, in Amritsar district about 12 years back. The couple had four children - two sons and two daughters.

It is stated that Amarjit Singh allegedly had illicit relations with another married woman of the village. This was the cause of dispute between the husband and the wife following which Jaswinder Kaur, along with her four children, had come to live with her father Raj Singh at Kandhwala Hazar Khan village about two months ago. About one and half month back, Amarjit Singh also came to live with them and started working as a labourer in Kandhawala village. He, however, insisted upon his wife to return to Bandala village for which Jaswinder Kaur did not agree.

Enraged with this attitude of his wife, Amarjit hit Jaswinder Kaur and children while they were asleep around 2 a.m. on November 11 night with a spade, resulting in the death of his son Manjit Singh (10). The other son Jobanjit Singh (8) was injured seriously. His wife and daughter Amanpreet Kaur (7) were also injured. His younger daughter Kulwinder Kaur (3), however, survived the assault. The other members of the family, including Ninder Kaur and neighbourers, on hearing the cries, raised the alarm upon which Amarjit Singh fled from the scene and escaped.

The Sadar police has registered a case under Section 302 and 307, IPC, against Amarjit Singh.


UPA govt backtracked on CMP: Reddy
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Budhlada (Mansa), November 12
Like the previous NDA regime, the UPA government is bent upon implementing the policies of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation, stated the CPI national secretary and Lok Sabha MP S. Sudhakar Reddy while addressing a party rally at the grain market here yesterday.

He alleged that the UPA government was backtracking from its Common Minimum Programme (CMP). He alleged that the rich were being benefited the most, while the poor were the most hassled lot of society. He said the problem of unemployment was gaining gigantic proportions and the government’s economic development had failed to generate employment opportunities for youth.

He charged the UPA government with working against the interests of farmers, labourers, unemployed and small traders. He said the Left parties had extended support to the government on the basis of the CMP, but instead of following it the Congress-led regime was “working at the behest of American administration and multinational companies”.

Dr Joginder Dayal, member of the party’s Central Committee, said their target in the forthcoming Assembly poll in Punjab would be to form a third front by exposing the “communal alliance” of SAD-BJP and sensitise the common man on various issues.


Vidhan Sabha Secretariat under Speaker
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 12
Presenting the report of the Committee on Government Assurances of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, its Chairman, Dr Romesh Dutt Sharma, has recommended financial autonomy for the Vidhan Sabha Secretariat on the pattern of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

Dr Sharma’s report especially dwells on the issue of an assurance given in the House regarding the status of the Vidhan Sabha Secretariat. Since 1953 the Sabha Secretariat was under the administration of the Speaker of the Vidhan Sabha.

However, in 1999 the Punjab Government had issued a letter placing the Sabha Secretariat under administrative control of the Department of Parliamentary Affairs, headed by a Cabinet Minister.

Dr Sharma said following a discussion with the state government the said letter had been withdrawn and again the Sabha Secretariat had been placed under control of the Speaker.


Sukhbir seeks arrest of CM
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 12
The general secretary of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal), Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, today demanded the arrest and dismissal of the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and the Local Bodies Minister, Mr Jagjit Singh, alleging that the probe being conducted by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau into the Ludhiana City Centre issue, had vindicated the stand of his party.

The SAD, if voted to power, would register a case on the first day of assuming office. He said: “The government entered clauses to grant direct benefits to Today Homes by not signing an MoU for having a special purpose vehicle to run the project.

Instead, the ex-Chairman of the Ludhiana Improvement Trust, Wing Commander P.S. Sibia (retd) issued a power of attorney authorising the sale of property within the city centre”. “The report clearly speaks of the use of black money in the deal,” he alleged.


‘Vikas Yatra a farce’
Our Correspondent

Patiala, November 12
The general secretary of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, said today that expenditure being made on Chief Minister Amarinder Singh's Vikas Yatra was a sheer wastage of money and added that when the Akalis came to power a thorough inquiry would be initiated against officials of the Public Relations Department responsible for incurring this expenditure.

Mr Badal was here in connection with the installation ceremony of Mr Gurpreet Singh Raju Khanna as president of the Student Organisation of India.

He termed the Vikas Yatra as a farce.


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