P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


At last, Amritsar trust seeks probe into land scam
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Work under way on prime land near the District Red Cross Society, Amritsar.
Work under way on prime land near the District Red Cross Society, Amritsar. — Photo by Rajiv Sharma 

Amritsar, December 1
At last the Improvement Trust has written to the Senior Superintendent of Police to register an FIR in the land scam of over Rs 100 crore in which younger brother of a senior IPS officer, officials of the Municipal Corporation and Revenue officials are involved.

The trust has alleged ‘bogus deeds’ were prepared to grab its land, opposite the District Red Cross Society in connivance with officials concerned. The trust has described the ‘R.P. Employer Private as a bogus firm’.

The firm reportedly belongs to Rakesh Kumar Sharma, brother of Inspector-General, S.K. Sharma. The firm proposes to build multiplex and five star hotel. Digging up of basement is still in progress.

However, SSP, S.S. Srivastava said an FIR could not be registered merely on the basis of a report sent to the police. He said the police had to seek legal opinion or brief inquiry into the allegations before starting an action.

Mr Jugal Kishore Sharma, Congress MLA and Chairman Improvement Trust, said the complaint had been sent on the basis of Revenue record that established the prime land belonged to the trust.

Ms Surinder Kumari, Executive Officer of the Trust said the complaint pertained to preparing ‘bogus papers’ apart from resorting to demolition.

Earlier, on March 3, The Tribune published a news item titled, “Tree felled for multiplex on controversial trust land”, highlighting the scam’.

The trust has been fighting a legal battle to implement its residential scheme for the past 30 years.

The complaint alleged the firm had resorted to “unauthorised” demolition. It claimed that the Chairman of the trust had written to the Municipal Corporation on February 3 for stopping any action including the passing of its lay out, map, etc but it (MC) had failed to do so.

Earlier, the residents of elegant Ranjit Avenue, opposite Red Cross Bhavan, were unhappy on the felling of 125-year-old big bohar tree and demolition of ‘Mughal Carpets’ to pave the way for the construction of a multiplex-cum-hotel on 9500 square yards.

Intriguingly, penalty of Rs 1.90 crore was deposited with the corporation for the change of land use without the knowledge of the chairman of the Land Use Committee. Senior officials of, the Local Bodies, department had shown keen interest in the clearing of the file. Mr Naresh Seth, owner of Mughal Carpets (a part of the controversial plot) which he had taken on 99-year lease from mahants of the Brahm Buta Akhara, had lost the case in the court as the trust had, already, issued a notification to acquire the land.

He, however, admitted purchasers of the controversial land had reached a compromise. But he refused to disclose the names of persons who had purchased the benami property.

Sources in the trust said land-use of residential area could not be changed by the corporation especially, if the case was pending in a court.


NACO sets up centres for AIDS patients
Tribune News Service

Mansa/Bathinda, December 1
Two Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) centres had been set up at Government Medical College, Amritsar, and the Civil Hospital, Jalandhar, in collaboration with the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO). The motive behind opening of these centres was to extend medical facilities and treatment to AIDS patients. Dr Harbans Lal, Chief Parliamentary Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, disclosed this while addressing a state-level function held to mark the World AIDS Day here today.

Dr Lal said these centres would provide anti-retroviral drugs, medicine for management of opportunistic infections, HIV testing facilities and estimation of CD4 count. The CD4 count facility was being extended free of cost to patients living below the poverty line and children below 14 years.

Earlier, these patients had to visit Chandigarh for availing treatment. Addressing the function, Mr K.B.S. Sidhu, Health and Family Welfare and Project Director, Punjab State AIDS Control Society, said the society had started adolescent education programme in schools and students were being encouraged to join the Red Ribbon Club to gain awareness.

In addition to this 20 Targeted Intervention Projects for the high risk people were going on in the state with the help of NGOs.

Dr Daler Singh Multarni, Additional Project Director, said the society had started a Red Ribbon Express Bus, which would disseminate correct information on AIDS awareness in various parts of the state. An exhibition on AIDS awareness was put up by a team of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on the occasion. The Civil Surgeon, Dr P.K. Mittal, was present on the occasion.

Meanwhile, a massive rally was flagged off in Bathinda by the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Rahul Bhandari, to sensitise people on AIDS. A large number of schoolchildren and tableaux passed through the main areas of the city before culminating at the Hanuman Chowk.

The rally was led by the Civil Surgeon, Dr Maninderjeet Singh, and the DHO, Dr Kasturi Lal.


Canada ‘open’ to businesses with India
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 1
Canada is open to commercially viable businesses with India, in general, and Punjab, in particular, says Mr Len Edwards, its Deputy Minister for Agriculture and Agri-Food.

Here with a delegation representing six agri-businesses of his country, Mr Len Edwards and members of his delegations were guests of the Punjab Animal Husbandry and Tourism Minister, Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang, at a breakfast meeting this morning.

“We are here to offer our expertise in the fields of dairy, genetics and animal management, besides other areas. There is a lot of potential for growth of agri-business both in India and Canada,” said Mr Edwards, adding that India would be focus country at the next agriculture conference to be held in Montreal in May next year.

Talking about agriculture in Canada, he said of the $ 4 billion budget, nearly one half goes in payments to producers (farmers) under several programmes, including decline in income, disaster and payment of premium on production insurance.

“We do not support any procurement or purchase programme nor do we guarantee any minimum price. Rather, we have an income stabilising programme. In case a farmer is losing his income, the government would make up for his losses. In case the income remains stable, nothing is paid to him.

“The other half of the budget is spent on the working of the department as well as the science and development component. Food safety, food health, bio and environment friendly agriculture is the key areas of research these days. We are also trying to minimise the use of chemicals, including insecticides and pesticides so as to minimise their impact on bio-environment,” he said

Mr Edwards held that agriculture constitutes nearly 8 per cent of the total GDP of Canada and employs 12 per cent of the total labour force of the country.

He said he was not aware of farmers from Punjab seeking immigration to Canada for developing agricultural land there. The Consul General for Canada in Chandigarh, Ms Helen Economo Amundsen, said there were some applications in the category of economic migration to meet labour shortage, including agriculture, in Canada from Punjab.

Mr Edwards said the main purpose of his visit to India was to explore immense potential the country has for business tie-ups and cooperation in the field of agriculture and related areas. He was hopeful to visit the countryside in Punjab to see some farm houses as well as dairy farms. He also invited Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang to visit Canada for the Montreal Agriculture Conference.


Attack on Sumedh Saini: Devinder Bhullar acquitted
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 1
A local court today acquitted militant Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar, alleged main accused in the September 1991 attack on Sumedh Singh Saini, IG, Punjab Police.

The Additional Sessions Judge, Mr R.S.Baswana, acquitted the militant for lack of evidence and weak presentations by the prosecution.The defence counsel had been pleading that Bhullar and the other accused had been "framed" by the investigating agencies.

A case under the TADA Act and Sections 302,307 and 120-B of the IPC was registered against Bhullar and two others — Partap Singh and Gursharan Kaur Mann — in 1991 after the attack in which four persons were killed and Mr Saini, who was then the Chandigarh SSP, seriously injured.

After the attack,Bhullar reportedly escaped to Germany. The Government of India then sought his extradition and he was arrested on his arrival at Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi, in 2003.

And there was furore in the media about his alleged torture by the Delhi Police.

It was then that the Chandigarh Police applied for his transit remand in connection with the present case. Bhullar appeared for several hearing at the District Courts here.

During one of the hearings, the Sessions Court dropped charges under the TADA Act against him.

Bhullar had also been awarded death sentence by the Supreme Court for triggering off a bomb blast on September 11,1993, outside the Indian Youth Congress (IYC) headquarters on the Raisina Road in New Delhi.The then IYC chief, Mr MS Bitta, was among those injured in the blast.

Later, Bhullar petitioned the President for clemency and his mercy petition is pending with the Government of India.

In fact, the president of the All-India Anti Terrorist Front, Mr MS Bitta, had alleged here yesterday that the government had put the mercy petition in "cold storage" as even after three years no decision had been taken.

Mr Bitta had also alleged that the government was going soft on the militants, including Bhullar and the alleged prime accused in the Parliament House attack —Afzal Guru.


CM: Free power decision was of party
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 1
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and the Punjab Pradesh Congress (PPC) chief, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, are at loggerheads once again.

Reacting to Mr Dullo’s statement that free power for farmers would not be included in the party manifesto, the Chief Minister said the decision for including free power for farm sector before the 2002 elections was made by a committee headed by Dr Manmohan Singh.

“It was not a personal decision, rather it was taken unanimously at the party level,” the Chief Minister said in a statement. The government would make the farmers self-reliant through its unique initiatives such as free power, diversification of agriculture, organic farming and citrus cultivation.

The Chief Minister said free power to the farming community was a justifiable and logical decision based on the rationale of agri-economics that had revealed that the input costs of farmers had risen by over 127 per cent during the past decade as against the increase of 51 per cent in the MSP.

The annual increase in the MSP during the past decade had also not been commensurate with the increase in the input costs and the virtual squeeze was on the farmers, asserted Capt Amarinder Singh.

There had been a continuous fragmentation of land holdings in the state during the past two decades. Nearly 66 per cent land holding of the state were less than five acres. In the year 2002, the state had recorded a negative growth of 1.8 per cent and today it was in positive of 2 per cent. Free power to the farmers, irrespective of their land holdings, was also a right step to relieve them from the financial crisis.


Keep away from politics, Sukhbir to bureaucracy
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, December 1
Another scam of thousands of crores would be unearthed soon, stated Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, MP general secretary of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) to reporters here today. He was here to participate in a rally organised by former Akali Minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon at Sherkhan, village, 12 km from here.

Exhorting bureaucracy to remain free and fair in the discharge of duties, Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal said the officers should involve in the tussle between the Akalis and the Congress in the run - up to the Assembly elections.

He alleged state machinery including some Transport Department officials were trying to prevent Akali’s from arranging buses for the Moga rally at instance of the Congress. Warning those officials, he said the Congress would not be able to stop Akalis from holding the Moga rally.

On erratic power supply in the state he said the SAD-BJP government had made efforts to improve power generation in the by launching projects like Ranjit Singh dam, Lehra Mohabbat and Shahpur Kandi where as the Congress did not make efforts to augment power supply.

Referring to the resignation of Mr H.S. Barsat, OSD to CM, Mr Badal said the Congress in Punjab was a “sinking” ship, and people had started fleeing it.

He added some senior Congress functionaries were keen on joining the Akali Dal and would be inducted into the party.

On PPCC chief Shamsher Singh Dullo’s recent statement that tubewell bills of farmers should not be waived, Mr Badal said. Mr Dullo’s statement reflected there was difference between what the Congress people claimed and what they actually did.

On the transfer of Revenue officials, Mr Badal said it was part of a conspiracy by Congressmen to sabotage electoral process regarding which they had conveyed apprehension to the Election Commission.


Congress days numbered: SAD
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 1
“The days of the Congress in the state are numbered,” said SAD’s senior vice-president (Patiala city) Jaspal Singh in a press note here on Friday. He said SAD activists here were ready to take on the Congress challenge and rout the party not only from the city but the state.

On the choice of party’s candidate from the constituency, he said SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal’s decision would be final.


SAD’s plea on ad information heard

Chandigarh, December 1
Mr Sukhbir Badal, general secretary of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), had filed an application with the State Information Commission seeking details as to what amount was spent by the Punjab Government on issuing advertisements that featured Ms Sonia Gandhi.

The matter came up for hearing at the office of the commission here today.

The state government has provided information that the application of Mr Badal seeking the information was received only on November 20 and to compile the records of five years would require more time.

Some of the records pertaining to such advertisements was handed over to Mr Badal. Also information on the cost of advertisements propagating the achievements of the government was given to him.

The commission was informed that budgetary allocation had been made for all spendings. — TNS


The messiah of ex-servicemen
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 1
“Once a soldier, always a soldier”. Living true to this saying, Col Chanan Singh Dhillon (retd) of Ludhiana is a never-say-die crusader for the honour of the uniformed force years after he took on the enemies of the country in all the wars fought after Independence as well as in anti-insurgency operations against the enemy within.

At the age of 86, when most men just wait for the God's call, Col Dhillon moves on fighting endlessly not only with the Indian Government for upholding the prestige of a soldier, ensuring benefits for his family, valuing his sacrifice but has even taken on the British Government to rectify what he calls a “historical wrong” of not giving compensation to Indian soldiers, who fought for the Britishers in World War II.

The relentless zeal of this meliorist is paying dividends on many fronts with the UK Parliament finally taking up the cause of the soldiers who fought on western front in North Africa against allied forces, were made prisoners of war with many, including Col Dhillon making a daring escape. Thousands of those had died unsung when they were pushed into the sea, loaded on small ships, which was shot down in a crossfire between American-England Navy and the allied forces.

His struggle began in 1994 when he was aghast to learn during the 50th anniversary of the World War parade ceremony in England that Britishers had taken reparation money from Japan for compensation to its POWs held by the Japanese. “The commentator was raving about the bravery of British soldiers without talking about our contribution.”

However, even though the majority of the POWs were Indian soldiers, no reparation was given to them. The Britishers passed the buck to the Indian Government after handing over the rule in 1947.

When he took up the case in 1994, he was not heard initially. But he managed to gain support of many British MPs. Later, a group of MPs led by Mr John McDonnel, Mr Rob Marrs, Mr Bob Rusell and others took up the cause.

Col Dhillon did not leave the issue to be discussed in the British House of Commons or Lords only. “In that year only, on my visit to France, Belgium and England, I was pained to see memorials raised in the memory of Indian soldiers who had fought gallantly on the western front.

“Standing before it, I was touched when an old lady walking on crutches came to me and kissed my hand, 'You were our saviours,'” she said, recognising me as a Sikh from my turban.”

But no such memorial existed in England. Combining force with Ms Shreela Flather, Member, House of Commons, he got constructed a memorial gate in Hyde Park in London for those Indian soldiers who had achieved martyrdom fighting for British in World Wars I and II.

Back home, he has been combating bureaucratic and political apathy to the plight of the ex-servicemen and families of martyrs. His organisation, Indian Ex-Servicemen League, Punjab and Chandigarh along with the support of other ex-servicemen units, took up the martyr widow pension issue with the Vth Pay Commission. It resulted in jacking up the pension from Rs 3 per month to Rs 1,250 eight years ago.

"While foreigners have erected memorials for our bravery and cavalry, we do not even bother to give representation to defence personnel in decision making, pay commissions, civilian governance and even practical voting right," he rues.

The voting right was one of the major issues confronting the old war horse. "It was too impractical for the soldiers to send their votes by post or cast their votes by proxy as decided a few years ago. We along with Brig B.S. Ghuman, Shaurya Chakra winner, and other concerned ex-servicemen raised the matter at many platforms. Eventually, the Supreme Court has declared that soldiers have the right to vote at the place where they were posted.


Widows can remarry, avail pension: AWWA chief
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 1
Allaying apprehensions of Army men's widows who lost their husbands in the prime of their life, the Chetak AWWA president, Mrs Ratandeep Brar, today said these widows had every right to make a fresh beginning with a new life partner and even after re-marriage they would be entitled to pension and other benefits that they were availing earlier.

Addressing a gathering at the annual Veer Nari meet here, she said the region had a fair number of young widows, especially the ones whose husbands laid down their lives for the country during the Kargil War, and many of them had this misconception of losing pension and other amenities following their re-marriage.

"There will not be any cut or discontinuation of benefits being given to them," she added. On the contrary, the AWWA would extend all help to widows willing to start their life afresh, she assured.

"The state government should also chip in to rehabilitate these widows and should formulate policies in this regard," she said.

Highlighting another area of concern, she said the government should ensure suitable jobs to next of kin of the martyrs on the basis on their qualification.

Meanwhile, an interaction with Veer Naris revealed that many of them were ignorant about the benefits that they could avail under various welfare schemes.

Baldev Kaur, widow of Gurdev Singh who attained martyrdom in the 1965 war, said while she was receiving a pension of Rs 4,000 a month, she was yet to take advantage of medical amenities for which she was entitled. "I have a weak eyesight and also chronic pain in knee joints, but I can't afford any treatment," she said.

Her postgraduate son was also unemployed. Similarly, Maura, widow of Sepoy Mukh Ram, never tried to avail medical and other benefits. She, too, was drawing a pension of Rs 4,700.

Later, the AWWA president felicitated Veer Naris, which also included Gurdayal Kaur, widow of Param Vir Chakra Subedar Joginder Singh.


CM condemns manhandling of journalist
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 1
Taking cognizance of the news reports in a section of the press about the manhandling of a staff photographer of the Hindustan Times, Samuel N. Dass, by a police constable at Kharar on Thursday, the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today strongly condemned the unfortunate incident and ordered a magisterial enquiry to probe the matter.

A spokesperson of the Punjab Government said Darshan Singh, SDM Kharar, had been directed to conduct an enquiry and submit the report within a week.

The Chief Minister said nobody would be allowed to take law in their own hands and action would be taken against the guilty.


Rs 100 cr for water courses

Bathinda, December 1
The state government has released Rs 100 crore for brick-lining of water courses in the Malwa region, revealed PPCC general secretary Raninder Singh while addressing a public meeting at Nathana today.

He said cheques worth Rs 5.7 crore were today distributed in the Nathana Assembly constituency for repair of water courses. Talwandi Sabo MLA Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu said the first instalment of Rs 27.37 crore for his Assembly constituency had been received. — TNS


Cable operators divided
Our Correspondent

Abohar, December 1
Private cable network operators are heading towards a bloody clash among themselves. The sub-divisional town had faced a similar clash between property dealers in March this year, sources said.

According to information, a tug of war had been going on among the operators over monthly charges. As the channels had linked the charges with number of customers, most of the customers alleged they were issued cash receipts that had no reference to the name of the service provider. Besides, service lacked quality.

The operators had reportedly been misusing poles of the Punjab State Electricity Board and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. for laying cable. Amplifiers had also been fitted on these poles. They were not abiding by the rules prescribed by Prasar Bharti to put four Doordarshan channels on prime bands. The customers were denied even DD News in half of the town.

Two leading operators pointed accusing fingers on each other. Ms Rama Sharma, wife of a BSNL employee running a network, told reporters at her Nai Abadi residence that another operator had allegedly cut their cable on the College Road and connected the same illegally with their system to transmit.

The College Road based operator said in a complaint to the police that Ms Rama Sharma and four others of the rival operator stormed his office at 10 am, abused the staff and threatened them against carrying further business. He and his employees faced threat to life, the complaint read.


Linemen lay siege to PSEB
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 1
Hundreds of members owning allegiance to the unemployed linemen union of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) laid siege to the main complex of the PSEB turning it virtually into an impregnable fortress for nearly two hours this morning.

The unemployed linemen, protesting against the non-implementation of their demands pending with the board's management for the past couple of months, today got angry and after confabulations among themselves, finally decided to block the entry and exit points of the board's main complex on the busy Mall road.

Heated exchanges and verbal duels between the striking linemen and the board's security personnel were the order of the day as exasperated employees found no ways and means to walk out of the premises during lunch time. So adamant were the linemen that they did not even allow senior officers to leave the premises.

Even persons, who had gone there to get their work done, found themselves trapped and failed to come out of the complex.


Improvement Trust for Nangal subdivision
Tribune News Service

Nangal, December 1
The Punjab Government today constituted Improvement Trust in Nangal Subdivision and appointed Mr Kamal Dev Joshi as its chairman for a period of two years.

The Parliamentary Secretary Industry and Commerce and MLA, Nangal, Mr K.P.S Rana, said the Improvement Trust would help in the planned development of Nangal subdivision and a large number of retired persons of various departments would be able to get proper residential accommodation.


Maid servant beaten to death
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 1
A maid servant Suman Devi was beaten to death by one Krishan Kumar and his two accomplices when the former tried to alert neighbours about the theft that Krishan Kumar and his accomplices were planning to commit at the residence of one Mandeep Rampal of Adarsh nagar, near Sirhind road, here yesterday.

A case has been registered against Krishan Kumar and his two accomplices at a local police station.

Krishan Kumar had been hired by Mandeep Rampal and his wife Pavneet Rampal as a domestic servant a few days ago. However, the lure of making easy money meant that Krishan Kumar intoxicated both Mandeep and his wife by mixing some sedatives in their morning cup of tea. Thereafter, Krishan Kumar called his two accomplices. Sensing danger the maid Suman Devi started screaming in an attempt to alert the neighbours.

Krishan Kumar and his accomplices then started beating her up which resulted in her death.

At the time of filing this report, Ms Pavneet Rampal, who was rendered unconscious, was said to be in a serious condition at the ICU of the local Government Rajindra Hospital.


Youth killed, driver booked
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 1
A tempo driver reportedly murdered an unidentified youth at Guru Gobind Singh Nagar here on Wednesday night and fled away.

According to sources, the accused, Harjinder Singh, allegedly hit the victim with a brick that resulted in serious injuries to him. Sahara volunteers rushed him to the Civil Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. The police has registered a murder case against Harjinder and handed over the victim’s body to Sahara for identification after conducting a postmortem examination.

Meanwhile, in another case, the police has rescued a kidnapped girl and arrested Kultaran Singh of Joganand village in this connection. The girl has been restored to her family.


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