P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


State to gain Rs 400 cr yearly as Centre decides to cut interest
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 13
There will be a net annual gain of about Rs 400 crore to Punjab as the Union Government has lowered the rate of interest on the loan taken from the small savings account by the state government.

Sources said the Union Government had accepted the recommendation of a high-level committee to lower the rate of interest from 13.5 per cent to 9.5 per cent for the loans secured by various states from 1992 to 2003. The committee was set up under the chairmanship of Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram.

The Finance Ministers of West Bengal, Punjab, Maharashtra and certain other states were its members. The total debt stock of the state is in the range of Rs 54,000 crore. And of that amount, about half is from the small savings account, it is learnt. For the state government, with limited revenue resources, relief of Rs 400 crore on account of interest will be a big benefit.

When asked in this regard, the Punjab Finance Minister, Mr Surinder Singla, said that it was true that the Union Government had accepted the report to lower the rate of interest." We have been pressing the Union Government in this regard and it has accepted our recommendation", said Mr Singla.

The state government has also asked for relief of Rs 800 crore from the Union Government on debt swapped earlier. The state government had swapped debt to the tune of Rs 7,000 crore. It was allowed to raise 75 per cent market borrowing on the total debt swapped by it. The sources said that following the implementation of the recommendations of the 12th Finance Commission, the state government had revaluated the debt swapped by it earlier.

As the 12th Finance Commission had given big relief with regard to the rate of interest on the loan availed of by various states from the Union Government and also staggered the payment of the remaining amount over the next 20 years, the debt swapped by the states earlier had proved a costly proposition.

The Punjab Government has taken the plea that it should be given a further benefit of Rs 800 crore on the loan swapped by it earlier in the light of the recommendations of the 12th Finance Commission.

Meanwhile, the Union Government has also released Rs 197 crore to Punjab that was spent by it on giving relief to riot victims and their rehabilitation.

The Union Government has also released Rs 70 crore under the rural health programme. The state government had sought Rs 169 crore from the Centre in this regard.


CM ends yatra in NRIs’ domain
Tribune News Service

Khatkar Kalan (Nawanshahr), December 13
Minutes after paying homage to Bhagat Singh at his native village here, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today said the freedom fighter had laid down his life for the freedom of the country and not for “corrupt” politicians like Parkash Singh Badal to rule people.

Ending the third phase of the “Punjab Vikas Yatra” in the belt dominated by NRI families, the Chief Minister went on to add that Mr Badal had sided with murderers (referring to Navjot Singh Sidhu) and was himself facing charges of corruption in court.

Mr Badal’s alliance partner, the BJP, had recently made disparaging remarks about minorities and still the SAD was supporting them, he said while talking to a group of mediapersons here.

“The BJP has no policy. They go to any party that supports them. The SAD too has a serious problem. They do not know whose support to take and whose not.”

The case against Mr Badal starts on December 23 and an order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court exist mandates that the trial should end in six months.

On his own party’s plan for the elections, he said the “working document”, which forms the base for the manifesto, was ready. The AICC will form a manifesto committee that will finalise it.

On the distribution of party tickets, he said the scrutiny committee of the party would see it and party president Sonia Gandhi finalise it.

Replying to a query on the shift in the party’s election prospects after the undertaking of the yatra, the Chief Minister said: “It had galvanised party workers and people have responded to it well.”

The next phase of the yatra will be from December 22 to 24. Three rounds of the yatra will be held in January, while two more rounds are planned in February.

The criticism in a section of media on how party workers coaxed people into coming on to the streets to welcome the yatra was out of place, he said.

“It is always party workers who bring their supporters. Who else would?”

The yatra started in the morning from Khajurla on the Ludhiana-Jalandhar highway and was received at Phagwara by party workers. The Chief Minister stopped for a cup of tea at a house there.

Women, children and elders lined up along the route and waited on rooftops to welcome the Chief Minister.

Banga and Nawanshahr also saw people welcoming the cavalcade.

At Banga, two girls took a picture of the cavalcade on their mobile phones, while a young boy presented chocolates to the Chief Minister.

At lunch break, Tarlochan Singh, a staunch loyalist of PPCC chief Shamsher Singh Dullo, sent a strong political signal when he fed a morsel to the Chief Minister from his plate.

The Congress will not hold a rally when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh comes to the state this month, as he will be on an official visit.

Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh will attend a rally to be held later.


Capt cooks atta-dal plan to counter Badal move
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 13
The Congress-led government in Punjab yesterday drew up a strategy to counter the promise of the Shiromani Akali Dal of providing highly subsidised atta and dal to Dalits and poor persons in the state.

Large quantities of wheat and pulses will be made available immediately at subsidised rates to people through the public distribution system (PDS). The prices of pulses will be about 25 to 30 per cent lower than the prevailing market rates- that vary between Rs 42 and Rs 48 a kg in the retail market. While the price of wheat will be Rs 2 per kg for the poorest of the poor, who are covered under the Antodaya Ann Yojana, Rs 4.55 per kg for families living below the poverty line and Rs 6.60 for families living above the poverty line. This means anybody possessing a ration card can purchase wheat or pulses through the PDS.

A decision in this regard was taken at a meeting of top functionaries of the Punjab Government here.

Sources said the prices of pulses would also vary as there would be three categories of consumers. The first category would comprise persons above the poverty line but holding ration cards; the second, families below the poverty line; and the third, those covered under the Antodaya Ann Yojana. The third category would pay the least followed by BPL families and then the category of persons living above the poverty line.

Meanwhile, at the meeting yesterday the government took a serious view of the fact that 6,000 quintals of imported pulses that were to be supplied through the PDS had failed to reach the masses.

Originally, a decision in this regard had been taken in June at a meeting of the Council of Ministers. Punsup and Markfed were told to import these pulses as the Union Government had allowed the same without any duty when prices had gone above Rs 65 per kg. These were to be made available from the first week of September onwards. However, much of the stock could not be distributed and even the applications that were invited to appoint new ration depot holders could not be processed by the Department of Food and Supplies .

On the intervention of the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, the Union Food Ministry today released a quota of 85,000 tonnes of wheat for distribution among poor and other sections of society through the public distribution system( PDS).

A spokesman of the government said there were 25 lakh ration card-holders in the state, with 4.45 lakh covered under the Below Poverty Line ( BPL) category and 1.36 lakh under the Antodhaya Ann Youjna( AAY).


Congress govt ignored Gurdaspur: Sukhbir
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Kalanaur (Gurdaspur), December 13
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) today organised a rally in the Kalanaur area represented by former minister and district president of the party, Sucha Singh Langah.

The SAD and BJP leaders including Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal and Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu criticised the Congress for ignoring the border district.

Mr Badal addressing the rally said Chief Minister Amarinder Singh at political rallies and through advertisements had claimed investment of Rs 95000 crore had come in Punjab in the past five years.

However, not even a single industrial unit had come to Gurdaspur district which had 10 Congress MLAs out of total 11 Assembly constituencies from the district. Old foundry industry of Batala has died hitting economy of the district. Neither the Congress government in the state nor UPA government at the Centre had done anything for it. Claims of the Congress were false. Instead of developing industry in barren areas the Congress government had handed over fertile land of farmers to property dealers, he alleged.

The PUDA minister from the district was also involved in Janata land scam in which the green belt area of Mohali was handed over property dealers despite objections from the bureaucracy, he alleged.

Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu former BJP MP from Amritsar, said he was ready for a debate on development in the state with the Punjab Chief Minister. If I am defeated in the debate I would quit politics.

Mr Langah accused local independent MLA from Dhariwal Sucha Singh Chhottepur of getting false cases registered against SAD workers. Mr Chhottepur, who has the support of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh used the police against SAD workers. If voted to power the SAD would get inquiries initiated against the officers who used false cases against the party workers, he said.

Mr Sewa Singh Sekhwan and Mr Nirmal Singh Kahlon also alleged SAD workers in their areas had been framed at the behest of the ruling party ministers.

Mr Badal also announced sops for the poor. He said the SAD would provide Wheat Flour at Rs 4 kg, pulses at Rs 20 per kg. Financial support for marriage of poor girls under the Shagun scheme would be increased from Rs 5100 to Rs 15000, old age pension from Rs 200 to Rs 400 and free electricity units for poor from 200 to 400.

Mr Balbir Singh Badh SAD MLA from Sri Hargobindpur, Mr Gursharan Singh Laddy and Mr SS Cheema, were other SAD leaders present at the rally.


Farmers block rail traffic, oppose land acquisition
Tribune Reporters

Bathinda, December 13
Activists of several farmer bodies today blocked railway traffic on the Bathinda-Barnala section and road traffic on the GT road in Rampura Phul for a couple of hours in the afternoon in support of their demands.

Addressing protesters, the state general secretary of the BKU Ekta, Buta Singh Burjgill, charged the state government with ruining farmers by acquiring their land at throwaway prices in the name of development. He said the move would lead the country to foodgrains crisis, as Punjab contributed a lions share to the Central foodgrain pool. He said the acquisition of farmers’ land for industrial and real estate purposes would spell disaster for the state. He urged all farmer bodies to join hands to defeat “anti-farmer” policies of the government. District BKU Ugraha president, Shingara Singh Mann, said farmers like Sarmukh Singh Jethuke, Balwant Singh and Jagroop Singh lost their lives during the agitation and they would not let their sacrifices go waste. “We would not rest before restoring land to the farmers of Dhaula, Sanghera and Fatehgarh Chhana villages,” he added. Flaying the government, he said while AICC president Sonia Gandhi had made it clear that fertile land should not be acquired for industries or special economic zones, the Punjab government was “implementing WTO policies by acquiring farmers’ land for big business houses”. He alleged Opposition leader, Parkash Singh Badal, had also kept mum on the issue due to “pressure from various quarters”. He accused Mr Badal of putting people’s issues on the back burner and celebrating birthday in grand style in Moga. Mr Hardev Singh Jaisinghwala of the BKU, Sidhupur, alleged moneylenders were taking over the possession of land of debt-ridden farmers with government’s help.

AMRITSAR: Rail traffic remained disrupted for more than two hours as hundreds of farmer activists belonging to various farmer organisations, including Bharatiya Kisan Union, the Kisan Sangharash Committee, the Jamhoori Kisan Sabha and the Kirti Kisan Union on Wednesday protested against the alleged anti-farmer policies of the government by blocking the rail traffic.

The farmers carrying placards and banners were raising slogans against the government. The leaders of various organisations, while addressing the demonstrators, criticised the state government which failed to safeguards the interests of farmers. According to reports, Flying Mail, Garib Rath, Shan-e-Punjab and Shatabdi Express were delayed. Certain trains could not arrive at the railway station and had to stop outside the platform. The organisations appealed to the government to waive the farmers’ loans, besides waiving the electricity and water bills of farmers.

SANGRUR: On the call of nine farmers’ organisations, farmers and activists of farmer organisations today blocked rail/road traffic at six places in Sangrur and Barnala districts opposing the acquisition of land of farmers in various parts of the state, especially 376 acres in Dhaula, Fatehgarh Chhanna and Sangherra villages, near Barnala, by the government for the Trident Group.

The activists and members of the Kirti Kisan Union, the BKU (Sidhupur), and the Zamhoori Kisan Sabha, Punjab blocked rail traffic at the Ubhawal railway level crossing at Sangrur and staged a dharna there for two hours.

Mr Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan, general secretary of the BKU (Ekta-Ugrahan), giving details of the blockade of rail and road traffic for two hours by farmers in other parts of the Sangrur and Barnala districts said farmers and activists of the BKU (Ugrahan), the Punjab Kisan Sabha (PKS) and the Zamhoori Kisan Sabha (ZKS) blocked rail and road traffic at Chhajli village (near Sunam) while the rail traffic was blocked at the Dhuri railway station by activists of the BKU (Ugrahan), the PKS and the ZKS in the Sangrur district. The roads were also blocked for two hours by farmers and members of various farmer organisations at Dhaula village, Mehal Kalan village and Bhadaur village in Barnala district, he added.

ABOHAR: The Jamhoori Kisan Sabha farmers blocked traffic on the national highway 10 this afternoon for two hours. They also disrupted earth work for the Abohar-Fazilka railway line project near Dangarkhera village.

Farmers from different villages gathered at Burajmuhar village and held a rally. Mr Gurmail Singh, district BKU secretary and others criticised the government for not compensating the farmers who had lost land for 42-km Rail line. They regretted that tenants in possession of the land in government seed farm had been denied compensation. As there had been no progress in the construction of bridges over canals/sub canals the completion of the Rail line might be delayed, they said and questioned the propriety of uprooting crops and fruit plants for earth work.


Farmers stage dharna, block traffic
Tribune News Service

Rajpura, December 13
Up in the arms against the ruling Congress government, a number of farmers belonging to nine kissan organisations staged a dharna and blocked the Delhi-Amritsar railway line for over two hours here today. However, the train service was restored after the agitation ended.

Raising slogans against the state government because of its anti-farmers policies, the agitators blocked the railway line and roads at various places. Mr Prem Singh Bhangu, state president of the All-India Kirti Kissan Sabha (AIKKS) said the farmers had been demanding that the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, and the Special Economic Zones Act, 2005, be scraped because the government had been acquiring fragile land at throwaway prices and giving it to big industrial houses like Reliance, DLF, Trident and other private investors to benefit them.

The protestors also criticised the failure of the government to get any relief package from the Centre on the pattern of southern states. They demanded that the total debt of the farmers be waived off and they be given the loan on 4 per cent rate of interest in future. They also demanded that the minimum support price of wheat to be fixed at Rs 1100 per quintal and the recommendations of Dr Swami Nathan in case of the minimum support price be implemented.


PCL bungling: SC notice awakens a sleeping VB
Maneesh Chhibber
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 13
Almost 10 years after it began investigating corruption charges against Mr A.S. Gill, the then Managing Director of Punjab Communications Ltd (PCL), Mr R.S. Chawla, a senior official in the financial branch of the company, and some other officials, the Punjab Vigilance Bureau (VB) has now been forced to wake up and try to get its act together.

For the Supreme Court of India has sought a status report from it regarding the progress in the case which was registered in 1997. On October 30, a Division Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Mr Justice A.R. Lakshmanan and Mr Justice Tarun Chatterjee issued notices returnable within six weeks. The next date of the case is December 15.

However, while Mr Gill is no longer employed with PCL, Mr Chawla is still on a senior post in the company. Two other accused, Lt-Col Inderjit Singh (retd) and Col. Jaswant Singh (retd), were allowed to retire after getting full retirement benefits.

A case had been registered by the VB after a preliminary inquiry into the complaint of Mr H.S. Ahluwalia, former Manager (Materials), PCL, found that prima facie there was truth in the complaint. The inquiry report had recommended registration of an FIR against the then MD, Mr Gill, and other officials after completing the preliminary and regular inquiry. In his complaint, Mr Ahluwalia had alleged that the report of the AG Audit Review Committee dated May 15, 1995, had clearly indicated large-scale bungling but no action was taken. He had further alleged that he was running from pillar to post but the VB had neither pursued the inquiry nor had it closed the file.The report had observed that costly items were found either missing or lost during physical verification. The total loss caused to the concern was over Rs 28.47 crore.

Among the other allegations levelled by Mr Ahluwalia were awarding of contracts without advertisements, sale of shares at prices lower than those offered by some parties, awarding of a contract worth Rs 10 crore to a Chandigarh-based firm, M/S Meltro, in which the wife of the then MD was a sleeping partner, etc.

But, despite making loud noises, the VB did nothing to bring the guilty to book. In the meantime, the accused started allegedly harassing the complainant. Apart from arbitrarily transferring him, the PCL management even did not allow him to take voluntary retirement. His request for voluntary retirement was treated as resignation.

Not only this, the top brass of the PCL even resorted to legal action to force him to withdraw. As many as eight civil suits were filed against him, claiming damages from him for defamation. Among these suits was one filed by Mr Gill, which was dismissed with costs.

A false FIR was also filed against Mr Ahluwalia for theft etc. Ironically, while despite prima facie establishment of charges levelled by him, no action was initiated by the VB against the PCL bosses, acting on the FIR, the Ropar Police wasted no time in arresting him in the theft case. However, a Kharar court threw out the police case, holding that it had been lodged to harass Mr Ahluwalia.

Peeved with continuing harassment, Mr Ahluwalia, in a letter addressed to the ADGP, Vigilance, even asked him to either complete the inquiry or close it so that he was no more harassed by the accused.

In yet another instance of Punjab Police inefficiency, a complaint submitted by one Pradeep Kumar, Deputy Manager, citing irregularities by PCL top brass, evoked no action, while Mr Pradeep Kumar was dismissed from service.

However, finally waking up from its deep slumber following the SC notice, the VB has re-started investigations.


Petition under RTI pending for 8 months
Controversial use of forest funds
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 13
Some information is truly precious and really hard to get. Just as the one which former honorary Wildlife Warden of Hoshiarpur, Mr Gunraj Singh, has been seeking under the Right to Information Act for eight months, and not getting.

Under the Act, the authority must provide the information within 30 days. If the information demanded is voluminous - as it is in this case- the authority can take longer, but not months. But Gunraj Singh's case has lingered for far too long despite the fact that he has paid over Rs 24,000 to get the required records that run into more than 11,000 pages.

Still, only part of the information demanded has been provided, says Mr Singh, whose patience is ready to snap. Since April 17 when he filed his first application asking Divisional Forest Officer, Hoshiarpur, Mr R.R. Kakkar, to give details of expenditure made from January 1, 2005 to March 31, 2006, the projects where money was spent, village-wise detail and detail of master roll issued work-wise and range wise for April 2006, incomplete records have been forthcoming.

This has happened despite repeated intervention of the State Information Commission, Punjab, which has issued at least three orders on the complaints of Mr Singh. In its final order dated November 27, the Commission had directed the respondent to hand over complete records to Mr Singh in the presence of Principal Chief Conservator of Forests yesterday, but even yesterday the record provided was incomplete.

In Chandigarh to receive the records, Mr Gunraj Singh said the DFO, Hoshiarpur, was not parting with crucial records that could prove a possible bungling of forest funds in Punjab. "The Japan Bank International Corporation (JBIC) project was meant to enhance plantations in Punjab. But we know the state forest cover has declined significantly between 2001 and 2003. The forest cover has come down from 2432 sq km in 2001 to 1580 sq km in 2003. Where is the plantation? Where has the JBIC money gone?"

Mr Singh has not got answers to several of his crucial questions. These pertain to the village-wise, range-wise detail of survival rate of plantations made under the JBIC project between 2002-2003 and 2005-2006 and the copy of master roll register from the year 2002-2003 to 2005-2006 under all forestry and soil conservation works carried out in Hoshiarpur Forest Division.

The other count where the DFO, Hoshiarpur, is yet to satisfy the complainant is total (not just JBIC expenditure) done by him on all forestry and soil conservation projects since the DFO took charge in Hoshiarpur.

Interestingly, even the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Punjab, mentioned in his order yesterday that the information provided by the DFO, Hoshiarpur, on the above-mentioned counts was incomplete. He has now issued verbal instructions to do the needful.

As for Mr Singh, the road to information is long, really long.


Original layers of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s time found
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 13
Conservation architects have found original layers of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s time at Ram Bagh here, housing the summer palace of the Sikh ruler.

They have also found an earthen sanitation system during the intensive digging operation, prevalent in those days.

Though the earthen pipes are broken at many places, those has given an overview of the sanitation system.

The team of conservationists, led by Ms Gurmeet Rai, Director of the Cultural Resource Conservation Initiative (CRCI), has also come across vital evidence at the garden as recorded in the “Gulgashat-e-Punjab”, manuscript of Tota Ram.

After the digging operation, conservationists have confirmed that there are foundations and other layers of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s period buried under the soil.

The original foundation of the boundary wall housing the “Char Bagh” has been found near one of the “chhatris” of the garden.

The CRCI has engaged Ms Priyaleen Singh, Professor, Department of Architecture, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, Mr Rawal Singh Aulakh, project manager, Mr Rachan Puneet Singh, Mr Ajaideep Singh Turna, Ms Gitika and Ms Tripta, all project architects, for the conservation and revitalisation of projects here.

The total cost of the conservation plan is Rs 2.50 crore, which has already been released by the state government.

The team has noticed the traditional roofing system of the summer palace after removing the false ceiling.

The heritage building had suffered damage during British rule and in independent India by way of unscientific alterations.

Fenestrations in the first floor, that overlooked the double-height central hall of the summer palace, was filled with additions.

Such additions might be removed during the conservation drive with a view to reviving the pristine glory of the palace.

A total station survey, prepared by Delhi-based surveyors, would be a guiding force during the restoration plan.

The total area of Ram Bagh was nearly 75 acres as compared to the popular belief that it measured 84 acres.

The “protected” monument, constructed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh on the pattern of Shalimar Bagh in Lahore, remained in a pitiable condition for long due to indifference.


Martyr’s bust missing from Rambagh
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 13
In what could be regarded as disrespect to a great martyr,local hero and winner of Vir Chakra (posthumous) Capt Lalit Mohan Bhatia’s bust was found missing from the pedestal located at the historic Rambagh.

Mr Brij Bedi, social activist, who on December 14 every year (Captain Bhatia’s martyrdom day) pays floral tributes at the memorial, said he was ashamed to find the bust of the statue missing from the platform raised by the municipal authorities.

Mr Bedi said on being questioned a security guard posted by the Archaeology Department at Maharaja Ranjit Singh Memorial museum said he had not seen the bust for quite some time. The administration and the locals have failed to protect the memorial of the soldiers who laid down the lives while defending the country, he added. Even the citation of Captain Bhatia had been dug out and barricades around the pedestal removed.

When contacted the Army PRO, Mr Naresh Vij, said the Army had nothing to do with the removal of the bust. He,however, added that the civil administration was responsible for the proper upkeep the memorial.

Meanwhile, the Municipal Commissioner, Mr K.S. Kang, said he was not aware of the disappearance of the bust but added that since the Archaeological Department was looking after the upkeep of the historic Rambagh, they might be able to throw some light on it.


Kathunangal to be shifted to ICU
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 13
The medical board, constituted by the Senior Medical Officer, has recommended shifting of Sawinder Singh Kathunangal, a ruling party MLA, from the local Civil Hospital to the intensive care unit (ICU) of Guru Nanak Dev Hospital. Kathunangal, who was sent to the local Central Jail in a forgery case, was shifted to the Civil Hospital on December 11.

According to Dr Rajinder Singh, Civil Surgeon, Kathunangal was a chronic patient of hypertension and needed to be shifted to the ICU. The recommendations of the medical board would help Kathunangal stay away from the Central Jail for a long time.

Media persons were not allowed to meet Kathunangal following publication of adverse reports in a section of the Press. However, senior politicians and his supporters continued to make a beeline to the hospital.


Chief Secy’s grade for 5
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 13
The Punjab Government has given the pay scale of Chief Secretary to five IAS officers of the 1974 batch of the Punjab cadre.

A couple of weeks ago the government had promoted IPS officers till the 1974 batch as DGPs.

The scale of Chief Secretary has been given to Mr J.S Maini, Mr P. Ram, Mr Vijay Kain, Mr Ramesh Inder Singh and Mr R.N. Gupta.

With the addition of five names, the state has 14 officers, including Mr K.R. Lakhanpal, in the grade of Chief Secretary.

Out of these, four officers - Ms Satwant Reddy, Mr Amitabh Pande, Mr Ramesh Inder Singh and Mr J.S. Maini - are at present posted with the Central Government.


Meter inspectors, readers say no to strike
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 13
An emergency meeting of the meter inspectors and meter readers of the Punjab State Electricity Board was held here today under the presidentship of Thakur Kamal Raj Singh, president of the union. The meeting, held at Baradari Gardens, decided not to participate in the general strike called by the other unions on December 14, as it termed it a politically motivated action leaving aside the demands of the employees, he added.

Meanwhile, the Worker’s Federation (INTUC) of the PSEB at a meeting held today decided not to participate in the strike called by the other unions on December 14 also and demanded regularisation of all workcharge workers and promotion for linemen. The president of the federation, Sardar Swaran Singh, also demanded a raise in the secretariat allowance from Rs 60 to 120 and give all facilities to the retired employees on the pattern of Schedule Castes and Backward Classes.


Cancel Bhattal’s bail, complainant to HC
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, December 13
Even as the Punjab Government has moved an application for withdrawal of the case of alleged corruption against Deputy Chief Minister, Punjab, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, the complainant in the matter, Mr Balwant Singh Dhillon, has now approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court, seeking cancellation of bail granted to her in view of threats being held out to him against pursuing the matter.

Sometime back, the Punjab Government had moved an application before the Special Judge, Chandigarh, seeking permission to withdraw the case. The application is still pending.

A case under the Prevention of Corruption Act had been registered against Mrs Bhattal by the Vigilance Bureau, Punjab, on the basis of a complaint filed by Mr Dhillon. In his complaint, Mr Dhillon had accused Mrs Bhattal of fraudulently withdrawing Rs 20 lakh from the Chief Minister's Fund in 1996-97 when she was the Chief Minister.

In his plea, Mr Dhillon has alleged that the Punjab Chief Minister's Media Adviser B.I.S. Chahal had spoken to him and warned against pursuing the case now that the state had decided to withdraw the same. The complainant has also stated that the security provided to him all these years by the state government had also been withdrawn.

His application is likely to be taken up for hearing shortly.


EPF, pension money awarded to 2 labourers
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, December 13
In two different complaints, filed by Sogarath Paswan and Sabar Ali, both residents of Malerkotla, the Sangrur District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum has directed the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner, Bathinda; Chairman, Board of Trustees, Employees Fund Organisation, New Delhi; and Punjab National Bank, Malerkotla (all opposite parties); to pay them 
their respective amounts of employees’ provident fund and pension scheme.

The forum has also directed them to pay Rs 3,000 as compensation on account of mental agony and harassment, and Rs 1,000 as litigation fee to each complainant.

The forum has directed the defendants to settle the claim of Sogarath Paswan and pay him Rs 19,642 and Rs 1,232 as employees provident fund (EPF) and family pension fund, respectively, along with interest at the rate of 9 per cent per annum from the date as to when such amount became due and payable till realisation.

In case of Sabar Ali, the forum has directed the defendants to settle the claim and pay him Rs 23,016 and Rs 524 along with 9 per cent per annum interest.

Sogarath Paswan and Sabar Ali had been working as labourers in the food storage depot (FSD) of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) at Malerkotla.

They had complained to the forum that the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner, Bathinda, and Chairman, Board of Trustee, Employees Fund Organisation, New Delhi, had allotted them provident fund account Nos. PN-12598/86 and PN-12858/21.

Thereafter their services were placed under direct payment system (DPS) from January 1, 1995.

Later their claims of the EPF Scheme, 1952, and Employees Pension Scheme, 1955, duly signed by the Assistant Manger (D), FCI, Malerkotla, were sent to the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner, Bathinda.

They complained that the defendants had returned their claims with remarks that these had already been settled in 1997-98 and the amounts of their claims deposited in their respective bank accounts.

The complainants, however, contended that the amount had never been deposited in their accounts despite repeated requests and legal notices on November 27, 2003.


Akali councillor shot at
Manish Sirhindi
Tribune News Service

Moga, December 13
Mr Joginder Singh, a sitting Akali councillor of the Moga civic body, was shot at by a local resident here. He was admitted to the Civil Hospital. His condition was stated to be critical.

According to the police, Mr Joginder Singh was allegedly shot at by Tara Singh, a resident of Bahana Road. The police said Mr Joginder Singh was returning from his farm in his car where Tara Singh had met him and sought lift to reach Moga town. However, when the two reached Akalsar Road here, Tara Singh allegedly started firing shots from his revolver leaving him seriously injured. He was rushed to the Civil Hospital.

Later a case was registered against Tara Singh, who was reportedly drunk at the time of the incident. The accused was yet to be arrested.


Patwari held taking bribe
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 13
The Patiala Vigilance Bureau has arrested a patwari while accepting bribe at Sirhind yesterday.

A team led by DSP Jaspal Singh Hans nabbed Gurinder Kumar when he was about to pocket a bribe amount of Rs 1,000 from the complainant Iqbal Singh, a resident of Sirhind. The government witnesses in the case were Mr Kuldeep Singh Joshan, Chief Agricultural Officer, Fatehgarh Sahib, and Mr Gurmail Singh, Senior Assistant, District Education Officer, Fatehgarh Sahib.

A case has been registered against the patwari.


Body exhumed
Tribune News Service

Banur, December 13
The body of 28-year-old Darshan Singh, who was reported missing on December 7, was exhumed from a dried-up pond on the outskirts, here, today. Darshan Singh, a resident of Ward No 8, was allegedly hacked to death with a "spade", by his friend Avtar Singh.

The details came to light when the Rajpura police questioned Avtar Singh after Mr Kaka Ram, brother of the deceased, filed a complaint against the accused.

Mr Manmohan Kumar, Deputy Superintendent of Police, said, during questioning Avtar Singh admitted to have murdered Darshan Singh as he had been ‘eyeing his teenager sister’.

He also led the police to the site where Avtar Singh had been buried.

A case has been registered against the accused.


Rs 5 lakh looted from SBI branch

Ferozepore, December 13
Three unidentified youths allegedly entered the State Bank of India’s branch at Jhoke More village under Mamdot block and forcibly locked all employees and customers inside a room before decamping with Rs 5,16,707.

The SSP said at 1 p.m. today, two motorcyclists and a scooterist came to this SBI branch. At that time Dharampal, a security staff deputed to guard the bank, was taking a nap. These youths snatched his gun and took him inside the bank. He along with bank employees and five customers was locked inside a room at a gun point. — OC


2 arrested with fake notes
Tribune New Service

Bathinda, December 13
The Dayalpura police today arrested two persons and seized fake notes worth Rs 8,900 from them. Those arrested are Abdul Gaffar and Beant Singh. Preliminary investigation revealed that one Ramesh Kumar used to supply fake currencies to them from Rajasthan for circulating them in the market. A case has been registered.


Lend us an ear
Jailed teachers raise slogans against minister
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 13
Angered over the failure of talks between state government representatives and their union leaders, government-aided schoolteachers and other employees lodged in the Burail Jail raised slogans against the state Finance Minister Surinder Singla today for his alleged rigid attitude.

Raising of slogans began in the morning and continued for hours. The state president of the Punjab State-Aided School Teachers and Other Employees Union, Mr Gurcharan Singh Chahal, said the stir would continue till the state government fulfilled their demands.

The agitating teachers condemned the indifferent attitude of the state government towards the demands of the teaching community.

They said if the state government released them from the jails in a bid to sabotage their agitation, they would again court arrest and the process would go on till their demands were met.

Dr Gurmit Singh, state secretary of the union, said the first phase of the Jail Bharo Andolan had been completed. They would hold protests across the state from December 14 to 16 during the second phase of the agitation. Meanwhile, the school would remain closed till their next announcement, he added.

He further added that the December 15 rally in the constituency of the Education Minister had been postponed as they were in the process of talks with the government.

Meanwhile, 322 teachers and other employees, including 88 women, hailing from various parts of Punjab, courted arrest in Sector 17 here this afternoon. They raised slogans against the authorities and lambasted the state government for not restoring the pension scheme. They were sent to the Burail Jail later in the evening.


Resentment among computer teachers
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, December 13
Resentment prevails among the computer teachers against the state government for not issuing the letter despite making an announcement about two months ago regarding an increase in their salaries to Rs 7,000 per month.

Mr Gurvinder Rattan, senior vice-president of the Punjab Computer Teachers Union, said here today the state government had backtracked from the announcement made near Divali by Mr Partap Singh Bajwa, Education Minister, that computer teachers would be given ETT teachers’ pay scale. He said instead of giving the computer teachers the pay scale of ETT teacherss, the government announced Rs 7,000 per month for them. He said this amount was insufficient in view of their higher qualifications.

Mr Rattan said that the computer teachers would hold a rally on December 19 at Chandigarh to press the state government to accept their demands and give them justice.


Employees’ rally at Kahnuwan on Dec 18
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 13
The Punjab State Aided School Teachers and Other Employees Union said today that the first phase of their Jail Bharo agitation ended today with 300 teachers, including, 100 women teachers, courting arrest.

Mr K.K. Joshi, acting president of the union, said the second phase of the agitation would begin on December 18 when a rally by teachers and other employees would be held at Kahnuwan in Gurdaspur district. Kahnuwan is an Assembly segment represented by Education Minister Partap Singh Bajwa.

The union is agitating for revival of the 1992 pension scheme for teachers and other employees, among other things.

Meanwhile, there is confusion regarding approval to fill vacant posts in aided schools. While the Chief Minister's office says that permission to get all such sanctioned posts filled was given by the Council of Ministers some months ago, the School Education Mr Mr Manohar Lal Chopra, adviser to the union , said it was unfortunate that neither the government was sanctioning fresh posts, though the number of students in aided schools had gone up, nor was it giving permission for the vacant posts to be filled.

He urged the Chief Minister to intervene to get the demands of the union accepted.


Dr Engles appointed Dean
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 13
Dr Derick Engles has been appointed as the Dean, Faculty of Engineering and Technology, Guru Nanak Dev University, till June 30, 2008. This was stated in a press note issued here today.

He had held various academic positions since 1983 and is presently serving his second term as the Professor and Head, Department of Electronics Technology of the university. He specialises in areas like microwave, optical fiber and modeling of optical fiber components. He has also published articles in various national and international journals.


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