P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Nothing special; CM claims Rs 12,191-cr largesse
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 20
Even though the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, has not announced any special package for Punjab, yet the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today claimed that the PM had given projects worth over Rs 12,191 crore to the state.

Referring to the delay in the launching of the Halwara Civil Airport project, the Chief Minister said there was a difference of the opinion on the project between the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Ministry of Defence. He categorically said the Prime Minister was keen to implement this project and it had been delayed temporarily due to some technical reasons.

The Prime Minister, however, patted the Chief Minister for 'working tirelessly and with vigour’ to take the state further on the road to progress.

Dr Manmohan Singh claimed that the Punjab Government had made efforts to take agriculture in the state to new horizons beyond paddy and wheat cultivation.

He said apart from developing a special economic zone in Amritsar, textile parks had been sanctioned for Ludhiana and Barnala and an industrial park for Batala.

The Prime Minister said the Railways had also decided to develop Amritsar, Jalandhar and Ludhiana railway stations into stations with world-class amenities. A logistics park was being planned by the Railways near the railway freight corridor at Ludhiana. Also, Amritsar airport was being modernised at a cost of Rs 80 crores. Capt Amarinder Singh thanked the Prime Minister for announcing a bonanza of Rs 12,191 crore for the overall development and prosperity of the state during his visit to Amritsar.

Addressing mediapersons at the Rajasansi Airport soon after the Prime Minister left for New Delhi, Capt Amarinder Singh said: ”We have a received a financial grant of Rs 22,637.80 crore so far during the past two-and-a-half years from the Prime Minister, which was the highest-ever so far.” Taking a dig at Akalis, he said they could only manage a grant of Rs 50 crore from former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee for the 300th anniversary of the Khalsa Panth, out of which they only spent Rs 43 crore and swindled Rs 7 crore.


Amend Gurdwara Act: SGPC
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 20
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today visited the Golden Temple in the morning paid obeisance and listened ‘Gurbani’ as humble devotee for 20 minutes here.

He was honoured with a ‘Siropa’ (robe of honour) by head granthi Giani Gurbachan Singh in the presence of SGPC chief, Avtar Singh in the sanctum sanctorum. However, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh was not honoured with a ‘siropa’ starting fresh controversy in Sikh circles.

Later, Dr Manmohan Singh visited the Durgiana temple and paid obeisance there too. The head priest of the temple honoured him with a ‘siropa’ here too. Mr Harnamdas Arora, president, Durgiana Committee, submitted to the Prime Minister a memorandum which demanded extension of the elevated road from Bhandari bridge to Durgiana temple, developing the temple for visitors and providing funds for the beautification of the shrine.

Bibi Kiranjot Kaur, an SGPC member, insisted on sitting behind the Prime Minister when he was listening to kirtan. This is perhaps the first time that the Shiromani Committee allowed a woman to sit with the ‘raagis’ in the sanctum sanctorum of the Golden Temple. However, Mrs Preneet Kaur, wife of the Chief Minister, preferred to sit with women in the sanctum sanctorum itself as per age-old ‘Maryada’. On the other hand, the Chief Minister was seen sitting behind the SGPC chief, who sat next to the Prime Minister.

Later, Mr Avtar Singh, president, SGPC, submitted a memorandum to the PM enlisting various demands. It sought an amendment to the Sikh Gurdwara Act-1925 for providing 10 co-options as 50 lakh Sikhs were residing overseas, redesigning of the fifth and sixth phase of corridor keeping in view facilities of devotees and tourists, it urged the PM for acquiring the Braham Buta Market and a major part of Katra Ahluwalian as open space in front of Harmandar Sahib complex falls short in view of inflow of devotees.

The SGPC memorandum also demanded return of rich literary treasure of Sikh Reference Library, taken by the Army after Operation Bluestar in 1984, taking up the issue of turbans with the French government for withdrawing the restriction imposed upon the Sikh students studying in the schools there, exclusive rights to run the regular bus service between India and Pakistan. It also wanted taking up of the matter with the Bangladesh government for allowing granthis and sevadars for resuming daily services at the three main historical Sikh shrines in Bangladesh.


Gobindgarh Fort belongs to people now: PM
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 20
The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, today handed over the key of the historic Gobindgarh Fort to the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh. With this he has accepted the long-pending demand of the Punjabis.

“Today, its (fort’s) doors have been thrown open and it now belongs to all of you. I am extremely happy that I have the privilege of handing it over to you. I am sure this fort will become a major centre of tourist attraction in Amritsar", Dr Manmohan Singh said.

The Prime Minister said this fort had been in the Government of India’s custody for decades. “Gobindgarh Fort has a special place in our hearts. It is closely linked to Maharaja Ranjit Singh. It went into the possession of the British more than 150 years ago and since then it has been out of reach for the people of the state”, he added. The Army had tried its best to keep the buildings in the fort intact. However, reservations are already being expressed whether the state government would be able to preserve its original glory.

The fort also houses the Phansi Ghar which has already aroused tremendous curiosity among local freedom fighters and public. A large number residents of the city, who had lost their dear ones during summary trials under the British rule, had desperately been trying to gather information about their relatives who were hanged to death in the Phansi Ghar. However, the Army had no information or the list of those executed by the British prior to the Independence.

The fort has been a witness to many nameless freedom fighters who kissed the gallows willingly. Gen O Dyer's office-cum-residence was located just opposite the Phansi Ghar. It is said he got sadistic pleasure in watching the patriots being hanged in there.

The British Army had added the Darbar Hall, Hawa Mehal and the Phansi Ghar to the fort after they annexed Punjab. After Partition, the fort was used to provide temporary shelter to a large number of refugees from Pakistan. In October 1948, the fort was handed over to the Indian Army. The fort occupied a unique place in the Indian military history. Built in 1760, it was called Bhangian da Kila (Bhangis was one of the 12 Sikh misles). According to historians, in 1808 the fort was known as the fort of Gujjar Singh Bhangi. Later Maharaja Ranjit Singh re-built it with the help of Jodh Singh. The legendary Maharaja fortified the fort in order to keep his treasures and treaties safely. The specially constructed ‘toshakhana’, in the centre of the fort, was used to store a large amount of grains and provisions for his 12,000-strong army.

The bricks and lime were used to construct the fort. It has numerous army bastions and iron gates. About 25 cannons were placed on the fort’s ramparts. These have now been replaced with modern weaponry. The fort was constructed on a square pattern with two strong gates, four large bastions and well-defined rampart.

The majestic entrance has been named Nalwa Gate, after the great Sikh warrior. The other end of the gate is known as Keelar Gate and it is rumoured that in its proximity existed an escape tunnel, connecting to a tunnel in Lahore. However, the army authorities said they had not been able to locate any such tunnel so far.


Nostalgic PM

Amritsar, December 20
Memories of the Partition and his own relocating from Pakistan to Amritsar came vividly to mind of Prime Minister.

In his speech, Dr Singh said: "In many ways, Amritsar is my home. In 1947, when India gained Independence, my family settled in Amritsar. I still have fond memories of the Amritsar of those days. Amritsar was a leading city, not only of India but also of the entire region.

“Amritsar was the foremost centre of India's trading and commercial relations with Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asia. It was a magnificent and prosperous city where people came not only to pray at Harminder Sahib but also to make their fortunes.

“The Partition caused a great deal of harm to the industry and trade of Amritsar. Ancient trading routes got cut off and the border rose like a wall very close to the city. It is my earnest hope and desire that Amritsar once again regains its lost glory.”



*Like his previous visit to his home town, Dr Manmohan Singh spoke in Punjabi from the written speech.

*Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, president, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, seemed upset when he was accommodated in the second row on the dais while Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Deputy Chief Minister, was sitting next to the Prime Minister .

*A deputation of the SAD(A) led by party president Simranjit Singh Mann and including Mr Ram Singh and Mr Gurjatinder Singh Bhikhiwind, both general secretaries of the party, was among those who met the Prime Minister.

*Most of the supporters of different MLAs/Ministers in the audience would disturb the speeches including that of PM by raising slogans in favour of their respective mentors. — TNS


100 agitating farmers held

Amritsar, December 20
The police and the administration today had some anxious movements when the agitating farmers failing to get an appointment with the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, and the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, gave vent to their anger by staging a dharna on the rail tracks, thereby stalling the rail traffic for five hours.

The police swung into action after the force was released from the Prime Minister's duty and arrested 100 activists to restore the traffic on the trunk rail line which had virtually delayed the departure and arrival of many superfast trains, including Shatabdi and Shan-e-Punjab trains. — OC


PM’s visit inconveniences people
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 20
Residents of Amritsar especially residing in the Ranjit Avenue area, Court road, Albert road and the Ajnala road areas had to face inconvenience as the police had cordoned off the area due to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the city here today.

Dr Manmohan Singh was to address a rally in the Ranjit Avenue area where he reached one hour late due to his visits to the Golden Temple, the Jallianwala Bagh and the Durgiana Temple. All routes leading to the Rajasansi Airport at Ajnala road were barricaded one and half km from all directions. The people had to go via longer routes to reach their destinations and traffic was also diverted to other routes.

Even the people heading towards the place of the rally had to walk for more than one km to reach the spot.


Want promotion, get a fake degree
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, December 20
Government officials are securing invalid degrees from deemed universities for getting promotion.

Recently, the Punjab Tubewell Corporation gave temporary promotions to two officers who had secured B-Tech degrees from colleges affiliated to the Institute of Advanced Studies, Gandhi Vidya Mandir,Sardarshahar, Rajasthan.

The UGC, through a notification issued on August 23, 2005, had declared that the said deemed university was not permitted to affiliate any college or institute. So, the declaration made all degrees issued through affiliated colleges of the university invalid.

The persons who have been given promotions had secured their B-Tech degrees through correspondence courses run by the institutes affiliated to the university.

According to the orders issued by the Punjab Tubewell Corporation, a copy of which is available with The Tribune, the promotions have been given subject to the condition that the degree would be verified by Department of Irrigation, Punjab, or Director, Technical Education.

However, the officers affected by promotions have alleged that the Department has already given adhoc promotions to the persons despite the fact that the UGC notification clearly stating that the degrees issued by the affiliate colleges and universities of the Institute of Advanced Studies, Gandhi Vidya Mandir, were invalid.

They also alleged that the department should have sent the degrees of officers to the UGC instead of the Department of Irrigation for verification. The department of irrigation has no infrastructure to verify the degrees.

Besides the corporation, many officers in the Department of Irrigation have secured degrees from affiliate-institutes of deemed universities being run in the state. They are also seeking promotions on the basis of the degree that has been declared as invalid by the UGC notification.

Earlier, many teachers had secured recruitment in government service using fake degrees from out of state universities.

After the matter was reported in these columns, the Punjab and Haryana High Court, taking a suo moto notice, ordered the Education Department to verify the degrees.

In the subsequent inquiry, the degrees of about 400 teachers working in various schools across the state were found to be fake. All the teachers with fake degrees have since then been removed from job and cases of forgery have been registered against them.

A startling fact that came to the fore in the inquiry was that all degrees from Magadh University were found to be fake. After the inquiry, the higher authorities of the Department of Education also ordered the verification of persons who secured degrees from Maghad University for promotion. However, the inquiry was never carried out.

If the inquiry was initiated against the persons who secured promotions using the Magadh University degrees many startling facts could have come to the fore, sources said.


India, Pak to exchange 443 fishermen

Amritsar, December 20
With the continued thaw between India and Pakistan another batch of 443 Indian and Pakistani fishermen would be repatriated on December 22 through the Wagah joint check post.

Mr Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh, DIG (Jails), said here today that he had received information from the Pakistani authorities that they were going to release 412 Indian fishermen caught by their maritime patrol off the Gujarat coast. The Government of India had also decided to release 30 Pakistani fishermen along with one civilian on the same day, he added.

The DIG said he received a fax from Jamnagar jail that 31 Pakistanis would be arriving here tomorrow by trains. They would be handed over to the Pakistani authorities at Wagah. The Indian fishermen would also be brought to the Wagah joint check post by the Government of Pakistan and after due verification they would be handed over to Indian officials for their onward journey to their home state.

A team of the External Affairs Ministry was expected to arrive here tomorrow to formally take the charge of the prisoners. — OC


Power from rice straw: Patiala village to show the way
R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 20
Ghanaur village in Patiala district has attained the unique distinction to be the pioneer for the first commercial power project based on rice straw.

This 12 mw project (equivalent to about 288,000 units a day) will be the first out of the nine similar projects, all being set up in rural Punjab.

This plant will become operational within two years followed by other similar units, which will come up within four years, generating a total of 108 mw of electricity. Each plant costing Rs 55 to 60 crore will become operational within 18 months of the commencement of the project, a company press note said here today.

The project is based on conventional stoker fired boiler capable of firing multi-type agro based fuels with condensing steam turbine. New technologies will, however, be needed to handle the bulky agro waste.

The project to be run by Punjab Biomass Power is a joint venture of ermaco Energy Systems, Gammon Infrastructure Projects, and Archean Granites.

Union Minister for Renewable Energy Vilas Muttamwar said this project would be a big benefit to Punjab farmers who were currently burning their rice straw, as it is of no commercial value to them. They would now earn from the sale of this straw and additionally benefit from the extra electricity generated locally.

He said series of such small power plants in rural Punjab under this project, with both production and consumption of electricity in a nearby areas would also result in a reduction of wasteful transmission losses.

The project is unique as it uses the agro wastes as fuel - locally available rice straw and sugar cane trash. The total annual fuel requirement is around 120,000 tonnes of biomass and no fossil fuels.

These unique “farmer to farmer” projects will provide valuable extra power to farmers, besides providing additional income of a rough average of Rs. 1,500 to 2,000 for their useless crop waste to some 10,000 to 15,000 farmers.

Punjab has about 20 million acres under paddy cultivation that yields roughly 100 million tonnes of rice straw. As it is a poor fodder and fuel, farmers burn it most of it in the fields that have to be cleared for the rabi wheat crop. This wasteful burning results in a gigantic waste of energy besides contributing to global warming. It is also a health hazard to local farmers.

The project will also be major milestone in the area of environment protection

It will also generate direct permanent employment for nearly 50 persons and indirect employment to 500-800 other persons. Collection of agricultural residues is a complex process and will lead to new opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship.

The ash generated during the combustion will be used as fertilizer with potash, phosphorus and valuable micro-nutrients to boost soil fertility in the field unlike normal burning in the where much of the ash disperses into the air, causing pollution.


Spreading Roshni in the lives of special children
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 20
Until some time ago, they were all living lonely lives. Suffering deformity of various kinds, they didn’t know what to do or where to go. But of late, suffering has taken a back seat and hope is again flickering on the horizons of their lives. Ask them what has made the vital difference and they say: “Roshni”.

For many decades now, the Roshni Rehabilitation Centre, Rajpura, has been helping the orthopaedically handicapped children from across Punjab to lead a life of dignity. Under the care of missionaries led by Father Thomas KJ, the organisation has gained a major foothold in the villages, from where they handpick disabled children for treatment. In fact, Roshni has, over the years, managed to gain support of organisations like Rotary to help it achieve the objective of medical aid for the suffering children.

But more than medical help, Roshni is known for the gift of comprehensive rehabilitation and empowerment it gives to its children. Only yesterday, one came face-to-face with six disabled children from Roshni, who are now earning their livelihoods in many inspiring ways. Mostly hailing from Rajpura, Amritsar and Jalandhar, the children are afflicted with different disabilities — from polio to paralysis, but the strain that holds them together is - the will to strive and seek for a better life.

And on the road to dignified survival, Ashok, Sukhwinder, Michael, Santosh and Sumani Rani are all walking together. Ashok, a polio-afflicted boy from Nakodar (Jalandhar), came under the care of Father Thomas about 16 years ago. Today he walks with crutches, but he is not dependent on anyone for survival.

A brilliant student, he has come out with flying colours to top all the exams he ever took. Now he has taken charge of Roshni’s centre at Rajpura and he accompanies his mentor Father Thomas to far off places. His job is to spread the message of Roshni and inspire those who are not able-bodied with zeal for life. He was in Chandigarh yesterday for a special function in which Roshni’s children were honoured by the authorities of St Kabir School.

Accompanying him was Michael, whose passion is collection and sale of rosaries and crib sets, especially for christmas. He sources them from far and wide and supplies them to churches which sell them on his behalf. Several of his crib sets are currently lying with the Sector 19 Catholic Church at Chandigarh. “I hope people will buy some,” says Michael, who has found a friend in Sukhwinder, also polio-affected. Sukhwinder runs a mobile STD business, which helps him save Rs 2000 a month.

While the boys are doing well, girls are also not far behind. Santosh, who is paralyzed on both her legs, is a gifted artist. She makes greeting cards for Christmas and New Year and craft items which Roshni sells through different agencies like schools.

Suman Rani, another special girl from Rajpura, also paints and embroiders to make a living. Her beautifully crafted letter holders and decorative items also help her earn some money. Blessed in many ways, these special children are still seeking genuine buyers. Anyone interested in buying greeting cards or other items prepared by Roshni’s children and helping their cause can contact Father Thomas at 09417523295.


SAD, Cong witness loyalty swap
Ashok Kaura

Phillaur, December 20
With Assembly poll around, change in political loyalty was witnessed here today when hundreds of Akali workers, led by SAD, Phillaur, vice-president Jasbir Singh and press secretary Shiv Nanda announced to join the Congress.

The switching over of allegiances took place at a colourful function held at the Phillaur Rest House in the presence of the Phillaur MLA, Ch Santokh Singh.

Akali Leader Jasbir Singh, while making his announcement to join the Congress, alleged that Phillaur’s former MLA Sarwan Singh Phillaur was dictatorial in attitude and appointing selfish and corrupt politicians as SAD office-bearers.

Matwinder Singh Sachdeva, Ketty Goyal, Joginder Singh, Jaswinder Singh, Gurdev Singh, Nirmal Singh, Mohan Singh, Kapilesh Goyal were among those who joined the Congress.

Former president of Mahila Congress, Phillaur, Asha Rani, along with several supporters announced to join the Shiromani Akali Dal, led by ex-MLA Sarwan Singh today.


BSP leader terms Cong, Akalis corrupt
Tribune News Service

Chamkaur Sahib (Ropar), December 20
Accusing both the Congress and the Akalis of corruption the BSP state president, Mr Avtar Singh Karimpuri, today said there was no difference between the two main political parties of the state as Akalis looted the common man during their regime while the Congress Government was now involved in the scams.

He was talking to mediapersons on the sidelines of the BSP’s political conference on the second day of Shaheedi Jor Mela here.

Denying the possibility of an alliance with any political party in the state, he said in the coming elections no party would get a majority to form the government.

The next government would be formed with their party support only.

He said BSP would be contesting in all Assembly constituencies of the state and would win a respectable number of seats.

He also declared Charanjit Ghai, as BSP’s candidate from Chamkaur Sahib.

In the Akali political conference held in the Diwan Hall of Katalsahib Gurdwara, the MLA (Akali Dal) Chamkaur Sahib, Satwant Kaur, senior Akali leader of the district, Pritam Singh Salomajra, the SGPC member, Gurinder Singh Gogi, spoke on the sacrifices made by sons of Guru Gobind Singh and other martyrs in Chamkaur Sahib.

In the absence of the senior leaders, the political conference here failed to attract the respectable gathering. Akali Dal (Mann) party too organised religious conference while the Akali Dal (1920) on this occasion organised various sports events.


Cong mobilises workers for Jor Mela
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, December 20
Dr Harbans Lal and Mr Sadhu Singh, both MLAs, today addressed a meeting of Congress workers organised by the District Congress Committee at Aam Khas Bagh here today. The aim of the meeting was to mobilise party workers and assigned duties for the proposed political conference of the Congress during the coming Saheedi Jor Mela on December 25.

It was presided over by Mr Lakhbir Singh Rai, president of the committee.

Both MLAs said the roadshow of the Chief Minister had infused a new spirit among the Congress workers and he got a overwhelming response from the people. There was a wave in favour of the Congress in the state and the party would again form the government with thumping majority. 


Rs 20-crore shops auction scam alleged
Market Committee chief writes to CM
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 20
In a missive to the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, the Chairman of the Market Committee, Mr Dharam Bir Sareen, has alleged that around 100 shops of the committee were sold without “auction”, thereby causing a loss of Rs 20 crore to the state exchequer.

Mr Sareen has also written to the Chairman and Secretary, Mandi Board, demanding cancellation of the auction.

The Chairman said: "Keeping in view the approaching elections and sensitivity of the issue, I have an apprehension that the whole episode has the potential of damaging the party’s image and causing embarrassment to the government".

Pointing out the alleged irregularities committed in the open auction of shops/booths in the grain market (Bhagtanwala) here, Mr Sareen alleged that it had already become the talk of the town.

Giving details in the letter, Mr Sareen said there were around 650 shops/booths that were to be auctioned. In the first auction held on November 23 and 24, a few shops were auctioned and the documents were signed by the officials present at the venue of the event. And the second auction did not take place on December 12 as per schedule. “To my great astonishment and concern, shops were sold without the open auction, which can be proved,” he said.

When contacted, Mr R.P. Singh, DGM, Mandi Board, claimed that Mr Sareen himself was present at the time of the auction and should not challenge the same. He alleged that Mr Sareen had raised objections as shops/booths were not allotted to his “dear and near ones” as “demanded” by him. He claimed that the auction was conducted in a free and fair manner.

Mr Sareen, while talking to The Tribune, confirmed that he had written to the Chief Minister, but refused to divulge the details. He simply said he could not give the details since it was an “internal matter” of the Market Committee.

However, the missive of Mr Sareen to the CM further reads, “the matter is being exploited by the people who are trying to malign your image in connivance with officials involved in the auction.”

Mr Sareen wrote that it was his duty as the Chairman of the committee to apprise the Chief Minister. He sought immediate intervention of Capt Amarinder Singh to set the record straight. Mr Sareen said he should not be held responsible in case the situation was exploited out of proportions by vested interests on the basis of the “fake auction” of the 100 shops/booths.


15 Punjab battalion on UN mission to Lebanon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 20
One of the oldest and highest decorated battalions of the Army, 15 Punjab (Patiala), will proceed to Lebanon this week for deployment under a United Nations peacekeeping mandate.

Sources revealed that the first contingent is scheduled to embark on December 23. The entire battalion will be shipped in three contingents and will be in place in its area of operations by January 10. Personnel from some other arms and services are also accompanying the battalion.

15 Punjab is replacing 4 Sikh, which has had an extremely successful deployment and was awarded the United Nations Force Commander’s Citation. for its performance in peace keeping operations.

Presently commanded by Col Aditya Madan, 15 Punjab has moved from its location in western Punjab for overseas deployment. Last year it celebrated its tercentenary, where the Punjab Chief Minister released a special commemorative stamp on the battalion.

15 Punjab was raised on April 13, 1705, by Baba Alla Singh, founder of the Patiala state. It is the Army's second highest decorated battalion, with 22 Battle Honours and the Theatre Honour, "Punjab", which was conferred upon it for the Battle of Hussainiwala, where it stalled three successive attacks by a Pakistani brigade supported by armour, in 1971.

Earlier known as 1st Patiala it has fought in the Suez, Gallipoli, Palestine, Waziristan, Burma, Malaya and Batavia as part of the British Indian Army. Post-Independence, the battalion's finest moment was at Zoji La in 1948, where ill-equipped and unaclimatised troops achieved a resounding success against Pakistani raiders. It won eight Maha Vir Chakras and 18 Vir Chakras, the highest in a single operation, and the Battle Honour Zoji La. In 1951, it was re-designated as 15 Punjab (Patiala).

Operation Vijay in 1999 saw the battalion again deployed in the northern sector, where it received, among other awards, one Vishisht Seva Medal and four Sena Medals. During Operation Parakram in 2002, the battalion was involved in intensive mine- laying and mine- recovery operations.


BKU men block road traffic
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 20
Activists of the Bharatiya Kisan Union-Ekta today staged a dharna in front of the Deputy Commissioner’s office and later blocked road traffic near the bus stand for about half an hour in support of their demands.

Addressing the protesters, union leader Bhola Singh Baliawali demanded that the land of Tara Singh, a poor farmer from Raipur village in Mansa, be restored to his family and those who grabbed it be arrested.

He said the skyrocketing prices of diesel, fertilisers, pesticides and seeds had added to the woes of debt-ridden farmers of the state. He urged the government to link the prices of their produce with the price index.

The union's district president, Mr Hardev Singh Jaisinghwala, alleged that the state government was protecting the interests of industrialists and commission agents, while farmers were committing suicides. He alleged, on one hand, companies like Reliance were snatching sources of livelihood from the farmers and, on the other, the Congress regime was forcibly acquiring land. He alleged that the commission agents first ruined the agriculture sector by giving substandard seeds and pesticides to the farmers and were now trying to usurp their land.


Staff seek regularisation of services

Chandigarh, December 20
As many as 35 employees of the Punjab Energy Development Agency and Punjab GENCO Limited have urged the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, to regularise their services as is being done in the case of daily wage workers and work-charged staff.

In a representation to the Chief Minister, the employees, who are working on a contract basis against vacant posts, have stated that most of them have completed service of 11 years. Many of them are manning technical posts. They are drawing salary and allowances on a par with those given to their counterparts in other government departments. — TNS


Road rage triggers protest

Ropar, December 20
A large number of city residents today held a protest on the college road demanding a ban on plying of private buses and heavy vehicles on internal roads in the city.

The protesters said a Class VIII student of Shivalik Public School, Vineet Jolly, was crushed to death under a private school bus near Giani Zail Singh Market today.

They said due to plying of heavy vehicles on internal roads, accidents had become a routine affair. The protest came to an end after an assurance by the SDM of action in this regard. — TNS


Sajuma is Bar Assn chief
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, December 20
Mr Harkewal Singh Sajuma, was today elected president of the Sangrur District Bar Association (DBA). He defeated Mr Balbir Singh Dhillon.

Mr Gurtej Singh Grewal, out-going president of the Sangrur DBA and returning officer for the elections, said Mr Harpal Singh Cheema had been elected vice-president. Mr Cheema defeated Mr Shabeeh Haider.

Mr Grewal added no decision could be taken for the post of secretary of the DBA as Mr Kirandeep Singh Sidhu and Mr Baljit Singh got 168 votes each.

He said a decision regarding secretary of the DBA would be taken later at a meeting of the association. Mr Ajay Bansal and Mr Narinder Singh Ghuman had already been elected unanimously joint secretary and treasurer of the DBA.


Rice millers demands accepted conditionally
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 20
The Union Government has accepted two main demands of Punjab rice millers, who had stopped the delivery of rice to the Central pool about two weeks ago.

However, the Union Government has imposed a quality cut that is not acceptable to the millers. Mr Tarsem Saini, president of the Rice Millers Association, Punjab, has called a meeting of the executive committee of the association tomorrow at Kharar.

Talking to The Tribune, he said the entire issue would be discussed at the meeting. Asked whether the strike would be called off by the millers, he said he could not say anything in this regard. "The matter regarding the strike will also be discussed at the meeting", he added.

Sources said the Union Food Minister, Mr Sharad Pawar, today cleared the file giving relaxation to the rice millers regarding the percentage of damaged and discoloured rice. The FCI authorities had been told to accept rice damaged up to 4 per cent. The earlier ratio was 3 per cent. Likewise, the limit of discoloured rice has been increased to 5 per cent from 3 per cent for acceptance in the Central pool. However, the millers will have to pay a quality cut of about Rs 5.70 per quintal, it is learnt.

Mr Saini said this was unjustified. Last year also the Centre had imposed Rs 8 per quintal as quality cut.

Recently, a senior officer of the Union Food Ministry had visited Punjab to discuss the demands of the rice millers with senior officers of the Punjab Food and Supplies Department. After a report was submitted by him, the Union Government relaxed the conditions, it is learnt.


11 SSPs shifted

Chandigarh, December 20
The Punjab Government has ordered the transfer and fresh posting of 11 district police chiefs, including that of SAS Nagar (Mohali).

Mr Naunihal Singh, whose transfer was demanded by the media following an assault on a news photographer at Kharar some days ago, has been shifted to Jalandhar. His place will be taken by Mr Gurinder Singh Dhillon, who was posted in the Chief Minister’s security wing. He will be the only non-IPS cadre officer to head any of the 20 revenue districts or the three police districts.

Notably, the first orders were issued this morning to shift nine SSPs. However, late evening orders were issued to add the names of two more SSPs to the transfer list and also issue fresh posting orders for three SSPs who had been transferred in the first lot in the morning.

Mr P.K. Rai goes from Moga to Tarn Taran. In the morning he was shifted to Gurdaspur as SSP. Mr Paramraj Singh Umranangal moves from Gurdaspur to Fatehgarh Sahib. In the morning he was shifted to Tarn Taran but the orders were changed in the evening.

Mr P.K. Sinha was another officer whose transfer orders were changed in the evening. First he was shifted from Tarn Taran to the newly created district of Barnala. However, in the evening he was posted at Nawanshahr, replacing Mr Surinder Pal Singh, who has been shifted as SSP, Gurdaspur.

Mr Lok Nath goes back to Majitha as SSP while Mr Gautam Cheema will be the new police chief of Moga. Mr S.K. Asthana moves to the home district of the Chief Minister as the SSP of Patiala. Mr Pramod Ban is the new police chief of Bathinda while Mr S.K. Verma goes from Fatehgarh Sahib to the new district of Barnala.

The posting orders of Mr Ishwar Singh, SSP, Jalandhar and Mr Varinder Kumar, SSP, Bathinda, will be issued later. Both are in line for promotion to the rank of DIG. — TNS


Textbook board affairs in a mess
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 20
The functioning of the Punjab State University Textbook Board is in a mess. At one point of time it was one of the important institutions that was given the task of getting books related to various subjects published in Punjabi.

The board got published about 350 titles and assigned the task to various authors to write about 250 books. Scripts of many of the assigned books have either been completed or are near completion. But owing to the lack of interest on the part of the government authorities concerned, the board has become almost defunct as far as the publication of new titles is concerned.

The revised edition of the English-Punjabi dictionary is ready. But no one is making efforts to get it published, says Dr Gursharan Singh, former Director of the board, which is part of the Department of Higher Education.

"This is an institution of big potential and possibilities", says Dr Gursharan Singh. However, it has become non-functional, he adds. "The institution is of vital academic importance but has been ignored by all concerned. It was created in the 1970s for the development of the Punjabi language and to expand and enrich it on scientific lines", adds Dr Gursharan Singh.

The state government had given a grant to it in 1995-96 of about Rs 26 lakh. And after that no grant was released for many years. Now a grant of Rs 1.5 crore has been released.

The board has been without a professional director for many years, adds Dr Gursharan Singh, who has written a detailed letter to the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, and the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, in this regard.

Employees of the board are not entitled to pension and post-retirement medical benefits. Employees of even private aided schools have been given pension but not those of the board. "Like others, employees of the board are governed by the Punjab Civil Service Rules but are denied pension," says Dr Gursharan Singh. "After efforts put in by me, the government revised my pay scale. However, I have not got the arrears till date though I retired in 1997", he says. Employees remain without salaries for months together, he adds.

Dr Gursharan Singh has urged the Prime Minister to release a liberal grant to the board for the development and enrichment of the Punjabi language under the medium switchover programme. " It is a scheme sponsored by the Union Government under which a grant can be given to the board", he says.


Women manage things better than men: seminar
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 20
General view of scholars from different states of India participating in the UGC-sponsored seminar on “Capacity Building for Women Managers in Higher Education” was that instead of demanding reservation, the women of India should occupy managerial and other higher positions on a par with men.

The seminar on this type is being held for the first time in this part of north India at Guru Nanak Dev University under the aegis of Department of Botanical and Environmental Sciences. Dr Pushpinder Kaur, Professor of Zoology of the varsity said women of today instead of teaching and medical professions were also entering non-traditional professions of fine art, engineering and management etc.

She said the women had to perform dual responsibilities, at home and at work place. She was of the view that home environment for women professionals was not that conducive. Even in this category, 57 per cent reported beating up.

Dr Renu Bharadwaj, Coordinator of the workshop gave a frame work of 57 women studies centres in India although in Punjab there was none. Dr Geeta Pillai, Director, Women Study Centre, Rashtriya Vidya Peeth, Delhi, gave an account of research on gender equality in India. She claimed women managers performed better than men managers.

Dr Poonam Dhawan, Director, Women Study Centre, Jammu, stressed on shift from gender neutrality to gender-friendly system which should have creche facility at work place.


‘Women form 67 pc of world’s work force’
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 20
Women constitute about 67 per cent of world’s work-force. However, they earn only 10 per cent of the global income, said scholars at a UGC-sponsored seminar on “Capacity Building for Women Managers in Higher Education”, at Guru Nanak Dev University here today.

Scholars said women lecturers comprised 60 per cent of the university and college staff but their ratio suddenly declined at higher level of education to less than 30 per cent.

A survey by Dr Geetha Pillai, Director, Women Study Centre, Delhi, and Dr P.M. Rajput, it found that women occupied only less than 10 per cent positions in higher administrative levels.

The speakers focused on communication, networking and other skills for women managers.

They informed gender ratio was an important indicator in NAAC Assessment. Women teachers must be given their due for higher positions by creating conducive environment and training them in management skills. More than 50 delegates from various states are participating in the seminar.


HDFC opens branch
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, December 20
HDFC, opened its 34th branch at Fatehgarh Sahib.

Mrs Jaspreet Talwar, Deputy Commissioner inaugurated the new branch, and as Mrs Neena Singh, executive vice president of the bank presided over the function.


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