P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Militant held with RDX
Jasbir Singh Rode was travelling with him
Saurabh Malik and Kiran Deep
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh/ Ropar, December 23
In a breakthrough, the Punjab Police today seized RDX and other ammunition from a UK-based militant, Paramjit Singh Thadi.

The sources in the Punjab Police disclosed that the exact quantity of the explosives seized from Thadi was yet to be ascertained.

They added that the operation was still on and more seizures were likely by the next morning on the basis of Thadi’s disclosure statement. More arrests were also expected.

The sources said Thadi was taken into custody after the vehicle he was travelling in was intercepted at Chamkaur Sahib, 20 Km from Ropar, by a team of Punjab Police officers on a secret information. Two more persons were also arrested.

Giving details, the sources said Thadi, wanted in a criminal case by the police, was returning from nearby Kandola village after attending a religious function there.

Ropar SSP Kapil Dev said Thadi’s custody was, subsequently, handed over to the Jalandhar police as he was wanted there.

He added that action was not initiated against a former jathedar of Akal Takht, Jasbir Singh Rode, though he was travelling along with Thadi as nothing was found against him.

The sources added that it was apprehended that the ammunition was meant for creating unrest in the state. The possibility of the militants striking with these explosives during the forthcoming Assembly elections could not be ruled out.

Thadi, they asserted, would be interrogated by the police for finding out his possible links with other militants and terrorist outfits active in and outside the state.

Following the arrest, an alert has been sounded. The policemen across the state have been asked to step up vigil.

Refusing to divulge the details, Punjab’s Additional Director-General of Police (ADGP) J.P. Birdi said the police had been on a look-out for Thadi for quite some time. He added that Thadi had been frequenting Pakistan in connection with terrorist activities.


Rode’s house raided, four picked up
Dharmendra Joshi

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, December 23
Over 40 persons in plain clothes raided the house of former Akal Takht Jathedar Bhai Jasbir Singh Rode here today.

Mr Rode's wife Ms Jagdev Kaur said that the raiding party took with them four persons including Bhai Amolak Singh, a grandson of a former chief of Damdami Taksal Gurbachan Singh, Rode's gunman Baljeet Singh and their relative Jaswinder Singh.

She said the raiding party did not reveal their identity despite her insistence. It was not clear whether the raiding party was from Punjab police or from some other agency.

DIG Paramjit Singh Gill said that he did not know anything about the raid as he was in Patiala. None of the senior officials of the district including newly appointed SSP Naunihal Singh, SP City I Satinder Singh and DSP City II H.P.S. Khakh could be contacted despite repeated attempts.

Interestingly, The SHO of concerned division Mr Ashwani Kumar said he was making attempts to know who had raided Rode's house.


Sops for Punjab cops
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 23
With Assembly poll around the corner, the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today made an attempt to woo the 70,000-strong state police force by announcing a slew of welfare schemes for them.

The CM showered the dole at a ‘Police Welfare Durbar’ organised at the police lines here for the first time in the history of the reorganised Punjab. The ‘Durbar’ suited the ruling party the most as the Punjab Police plays a key role in elections.

At the function, the DGP, Punjab Police, Mr S.S. Virk, raised demands on behalf of the police force and the Chief Minister accepted the same on the spot by announcing various welfare schemes. The whole affair looked to be pre-planned.

The Chief Minister informed that the state government had already released grants of Rs 1 crore and Rs 50 lakh for PPA, Phillaur, and the Police DAV School, PAP complex, Jalandhar, respectively.

Lauding the role of the police in defeating terrorism, Capt Amarinder Singh described it as the most professional force in the country which brought total peace to the turmoiled state and in the process losing the lives of 2,100 officers and jawans, besides 900 of their kin.

DGP S.S. Virk, said anomalies in promotion of a section of rank and file of the Punjab Police would be removed shortly.


State to implement police reforms
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
The Punjab Government has decided to implement police reforms as directed by the Supreme Court. However, at a high level meeting held today, a decision was also taken to file a review petition in the Supreme Court on certain matters such as on the setting up of the district committees to supervise the functioning of the police in the countryside. A decision was taken to set up a state police board under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh. Besides the Chief Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and certain senior officials will be its members. It will be set up on the pattern recommended by the Sorabjee panel.


Badal Case
State wants charge; defence says misconceived
Maneesh Chhibber & Kiran Deep
Tribune News Service

Ropar, December 23
The Advocate-General, Punjab, Mr R.S. Cheema, today requested the special court at Ropar to expedite the hearing of the corruption case involving the former Chief Minister and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, and others. However, a former Advocate-General, Punjab, and Mr Badal’s counsel, Mr H.S. Mattewal, termed the plea misconceived.

Mr Mattewal asserted that no one could be allowed to dictate terms to the court as the state was trying to do.

It was also revealed that the Badals have already filed a review petition in the Supreme Court of India, seeking a review of its judgment with regard to corruption cases against public servants.

The very first hearing after the Supreme Court cleared the decks for the continuation of the trial of Mr Badal, his son and SAD general secretary, Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, and others in the high-profile case, saw both the sides fielding their best lawyers.

A large number of SAD leaders and workers were present in and outside the court complex as a mark of solidarity with the beleaguered leaders.

Also, in what could also be an indicator of the government eagerness to keep the Badals busy in court hearings, the Chief Director, Vigilance Bureau, Punjab, Mr Izhar Alam, was also present in the court complex during the hearing. However, he did not enter the courtroom where the hearing was taking place.

Hearing in the matter today re-started after a gap of almost two years before the Special Judge, Mr G.S Saran, with almost all the accused, except a couple, present in the court during the hearing in the jam-packed courtroom.

In view of the likelihood of situation turning bad, especially in view of the Badals’ appearance, heavy police deployment had been made outside and inside the court complex, with a strict check being maintained on the entrants to the courtroom.

The AG pleaded for framing of charges against the accused and expeditious trial. He submitted that as per the judgment of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the special court had been ordered to conclude the trial as expeditiously as possible, preferably within one year of the date of judgment, which was passed on September 2, 2004.

He said that the case had already been delayed due to litigation in superior courts. Mr Cheema argued that the charges should be framed against the accused in the case. He also cited judgments of the apex courts for day-to-day hearing for the case.

Mr Cheema was assisted by Special Public Persecutor A.P S Deol, a High Court lawyer, whose appointment was cleared yesterday, and District Attorney Pradeep Mehta.


Sukhbir case: Hearing put off till Jan 15
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, December 23
The hearing of an assault case pending against Mr Sukhbir Badal, MP and SAD (B) General Secretary, was today deferred till January 15. The Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Mr J.S. Chouhan, adjourned the hearing as Mr Badal was not present in the court. He was exempted from personal appearance after his counsel moved an application stating that Mr Badal had to appear in a Ropar court today.

The case against Mr Badal was registered on June 13 on a complaint lodged by Ajay Verma, press photographer, who had alleged that Mr Badal along with four others had attacked him during 1999 Lok Sabha elections, while he along with another press photographer, Naresh Sehgal, were covering the election process. A former Chairman of Markfed, Mr Jagdish Singh Walia, along with a former Faridkot SSP, Mr A.S. Rai, a former Faridkot SP (Headquarters), Mr Balbir Singh, and the BJP leader, Mr Raj Kumar Bansa, were also named in the FIR.

Earlier, the court had deferred the case pertaining to the complaint filed by Naresh Sehgal till April 30. The FIR in this case was registered at the Kotwali police station of Kotakapura on June 21, 2002.


Pak repatriates 70 Indian prisoners

Wagah, December 23
The trauma and agony will linger for long in the mind of Shabina Khan, who alongwith 70 other Indians, including two other women walked free to their motherland through this joint border check post.

These prisoners were all held in various jails in Pakistan for terms ranging from three to 10 years for different offences, including illegal border crossing. While four were from Punjab, one each were from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and the rest were from Jammu and Kashmir.

Narrating here tale of woe, Shabina in her early forties, who hails from Bhopal, alleged that she was apprehended by the Pakistani authorities in Islamabad about three years after she lost her passport. She had gone to Pakistan to meet relatives on the Samjautha express and to this day she regrets having gone to that country.

“I was repeatedly raped and humiliated by the Pakistani authorities and charged of being an Indian spy”, Shabina, who seemed mentally unstable, said with tears in her eyes. She claimed that even in jail she was not spared.

Such was her condition that there was no express of happiness on her face when she was told that she need not fear as she was in her own country. “I do not know where I belong to”, she said when Indian officials told her that she was from Bhopal.

About 70-odd prisoners were to be repatriated to India today, after clearance by the Pakistani authorities as the daily Retreat Ceremony commenced at the check post. As per rules, the gates on the zero line at the check post are shut and no to and fro traffic is permitted. — UNI


PoW not released
Tribune News Service

Wagah, December 23
It was a day of disappointment for members of the family of Ananda Patri, an Indian prisoner of war (PoW), captured by the Pakistani army during the 1965 Indo-Pak war.

Patri was to be repatriated along with the 70 Indian prisoners who were released here late this evening.


Aided schools’ union to confront govt on streets
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
Changing the strategy of their ongoing agitation, teachers and other employees of the Punjab Government-aided schools today decided to confront the state government on the streets of Punjab. That means 484 aided schools with about 5 lakh students will remain shut.

"From henceforth, we would hold demonstrations against the government in main cities and towns," said Mr M.L. Chopra, Adviser of the Punjab Government Aided School Teachers and Other Employees Union. " We will not court arrest and take on the government in the public domain", he added.

Yesterday, the Punjab Government, which had been holding negotiations with representatives of the agitating employees for the past several days, had declined to resume pension for teachers and other employees of aided schools on the 1992 pattern. Pension on this pattern was stopped in May, 2003.

According to the 1992 pattern, about 3,000 retired employees of these schools are getting pension. However, after May, 2003, about 1500 employees retired and were not getting any pension.

"The government had not even released the mandatory 95 per cent grant to such schools since September," alleged Mr Chopra. " The union will also organise a ‘save education’ march from Anandpur Sahib to Talwandi Saboo", he said.

"The government wanted to close down all aided schools because its intention is to commercialise education," he said. "If aided schools were shut, where would poor students go," he asked. Since there was a shortage of teachers, students from rural areas were being forced to take admission in aided schools in towns and cities, he added.


CM busy with yatra, cops with batons
Tribune News Service

Sherpur/Dhuri, December 23
On the one hand there was a big response to the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh's Punjab Vikas Yatra today in several parts of the three Assembly constituencies - Sherpur, Dhuri and Malerkotla - on the other hand, the aided-school teachers faced the wrath of the police.

The police lathi-charged the teachers at Dhuri before the arrival of the yatra, when the teachers started their protest march in the town to get their demands fulfilled. A large number of teachers were also reportedly taken in custody by the police. Mr Raj Mohinder, secretary of Barnala unit of the Punjab State Aided School Teachers and other Employees Union, alleged that about 100 persons in plain clothes and about 60 policemen had beaten up the aided- school teachers though they had been taking out a peaceful march. Some teachers had sustained injuries while the police had arrested more than 200 teachers.

On the other hand, Mr Jagjit Singh Gill, DSP, Dhuri, claimed that the police had not resorted to the lathi-charge, it had only taken about 50 to 60 teachers in custody.

Meanwhile Mr Manohar Lal Chopra, advisor to the aided schools teachers union, today also condemned the lathi-charge on the teachers by the Dhuri police.

Besides this, there was a rumour in Dhuri that Mr Dhanwant Singh, a former Dhuri MLA, would today join the Congress but it could not happen possibly due to the alleged opposition of the move by Mr S.S. Dullo, president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC).

At Kakkarwal village (Dhuri), Mr Dhanwant Singh, after welcoming the yatra and Capt Amarinder Singh, boarded the open gypsy of the Chief Minister but soon he had to get down. Later, he boarded another open vehicle, which was in the cavalcade behind the Chief Minister's vehicle.

To a question, whether Mr Dhanwant Singh had joined the Congress as he was now with them, Mr Dullo said Dhanwant Singh had not joined the Congress.

He further said welcoming of yatra did not mean that he had joined the Congress as even Gaganjit (indication towards Dhuri MLA Gaganjit Singh Barnala) could welcome the yatra.

From Dhuri, the yatra passed through Bardwal, Bhasaur and Sangala villages before reaching Malerkotla. The yatra received a big response from the people particularly in Sherpur, Dhuri and Malerkotla towns. Talking to mediapersons, Capt Amarinder Singh said the Government of India had approved Rs 1,040-cr rural-indebtedness relief package for the Punjab farmers.

He said out of Rs 1,040 crore, Rs 500 crore was for one-time settlement of commercial banks' loans of the farmers while Rs 544 crore for the rehabilitation of almost-defunct 800 Punjab Agricultural Service Cooperative Societies.

The CM claimed that out of about Rs 24,000-crore loan taken by the farmers, there was only Rs 2000 crore bad debt in the state. Capt Amarinder Singh said if Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh wanted to contest the Lok Sabha election from Amritsar then they would welcome him. He also said the fifth round of his Punjab Vikas Yatra would start in January. Ms Razia Sultana, MLA from Malerkotla and Parliamentary Secretary, Punjab, joined the yatra from Sangala village (near Malerkotla) where she accorded warm welcome to the Chief Minister and received the yatra for taking the same to Malerkotla.


Good response to vikas yatra

Malerkotla, December 23
The vikas yatra of the Congress received a good response here today.

Muslim women came on roads to felicitate Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.

A crowd assembled on sides of roads to have a glimpse of the Chief Minister.

He distributed cheques under the ‘Shagun’ scheme among Muslim girls.

Addressing mediapersons, he said the crowd assembled made him emotional. He said he expected success for the Congress in the elections, particularly here. — OC


Water crisis looms over Sangrur
MC, PWSSB bicker over funds
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, December 23
In a major step which may hit the water-supply scheme adversely in the Sangrur town, if timely steps are not taken by the local Municipal Council (MC), the Punjab Water Supply and Sewerage Board (PWSSB) has returned the keys of tube wells, supplying drinking water to residents here along with a list of employees working on contract basis on these tube wells, to the MC.

The PWSSB has initiated this step on the plea that despite the request to the local MC, it has not deposited requisite funds with the PWSSB for the annual maintenance of the water supply schemes in the town.

In a letter sent to the Executive Officer (EO) of the MC, the Sub-Divisional Engineer (SDE) of the PWSSB, Sangrur, has stated that the MC was requested to deposit funds for the annual maintenance of the water supply schemes but the MC has not deposited the same.

Without funds, the PWSSB is unable to do the maintenance work of the water supply schemes, so keys of all tube wells and the list of seven employees, working on contract basis on these tube wells, are being sent to the MC, the letter stated.

The SDE also stated in his letter that after this if any disruption in the water supply and disposal scheme occurred, then the PWSSB would not be responsible for the same.

When The Tribune contacted Mr Ranbir Singh, EO of the MC, here, he said the keys of the tube wells and the employees working on them could not be taken back from the PWSSB by the MC authorities till the MC adopted a resolution in this regard.

So the MC would not be responsible for any disruption in the water supply scheme till then, he added. The EO also said at present nine tube wells were being run by the PWSSB while three by the MC.

He said he was of the view that the entire water supply scheme should be handled by one agency so that responsibility could be fixed in case of any type of disruption in the water supply to the town.

Meanwhile, Mr Jatinder Kalra, a local BJP municipal councillor, expressed anxiety over the letter of the PWSSB and said the residents of the town might face acute shortage of water in the days to come if the dispute between the PWSSB and the MC was not resolved soon.

He appealed to the Sangrur Deputy Commissioner to intervene into the matter to save the public from any harassment in this regard. 


Heritage village draws crowd
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 23
On the second day of the annual Virasat Mela, people flocked to Jaipalgarh, a heritage village, to catch a glimpse of the typical rural lifestyle of the Malwa region. A painting exhibition by the Sobha Singh Memorial Society also opened to a good response.

For the third year in succession, Jaipalgarh succeeded in portraying village life in an impressive way. The village had houses of potter, weaver, ‘Zaildara di Haveli’ and ‘Chachi Atro da Ghar’ all of which had a traditional touch. ‘Vailian da Verah’ a meeting point of mischievous elements of the village, attracted people’s attention. The village also had a ‘madarasa’, a well and a ‘sath’ where its residents get together. A model of the historic Quila Mubarak was also constructed.

Various food stalls serving typical Punjabi delicacies like ‘makki di roti’ and sarson da saag’ were also put up.

The Deputy Commissioner, Mr Rahul Bhandari, inaugurated a painting exhibition at the indoor stadium.

Meanwhile, the Indo-Canadian Sports and Cultural Club organised kabaddi and wrestling matches.


Minister bereaved

Samana, December 23
Raj Kumar Singla (56), brother of state Finance Minister Surinder Singla, died here on Friday. His cremation was attended by a large number of politicians, bureaucrats, government officials, besides several ministers of the state. — OC


Patwari remanded in judicial custody
Our Correspondent

Patiala, December 23
Revenue official Nirpal Singh and his associate Bhupinder Singh Saifdipur have been sent to judicial custody till December 29 by the Judicial Magistrate, Ms Rajnish.

Earlier, Nirpal Singh, a patwari in the Revenue Department, and Bhupinder Singh Saifdipur were arrested after a criminal case was registered against them on a complaint lodged with the police by a local resident, Ms Ranjeeta Syngle.

Ms Syngle had alleged that in April last year both Nirpal Singh and Bhupinder Singh Saifdipur along with some armed men had forcibly dispossessed her after an unsuccessful attempt to outrage her modesty.

She had claimed that her household goods worth Rs 25 lakh had also been thrown out of her house.

Ms Syngle also claimed that since the local police was not taking any action, she had to approach the DGP, who recommended the registration of a case under various sections of the IPC and the Arms Act.

In another development, the Crime Branch has recommended to the state Vigilance Department to register a case against Nirpal Singh, who, it is being alleged, had accumulated property worth Rs 25 crore.

Ms Syngle has also claimed that both Nirpal Singh and Saifdipur were given VIP treatment on the instructions of some senior police officers when they were in police custody on December 14 and 15.

However, when contacted, Mr Nahar Singh, SHO of Civil Lines police station, denied Ms Syngle’s accusation.

Ms Syngle had levelled these allegations in a petition sent to the Inspector-General of Police, Patiala zone.

In a related development, Ms Ranjeeta Syngle has also written to the DGP that she apprehended a threat to her life from Nirpal Singh.


2 station masters get 7-yr RI
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, December 23
The Additional Sessions Judge, Mr Jaspal Singh, today sentenced Ram Lal of Nadaura village, Himachal Pradesh, and Varinder of Berohi, Uttar Pradesh, both station masters, to seven years rigorous imprisonment for the Mirthal-Bhangala train accident that took place on the Jalandhar-Pathankot section here on December 14,2004.

The Additional Sessions Judge has also awarded one year imprisonment to both station masters under sections 427, 338 of the IPC and section 175 of the Railway Act. Besides this, he has awarded four months imprisonment to them under section 337 of the IPC.

According to an FIR, the Ahmedabad Express (9112) and the DMJ passenger collided with each other in between Bhangala and Mirthal railway stations on the Jalandhar-Pathankot section. At least 38 passengers were killed and 50 seriously wounded in the accident. A case was registered against both station masters in this connection.


Adopt drip irrigation system, farmers advised
Our Correspondent

Abohar, December 23
Experts working for Bharti Field Fresh Foods Farms, Laddowal, and Citrus and Agri Juicing Farms of Pepsi at Jallowal, have advised the fruit growers to have permanent drip irrigation system, designed to reach 75 per cent of the root system. Water table in Punjab is going down by 3 ft every year, save water should be the slogan for all, they said.

While interacting with members of the IFFCO Farmers Club during two-day tour of the farms, the experts cautioned that presence of chlorides and sodium in irrigation water was harmful to citrus plants. They hoped that citrus, which had been discarded for the past decade due to the creation of kinnow fruit, would regain popularity during next few years.

Mr Surinder Kumar Jakhar, Chairman, IFFCO, accompanied 40 farmers from this region to acquaint them with new technologies tried in the farms developed by the promoters of Airtel and Tropicana.

Dr N.B. Rane, Vice-President, Plastro Plasson, Dr R.P.S. Dhaliwal, Dr G.S. Kahlon and Dr Sushil Sankhyan discussed various aspects of fruit plantation and marketing with the group while taking them to the fields.


Moga DC is Sugarfed MD
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
Bowing to pressure built up by Congress leaders of the Moga region, the Punjab Government yesterday transferred the Deputy Commissioner, Dr Arvinder Singh. From Moga district, Dr Arvinder Singh has been shifted to Sugarfed as its Managing Director. Mr S.K. Sharma, MD, Sugarfed, who is considered close to the Chief Minister's family, has been posted in place of Dr Arvinder Singh.

Meanwhile, besides Dr Arvinder Singh, the state government ordered the transfers of 15 IAS and PCS officers. Ms Romila Dubey has been transferred to the Punjab State Board of Technical Education as its Chairperson, Mr R.C. Nayyar has been shifted to the 5th Punjab Pay Commission as its member secretary and Mr Mandeep Singh Sandhu to the Science and Technology and Environment as its secretary.

Mr R.L. Kalsia has been give additional charge as secretary, Social Security, Women and Children Development. Ms Usha Sharma has been transferred to the Animal Husbandry, Fisheries and Dairy Development department as its secretary.

Mr Ashok Kumar Singla has been posted as Secretary of the State Election Commission and Ms Shruti Singh as SDM, Faridkot. Mr Mohinder Singh has gone as Additional Commissioner, Municipal Corporation, Ludhiana, and Mr M.P. Arora, ADC, Bathinda, has been given the additional charge as Additional Chief Administrator, PUDA, Bathinda.

Ms Kanwalpreet Brar has been posted as ADC, Ludhiana, and Mr Bhupinder Singh-II as SDM at Patiala. Mr Jaspal Mittal has been shifted from Patiala to Sultanpur Lodhi as SDM and Mr Surinder Kumar as Estate Officer, PUDA, to Amritsar. Mr Nachhattar Singh Brar has been posted as SDM, Abohar.


Two women run over by train
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 23
Two unidentified women were run over by the Bathinda-Ganganagar train at Behman Tiwana railway station today. Though it appears to be a case of suicide, it is yet to be confirmed by the GRP.

Sources said soon after spotting the bodies lying on the railway track, commuters intimated Sahara whose team of volunteers rushed to the spot. One of the victims was 18 years old, while the other seemed to be around 45 years.

Some commuters said they had seen both women sitting at the platform for sometime prior to the incident.


School attendants seek Class III status
Our Correspondent

Barnala, December 23
The Punjab Government Vocational School Attendants’ Union has urged the Chief Minister, to redress their grievances. Mr Charanjit Singh, General Secretary of the state unit of the union, said today that he had submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister.

He said the union impressed upon the Chief Minister to offer the vocational school attendants’ class III status as they were willing to forgo facilities of earned leave and uniforms besides conveyance and uniform washing allowances. The government would be saving Rs 15 lakh per annum, he added.


Degrees fake, says varsity
Tribune News Services

Chandigarh, December 23
Reacting to a news-item "Want promotion, get a fake degree" in these columns on December 21, the Media Consultant for the Institute of Advanced Studies in Education University, Mr Ashish Dutta, has clarified that no degrees have been awarded.

In a communication to The Tribune, Mr Dutta has asserted that the varsity has only provided provisional certificates and marksheets.

He has added that degrees would be awarded to the students in due course. The ones produced by the students at current point of time are fake.


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