P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Huge cache of arms seized from ISYF militants
Rode alleges conspiracy, blames Badal
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, December 24
A day after arresting three persons from different places, the district police has claimed that it has achieved a major success by recovering a huge cache of arms, ammunition and explosives, including 11 kg of RDX, from the three International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF)-Rode group militants.

While the UK-based militant, Paramjit Singh Dhaddi (54), alias Punjab Singh, of Gakhal village in Jalandhar district, was arrested from Ropar district, his two associates Amolak Singh (52) of Akhara village in Ludhiana district, and Jaswinder Singh (23) of Killi Chahal village in Moga district, were arrested from separate locations near the house of former Akal Takht chief Bhai Jasbir Singh Rode in New Hardayal Nagar here, claimed SSP Naunihal Singh.

Apart from the RDX, 11 detonators, four hand grenades, 11 timer devices, two batteries, two pistols with four magazines and 100 cartridges, 10 m of wire and a walkie-talkie set was recovered from their possession.

The SSP said they were newly reactivated militants of the Lakhbir Singh Rode-headed ISYF and were arrested after a tip-off. The contraband had been smuggled into the country recently and presumably was to be used for carrying out disruptive activities in the state during the forthcoming Assembly elections, he added.

Both Amolak, also a grandson of a former chief of Damdami Taksal Gurbachan Singh, and Jaswinder are related to Lakhbir Singh Rode, a nephew of slain Sikh militant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. While Amolak and Rode are related as the former’s son is married to the latter’s daughter, whereas Jaswinder is Rode’s nephew.

The SSP said Paramjit went to England in 1970 and used to visit India frequently. He had also been visiting Pakistan regularly and used to remain in touch with his foreign-based masters constantly through telephone.

This year too he had visited Pakistan twice, in June and November, and met a number of dreaded terrorists, including Rode and Ranjit Singh Neeta of the Khalistan Zindabad Force, with an aim to explore the possibilities of reviving terrorist activities in Punjab, Mr Naunihal Singh said, adding that he had also met with the operatives of the ISI.

To a query, the SSP said the role of the former Akal Takht Jathedar Bhai Jasbir Singh Rode, brother of the ISYF chief, was still under scanner.

The accused were today remanded in five-day police custody by a local court.

Talking to the mediapersons outside the court, Dhaddi termed the entire episode a conspiracy. He said he presumed the RDX packet as his parcel from the UK. He admitted that he used to go to Pakistan to organise langars at gurdwaras there.

Meanwhile, Bhai Jasbir Singh Rode, also the chief of religious wing of Ravi Inder Singh’s political party Akali Dal (1920), termed the entire incident a conspiracy. Talking to mediapersons here this evening, he said the conspiracy had been hatched by a retired police officer, Mr M.P.S. Aulakh, and the Jalandhar Zone IG, Mr Hardeep Singh Dhillon, at the behest of the SAD chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal.

He, however, could not give any satisfactory reply when asked how SAD chief could hatch a conspiracy during the Congress rule in the state. Everything would be made clear to you within a few days, he said while demanding an independent inquiry into the entire episode.


Amarinder promises benefits to poor on lines of SC/BC
Announces cancer hospital for Talwandi Sabo
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Sardulgarh/Mansa, December 24
The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, said today that on retaining power the Congress would extend benefits to economically backward people on the pattern of scheduled castes and backward classes.

Interacting with media persons on the sidelines of the final day of his Vikas Yatra’s fourth phase, Capt Amarinder Singh said these benefits would be provided irrespective of caste and creed as part of the government’s welfare measures.

He said they would take their economic agenda forward, besides focusing on health and education on the formation of their government in the state. In a major reprieve for Malwa’s cancer patients, a majority of whom travel all the way to Rajasthan for treatment, the Chief Minister announced that the state government would soon set up an ultramodern cancer hospital and research centre in Talwandi Sabo. He admitted that preventive and curative measures should have been taken earlier and blamed the spread of dreaded disease to the indiscriminate use of pesticides in the area.

Clarifying on the latest relief package for farmers worth Rs 1,044 crore, he said it was the result of the state government’s efforts, which were endorsed by the Centre. He said the Prime Minister had set up a panel to look into Punjab farmers’ woes and he would take appropriate measures to reduce their debt burden following the submission of the panel report. On the state’s skewed sex ratio, he said female foeticide must be equated with murder and the government was working towards curbing this menace.

Earlier, the Chief Minister stormed the Akali stronghold of SAD heavyweight Balwinder Singh Bhunder, as thousands of people converged on roads of Sardulgarh to accord a rousing reception to him. So overwhelmed was the Chief Minister with the support he received in the SAD bastion that on a query posed by the media, he said it was now merely a question of when they were voted to power. Even in small villages like Tibbi Hari Singh and Fatta Maloka en route to Mansa the response to his yatra was tremendous. The Chief Minister had a cup of tea at the residence of Major Singh, a Dalit from Bhammekalan village. The District Congress president, Mr Ajit Inder Singh Mofar, the Minister of State for Forest, Mr Hans Raj Joshan, and the Youth Congress president, Mr Vijay Inder Singla, accompanied the Chief Minister on his vehicle. On reaching Mansa, MLA Sher Singh Gagowal and senior party leader Rampal Dhaipi welcomed the yatra. The Chief Minister announced a grant of Rs 5 lakh for the Mansa Press Club.

Meanwhile, protesting aided school teachers converged at the Mansa bus stand and staged a demonstration against the government. Later, their delegation met the Chief Minister, who assured them to look into their demands.


* People were seen literally overstepping each other to hand over their complaints to the Chief Minister

* Brimming with enthusiasm, the crowd did not stop at merely greeting him and went on to run along with his cavalcade for quite a distance

* The Chief Minister was presented with siropas and kirpans with a portrait of Shaheed Bhagat Singh being an exception.

* Women and kids were spotted catching a glimpse of the Chief Minister from their terrace along the roadsides.

* People showered petals on the media van too while greeting the Chief Minister.


2 doctors facing probe get nominated on PMC
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 24
The newly-constituted Punjab Medical Council (PMC) has got mired into controversy with a few nominated members facing charges against them. So much so, two doctors who have been nominated to the council are facing an inquiry constituted by the council itself. Moreover, three of the four doctors belong to Jalandhar, while the fourth one belongs to Khanna.

One of the nominated members from Jalandhar, Dr S.P.S. Grover, is facing an inquiry into his alleged involvement in the infamous kidney scandal. The medical fraternity is surprised as to how the same government which had initiated the inquiry could nominate him to the council.

Another doctor, Dr P.S. Bakshi, again from Jalandhar, is facing an inquiry constituted by the council’s ethical committee for inserting advertisements in the newspapers. He has appeared in the council many-times with his colleagues. The case is still pending against him. One of the doctors remarked, “it is like appointing an accused as a judge and that too to the same Bench which is hearing his case”.

Another Dr Randhir Hasthir, also of Jalandhar. is a close relative of some senior Congress leaders. The council was lying defunct for almost three decades. The Indian Medical Association filed a case in the Punjab and Haryana High Court for its revival. The court ordered the elections, which were held in May 2003.Three members Dr Gursharan Singh, Dr Niti Rajan, and Dr A.S. Bhatia were elected while three others were nominated by the then Education Minister, Chaudhary Santokh Singh.

The President, Dr Manmohan Singh was nominated by the Chief Minister himself. The term of the council ended this year and fresh elections were held on November 30. Three members elected were Dr B.S. Shah, Dr Goswami and Dr Mann.

Instead of three members, the government nominated four this time. Though there is a provision of four nominees in the Act, but the fourth member is to be nominated by the Commissioner of Delhi. In case it is to be nominated by Punjab, a necessary amendment is required in the Act.

Dr O.P.S. Kande, a former state president of the Indian Medical Association, has sought information from the government under the Right to Information Act as what criteria the government has adopted for nominating members to the council.


DTO case handed over to VB
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Hoshiarpur, December 24
The police has handed over the investigation into corruption allegations against the District Transport Officer (DTO), Hoshiarpur, Mr Chander Gaind, to the Punjab Vigilance Bureau.

The SSP, Hoshiarpur, Mr R.N. Dhoke asked about the progress of investigation into the case, said the case had been handed over to the Vigilance Bureau. The entire evidence in the case had also been handed over to the Vigilance Bureau. The Vigilance Bureau had asked the Hoshiarpur police to hand over the investigation into the case to it due to which the entire record regarding the case was transferred to it, he said.

However, the move of the police has peeved the complainants in the case. Mr Harminder Singh Lally, main complainant, while talking to The Tribune alleged that the police was just trying to delay the investigation. He alleged that they had filed a written compliant with the SSP, Hoshiarpur, on October 20. The taped recording of the conversation in which the DTO was demanding money from him was also provided to the police.

Later his statement and the statements of two witnesses in the case were also recorded by the investigating officer in the case. The police had maintained that the inquiry into the allegations would be completed within 7 seven days and the report would be submitted to the government.

However, now they had come to know that the inquiry had been handed over the Vigilance Bureau. It had been over two months now since the complaint was filed, but no action had been taken against the accused officer. Moreover, none of the complainants in the case knew that the inquiry into the case had been handed over to the Vigilance Bureau.


Supporters want RS membership for Bhinder’s husband
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, December 24
‘Shradhanjali and Kirtan’ programme organised in memory of Member of Parliament from the district Ms Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder here today turned out to be a political event. Supporters of Ms Bhinder demanded that her husband Mr P.S. Bhinder a former DGP be nominated to the Rajya Sabha.

Supporters said a member of the Bhinder family be given representation from the area in view of their work for the party and the area.

Ms Bhinder had support of group of political leaders and MLAs from the district. She remained a Member of Parliament from the district for five times including the days of terrorism. Before her death she was a Rajya Sabha member. Till last parliamentary elections the Congress failed to find a substitute of Ms Bhinder from the district.

Sources here said supporters of Ms Bhinder were trying to persuade members of her family to remain in active politics from the district. They were trying that her husband should take over the reins of the Ms Bhinder group in Gurdaspur. Some of them speculated that her daughter might start career in politics from the district. However, some politicians from the district have started planning to assume the role of Ms Bhinder in the district.

The occasion was also chosen to prove political strength of the family. Several political leaders attended the today’s programme. Prominent among them were Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Union Minister of States Kumari Selja and Mr Ashwani Kumar, state Congress president Shamsher Singh Dullo, Speaker Punjab Vidhan Sabha Kewal Krishan, MP and CWC member Jagmeet Brar and Cabinet Ministers from Punjab Pratap Singh Bajwa, Jagmohan Singh Kang and Raghunath Sahay Puri, veteran Congress leader and former PPCC president Santokh Singh Randhawa and his son Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa Parliamentary Secretary.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, however, did not turn up. The leaders present praised Ms Bhinder’s role and services to the Congress and Gurdaspur district during her 25 years in politics.

Sources said the function was organised to gauge mood of the supporters after the death of their leader. Mr P.S. Bhinder supervised the arrangements.

Thousands of people who gathered at the function talked of the popularity of Ms Bhinder.

Before political speeches kirtan was organised and Ardas performed in the memory of the late leader.


SAD fields Kohli against Amarinder
Our Correspondent

Patiala, December 24
In a significant development, SAD (Badal) Chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, announced the candidature of a former minister, Mr Surjit Singh Kohli, as the party's candidate to contest the forthcoming Assembly elections from the Patiala assembly segment.

Mr Kohli will be fighting the elections against Captain Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister and sitting MLA from this seat.

This announcement was made by Mr Badal while paying tributes to Sardara Singh Kohli, a former minister and father of Mr Surjit Singh Kohli, on the occasion of the former's bhog ceremony here today.

Mr Kohli's candidature was also confirmed by SAD Secretary General Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa at a press conference held after the bhog ceremony.

Thousands of people from all walks of life attended the ceremony held at Gurdwara Moti Bagh this morning. Apart from several Akali leaders, MP Preneet Kaur and several other Congress leaders attended the ceremony.

The ceremony virtually turned into a political gathering when former Finance Minister and SAD General Secretary Capt Kanwaljit Singh claimed that in the near future, there would be a mass exodus of Congressmen and "many disgruntled Congress leaders would come to the SAD fold." However, former minister and President of the SAD (Longowal) Prem Singh Chandumajra was not allowed to air his views.


CPI declares candidates for 3 seats
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 24
The joint front formed by the CPI, the CPM and the Lok Bhalai Party would play a vital role in the formation of the government post Assembly elections in the state, claimed Dr Joginder Dayal, member of the CPI’s national executive, here yesterday.

Announcing his party’s candidates for three Assembly seats of the district, Dr Dayal said their front would contest the elections on two issues — current economic policies and their impact and the threat of communal forces in Punjab.

He claimed that the economic policies of the previous SAD-BJP regime and the incumbent Congress government were virtually the same, which is why both political forces were fighting the forthcoming “elections on non-issues and trying to attract the electorate’s attention by merely abusing each other.”

Terming the Prime Minister’s recent visit to Punjab as a “damp squib”, he said the figure of Rs 20,000 crore being flashed in advertisements were Central grants received over the past five years and not any Prime Minister’s package for the state. He accused the Prime Minister of handing out step-motherly treatment to Punjab, while announcing package for farming community in Vidarbha and suicide-prone districts of other states. 


16 farmers hurt in lathi charge
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 24
As many as 16 farmers were injured when the police reportedly lathicharged the protesting farmers near Chabba village on the Amritsar-Tarn Taran road here today.

The farmers were presenting themselves for arrest in protest against the “anti-farmer” policies of the state government and non-fulfilment of their genuine demands. The farmers under the banner of the Kisan Sangharsh Committee, Punjab, were protesting against the government for not waiving electricity bills pending against them and debts of farmers.

Mr Kanwalpreet Singh Pannu, convener of the committee, said the police was trying to disperse the farmers by canecharging them. However, the farmers did not disperse. Strongly criticising the government, he said that instead of helping the farmers facing a financial crunch, the government was canecharging them.



Birth rate of girls up
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 24
The efforts of the PNDT Cell here have borne fruit, as the birth rate of girls has shot up in the district in the past couple of months.

As per a press note issued here yesterday, 827 baby boys were born against 869 baby girls in the urban areas of the district in October, while the figure stood equal at 706 for baby boys and girls in November. In rural areas, 578 baby boys were born against 428 baby girls in October, but the scenario changed in November with the birth rate of baby girls increasing to 561 against 531 baby boys. Deputy Commissioner Rahul Bhandari said the birth rate of baby girls was 808 last year, which had increased to 841 by November.


Virasat Mela concludes
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 24
The three-day Virasat Mela concluded here today. The programme of Punjabi singer Manmohan Waris and satirist Bhagwant Mann opened to a great response from the local residents.

Nine teams from different parts of the district participated in a “jaago” contest that was held last night.

Rural sports, Malwai giddha and other cultural programmes evoked good response from the local residents today. Jaipalgarh, a heritage village built for the event, continued to attract people’s attention on the concluding day.


Child Swapping Case
Sukhwinder, Ranjit Kaur’s appeal dismissed
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 24
Upholding the judgment of the chief judicial magistrate, the additional sessions judge yesterday dismissed appeals of couple Sukhwinder Singh and Ranjit Kaur of nearby Raipur (Amritsar) and Ramesh Rani (midwife) in the child swapping case.

According to the case, Mr Varinder Aggarwal, CJM on the basis of DNA report establishing the parentage of male child, Amarpartap Singh who was swapped and sold by the midwife six years ago, had sentenced the three accused to seven years with a fine of Rs 20,000 each on July 6, 2006. The court had also directed the Police chief to find out biological parents of female child, Muskan who was brought up by Harish and Manju - the petitioners.

Harish and his wife Manju who claimed to be the biological parents of child Amarpartap Singh had prayed the court to order to hand over the child to them. Manju had given birth to a child on July 1, 2000 in a private nursing home where accused Ramesh Rani was working as a midwife. Manju who reportedly fell unconscious during delivery was told by the nursing home staff she had delivered a baby girl. The child Muskan, handed over to her by the nursing home, is being brought up by the couple since then. This is perhaps the first such case, decided on the basis of the DNA report in this region.

However, the court had ordered to stay the custody of the child in wake of the application moved by the alleged culprits.

The advocate of biological parents-Harish and Manju said as now the additional sessions judge upheld the judgment of the CJM, they appealed to the high court for the custody of the child- Amarpartap Singh.

Harish who was present in the court at the time of judgment was happy over the court’s decision and hoped their son would be restored to them after long waive of six years.

On the basis of DNA report, the prosecution had argued that the test had established that six-year-old Amarpratap Singh was born to Manju and Harish and the child should be handed over to his biological parents.


Warrants against 2 dental college employees
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, December 24
The Additional District and Sessions Judge-cum-Special Judge, Ms Harpreet Kaur, yesterday issued bailable warrants against two employees of the Guru Ram Dass Institute of Dental Sciences and Research, Amritsar, in the corruption case registered against the former SAD minister, Mr Sewa Singh Sekhwan.

Warrants were issued against Manmohan Singh, accountant of the institute, and Ravinder Kaur Saini, cashier. The officials had failed to produce before the court the details of expenditure incurred by Mr Sekhwan on educating his daughters in the institute despite repeated summons.

Dr Surya Prakash, counsel for prosecution in the case told The Tribune that yesterday five more witness deposed against the accused minister.


Special committee to examine case of farmers
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, December 24
“The Punjab Government is making all efforts to get the loans of farmers waived and has prepared a strong case in this regard. It will be sent to the Union Government for forwarding to the special committee being formed by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, during his recent visit to Amritsar had assured Chief Minister Amarinder Singh that the Union Government would form a committee of experts to examine the case of the government for waiving the loans,” said Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Deputy Chief Minister, while talking to the mediapersons here today. She had come here to preside over the District Planning Board’s meeting, where she released Rs 7.24 crore for various development works.

Talking about Captain Amarinder Singh’s Vikas Yatra, she said it was an open secret that the wave in the state was in favour of the Congress and they would win with thumping majority. She also said she had not seen so much response to any leader in her political career.

She said after completing the campaign, the manifesto committee would give final touches to the manifesto and as the Congress had always preferred public welfare programmes, stress would be on industry besides agriculture.

Lashing out at Akalis, she said they always indulge in infighting and their thinking power was limited and they had always befooled the people in the name of religion. But now, people have understood this and would not be misled.

Mrs Jaspreet Talwar, Deputy Commissioner, assured the chairperson that all the government-sponsored schemes were being implemented in the district and all officers were working with dedication.

Later, she also held a meeting with Congress workers and inspected the site of Congress political conference.


Blend science with spirituality, says former CJI
Tribune News Service

Rajpura, December 24
Former Chief Justice of India (CJI) Justice R.C. Lahoti, today advised students to blend science with spirituality to be successful.

Delivering the convocation address at the first annual convocation of Chitkara Institute of Engineering and Technology at the college campus here, Mr Justice Lahoti said, “Engineering and technology, the two subjects which are taught at Chitkara, are both branchesof science.

As upcoming leaders of society, you must blend spirituality with science. Engineering and technology have contributed in improving the quality of life by providing more and more comforts and means of convenience.

But science cannot provide humanity with eternal bliss and joy which religion can.

Science without spirituality may prove to be tyranny while religion without science is prone to lead to superstition."

As many as 217 engineering students received degrees from Justice Lahoti and Dr V.K. Arora, Registrar, Punjab Technical University, Jalandhar.

Mr Justice Lahoti complimented the students who had topped the university.

While Ms Ruchi Arora of the college attained the distinction of topping the PTU exam in all branches taught at Chitkara, a number of other students were gold and silver medallists.

In Electronics and Communication Engineering, Amandeep Singh stood first in the university while Vikram Karwal stood first in Mechanical Engineering.

The other toppers in the various branches included Gaurav Bagga, Ms Bharti Gupta, Ms Geetika Aggarwal, Ravish Goyal, Vipul Sharma, and Puneet Bansal.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Arora urged the students to do well in their professional careers and work with dignity, honesty and with the highest ethical standards.

Earlier, welcoming the guests, Dr Madhu Chitkara, Director-General, Chitkara Educational Trust, said thanks to a systematic and well-planned placement exercise, Chitkara had a 100 per cent placement record in reputed companies.

She said Ms Ruchi Arora had joined Persistent Systems, Pune, for Rs 2.8 lakh per annum while Guarav Bagga and Ms Bharti Gupta had been employed by CA International, Hyderabad, for Rs 3.6 lakh per annum.


Calligraphy workshop concludes
Tribune News Service

Hoshiarpur, December 24
A five-day workshop on calligraphy conducted by Mr Anis Siddiqui concluded at Woodlands Overseas School here.

The participants got a chance to interact with Mr Anis, a national awardee. Children felt happy and encouraged to learn different strokes. They were introduced to the method of writing with "kalam".

Calligraphy, according to Mr Anis, is a rich and creative art form and as a career option has a bright future.

An interactive session was also organised and Mr Anis informed that calligraphy was used in compiling holy scriptures and other manuscripts centuries ago.

Calligraphy enhanced individual creativity and is a joy to learn, he said.

Mr Anis was invited by to Iran and Mauritius to teach the art. He has organised over 550 workshops on calligraphy. The school Principal, Mrs Simerjeet Kaur, while appreciating his services, praised his role in keeping the art alive.


Punjab drug manufacturers demand relief
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 24
The Maximum Retail Price (MRP)-based tax regime on medicines where excise is levied on the MRP of the medicine is not only detrimental to the business of small drug manufacturers, but is also causing huge losses to the state exchequer.

The MRP-based tax structure, which was introduced in January, 2005, has led to a majority of pharmaceutical companies either shifting their manufacturing facilities to the tax exempt states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranachal and Jammu and Kashmir, or outsourcing their manufacturing to the units in these three states. Interestingly, inspite of a tax holiday here, drug manufacturers have hiked the prices of drugs, including life saving drugs. The prices of many drugs manufactured in these states are 100- 200 per cent over and above the ceiling fixed under Drug Price Control Order (DPCO), and almost 350 per cent higher as compared to drugs manufactured by pharma units in other states where excise duty is payable.

Since only 30 per cent of the drugs and their formulations are listed in the Drug Price Control Order - the drug manufacturers are free to fix the high MRP, which also includes trade margins.

By outsourcing manufacturing to the companies in HP and Uttaranchal, the drug companies can not only avoid excise duty, but also offer huge margins to chemists for pushing their brands in the market. Since the chemists have a better profit margin in selling the higher priced drugs manufactured in states enjoying a tax holiday, they prefer to stock and sell these drugs.

Not only is the common man forced to buy these drugs, but the small scale pharma units in the non-exempt states are also losing out on business.

In a representation to the Prime Minister, Mr Jagdeep Singh, president of the Punjab Drug Manufacturers Association, has sought relief and asked for the MRP-based regime to be done away with. “The state exchequer is also not making any profit as the MRP based-excise was levied to check evasion of Excise Duty by manufacturers who get their goods manufactured from other units at a lower price (on which duty is paid) and then sell at very high prices. Since the large drug companies are still indulging in this practice by outsourcing the same from tax exempt states, the government is not making any revenue,” he said.

The association has also demanded that Schedule L (Good Lab Practices) and creation of Central Drug Authority (CDA), too, were detrimental to the interests of the small scale drug manufacturers. “A large number of fake drugs are manufactured in the country. Making new laws will make it more difficult for regulated industry to function, and illicit factories will flourish. Instead of centralising authority and targeting SSI, let the existing laws be used to check fake medicines being produced,” said Mr Jagdeep Singh.


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