P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


SAD ignores former minister, MLA
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 1
While SAD was quick to come out with its first list of 62 candidates for the forthcoming Assembly polls, its move to put off decision on Bathinda and Pakka Kalan Assembly seats here has set the alarm bells ringing for ex-minister Mr Chiranji Lal Garg and the ex-MLA, Mr Makhan Singh.

What has fuelled speculations is the fact that though SAD has allotted tickets to most of its senior leaders, it hasn't named Mr Garg, who was also a Cabinet minister in the previous SAD regime, in the party's first list. He has been associated with the party for the last about three decades and is a known Badal-loyalist.

Political analysts here feel that ignoring him in the first list of candidates doesn't bode well for his political future. They attribute Mr Garg's difficulties to overnight cropping up of Mr Sarup Singla, a coloniser, as a prospective SAD candidate from the constituency. A section of SAD leaders has also reportedly thrown weight behind Mr Singla, which has added to his woes.

Interestingly, hoping to get the party ticket, Mr Garg as well as Mr Singla have already kicked off their election campaign. There is also a buzz in the political circles that the seat might be left for the BJP in case the SAD denies ticket even to Mr Singla to keep the ex-minister in good humour.

Similarly, the name of ex-MLA Mr Makhan Singh, who lost the last elections to the CPI candidate, Mr Gurjant Singh Kuttiwal, by 1,777 votes, doesn't figure in the SAD list.

Sources said some party leaders were strongly lobbying for Mr Darshan Singh Kolkatta, who polled over 10,000 votes from the seat as SAD (Mann) candidate in the last elections. However, this hasn't stopped Mr Makhan Singh from launching his campaign in the constituency. Sources said, if denied party ticket, he might decide to contest as an independent candidate.

Meanwhile, SAD's search for a strong candidate for the crucial seat of Talwandi Sabo is on. Last time, Mr Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu, an Akali rebel candidate, had defeated Mr Harminder Jassi of the Congress by a narrow margin of 237 votes, while the SAD candidate came third with 18,094 votes. The scenario has changed over the last five years and Mr Sidhu has not only gained proximity with the Chief Minister but has also worked for his people. Rumours are also rife that the SAD is trying to rope in a Congress leader to field him against Sidhu.


Parleys for deciding SAD candidates
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 1
The General Secretary of Shiromani Akali Dal, Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, today spent a day holding parleys with Mr Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, a former Akali minister, and various deputations here today, to bring consensus on the candidates for the forthcoming assembly elections in the wake of many aspirants putting up their respective claims in the constituencies which were not covered in the first list announced by SAD.

Earlier, Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal along with his mother Ms Surinder Kaur Badal, wife and children arrived here to pay their obeisance at Harmander Sahib to mark the New Year celebrations.

Mr Brahmpura openly opposed any move to field Mr Harmeet Singh Sandhu, who was elected as an Independent candidate from Tarn Taran but later joined SAD. Mr Brahmpura advocated the candidature of his close relative Mr Alwinder Singh Pakhoke instead. Talking to The Tribune, Mr Brahmpura alleged that Mr Pakhoke had been loyal to SAD and spent many years in jails for the sake of Panth. He alleged that Mr Sandhu had been 'close confident' of Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh.

Similarly, supporters of Mr Brahmpura met Mr Sukhbir Badal and urged him to replace Mr M.S. Manna, a sitting MLA from Khadoor Sahib. They alleged that there was strong opposition to give ticket to the sitting Akali MLA from there.

In yet another development, Mr Pardip Singh Walia, a close confident of Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, a former Akali minister, has been fielded as rebel Akali candidate from Amritsar South assembly constituency.

Meanwhile, the Dal Khalsa today took a decision to plunge into electoral politics by contesting 'selectively' against the BJP candidates in the assembly elections.

The decision to this effect was taken in an executive committee meeting of the party held here today. Party's general secretary Kanwar Pal Singh said the alliance between SAD and BJP was unacceptable to them. The BJP had 'betrayed' the interests in the past, he said.


Use of SGPC funds for political purposes alleged
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 1
The ‘heavy and surplus recruitment’ has pushed many historical Sikh shrines, controlled by the SGPC into the ‘red’.

The ‘facts’ collected by former SGPC secretary Kulwant Singh Randhawa revealed that gurdwaras were found to be under debt to the extent of Rs 18 crore. As many as 43 gurdwaras under Section 85 were in the ‘red’ till as per gurdwara Gazette of current year. Under the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925, the above gurdwaras are liable to repay the debt to the SGPC.

Mr Randhawa briefed the reporters in the presence of Mr Raghbir Singh, a serving SGPC secretary and President of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Majha), here yesterday.

They urged the Election Commission of India to impose code of conduct on the SGPC to stop its ‘vehicles’ for election purposes.

Highlighting certain ‘cases of mismanagement’, Mr Randhawa and Mr Raghbir Singh alleged the huge budget of the SGPC had been allocated to various Sikh trusts against the norms.

They said the compensation of Galliara Yojna should have been spent on purchasing land and other assets . They alleged SGPC funds were being used for ‘political purposes’ . So much so the 500th birth anniversary of Baba Budhaji - first head Granthi of the Golden Temple was organised at Kathunangal to serve ‘political interests’ of Mr Bikramjit Singh Majithia a brother-in-law of Sukhbir Singh Badal , instead of Bir Baba Budha gurdwara. They also alleged Rs 5 crore was ‘siphoned off’ from Darbar Sahib funds to purchase land for Miri Piri Medical College Trust Shahabad Markanda in Haryana. Similarly, huge funds were on other trusts in violation of rules.

They claimed trusts enjoyed ‘autonomous status’ and were not answerable to the SGPC .

They alleged donations collected on account of advance booking of Akhand Paths in Darbar Sahib which was supposed to be kept as fixed deposit had been spent.

Mr Randhawa and Mr Raghbir Singh alleged instead of holding auction for the land of Gurdwaras, it was given to various trusts on nominal lease money. They also opposed the resolution passed by the SGPC’s general house to enhance the tenure of the Shiromani Committee chief.

They called upon the SGPC members to rise above party lines and raise their voice to weed out ‘corruption’ from the Shiromani Committee, cooption of 10 more members in the SGPC house from foreign countries .

Meanwhile, Mr Raghbir Singh said he would take a big Jatha of the SAD (Majha) to Delhi to canvass in favour of Sarna brothers who were contesting the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee election.


Clash over gurdwara land
Commissioners face trial, ‘influential’ not arrested
Our Correspondent

Barnala, January 1
Role of the police in a clash at Bhadaur 25 km. from here between residents of Bhadaur and the Police over the demarcation of Gurdwara land on October 11, 2006 has been under a cloud.

Arrest of Mr Balbir Singh Ghunas, MLA Bhadaur booked in under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code still hangs fire. Three other influential persons named in the same FIR have so far, evaded arrest. However, 42 persons named in the same FIR and case were arrested and are facing trial.

Mr Ghunas, MLA Bhadaur’s name figures in the list of 62 SAD (Badal) candidates cleared to contest Punjab Assembly elections next year on SAD (Badal) ticket.

Mr Ghunas, Mr Ajay Kumar Lok Bhalai Party leader of Sangrur District, Comrade Inder Singh Bhinda and Master Gurmail Singh Bhutaal and Kaafi Lok “Hazoom” (many people) were booked under Sections 307, 353, 435, 186, 427, 148, 149 and 124-A of the Indian Penal Code vide FIR No 73 Bhadaur police station following a clash between the police and residents of Bhadaur on the demarcation of gurdwara land at Bhadaur.

Mr Ruban Masih of Bhadaur had succumbed to his injuries in this clash.

Though unnamed 42 persons from public were arrested but arrest of four ‘influential’ persons named in the FIR still hangs fire. It is learnt eight to 10 unnamed persons also involved in the clash have not been arrested. Sources said a three-member panel comprising the SP (Detective) Barnala the DSP Tapa and SHO Bhadaur Police Station was forced to look into the allegations against Mr Ghunas, Ajay Kumar, Comrade Inder Singh Bhinda and Master Gurmail Singh Bhutaal. People ask “Is everyone equal before law in India?”

Many innocent are facing trial in a court land political figures mentioned in FIR are roaming free.

Mr Ghunas on November 29 night was seen wooing voters in favour of Mr Malkiat Singh Keetu, MLA Barnala at a SAD (Badal) rally presided over by Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, MP and general secretary SAD at Handiaya bazar where policemen were also present.

Unnamed 42 persons are facing trial under Sections 302/307/124-A/ 353/ 332/ 186/435/427/148/149 of the IPC included Mr Kuldip Singh, Mr Anish Sharma, Mr Surjit Singh, Mr Kamaljit Singh, Mr Leela Singh, Mr Kaapoor Singh, Mr Harpreet Singh, Mr Kala Masih, Mr Kewal Singh, Mr Ashok Kumar, Mr Kuldip Singh, Mr Narinder Kumar, Mr Hardip Singh, Mr Mehndi Hussan, Mr Bhola Singh, Mr Gurpreet Singh, Mr Jaspreet Singh, Mr Jagsir Singh, Mr Deepa Singh, Mr Ranjit Singh, Mr Jagtar Singh, Mr Dara Singh, Mr Binder Singh, Mr Balwinder Singh, Mr Jang Singh, Mr Mahavir Chand, Mr Raghbir Chand, Mr Bagga Singh, Mr Avtar Singh, Mr Gurdip Singh, Mr Iqbal Singh, Mr Kaka Singh, Mr Bira Singh, Mr Hari Singh, Mr Krishan Singh, Mr Chand Singh, Mr Soma Singh, Mr Fateh Singh and Mr Ranjit Singh (all of Bhadaur), Mr Kuljit Singh (Bihli village), Mr Salim Khan (Raiyya) and Mr Makhan Singh (Alkara village).


Missing persons
Saini: CBI unable to establish any offence
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 1
Countering the charges framed against him and three other cops by a special CBI court, Mr S.S. Saini, Inspector-General of the Punjab Police, has now filed a petition in the Delhi High Court claiming that "no offence of any alleged abduction is made out against the accused cops ".

Three persons, Vinod Kumar, his brother-in-law Ashok Kumar along with driver Mukhtiyar Singh, have been allegedly missing from Ludhiana since March, 15, 1994.

About three weeks ago, a special CBI court in Delhi, acting on the CBI’s investigation report, allowed the framing of charges against four Punjab Police officials, IG Sumedh Singh Saini, retired SP SS. Sandhu, DSP Paramjit Singh and retired SHO Balbir Chand Tiwari. The court said they should be tried for kidnapping along with other charges.

Vinod Kumar had a motive to abscond as he was under debt and there is nothing in the CBI report to prove that the police caused any harm to him, says Mr Saini in his petition. The then Advocate-General had recorded before the Punjab and Haryana High Court that Vinod Kumar had absconded at the instance of a criminal mafia and had expressed apprehension that even his brothers may abscond. Subsequently, Vinod’s brothers, Ashish Kumar and Parmod Kumar, were then kept in the “protective custody” of the Chandigarh Police.

The CBI investigation report says on March 15, 1994, Vinod Kumar was granted anticipatory bail by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The SP, Mr S.S. Sandhu, accompanied Vinod Kumar to a police station in Ludhiana and since then Vinod Kumar and the other two are missing. While Mr Sandhu stated on affidavit on March 18, 1994, that after going to the police station, Vinod Kumar left after a few minutes, the CBI report states that he is missing and remains untraced since then. The CBI reports fails to link the other three accused to even the scene of the disappearance.

Mr Saini in his petition has claimed that the CBI has been unable to establish any offence -- taking a lift by the SP, Mr Sandhu, in Vinod Kumar’s car cannot be construed as " abduction". The CBI report says it has no evidence to say that the three missing persons were killed by the police. However, it says circumstantial evidence exists to link the cops for "causing their disappearance".

The CBI also established that none of the three missing persons was related to any of the four Punjab cops accused in the case. Nor were these missing persons related to any owner or partner of Saini Motors, Ludhiana, as reported in the media in the past decade or so. In Ludhiana, Vinod Kumar was detained under the NSA in 1979 but was later acquitted.

Then are a number of affidavits. In November, 1994, Ashish Kumar, a brother of Vinod Kumar, retracted his earlier affidavit given in May, 1994, in which he had said he met Mukhtiyar Singh, the driver, in May, 1994. Ashish Kumar’s second affidavit said the first one was false and given under pressure from the Punjab Police. However, Pramod Kumar, unlike his brother Ashish, did not submit any affidavit to counter the first affidavit. He died a few years after that.

Pramod in his affidavit had submitted before the Punjab and Haryana High Court that he had received a call from Vinod Kumar on May 15, 1994, asking him to come to Regal cinema, Delhi, on May 16, 1994. On reaching there, he met Mukhtiyar Singh, who said they were in hiding. This is also mentioned in the CBI investigation.

Three persons from Ludhiana submitted affidavits and even recorded their statements on having met Vinod Kumar a day after he supposedly went missing. A Ludhiana-based journalist working with a national daily claims to have met Vinod in Kathmandu, Nepal, in 1994. He said he knew Vinod Kumar for the past 30 years and even recorded his statement with the CBI. A Jalandhar-based trader had gone to the CBI headquarters in Delhi and recorded his statement of having seen Vinod Kumar along with his wife and daughter at Jalandhar railway station in January, 1995, more than 10 months after the “disappearance”.

Though the CBI sent an Interpol notice to the Singapore address of Vinod Kumar which said the company office there was not operable, it did not verify if any money was outstanding against Vinod Kumar in India.


Shunning their nomadic traits gradually
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Sarinh (Jalandhar), January 1
“Tappriwasi” or “gaddianwale”, wandering tribes of artisans who repair utensils in Punjab hinterland and who were an integral part of the rural life till around 20 years ago, have virtually started shunning their nomadic traits.

Instead of wandering from one village to another in search of bread and butter, most of these families are finally preferring to settle down permanently and have even started educating their children.

They are said to be the descendants of Jaimal and Fatta, two Rajput brothers who gave a tough fight to the invading forces of Akbar and retained the fort of Chittaur in Rajasthan for long.

However, they had to leave the place in view of pressure mounted by the forces of Akbar. Before leaving, the two brothers and their supporters, according to Karam Chand, a “gaddiwala” hailing from Shankar village, near Nakodar, vowed to return to their motherland only when they were able to wrest the control of the fort once again. Since, the resolve largely remained unfulfilled so far, these people had been moving from one place to another for the past around six centuries, he added.

It was only around 15-20 years ago that they started becoming aware that there was moving from one place to another was no longer fruitful.

Now, they have stopped making use of their much embellished wooden-wheeled carts, but have also started sending their children to schools in their bid to change the course of their future. The bronze carved wooden-wheeled carts, which were once their proud mode of transport, are found parked at their “deras” nowadays and these have been replaced by fast moving carts fitted with rubber tyres.

The present generation is the first one to see the light of education. “Both my children, Gogi and Panchi, go to the village-based government high school. Though, we are proud of our history, we don’t want to stick to our past anymore. We want our children to progress in life and take up jobs. Otherwise, we will not survive as there is hardly any work for us in villages now. While plastic and bone china have replaced metalled utensils, farmers are not interested in buying bulls, which we used to bring from Haryana and Rajasthan. Our future lies in education,” said Mohinder, a “gaddiwala” based in this village.

Other families at his dera, which now has a colour television and stereos, share his sentiments. “We have been born and brought up in Punjab and have been living at this dera for the past nine years. We have got government identity cards also,” said Kanshi.

Karam Chand, 70, is elated to see his four grandchildren going to the government school at Shankar village. “We have been part of the army of Guru Gobind Singh and have been wandering from one place to another for centuries. Now, I think time has come for us to settle down and live life like other humans do,” he said.

Around three to five per cent of children of these “gaddiwalas”, now settled permanently at Jandiala, Rurka, Malliah, Mangowal, Noormahl and Mehatpur, study at nearby schools.

President of the Pendu Mazdoor Union Tarsem Peter alleged though these nomad families had finally settled down and had become a part and parcel of the rural life of Punjab, nothing has been done by the state government for their rehabilitation. “Modernity has entered there households, but they need permanent homes and hearths. Only the government can help them in this regard,” he said.


Looking Ahead-2007
Punjab on the cusp of an infrastructure boom
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 1
Punjab is sitting on the cusp of an infrastructure boom that promises to transform the way people travel on the roads in the state. Distances will seem shorter on smoother and less congested roads. There will be fewer stoppages at railway crossings. Connectivity between important cities will be better once the ongoing projects to develop roads and bridges in the state are completed. Importantly, roads may be a lot safer to travel. However, in the case of 11 such roads people will have to pay for using the roads. Travelling on these will not come for free.

Construction work has started on a large number of these projects and more than Rs 5,000 crore of investment is to made. Some of the projects are scheduled for completion next year and others will be done later. Senior functionaries say the impact will be visible only after the entire work is completed. This is more crucial than the much-touted industrial development as not only the industry, people also need better roads and bridges.

But 11 state highways will not be free to use and will make the pockets of people lighter. Users will have to pay some money for using the same. The rate will vary as per the class of the vehicle. It could be up to 30-35 paise per km. So if one travels about 200 km, he may end up paying anything up to Rs 65-70. This has been done on the pattern of the national highway where all major roads built by private parties have a toll till the cost of the road is recovered. Punjab with its high density of vehicles has no other option as several of the state highways have a huge volume of traffic.

All these roads are under construction and private parties are building them. These 11 roads are Patiala-Patran, Balachaur- Dasuya, Ferozepore-Fazilka, Patiala-Malerkotla, Moga-Bhagapurana, Hoshiarpur-Tanda, Kiratpur Sahib-Una, Sirhind-Ropar, Hoshiarpur-Phagwara, Gobindgarh-Bhawanigarh and Dakha-Barnala. These will pay and use roads. Certain categories like farmers carrying agriculture produce will exempted.

About 32 roads over bridges (RoB) will be built across the state. Construction has already started on 13 of these. These are at Patiala, two at Dhuri, Tanda, Beas, Sangrur, Batala, Suchhi Pind, Maqsoodan (Jalandhar), Jagraon, Mansa, Phagwara and second RoB at Morinda. Tenders have been approved for two more RoBs at Jawala Flour Mill (Amritsar) and Lehra Gagga. Another five have been approved and the tendering process will start for the RoBs at Khanna, Layalpur Khalsa College (Jalandhar), Tarn Taran, Fatehgarh Sahib and Chawapail. For another 12 RoBs, a final nod is required from the Railways before work can start.

About 766 km of national highways are being widened to have either four or six lanes. There are a total 12 projects. Construction has already started on only three of these projects-Jalandhar-Pathankot, Ambala-Chandigarh and a section of between Jalandhar and Amritsar. Another seven projects have been approved and are in various stages of the tendering process.

It is not known if they can start at all if the model code of conduct is imposed by the Election Commission. Another two projects-Ludhiana- Moga and Chandigarh-Ludhiana- are pending final approval from the Union Ministry of Surface Transport. Both projects are for six landing the existing road.

The Government of India will be spending about Rs 4,100 crore on these project in the next couple of years.

The last type of road building activity is under a World Bank- funded project. Work is to start shortly on three major roads - Kharar - Tepla, Ludhiana - Sangrur and Tarn Taran -Attari - that are being upgraded at cost of Rs 152 crore. The bidding process has been completed for eight road stretches for basic work on these. About Rs 250 crore is to be spent on these.


Badal woos voters, lashes out at Cong

Faridkot, January 1
To woo the electorate for the forthcoming Assembly elections in Punjab, SAD Chief Parkash Singh Badal has promised to raise the old age pension from Rs 200 to Rs 400 if the SAD-BJP combine is voted to power.

Four boards headed by senior traders of different professions will also be constituted to promote industry and other trades in the state, he said addressing a rally at Kotkapura last evening in favour of party nominee and sitting MLA Mantar Singh Brar, who is in the fray from this area (Kotkapura Assembly segment).

Mr Badal also announced to bring a special board at the map to generate employment sources for lakhs of un-employed youths in the state.

Last month at a rally at Moga, he announced to give atta and rice at rupees four and two per kg, respectively, to those who were living below the poverty line in the state.

Blaming Chief Minister Amarinder Singh for “prevailing mess in Punjab due to his wrong and unsounded policies”, Mr Badal lashed out at him for allegedly involving the senior SAD leaders and its former ministers in fake and fabricated cases to “protect his chair and to meet political gains”.

Mr Badal also addressed rallies at Bajakhana and Jaito falling in Kotkapura Assembly segment. — PTI


Badal in dilemma over candidates for three constituencies
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 1
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Parkash Singh Badal seems to be in dilemma over the selection of candidates for Sangrur, Dirba and Lehragaga constituencies of Sangrur district. Out of 10 seats of old Sangrur district (comprising Sangrur and Barnala districts now), he has already announced candidates for seven other seats.

The reasons behind indecision as regards these constituencies: there are either more than one aspirant of the party ticket or there exists a possibility of an alliance or seat-sharing agreement with the SAD (Longowal). In case of an agreement with the SAD (Longowal), the SAD will have to leave Lehragaga and Dirba seats for that party as its president Prem Singh Chandumajra is likely to contest from Lehragaga and secretary general Baldev Singh Mann from Dirba.

The Sangrur seat has two strong claimants of the party ticket. One of them is party national vice-president Parkash Chand Garg and the second one is former minister Ranjit Singh Ballian who had unsuccessfully contested as an Independent candidate from Sangrur in the last Assembly elections after being denied the party ticket.

Parkash Chand Garg wants SAD ticket on the basis of his loyalty to the party for the past around 30 years. On the other hand, Ranjit Singh Ballian stakes claim for being two-time MLA from Sangrur and his strong mass base.

In Lehragaga, Giani Niranjan Singh Bhutal, who suffered defeat at the hands of Rajinder Kaur Bhattal (Congress) in the February, 2002, and Mr Garja Singh Khandewad, who lost the Assembly elections in February, 1997, to Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, are on the forefront to get the party ticket. Besides them, Varinder Goyal and Sat Pal Singla, both members of the general council of the party, are also staking their claim to the ticket from here.

From Dirba, senior SAD leader Gurbachan Singh Bachi is one of the strong contenders for the party ticket. Besides him, other aspirants for the ticket include member of party’s general council Gurtej Singh Karrial and senior leader Teja Singh Kamalpur.


BJP may field four new faces
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 1
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is expected to field four new faces in the coming Assembly elections in Punjab.

They are Mr Ashwani Kumar, Mr Vijay Sampla, Mr Rajinder Bhandari and Ms Laxami Bado.

Sources said Mr Ashwani Kumar was expected to be nominated as the party candidate from Pathankot.

Mr Vijay Sampla, a new face, was to be fielded from Jalandhar Cantonment by the BJP, but its alliance partner, the SAD, had declared Mr Jagbir Singh Brar as the candidate from the seat. So, Mr Sampla would be given some other Assembly segment either in Jalandhar city or its neighbourhood.

Mr Rajinder Bhandari, another new face, was likely be fielded by the BJP from one of the seats in Ludhiana. The BJP wanted to field Mr Bhandari from Ludhiana South. However, the SAD had announced Mr Harish Rai Dhanda as its candidate from the seat.

Mr Balramji Dass Tandon, who had contested from Rajpura last time, was expected to be nominated from Amritsar (North). The party would field mostly old faces such as Mr Satpal Saini, Mr Arunesh Shakar, Mr Sukhpal Singh Nannu, Mr Tikshan Sud, Mr Surjit Jiani, Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, Mr Jagdish Sahni, Mr Swarna Ram and Mr Raj Khurana, who recently quit the Congress. As an ally of the SAD, the BJP was expected to contest from 23 Assembly segments.


Chandumajra denies poll pact with SAD

Moga, January 1
Shiromani Akali Dal (Longowal) president Prem Singh Chandumajra today denied that his party had entered into any electoral understanding with the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) for the Punjab Assembly elections.

Reacting to reports in a section of the press about a seat-sharing deal between the two parties, Mr Chandumajra denied that any such deal had been finalised.

Mr Chandumajra said he had convened his party’s Executive Committee meeting at Chandigarh tomorrow to review the political situation prevailing in the state and prepare the party’s strategy for the February 13 elections. — UNI


Police reforms: Nod to draft affidavit

Chandigarh, January 1
The Punjab Cabinet today approved the draft affidavit to be filed by the state government in the Supreme Court on police reforms, an official spokesman said here today.

The Cabinet was of the opinion that bringing about police reforms needed framing of an appropriate legislation and this was not possible since the state was in election mode.

The Supreme Court wants establishment of a state security commission, selection and minimum tenure of DGP, minimum tenure for IG (Police) and other officers above the level of SSPs, separation of investigation wing from law and order wing, constitution of a police establishment board, formation of a police complaint authority and to establish a national security commission, the spokesman said.

It was discussed that setting up separate investigation and law and order wings across the state would add up to a huge expense, hence it would be an impractical step. At least three or four major cities, having a population of 10 lakh or above, could be considered to have separate wings.

The Cabinet granted “ex-post facto” approval to foreign trips of few bureaucrats. Those included a trip by a bureaucrat, who took pre-mature retirement more than six months ago. The Cabinet also approved the amendment to Section 34 (4) of the Haryana and Punjab Agriculture Universities Act, 1970. — TNS


Paper mill employees demand dues
Tribune News Service

Mukerian January 1
Workers of the Mukerian paper mill today organised a protest and burned an effigy of the Minister for Labour and Local Governments, Mr Jagjit Chaudhary. The mill workers were protesting against the non-payment of wages for the past one year.

The mill has stopped producing papers. About 1,000 mill workers are now in a lurch. Its management had retrenched about 250 workers. However, even these workers have not been paid any dues by the management. The other workers have also not been paid salary since March.

The agitating workers alleged the management had deliberately stopped the production in the mill. And had referred the case to the BIFR. It wants to raise a loan after getting the mill declared as sick.

The mill workers’ union president, Mr Kehar Singh, alleged that the owners were trying to sell the land in violation of the rules. The retrenched workers had not even been paid their PF dues.

A few workers approached the EPF authorities for their due. However, they were told that nothing had been deposited in their account. The workers were apprehending that even their EPF share had been swindled by the management.

The workers alleged that there was no problem with the mill. The area has ample raw material and paper was in demand in market.

Representations have been made to the government and the Labour Department against the injustice being done with the workers. However, till date no action has been taken.

A case has also been registered against the mill authorities by the local police for alleged embezzlement of the workers’ PF.


Fervour marks Id
Our Correspondent

Malerkotla, January 1
Id-ul-Zuha, also known as Id-ul-Adha or Bakr-e-Id, was celebrated with fervour here today. Muslims celebrated the festival by attending special early morning prayers in Mosques across the city and surrounding areas .

The festival commemorates Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ismael for God Allah. Special Id prayers were held in mosques across the city.

Id festivities were marked by slaughtering of lambs and sharing meat with the poor. Meat and sweets were being purchased to prepare feasts. Mr Abdul Gaffar, SAD candidate for elections from Malerkotla extending greetings to people on the occasion of ID-Ul-Zuha said it was a day of remembrance of the great sacrifice and a thanksgiving day to the Almighty.

Ms Razia Sultana , Parliamentary Secretary Punjab, said Malerkotla had inherited rich and glorious legacy of peace and social harmony. She said we should endeavour to enrich this tradition, and renew our pledge to do so.

Hundreds thronged markets to buy new clothes and toys to celebrate the festival of sacrifice, people over here celebrate Id with fervour as it is the festival of sacrifice,” Sanjeev Kumar Sharma , an Akali leader said.


Urologist conducts surgery in Pak
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 1
Dr Samir Rai, a urologist, performed three specialised surgeries with modern techniques at Lahore General Hospital yesterday. The Indian urologist plan to establish modern centre using the latest techniques in Lahore.

Taking to The Tribune on his return from Pakistan today, Dr Samir said that he had used latest techniques Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy (PCNL) for the removal of kidney stones. The new techniques requires use of telescope and camera inserted through a one-cm-long incision. It prevents loss of blood and helps in speedy recovery.

Earlier, Dr Samir had conducted a workshop using the PCNL techniques at Sheikh Zayad Hospital in Lahore last year. He said that the kidney stone is a common problem effecting large number of people in this northern region of this subcontinent.


Fog disrupts flights
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 1
Jet Airways’ flight from London to Amritsar was diverted to Delhi as landing at the Rajasansi International Airport was not possible due to heavy fog and poor visibility. Earlier, two domestic flights of Jet Airways and Air-Deccan were cancelled due to the same reason.

Singapore Airlines’ flight with over 250 passengers failed to take off from the airport last night due to thick fog that enveloped the airport with visibility as poor as only two metres, a spokesman of the airlines said. The flight took off this afternoon. All passengers were accommodated in various hotels, the spokesman said.

Both national and international flights were affected. Mr Ajmer Singh, who had to go to London, said the airlines were not providing satisfactory information about the exact schedule of flights.

Meanwhile, the rail traffic was also affected due to fog. Railway officials said most of the trains left two to three hours behind schedule.


24-hr control room for poll complaints
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 1
The State Election Commission will set up a 24-hour control room at Chandigarh to monitor any complaints in the run-up to the elections in Punjab. The control room will become functional in a day or two. Meanwhile, the Deputy Election Commissioner, Election Commission of India, Mr R. Bhattacharya, will come to Punjab tomorrow for a review meeting.

The fax number of the control room will be 0172-2707970 and any complaint can be sent in. This already functions round the clock and is located in office of the commission located in Sector 17 here. The website www.ceopunjab.nic.in <http://www.ceopunjab.nic.in> can also be accessed.


BJP opposes kiosks in IDH market
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 1
The Bharatiya Janata Party has come out against the installation of kiosks in IDH market and other parts of the city. BJP activists led by Mr Bakshi Ram Arora, district president, along with shopkeepers today brought down the three tin kiosks put up by the Municipal Corporation authorities at the behest of Congress leaders.

The Corporation authorities put up new khokas at the same place in IDH market which earlier were demolished by shopkeepers.


Muslims burn Bush’s effigy

Phagwara, January 1
Hundreds of Muslims gathered here today and burnt an effigy of US President George Bush to protest against the execution of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussain.

They held a demonstration under the banners of the All India Ahrar Congress and Hazmat Dawete Islamia Committee, raising slogans against the United States at local Gol Chowk. — UNI


Cold claims life

Ropar, January 1
Cold claimed the life of a 70-year-old man who was travelling in the Saharanpur-Ambala-Nangal train here. The body was found lying in compartment number 4 by a railway guard when the train reached Mianapur this afternoon. The identity of the old man could not established. — TNS


Panel summons SHO, SSP
Our Correspondent

Abohar, January 1
The Punjab State Human Rights Commission, while exercising its powers under section 13 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, has directed that the SHO of the city police station-1 Abohar be summoned along with DDR for the month of July 2006 showing the movement of ASI Kewal Singh on July 23, 2006. The Commission has further directed that the SSP Ferozepore (Mr Arpit Shukla) be also summoned along with the record relating to inquiry of the complaint of Chiman Lal Grover, a resident of Abohar, to appear before the commission on January 18.

A copy of the orders issued under signature of Mr B C Rajput, member, PSHRC, was received here today.

The Commission observed that the SSP, instead of sending report with regard to the incident dated July 23, 2006, had tried to circumvent the issue by referring to an old incident dated March 18, 2004, which had nothing to do with the present complaint.

The complainant, while appearing before the Commission, stated that he was never called by any police officer for the purpose of inquiry in to his complaint dated August 1, 2006.

The complainant had also narrated the old incident when the Abohar police in FIR no. 59 dated March 18, 2004, allegedly falsely involved him when he had gone to stage a dharna before the DSP’s house for the purpose of demanding justice.

Mr Rajput said the Commission was satisfied that no useful purpose would be served to call a report from the SSP Ferozepore. Accordingly, it was considered a fit case to proceed under section 17 (ii) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, and conduct the inquiry by the Commission of its own.

Chiman Lal Grover, a resident of new Dharam Nagri, an electrician by profession, had some dispute with a former member of the Municipal Council here. As the Councillor allegedly harassed him and members of his family, he started a fight for justice. The police dragged and arrested all members of the family as they sat on a dharna outside residence of then DSP here. He had been showing black flags to all VIPs to draw their attention during their visits. This irritated the authorities, he rued.


DC briefs officers

Faridkot, January 1
Ms Rakhee Gupta Bhandari, District Election Officer-cum-Deputy Commissioner, has directed senior district officers to be vigilant to enforce the model code of conduct in an effective manner to ensure the fair and free elections in three Assembly constituencies including Faridkot, Kotkapura and Panjgrain falling in this district.

Holding a first meeting to review the election process with the officers concerned here today, she directed the SDMs-cum-assistant returning officers to get in touch with the senior police officers to identify the sensitive and super-sensitive polling stations in order to make adequate security arrangements to ensure peaceful polling. — PTI


Protesting teachers pack bags
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 1
After having wasted their precious time, the protesting EGS teachers left today and members of other unions have started packing their bags from outside the PSEB Headquarters here.

The unemployed linemen, who have spent more than a year protesting in front of the PSEB for government jobs, are still hopeful. There are more than 2500 unemployed linemen, out of these over 900 have become overage, while waiting for regular jobs, still hopeful and not ready to go back to their homes.

They said, “if we call off our protest, we will not get any job”. Even after the poll code of conduct has been imposed, they are hopeful of getting jobs. Because the code of conduct would not affect the PSEB, as it is an independent body, they can recruit us, said an unemployed lineman Hardev Singh.


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