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Chandumajra SAD nominee from Bhattal’s seat
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 3
Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra, who joined the Shiromani Akali Dal today, will be the party's candidate from the Lehragaga Assembly segment.

Mr Chandumajra announced his joining the SAD, along with his close associates and supporters, in the presence of the party President, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Mr Sukhbir Singh, Mr Balwinder Singh Bhunder and a former SGPC chief, Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar, here.

Immediately after joining the party, Mr Chandumajra was declared the party's nominee against the political heavyweight, the Deputy Chief Minister, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, by Mr Badal. Though Mrs Bhattal has not been declared a candidate by the Congress from that constituency, it is expected that she will contest from there.

Mr Chandumajra's close associate, Mr Baldev Singh Mann, has also joined the SAD and will be the party's nominee from the Dirba segment. Besides Mr Chandumajra and Mr Mann, their supporters, including some members of the SGPC, also joined the SAD.

Mr Chandumajra said that he had merged his party, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Longowal), with the SAD.

For Mr Chandumajra, Mr Mann and their associates it is a sort of homecoming. They had parted company with the SAD a few years ago.

Political observers say that by making Mr Chandumajra join the SAD, Mr Badal has tried to politically balance the party in Mohali, Patiala and Fatehgarh Sahib districts, which were known as the strongholds of the late Gurcharan Singh Tohra. Mr Chandumajra has strong pockets of influence in this belt. Following the death of Tohra, the SAD leader, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, had increased his influence in this belt. As Mr Chandumajra and Capt Kanwaljit Singh have never had close political rapport, the former will work as a “counterweight” against the latter.

"People who understand the politics of Mr Badal are aware that he has never allowed any leader to become a big force in a particular zone. It was only Tohra who had grown beyond Mr Badal's expectations because the deceased Akali leader himself was a shrewd leader", said a political observer.

"Mr Badal has been successful in checking the political growth of leaders by pitting one against the other and the same will be true in the case of Capt Kanwaljit Singh and Mr Chandumajra", he added.

Sources said that Mr Badal and his son early this morning visited the residence of Mr Chandumajra at Mohali. They discussed various issues and took the consent of Mr Chandumajra and Mr Mann to declare them as candidates from Lehragaga and Dirba, respectively.

During the visit, the issue of Mr Karnail Singh Panjoli, member of the SGPC and confidant of Mr Chandumajra, was also discussed. Mr Panjoli, who was present at the meeting, had asked that he should be “adjusted” in the political set-up immediately. However, Mr Badal and Mr Sukhbir Singh told him to wait for some time.

The sources said that Mr Panjoli had asked that he should be made a senior vice-president in the SGPC or the president of the Fatehgarh Sahib district unit of the party. The third option given by Mr Panjoli was that he should be nominated the party candidate from Sirhind. Mr Badal and Mr Sukhbir Singh assured him that he would be suitably adjusted, but he should be patient. Mr Panjoli did not attend the press conference at which Mr Chandumajra, Mr Mann and the others announced that they had joined the SAD. 

 

PM’s brother to contest poll
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 3
Cashing in on the goodwill of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his home city, his younger brother Surjit Singh Kohli, a local businessman, has made a strong case with the Congress to fight the forthcoming Assembly elections from here.

Mr Surjit Singh Kohli, has decided to be a contestant for one of the four constituencies in the city. Mr Kohli said that he had yet to seek the permission of Dr Manmohan Singh for the same.

Mr Kohli said Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, whom he had met during his Vikas Yatra rally last month, had given his support to his candidature.

According to sources, Mr Kohli has been seeking the support of local Congress leaders. The most likely area to be opted by him will be the Amritsar North seat, which is safe. It Congress candidate Jugal Kishore Sharma during the last Assembly elections in 2002.

 

Sidhu’s wife may get BJP ticket
Suspension of Navjot’s confidant revoked
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 3
The BJP yesterday received shot in the arm when Mr Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina, secretary, Khalsa College Governing Council, and senate member of Guru Nanak Dev University, joined the party here.

Though Mr Chhina has joined the BJP unconditionally, he is aspirant for the Assembly ticket from Amritsar (West). He is a prominent person of the city and represents many social, educational and art associations.

Meanwhile, sources in the BJP said the wife of cricket-turned-politician Navjot Sidhu might be fielded from the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat. The seat fell vacant following the resignation of Mr Sidhu from Parliament following his conviction in a 'road-rage' case.

It is learnt that the senior BJP leaders found Ms Sidhu the most suitable candidate from the seat. The senior leaders, who met a two-member screening committee of the party, also supported her candidature.

In response to a question on the candidature of his wife, Mr Sidhu said he was nobody to entertain such questions. It was for the party high command to decide over the candidatures. “I am soldier of the party while it was the prerogative of the Generals (party high command) to allocate the seats”.

In yet another significant development, the suspension of Mr Anil Joshi, a senior BJP leader and confidant of Mr Sidhu, was revoked by the party high command. His supporters today urged the screening committee to allocate Mr Johsi party ticket from the Amritsar (North) constituency.

However, the party has not revoked the suspension of Mr Tarun Chugh and Mr Sukhdev Chahal who were also suspended along with Mr Joshi. The BJP had taken action against them following a verbal duel between Mr Avinash Rai Khanna, state BJP president, and Mr Sidhu at Rajasansi Airport recently.

Mr Joshi assured the high command that he would work like a disciplined worker of the party even though he was denied Assembly ticket from Amritsar. Out of four, three Assembly ticket had been given to the BJP while the SAD would contest from one constituency only.

Mr Surinder Singh Shahi, who had joined the BJP less than a couple of years ago, gave a representation to the screening committee seeking to contest from the Amritsar (West) constituency.

In yet another development, Mr Balramji Dass Tandon said he would like to contest from Amritsar if Parliamentary Board decided to give him ticket. It is believed that Mr Raj Khurana, who had recently joined the BJP, might be fielded from Rajpura, a constituency earlier represented by Mr Tandon.

Mr Tandon, who belongs to Amritsar and has fought many electoral battles from here, shifted to Rajpura a long time ago. It is learnt that Ms Laxmi Kanta Chawla, a senior party leader, may submit to the party high command that she was not interested in contesting the elections from the Central constituency.

Earlier, some senior BJP leaders had worked day and night to ensure the defeat of Ms Chawla during previous Assembly elections.

However, both Mr Tandon and Mr Grewal said a state-level meeting to be presided over by Mr Avinash Rai Khanna would be held at Chandigarh to discuss the 'short-listed' possible candidates. The recommendations would be sent to the Parliamentary Board, which would release the final list after its meeting in New Delhi on January 10.

The members of the poll screening body said the party had not yet allocated ticket to anybody as published in a section of the Press.

Meanwhile, Ms Amarjit Kaur, who owns medical and dental colleges in the state, also joined the BJP.

 

Farmers ‘occupy’ DC office
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 3
Poor farmer Jagir Singh Jallewal, who worked as ‘Deputy Commissioner’ here today for hours had never dreamt of even entering the office of DC.

Jagir Singh ‘dream’ become a ‘reality’ when protesting farmers ‘occupied’ unguarded office of the Deputy Commissioner as the latter failed to hear their grievances on the third day of the agitation today.

The district administration had not made security arrangements. No policeman was present in front of the DC’s office to stop them from entering the office. The DC was not present in his office. He was busy in a meeting with the Election Commissioner at Ludhiana.

District police chief S.S. Srivastava said elaborate security arrangements were made outside the DC’s office. He said it was wrong on the part of farmers to enter the office. Farmers had entered the office to get themselves photographed, he added.

Farmers led by Mr Satnam Singh Pannu gathered outside the Deputy Commissioner’s office to court arrest as part of protest against the government.

The administration did not arrest them. Mr Kanwalpreet Singh Pannu, convener of the KSC said they would not relent till their demands were met.

The police released 95 farmers, who were arrested on December 20 for obstructing trains during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the city.

 

VC orders probe into girl’s disappearance
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 3
Mr Swarn Singh Boparai, Vice-Chancellor of Punjabi University, has launched an inquiry into the disappearance of the daughter of a university employee residing on the local campus.

Though Mr Boparai has constituted a four-member inquiry team headed by Dr Sucha Singh Gill, Dean, Academic Affairs, the employee, who is working as a senior assistant at Punjabi University, has not complained to the police for action against those who allegedly took his daughter away from his house for three days.

Dr Baldev Singh Sandhu, Director Public Relations, Punjabi University, while confirming that an inquiry had been initiated, said this had been done to avoid recurrence of such incidents. He added that the inquiry had been launched on the complaint of the aggrieved employee.

Information gathered by The Tribune revealed that the girl was a former student of the university. She reportedly went to Amritsar on December 26 with some people. She was kept in Amritsar by one woman, Vishawpreet.

From Amritsar, she was taken to Dehra Dun. From Dehra Dun, she was brought to Fathegarh Sahib where she was allegedly made unconscious by the people who had taken her away. She was then dropped at Khanna town on December 28. From Khanna, she came back home on the university campus the same day.

Official sources said though it could not be confirmed under what circumstances the girl was taken away, the girl had told the inquiry committee that she was not physically assaulted but was harassed only.

 

Favour to officer
Chief Vigilance panel demands report
Maneesh Chhibber
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 3
The powers-that-be at the Punjab Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC), a loss-making Punjab Government undertaking which is already on the chopping block due to mounting loses, have been surreptitiously playing Santa to a senior officer, whose involvement in alleged illegal acts stands established.

According to a complaint before the Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC), Punjab, Justice Amar Dutt (retd), the officer in question, Mr R.K. Sharma, has even been granted an extension in service by the PTDC management despite clear instances of his involvement in highly questionable and illegal acts.

However, taking strong notice of the allegations in the complaint, Justice Dutt has sought a complete report from the department concerned. Mr Sharma, it has been alleged by the complainant Jagdeep Singh Walia, has been given one favour after another by the PTDC management despite his controversial past.

For example, at least two separate inquiries conducted by senior government officers indicted Mr Sharma for having allegedly tried to re-sell membership of the Holiday Home Club Scheme floated by the PTDC in 1986.

The scheme, which had generated huge enthusiasm in the early stages resulting in the membership growing to over 6,000 by 1995, offered a one-week free stay for Indians and two weeks for NRIs in any holiday homes of their choice.

The complaint says that in April 1999, Mr Sharma, who was in charge of the scheme, offered resale of membership for Rs 20,000.

After the then Deputy General Manager (DGM) informed the Managing Director about alleged acts of corruption, criminal breach of trust, cheating, forgery etc, having been committed by Mr Sharma, an inquiry was held by Mr Jaspal Singh, then Additional MD. In his report dated July 26, 1999, Mr Jaspal Singh indicted Mr Sharma.

His report said the whole scandal was a well thought out plan by Mr Sharma with an ulterior motive of illegal private gains.

On receipt of the report, disciplinary action was ordered to be initiated against Mr Sharma. Moreover, his explanation to the charge-sheet was found to be unsatisfactory and further inquiry was ordered to be held by Mr M.M. Oberoi, a retired IAS officer, and K.C. Sharma, DGM, PTDC. The committee held Mr Sharma guilty vide its report dated October 16, 2001.

But, no action was taken against him. At the same time, two junior employees, also involved in the scam, were penalised.

Not only this, as per an FIR lodged on May 23, 1988, at Police Station, Sector 17, Chandigarh, Mr Sharma was accused of having obtained his job on the basis of forged fake qualification certificates. He also allegedly got the case file stolen from district courts complex, Chandigarh, for which, on the orders of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, another FIR was registered.

However, on October 29, 1997, Mr Sharma represented to the PTDC MD, saying he was ready to forego arrears of salary, provided the charge-sheet against him was withdrawn and the judgement of the lower court in the case pertaining to fake certificates was not challenged in a superior court.

In a controversial order, the then MD on December 9, 1997, accepted his request. Moreover, he was given the higher post of DGM.

The then Chairman also granted ex post facto approval to the promotion with effect from March 1, 1985.

However, after the irregular act came to the notice of the Committee on Public Undertakings of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, which was miffed, the promotion order was withdrawn.

The Committee even held that the PTDC authorities appeared to be hand in glove with Mr Sharma.

Mr Sharma moved the High Court, but the court refused to stay the order of withdrawal of promotion. However, despite this, he was allowed to continue on this post till June 2006. Later, Mr Sharma was re-designated as GM against a non-existent post. He was due to retire on September 30, 2006, but was given two-year extension on October 1, 2006. 

 

Seat allotment: BJP-SAD differences surface again
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 3
Differences over allotment of seats between the BJP and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) surfaced again tonight following a stormy meet of the BJP here to decide on the names of candidate for all 23 seats the party is contesting in the forthcoming Assembly elections in Punjab.

Firstly, the BJP has also decided to contest the Garh Shankar seat thus taking its contestants up to a total of 23. In a way, the BJP has refused to surrender any seat to its long-standing alliance partner, the SAD. Secondly, the BJP has asked the Akalis to vacate the Ludhiana-West and the Jalandhar Cantonment seats, respectively, for the BJP. The SAD president, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, has already declared the candidates for these two seats. Mr Harish Rai Dhanda has been given the SAD ticket for Ludhiana-West, while Mr Jagbir Singh Brar has been given the SAD ticket for Jalandhar Cantonment. Mr Rajinder Bhandari and Mr Vijay Sample, two seniors leaders of the BJP, were keen on contesting these two seats.

During the 1997 elections Mr Maheshinder Singh Grewal had contested on the SAD ticket and won. He was a minister in then Badal-cabinet. However, in 2002 the late G.S. Tohra, formed a separate party and asked Mr Grewal to contest from Kila Raipur, while the SAD ticket went to Mr Avtar Singh Makkar, the now SGPC chief. Makkar had lost. The BJP now asserted that since it had given up its claim on the seat at Mr Tohra’s behest to Mr Maheshinder Grewal in 1997 the seat should now be restored the BJP kitty.

The BJP feels Jalandhar Cantonment is an urban seat and the party stands a better chance there. Since 1992 the seat has been won by the Congress in the past three elections.

At the meeting, a section of leaders, showing their resentment against the “attitude” of the SAD, even asked the BJP high-command to be ready for contesting all 117 seats in case the SAD did not relent and “respected” the sentiments of the Punjab unit of the BJP.

Senior BJP leaders were present at the meeting that was held at the party headquarters here tonight.

Several party leaders had also decided to show their strength. Notably, Master Mohan Lal from Pathankot came with a several supporters raising slogans to seek re-nomination from that constituency. He is a former minister in the Badal-Cabinet. However, the BJP has given some indication to deny him a ticket while putting up Mr Ashwani Kumar Sharma from there.

 

Youth wing to seek Cong ticket for 20 members
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 3
To seek representation for the youths in the ensuing Assembly elections, the Punjab Youth Congress (PYC) will demand Congress ticket for about 20 from the high command for the workers and leaders of the PYC, depending upon the winning prospects of the aspirants.

For this purpose, the names of the Youth Congress workers and leaders will be recommended to the party high command by the president of the PYC.

In reply to a question by The Tribune here today, Mr Vijay Inder Singla, president of the PYC, said there were several such youth leaders and workers in the Youth Congress who were in a winning position in their respective Assembly constituencies as they had brought more youths to the Congress fold in the recent past to strengthen the party.

When asked whether the PYC would suggest to the Congress high command to include something for the youths in the Congress manifesto, Mr Vijay Inder Singla said it would recommend to the high command to include formation of a youth development board in its manifesto, so that due representation could be given to the meritorious youths, especially Youth Congress persons, in the boards and corporations.

Earlier in the day, Mr Singla, accompanied by Mr Aman Arora, general secretary of the PYC, attended “Yuva Sankalp Yatra” at Dirba village, about 25 km from here. The yatra, which started under the supervision of Mr Singla on December 9 last from Jallianwala Bagh at Amritsar, today reached Dirba from Ropar district to pass through the Sangrur district via Sunam, Sangrur, Dhuri and Malerkotla towns.

The PYC chief said the yatra had been organised to highlight the achievements of the Amarinder Singh government and mobilise the Youth Congress workers for preparing them for the ensuing Assembly elections. He said the PYC would certainly play a big role in the Assembly elections as it had already formed booth-level committees in all villages and towns of the state.

Mr Singla said if any Youth Congress leader or worker fielded himself/herself as a rebel candidate against the official candidate of the party in any constituency, he/she would be served a show-cause notice before suspension from the party. He said indiscipline would not be tolerated at any cost.

 

BSP releases 70-member list
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, January 3
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has declared its 70 candidates for various segments of Punjab Assembly and the remaining 47 will be finalised soon. This was disclosed by Mr Avtar Singh Karimpuri, president of the state unit of the BSP, while addressing in a party workers meeting held here last evening.

He said 11-member committees for each polling booth would soon be constituted for guiding the electorate and for fair and free conduct of election. The committees would arrange fax machines and telephones near each polling station for providing information to the Election Commission in case of any untoward incident.

He apprehended that the Congress and the SAD(B)-BJP combine would lure Dalit voters through liquor and money. He urged the BSP workers to remain vigilant in this regard.

Mr Kulwinder Singh, former Block Samiti member, Tanda, along with his supporters joined the BSP on the occasion.

Mr Vir Singh, a member of Rajya Sabha from UP and in charge of Punjab affairs of the BSP, Mr Sumitter Singh Sikri, general secretary and Mr Onkar Singh Jhamat, secretary of the Punjab unit, also addressed the gathering.

 

CEC to visit Punjab soon; Jalandhar SSP may be shifted
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 3
The Chief Election Commissioner of India, Mr N. Gopalswami, is coming to Punjab next week to oversee election arrangements.

Meanwhile, the SSP of Jalandhar, Mr Naunihal Singh, is likely to be shifted as Jalandhar is his home district. He was recently transferred from Mohali to Jalandhar. Under the Election Commission guidelines, a police official cannot remained posted in his home district.

The Punjab Government today ordered the transfer of Mr Husan Lal as Commissioner, Municipal Corporation, Amritsar. The previous incumbent retired on December 31. Mr Raj Kamal Chaudhary will replace Mr Husan Lal in the Rural Development while Mr V.K. Mean will hold additional charge of Director Social Security.

The government may seek the permission to shift the Commissioner of Jalandhar Division, Mr Swaran Singh. He had recently been promoted in the rank of Principal Secretary. The post of Commissioner is not directly related to the election process.

 

ROs to head grievance cells
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, January 3
To ensure speedy redressal of complaints pertaining to violation of the Model Code of Conduct, a grievance cell would be set up at all district headquarters under the Returning Officers, who would forward any such complaint to the CEO, Punjab, and the Election Commission of India, said Mr R. Bhattacharya, Deputy Election Commissioner of India. He was presiding over a meeting of Returning Officials from Bathinda, Muktsar, Mansa, Moga, Faridkot and Ferozepore districts here today.

Mr Sundaram Krishna, Chief Electoral Officer, Punjab, Mr Surinderjit Singh, Commissioner of Ferozepore, Mr V. N. Jhanjuya, Commissioner of Faridkot, besides the Deputy Commissioners of Moga, Mansa, Faridkot, Bathinda, attended the meeting.

Mr Bhattacharya told the officials to ensure firm implementation of the Model Code of Conduct. He said any disregard of the same should be viewed seriously. For smooth conduct of elections, 15,649 polling booths would be set up in 117 Assembly constituencies, he said. Election Observers from other states had been appointed for all constituencies of Punjab.

Mr Bhattacharya instructed that a "communication plan" should be prepared at all district headquarters for uninterrupted coordination among DROs, ROs, polling stations and security forces. Mobile phones would not be allowed inside polling stations.

He said only those voters who had been issued identity card would be allowed to cast vote. Till date around 80 % voters in the state had been issued EPIC card.

Mr Sundaram Krishna, CEO, Punjab, said a total of 43.79 lakh new cards had been issued in all districts of Punjab till December 24, 2006.

Mr Krishna instructed the officials to expedite the process of issuing identity card to the rest of the electorate.

He asked the ROs to coordinate with police officials to make a master plan for the security of sensitive and ultra-sensitive polling booths in their respective districts where there was a possibility of some kind of violence during the poll.

He said 4,797 polling stations had been identified as "sensitive" and another 1,034 booths as "super-sensitive" where special security arrangements would be in place. He asked the DCs to take immediate action on any kind of objections raised by political parties during electioneering.

 

Congress leaders to boycott party nominee
Our Correspondent

Barnala, January 3
Senior Congress leaders of the area have decided to boycott the party nominee, come what may. the decision was taken at a meeting at Chintu Park here today. The meeting was presided over by ex-municipal councillor and Improvement Trust member Madan Lal Singla. Addressing a press conference, Mr Madan Lal Singla said senior Congress leaders had decided to oppose the party nominee in the Assembly elections, irrespective of the candidate.

He lamented that in the past five years, the workers had not been given due respect by the party. The municipal committee headed by its Congress President was a centre of corruption. Alleging that municipal committee affairs were under a cloud, these leaders demanded a CBI inquiry into its functioning.

 

CPI (ML) to contest on 10 seats
Tribune News Service

Mansa, January 3
The CPI (ML) would contest the Assembly elections from 10 constituencies in the state, announced party leader Swapan Mukherjee here today.

Interacting with mediapersons, he said the party would field its candidates from all four constituencies of Mansa district, three in Ludhiana and one each in Bathinda, Barnala and Sangrur districts.

He said the party’s state general secretary, Mr Rajwinder Singh, would contest from Mansa, while the district secretary Mr Bhagwant Singh Samao would fight the elections from Budhlada seat.

Other candidates were Mr Satpal Singh Behniwal from Sardulgarh, Mr Gurjant Singh from Joga, Mr Labh Singh from Dhanaula and Mr Harwinder Singh from Nathana. The candidates for Kila Raipur, Raikot and the Dakha seats in Ludhiana and Dirba seat in Sangrur would be announced next week. The party would fight the elections on issues concerning the farmers, the youth, labourers and traders. The main agenda would be to put an end to the discrimination against Dalit women and the downtrodden sections of society. 

 

Joint Front reaches pact on 64 seats

Jalandhar, January 3
The Joint Front, floated recently by various non-Congress and non-SAD-BJP parties, including the CPI, the CPM and the Lok Bhalai Party, has reached seat adjustment with some other parties including the Jan Morcha and the Shiromani Akali Dal (1920) and urged outfits like the Bahujan Samaj Morcha and the BSP splinter groups to join them.

Talking to reporters at a joint press conference here today, Lok Bhalai Party president former Union Minister B.S. Ramoowalia and SAD(1920) president Ravi Inder Singh said the new front, floated to fight unitedly the Congress and the SAD-BJP combine, had finalised adjustment of 64 assembly seats among eight parties.

As per the adjustment that Lok Bhalai Party would contest 14 seats, the CPI 18, the CPM 14 and the Jan Morcha would contest 17 seats. One seat -Dhariwal- was left for the Sucha Singh Chhotepur.

They said that Shiromani Akali Dal (Longowal) leader Inderjit Singh Zira had joined their Front after refusing to follow president Prem Singh Chandumajra’s move to join the SAD (Badal).

Mr Zira was also present at the press conference. The SAD (Longowal) has thus suffered a split with its president Mr Chandumajra joining the SAD (Badal) in Chandigarh today.

Mr Ramoowalia said the joint front would continue strengthening its base and field joint candidates on other remaining seats.

He said second list on seat adjustment was likely to be released by January 10.

He said his front would welcome leaders like BSM president Satnam Singh Kainth and other Bahujan Samaj leaders. — UNI

 

Several in race for Cong ticket
Manish Sirhindi
Tribune News Service

Moga, January 3
With the Assembly elections round the corner and the Code of Conduct in force, Congressmen here are vying to get the party ticket to contest the elections. Several Congress men are claiming the party ticket, each one projecting himself the most deserving.

In the Moga Assembly segment there are five Congress leaders who hope to get the party ticket.

The contenders are Mr Vijay Saathi, who is considered close to Mr Jagmeet Brar. The second aspirant is Dr Malti Thapar, a former minister in the Beant Singh government who was denied the ticket in the last Assembly elections. She claims that with a strong base in the 30 villages of the Moga constituency, she can win the elections. Mahesh Inder Singh is yet another aspirant this time. He had earlier lost twice from Bhagapurana. Mr Harpreet Singh Hero, a close relative of Mr Avtar Henry, is also hopeful of getting the party ticket from Moga. Mr J. S. Jain, sitting President of the local Municipal Council, is also believed to be in the race.

The SAD has already announced the candidature of its sitting legislator, Jathedar Tota Singh, for the elections.

At Bhagapurana, Mr Darshan Singh Brar, who had lost the 1985 elections, is trying to secure the Congress ticket. Insiders in the congress say that it is also likely that Mr Mahesh Inder Singh may get the ticket from Bhagapurana as he is considered close to Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh.

The Congress has been sharing the Nihal Singh Wala constituency with the CPI for almost three decades and in case it decides to field its own candidate this time, it is likely to consider the name of Akali rebel Ajit Singh Shant, who has joined the Congress.

Ms Jagdarshan Kaur claims to be the Congress candidate from the Dharamkot constituency and so does Mr Gurmeet Singh.

 

SAD sarpanches join Congress
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 3
The Congress here today received a shot in the arm as large number of Akali workers led by their 13 sarpanches and panches in Verka assembly constituency joined the party today deserting Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) candidate Dr Dalbir Singh Verka.

 
 


HIV cases: ‘mostly truckers kin tested positive’
Tribune News Service

Ropar, January 3
AIDS claimed the life of a 12 year-old boy. His father who was a truck driver and his mother had also died due to the same disease. The tragedy which struck in a village 4 km from here was not isolated one. Many of families of truck or taxi drivers who tested HIV positive fear bleak future. Of the total persons tested HIV positive in the past four years most of them were truck drivers or their family members.

The boy died in his relative’s house here on December 30 he was confirmed positive 14 days ago at the integrated counseling testing center (ICTC) in the Civil Hospital, here. His mother and father record with the ICTC revealed died due to AIDS. As per records of past four years at ICTC total 1775 persons came for test at the ICTC in 2006 till December 31, of whom 77 were tested HIV positive, including 37 men and 40 women. Most of the persons tested HIV positive were truckers and their family members. In 2005, 36 persons tested positive include 20 men and 16 women, 56 persons were tested HIV positive in 2004 include 34 men and 22 women 25 were found HIV positive in 2003 include 15 men and 10 women.

Ironically the ICTC where HIV tests are done in the district here, most of the cases come to limelight during the pregnancy of the women who come here for check up. When the suspected cases are sent for the test many of them are found HIV positive. Anyone desiring to get test done has to pay Rs 10 at the ICTC. Rise in the cases of HIV positive in the district in the past years indicate that preventive health education to make villagers aware specially truck drivers has been given due consideration.

As a result, unsafe sex continues due to lack of knowledge. Unreported cases will be many more believe the NGO working in the region.

Truckers function in the area of Nangal, Nurpur Bedi, Anandpur Sahib and Ropar, so health authorities should focus on them to provide them with literature and organise awareness camps, said Director of a Nangal-based NGO, Arpan, Kuldeep Chand, who has highlighted many HIV positive cases of the area.

Civil Surgeon, Ropar S.P. Sharma confirming death of the boy due to AIDS said we have been organising awareness camps in rural areas and also for truckers. Recently he with doctors visited the area where truckers live in the district to spread awareness about AIDS. We have also organised seminars to increase awareness among people, Mr Sharma added.

 

Barnala dist awaits officers
Our Correspondent

Barnala, January 3
People here have been facing inconvenience as most of the offices of Barnala district (20th district of Punjab) are yet to come into existence and posting of many officers against sanctioned posts not done. Sangrur district administration has stopped entertaining mail, dealing and routine work pertaining to Barnala district. Some of the Barnala district offices are carrying on with additional charge given to officers of the new district.

Thirtyseven district-level posts were sanctioned for making newly-created district functional from November, 19 the day Mr Amarinder Singh, Punjab Chief Minister inaugurated Barnala 20th district of Punjab. So far only the Civil Surgeon Barnala district and District Food and Civil Supplies Controller’s offices have started functioning with Dr Balbir Singh being the first Civil Surgeon and Mr Parveen Vij District Food and Civil Supplies Controller. About 30 sanctioned posts, await posting of officers.

Only six district-level officers have taken charge. Apart from Mr Surjit Singh Dhillon, Deputy Commissioner Barnala Mr Inder Yash Bhatti, Additional Deputy Commissioner (Revenue) and Mr Jasdeep Singh Aulakh, Assistant Commissioner (General) are other two officers to assume charge in the Deputy Commissioner’s Office.

Sources in the Deputy Commissioner’s Office said apart from the Civil Surgeon and the District Food and Civil Supplies Controller, posting of about thirty officers is still in abeyance.

 

Discrimination against Dalits alleged
Tribune News Service

Ropar, January 3
Former Congress MLA, Shamsher Singh Rai, today alleged that the district administration was discriminating against Dalits of Chamkaur Sahib by directing them to deposit stamp duty at collector rate on land allotted to them by the government in 1972.

Giving details in the press conference here Mr Rai said in 1972 the Punjab Scheduled Caste Land Board and Finance Corporation had allotted 734 acres of land to 113 poor families of Surtapur in Chamkaur Sahib. Out of which as many as 28 families had got their land registered. But now these families were being asked to deposit collector rate.

He said that the price of the land had increased up to 5 lakh per acres. The poor families have to pay heavy price on stamp duties with the administration decision. Even recently the petition moved by five families in this regard was dismissed by the Additional Deputy Commissioner, Ms Bhavana Garg, he said.

When contacted the ADC, Mrs Bhavna Garg, denied the allegation and said the decision on the petition moved by some of the Dalit families was passed as per the law. We have asked them to deposit the collector fees as per law not as per the market rate of the land. The aggrieved families have right to file appeal against the decision before the Finance Commissioner, she said.

She said she had dismissed the petition in November. This could be political reason to raise this issue now.

 

Fire in plywood factory
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 3
A fire in a factory of Punjab Plywood Industries, Ladda village, 9 km from here, caused a loss in lakhs. The fire broke out at 9 pm and was extinguished at 1 a.m.

It was stated the fire broke out due to a technical fault in machinery.

Fire engines from Sangrur, Malerkotla and Barnala were summoned to control the fire.

A fire brigade official said at least one chamber, filled with wood, was gutted.

 

1 dies in mishap

Phillaur, January 3
Mr Charanjit of Indira Colony died on the spot and his uncle Uday Singh received serious injuries when the motor cycle they were riding collided with a truck near the bus stand here on the Ludhiana-Phillaur road on Monday night. — TNS

 

Ginners defer strike, cotton purchase resumes
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 3
Purchase of cotton in the region’s markets resumed today after a gap of six days. Resumption came after protesting cotton ginners decided to defer their strike till the formation of a new government in the state. However, markets witnessed very less fresh arrival today.

President of the Punjab Cotton Factories and Ginners Association, Bhagwan Bansal, said they had reached the decision following an appeal from Mr Vijay Kalra, president of the Punjab Katcha Arhtiya Association.

He said as the election code of conduct had come into effect the strike was serving no purpose and it was merely leading to cotton’s outflow from the state. “Continuing it would have led to losses to the arhtiyas as well as the farmers,” he added.

Mr Bansal said they would raise the issue of 1 per cent infrastructure cess with the Punjab Governor on the very first day of the next government’s tenure.

All through the strike farmers rued they were suffering for no fault. “When we are ready to part with 1 per cent of our cotton price on account of cess, what for they are striking work,” was the common sentiment. The impact of strike came to the fore in markets today itself, when the highest cotton price in Bathinda was Rs 2,111 per quintal and Rs 2,105 in Kotkapura. Sources said before the strike it was fetching as high as Rs 2,160. In the local market, bidding of about 4,000 quintals of cotton took place today, out of which the fresh arrival merely contributed for 500 quintals.

Reacting to the development district president of the BKU Ugraha, Shingara Singh Mann, alleged the ginners continued strike post-poll code merely to “loot the farmers and evade taxes”. He alleged they directly purchased cotton from the farmers in villages and also intended to make a fast buck by cashing in on the strike and selling their cotton at high price to mills.

Experts fear fall in prices

Meanwhile, experts feared the coming days would see pressure of arrivals and it could lead to fall in cotton prices. They also said before the strike the market was firming up well and it was benefiting the ginners as well as the farmers, but now both parties could suffer due to downward trend of the market.

 
 

PSEB employees reinstated
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, January 3
Thirty employees of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) of the local circle, who had been suspended about four months back were reinstated today.

Following a compromise at a meeting of the board authorities and AITUC leaders at Patiala, said Mr Tara Singh Khehra, AITUC leader.

The employees had been on agitation for the past more than four months.

The employees were suspended by the Deputy Chief Engineer of the local PSEB circle for misbehaving with him and creating a nuisance in his office.

Mr Dalip Singh, confirming the reinstatement orders, said the employees had been transferred to Amritsar (Rural) in Gurdaspur circle and reinstated, pending an inquiry.

 
 

Mother of 4 raped
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, January 3
A married mother of four was allegedly raped at her village Kairon, 18 km from here, by a man of nearby village.

The police said the accused had been identified as Balwinder Singh of Sarali Mandan. The victim in her complaint said she was sleeping in her house when the accused forcibly entered her house and at knife point raped her.

The Patti police has registered a case.

In another case, Amarjit Kaur (26), daughter of Mr Sardul Singh, a resident of Thathi Jaimal Singh, was allegedly killed by her in-laws last late night Sabhra .

The suspects include her husband Tirath Singh, father-in-law Joginder Singh, mother-in-law Biro and sister-in-law Rajwinder Kaur. Mr Sardul Singh, father of the deceased, told the police that he received a message from his daughter that her in-laws had beaten her severely for not meeting their demand for a motor cycle. Later he got the news that she had died .

Amarjit was married to Tirath about five years back.

 

Mystery shrouds 13-yr-old girl’s death
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 3
Mystery shrouds the death of a 13-year-old girl of the Chhota Haripura area under the Islamabad police station here today. The police had initiated inquiries under Section 174 of the Cr PC.

Family members of the girl alleged their daughter used to live with her grandfather who told them the girl had run away and did not allow them to meet her. The needle of suspicion points towards the grandfather who the family alleged had locked the girl in a room.

 

Doctor’s negligence alleged
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, January 3
The police here has registered a complaint against woman doctor in charge of Dhaliwal children hospital for alleged negligence which led to the death of one-year-old Arman Singh who was admitted to the hospital last night.

Mr Balwinder Singh, father of Arman, alleged his son was admitted to the said hospital in a serious condition but the doctor did not take care of his son who died in the morning.

The police took the body in its possession and a post mortem examination was done at the civil hospital here. The police said action would be taken after receiving a report of the specialists.

 

One injured in court firing
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 3
Two groups, which came for hearing in a property dispute case, quarrelled on the court premises, resulting in firing from one side here today. A person was injured and the accused was arrested from the spot.

The police has recovered a .32 bore pistol from the accused, identified as Sandeep Sood. According to information, Sandeep had a property dispute with one Surinder Singh and they had come for hearing in the court.

They had a fight outside the court of Justice Vivek Puri, in which Sandeep opened fire at Surinder Singh, who was injured in the incident. He was rushed to a hospital.

The police has initiated proceedings under Section 307 of the IPC.

 

Cash, mobile phones stolen
Our correspondent

Hoshiarpur, January 3
Burglars decamped with cash and valuables in the local Kotwali bazar after committing burglary in three shops this morning. The owners of these shops found the locks of the shutters of their shops broken and goods in the shop scattered.

Mr Manjit Singh and Mr Harjit Singh, both aggrieved shop owners, said the burglars broke into their shops and decamped with 350 Nokia mobile phones and cash of Rs 3.16 lakh.

The burglars stole 90 mobile phones of different brands and Rs 29000 in cash from another shop.

The burglary has been committed despite the fact that the Kotwali bazar is located in the heart of the city and is close to the police station.

A case under sections 380 and 457 of the IPC has been registered.

The estimated loss in the theft is stated to be about Rs 16 lakh.

 

Rashtriya award for Library Professor
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 3
Dr Sewa Singh, Professor in the Department of Library and Information Science Guru Nanak Dev University has been selected for Rashtriya Gaurav award by the India International Friendship Society (IIFS), New Delhi.

He is second teacher of the university to have been selected for this award. Earlier, Dr S.K. Bhatia, Professor in the Department of English got this award.

This award has been given to Dr Sewa Singh in the field of education. It will be given at the “Economic Growth and National Integration” conference of the society to be held in New Delhi.

He has authored/edited 20 books and published about 150 articles in national and international journals besides guiding six Ph.D. candidates, 50 M.Phil. and M.Lib. and Information Science students. He has been associated with national-level library associations.

 

Workshop on Guru Nanak teachings now on Jan 8,9
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 3
A two-day Workshop on “Guru Nanak's Teachings in the Context of Social Evils” will be organised on January 8 and 9 instead of January 9 and 10 at Guru Nanak Dev University here.

Prof Balwant Singh Dhillon, Director, Guru Nanak Studies Centre, said today that there would be a live discussion on social status of women, social inequality, environment pollution and ecology pollution at this two-day workshop.

Research scholars, students, representatives of NGOs would also take part in the discussions, he added.

 

College resists land acquisition
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, January 3
Move of the district administration to acquire 10-acres belonging to Government Birjindra College to set-up public water works unit there has met with resistance from the college authorities, who sought intervention of higher authorities to get the project stalled.

The district planning board recently finalised a public water works unit be set-up on a piece of land at present in the possession of the Government Birjindra College and being used as a farm required for running of B.Sc. agriculture course. The college is the only institution in the state which offers this course and in case the college is deprived of this land, it will not be able to run the course.

It is alleged the land was being acquired to favour some influential person in the state government, who has share in a colony being developed near the college farm land. Sources said in case a public water works unit was set up there price of plots was likely to increase.

However, Deputy Commissioner Ms Rakhi Gupta Bhandari said according to a survey by the Public Works Department, the site (college farm land) was best suited for the unit. She said at present the region was being supplied water from the Sirhind canal which is impure and a water unit was required for clean drinking water to residents. She said several parts of the region were going to benefit if the unit was set-up at the site and there was no favouring anyone.

Meanwhile, the college authorities have written several letters to the senior functionaries including the DPI Colleges and the state Education Department seeking their intervention. The course here started in 1956 and the land is used for research purposes.

 

IMO scheme to be extended to other cities
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 3
Buoyed by the success of Instant Money Order (IMO) scheme in Chandigarh, the Punjab Circle of the Department of Posts and Telegraph will now extend the scheme to Ludhiana, Amritsar and Jalandhar.

Senior officials in the Punjab circle of the Department of Posts informed TNS here today that the scheme would be launched in the three mega cities of Punjab by the end of this month. The staff at the GPO in the three cities is being trained to handle the scheme, before it is launched.

Besides IMO, the department is also in the process of setting up its Mail Business Units in Ludhiana, Amritsar and Jalandhar. Through these units, the department will provide round-the-clock facilities like franking, wrapping of parcels and putting address labels for bulk mails of clients. A Mail Business Unit is already operational in Chandigarh and gets an average of 1000 mails a day.

Talking to TNS here today, Mrs Manjula Prashar, Chief Post Master General, Punjab Circle, said since the Department of Posts and Telegraph had decided to extend this scheme to 77 destinations across India, the scheme was expected to get good business for the department. “With the inclusion of these new destinations, the number of destinations where one can send or receive an IMO, will be 137. Thus, more and more people are likely to avail this facility,” she said.

Under this scheme, remittances worth Rs 1000-20000 can be made by cash, while remittance above Rs 20,000 and up to Rs 50,000 can be made by a cheque and/draft. A person has to deposit the money at the nearest post office, and will be given a 16 digit code. He will have to give this code to the receiver, who can instantly go to the nearest post office in his city, and get the money instantly.

Officials in the Department of Posts admitted that there had been a decline in money orders “But the decline in number of money orders can be attributed to the increase in number of speed post money orders. In fact, the number of speed post articles has increased from 29.86 lakh articles in 2003-04, to 39.84 lakh articles in 2005-06, they said.

It may be noted that the IMO scheme was launched in Chandigarh in October last year. Officials say that as of now, the daily average of IMOs from the city is three. “This is because till date the IMO service was restricted to a limited number of cities. With the scheme being expanded to other cities across India, we will get more business through this scheme,” said Mrs Prashar.

 

New law to be framed for common infrastructure
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 3
In a significant move, the Punjab Government is working on the framing of a new law for the maintenance of common infrastructure in the state. The law will lay down the rules for ensuring that infrastructure, specially privately developed, be maintained to the satisfaction of the stakeholders.

According to Mr SC Agarwal, Principal Secretary, Industries, Punjab, said correspondence between various departments of the government had begun in this regard.

With the development of public-private partnership a lot of infrastructure is being created through private parties. Development of colonies and industrial parks purely in the private sector has also got a major boost. It is, however, felt that suitable mechanisms do not exist to ensure maintenance of this infrastructure on a sustainable basis.

The document that is likely to form the basis of the new law states that the experience of Industrial Focal Points (IFPs) developed by the Punjab Small Industries and Export Corporation (PSIEC) illustrates the kind of problem such private development will encounter in a few years. Maintenance of the IFPs for a period of five years is built into the development cost.

In theory the IFP is to be transferred to municipal bodies after five years and they have to maintain it from taxes received from the occupants.

In practice, however, it seldom works that way. Municipal bodies are reluctant to take over the maintenance of IFPs as the municipal law permits them to recover all taxes over the maintenance, sufficient funds are not spent by them on the IFPs perhaps because of the lower political returns from these areas.

“The law will basically provide a legal framework to enable users of a particular infrastructure asset to maintain it themselves,” said Mr Agarwal.

The document adds while nothing in the present law prevents users from forming a society for maintenance of such assets out of the money pooled by them, a law, however, should be able to address the practical problems being faced by the stakeholders.

Those using common infrastructure face the problem of free loaders who are users who benefit from the asset but do not pay their due share. The new law can provide for mechanisms for recovery of such shares in a fair and transparent manner.

Similarly there is the problem of double payment. Users are reluctant to pay for the maintenance of assets which are required to be maintained by a public body like a municipal council out of the taxes paid by them. The law can provide for a rebate in municipal taxes if the users of particular area undertake to maintain the infrastructure themselves, states the document.

It is being further considered while the new law should provide an enabling framework for the government to make it applicable to any asset that can be notified, it will also authorise the government to bring new assets that are created after a specified date under the ambit of this act. However, for existing assets the coverage may be contingent on the consent of not less than 2/3rd of the users.

The law will provide for the formation of a special purpose vehicle for maintenance and for matters related to its incorporation, management, office bearers and accounts etc.

 

UTI Bank opens 23rd branch
Our Correspondent

Abohar, January 3
Mr R.K. Bammi, president, Northern Zone, UTI Bank, today inaugurated the 23rd branch of the bank in Punjab here.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Bammi said 10 more branches would be opened during the year in Punjab at Baghapurana, Faridkot, Moga, Barnala, Patti, Tarn Taran, Gurdaspur, etc.

“The opening of the branch here marks yet another step towards extensive consumer banking focus that we are providing across the country and reinforces our commitment to bring superior banking services, marked by convenience and closeness to customers,” Mr Bammi said.

The UTI Bank had a network of 390 branches, 94 extension counters and 2,126 ATMs across the country, Mr Rajesh Wadhwa, vice-president (operations), said.

Mr Rakesh Rathi, president, Northern India Cotton Association, inaugurated an ATM. Mr Navdeep Miglani, head of the local branch of the bank, welcomed the guests.

 


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