P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Tribune Special
Rs 360 crore for cheaper atta, dal
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 14
Marshalling its resources to provide atta and dal at subsidised prices to poor sections of society, the Punjab government has earmarked Rs 360 crore for this scheme.

About 13 lakh families will be covered under the scheme. Of these, over 4 lakh families will be from the poorest of the poor sections.

Finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal told The Tribune today that there would be an expenditure of about Rs 30 crore on providing atta at Rs 4 and dal at Rs 20 per kg to the targeted families. There would be no problem as far as sparing Rs 30 crore per month for this scheme was concerned, said Manpreet Singh.

He said the state government procurement agencies would be given adequate funds, say about Rs 200 crore, to maintain reserve stocks of wheat under the scheme. The government agencies would procure wheat from the market for this scheme, he added.

A draft of the scheme had been prepared by the food and supplies department. However, it was being discussed at the levels of the food and supplies minister and the Chief Minister. “ It is still at the conceptual stage and will take some days to take final shape”, said a senior official of the state government.

There are 13,923 depots set up under the public distribution system across the state. Each depot handles foodgrains and other items made available under the PDS to about 300-350 ration card holders. However, this system requires to be fine-tuned to make it efficient. Depot holders need to be given adequate incentives to make the scheme a success and the pilferage of food items prevented. Each family is expected to get 25 kg of wheat and 4 kg of dal every month.

There is certainly a need to set up a full-fledged separate public distribution wing under the food and supplies department to handle such a huge scheme. At present overall control on the PDS is of the food and supplies department. However, foodgrains to the depots are issued by PUNSUP from its 298 distribution centres in the state.

Officials are of the view that instead of atta, the targeted families should be given wheat at a subsidised price of Rs 4. First, the handling of wheat for distribution will be more easier under the PDS and, secondly, a beneficiary family can stock wheat for a longer period whereas the quality of wheat flour starts deteriorating after three or four weeks especially during the rainy season. The government can provide the wheat grinding cost in cash to the beneficiaries or wheat can be provided at a further reduced price to enable the beneficiary families to get it ground on their own.

Already, a scheme exists to provide wheat and rice at subsidised prices to the poorest of the poor and below poverty line families. There is also a scheme to provide wheat to above poverty line families at a controlled price. The wheat issue price for the BPL families is little higher than Rs 4 and for the poorest of poor families Rs 2 per kg. For the APL families it is above Rs 8 per kg.

The union government provides wheat at at a subsidised price for the APL and BPL families.

Sources said that before May 23, 2006, Punjab was entitled to lift about 1,39,148 tonnes of wheat per annum from the central pool for distribution through the PDS to the poorest of the poor, BPL and APL families. However, as the state government was not lifting the entire wheat stocks, the union government lowered the entitlement to 54,415 tonnes. “Not many persons were buying wheat from depots as the wheat price was stable in 2005-06,” said an officer.

However, now the Punjab government has written to the central government to restore its old quota of wheat because of the increase in its demand for distribution through the PDS.


Waterlogging to be removed: Badal
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Killianwali (Muktsar), March 14
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today said waterlogging in this district and other nearby areas would be eradicated within one year.

Badal, who was here today to attend the bhog ceremony of an old friend and renowned educationist Babu Nanak Chand Aggarwal, said a project report to eradicate the problem of waterlogging, which has been the bane of farmers in the region, had been prepared by officials of the Irrigation and Drainage Department and it would be implemented at a cost of Rs 100 crore.

Alleging that the problem of waterlogging in this region had raised its head again because the previous Congress government led by Capt Amarinder Singh did not bother to carry out desilting of drains, he said new drains would be dug up to make the waterlogged land fit for cultivation purposes again.

The Chief Minister said the Punjab government had also initiated the exercise to asses the loss caused to the crops due to the repeated hailstorms and waterlogging in this area. The affected farmers would be suitably compensated.

The Chief Minister said that the best tool to bring the farmers out of the vicious circle of debt was that they should be given remenurative prices of their agricultural produce. He said this was the main reason that the government had been pressing the central government to fix Rs 900 as the minimum support price (MSP) of wheat. He added that it was very strange when the central government could import wheat at higher prices then why it was reluctant to pay Rs 900 as MSP of wheat to the producers.

Accusing successive Congress governments at the Centre and in Punjab of ignoring the interests of farmers and thus pushing them into debt trap, Badal claimed that the SAD-BJP alliance government would leave no stone unturned to make the farmers to make significant economic progress.

He added that efforts were on to make the farmers to get more yield of cotton by providing them standardised seeds and fertilisers apart from ensuring timely supply of irrigation.

He added that the government would give stress on IT so that education-oriented jobs could be given to the youth.


Bridge washed away, 60 villages cut off
Bipin Bhardwaj and Bharat Bhushan Dogra

Mirthal (Pathankot), March 14
More than 60 villages of Bet area have been cut off after a makeshift bridge on Chhaki rivulet, near here, was washed away due to heavy downpour in this part of the region since Sunday.

The makeshift bridge had come up at a cost of Rs 1.95 crore. The swirling water washed away the banks of the rivulet along with the wooden logs and iron cables tied to the bridge. Connectivity from Mirthal village, located on the Pathankot-Jalandhar road, to Dina Nagar and further to Gurdaspur and Amritsar has been snapped with the washing away of the bridge. This has raised eyebrows as it had been inaugurated a few months back.

Motorists and villagers of areas on either sides of the banks now have to cover an extra 40 to 50 km to reach Pathankot from Dina Nagar and Jalandhar, respectively. Motorists and commuters heading from Mirthal towards Gurdaspur now have to take the Pathankot-Dina Nagar route, travelling over 30 km extra.

Those heading towards Jalandhar have to take either the Dina Nagar-Gurdaspur-Mukerian road or the Dina Nagar-Pathankot road.

Worst affected are residents of Mirthal and Abadgarh villages along the Pathankot-Jalandhar highway, who have to cross the river by boats to reach their lands.

A visit by The Tribune team revealed that contractors who had constructed the bridge on contract allocated by the Punjab Public Works Department (Building and Road) were seen collecting wooden slippers from the rivulet banks.

Raghubir Singh, a resident of Abadgarh village who owns land across the rivulet at Jandi village, claimed that despite the spending of a huge amount the bridge was hardly maintained by the department concerned. The wooden slippers and steel drums were not properly tied, which led to the washing away of the bridge. He lamented that now he had to pay Rs 5 per trip to the boat owners for crossing over to reach his fields.

Surinder Singh, another resident, alleged that inaugurating the bridge just months before the Punjab Assembly elections by former Punjab PWD minister Pratap Singh Bajwa in the presence of former MLA Aruna Chaudhary, Dina Nagar, was just a political propaganda to woo voters.

The area residents have now demanded the construction of a pucca bridge.

Efforts of contact PWD (B and R) executive engineer R.S. Bains proved futile till late in the evening. Neither the PWD (B and R) officials nor the local administration had reached the spot to restrain entry of vehicles to the site till filing of the report.


Vidhan Sabha session from today
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 14
The 13th Punjab Vidhan Sabha, which holds its first session from tomorrow, has its agenda cut out. Besides endorsing the vote on account for the first three months of the new financial year, it will elect its Speaker and decide who will go to the Rajya Sabha in place of Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder who died in harness some months ago. Tomorrow, the only item on the agenda of the House will be the administration of the oath of affirmation to the new members.

Besides the formal agenda, another important issue that will engage the interest of the House will be the election of a new member of the Rajya Sabha to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder.

Though the deceased belonged to the Congress, the seat will now go to the SAD-BJP alliance because of its majority. While the seat comes to the share of the SAD, the political affairs committee of the dal, on the basis of the recommendations of the parliamentary board, will decide the candidate. The choice is between Naresh Gujral, businessman son of former Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral, who had unsuccessfully contested the 2004 Lok Sabha elections on the SAD ticket from Jalandhar, and Daljit Singh Cheema.

Sources point out that a decision was taken some time ago that no SAD candidate, defeated in the just-concluded assembly elections, would be considered for the Rajya Sabha ticket. As such, the choice has been narrowed down to Naresh Gujral and Cheema.

The process of electing the new MP has to be completed while the first session of the Vidhan Sabha is in progress.

After administering the oath to the new members, the House will elect its new Speaker in the first two sittings of the session. The third sitting on March 19 after two days’ break will see the Governor addressing the new House.

When the session starts tomorrow, it will have Parkash Singh Badal as the leader of the House for the fourth time while Rajinder Kaur Bhattal comes back as the leader of the opposition. Former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh returns as a member of the Congress legislature party.

The new House will miss its Speaker, Dr Kewal Krishan, and Deputy Speaker(s) - Darbari Lal and Bir Devinder Singh - besides finance minister Surinder Singla. Eight-time legislator Balwinder Singh Bhunder, a regular in the business advisory committee, too, will be missing.

The new House also faces a challenge of stemming the tide of diminishing number of its sessions and sittings. There has been a steady decline in the number of sessions and sittings held by each House after the 10th Vidhan Sabha.


Post officers of our choice, MLAs tell Badal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 14
Asserting their authority, MLAs of the SAD and the BJP today made it clear to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal that officers of the rank of DSP and SDM should be posted with their consent in the subdivisions falling in their respective Vidhan Sabha segments.

Badal had convened a meeting of the MLAs of both parties at Punjab Bhavan on the eve of the session of the state assembly. The MLAs told Badal that if officers of their choice were posted in their respective subdivisions, they would face no difficulty in getting work done for the benefit of people.

The MLAs also told Badal that ministers should visit the constituencies by taking the MLA concerned into confidence. In other words, they told the ministers through Badal that they should talk to them before visiting their constituencies.

It has been seen in the past that ministers start creating their own political pressure groups in various constituencies and thus create problems for the MLAs.

Badal told the MLAs to get lists of problems faced by people in their respective constituencies prepared at the earliest. He told them to visit their areas and be in touch with officials given the task to assess the damage caused to wheat and other crops because of inclement weather in the past days.

Badal cautioned the MLAs with regard to taking up issues having the potential to damage the party’s reputation and also the image of leaders. He told them to take up issues which could further improve the image of the party and make it more popular.


New AC bus services from airport
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 14
The Punjab government will start special airconditioned bus services from Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi, to various destinations in Punjab.

The government will also induct 93 ordinary buses for other routes at a cost of Rs 12 crore.

The AC buses will be started for the convenience of NRIs of Punjab who arrive or depart from the airport every day, state transport minister Mohan Lal said at a media conference here today.

The state government would approach the authorities concerned for starting the buses from the airport, he said while pointing to the fleecing of passengers by taxi operators.

Admitting that the state transport department was incurring losses every year, the minister said after he assumed charge a drive had been launched to check the plying of unauthorised buses and taxis. So far 137 buses had been impounded in the state in the past one week, he claimed while pointing out that 11 of these buses were owned by a private transport company of a former Congress MLA.

He said a drive had been launched to check the illegal plying of buses which was causing a loss of Rs 2 lakh per night due to the non-payment of taxes. The transport department was not suffering losses due to revenue collection but because of its old fleet of buses, he said while claiming that the department would cross its revenue target of Rs 4.51 crore set for the current financial year.

The annual loss of Punjab Roadways with its old fleet of 778 buses was around Rs 72 crore, while the loss of the Punjab Road Transport Corporation with 1,000 buses was around Rs 17.91 crore in the last fiscal year, he said. However, PUNBUS with its new fleet of 565 buses had shown a Rs 38 crore profit in the last financial year.

The minister said that the PRTC had launched a Punjab Gaurav series of buses. Eight such buses bound for various destinations from Patiala were launched yesterday. The PRTC had also started an AC goldline series and the first bus was flagged off yesterday from Patiala, he added.

Master Mohan Lal said that the facilities at bus stands would be upgraded for the staff as well as the passengers. All old buses of Punjab Roadways and the PRTC would be replaced, he added.

The minister also announced that a rebate in taxes for mini bus operators was under government consideration. He made it clear that all truck unions in the state would be registered with the transport department and freight rates fixed to avoid fleecing by truck operators.

The department had also tied up with Ashok Leyland to set up a training school for drivers in the state.

The school would be located on a 22 acre plot in Kapurthala district.


Rs 800-crore Amritsar land deal scam
Vibhor Mohan
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 14
Farmers are up in arms against the move of the Amritsar Improvement Trust to acquire 156 acres for the New Amritsar Phase II Scheme, even as a chunk of land in the heart of the scheme has been exempted for a coloniser.

Chairman of the Khalra Mission Committee Jasbir Singh Padhri here today alleged that the land deal was turning out to be a scam worth Rs 800 crore and nearly 100 families of Khan Kot, Vallah and Sultanwind villages were against the acquisition of their land at Rs 20 lakh per acre.

Talking to mediapersons, R.S.Bal, advocate, said, as per Section 56 of the Improvement Trust Act, 1922, the government can exempt a piece of land if it is considered 'unnecessary', but a piece in the heart of the scheme cannot be termed unnecessary. This exemption has divided the scheme virtually into two halves and the network of roads also had to be changed.

Padhri demanded that a CBI inquiry should be ordered against former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and former chairman of the Improvement Trust Jugal Kishore Sharma.

"While the new colony would have been listed as an independent scheme, Sharma got it registered as New Amritsar Phase II Scheme to overrule the hearing of objections of property owners. The sarpanches of Khan Kot, Vallah and Sultanwind were never consulted about the scheme," he alleged.

However, Sharma said the exemption was made as per the rules, on the directions of the state government, after the colonisers applied to PUDA and their cases were duly cleared, after payment of development charges.

"It is not a new practice and such exemptions of 87 acres were made during the previous term of the Akali Dal-BJP regime," he said.

Balwinder Singh Chabhal, general secretary of the Khalra Mission Committee, said the family of a member of Panthic Committee, who had lost 10 members of his family during militancy, would also lose more than 50 acres of ancestral land.

He said farmers were ready to pay developmental charges but could not part with their land. Some of them had developed orchards on the notified land. The government should levy 1 per cent charges and let the farmers sell their land at market price. If property dealers and colonisers can be exempted on payment of development charges, why not the owners, they argue.

"The farmers are being harassed since 1996, when the Trust had started a 275-acre scheme of acquisition, which was later reduced to 188 acres and now only 156-acre scheme is left”, he said.


PPCC to seek relief for farmers from PM
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar March 14
Seeking adequate compensation for farmers whose crops have been damaged by incessant rains in Punjab, the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) has decided to seek the intervention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar.

Wheat crop in the state has suffered a considerable damage as hailstorm hit areas in semi-Shivalik hills and other parts of Punjab. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has already asked the deputy commissioners to assess the damage caused by rain to standing crops in the state.

A PPCC delegation will meet Dr Manmohan Singh and Sharad Pawar and apprise them about the quantum of damage caused to the crops. The delegation will also press for the release of adequate compensation to farmers of Punjab. "Farmers of Punjab have contributed a lot towards nation's food kitty. Now, they have suffered damage and it is the turn of the country to give them something in return. Since, farmers are beyond the party lines, the Punjab Government should also compensate them in a big way," said Parminder Singh, general secretary of the PPCC.

He said the PPCC delegation would be meeting the Prime Minister and the union agriculture minister within this week.


Dullo asked to name ‘important person’
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 14
The statement of former Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief Shamsher Singh Dullo that an "important person" had distributed crores of rupees in his constituency to ensure his defeat in the recent assembly poll can put the Congress in the dock as the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) has asked Dullo to reveal the name of the "important person."

SAD has also urged the Chief Election Commission to take suo motu notice of Dullo's statement and order a CBI probe into the matter so that "truth could be brought to the fore."

At the same time, SAD has pointed out that a joint sub-committee could be formed to initiate an enquiry into the allegations levelled by Dullo.

Dullo had reportedly stated at Nabha on Tuesday that a very important person had distributed crores of rupees against the party's principles in his hometown Khanna so that he could be defeated.

Harish Rai Dhanda, chairman of the Legal Cell of the SAD and MLA from Ludhiana, has asked Dullo to clarify the issue and said the CEC should take notice of the matter.


Social boycott of Dalit farm workers alleged
Dirba SHO refutes allegation
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 14
High-caste landlords of Dhandholi Kalan village, near Dirba, have allegedly socially boycotted Dalit agriculture workers of the village to "teach them a lesson." The workers have been demanding full wages and had not allegedly cast vote in the recently conducted Assembly elections to the candidates of the landlords’ choice. Besides this, the Dalits have been demanding the continuation of a street near their houses. But now the panchayat allegedly wants to close it.

Talking to The Tribune here today, district secretary of the CPI (ML) Harbhagwan Bhikhi further alleged that the landlords had also asked the villagers not to give work to the Dalit workers in their fields on the excuse that the workers had not been doing work after getting wages in advance. He also alleged that the landlords had also been violating labour laws and because the agriculture workers had raised their voice against it, their entry to the fields had been blocked.

Bhikhi said a deputation of the agriculture workers, under his leadership, met additional deputy commissioner (ADC) M.R. Aggarwal in his office here today. They also submitted a memorandum to the ADC in this regard. They also told the ADC that if timely steps were not taken, a confrontation between the landlords and the Dalits might take an ugly shape.

When contacted, the Dirba SHO said no social boycott of the Dalit agriculture workers had been done by the landlords of Dhandholi Kalan village. He said some landlords had reportedly asked the villagers not to give work to about 15 agriculture workers who had stopped working in their fields even after getting wages in advance. He said the panchayat had passed a resolution to construct a waterworks on the panchayat land, measuring 8 kanals, but the Dalits were compelling it to spare 11 foot-wide street from that land.

Aggarwal said he had sent the memorandum to the Sunam SDM to sort out the matter at the earliest.


Truckers block traffic
Charge of toll on Hoshiarpur-Tanda road
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, March 14
Following a controversy over charging of Rs 128 a toll from every truck per trip by Aggarwal Infrastructural Company at toll-plaza Lachowal village, truck operators of the area blocked traffic by parking trucks on either side of the plaza from 11 am to 1.30 p.m. today at Lachowal village, 8 km from here today on the Hoshiarpur-Tanda road. Users of this road faced inconvenience.

On hearing the news of the blocking of the road by truck operators at toll-plaza, activists of the Sanatan Mahavir Dal and the Rashtriya Vikas Party led by their presidents Kishan Gopal Nand and Bharat Bhushan, respectively, reached there and staged dharna before the toll-plaza in the support of truck operators and demanded removal of toll plaza.

Later, Mr Pritam Singh, SDM, Hoshiarpur, intervened and after his assurance arranging a joint meeting of truck operators and authorities of toll-plaza with the Deputy Commissioner, Hoshiarpur. Only then the blockade was lifted and traffic started moving.

The Punjab government has got strengthened and widened the four-lane Balachaur-Dasuya and the Hoshiarpur-Tanda roads on build, operate and transfer (BOT) basis under Article 5.1 (a) of the Concession Agreement read with Section 40 of the Punjab Infrastructure (Development & Regulation) Act 2002 from private companies. According to 17-year agreement, the state government had authorised these companies to charge and recover toll from users of the above mentioned BOT roads with effect from March 1, 2007. After consultation with the government, these companies had fixed separate rates per trip for different vehicles for crossing each toll-plaza.

The Rohan Rajdeep Tollways has set up three toll-plazas at Mazari (Balachaur), Nangal Shaheedan (Hoshiarpur) and Mangarh (Dasuya) on the Balachaur-Dasuya road whereas, P.D. Aggarwal Infrastructural Company has installed toll-plaza near Lachowal on the Hoshiarpur-Tanda road.

A car owner has to pay Rs 138 to travel from Dasuya to Balachaur and back, which is 105 km, whereas he will have to shell out Rs 45 to travel from Hoshiarpur to Tanda and back, for a distance of 32 km. The Rohan Rajdeep Tollways has fixed Rs 44 per trip (one side) as toll for light vehicles including tractor-trailer, Rs 88 for bus, truck and road-roller, Rs 134 for heavy lorry and Rs 168 for articulated-truck for crossing each toll-plaza. Besides, the firm has allowed 20 per cent rebate on purchase of 20 tickets at a time.

The rate fixed for the Hoshiarpur-Tanda stretch is Rs 42 per trip (one side) for light vehicles including tractor-trailer, Rs 84 for bus, truck and road-roller, and Rs 128 for heavy lorry.

Keeping in view the extra-financial burden, truck and private bus operators, who regularly ply vehicles on these roads, met Mr D.K. Tiwari, Deputy Commissioner, Hoshiarpur in this connection who convened a joint meeting of both parties on Saturday last. It was agreed that owners of the toll-plaza would charge Rs 60 toll per day from a bus and a truck up to March 31 and private transporters would present their case before the state authorities concerned to settle the issue for ever. The owners of toll-plazas were charging toll as per the decision of a meeting, but the owner of toll-plaza at Lachowal has started charging prescribed rates for various vehicles from today. This act compelled the truck operators to block traffic.

Mr Kishan Gopal Nand and Mr Bharat Bhushan lamented the outgoing Congress government had mortgaged these roads to the private parties. Thousands of trees worth crores on either side of the route on these roads had been chopped by the Forest Corporation Punjab. The widening and strengthening of these roads could have been possible with the cost of the said trees. The government charges road tax from people and it was its duty to provide quality of roads to public.


Canteen on visitors’ area
Charu Chhibber
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 14
A private contractor has encroached upon the visitors’ area opposite the gynaecology ward of the Government Rajindra Hospital here to make space for a canteen. The land is owned by the Red Cross Society.

The area, covered with a shed and having a concrete bench, is meant for the patients and their attendants who come from far-off places for treatment. Private contractor Rajinder Singh has laid the foundation for a canteen in the area.

The hospital and Red Cross authorities differed in their versions regarding the encroachment.

Joint secretary, District Red Cross Society, Patiala, Chander Mohan Bali said: “The contractor had earlier been running a canteen allotted to him by the society, but this year the contract has been given to another contractor. The land is meant for visitors and no one can misuse it.

“We have written a letter to the medical superintendent of the hospital and strict action would be taken against the contractor for trying to encroach upon the land”.

When asked why the police was not informed when it was clearly a case of trespass, Bali said, “We tried to solve the matter at our own but if the problem persists, we won’t hesitate from reporting the matter to the police”.

However, medical superintendent of the hospital Kulbir Kaur said: “The contractor is already running a canteen on the land allotted to him and had earlier also shown inclination to start another one in the visitors’ area. However, we have not given him any permission to run a canteen in the area. We have issued a notice to the contractor in this regard.”

When she was asked why the police was not informed, she changed the statement: “The contractor had laid the foundation of the canteen in the area overnight. We had warned him verbally against doing that. The issue has been resolved. Now, there is no problem at all”.

She denied the presence of any foundation in the area saying “I went to the site myself and found no trace of the foundation on the land”.

Contradictory versions of the medical superintendent indicate connivance between the authorities and the contractor.


4 of a family buried alive as roof caves in
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 14
In a tragedy, four persons of a family, a couple and their two children, were buried alive under the debris as the roof of their room in the local Hardayal Nagar caved in. Their two other children were injured in the roof-collapse.

The deceased are Surinder Bittu, his wife Balbir Kaur and their son Manbir and daughter Amarpreet, whereas the injured are Bittu's two other sons Gurpreet and Tejvir.

They were living in a room of the farmhouse of a Krishan Pura-based businessman Ashok Agarwal.

While the roof had reportedly collapsed last night, Agarwal came to know about the tragic incident today morning, when he sent one of his employees to the farmhouse to see why Surinder had not come to work.

Subsequently, senior police officers reached the spot.

DSP, City, Charanjeet Singh told The Tribune that the police came to know that Surinder had gone to the roof to temporarily repair it with cement as the same had leaked during rains in the recent past.

However, it suddenly collapsed and the debris fell on his wife and their four children.

The bodies of the deceased were sent to the Civil Hospital for post-mortem while the injured were admitted to a private hospital, the DSP added.

To a query, the DSP said no case of negligence against the owner of the farmhouse had been registered as the collapsing of the roof was a natural one.


Unmanned rly crossing puffs out 2 lives
Varinder Walia and Gurbax Puri

Tarn Taran, March 14
An unmanned railway crossing claimed two more lives in the border belt today when vehicle of the security guards of Tarn Taran MLA Harmit Singh Sandhu rammed into a diesel multiple unit (DMU), near Gurdwara Dukh Niwaran crossing here. Two other securitymen, one of them seriously, were also injured.

The accident occurred when the MLA was on his way to Rataul village to attend a religious function. The driver of the ill-fated Qualis (PB-12 F 2153) tried to follow the MLA’s car which had crossed the railway crossing. The deceased had been identified as Kulwinder Singh (40), an ASI and a resident of Talwandi Chaudharyan, Kapurthala, and Joginder Singh (35), a head constable of Wadala Johal. Those injured are Jarnail Singh, head constable, and Gursewak Singh, constable of PAP.

A large number of people from nearby villages gathered to rescue the victims after hearing a loud noise. The DMU was going from Amritsar to Khemkaran. The impact was so severe that welders had to cut the windows of the ill-fated vehicle to rescue the survivors. While the Head constable died on the spot, the ASI died on way to hospital.


Build electric crematorium soon: DMC
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 14
The Durgiana managing committee (DMC) here today urged the municipal council (MC) to restart the construction work on the electric crematorium in Shiv Puri near the shrine as the people were facing problems in performing the last rites of their kin.

DMC chief Harnam Das Arora, in a missive to the MC commissioner Hussan Lal, which was released to the Press, said that though the work on the project had been started about two months ago as the state government had allocated Rs 37.50 lakh for the project. He said the work was stopped in view of the recent elections to the Punjab Vidhan Sabha.

Arora said that they had also urged the commissioner to construct urinals outside the shrine complex to facilitate the people who visited the shrine not only from the country but also from abroad. He said a lamp post was also to be installed in the complex under the beautification plan but the material was taken away by the electricity department officials.


Customs burns 8 quintals of poppy husk
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 14
About 8.26 quintals of poppy husk valued at Rs 4.96 lakh in the market seized during 2004 was consigned to flames in a furnace of a private factory by the Customs Commissionerate here today.

K.R. Verma, assistant commissioner (anti-smuggling) Customs, in a release to the press said the commissionerate had launched a drive to curb the menace of drugs.

He said specific intelligence was gathered about the movement of the smugglers/peddlers of drugs such as heroin, opium, charas and smack and as a result number of cases had been detected by the department in the recent past. He disclosed that during the financial year 2006-07 four cases of drugs as heroin valued at Rs 78.95 lakh were detected and six persons arrested.

Appealing to the non-governmental organisations and general public to come forward with information about smuggling of these drugs, Verma said the names of the informers would be kept secret and suitable reward given.


18 excise officers fail in excise law
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 14
Eighteen of the 23 excise and taxation officials who appeared for the examination in November, failed in the excise law paper. The results of the departmental examination of the excise and taxation officers/inspectors held by the central committee of examination, Punjab, in November last was declared recently.

Interestingly most of the officers faired very badly in their own subject, the excise law. Of these 16 are excise and taxation officers, while two are excise and taxation inspectors.

In other subjects like law of crime, book keeping, landa script (old script used by traders now not used much), allied taxes and property tax laws and practices and civil law the officers’ performance was equally bad. However, in sales tax paper the pass percentage was little better.


Manpreet to head panel
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 14
Punjab finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal will head a six-member, high-powered committee for the implementation of the agricultural programme in the state.

A spokesperson of the government said other members of the committee would be agriculture minister Sucha Singh Langah, animal husbandry minister Gulzar Singh Ranike, the financial commissioner (development) and the principal secretary (animal husbandry). Chairman of the Punjab state farmers’ commission G.S.Kalkat would be the convener of the committee.


New DGP to take over today
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 14
N.P.S Aulakh, a 1972-batch IPS officer, will take over as the new director-general of the Punjab police here tomorrow, relieving R.S. Gill of the charge. Orders in this regard were issued today. Aulakh was on central deputation and posted as special director-general, BSF.

Gill was appointed by the Election Commission following complaints against S.S. Virk. The Punjab government wanted to appoint Aulakh earlier but could not do so as the election process had not been completed.


Lakhowal chairman of mandi board
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 14
The Punjab government today appointed Ajmer Singh Lakhowal the chairman of the Punjab Mandi Board with immediate effect.

He is the president of the Punjab unit of the Bhartiya Kisan Union.

A spokesman of the government said Lakhowal was the head of the farmers’ movement in South Asia comprising more than 70 countries. He had been associated with various farmers’ movements at the state and national levels since 1971.


CJ on Chahal: Worst case of contempt
Maneesh Chhibber
High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, March 14
The Punjab and Haryana High Court Chief Justice Vijender Kumar Jain today observed that after going through the file relating to the alleged contempt of court committed by BIS Chahal, media adviser to the previous Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, he was of the opinion that it “was the worst case of contempt of court in the history of judicial administration”.

The Full Bench, which is now being headed by the Chief Justice following the transfer of Justice S.S. Nijjar to Kolkota High Court, also expressed its annoyance over the absence of Chahal from the court despite directions to him to be present on each hearing.

When counsel for Chahal informed the Bench that he had not come due to the death of a close relative, the Bench asked him if an exemption from personal appearance had been sought on this count.

On being informed that no such step had been taken, the Bench directed Chahal to file a detailed affidavit to explain the absence. He was also asked to file an application for exemption from hearing. The Bench said it was mandatory for the contemnor to be personally present in the court on each hearing. It also ordered that the case would be heard on a weekly basis.

It may be recalled that while another alleged contemnor - former Joint Secretary (Sports) D.S. Laungia - has been granted exemption from personal appearance, no such allowance has been made in the case of Chahal.

Chahal is facing contempt proceedings for his conduct during hearing of the petitions challenging the selection of the kin of some high and mighty as DSPs by the previous Punjab government in 2004. His son was among those whose illegal and arbitrary appointments had been set aside by the court.

The court had taken strong exception to the alleged attempt of some persons, including Chahal, for interference in the proceedings of the bunch of petitions challenging irregularities in the selection of DSPs.

Today, the Bench comprising Chief Justice Jain, Justice Rajive Bhalla and Justice Surya Kant adjourned the matter to March 21.


Widow gang-raped, looted
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, March 14
A 35-year-old widow and mother of three children was first gang-raped and then looted of cash and ornaments by three youths at Kehilawa village in Hoshiarpur district on the night of March 12. The Tanda police has registered a case under sections 376, 380, 506 and 34 of the IPC against Ronqi, Tiddi and an unidentified person in this connection.

According to police sources, a 35-year-old widow of late Nasib Masih (name changed) stated that on the night of March 12 at about 2 am Ronki, Tiddi and another person knocked at the door of her house while she was sleeping with her children.

She alleged that as soon as she opened the door, they gagged her mouth and took her into an adjoining room. They administered some injection to her due to which she became unconscious. In the morning when she woke up, she found herself naked.

She further alleged that before leaving the house the trio decamped with Rs 20,000 and her gold ear-rings.


Child raped
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 14
A two-and-a-half-year-old girl was allegedly raped by migrant labourer Gopi in the Navi Abadi area here yesterday. Victim’s father Suresh Kumar, also a migrant labourer, said that Gopi took the child on the pretext of giving her food. He said after about two hours they saw their child crying outside their room and the accused running out of the house.

He said after he saw blood on the clothes of the girl he raised the alarm and the people of the area caught the accused and handed him over to the police at Faizpura police chowki. The residents gheraod Faizpura police chowki demanding registration of a case.

PPCC SC/ST cell general secretary Gurinder Singh Sabbi, talking to The Tribune, said that when he came to know about the incident he was in Hoshiarpur and the people told him on the phone that the police was not registering a case against the accused. He said he contacted the DSP of Majitha police station for registering a case.

DSP Harpreet Singh said the accused had been arrested and a case registered against him under section 376, IPC.


2 held with uncertified Bt cotton seed
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 14
The Bathinda police today arrested two persons for their alleged involvement in the sale of uncertified Bt cotton seed in this area.

The police seized 1,315 packets weighing 450 gm each of the seed from them.

Two persons, Jagroop Singh and Sewak Singh, were arrested at a naka set up by the police while they were coming to Bathinda from Jaitu town, near here.

A special naka was laid after officials of Punjab Agriculture Department informed the cops that two persons were carrying a huge quantity of uncertfied Bt cotton seeds and were trying to sell it off to unsuspecting buyers.


Academic record of 500 Pbi varsity students goes missing
Suspension of 4 employees recommended
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 14
Academic records of over 500 students of the Punjabi University here has gone missing. The records include detail marksheets and registration numbers. This may make verification of degrees of the said students difficult. The students, who are seeking verification of their degrees for admissions in other universities or jobs may face problems.

Sources here said records of academic career of students was maintained in a register that has gone missing from the registration section of the examination branch of the university.

The university authorities discovered about the missing of records only when a student of Khalsa College Balraj Singh asked on detailed marksheet of BA part-I. The said students reportedly cleared BA (part II) and (part III) examination without appearing in BA (Part-I) examination.

Vice-Chancellor of the university Swaran Singh Boparai admitted the record had gone missing due to the negligence of staff of the department concerned. An FIR has been registered with the police regarding the missing record.

Chief Coordinator Examinations Baldev Singh said the student in question had not cleared the 10+2 examination. He took admission in the university. When his record was verified and it was found that he had not cleared the 12th examination. I cancelled his registration with the university.

If the registration of the student was cancelled how did he clear the BA-II and BA-III. His clearing the said examinations speaks of the casual approach of the university authorities.

The Chief Coordinator Examinations apprehended the student who had passed the examinations from the university in violation of the rules might have got the register containing the record regarding his academic career stolen in connivance with the staff.

The university had constituted a committee to look into the matter. The sources here said that the committee had recommended suspension of four employees. Action on the recommendation is, however, yet to be taken.

The university authorities are trying to reconstruct the missing record. The Chief Coordinator Examination said a portion of the record had been traced in Khalsa College. Record has been preserved by the college authorities. The missing record would now be reconstructed from information from the Khalsa College.


Minister’s assertion upsets unemployed teachers
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 14
Punjab Education Minister Upinderjit Kaur’s assertion that interview will be part of the selection process of teachers to fill 40,000 vacancies in schools has caused a flutter among unemployed teachers.

Strongly opposing the interview system, various unions of teachers have urged Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to stick transparent system to totally adopted by the previous Amarinder Singh government while selecting teachers and other employees. They have urged Badal to set up a committee of honest academicians to prepare transparent criteria to select teachers for vacant posts. “Interview system is a most subjective one and adopted to select nears and dears and influential candidates rejecting deserving ones”, said various leaders of teachers.

Upinderjit Kaur had stated that interview was required to test mental ability and psychology of the candidates concerned appearing for teaching job. The Tribune approached Upinderjit Kaur in her office for her version on this issue but it was not available.

Joginder Azad, a senior leader of the democratic teachers front said candidates should be given points of additional qualification, extra-curricular activities related to academic career and other achievements but there should be no interview. He said that lot of mischief was done while selecting teachers through interview. “Interview system is used mostly by politicians to select nears and dears and to reject deserving candidates”, he added.

Sital Singh Chahal, senior leader of the Government Secondary School Teachers Union, said selection should be made on the basis of merit and additional points be given for additional qualification etc. He said those who had done B.Ed from given recognized universities of Punjab and other neighbouring states preference over the candidates who passed the B.Ed from the Universities having little or no credibility in academic world.

He said that entire selection system should be transparent and each candidate applying for the job should be satisfied about the points given to him or her on the basis of academic merit and other achievements. Those who will not be making to the selection list should also be satisfied.

Before elections, Badal and his party had made tall promises to unemployed youth especially teachers and “ it was duty of Badal and his ministers to stick to those promises. Any deviation from those promises at this stage will certainly create doubts about the functioning of the government.

“It would be wrong for the Badal government go back on the promises made by it in the manifesto”, said Mr Chahal. He said that the Government should make it clear that whether it would recruit teachers on regular basis or on contract.

Expressing similar views, Sukhdev Singh Rana, senior leader of the School lecturers Union, said earlier during the previous SAD-BJP government chaos was created in the selection of teachers. Many deserving candidates were rejected as selection was made through the interview system, he said.


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