P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Central team to assess crop damage
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 16
Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar has agreed to send a central team to Punjab to assess the damage caused to rabi crops due the recent rain and hailstorm that hit the northern region, said Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal while talking to mediapersons outside the Vidhan Sabha here today.

Badal said he had spoken to Pawar about the damage. A letter had been sent to the union ministry of home affairs also for forwarding to the agriculture ministry. The agriculture minister had agreed to his demand for sending a central team to assess the damage, he added.

Badal said he had directed all his ministers, the administrative secretaries concerned and the deputy commissioners to assess the crop damage and compile reports immediately so that an assessment could be made of the compensation to be given to the farmers. The amount of compensation would be decided only after receipt of the report of the central team, he said.

Badal had already demanded central assistance for the damage to the rabi crops. The opposition Congress had yesterday demanded that each affected farmer should be given Rs 10,000 per acre for the damage.

Cooperation minister Kanwaljit Singh, who was also present at the press briefing, said the crop loss could be around Rs 350 crore. Another 2.5 lakh tonnes of wheat had been destroyed due to the unseasonal heavy rain and hailstorm, he said.


Tribune Exclusive
PCS (executive) exams to be on UPSC pattern
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 16
The Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) has recommended new syllabus for Punjab Civil Services examination (PCS) executive examinations. As per the recommendations, the PCS executive exams will be on the pattern of Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examination held for Indian Administration Services (IAS).

Secretary of the PPSC B. Pursarth while talking to The Tribune said presently there was just one exam for each subject. However, as per the new recommendations there would be two exams for each subject in the main examinations. There would be compulsory exams for English, Punjabi, general studies and essay writing. The preliminary examination will, however, remain on the same pattern.

It has also been recommended that there should be no separate examination for the recruitment of deputy superintendents of Police (DSP). Their selection will be clubbed with the PCS executive examinations. The candidate who clears the preliminary examinations will be asked to give the option of the service they want to join. They can opt for police administrative service before appearing in the main examinations.

The said recommendations meant for plugging the loopholes in the PCS examinations had been sent to government, he said.

The selection process of the PPSC had come under a cloud during the stint of Ravi Sidhu as its chairman.

B. Pursarth further stated that the process of recruiting about 25 medical teachers for various medical colleges of the state had also been started. The selections for the teachers would now be carried as per policy of the new government.

The commission has cleared the backlog of promotions in various government departments.

In the Public Health Department no officer has been promoted in the past 20 years, but they have now been promoted by the commission.


Naresh Gujral nominee for RS
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 16
Naresh Gujral, son of former Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral, will be the SAD-BJP candidate for the byelection to fill the lone seat from Punjab in the Rajya Sabha, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has said.

Badal, who is also the SAD president, was authorised to name the candidate for the byelection at a meeting of the political affairs committee (PAC) of the SAD here last Sunday.

The seat fell vacant due to the death of senior Congress leader Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder.

Naresh Gujral, who is a PAC member of the SAD, had unsuccessfully contested the last Lok Sabha elections from Jalandhar losing to Rana Gurjit Singh.

Announcing the name of Naresh Gujral, Badal praised Inder Kumar Gujral saying the former Prime Minister had done so much for Punjab that the state just could not forget it. The senior Gujral had waived the militancy loan on Punjab and okayed the international airport in Amritsar.

Political observers said Badal had made a smart move by nominating Naresh Gujral as he was well connected in Delhi and would present a young, urban and Hindu face of the SAD in Parliament, indicating an important shift in the party’s stance. Most of the allies of the UPA were also the allies of his father when the latter was the Prime Minister.


Kandhar hijack case
Mumbai cops submit record
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 16
The assistant commissioner of the Mumbai police today presented the record regarding the arrest of Abdul Latif, an accused in the IC-814 plane hijacking case in the CBI court here today.

Abdul Latif, along with Dalip Kumar Bujail and Yusuf Nepali, was accused by the CBI of conniving with hijackers of the Indian Airlines plane from Nepal in 1999. The plane was taken by the hijackers initially to Kandhar. In lieu of getting the passengers released, the government had released terrorists, including Maulana Masood Azar.

The accused were charged with providing logistic support, fake licences and explosives to the hijackers. A case under sections 302, 307 and 120-B of the IPC and anti-hijacking act was registered against the accused. They were arrested and have now been lodged in Patiala central jail.

The ACP of the Mumbai police was summoned by the special judge, anti-hijacking, on the plea of the defence council of accused Barjinder Singh Sodhi. The defence council had sought details of all the arrests made by the Mumbai police in the case, the remand period taken by the police for extracting information about the hijacking and other information available with them.

The officer of the Mumbai police presented the record brought with him in the court.

The judge fixed April 7 as the next date of hearing in the case.


Haryana gurdwara panel opposed
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 16
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has strongly opposed the move of the Haryana Government to set up a separate gurdwara parbandhak committee for the management of historic religious Sikh shrines in Haryana.

In a statement issued here today, SGPC president Jathedar Avtar Singh, termed the move of the Haryana Government as “anti-Sikh and unconstitutional” and said it would be against the highest religious body of the Sikhs.

To discuss steps to counter the move, the SGPC has called a meeting of the interim committee on March 20 at Amritsar. He alleged that the Congress government in Haryana was doing this for political mileage.


Women tortured; SHO suspended
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 16
The station house officer (SHO) of the civil lines police station was suspended by the government for calling a woman and allegedly torturing in violation of government’s policy of not allowing women to be called to police stations for questioning.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal directed district police chief S.S. Srivastava to immediately place SHO Jagjit Singh Walia under suspension for flouting the government guidelines in this regard. An inquiry has also been ordered into the allegations levelled against her.

Domestic help Joginder Kaur, who was alleged to be involved in a case of theft, was subjected to maltreatment and given third-degree torture by the SHO after a complaint by Navdeep Singh for allegedly stealing Rs 15,000 from his house. However, the woman had rebutted the charge.

However, the SHO, refuting the allegations, said the accused was brought and later dropped at her home by women constables. He said the allegations were baseless as no electric shocks were given to Joginder Kaur.

A government spokesman said in a press statement that the matter was brought to the notice of the Chief Minister during the morning briefing. He said Badal rang up the SSP of Amritsar and directed him to take “strict action” in the matter.


Court to decide Dimpa’s fate: CM
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 16
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal while dubbing the allegations levelled by Jasbir Singh Dimpa as baseless asserted that the law will take its own course in connection with the criminal case registered against him.

The Chief Minister who visited the ‘total rural employment project’, set up at Kaljharani village in this district, also made it clear that Dimpa, who had committed heinous crimes, was levelling false allegations against Sukhbir Badal to cover up the same. He made it clear that the SAD-BJP alliance government had decided not to follow the policy of political vendetta as was pursued by the previous Congress regime.

Badal also visited the dairy farming, computer and weaving centres at the project site. The Punjab government would set up a separate department to tackle the problem of unemployment. A minister of the cabinet rank would be heading it, he added.


2 school children drown
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 16
Two children of a school located in the Air Force station, Bhisiana, of this district were drowned in a man-made lake in the same complex late yesterday evening.

A pall of gloom descended on the residential colony of Air Force Station after news of the tragic incident spread.

Information gathered by TNS revealed that two school children, who were students of Class V and were identified as Kishnindo and Akash Dass, went out of their respective houses after finishing their exam in the evening under the pretext playing. They also informed their parents that they had attempted the question paper well before leaving their respective houses.

The parents of both the children, who were serving in the Air Force in different capacities, got worried after they did not return to their house till late in the evening. When the worried parents along with other people carried out a search for them, they saw the cycles of both the children parked near the lake.

After it was confirmed that both the children, who were around 11 years old, had drowned, the Air Force personnel along with volunteers of a social organisation, launched an exercise to extricate their bodies from the lake.

Information revealed that the bodies were extricated today and were sent immediately for post-mortem.

Mr Narinder Kaushal, SP, City, when contacted, said he had inquired from the parents of the children whether they had any doubts but they stated that they did not have any doubt in connection with the deaths. Mr Kaushal added there was no injury marks on the bodies of both the deceased.

A case in this connection has been registered under Section 174 of the CrPC.


Bonhomie marks election of Kahlon
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 16
It was a day of unanimity not only on the election of Speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon (Shiromani Akali Dal) and Deputy Speaker Satpal Gosain (Bharatiya Janata Party) but also on issues of relations between the treasury benches and the opposition, improving the quality of debates and increasing the number of sittings of the house besides holding a special training session for first-time legislators. Besides, the Congress decided not to pursue further the “outrageous boycott of the address of the Governor”.

“We would even be prepared to accompany members of the treasury benches to Delhi to get the state its due from the Congress-led UPA government at the centre,” was what it promised in the first business session after the oath-taking ceremony on the first day yesterday.

Another suggestion made by the Congress that the post of Deputy Speaker should go to the opposition for bonhomie came perhaps a trifle late as the treasury benches had come prepared to install their own men as the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker.

Earlier, leader of the House and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal made a passionate speech seeking cooperation from the opposition for burying the politics of confrontation.

Laudatory speeches that followed the election of Kahlon not only focused on growing concern over deterioration in the quality of debates on the floor of the house but also on strengthening the parliamentary traditions besides paving the way for new healthy and constructive conventions so that members should rise above sectarian politics and contribute their bit for helping the state regain its number one position in the country.

The little less than two-hour session witnessed some good suggestions coming from both the treasury benches and the opposition. Congress legislator Sunil Jakhar lamented that though similar views were expressed after the election of the Speaker of the last (12th) Vidhan Sabha, in practice things remained unchanged. He complimented the people of Punjab on their overwhelming response to the assembly elections besides making these peaceful.

Bhattal, who supported the candidature of Kahlon, said the Congress was a secular party which always played a constructive role in the socio-economic development of the state. She, however, expressed her unhappiness over reports that some of the development projects begun by the previous Congress government were being discontinued and workers of the Congress victimised in various parts of the state. She promised to give a list of cases in which Congress workers were being targeted.

Manoranjan Kalia, who seconded the names of both Kahlon and Gosain after Badal proposed these, sought the cooperation of all in making Punjab the number one state.

Finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal insisted that various consultative committees of the house should be made more effective. In some cases, the backlog of work of the public account committees was of 10 to 15 years.

Manpreet Badal also wanted that the executive should be more accountable to the legislature. He also cautioned the members to be beware of sycophants.

Brahm Mohindra of the Congress said his party does not believe in criticising the treasury benches just for the sake of criticism.

Earlier, cooperation minister Kanwaljit Singh expressed concern over the decreasing number of sittings and sessions of the Vidhan Sabha and advocated training sessions for new legislators. Debates should generate decisions on important issues of public interest.

He also referred to growing social disparities and warned that unless Punjab acted in time, incidents like those in Chhattisgarh and Nandigram could happen in the state, too. There is an urgent for a debate on the issue of growing disparities.

Kahlon said he would make an effort to give every member his or her due and try to reassert healthy parliamentary traditions and conventions in the assembly. He promised that the opposition would get its due in the legislative business and debates in the house.

Earlier, Harmeet Singh Sandhu (SAD) and Brahm Mohindra took the oath of affirmation. Manjinder Singh Kang, however, could not attend the house even today.


Govt extends excise policy by month
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 16
The Punjab government has decided to defer the announcement of its new excise policy by a month besides extending the validity of the existing policy to April 30 so that the liquor trade remains unaffected.

A spokesman of the government said tonight that a decision had been taken not to finalise the new excise policy in a hurry as it had wide ramifications on various policies and programmes of the new government.

Since the new SAD-BJP government had already announced to supply atta and dal at Rs 4 and Rs 20 per kg to poor and weaker sections of society, some funding for the highly subsidised food scheme might come from excise duty. The government might impose some cess on the sale or consumption of liquor in the state to generate extra funds for subsidised food, including atta and dal.

The government was also keen to ascertain the views of the stakeholders of the trade before finalising its new policy. Since the time available to the government was short, it had decided not to come out with a new policy before giving careful thought to each and every aspect of the liquor trade. The government had decided to extend all existing licences issued under the excise policy of 2006-07 by one month.


Protest against police inaction
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, March 16
The local unit of the Rural Medical Service Association here today protested against the alleged laxity of the police department in making arrests in the Jaspreet assault case.

The unit has demanded immediate arrest of all the six accused in the case. The association has also threatened to paralyse the health services if the police failed to nab the accused soon. The association alleged that the accused in the case were being shielded by the police.


Tenant farmers in Punjab to be identified
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 16
The Department of Agriculture, Punjab, in association with NABARD will conduct a study across the state to ascertain the magnitude of tenant farmers in the state.

This was revealed by Parneet Mahal Suri, secretary, Finance, Punjab, here today. She said the study was being conducted so that tenant farmer groups (TFG) could be formed in the state. This would be done in order to bring them into the banking fold for getting credit, rather than falling in the clutches of money lenders. “The study will be conducted to not only see the availability of tenant farmers, but also their structure of land holding (owner-cum-tenant farmers or only tenant farmers) and their credit needs,” she said.

The need for the same was being felt for long, especially because of the slow progress of the Tenant Farmer Group (TFG) Scheme. The data available with The Tribune shows that till date 259 such groups have been formed and an amount of Rs 59 lakh has been extended to them. With Punjab having the third highest rural indebtedness (average indebtedness of over Rs 41,500), and 34.60 per cent farmers remaining financially excluded, the TFG scheme will go a long way to help the farmers.

Though the borrowing power of farmers in Punjab (as elsewhere in the country) has reached a saturation level, the problem is worse in case of tenant farmers. Since the tenant farmers do not have land for mortgage, they have remained outside the fold of the formal credit system. It has thus been decided to encourage the TFGs in the state, where peer pressure becomes the invisible security for the loan and they can be brought under the fold of banking.

A sample study on tenant farmers was conducted earlier by the Department of Agriculture, Punjab, and NABARD, in the four districts of Amritsar, Hoshiarpur, Sangrur and Ferozepore, to ascertain the magnitude of tenant farmers in five villages of different blocks. The study showed that the highest number of tenant farmers were found in Ferozepore (17. 1 per cent of the total farmers), while the lowest instance was found in Amritsar (3. 6 per cent of the total farmers).

This revealed that there was scope for providing credit to tenant farmers and, thus, the principal secretary, Finance, Punjab, asked the financial commissioner, Development, to conduct a study of these farmers across the state, so that these could be clubbed together as producer farmers groups. These groups could then tie up with retail majors, and reap the benefits of retail revolution in agriculture produce.


Pak pilgrims arrive for Urs
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, March 16
A group of 181 pilgrims from Pakistan, led by Ajij Ul Nabi, today arrived at Rauza Sharif here to pay obeisance at the annual Urs. It was accorded a warm welcome by the district administration and the citizens at Sirhind railway station.

Shopkeepers of Sirhind wait for their visit eagerly and stock the latest items for them.

Talking to Chandigarh Tribune, many pilgrims said people of Pakistan wanted peace and the borders removed. It would be in the benefit of both countries that they cut on defence budget and use that money on development.

The three-day Urs will start tomorrow. It is held in the memory of Sufi Saint Sheikh Ahmad Farooqui Sirhindi.


Historians discuss Sikh tradition
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 16
The 39th session of the three-day Punjab History Conference on theme “Martyrdom and the Sikhs: Concept and tradition”, being organised by the Department of Punjab Historical Studies, Punjabi University, began here today.

The inaugural address was delivered by Prof Harbans Mukhia, historian and former pro-vice-chancellor of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He highlighted the problems of the research methodology. He said knowledge couldn’t be eliminated and the ultimate actuality is the search by a scientific historian.

Prof Mushirul Hasan, vice-chancellor, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, who is general president of the conference, spoke on “Islam in South Asia with special reference to Muslims and contemporary India”.


Arrest warrants against Dimpa, brothers
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 16
Arrest warrants were issued against former Congress MLA Jasbir Singh Gill, alias Dimpa, by Baba Bakala judicial magistrate Jasminder Sinmaar today.

Raids have been intensified for the third consecutive day following the warrants issued against the former MLA.

A case was registered against Dimpa, his two brothers Harpinder Singh Rajan (who is now behind the bars) and Harmanbir Singh Gill, SP (Traffic), Chandigarh, and others.

Sources close to Dimpa said that the former MLA was trying to get anticipatory bail from the Punjab and Haryana High Court and he might surrender before the police if he failed to get relief from the court.


D.S. Guru gets important departments
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 16
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has allocated work to his various staff officers, including principal secretary Darbara Singh Guru, who has been given all important departments.

The staff officers deal with the various departmental files and put up the same before the Chief Minister for the final decision. They act as the eyes and ears of the Chief Minister as far as the taking of important decisions is concerned.

However, the most important Department of Industries and Commerce has gone to additional principal secretary A.K. Mahajan.


Senior police officers reshuffled
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 16
The Punjab government today transferred 39 senior police officers, including 24 IPS officers, in the state. Several officers who held important posts under the previous regime have been given “inconsequential” postings.

A.P.Pandey will be the new DGP, vigilance and security, PSEB, Patiala. R.P. Meena becomes IGP, border zone, while Mohd Mustafa goes as IG, rules.

Rajinder Singh has been posted as IG, counter- intelligence, based at Pathankot. Hardish Singh Randhawa has been made IG, Punjab human rights commission. Iqbal Preet Singh Sahota is the new IG, commandos, Bahadurgarh.


More uncertified seed of Bt cotton seized
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 16
For the second day, the Bathinda police seized nearly 3600 packets of uncertified Bt cotton seed from the premises an unauthorised godown located near the grain market.

This is third major seizure of uncertified Bt cotton seed effected by the police with the active help of Agriculture Department officials in the past few days thus establishing the fact that unscrupulous elements have again become active in the area to mint money by selling spurious seeds to unsuspecting farmers despite the fact that the cotton sowing season would start around April 15.

Information gathered by TNS revealed that about 3600 packets of spurious cotton seed were seized when a joint team of the Bathinda police and state Agriculture Department officials conducted a raid on the unauthorised godown after receiving a tip-off in this connection today.

Information revealed that apart from 3600 packets of spurious cotton seed, the team managed to seize seeds of sarson, jowar and bajra crops. Whether these seeds were spurious or not could not be ascertained yet and samples of the same would be sent for examination. A significant quantity of fertilizers and pesticides was also recovered from that godown and the same would also be chemically examined.

Palwinder Singh Aulakh, Agriculture Development Officer, who was a member of the raiding team, said that all the items which had been seized had been handed over to the police. He said he could not disclose the name of the person who owned the godown where all the seized material was illegally stored.

Information gathered by TNS revealed that the pesticides, which were seized, according to the labels had in fact expired. The spurious Bt cotton seed had been brought into the region from Gujarat.

A case in this connection has been registered in the city police station but no arrests have been made so far.


Two killed in road mishap
Our Correspondent

Barnala, March 16
Two person of the same family died here today in a road mishap. A man and his son-in-law belonging to Khudi Kalan died in a scooter-jeep collision. The deceased have been identified as Malkeet Singh (55) of Khudi Kalan and Gurjeet Singh (25). Gurjeet Singh was married only a year back.

As per eyewitnesses, the driver of the jeep was driving at a fast speed. Earlier he had hit a “peter rehra” on the way a few minutes before the accident. So in confusion he drove the jeep at a fast pace.

Both the deceased were on their way to Khudi Kalan from Barnala. When they were going on their scooter, a jeep (HR-24A-9772) collided with the scooter yesterday night. A case has been registered in this regard.


Anti-Boparai voices get SAD support
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 16
The race for the post of vice-chancellor of Punjabi University here has gained momentum with students and faculty members today holding a protest in front of the main gate of the university. They were demanding removal of the vice-chancellor Swaran Singh Boparai.

The protesters blocked traffic on the main gate at 9 am. They staged a dharna till 11 am raising slogans against the vice-chancellor. The university authorities, however, got opened the back gates to let the university staff in.

The protesters alleged that in past five years the vice-chancellor had ruined career of many students. The students had been rusticated for demanding their rights in a democratic manner. Certain candidates were initially recruited on a temporary basis and later brought on the university roles in violation of the rules, they alleged.

The protesters got the support of the local SAD leaders. Former SAD minister Ajaib Singh Makhmailpur addressed the dharna. He said the alleged misappropriations in the university would be taken up with party president Sukhbir Badal.

The agitating students claimed that the SAD president had called them to Chandigarh tomorrow to discuss their demands.

Spokesperson of the university B.S. Sandhu said there were outsiders among the students who blocked traffic on the main gate. Some faculty members and students who had been ousted from the university for indiscipline also participated in the protest, he said.

However, he said no action would be taken against the students and teachers who participated in the protest.

Sources here said the aspirants for the post of vice-chancellor had already started making rounds of Chandigarh. Sensing a threat to his position, the present vice-chancellor had allegedly written to the Governor regarding the developments in the institution.


Recruitment drive

Kharar, March 16
ICFAI, a Hyderabad-based university with its branches all over India, visited Guru Gobind Singh College of Modern Technology here to conduct campus interviews of MBA students for faculty at its various branches. Four students: Shreysi Gautam, Garima, Amit Verma and Neha Sood, were selected. Kanwal Deep Singh, another final year student of MBA was selected by Asian Paints. — TNS


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