P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Dharna, adjournments fail to stop repeal of
vigilance act
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 21
Uproar, slogan raising, dharna and two adjournments forced by an agitated opposition were brushed aside as the treasury benches rushed through the legislative procedure to repeal the Punjab Vigilance Commission Act.

The act, which was passed in the last session of the 12th Vidhan Sabha, could survive only a little more than six months.

Later in the evening, members of the Congress legislature party led by leader of the opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal met Governor S.F. Rodrigues, urging him not to give his consent to the repeal bill.

Attempts by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who introduced the bill, to pacify the agitated opposition were perhaps not enough on a day when the proceedings started on a note of confrontation. At one stage Badal even suggested to Speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon to give the opposition a chance again to speak on the bill.

The Speaker, however, did not relent, maintaining that an opportunity given to the leader of the opposition was frittered away.

Bhattal, however, held that her initial remarks were only to clarify that the bill should not be taken up as the matter was pending before the Punjab and Haryana High Court. She held that members of her party wanted to speak on the bill but were not given a chance to do so. Instead, the Speaker was in a tearing hurry to go for voting on the bill.

Badal, while introducing the bill, said the setting up of the vigilance commission by subverting the model bill sent by the union government was designed to browbeat the opponents of the then government and also the present government.

Instead of associating the leader of the opposition and a member of the Central Vigilance Commission, the previous Congress government substituted them by the Speaker and the chief secretary of the state. Instead of a suggested term of four years by the centre, Punjab made it six years so that even when the Congress went out of office, its writ continued to run in the commission for six years.

Badal further held that on the one hand the last Congress government ridiculed the idea of setting up commissions, saying nothing tangible came out of them, in this case, it wanted its handpicked persons on the commission set up on the conditions of Congress choice.

Congress legislators, who had earlier staged a walkout on being denied permission to move a resolution in zero hour to compliment the union government on its announcing a special bonus of Rs 100 per quintal of wheat, were just returning to the house when Badal was introducing the bill.

He offered to repeat his initial comments. Once he finished Bhattal cautioned the house against taking up the bill as it was sub judice and any discussion on it could spell trouble for them all.

“Since you had all walked out, we moved the bill. We are sticking our necks out. We will face the music, if any,” retorted Badal before the Speaker put the bill to vote.

Realising that an opportunity for them to speak on the bill had gone, the Congress legislators rose in their seats, protesting against the ruling of the Speaker who, unmindful of the protests, went ahead and got the majority vote to declare the bill passed.

Agitated Congress members walked into the well of the house, raising slogans against the government and the procedure adopted. The Speaker, who had in the meanwhile asked Akali legislator Gurdeep Singh Bhullar to move the resolution on discussion on the Governor’s address, asked the Congress legislators to return to their seats and speak when their turn came.

As the Congress legislators continued to protest, the house was adjourned for 30 minutes. When it reassembled, the Congress legislators were back in the well, raising slogans. Later they sat for a while in dharna in the well before making a concerted effort to get to the Speaker’s podium. At this stage, the Speaker again adjourned the house, inviting leaders from both the treasury benches and the opposition to sort out the problem.

After the second adjournment when the house reassembled, the Speaker thanked the members for ending the stalemate and promised to give everyone a chance to speak. By that time the controversial Vigilance Commission Act had been buried amidst a storm of protest.


Debate on Governor’s address begins on sweet, sour note
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 21

After a stormy start to today’s proceedings witnessing a walkout, slogan raising, dharna and two adjournments, the discussion on the Governor’s address in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha started on a sweet and sour note with members of both the treasury benches and the opposition making biting interventions.

Though the ruling SAD-BJP alliance had offered to end the politics of conflict and bitterness with the opposition, promising the same, the proceedings today indicated fireworks not only on sensitive issues facing the state but also past events.

While at one stage, finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal wanted a reference to “golak money” being used by the Akalis to be expunged, a similar demand was made by leader of the opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal over “unwarranted and bitter” references made to Jawaharlal Nehru.

Akali legislator Harish Rai Dhanda made a couple of interventions when references to the river water issue and the secular credentials of political parties were made.

At one stage leader of the opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal rose to appeal to members not to reduce the discussion to a question-and- answer session and wait for their turn to speak.

Interestingly, these bitter exchanges turned subdued by niceties shown by either side. When the Congress started responding to a discussion on the Governor’s address initiated by Gurdeep Singh Bhullar and Harish Rai Dhanda of the Akali Dal, both Sajjan Kumar Jakhar and Makhan Singh appreciated some salient features of the Governor’s address.

Jakhar offered all cooperation on issues of interest to Punjab, including territorial disputes. On the issue of Chandigarh, he said the Congress would be willing to cooperate with the SAD-BJP government on its transfer or at least the sharing of revenue generated by Chandigarh. It should be shared between Punjab and Haryana in a ratio of 60 to 40. Chandigarh, for example, he said, had revenue receipts of Rs 8,000 crore. One hotel site went for more than Rs 100 crore. Similarly, IT park sites and revenue from excise and taxation in Chandigarh were high as most of the affluent families from Punjab came and shopped here.

When Makhan Singh, like Jakhar, complimented the previous Congress government as well as the people of Punjab on the overwhelming response and peaceful conduct of the assembly elections in the state, industries and commerce minister Manoranjan Kalia interrupted to say that credit for the “free and fair elections should go to the Election Commission under whose aegis these were held.”

Makhan Singh appreciated the move to start knowledge city, work on the 62 km ring road around Ludhiana, the command area development programme for repair and increasing the capacity of canals, starting of adarsh schools and setting up a separate department for NRIs besides the youth development board.However, he lamented that the ruling dispensation had started resorting to the politics of victimisation besides indulging in vendetta against Congress workers.

Earlier, Jakhar said the Governor’s address was a blatant example of double standards and double speak of the new government as the Congress had got 5 per cent more votes than the Akalis in the last elections.

The previous Congress government, he said, by a stroke of the pen, became the saviour of Punjab waters. He cautioned the new government that by changing the colour of the cards of the beneficiaries under their promised atta and dal at subsidised rates, the benefits should not be limited to workers of one party or the other. The poor were not up for grabs, he said. At this stage the Chief Minister intervened and asked:“Should this subsidised atta and dal not be given?”

Jakhar maintained that it would be better if the poor were given jobs and made self- reliant and on interruption by the treasury benches he said that in the past three months of the Congress government, 25,000 teachers were given jobs on merit alone.

“ The poor do not have money to buy or pay for getting jobs,” he said and cautioned the new government against introducing a subjective interview regime in recruiting teachers.

Gurdeep Singh Bhullar said the new government was committed to putting an end to the criminalisation of politics.

He said the previous government resorted to widespread corruption naming the Ludhiana City Centre, the Punjab intranet scam and the Mohali Janata land scam as examples. He wanted action to be taken against the guilty.

Harish Rai Dhanda criticised the misuse of the vigilance machinery by the previous government, saying that the new government had taken the right step in the right direction by repealing the Punjab Vigilance Commission Act.


Cong MLAs get tough with Badal
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 21
Sweet talk witnessed between the ruling SAD-BJP combine and the opposition Congress in the past few days in Punjab is over. Daggers are out, though discreetly.

The young brigade of Congress MLAs, most of whom are camp followers of Capt Amarinder Singh, have adopted an aggressive posture against Chief Minster Parkash Singh Badal and his party.

This was evident today at a press conference addressed by Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, leader of the opposition, and other Congress MLAs.

At the press conference, the MLAs took a tough stance against the Badal government and made it clear that they would not allow the Punjab assembly to transact business if they were not allowed enough opportunity to express their views in the House.

In fact, they were at the centerstage of Congress politics inside as well as outside the House. Encouraged by their formidable strength in the assembly, they are clearly against adopting a soft approach towards the ruling SAD-BJP combine.

Congress MLAs like Jeet Mohinder Singh, Sukhpal Singh Khaira, Surinder Singh Sibia, Kewal Dhillon, Gurpreet Singh Kangar and Ripjit Singh Brar, accompanied by their senior Avtar Singh Brar, said Badal was playing a double game. While on the one hand he was claiming there would be no witch-hunt, on the other hand he had unleashed police and his party activists against Congress supporters in the countryside.

They said the security of the Congress MLA from Shatrana, Nirmal Singh Nimma, was withdrawn today. Congress MLAs alleged that both Badal and the Speaker did not allow them to speak in the House on the issue of the Vigilance Commission Bill. “The House was insulted today,” they alleged. Moreover, as the commission issue was sub judice, the Bill to abolish it should not have been brought in the House. “We did not want to be party to insult the judiciary,” said the Congress MLAs.

On what happened in the House, Bhattal said she had raised a valid point of thanking the union government that hiked the wheat price by Rs 200 per quintal in recent weeks. She said earlier the union government had increased the minimum support price of wheat by Rs 100 and now Rs 100 per quintal had been given as bonus on wheat.

She said there was a strong case for thanking the union government on this issue, adding that Badal, who had been claiming himself to be a messiah of farmers, should give at least Rs 50 per quintal as bonus from the state treasury.

She said one hour was reserved for discussion on the Vigilance Commission Bill. But the opposition was not allowed to speak for a minute and the bill was passed without holding any debate.

She said if the ruling party would adopt such an attitude towards the opposition, then there was no scope for any cooperation between the two. Both Badal and Speaker have insulted the opposition and the House, she asserted.

Khaira said the points raised by Badal to justify the abolishing of the Vigilance Commission had no ground.


Chahal in Scotland, ill
High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, March 21
B.I.S. Chahal, media adviser to previous Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, today informed the Punjab and Haryana High Court that he is sick and has been advised complete bed rest. He has claimed that he is at present in Glasgow (Scotland).

An affidavit filed by Chahal through his lawyer in the High Court says he went to Britain on February 28 with plans to return by March 14. However, he was forced to stay back due to the death of a family friend.

Seeking exemption from appearance in the ongoing contempt case against him, Chahal also submitted a medical certificate through his counsel. The certificate was issued by Dr V.K. Madhok of Glasgow on March 16.

According to the certificate, Chahal was diagnosed as a patient of uncontrolled hypertension and chest pain suggestive of angina.

After a brief hearing, the Bench comprising Chief Justice Vijender Kumar Jain, Justice Rajive Bhalla and Justice Surya Kant gave four weeks’ time to the alleged contemnor and directed him to be present in court on the next hearing on April 18.

However, amicus curiae Anupam Gupta told the court that the medical certificate seemed to have been procured and hence should be looked into.

Incidentally, this is not the first time that Chahal has fallen ill just before the hearing of the contempt case. Earlier too, he had not appeared in the court on the plea that he was admitted to a Patiala hospital for treatment.



Father-in-law of Chahal’s son questioned
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 21
The father-in-law of B.I.S. Chahal’s son, was questioned by a team of the Punjab vigilance bureau at his home in Daad village in Ludhiana tonight. A team of the bureau led by a DIG-level official visited the house of Jagdish Singh, whose daughter is married to Bikram Singh Chahal.

The team stayed and questioned the family for more than two hours, well-placed sources confirmed here tonight.

The questions ranged from financial dealings between the family of Jagdish Singh and Chahal and also the whereabouts of the other members of Chahal’s family. The team also took into its custody a set of papers that were being scrutinised till late into the night at the bureau’s headquarters in Sector 17 here. A lawyer for Chahal, who was supposed to attend a court hearing today, had stated this morning that Chahal was out of the country.

Sources said the income tax returns of the family were also examined. Jagdish Singh’s daughter was married to Bikram Singh Chahal more than an year ago with much fanfare with several central leaders gracing the occasion. Already an assistant sub-inspector of the police, Devinder Singh, alias Bhola, has been questioned by the bureau.


Cop who probed Badal may probe Chahal, others
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 21
In what may be a surprise, Surinder Pal Singh, former SSP of Ropar, who, in his capacity as SP, economic offences wing of the vigilance bureau, was the investigating officer in the cases of corruption against Parkash Singh Badal, continues with his posting in the VB.

There is a possibility that Surinder Pal Singh will now be investigating matters relating to the previous Amarinder Singh government by virtue of his being the SP of the all-important EOW in the VB.

Surinder Pal Singh has not been removed from the VB and continues with his work there as additional charge despite having been posted as commandant, 82nd battalion, PAP, confirmed a senior police official.

Yesterday, Surinder Pal Singh attended a meeting convened by VB director Sumedh Singh Saini, leading to speculation that the bureau was investigating him. In reality, there was no such investigation carried out against him, confirmed sources.

A senior functionary added that so none of the cases being investigated by the VB regarding land deals, giving of concessions to industry or mega projects during the previous government were being routed through Surinder Pal Singh. It was premature to say he would get the work of investigating these despite the fact that he should be doing it as the SP, EOW, vigilance bureau.


Punjab formulating state forest policy
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 21
Punjab is in the process of formulating the State Forest Policy to achieve its target of bringing 15 per cent of its area under forests by 2017.

Currently the state has only 6.33 per cent area under forests. Not just that, major forest produce recovered from tree felling in the state in the past three years has been increasing considerably.

Wood cut from trees in Punjab was 1, 21, 112 cubic metres in 2003-2004; it rose to 1, 34, 552 cubic metres in 2005-2006. This wood was recovered from the felling of eucalyptus, kikar, shisham, khair, chil and poplar. Total plantation on the contrary has been on the decline. In 2003-2004, it was spread across 137.05 sq km. It came down to 132.42 sq km in 2004-2005 and to 14.71 sq km in 2005-2006.

The State Forest Policy, say sources in the government, is being framed according to the directions of Government of India, which recently asked all the states to frame policies to expand and maintain forest covers.

In Punjab, the policy is being framed specifically to prevent the loss of forest cover and protect the already dwindling population of “heritage trees”, including peepal, bohr, mango and jand. Significantly, 17 gurdwaras in Punjab are named after trees. And despite the immense religious significance of such trees, they continue to face the axe to make way for wider roads.

Farmers are anyway rejecting them for the more economically-valuable varieties like eucalyptus and kikar etc. Replacements of felled traditional varieties have also not taken place, resulting in the loss of more than 50 per cent of their original population. Forest experts admit that a separate policy is required to save this precious heritage of the state.

As regards the forest cover, Punjab lost one third of it between 2003 and 2005, despite plantations under the Japan Bank for International Cooperation project involving Rs 600 crore. Under the JBIC project, however, less than 5 per cent of plantation of heritage trees was undertaken.


Pakistan contemplates curbing human organ trade
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 21
Lahore for Indian kidney patients is likely to be out of reach since organ transplant has become costly these days.

Moreover, the government of Pakistan is contemplating an ordinance to curbing human organ and tissue trade following pressure from human rights organisations in the country.

This was disclosed by the patients, who have been here after getting kidneys transplanted in Lahore’s Rasheed hospital. The patients who pleaded anonymity, said this trade had flourished in Pakistan, especially since India banned such operations. With the launching of the Amritsar-Lahore bus, a number of Indians, especially from Amritsar and Gurdaspur had got new lease of life who were suffering from renal failure.

However, a patient from Amritsar said when he alighted from the Lahore Amritsar bus, an employee of the Rasheed hospital was already waiting for him at the international bus stand with placard. On this a police Inspector started harassing him but he was allowed to go to the hospital in Lahore on the intervention of the employee of hospital. He said at least five Indians, mostly Punjabis were operated on the hospital when he got the kidney.

A resident of Amritsar told The Tribune total cost of kidney transplant in Rasheed hospital had increased from Rs 5 lakh (Indian currency) to about Rs 9 lakh which might increase in coming days.

Caught between poverty and rising prices, poor Pakistanis are increasingly resorting to sale of kidneys to make both ends meet in the South Asian country, which had turned into a flourishing ‘Kidney bazaar’.

Doctors in Lahore also have formed the Renal Transplant Association (RTA-Pakistan) which has been providing comprehensive and world class surgical facilities to patients requiring surgical operation including renal transplant with choice for pre-operative guidance and post operative long-term follow-up facilities.

With Lahore becoming new hub of kidney transplant in Asia, Pakistan had become much sought after destination for Indian patients of renal failure. Indian patients were getting attractive package for kidney transplant. Unlike India, they (patients) don’t have to undergo lengthy procedures. They need to deposit about Rs 13,000 (US dollars) with the hospital management of Lahore which arranges the donor.

Rasheed hospital, is 100-bed hospital in the heart of Lahore where one can easily get a kidney. There are more hospitals in Lahore receiving patients from all over.


GND varsity honours Khush, Ganguly with honorary degrees
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 21
Guru Nanak Dev University today honoured international rice breeder and Padmashree recipient, G.S. Khush of the University of California, Davis (USA) and an eminent medical scientist, N.K. Ganguly, Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research, New Delhi, with Doctor of Science (honoris causa) degrees in the Faculty of Life Sciences at its 33rd annual convocation here.

While Khush has been given the honour in recognition of his seminal contribution to plant sciences, Ganguly has been conferred the honorary degree in recognition of his commendable contribution in the field of medical sciences. Gen. S.F. Rodrigues (retd.), Governor, Punjab and Chancellor of the university awarded the degrees.

The citation presented by the vice chancellor said the development of 320 breeding lines at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Philippines, under Khush's leadership had been adopted as different varieties of rice by the national rice improvement programmes throughout the world. Because of his leading role in the rice breeding programme of IRRI, Khush's name had become synonymous with a qualitative leap in the production of rice the world over.

The vice-chancellor said Ganguly had devoted himself to the study of tropical, cardiovascular and diarrhoeal diseases. His research interests ranged from immunology and biotechnology to general issues regarding public health. A dedicated researcher and supervisor of research activities, Ganguly has published 720 research papers and guided nearly 130 Ph.Ds.

Delivering the convocation address, the Governor called upon the student community to develop confidence in their ability and to work with commitment to realise the dreams for the future. Emphasising the need for partnership and the participative endeavour of the student community in policy formulation and other fields, he said that their capabilities needed to be channelised, by giving them proper guidance.

Addressing the convocation, Khush said 21st century would be the Asian century with India and China leading the way as their economies continued their dizzying growth.

More than 850 degrees and medals were awarded at the convocation.


Naresh Gujral promises to lobby for state in Delhi
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 21
"Parliamentarians from Punjab need to participate in a debate for the betterment of the state. I feel Punjab is in need of a great degree of lobbying with various ministries in New Delhi for the solution of various long-standing problems and issues. But to achieve this goal, we have to do a lot of networking in the Capital." These are views of Naresh Gujral, the newly elected Rajya Sabha member from Punjab.

"The biggest requirement of the time is that Parliamentarians from Punjab should turn pro-active and participate in debates over state-related issues. In my case, it is easy to lobby for Punjab in New Delhi as half of the union ministers have been in my father's Cabinet. I have an added advantage that way, and I will be utilising the opportunity to safeguard the interests of Punjab. In fact, I will be working as Punjab's envoy to New Delhi. Besides, networking we have to utilise intra-personal skills for seeking solution to problems and for making Punjab a progressive state which can take on the competition posed by the modern world. For example, if we have to seek the elevation of the status of the upcoming medical college at Jalandhar to the level of the PGI, we need requisite sanctions from New Delhi. I perfectly fit into the role required for this kind of job," said Gujral in an exclusive interview with The Tribune. Gujral hails from Jalandhar, where he is still running Pushpa Gujral Nari Niketan, an institute for destitute women and orphaned children.

"My role as a Parliamentarian in New Delhi will be to bridge the gap between the NDA and the UPA. Since we have the UPA government in New Delhi and Punjab is led by the NDA government, we require harmony between the two forces so that we can make Punjab prosper at a faster pace and Punjab's interests are not harmed in any way," observed Gujral.

" My endeavour on these two fronts will be that I will be working relentlessly for putting an end to female infanticide and for making a place where people can leave their newly born unwanted baby girls. More than 25,000-30,000 students from Punjab go to Manipal and other southern cities for attaining quality education. So, I will strive to set up an education city in Punjab. This way we will not only be providing education to our kids, but also be able to open gateway of the world for them. My sole objective will be to see Punjab progressing by leaps and bounds. I will be a full-time resident MP. Normally, MPs go to New Delhi for the purpose of attending the session.

But I will be present there all the time. You cannot build a network overnight. I have an edge as I have an already functional network in New Delhi as I have studied there and as my father has been the Prime Minister of the country," said a beaming Gujral.


Cong MLAs meet Governor over Bill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 21
Led by Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, a group of Congress legislators presented a memorandum to the Punjab Governor, Gen S.F Rodrigues (retd), to protest against the repeal of the State Vigilance Commission Bill, 2007.

The legislators pointed out that the scrapping of the Bill has been challenged in the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The next date of hearing is March 23.

They pleaded that the Governor should not give his assent to the Bill as it was unconstitutional and illegal and passed by the Treasury benches in haste. Giving assent at this stage would mean bypassing the judiciary.


New model of Durgiana temple to be installed at airport
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 21
Ending the controversy of model of Durgiana Temple put up at Rajasansi international airport, which could not be traced after the shifting of the terminal to new building, the airport authorities here today said a move was on to install a new model, matching with look of the new terminal.

The All India Hindu Shiv Sena (AIHSS) has threatened an agitation if the model installed at the temple in 2001 was not traced and re-installed by the airport authorities..

Mr Arun Talwar, airport director, said he was holding talks with the Durgiana Temple Committee members to get a large sized model made for the terminal. “The old model was put up seven/eight years back and may not match the new terminal building. The Durgiana Temple committee can seek fresh permission for setting up new model at the airport’s terminal building,” he said.

He added the airport authorities were not against the putting up of a model of Durgiana temple. The only problem was the old model could not be traced. “I haven’t seen the old model as the new building was already in operation when I took over. People who are raising the issue now should have kept track of the model soon after the new building became operational in February 2006,” he said.

On the other hand, Mr Surinder Kumar Billa, President AIHSS, produced copies of the letter written by Mr V.S. Mulekar, who was airport director at the time of shifting of the model. Addressed to the general secretary of the Durgiana Committee, the said letter points out the model installed at the international arrival hall will have to be shifted to a new location in view of the modifications that were to be carried out at the airport in June, 2003.


Common man still ‘ignorant’ about RTI Act
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 21
Though the Centre enacted the Right to Information (RTI) Act-2005 to bring transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority but the Punjab Government has not initiated sufficient and effective programmes for the promotion of the Act and enable common people to get information from various government departments in public interest in an effective manner. Due to this lackadaisical approach of the government, the common man seems to be ignorant about the use of the RTI Act.

This was stated here today by the general secretary of the People for Transparency Kamal Anand on the basis of information, provided to him by the Department of Information Technology (Administrative Reforms Branch), Punjab, some days ago.


Ophthalmic officers condemn DHS’s attitude
Our Correspondent

Nabha, March 21
An emergency meeting of the Ophthalmic Officers Association condemned Director Health Services (DHS) Sukhdev Singh for his dictatorial attitude towards the members of the association.

President of the association Harjit Singh Bhatinda came down heavily on the DHS and said that he was specifically targeting ophthalmic officers during his raids on government hospitals. He said the association had been requesting the DHS to hear their grievances and accept the demands related to promotion and revision of scale but he had chosen a path of confrontation only by not calling them for discussions.

Press secretary H.S. Randhawa of Nabha said association had taken strong notice of the apathetic and anti-association attitude of the DHS.


SGPC meeting put off
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 21
The meeting called by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) to counter the move of the Haryana Government to set up a separate gurdwara parbandhak committee for the state will now be held on March 29, instead March 24, as was announced earlier.

Avtar Singh, president, SGPC, said here today that the meeting would be attended by representatives of various religious societies, Nihang Singh Dals and Singh Sabhas, at the SGPC office.

In a statement here today, he said the move by the Haryana Government to set up a separate body to manage the affairs of the Sikh shrines in Haryana was unacceptable and would be opposed.


Another book on ‘Operation Bluestar’ released
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 21
Reiterating All-India Sikh Students Federation‘s (AISSF) panthic agenda, firebrand leader Bhagwan Singh Sandhu today said the federation was about to launch state-wide agitations. The purpose of agitations, he said, was “consolidating the youth of the state, raising the demand for Punjab’s self determination and demanding the rights of Sikhs”.

Dr Sandhu was speaking on the occasion of formal release of his book, “Operation Bluestar, a Holy War of the Sikhs and a Peep into the North East”. Admitting that he was deeply influenced by the fight of Nagas for self-determination, Dr Sandhu said his book was a journey trough the troubled times that led to “Operation Bluestar”, the circumstances that led to it, the ideology of Sardar Kapur Singh and Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and the bloodshed that followed.

Present in the Darbar Sahib complex in the first week of June when the armed forces invaded the complex, Dr Sandhu has given an eyewitness account of the episode. In his book, he has yet again called for greater powers for states so that the simmering angst of various sections of society can be dealt with at the state level.

He claimed that federalism in true sense of the word was absent in India and therefore the unrest had been brewing even after “Operation Bluestar”, in specific context of Punjab. When asked about the timing of the release of his book, Dr Sandhu said it was not pre-planned.

“After all the unrest of 1984, our cardes also needed time to reflect upon what had gone wrong. After years of studied thought, we have decided to come out in the open.”

In the book, which was released by Justice AS Bains (retd) today, Dr Sandhu has built a case for greater autonomy for states. “Expect in defence, communications and foreign affairs, states should have greater power,” he said, while referring to the Naga struggle for self-determination which has been going on for years.


Quake rumours create panic

Chandigarh, March 21
Panic gripped the people following rumours of a possible earthquake in Punjab and Chandigarh late last night.

People rushed out of their homes and spent the night on roads, streets and parks after receiving telephone calls from their friends and relatives that a quake may hit the region first around 2 a.m. and later at 4 a.m.

The police said the rumours had originated from a few areas in Punjab and soon spread to the entire state as the people made frantic calls to alert their relatives.

Rumours of an imminent earthquake also made rounds at Phagwara, Phillaur, Malerkotla, Jalandhar, Dhuri, Ahmedgarh, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Barnala and Nakodar in Punjab where people left their houses during the night, reports received here said.

Panic also gripped the residents of Chandigarh and several people spent the night outside their homes in different sectors.

The Meteorological Department, however, denied making any prediction of an earthquake in the region. ''Scientifically, it is not possible to forecast the quake,” Met director Chhatar Singh Malik said. — UNI


2 pilgrims killed in road accident
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, March 21
Two pilgrims, including a 2-year-old boy, died and five others were injured seriously when a car in which they were travelling rammed into a stationary truck on the Gurdaspur-Amritsar highway in Mahadev Khurd village ,near here, in wee hours of Monday.

The Vaishno Devi pilgrims of a Bathinda-based family were travelling by car (HR-05R-0548) that reportedly rammed into the truck (PB-02AR-9831) from behind leaving two dead on the spot. The deceased have been identified as Paramjit and her grandson Ritik.

Paramjit was travelling with her son Leela Kishan and daughter-in-law Saroj and their kids Ankush and Priyanka. The 2-year-old Ritik, son of Kewal Krishan, was also accompanying Paramjit along with Manjit Singh.

According to the police, Pushpa and Ritik succumbed to their injuries on their way to the Civil Hospital ,Gurdaspur. The seriously injured Leela Kishan, Saroj, Ankush, Priyanka and Manjit Singh were referred to Amritsar hospital after preliminary medical aid at the local Civil Hospital.

On receiving information, a police party from a police post (highway patrolling) rushed to the spot and extricated the victims from the mangled remains of the car. The cops had to break open the damaged pieces of the car to extricate the stranded pilgrims.

The truck had developed a default and was parked on the highway.


Two youths crushed by speeding train
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Malout, March 21
Two youths of Burja Sindwan village,7 km from here, were crushed to death by a speeding train at an unmanned railway crossing situated on the outskirts of the village today.

The youths, Sukhwinder Singh (22) and Randeep Singh (24 ), were on their way to open a workshop at nearby Malout town. However, the accident occurred before they could reach there.

The traffic on the Sriganganagar-Delhi rail section remained suspended for a considerable period due the incident. The high-speed Sriganganagar-Delhi intercity Express rammed into the tractor in which they were travelling, crushing them under its wheels. Randeep was the only brother of his two unmarried sisters.

Both Sukhwinder and Randeep were neighbours and good friends. Randeep was already running a successful tractor workshop in nearby Rajasthan and Sukhwinder wanted to bank on the experience of the latter.


Drive to make Fatehgarh Sahib green
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, March 21
The District Environment Protection Society, in collaboration with district forest department, observed World Forest Day by holding a function at Aam Khas Bagh, Sirhind, today.

Deputy commissioner Alak Nanda Dayal was the chief guest whereas chairman of the society Shamsher Singh presided over the function.

Addressing the function, the deputy commissioner highlighted the importance of trees and urged the gathering to make Fatehgarh Sahib a green district. She said to keep the environment pollution-free, a drive “Plant tree, save Fatehgarh Sahib” would be launched. All educational and religious institutions and social organisations would be involved in the drive.

Shamsher Singh threw light on the projects initiated by the society.

District forest officer Balbir Singh said more than 300 hectares would be covered under the tree-plantation drive in the district. Various saplings were planted.


Crop damaged as hailstorm lashes Patti
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 21
It rained sorrow for farmers in the Patti area of Tarn Taran, about 45 km from here, today as a hailstorm damaged wheat crop which was almost due to be reaped in many villages.

The farmers have demanded compensation from the government in view of the untimely rain and hailstorm.

Chairman of the Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission Kashmir Singh Patti said standing wheat crop was damaged in the hailstorms that lashed the Patti area this morning.

The wheat crop, which was due to be reaped in a month's time, was destroyed in the hailstorm that affected more than 40 villages in the area around 11 am today.

Vegetable and fodder crops were also destroyed in the hailstorm. The roads turned white with hails all over the area.

Sub-Divisional Magistrate Nirbhay Singh said the annual crop inspection was due to begin on April 1 and any loss suffered by farmers would be assessed and recommended for compensation.


Special girdawari sought
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 21
Punjab Public Relations Minister, Bikram Singh Majithia, today asked the Revenue Department to conduct special girdawari in Tarn Taran and Amritsar districts where recent hailstorm caused a heavy damage to rabi crops.

He has sought the report from the department at the earliest.


DGP orders review of security cover
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 21
Within days of taking over, director-general of the Punjab police N.P.S Aulakh has ordered a review of the security cover provided to various VIPs, besides civil and police officials. This will include MLAs, former MLAs and MPs.

He has asked for a review of the men and vehicles being used for security to have a “realistic deployment” and prune any excess deployment with VIPs. Sources said the DIGs of each range had been made in charge of the security review work. They will look into the threat perception on the basis of inputs from the intelligence wing of the Punjab police besides assessing various factors at the local level.

Thousands of constables and vehicles have been deployed. They are mostly used for personal work. In some cases constables are forced to do odd-jobs like dropping the children of the VIP concerned to school, said a senior official, adding that those on security duty would be rotated.

A review of the security cover and the provision of vehicles for protected persons are among the toughest tasks a DGP can face in Punjab. In the past, DGPs had tried to prune the security cover but had to roll back some measures. Last year, the then DGP S.S. Virk had to order full restoration of the security cover to at least six retired IPS officials.

Last year, a high-level committee had suggested a reduction in the deployment of constables with retired DGPs and other senior officials. This was done due to a lowered threat perception in the past few years. Several retired officials were agitated over the sudden withdrawal of the security cover. The committee has excluded four senior officials from the purview of the new norms --- S.S. Virk, J.P. Birdi, Mohd Izhar Alam and Sumedh Singh Saini. The committee did not place them in any security category like the Z category or the Z-plus category. The only other person enjoying this type of special security cover is K.P.S. Gill, former Punjab DGP.

In the past, the Punjab police had to ask all IPS officers in the state to return the vehicles that were in excess of the allocation. Officials started returning vehicles after instructions were issued to cut the fuel supply to all such vehicles.


4-year-old girl raped
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 21
A four-year-old girl of the Bangla Basti area falling under Islamabad police station was allegedly raped by a cobbler here today.

The police has registered a case under section 376, IPC, on the statement of the mother of the victim.

The mother, in her statement, alleged that the accused identified as Ram Lal, a cobbler of the neighboring area, kidnapped her daughter who was playing outside the house.

DSP(R) Narinder Bedi, when contacted, said the medical examination of the girl was being conducted. The accused has absconded.


One held for impersonation
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 21
The flying squad of the Punjab School Education Board (PSEB) today caught Baljinder Singh, a resident of Mandi Kalan village, for impersonating as Sukhwinder Singh, another student, while writing the English paper in the class 10 examination at Arya High School, Rampura Phul.

Information gathered by TNS revealed that the centre superintendent informed the police about the incident and recommended the registration of a criminal case against Baljinder Singh and Sukhwinder Singh.

Sukhwinder Singh was to appear in the examination as a private candidate.

The flying squad detected the impersonation when they matched the photographs of the candidates pasted on the roll number slips at the start of the examination.


Refresher course on Punjabi
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 21
A 21-day refresher course on "Punjabi language, literature, culture and folklore: contemporary concerns" organised by Academic Staff College at Guru Nanak Dev University concluded here today.

Emphasising his point, former Vice-Chancellor of Punjabi University Joginder Singh Puar said that the teachers should be committed and devoted to their subjects. He said the teachers should understand the new challenges and try to resolve these problems.


Experts throw light on Sikh martyrs
Tribune News Service

Guru Arjan Dev’s efforts in compilation of Adi Granth, raising new towns, sinking wells, digging tanks and setting up welfare centres for the destitute brought to the Sikh fold a large number of Hindus and Muslims. — Prof Shiv Gajrani

Patiala, March 21
The 39th session of the three-day Punjab History Conference on the theme “Martyrdom and the Sikhs: Concept and Traditions”, organised by the department of Punjab historical studies, Punjabi University, concluded here today.

The valedictory session of the conference was presided over by Haroon Adeem from Lahore University. Prof Nayanjot Lahiri, in her presidential address in the ancient section, highlighted various aspects of the Indus valley civilisation. She said it was not only vast but also a rich one.

Presiding over the medieval section, Dr Sunil Kumar spoke about the Muslim rulers of Delhi. He highlighted the dynasties of that period. In her presidential address in the Punjabi section, S.K. Jolly threw light on the achievements of Guru Arjan Dev.

In her paper, Prof Jaspal Kaur spoke about the martyrdom in Sikhism. Prof Shiv Gajrani said Guru Arjan Dev's efforts in compilation of Adi Granth, raising new towns, sinking wells, digging tanks and setting up welfare centres for Sikhs and the destitute brought to the Sikh fold a large number of Hindus and Muslims.

Dr Navtej Singh, director of the conference, introducing the theme, said another area to be explored was the gender issue in martyrdom.

More than 15 papers were presented at the session in which 200 delegates participated.


Panel passes Punjabi varsity budget
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 21
A meeting of the finance committee was held here under the chairmanship of Vice-Chancellor, Punjabi University, S. Swarn Singh Boparai. Secretary, Finance, Punjab, Baldeep Singh attended the meeting along with other members of the committee.

The committee passed the university budget of Rs 121.82 crore for 2007-08. The estimated total income during 2007-08 amounts to be Rs 92.65 crore out of which a grant of Rs 24.85 crore will come from the Punjab Government and Rs 68 crore will be raised by the university from its own sources. The budget has the deficit of Rs 27.17 crore.

In the budget, 59.88 per cent will be spent on teaching and research activities while 12.08 per cent will be spent on general administration. As much as 23.87 per cent of the budget has been earmarked for miscellaneous departments like university school, health centre, university press and horticulture, etc.

The estimated cost of the projects for the development of Punjabi language is approximately Rs 6.16 crore, which the university spends from its own resources.


Blankets sent
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 21
With Rajasansi international airport emerging as a trade air route for people of the region, a 45 tonne consignment of woollen blankets was sent to West Asian countries in an I-76 TD chartered plane by a local mill here today.

The airport authorities said trade of more such cargo consignment in future is on the cards.


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