P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Badal reminds Cong of torture of ex-Akali ministers
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 28
Launching a sharp political attack against the previous Amarinder government, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said today in the Assembly that “dark period of mega corruption was over” and a new beginning had been made with the coming of the SAD-BJP combine to power.

He reminded the Congress the way former Akali ministers were treated by the Amarinder government in police stations. “Third degree methods were used to torture former Akali ministers in police stations. Former Akali minister Ajit Singh Kohar was made to stay in a barrack where night soil was deliberately kept to torture him. We would not spare police officials who did so”, he said. “Now Congress leaders were giving advice to us not to do this and not to do that. Why they remained silent when former Akali ministers were being tortured in police stations by the Amarinder government, he asked.

Badal said his government would not resort to vendetta but “it does not mean that the Congress leaders who resorted to wholesale corruption would be spared”. “We would go by the rule book and not a single innocent person, would be harassed”, he asserted.

While recounting how even his wife Surinder Kaur was booked in a criminal case along with him and his son despite his request not to do so, Badal said even our children were not spared by the Amarinder government. When leader of opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal questioned that on what grounds a case had been registered against Amarinder Singh and Chowdhary Jagjit Singh, Badal said he would convince all concerned on the cases to be registered by his government.

He said the Congress was removed from power because Amarinder Singh did not meet any one during his rule of five years. Even Congress MLAs were unable to meet him. “Any politician can meet me on any day”, he said, talking about accessibility of his government.

Badal said Punjab’s economy was facing a crisis. The growth rate in the agriculture sector had come down to 1.9 per cent. Industrial growth was in a shambles. He spoke at length to describe that how respective Congress governments at the Centre had been trying to rob Punjab of its share in river waters.

He said by impeding the Bathinda oil refinery project the Amarinder government caused a huge financial damage to Punjab. The refinery would have provided employment to 10,000 youths. He said the Amarinder government did nothing to remove water logging from the Muktsar belt.

“Bumper cotton crop was a result of water-logging removed by the previous SAD-BJP government”, he asserted. He said all schemes like Shagun Scheme launched by the previous SAD-BJP government would be revived.


Crucial SGPC, Akal Takht meetings today
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 28
The crucial meetings of Akal Takht and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) convened here tomorrow, coinciding with the completion of seven years of Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti as Jathedar, Akal Takht, are likely to take important decisions on Panthic matters.

While the SGPC’s executive body meeting will chalk out the next course of action to scuttle the move of the Haryana government to form a separate gurdwara committee, Akal Takht may take a tough decision against the religious leaders who have been summoned tomorrow. The jathedar has summoned SGPC member Jaswinder Singh Advocate, convener of Akal Purakh ki Fauj (APF), by taking suo moto action on the report that its Jammu and Kashmir unit had burnt the effigies of Parkash Singh Badal, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Avtar Singh Makkar, Baba Harnam Singh Dhumma, chief, Damdami Taksal, and a section of Sant Samaj following controversy over the Dasam Granth in November last year. However, the SGPC member while dissociating himself from the burning of the effigies said there was a ‘deep-rooted conspiracy’ to defame him in the eyes of the SAD chief.

Akal Takht has also summoned Tarsem Singh, chairman, Dharam Parchar Committee, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), and Veer Bhupinder Singh to clarify their positions with regard to the alleged violation of the ‘Anand Marriage Act’ in connection with a marriage at Gurdwara Rakab Ganj on September 10 last year.

In yet another development, Baba Sarup Singh has been summoned at Akal Takht to clarify his position amid allegations of playing with the sentiments of the Sikh Sangat by bringing “Birs” of Guru Granth Sahib from Italy. However, Baba Sarup Singh has shown his inability to appear tomorrow due to death of his wife.


Governor’s address old wine in new bottle, says Bhattal
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 28
Leader of the opposition in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Rajinder Kaur Bhattal today termed the Governor’s address as “old wine in a new bottle”. All old development schemes of the Congress had been highlighted and the new promises made by the ruling SAD-BJP combine were no more than “white lies”, said Bhattal while speaking in the house on the address of Governor S.F. Rodrigues.

Without naming anybody, Bhattal said somebody was running a parallel government in Punjab as all promises being made by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal were not being implemented. Giving an example, she said Badal’s stance to remove bitterness on the political scene did not mean much as a “witch hunt” had been launched against Congress leaders and party workers.

Bhattal challenged reports in the media that the case registered by the vigilance bureau against former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and his former cabinet colleague, Chaudhry Jagjit Singh, were based on an inquiry conducted during the previous Congress regime. “ I have seen the inquiry report.

It does not blame Amarinder Singh or Jagjit Singh”. She demanded that the report should be placed on the table of the house and the facts be known. C.S.R. Reddy, the then director, VB, had conducted the inquiry.

Bhattal chided the Akalis, saying they did not have a clear mandate. Rather, the people of Punjab had not voted in their favour. The Congress had 44 seats while the SAD had 49. The SAD should thank the BJP which was like a vital crutch for the Akalis. Bhattal, however, went a bit overboard and asked Master Mohan Lal of the BJP to stop supporting the SAD and cross the floor.

Badal, always ready with a political statement, got up and said: “ Why don’t you make a formal announcement that the Congress wants to have an alliance with the BJP”. Bhattal backtracked, saying: “ We do not want it. Actually, it was you, Badal sahib, who has been changing stands to remain in power”.

Bhattal criticised the SAD for claiming that it had done enough for the Sikhs, saying the first Sikh Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, and the first Sikh Army chief, J.J. Singh, were made by the Congress. The SAD could not do it. She lambasted the SAD for claiming that the state treasury was empty. As on January 26, 2007, the Congress regime had left Rs 836 crore in the Reserve Bank. During the previous Akali rule the treasury used to be closed for more days than it was open and the government virtually used to be running on overdraft. “How can they criticise our economic policies?” The Congress reduced the overdraft and brought the economy back on the rails. The Congress provided the urban pattern of power supply in villages and the value of the land of farmers rose. It was during the Congress regime that all produce was procured without any hindrance to farmers.


23 measurement books of MC ‘missing’
Our Correspondent

Abohar, March 28
Twentythree measurement books have been missing from the municipal council here. Some SAD and BJP activists who stormed the council this afternoon were told by municipal engineer Hakam Singh and junior engineer Sukhdarshan Singh that they were issued blank measuring books on joining duty here on January 9, 2007 and December 18, 2006, respectively. They claimed having informed executive officers, Diwan Chand Verma and Jagsir Singh Dhariwal that the relieved JE and ME had not handed old measuring books to them. As per law FIRs were to be lodged against the former officials but no action was initiated, municipal law experts said. None of the EOs was available for comment.

SAD councillor Vijay Nagpal and three former members of the council Harcharan Singh Pappu, Suresh Phutela and Surinder Vij spent more than an hour along with city BJP president Ravi Setia, vice-president Ashok Chhabra, general secretary Navneet Jaiswal and treasurer Rajinder Bansal collecting information on different aspects of the council controlled by the Congress.

They alleged works worth crores were undertaken a few days before the assembly election and suspect misappropriation of not less than Rs 2 crore. They levelled serious allegations in renovation projects of the municipal bus stand and Nehru Park and later faxed a complaint to the Chief Minister and Minister for Local Bodies urging them to ask the vigilance bureau to inquire in the matter. The council at present had Rs 9 lakh in the account whereas Rs 50 lakh was to be paid on account of electricity supply. The council had not deposited instalments of life insurance to the LIC even when the amount allegedly had been deducted from the salary of the employees during past four years.

Mr Phutela said work orders had not been issued in some cases of development during past few months. The councillors were not taken into confidence before finalising certain plans.

Mr Nagpal alleged the council had not auctioned the lifting of dead animals for past two years but a person reportedly he had been paying Rs 35,000 a month to a senior functionary for the dead animals. The SAD and BJP workers said they would get this probed and not allow Congress functionaries to indulge in “loot”.


City Centre Scam
Plea on search warrant for Moti Bagh withdrawn
Hanspal fails to get interim bail
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 28
In a surprise move the Ludhiana Vigilance Bureau today withdrew the application seeking search warrant of Moti Bagh, the Patiala residence of former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, from a local court with regard to the multi-crore city centre project scam.

The bureau has also withdrawn application for searching the houses of former Local Bodies Minister Jagjit Singh and former chairman, Improvement Trust, Ludhiana. Till today the vigilance had been pressing hard for obtaining the search warrant. The hearing on the application was fixed for tomorrow March 29 but the bureau took the application back.

Sources said the bureau took a U-turn on the directions of the SAD-BJP high command. The suspected vigilance raids were stirring up political emotions. These could have gone in favour of the beleaguered former Chief Minister, the sources stressed and added that these might become the rallying point for the divided Congress.

Meanwhile, former president of Punjab Pardesh Congress Committee H.S. Hanspal failed to get any interim relief from the court on his anticipatory bail application.

Special Judge Gurbir Singh (Additional Sessions Judge) adjourned the bail application to April 2. He ordered the Vigilance Bureau to produce the case file on the next date for disposal of the bail application.

The counsel for Hanspal submitted before the court that his client, aged 69, was a senior citizen but had no locus standi to intervene in government matters. The counsel reasoned that Hanspal being a PPCC president did not deal with any government document.

On the other hand a city court today extended the police remand of two arrested accused in the City Centre scam by two days.

The bureau wants to recover a CD and pen drive from the accused, which they have reportedly hidden in Delhi and Gurgaon. It is being claimed that the recovery of these were likely to put more light on the shady deals in the scam.


Work at city centre comes to a halt
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 28
It appears that the City Centre scam has cast its shadow on the Rs 3,000-cr project with the construction work coming to a halt today.

Administrator of the Ludhiana Improvement Trust S.R. Kaler said the company, Today Homes and Infrastructure, stopped the work on its own without any reason. He said a superintending engineer of the trust had sent his report to the Local Bodies Department, Government of Punjab, in this regard.

He further said it was yet to be ascertained if the company had abandoned the project or had temporarily stopped the work owing to the registration of a case against many officials of the company. Of the 19 accused in the FIR, 10 were company officials and employees. Two of those, including Amit Sardana and Kamal Kumar Verma, had been arrested while the rest were on the run.

Kaler said there was no direction from either the state government or the Local Bodies Department on the discontinuation but the company abandoned the work itself. A visit to the site today revealed that there were no workers and officials of the company present at the site office.

All attempts to contact project officer S.K. Sharma failed.

However, an employee from the office later in the evening called up the Tribune office, claiming that work had not been called off. Refusing to identify himself, he said the work was going on at a slow pace.


Wheat procurement: Kisan unions up in arms
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 28
Farmers’ unions across Punjab are up in arms against the Union Government’s move to ban private players from procuring wheat in Punjab. Led by Bhartiya Kisan Union, these farmers’ bodies have decided not to allow the Food Corporation of India (FCI) or other government agencies from lifting wheat from the mandis of the state.

Calling the move as anti-farmer, these unions claim that ‘such dictatorial attitude of the central government” will make the farmers in the state take law in their own hands. “If we are getting a good price for our produce, why should the government be against our welfare,” they said. They said that they would give a call to farmers to hold back their produce, rather than giving it to the government agencies.

The Bhartiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) will be holding a demonstration outside the Parliament House in Delhi tomorrow where hundreds of farmers are expected to participate.

Talking to TNS here today, senior BKU leader Balbir Singh Rajewal said farmers would hold a demonstration outside Parliament and will oppose the move. “The private companies are paying farmers Rs 950-960 per quintal of wheat which is Rs 100 over and above the minimum support price of Rs 850 per quintal.

The MSP is a political price and not a scientific price, so the government should not ban the private players, rather aid them so that the farmers in Punjab prosper,” he said, while adding that he will be submitting a memorandum to the Prime Minister and union agriculture minister.

With the global wheat prices expected to rise sharply over the next couple of months, especially in the wake of decline in wheat production in Australia and China, the farmers feel that they have been let downby the government by not being allowed to sell their produce at a renumerative price.

It may be noted that the farmers in the state had also opposed the move to ban futures trading on wheat by the union government recently.

This move , though aimed at reducing the price of wheat, went against the farmers of Punjab, who were getting Rs 825-Rs 850 per quintal of wheat for the month of April, as compared to the then prevailing market price of Rs 750 per quintal.

What irks them is the fact that the government plans to import wheat at a price higher than existing market price.

Last year, the government had imported 5 lakh tonnes of wheat and this year, this year plan to import 30 lakh tonnes of wheat.

Manpreet Badal, finance minister, Punjab, said that the government would oppose the move as it denied a higher price to the farmers of the state. “Whenever it comes to Punjab, be it announcing an industrial package or agriculture package, the Congress government seems to be biased against the state. We will take up the matter with the centre, and have also sought the help of the Punjab Congress to make the centre see reason,” he said.

Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, president of BKU (Lakhowal), while opposing the move, informed TNS that a meeting of the party’s state executive would be called soon, and a decision on how to oppose the move would be taken.

“We will ask farmers not to bring their produce in the mandis. Farmers will be asked to hold it back and later sell it to private players at good prices,” he said.


SAARC car rally crosses over to Pak
Tribune Reporters

Wagah, March 28
A convoy of 28 cars participating in the first SAARC car rally 2007 crossed over to Pakistan from the Wagah joint check post here today.

The cars arrived at the post at 2 p.m. and after completing the immigration formalities crossed the RadCliff line where it was received by Miofar Bukhtiar, federal minister of tourism, Pakistan. Over 100 persons from seven countries are participating in the rally.

Earlier, the rally had reached the holy city and was accorded a warm welcome by eminent citizens. The rally was also welcomed by villagers who had lined up en route to the border.

The rally is being held at the behest of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who had announced that India would hold the first South Asian car rally which would run up to the next summit to be held in New Delhi in April. The rally will cover a distance of over 8200 km, over a period of more than 31 days.

Earlier, the rallyists had arrived here after covering a distance of 278 km from Chandigarh where it was flagged off by the Governor, Punjab, Gen S.F. Rodrigues (retd).

The rally will be flagged off from Lahore tomorrow by Chief Minister Western Punjab Parvez Elahi.

PARAGPUR (JALANDHAR): Members of the SAARC car rally 2007 got a peep into the rich Punjabi culture as they descended at a heritage village, Rangla Punjab, resorts here on Wednesday.

“It is fantastic to see scenes of village life,” said one of the rallyists.

Nar Singh, deputy director, Ministry of External Affairs, said the rally was being taken out in the light of the dream of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that efforts should be made to bring people of SAARC countries closer. “The entire programme has been chalked out under the banner of SAARC.

Countries, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are participating in it. The month-long rally had started on March 15 and would conclude on April 14. Earlier, Vinay Bublani, ADC, Jalandhar, welcomed the rallyists.


Amarinder writes to Badal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 28
Former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has sent a letter to Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal saying,“ Tell me where should I appear and offer myself for arrest”.

The letter also reminds Badal that “my government took a decision not to arrest you during the course of investigation. It is for you to choose your norms. I am now awaiting the information asked for by me.”

Badal showed the letter in the Vidhan Sabha today. On the issue of not arresting Badal during the course of investigation, the former Chief Minister says: “ This, I thought, would initiate a much-needed political convention.

Both you and your son have stated that you would put me in jail on taking over the government which, it seems, is now your intention.”


Give Badals’ case to CBI: SAD(A)
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 28
The investigations into the corruption cases against Akali Dal supremo Parkash Singh Badal and his family should be given to the CBI.

Stating this, Baldev Singh Sirsa, spokesman, Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), in a missive to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has asked him that the corruption cases against Badals be tried outside the state. He said a fair trial could not be held in the case as the government machinery was working under the control of Badal.

Sirsa added that even the fresh cases being registered against former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and members of his Cabinet should be investigated by the CBI.


Rs 44.95-cr Patiala MC budget passed
Water, sewerage charges abolished
Charu Chhibber
Tribune News Service

The mayor is not authorised to abolish the water and sewerage charges. He has done this keeping in view the coming MC elections.

S.K. Ahluwalia, Commissioner

I abolished the water and sewerage charges after the unanimous consent of the house, which includes a number of SAD councillors.

Vishnu Sharma, Mayor

Patiala, March 28
Differences between the municipal corporation commissioner and the mayor came to the fore at the final meeting of the house here on Wednesday, even as the mayor passed a resolution abolishing the water and sewerage charges.

The differences between commissioner S.K. Ahluwalia and mayor Vishnu Sharma reached the zenith when the former, said: “The move is illegal. The mayor is not authorised to abolish the water and sewerage charges. I will write to the secretary, local government in this connection. He has done this to please the common man, keeping in view the coming MC elections.”

On the other hand, the mayor said: “I abolished the water and sewerage charges after the unanimous consent of the house, which includes a number of SAD councillors. The decision is in no way illegal.” Total budget for the MC for 2007-08 has been pegged at Rs 44.95 crore, of which Rs 21.30 crore is committed while Rs 1.95 crore is non-committed. An amount of Rs 23.25 crore will be spent on developmental works, which accounts for as much as 53 per cent of the total budget. Expenditure on establishment has been will be Rs 19.41 crore while that on contingency it will be Rs 1.94 crore.

Besides, an amount of Rs 1.96 crore has been set aside for immediate expenses.

The total revenue of the MC during 2007-08 has been estimated at Rs 44.95 crore. Octroi will bring in Rs 17 crore, additional excise duty generated from liquor Rs 4 crore and the house tax Rs 6 crore. The revenue from rent coming from shops has been estimated at Rs 15 lakh, from building application fee Rs 5 crore and from sale of property recovery Rs 4 crore.


159 officials found absent
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, March 28
As many as 159 officials were found absent in a surprise visit by the district administration in various government departments in this border district.

Giving details, deputy commissioner Bhagwant Singh said he checked the presence of officials in the District Mandi Office and the Forest Office, where he found 13 officials absent, including Satnam Singh, DFO, Bogha Singh, DMO, Sohan Singh, SDO and Rajesh Kumar, SDO.

ADC Darshan Singh made a surprise visit at BDPO office, executive engineer ( PWD) office and executive engineer (Central Works Division) where he found 21 officials absent from duty which included B.S. Tuli and Manjit Singh, both engineers.

SDM Kamal Kishore checked the office of deputy director (Employment), district employment office and deputy registrar and assistant registrar (Cooperative societies) and found five officials absent which included Subhash Chander Gagneja, deputy director (Employment), Avtar Singh, distt employment officer, Dilip Singh Nahar, DR and Narinder Singh AR, cooperative societies.

Similarly, Sohan Lal Bhombak, SDM, Jalalabad, checked offices, including that of BDPO, market committee Jalalabad where 75 officials were found absent which included Surinder Garg, EO, municipal council Jalalabad, Sarvjit Singh, BDPO and Vijay Kumar, Secretary market committee.

SDM Fazilka Rajeev Parashar checked Fazilka BDPO’s office, block education office, SDO Panchayati Raj and office of Sarv Sikhya Abhiyan where 18 officials were found absent. SDM Abohar N S Brar found 10 officials absent from their duties in Abohar. Another 15 employees were found absent from various offices in Zira where SDM Ajmer Singh made surprise checks.

DC Bhagwant Singh said show-cause notices would be sent to all government employees found absent from duty during office hours.


8 MC staff found absent
Our Correspondent

Abohar, March 28
SDM N.S. Brar during a surprise inspection found eight employees, including an accountant and a cashier, absent from duty in the municipal council (MC) here. There were complaints that employees in some offices who enjoyed political influence in the past had not changed their habits even after the formation of the new government in the state.

Surprisingly, only a clerk was found absent during checking at the Nehru Memorial Civil Hospital, contrary to the complaints that suggested that most of the doctors were late-comers.

Dr Brar found that most of the rooms in the municipal council wore a deserted look. He made remarks in the attendance register and would report the matter to the higher officials. All were found present during the surprise checking in the office of the BDPO.


MC chief resigns

Hoshiarpur, March 28
The resignation of Ajay Mohan, president of the Municipal Council, Hoshiarpur, was accepted by Munisha Jain, vice-president of the council here today.

Out of the 31 elected municipal councillors, 26 were present in the meeting. Two of the ex-officio members, who had voting rights, were also present.

Ajay resigned from the presidentship of the council on March 22 following the move of no-confidence motion by 24 councillors against him.

Out of the 31 elected councillors, 21 belonged to the Congress, seven to the BJP and three to the SAD. Besides, the ex-officio members belonged to the BJP and SAD. — OC


Back from jaws of death and smiling
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 28
The government has brought legislations to prevent exploitation of minors. But poverty, the biggest problem being faced by children, remains unaddressed. Sonu, a 13-year-old living in a cycle stand of Rajindra Medical College here, is an example of this fact.

From his bubbly face nobody can gauge the trauma this 13-year-old has undergone in the past few months. Sitting on a chair outside the cycle stand of Rajindra Hospital with both legs fractured, the minor still maintains a smile across his face.

On a little instigation he gets friendly with the Tribune team. The marks of injuries across his neck and other parts of the body, however, tell the tale of his misery.

About two months ago he was found by the railway police personal at Rajpura lying on the track. His neck had a deep cut and legs were fractured.

He was admitted to Rajindra Medical College in a serious condition by the police. Now with life out of danger he has been shifted out of hospital and is on the mercy of cycle stand contractors. The contractors feed and look after him.

Narrating his vows, Sonu says that he used to live with his parents at Sabzi Mandi area of Delhi. His father Prem Raj used to beat him mercilessly. Due to persistent beating he ran away from home with a person whose name he fails to recollect.

The person forced him to commit thefts on train. When he refused to commit theft, the person beat him up mercilessly. He broke both his legs and cut his neck with a blade. Taking him to be dead he left him at the tracks. However, fate saved him when he was found by the railway police.

But still he does not want to go back to his parents.

The benevolent cycle stand attendants, Mangal Singh and Gurmohan Singh, say that their stay here is not permanent. They added that they would like to see him walking on his feet before they leave the place after expiry of our annual contract.

Is any philanthropist listening.


Rajasansi airport all set to be cargo hub
Vibhor Mohan
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 28
The Rajasansi International Airport is all set to emerge as an important cargo hub of north India with a main air cargo complex, which will handle both perishable and other cargo, slated to come up by May-end.

The land for the complex has been provided free of cost and the operations will be handed over to a private party, which only needs to set up infrastructure in the building which is almost ready. Tenders for the project have been invited.

Talking to The Tribune, airport director Arun Talwar said here today that the cargo complex would prove beneficial for traders in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. It will also have the facility of aircraft bay parking where freight can be unloaded.

The Punjab Government has already set up a perishable cargo complex, which is being run by the Council of Value Added Horticulture. It exclusively caters to fruits, vegetables and flowers.

“Besides handling perishable cargo, the new complex will also handle non-perishable freight like handloom, hosiery and other industry,” said Talwar.

As per a feasibility report prepared by the Punjab Agro Industries Corporation, the airport has an export potential of Rs 100 crore per day. Many airlines have already expressed interest in carrying cargo and Rajasansi Airport is all set to develop as a key cargo hub in this part of the country.


Loans to farmers on easy terms
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, March 28
Deputy commissioner Alaknanda Dayal released the annual credit plan at a meeting of the consultative committee of various banks organised by the State Bank of Patiala here today. The meeting was convened to review the progress of various government-sponsored schemes for the agriculture and industrial sectors.

The banks had been directed to give loans on easy instalments, keeping in view the loss to the wheat crop due to hailstorm.

The deputy commissioner said during 2007-08 the banks would disburse the loans to the tune of Rs 1,122.33 crore where as during the current session loans worth Rs 882.46 crore were sanctioned.


Bank manager honoured for foiling robbery
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 28
The Sardar Jassa Singh Ramgarhia Federation and the Sultan-ul-Qauam Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia Memorial Society today honoured Gurpreet Singh, the young branch manager of Centurion Bank of Punjab, who foiled a robbery bid in the bank on January 25.

At a special function, the federation led by Onkar Singh Sandhu, patron, honoured the branch manager with a ‘siropa’, a shawl, a memento and a citation for rare courage, quick decision and devotion to duty.

Gurpreet Singh was approached by a person while three of his accomplices waited outside and placed his bag before him. The person handed over a letter to him which read that the man was a human bomb and threatened to blast if he failed to give him Rs 25 lakh. Gurpreet engaged the miscreant in conversation, pretending to arrange the money and led him out of the cabin. The bank staff called the police which nabbed the accused while his accomplices fled the scene after seeing the police.

The federation also honoured Sunil Datti and Om Parkash Gabbar, mayor and deputy mayor, respectively, for helping the federation in changing the names of Chatiwind Gate and Ghee Mandi Gate to Ramgarhia Gate and Ahluwalia Gate after the names of two Sikh warriors who fought the Mughals.


Drive against encroachments remains hampered
Raj Sadosh

Abohar, March 28
Even after a month of the Vidhan Sabha elections, the much-awaited drive against encroachments in rural areas remained hampered for the third consecutive month.

Construction work on some of the link roads is yet to be completed, thanks to the lack of initiative on the part of the engineering wing of the Punjab Marketing Board, sources said.

Deputy commissioner (DC) Bhagwant Singh had issued directions under Section 144, CrPC, 1973, to all subdivisional magistrates, mandi board officials, municipal councils, panchayats, market committees and heads of various departments to remove encroachments effectively last year, but the campaign had to be deferred as the Election Commission had enforced a code of conduct, giving a suitable alibi to the officials concerned to avert action.

The DC had pointed out that such encroachments by farmers caused accidents, besides damaging the government property.

The SDO, Mandi Board, here on December 13, 2006, requested the SDM for nishandehi (marking), as some persons had encroached upon a land on the Kikkarkhera-Dharampura link road resulting in the delay of the construction of a 1,200-foot stretch.

SDM N. S. Brar asked the tehsildar to take necessary action on January 3, 2007, and told him to report by the same evening. The tehsildar forwarded the orders to the kanungo.

The kanungo visited the site and confirmed that two persons had encroached upon the road in rectangle number 72/26/27/28 of khasra number 192.

The SDM then asked the DSP to provide security to the officials during the removal of the encroachment. The police offered assistance, but the Mandi Board has not acted so far.

The road has had half-a-dozen accidents in the meantime.

A deputation from Dharmpura village today met the officials and faxed complaints to the higher authorities expressing resentment over the non-completion of the link road.


DC wants projects finished on time
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 28
At a meeting of district officials on the status of government-sponsored schemes held here today, Deputy Commissioner Kahan Singh Pannu emphasised on timely completion of projects.

He said as per the agriculture department, wheat was sown in 1.85 lakh hectares in 2006-07 and produce of 8,32,000 metric tonnes was expected. Farmers in the district, he added, were being encouraged to use zero-till drill technology for better results.

The DC informed 25 gobar gas plants had been set up in the district and 42 samples of water tested in laboratories functioning in Ajnala, Baba Bakala and Amritsar.


SGPC to bid for Duleep Singh’s bust

Patiala, March 28
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC) would arrange to bid for the bust of Maharaja Duleep Singh priced at around £ 25,000-35,000 pounds, being put on auction by Bonhams of London on April 19.

President, SGPC Avtar Singh said the SGPC would send a representative on the occasion of the sale of the bust sculpted by John Gibson, a Roman artist.

“The bust is our pride,” said Avtar Singh. “We will either send a buyer or have someone else, it could even be a company, to buy it for us. We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to get such a precious thing back,” he asserted.

The SGPC had recently written a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging him to “do something about it”. — UNI


Harcharan Josh clarifies
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 28
Harcharan Singh Josh, a member of the Minorities Commission and director of the Punjab and Sind Bank, has in a written statement claimed that his association with the bank has been for three decades.

Reacting to a report in The Tribune, he said he had written three books and one of those contained the history of the bank. About the settlement of loans, he said he had not recommended a single case for loan or settlement.

He, however, did not mention that he had been a beneficiary of settlement of his own loans which was made with the Punjab and Sind Bank on April 9, 2001, with a notional concession of Rs 3.11 lakh.

He said he gave his valuable suggestions in the public interest and in the interest of the bank as well as that of the government at the board meetings only.

Josh also did not mention that a letter of protest against his behaviour at a board meeting was written by a fellow director, A.S. Mann, on March 21.


Phone details lead to arrest of 6 for murder
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, March 28
The district police here has arrested six of the accused in connection with the murder of Davinder Singh of Paldi within 72 hours.

Anita Punj, SSP, Hoshiarpur, stated in a press note here this afternoon that the body of Davinder was found on a village road on March 25. A case was registered under Section 302/24 of the IPC. Yadwinder Singh, brother of Davinder, had stated that on the night of March 24 he had heard his brother talking on his mobile phone at about 11.30 pm regarding some money.

A special team led by Darshanjit Singh Dhindsa, SP (Detective), was constituted to investigate the murder. After obtaining the list of the calls from Davinder’s mobile phone, the team arrested Harpal Singh and Manjinder Singh, both of Saila Khurd, Gurpreet Singh and Sohalpreet Singh, both of Badon, Tarsem Singh of Jassowal and Mandeep Kaur of Khera.

The SSP stated that the accused revealed that Mandeep had illicit relations with Harpal and Davinder, from whom she borrowed some money. She did not want to return the money. She provoked Harpal by saying this that she had borrowed some money from Davinder for which the latter had forcibly developed illicit relations with her. This irked Harpal who attacked Davinder with sharp-edged weapons and killed him.

Meanwhile, one of their accomplices K. Deep Singh of Paddi Sura Singh is still at large.


Two dead as bus hits car

Kharar, March 28
Three persons have been killed in two accidents near Kharar since last night. A Chandigarh resident, Ram Pal, was killed near Jhanjheri village when his cycle was hit by an unidentified vehicle.

In another accident on the Landran-Chunni road, a bus hit a car, killing two persons on the spot. The bus was going towards Fatehgarh Sahib. The deceased were identified as Lakhbir Singh of Dakota under Bhadson police station and Ravinder Kumar of Rajpura. The bus driver absconded after the mishap. — OC


Guru Nanak varsity ‘denying due importance’ to Amrita Pritam
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 28
Guru Nanak Dev University was not ready to give proper importance to the works of Jnanpeeth awardee Amrita Pritam, in the university.

Noted artist Imroz, who had been associated with the famous Punjabi poetess, stated this to The Tribune here today while he was inaugurating the 73rd All-India Exhibition of Arts 2007 organised by the Indian Academy of Fine Arts.

Imroz said though the university was ready to keep handwritten works and other items in a separate hall but expressed its inability to display them properly for the students giving lack of funds as the reason. He said it was of no use if these works were kept in the shelves of almirahs and not easily available to students and general public. He said these needed to be displayed in blow-ups so that students did not have to waste time to search them.

He said he had already spent his life’s earnings to display them in a proper way in his drawing room but the space was not enough for all works of Amrita Pritam to be displayed.

Answering a question Imroz said if the government really wanted to honour the noted writer it should come forward to set up a museum so that people could know about the works and life of the poetess.

Later prizes were distributed to the winners of the exhibition in which 250 entries had been selected out of total 420 works of art categorised under five heads, including graphics, painting, photography and sculpture. The main winners were Hemant Dwivedi of Udaipur, Savita Nag, R.S. Pathania of Kurukshetra, Neelima Verma of Noida, Ram Sharad Singh, Lalit Bhopal Prashar of Mathura, S.S. Bawa and Paramjit Kaur of Amritsar.


Women’s empowerment: Change in patriarchal set up needed
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 28
There was need to change attitude not only of women but also of patriarchal structure for the empowerment of women. This was observed by Prof Mahendra Narain Karna, North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong.

He was giving a lecture on empowerment of women during a series of lectures on Emerging Social Issues organised by the Department of Guru Nanak Studies of Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) here today.

Dr Karna said we were living in a culture of silence but there was need to speak and change attitude and mentality not only of women but also of patriarchal structure.

He said there was need to articulate programmes to build equality and strengthen primary education of women.

Prof Balwinder Arora, Department of Sociology, Guru Nanak University said empowerment of women was a critical issue and being discussed all over the world.

She said women’s empowerment also fostered decision making and action through collective process, enable women to make informed choices in areas like education, employment and health, provide information, knowledge and skill for economic independence to improve legal literacy and information of their rights and entitlement in society.

In another lecture on environment eminent environmentalist, A.K. Thukral expressed concern over the present environment saying that about 60 per cent loss of life in the form of death were caused by man himself and 40 per cent deaths were due to the natural disasters.

He said loss of biodiversity was the biggest loss because each species was an asset for others. Talking about disaster mitigation he suggested following remedies: monitoring through remote sensing, radar etc., flood embankments, earthquake proof houses, fire-fighting equipment, early relief for accident victims.


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