P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


City Centre: Vigilance doesn’t want to arrest Hanspal
Rajneesh Lakhanpal

Ludhiana, April 16
Suspense is over and finally it's official. The Vigilance Bureau officials do not want to arrest former president of the Punjab Pardesh Congress Committee chief H.S. Hanspal in the multi-crore City Centre scam.

However, he faces the allegation of receiving Rs 100 crore as kickbacks, along with former Chief Minister in the FIR. The top level “political interference” by the ruling party has saved the former PPCC president from the humiliation of arrest, reveal well-placed sources.

In a repreive to Hanspal, the Vigilance officials made this disclosure in the court, where his anticipatory bail application was taken up today for hearing. Following this, Special Judge Gurbir Singh asked the Vigilance officials to make the statement. The SSP, Vigilance Bureau, Ludhiana, K.S. Sandhu recorded his statement. Thereafter, the court directed the VB officials to give five days notice to the accused, if they wanted to arrest him. But the bail application was dismissed.

The Tribune had reported in these columns on April 12 that the top--brass officials of the Vigilance sitting in Chandigarh had issued directions to the investigating team to not arrest Hanspal. However, the VB officials were tight-lipped.

Meanwhile, the court reserved the orders on the anticipatory bail application filed by co-accused Rajesh Singh and regular bail application filed by Amit Sardana, director of the IPE company, and Kamal Kumar Verma, director, special project of the same company, for April 18.


AICC secy warns govt against vendetta politics
Vimal Sumbly/TNS

Ludhiana, April 16
Warning the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance government in the state against pursuing vendetta politics, senior Congress leader and secretary of the AICC, Manish Tewari, today said the Congress remained as strong and powerful in the state as it was earlier. He said although it did not have the adequate numbers to form the government, but it had garnered maximum percentage of votes even more than the Shiromani Akali Dal.

Talking to The Tribune, Tewari said given the percentage of votes, the Congress remained the single largest party in the state. He said although the party cadres were little upset in the beginning for losing power despite outstanding performance, now the dust had settled and the cadres had been asked to prepare for the local bodies elections which were due within a month or so.

Tewari pointed out that the Congress with 44 MLA would prove to be strong and powerful opposition. While assuring that the party would cooperate with the government, at the same time, he warned that it would not hesitate in performing the role of a constructive opposition.

He said the party had some of the best and highly qualified legislators who would evaluate the performance of the government and keep a watch on its various acts of omission and commission.

"It is not that they have the numbers and they will have their way", he remarked, while adding that " the government would be held accountable for all its acts of omission and commission".

The AICC secretary warned the government against pursuing political and personal vendetta. "If they say this is not political or personal vendetta what else is it then?", he asked, while pointing out that a former Chief Minister, a former state president and so many others were booked on the flimsy grounds.


high court
Amarinder’s election challenged
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, April 16
A petition has been filed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court challenging the election of former Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh to the Punjab Assembly from the Patiala city constituency.

The petitioner, Sukhbeer Singh of Gher Sodhian village in Patiala district, has prayed for setting aside the election of Amarinder on the ground that he broke the election laws during campaigning. The petitioner has alleged that even though the former Chief Minister has claimed to have spent Rs 5.11 lakh on his campaign, the actual amount spent by him is over Rs 5.64 crore.

This amount includes the money that Amarinder allegedly spent on advertisements in the print and electronic media.

The petitioner has questioned the claim of Amarinder made in his expenditure statement submitted to the district returning officer, Patiala, that he did not spend a penny on his election campaign through electronic or print media nor did the Congress or any other association or individual spend anything for the same.

However, the 177-page petition, which contains 127 newspaper clippings, claims that Amarinder concealed these facts in his statement.

The petitioner has accused the former Chief Minister of having spent Rs 2.53 crore on the advertisements of his election campaign in the electronic media while Rs 3.11 crore was the amount spent by him on advertisements in the print media.

Interestingly, the petitioner has claimed that Amarinder also spent on the advertisements that were issued in the name of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, Shiromani Khalsa Panchayat, Shiromani Akali Dal (Delhi), Friends Club, Ropar and Jain TV and Anuhad Foundation.

With the latest petition, the total number of election petitions filed against victorious candidates has gone up to 22.

Chaudhary Jagjit seeks pre-arrest bail

Former Punjab Local Bodies Minister Chaudhary Jagjit Singh has moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court for grant of anticipatory bail in the alleged Ludhiana City Centre (LCC) scam in which he is an accused.

Jagjit, former Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and 18 others were recently booked by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau (VB) for their role in the alleged scam.

Some days ago, a Ludhiana court had issued the warrants of arrest against Chaudhary Jagjit, former Ludhiana Improvement Trust (LIT) chairman Paramjit Singh Sibia and Congress functionary Capt Rajesh. The three are reported to be absconding.

The court had last week issued the warrants of arrest against former local bodies minister Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, former Ludhiana Improvement Trust (LIT) Chairman Paramjit Singh Sibia and Capt Rajesh, said to be a close associate of Amarinder Singh.

Some days ago, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had granted transit bail to Amarinder.

In his petition, Chaudhary Jagjit has stated that he was being framed in the matter by a vindictive government. He has also stated that he is ready to join investigations and cooperate with the investigation agency. His plea is likely to be taken up for hearing tomorrow.


Pollution around Golden Temple alarming
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 16
The mushrooming of small and big hotels in the periphery of Golden Temple, smoke spewing from three-wheelers fitted with two-stroke engines and burning of garbage by the municipal corporation has raised pollution level around the Sikh shrine.

Preliminary reports of the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB), which had installed four samplers on all top floors of the “parikarma” of the Golden Temple, had described the pollution level as alarming.

Talking to The Tribune, G.S. Majitha, executive engineer, PPCB, said there were more than 100 hotels around Golden Temple which had been frequently using generator sets in case of power failure. “These hotels are like full-fledged factories,” he said. Expressing concern over the rising pollution level in the walled city, Majitha said his staff was shocked to see MC employees burning garbage there.

The problem is aggravated due to the use of adulterated fuels by vehicles, especially three-wheelers. The PPCB suggested that vehicles should not be allowed to park near the Darbar Sahib Complex.

Majitha said Amritsar, Jalandhar, Batala and Ludhiana had been marked as most polluted. According to the data collected by the PPCB, the suspended particulate matter (SPM) were beyond the permissible limits. The executive engineer said vehicular traffic contributed the most to the pollution in the city. There were 3,85,476 two-wheelers, 35,249 tractors and 2,082 buses running in Amritsar.

One of the inferences of study was that commercial diesel vehicles were being run on low-quality fuel. Many were being run on kerosene, which released toxic fumes that were responsible for itching eyes and respiratory problems. It also adds lead oxide, sulphur dioxide and nitric oxide to the air.

The historic city also has the dubious distinction of producing a large quantum of solid waste and garbage after Ludhiana - 600 tonnes daily.


‘Ban construction near Sahnewal airport’
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, April 16
Industrialists and traders of this industrial capital of Punjab are happy over the decision of the Punjab Government to connect Ludhiana by air through domestic flights to begin with from Sahnewal Airport.

The domestic flights would definitely help Ludhiana in boosting its trade and industrial production with other parts of the country, they feel.

However, civil aviation experts are of the view that if the state government is really keen on providing air link to Ludhiana, the government should immediately ban construction within five miles of Sahnewal Airport and also take steps for expansion of the present runway to enable it to receive Boeing flights.

Enquiries made by The Tribune reveal that the present length of the runway is 4800 ft. and it can receive only Avro aircrafts with fifty to fifty-five passengers. For Boeing flights, there is need for having a runway of 7200 ft.

A survey of the Sahnewal Airport was carried out 7-8 years ago and it was found that the present runway could be expanded upto 7200 ft. The experts suggest a fresh survey of the areas around Sahnewal should be undertaken. To have domestic flights and to expand the present runway, as many as 150 acres of land will be needed, according to the Civil Aviation experts.

At present, no night landing facilities are available and the experts emphasise that night landing facilities must be made available before launching domestic flights.

The expansion of the runway to 7200 ft. would enable the airport to receive Boeing aircrafts. If the Boeing services are launched, flying time from Ludhiana to Delhi will be reduced to about 30 minute against more than one hour by Avro aircrafts. Boeing services will also be cheaper and with reduction in flying time, there will be more passengers to board the same, say civil aviation experts.

As a matter of fact, the local industrialists also want that Ludhiana-Delhi flight should be of Boeing aircraft as it will save time and money for them. There is scope for cargo services also within the country. Ludhiana has a big network of courier services and all the courier operators send their consignments to Delhi from where the same are sent by air to far-off places like Bangalore, Mumbai, Kolkatta, Kochi and Chennai.

Sahnewal Airport receives chartered flights of small planes with a capacity of 8 to 10 passengers. Besides, ambulance flights are also taken from this airfield.

Sahnewal Airport used to have Vayudoot air flights daily in 1982 and later the same was connected with Chandigarh also. But, with the merger of Vayudoot with the Indian Airlines, the service was discontinued. Later, a number of air services tried to have flights but failed as local traders and industrialists were not satisfied with the services which were costlier and time consuming. The launch of the Shatabdi Express train from Amritsar to Delhi gave a real setback to the air services between Ludhiana and Delhi.

The Amarinder Singh Government first initiated a move to set up an international green airport at Ladowal near Ludhiana through private participation. But the move was discarded and the land meant for the airport was given to a private cell company for production of vegetables at a throwaway lease. The proposal to have international airport at Halwara also failed to come up due to the objections from the Defence Ministry.


Coop bank MD, chairman sacked
Chander Parkash
Tribune News service

Mansa, April 16
Bikram Singh Moffar, managing director (MD), Primary Central Cooperative Bank, Mansa, who is son of Congress MLA from Sardulgarh Ajitinder Singh Moffar, and its chairman Surjeet Singh were removed from their respective posts by the board of directors of the bank at its emergency meeting held here today. Four directors of the total nine who were present in the meeting elected Santa Singh as MD and Balwinder Narang as chairman.

Bikram Moffar is married to grand daughter of late Chief Minister Beant Singh.

This development has created a controversy in this district as the removed MD and Chairman were served no notice in connection with the meeting and it has brought differences prevailing among various Congress leaders to the fore.

The newly elected MD and chairman also belong to the Congress. While Bikram and Surjeet were supported by one group of Congress leaders of this district, the newly elected MD and chairman were being supported by another group of Congress leaders apart from a section of SAD leaders.

Ajitinder, while dubbing this as undemocratic, alleged that the ruling SAD-BJP alliance had been settling political scores with those Congress leaders who had carried out huge development in their respective areas and managed to get themselves returned to Vidhan Sabha in the recently held Assembly elections. He pointed out that the authorities concerned were supposed to issue a notice in connection with the meeting 15 days prior. He added that Bikram would approach the high court against this injustice.

Sant Singh, deputy registrar, Cooperative Societies, said both Bikram and Surjeet ceased to hold their posts after they were found guilty of committing irregularities with regard to recruitment in the bank. He said that today’s meeting was an emergency one and the same could be held without giving prior notice under the relevant Act.

He pointed out that in today’s meeting only four directors were present while three were absent.


Bhandari may head Punjab BJP
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 16
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s Punjab unit is about to see a power shift.

Hardcore RSS man Rajinder Bhandari, who was overlooked for the party ticket in the recent assembly poll, is tipped to succeed Avinash Rai Khanna as the next president of the unit.

Well-placed sources in the party said today that a formal announcement in this regard would be made in a few days.

Bhandari is seen close to Arun Jaitley and also to Avinash Rai Khanna. Khanna was also backed by the RSS when he was chosen as president.

The president of the BJP unit will also be on the all-powerful SAD-BJP coordination committee, which also has Navjot Singh Sidhu and Manoranjan Kalia as its other members.

Bhandari’s name was also supported by Harjit Singh Grewal, former national secretary and confidant of BJP chief Rajnath Singh.

Grewal, Avinash Rai Khanna and Bhandari are seen as a well-knit group.


Panel to decide on BOT road disputes
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, April 16
To find a solution to charging of toll on build, operate and transfer (BOT) roads - Balachaur-Dasuya and Hoshiarpur-Tanda, Avinash Rai Khanna, BJP chief, Punjab, got arranged a meeting of the members of the District Sangarsh Committee with the Chief Minister at his residence in Chandigarh today. At the meeting the chief secretary, Punjab, deputy commissioner, Hoshiarpur, and Surinder Singh Chinda, district president of the SAD unit, Hoshiarpur, were also present.

Later, while talking to this correspondent, D.K. Tiwari, Deputy Commissioner, said the Chief Minister had decided to constitute a committee under the supervision of the chief secretary consisting of all affected parties and officials concerned to decide the dispute. On a representation of the committee, the Chief Minister had agreed to constitute an inquiry into the chopping and sale of thousands of trees on either side of the route for the construction and widening of these BOT roads and spending of Rs 22 crore for its widening and strengthening by the PWD Department just one month before its handing over to the toll-plaza company.

Meanwhile, Vikram Kumra, chairman of the committee, said it was also decided at the meeting that the companies would charge toll once for the whole day from three-wheelers, buses and trucks till the finalisation of the dispute.


Ludhiana victim of political apathy
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, April 16
Ludhiana is the most populous and prosperous city of Punjab. It has been the hub of small-scale industry and gradually it earned the title of the Manchester of India. The pace of growth of Ludhiana has been the fastest in Asia.

But it is a tragedy that no government since the times of late Partap Singh Kairon was able to respond positively to the fast growth of the city.With the lapse of time, Ludhiana has begun to decay.Industry has diversified and made its way to other states.Even the biggest industry in the state i.e. bicycles and cycle parts is not in a healthy state now.

The only reason behind this is that most leaders and politicians have not paid attention to the problems of the city. They have not looked this place as the nucleus of development of the state, but tried to exploit its status as the financial capital of the state for their own benefit.

The sad story presents a saga of political interference that has stalled the development of the city.

In 1999, the Punjab Government then headed by Parkash Singh Badal appointed Dr Sukhbir Singh Sandhu as the commissioner of the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation. He started taking steps for the face lifting of this most congested and unplanned city and for almost three years he brought about tremendous development in the city. Dr Sandhu also took some bold steps to curb corruption.

Then suddenly Dr Sandhu was transferred from Ludhiana as he had ordered the demolition of a temple constructed illegally on government land.The local BJP Rajya Sabha member and seasoned leader Lala Lajpat Rai allegedly conspired for his transfer.

With the change of the government in 2002, the MC got S.K. Sharma as commissioner who remained in Ludhiana for almost five years. Sharma was the most favourite officer of Capt Amarinder Singh and he never bothered about the local politicians and acted in an authoritarian manner.

The development of the town came to a halt and all prestigious projects started by Dr Sandhu were deliberately delayed.

Now, the city needs the immediate attention of the Chief Minister and residents are hoping that they will get some respite with the decision of Badal to personally preside over the monthly meetings of the District Planning Board and the District Grievances Committee.


15 lakh devotees visit Talwandi Sabo
Tribune News Service

Talwandi Sabo, April 16
The three-day Baisakhi mela which concluded late last evening, created a record of sorts as it was for the fist time that more than 15 lakh devotees visited this place.

The management of Takht Damdama Sahib also found a significant jump into the cash offerings made by the devotees at various historical gurdwaras which they visited during the mela days.

Bharpur Singh, manager, Takht Damdama Sahib, said the cash offerings totalled about Rs 11.22 lakh against Rs 8.5 lakh during the corresponding period last year. He added that apart from it, the money collected in lieu of ‘deg’ at the gurdwaras during the mela days went up to Rs 6.5 lakh against Rs 4 lakh during the corresponding period last year.

Balwant Singh Nandgarh, jathedar, Takht Damdama Sahib, said massive facelift would be given to Takht Damdama Sahib, which had been accorded the status of “Guru ki Kashi” by Guru Gobind Singh. He added that a spacious and big diwan hall would be constructed in the complex. The existing hall would be converted into a museum where articles and literature connected with Sikh history would be displayed.

He said some of the buildings in front of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib would be demolished and parks would be developed in their place. More space would be created for the people to sit in front of Takht Damdama Sahib. He added that Baba Labh Singh of Qila Anandgarhwale would be given the responsibility of carrying out the construction of the complex.

Jathedar Nandgarh said he had written to the SGPC to permit the Akal Academy organisation to open a school in the complex.


No sangat darshan on April 18
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 16
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal will not hold his scheduled sangat darshan programme at Chandigarh on April 18 (Wednesday).

According to an official spokesman, the Chief Minister has to attend an important meeting outside Chandigarh so he will not be able to meet members of the public here.


Administrators for improvement trusts

Phillaur, April 16
The Punjab Government has dissolved 27 improvement trusts and appointed administrators for them, according to Punjab Local Bodies minister Manoranjan Kalia.

They included Ashok Kumar, chairman, Improvement Trust, Ropar. The ADC(G), Ropar, has been appointed administrator in his place. The Pathankot SDM has been appointed administrator in place of Rajbir Singh, DDLG, Patiala, in place of S.K. Sharma, DDLG, Bathinda, in place of Jagrup Singh, SDM,Abohar, in place of Mathura Dass, SDM, Nabha, in place of Om Parkash Dalla and SDM, Rajpura,in place of M.K. Pappu, chairman, Rajpura Improvement Trust. — OC


Wheat procurement
Farmer union’s findings defy govt claims
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Dera Bassi, April 16
The claims of the authorities concerned about the “foolproof” wheat procurement arrangements came under a cloud today with representatives of the BKU (Ekta) alleging malpractices in the procurement process.

A fact-finding team of the union, which toured mandis and focal points in the sub-division, alleged nexus between aarhtias and market committee officials, which they alleged was harming the interest of the farmers.

Alleging malpractices in weighing, Mohali district union president Prem Singh Dhanoni asserted that annual embossing of weights had not been done by the weight and measures department, resulting in loss to farmers.

In fact “improper” weighing was not the only problem being faced by farmers, as the mandis and focal points lacked other basic amenities.

For instance, the mandis and focal points lacked drinking water facilities and lack of tents for farmers to protect themselves from sun.

Only Jaraut focal point had the permission to pitch a tent, Lalru market committee officials said.

And with two platforms yet be concretised, the dust often mixed with the crop and farmers faced problems selling it, Patiala district union chief Gurbaksh Singh Balbehra alleged.

He alleged that exemption from the market fee granted to private procurement agencies caused huge financial loss to the state exchequer.

While aarthias got their commission, farmers remained at the receiving and got no monetary benefits.

The team demanded end to malpractices in the procurement process and provision of basic amenities for the benefit of farmers.

Meanwhile, market committee officials refuted the allegations of malpractices.

Adequate basic amenities were being provided to farmers visiting mandis for selling their produce, they claimed.


DC orders magisterial probe against preacher
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 16
Sangrur deputy commissioner S.R. Ladhar today ordered a magisterial inquiry into all aspects related to the alleged sexual exploitation of a girl by the preacher of the Christian Parchar Kendra (church) of Lehragaga.

The DC has entrusted the magisterial inquiry to Sunam SDM Navtej Singh. He has also asked the SDM to complete the inquiry in a fortnight and submit the report as early as possible. The DC also asked the leaders of the VHP, BJP and Bajrang Dal to submit their views on the issue.

The inquiry was ordered when a deputation of the leaders of the VHP, BJP and Bajrang Dal met him in his office here. Besides the DC, SSP Arun Pal Singh, ADC M.R. Aggarwal and Sunam SDM Navtej Singh were also present.

The deputation was demanding registration of a case against the preacher under Section 376 of the IPC, withdrawal of cases registered against the activists of the BJP, VHP and Bajrang Dal and investigations into the land records of the kendra to ascertain whether it is a community hall or a Church and shifting of an SP.


Tehsildar suspended
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 16
The Punjab government has suspended a tehsildar and a district revenue officer of Kapurthala for allegedly changing the status of 232 kanals situated in Kapurthala.

A spokesperson of the government today said the district administration had been asked to proceed against the officials, including those who acted clandestinely to dispose of the land.

The department of revenue suspended Bhupinder Singh, tehsildar, and Shashi Kumar, DRO.


Shun drugs, MP tells students
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 16
Rajya Sabha MP Rajmohinder Singh Majithia advised students to stay away from drugs and take their degree more seriously. He was addressing students of Khalsa College, Amritsar, after awarding degrees to 450 graduates in different disciplines, including agriculture, science, commerce and arts at the 101st convocation of the college here yesterday.

He also announced a grant of Rs 10 lakh to the college.

Earlier, Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina, honorary secretary, Khalsa College, congratulated the graduates and said the quality education imparted at the college would help them face the challenges of outside world.

Principal, Dr Daljeet Singh said the arts stream, which was till now reserved only for boys, would be thrown open for girl students as well from the coming session commencing from July 2007.

He read out the annual report of the college, highlighting the activities carried out during the last one year. He also appreciated the efforts of the management and staff for helping the college get ‘College with potential for excellence’ status, making it the first co-educational institute in the region to get this status from the University Grants Commission.

He said the college had given scholarships to the tune of Rs 87,000 to meritorious students.

Olympian Balbir Singh, alumni of the college, was honoured on the occasion. Other alumni present on the occasion were A.S.Sidhu and Dr Daljit Singh Pannu. Dr D.S.Pannu, registrar, thanked the guests.


Dr Dhaliwal no more member of MCI, varsity told
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, April 16
The Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare has directed the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences to conduct fresh elections and furnish the details of the candidate for the residual period as Dr U S Dhaliwal, a former principal of SGPC-run Sri Guru Ram Das Institute of Medical Sciences, ceased to be a member of Medical Council of India (MCI).

In a communiqué to Registrar of the university, T J S Chawla, under secretary, Government of India, said Dr Dhaliwal was notified as MCI member on December 31, 2003, up to December 31, 2008 representing Baba Farid University for five years.

The election of Dr Hardas Singh as member, MCI, as per elections held on September 8, 2004, could not be accepted as Dr Dhaliwal was member on that date, the letter added. Chawla said the university was eligible for member only after the completion of tenure of Dr Dhaliwal.

However, as Dr Dhaliwal ceased to be member of Medical Faculty of the university on January 31, 2006, he also ceased to be member of MCI as per Indian Medical Council act, 1956, the ministry of health directed the university to conduct fresh elections and furnish the details of the candidate.


India’s growth prospects bright: Kidwai
Sushil Goyal & Vikrant Jindal

Malerkotla, April 16
After the US and China, India will be the third biggest economic power in the world by 2040 while by 2020 it will be included in the list of major powers of the world. In this global society, India has an opportunity to achieve this status, so educational institutions will have to play a vital role in this direction as the government cannot achieve this goal alone.

These views were expressed by Haryana Governor A.R. Kidwai after inaugurating Kidwai Complex at Islamia Kamboj Senior Secondary School here yesterday.

He was here to attend the annual prize distribution functions of two local schools, Islamia Kamboj Senior Secondary School and the Al-Falah Public Senior Secondary School.


Varsity postpones course
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 16
A four-week general orientation course-70, scheduled to be held from May 2 by Academic Staff College (ASC) of Guru Nanak Dev University, has been postponed.

Disclosing this here today, Prof Harbhajan Singh Bhatia, director of Academic Staff College, said the new dates of this course would be notified later. He advised the selected participants of this course not to report at the ASC on May 2.


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