P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Human Trafficking
Thousands of Punjabi youths in jails abroad
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 19
Paramjeet Kaur, who was arrested along with Babubhai Katara, BJP MP from Gujarat, in a case of human trafficking yesterday, is not the first person from Punjab to end up in police custody.

Duped by travel agents, as is the case of Paramjeet Kaur, thousands of Punjabi youths are lodged in jails in various countries.

Nearly 400 are said to be in various jails in Sri Lanka. Besides, Punjabi youths are lodged in jails in Algeria, Ukraine, Mali, Sudan, Malaysia, Thailand, Pakistan, Turkey, Morocco, Italy, Russia and other countries.

President of the Lok Bhalai Party Balwant Singh Ramuwalia, who has been fighting a battle against unscrupulous travel agents for several years, says he has information that 30,000 Punjabi youths are in various jails. He said several hundred Punjabi youths had been killed in jails or while crossing the border from one country to another. He said in the Malta boat tragedy an unspecified number of Punjabi youths died.

“I have visited Turkey, Pakistan, Italy, Thailand and some other countries to get Punjabi youths, who were duped by travel agents, released from jails there”, said Ramuwalia. He said he got released 14 youths from Turkey, 31 from Pakistan, 70 from Italy and 100 from Thailand. “ As many as 80 or 90 youths were got released from Algeria and Morocco by my party’s office-bearers in the UK.” Likewise, from Doha 80 youths were got freed. In Kuwait a large number of Punjabi youths were detained by a private company in connivance with a travel agent. “ I sent my party’s senior leaders to get them freed,” he added.

Punjabi youths, for whom employment and other opportunities had shrunk in Punjab, wanted to go abroad even by selling their agricultural land.

“ We have been working scientifically on the issue of human trafficking for several years and I can say with some authority that travel agents have looted about Rs 10,000 crore from Punjabi youths in the past some years in the garb of sending them abroad”, claimed Ramuwalia.

“ I had also raised the issue of Punjabi women who were being exploited by NRI bridegrooms”, he said. “ It is unfortunate that neither the political leadership of the state nor the police is ready to address the problem. They continue to be a moot witness to this big human exploitation”, he said.

There were instances where the police had helped travel agents instead of the exploited youths. The Batala police registered a kidnapping case against three brothers from whom a travel agent had taken Rs 24 lakh. “ I had approached DIG Rajpal Meena, who ordered a probe into this case”, he said.

He urged Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to hold sangat darshan with families which had been “ looted” by travel agents who had promised to send their wards abroad.

He said certain women, who were to sent abroad, ended up at dubious places. “ I have details in this regard”, he said.

He said now most of the youth who went abroad on false documents were arrested when they returned to India. The police exploited them at Delhi airport.


Medical teachers to be recruited on ad hoc basis
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 19
The government will soon appoint medical teachers on ad hoc basis to overcome the crisis in the various government-run medical and dental colleges in the state in view of the warning given by the MCI to derecognise the medical institutions.

Stating this here today, Tikshan Sood , Minister for Medical Education and Research , said that the government was seized of the adverse report presented by the Medical Council of India to derecognise the state-run medical colleges and had also threatened to axe the number of MBBS and MD seats in case the government failed to take emergency steps to fill the vacant faculty which remained unfilled for last many years.

He said that the government had already taken a decision to raise the retiring age of teaching faculty which would give a fillip to the present medical education system but in the long run the government would devise steps to recruit more teachers to fill all vacancies for the proper functioning of the medical institutions and to save the colleges from de-recognition.

Expressing his dismay over the poor functioning of the medical health and educational services in the state, Sood assured that the government was coming out with a suitable plan to revamp the entire system which would meet the aspirations of the people.


32,000 posts of teacher to be filled
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 19
The Punjab government’s plan to revamp the education system got a boost today as Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal called for a time-bound action plan on the setting up of adarsh schools and filling of the vacancies of teachers in schools in the state.

About 32,000 posts of teacher in state schools are lying vacant while the government proposes to set up an adarsh school in every block. The government plans to make the adarsh schools the pivot of its scheme for a broad-based quality education network for the poor and the downtrodden.

Presiding over a meeting of the Punjab education development board here, the Chief Minister asked the departments concerned to put in place a perspective plan for the achievement of the objectives. He said it was because of the wrong policies of the previous regime that most of the schools were without teachers. Some schools had remained without any teacher over the past five years.

The Chief Minister said there were 32,000 vacancies of teachers in the state. Similarly, teachers were also required in private aided schools.

The Chief Minister asked the finance secretary and the education secretary to hold a meeting with the finance minister to finalise the budget and the schedule for filling these vacancies. He said that education and health were two main focus areas for the government. The budget should focus on improving the two sectors.

The chief secretary should put up a proposal for setting up 144 adarsh schools, one school in each block, within 15 days. He said the education department should invite expression of interest from non-government organisations and NRIs who were ready to participate in this programme of the state government.


CM announces relief in stamp duty
Shveta Pathak
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 19
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today announced relief from stamp duty and other taxes in cases of property distribution among family members. At the same time, the CM said his government was planning incentives to industry in the state.

“There will be no tax or stamp duty in case of transfer of property from father to son,” Badal said at a function organised by the industry here today.

He said states like Himachal, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir had become industry destinations as these offered high incentives and to give competitive advantage to the industry here his government would strive to obtain benefits in the manner other states are getting.

Blaming the previous government for putting industry in a disadvantageous position, the Chief Minister said: “The previous government didn’t take up the issue at all with the Centre. Punjab’s industry is suffering on various accounts and all the more due to locational disadvantage. We will present a fresh case to get benefits on pattern of our neighbouring states.”

Stating that co-ordination with the Centre was a priority, Badal said canals in the state would be re-started. “We have received Rs 25 crore for Kandi canals and to increase capacity of other canals and their revival we are coordinating with the Centre.”

Industrial boards, that were one of the much publicised election promises, would be formed in a week. There would be three boards, for large scale, small and medium enterprises and another for trade, which would be formed and chairpersons for these would be nominated by the industry itself. “We want these boards to frame their own policies so that industry progresses in the right direction.”

Asserting that co-operation from industry too was imperative, he said his government was willing to provide and industrial institute to the state but the industry should take the initiative to provide training.


Cong not to support corrupt leaders: Dullo
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 19
Punjab Pradesh Congress committee president Shamsher Singh Dullo today said the party would not stand by any of its corrupt leaders. However, if the SAD-BJP government targeted any party worker, the Congress would extend full support to him or her, including the provision of legal and other assistance.

There are certain former Congress ministers who are facing cases of corruption in the state. The SAD-BJP government is also discreetly investigating cases of graft against many other Congress leaders and their associates.

“ The government will not be allowed to target any party worker”, he said.

Dullo, who has been asked by the party high command to continue as president of the PPCC till further orders, said that party leaders facing corruption charges would have to fight the cases on their own and the Congress would not extend support to them.

Dullo had resigned as president following the party’s defeat in the assembly elections. Now, he has been told by the Congress high command to gear up the party for the elections to various municipal corporations in June. Dullo has already started mobilising party men for the poll.

He said the SAD-BJP combine would not be allowed to commit excesses against any section of society.

Dullo said that certain corrupt Congress leaders had caused harm to the party’s prospects in the last assembly elections. “ No party leader will be allowed to use the party to serve his own ends”, he added. “ I had asked the party high command to deny the party ticket in the last assembly elections to those who were perceived as corrupt by people”, he added.

Dullo said he would soon visit various districts to meet Congress workers. “ I will collect information from them about those who have been targeted by the SAD-BJP government and will fight for them from the party forum”, he added. He said certain cases of excesses committed on Congress workers were already known to him. He referred to the case of Sukhpal Singh Khaira and his supporters, who were harassed by the police. “ The government will have to pay a price for committing such excesses ”, he said.


Dullo to continue as PPCC chief
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar April 19
All-India Congress Committee chief Sonia Gandhi and in charge of the Punjab affairs of the Congress Janardhan Dwivedi have directed Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief Shamsher Singh Dullo to continue as the party’s president in Punjab.

Dullo, who took the moral responsibility for the Congress’ poll debacle in Punjab, had submitted his resignation, but had been told by the party high command to continue till the selection or appointment of a new president.

A number of senior Congress leaders, including Capt Amarinder Singh and Partap Singh Bajwa, were said to be in the race for the top slot. But, the high command, it is learnt, was not in a mood for any change due to the forthcoming civic body elections in Punjab.

Another aspect, which is said to have gone in his favour was that though he had lost the Khanna seat but he was seen as the lone Congress leader who could keep the party flock together.


ASF fails to get Duleep Singh’s bust
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 19
The Anandpur Sahib Foundation (ASF) has failed in its bid to procure the bust of Maharaja Duleep Singh, the auction of which was held at Bonhams, London today.

Avtar Singh Makkar, SGPC president, said the rare sculpture of Duleep Singh was auctioned for Rs 14 crore and the ASF had given a bid of only Rs 1 crore.

Earlier, the SGPC had requested the state government for procuring the bust, which was to be kept in at the Sikh museum in Golden Temple Complex. However, various Sikh organisations had opposed the move of the SGPC for constituting a four-member committee to participate in the auction as precious money of the Sikh devotees would have been wasted for procuring the bust.

British sculptor John Gibson in Rome produced Duleep Singh’s sculpture in 1859-60.


Police to bring Paramjeet on production warrant
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Fatehgarh Seikri (Kapurthala), April 19
The Punjab police has decided to bring Paramjeet Kaur to Kapurthala on a production warrant to question her in the high-profile case on human trafficking.

A native of Feroz Sanghowal village in Kapurthala district, Paramjeet was caught on Wednesday with Amarjeet Singh of Jalalpur village in Hoshiarpur district when the Gujarat BJP MP tried to take them to Toronto using his wife and son’s passports.

Kapurthala SSP Rakesh Agarwal told The Tribune the police would try to bring her to Kapurthala on a production warrant after the completion of investigation of the Delhi Police, for questioning her about the involvement of local persons in this case. At present she is on four-day police remand.

Meanwhile, family members of Paramjeet and Amarjeet told The Tribune they had struck separate deals with agents Joginder Singh of Fatehgarh Seikri in Kapurthala and handicapped Santu of Salempur in Hoshiarpur district.

Amarjeet’s father Jaswant Singh, who had gone to Delhi after the arrest of his son, told The Tribune on phone that Santu had demanded Rs 10 lakh from him but he had not paid him even a paisa. The money was to be paid after he reached his destination.

Similarly Paramjeet’s mother Mohinder Kaur reiterated the former’s in-laws at Tahli village in Hoshiarpur district had paid Rs 1.1 lakh advance to Joginder Singh and the remaining amount of total Rs 30 lakh was to be paid after her reaching the destination.

Meanwhile both agents were found absconding when The Tribune team visited their houses in their villages.

Amarjeet’s father Jaswant Singh told The Tribune that Santu fled his house on Wednesday morning itself. Whereas Joginder absconded dramatically in front of Paramjeet’s family members and some mediapersons in the name of parking his car on Thursday at 6.30 am, Feroze Sanghowal sarpanch Manjeet Kaur told The Tribune.

Meanwhile Mohinder Kaur and Jaswant Singh alleged they were cheated by the agents as they had promised them to sent their children on valid visas. However, their allegations seemed an afterthought as the question arose why they agreed to pay hefty amount for going Canada on valid visa.

The Kapurthala police registered an FIR against Joginder Singh to the statement of Paramjeet’s father Baldev Singh under Sections 406 and 420 of the IPC at Bholath police station on Thursday.

On the other hand, the Hoshiarpur police has yet to take an action in this regard. Hoshiarpur SSP Anita Punj said the police has not received any complaint in this regard. Action would be taken against the culprit on receiving a complaint, she added.


Sale of prestige whisky at all-time high
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 19
The excise policy introduced in Punjab last year has led to a 50 per cent rise in liquor sales. With the sale of liquor in the prestige whisky segment having gone up by 89 per cent in the past year, most liquor companies are now launching new brands in this segment .

The sale of prestige whisky in the state has gone up from 7.33 lakh cases in 2005-06, to 13.87 lakh cases in 2006-07. Though the maximum increase in liquor sale has been in the prestige whisky segment, the Indian made foreign liquor (IMFL) and the regular whisky segments, too, have shown a remarkable increase in the sales. While sales in the IMFL segment increased by 49 per cent (32. 26 lakh cases to 48. 15 lakh cases), the increase in the regular whisky segment was 51 per cent (29. 33 lakh cases to 44. 25 lakh cases).

The policy of allotment of liquor vends introduced last year has managed to reverse the growth trends by increasing the sales. The new scheme aimed at de-monopolisation of trade has benefited all four players - the state, manufacturers / whole sellers, retail licencees and the consumer. The liquor prices have come down, big contractors can no longer dictate terms on liquor brands, and the liquor quotas of the state can now be increased. In the previous regime of auctioning of vends, the big licencee preferred to purchase extra liquor from outside the legal markets, to avoid paying the licence fee and excise duty on extra liquor sold.

Ashok Sahney, head trade marketing, Diageo Radico, informed TNS that the real beneficiaries had been the consumers as liquor prices had dropped substantially. “With prices of liquor, especially in the prestige liquor segment having fallen by Rs 50 a bottle, many country liquor consumers have switched over to prestige whisky. This has fuelled the high growth in sales in this segment,” he added. Seeing a huge growth potential, Diageo Radico has just launched Masterstroke Deluxe whisky in this segment and they hope to get 15-20 per cent of the market share in the next two years.

His views were supported by officials of United Breweries, who informed TNS that the sales of their popular brand in the prestige liquor segment, Mc Dowells No 1, had increased by 150 per cent in the past one year.


Wildlife board members under scanner
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 19
The wildlife advisory board, whose members happened to be close to former Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, has come under government scanner. Funds from Japan bank-aided project were allegedly used by board members for making national and international trips by circumventing the rules laid down by the government.

Minister for forest Tikshan Sud, when contacted, said the alleged misuse of funds by board members was being probed. Officers of the department who allowed the funds to be misused would be held responsible for diverting it. As per the rules board members can only advise the government for preserving the wildlife in the state. These posts happen to be honorary in nature.

Since most of the existing board members belonged to Patiala district they were close to the Chief Minister. Thus they were allowed to visit the Kruger national park in South Africa along with their families and other national parks of the country on the pretext of studying the method of preserving the wildlife. It was for the first time since its formation that board members were allowed to go for an international trip on government expenses.

Interestingly, there is no similarity between the wildlife in the Kruger national park and that of Punjab as here the forest area is limited to the Shivalik hills. While the Kruger national park is located in plain grasslands. Most of the conservation efforts in the Kurger national park are concentrated on elephants that are not found in the forests of Punjab.

The members had provided a vague study report of the experiences gained during their trip to South African park to the wildlife department. Sources in the department alleged that the lakhs of rupees spent on the visit of the board members could have been spent on conserving the wildlife in the state.

The board members also visited national parks in South India on the pretext of studying the wildlife despite the fact that southern environment had no resemblance with that of Punjab. As per the rules laid down by the government the board has to hold three meeting in a year to suggest conservation measures. However, not a single meeting has been held since April last year.


Cong men boycott SSP’s meeting
Our Correspondent

Abohar, April 19
Congress workers boycotted the maiden meeting of the new SSP, Dinesh Partap Singh, held here yesterday evening as the organisers had neither invited the municipal council president nor the city congress president even when the sub-divisional authorities were using the municipal town hall to develop sweet relationship with the public. Some of the congress councilors who had arrived there left the venue ruing that invitation to the senior party functionaries were not extended due to a well-knit game-plan to humiliate the main opposition party.

The meeting was rocked with some issues, which spoke volumes of poor policing included broad-day-light thefts.

A former city BJP president regretted that the police had made tall promises but completely failed in checking eve teasing. Another state level BJP functionary said, “There was nothing to prove that the police had improved the crime graph after formation of the SAD-BJP government except forcing the lottery satta operators to flee.”

Another former city BJP president resented that the police and civil authorities had not given any relief to the citizens suffering from encroachments in the main markets and railway road. Triple riding on motorcycles, cars with film coated glasses carrying VIP stickers, use of wild pressure horns was very common. Ban on the entry of heavy vehicles in the markets was yet to be implemented.


Kewal Dhillon’s election challenged
Our Correspondent

Barnala, April 19
After losing to Congress nominee Kewal Singh Dhillon in the recently conducted Punjab Assembly elections with a small margin of 1,453 votes, outgoing MLA (SAD) Malkeet Singh Keetu has challenged his election from Barnala constituency. He has filed a writ petition in the high court in this regard.

While addressing a press conference here today, the former MLA termed Kewal as violator of the election code of conduct. He said Kewal has presented an expenditure of Rs 5 lakh but it is far less than the actual expenditure incurred on the whole election. This can be judged from the fact that the 1,441 cases of liquor, which had been seized from a godown near the residence of Kewal amounts to Rs 15 lakh alone.

Meanwhile, the local court has adjourned the hearing on anticipatory bail application of Congress MLA Kewal Singh Dhillon in connection with a liquor case to April 25. This was being done as the judge was on leave.


Probe ordered into blood transfusion death
Bipin Bhardwaj
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, April 19
In less than 24 hours after The Tribune highlighted the doctors-chemists nexus that claimed a life at civil hospital, Pathankot, the civil surgeon, Gurdaspur has ordered an independent inquiry.

The civil surgeon has constituted a committee of senior doctors lead by Dr Chandanjit Kaundal, deputy medical commissioner, Gurdaspur, and sought a comprehensive report by Friday.

A resident of Chhak Bhatian village, about 20 km from here, who was hospitalised at the civil hospital, had died on Tuesday night while a unit of blood was transfused to him. A patient of piles, Charan Singh (52) was to undergo surgery but died because of alleged blood reaction.

Talking to The Tribune, the civil surgeon, Dr Ashok Nayar, claimed that since a report sent by the senior medical officer, Pathankot, could be biased so an independent inquiry need to be done to find the truth. He said that reaction could occur during blood transfusion.But he asked since the case was not so serious why the doctors on duty failed to tackle the situation in case of emergency.

Nayar also said that the aspect of selling blood units by medical storeowners would certainly be looked into. The district has only three licenced blood banks and that too with the civil hospitals in Gurdaspur, Batala and Pathankot. No licence has been issued to any private health institutions in the district, he claimed.

He said that stringent action would be taken against those found guilty in the incident. "The defaulters would certainly be behind bars", he claimed.


Information commission imposes penalty on officials
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 19
Taking serious view of apathy of the information officers of the Patiala municipal corporation, the state information commission has imposed financial penalty on them.

The complainant, Col Prem Singh Grewal (retd), resident of new officers colony, Patiala, had sought information regarding the basis of taxes imposed on his property in the city. However, the information was not provided to him by the information officers of the corporation despite repeated orders of the state information commission.

The information commissioner R.K. Gupta and P.P.S. Gill in an order passed on April 16 have observed that municipal corporation has been resorting to delaying tactics in providing the required information. Inspite of specific orders that public information officer-cum-secretary of the corporation C.L. Sharma, should be present in person at the time of hearing of the case, he has been avoiding to appear before the commission on one pretext or the other.

Taking serious view of this, the commission fined C.L. Sharma at the rate of Rs 250 per day with effect from 12.01.2007 subject to maximum of Rs 25000.

The commissioner of Patiala corporation has been directed to recover the fine amount in four equal monthly installments from C.L. Sharma and deposit it in the government treasury.

The concerned assistant public information officer was also fined Rs 250 per day from the last date of hearing i.e 16.03.2007.

The state commission also declared the commissioner of Patiala corporation as the information officer in the case for supplying necessary information to the complainant.

The commission compensated the complainant for unnecessary harassment he received at the hands of the corporation officials. The corporation would have to pay him Rs 1000 per hearing of the case in future.


Golden Temple to have new sound system
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 19
In a significant development, the SGPC has decided to reach an agreement with the USA-based Boss to change the entire sound system of the Golden Temple and Akal Takht complexes with a cost of Rs 1 crore.

Avtar Singh, president, SGPC, stated this while talking to The Tribune here today.

Giving details of the agreement, he said the SGPC would give Rs 25 lakh as advance to the company, while Rs 50 lakh would be given on receiving the equipment. The rest of the amount would be paid after the completion of the work.

Senior vice-president of the SGPC Raghujit Singh Virk had taken the initiative to finalise the agreement with the company.

The SGPC chief said he would ensure that the old structure of the gurdwara did not damage while changing the sound system.


Encroachments choke Patiala roads
Attar Singh/Tribune News Service

A view of traffic near Fountain Chowk, Patiala
A view of traffic near Fountain Chowk, Patiala, on Wednesday. — Tribune photo by Rajesh Sachar

Patiala, April 19
Known for its educational and sports facilities, apart from heritage buildings, all over the world, traffic jams have become a routine here, thanks to rampant encroachments.

In this royal city, which saw a massive development during the regime of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, the problem of traffic jams has acquired alarming dimensions.

With the unprecedented increase in the number of vehicles and the width of most of the roads remaining the same, the smooth flow of vehicular traffic has become a thing of the past.

Eightyfive traffic police personnel have been finding it difficult to ease traffic near Fountain Chowk, Lahori Gate, bus stand, Gurdwara Dukhniwaran and Sheran Wala Gate.

The main cause of traffic hazard is the makeshift tea stalls and rehris selling fruit juices and other eatables. However, the owners of these stalls and rehris said, “We have permission to park the rehris and sell goods”.

The flow of traffic at the Lower Mall, specially near Gopal Sweets, is affected due to wrong parking of vehicles in front of the shops, unauthorised lottery stalls and fruit vendors, who have set shops illegally. Minor accidents occur frequently at the mall.


Rural, urban police dists for Ludhiana, Amritsar

Chandigarh, April 19
The Punjab government in an effort to provide better policing has carried out some changes in the police districts of the state.

The police districts of Jagraon and Majitha, created during the peak of militancy, have been scrapped and will be replaced by new police districts. The home department issued a notification in this regard today.

In place of Jagraon, the rural areas of Ludhiana will now be clubbed together and be known as Ludhiana (rural) police district. The urban areas of Ludhiana, even those outside the municipal limits, will be part of Ludhiana (urban) police district. The police district of Khanna, also in Ludhiana district, will remain as it is.

Majitha has been scrapped and the rural areas will be known as Amritsar (rural) police district. The urban areas will be clubbed together and form Amritsar (urban) police district. Earlier, Amritsar had three police districts, one each at Amritsar, Majitha and Tarn Taran. — TNS


Suicide by student: Sikh bodies ‘play’ politics
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 19
The SGPC and the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) have once again locked horn over the suicide committed by a Class XII student studying the DSGMC-run Shri Guru Harkrishan School in New Delhi .

Even as SGPC’s assistant secretary Daljit Singh Bedi said SGPC chief Avtar Singh would visit the deceased’s house in New Delhi, who was 'compelled to commit suicide', DSGMC president Parmjit Singh Sarna accused the Shiromani committee for allegedly playing 'politics’ over student’s death.

The SGPC alleged that the girl student had committed suicide after the DSGMC failed to take action against the erring teacher. The DSGMC chief while expressing concern over the untimely death of the student said the incident took place in her house after the examination.


Protest against delayed release of atta-dal

Tarn Taran, April 19
A protest was organised yesterday by various organisations against the state government for delay in the release of atta-dal on cheaper rates as promised by the SAD-BJP alliance during the election campaign.

Women members of the Punjab Kisan Sabha, Kul Hind Mazdoor Sabha, Anganwari Workers Union and CITU participated in the protest.

Devinderjit Singh Dhillon from the Kisan Sabha led the protest.


Punjab to launch crusade against drug menace
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 19
Alarmed at the rising drug abuse in Punjab, particularly among the youth, the health department has launched a campaign against drug addiction, health minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla said here today.

Interacting with reporters after conducting a surprise check at the local civil hospital, she said drug addiction had assumed alarming proportions and the government was seized of the gravity of the situation. The government agencies were working in close coordination with the NGOs to tackle the challenge posed by the menace of drug addiction.

As part of the anti-drug campaign, the minister said certain premises storing drugs and psychotropic substances were raided in Amritsar and Gurdaspur districts recently and a huge quantity of contraband was destroyed.

Sounding a warning to chemists to refrain from dealing in harmful drugs, the health minister warned that the government would be forced to take a strict action in case they failed to comply with rules and regulations.

The minister claimed that adequate funds were being earmarked for the health sector so that medicare could be made available to the common man. Regarding the functioning of the health department, she said complete transparency was being observed in the department. Various issues, including appointments, were being handled in an impartial manner with merit being the only criteria, she added.

Earlier, during inspection the minister had a word of praise for the SMO, Dr Ram Kumar and the staff. The problem of the shortage of staff and provision of additional building at the hospital would be met soon, she asserted.


Health minister visits hospital

Fatehgarh Sahib, April 19
Health minister Luxmi Kanta Chawla paid a surprise visit to the local civil hospital this morning. Though it was holiday, OPDs were functional.

Chawla heard the grievances of patients and interacted with doctors.

She said she had been paying surprise visits to various hospitals to get the first-hand information about the affairs of health department. The state was facing the problem of drug addiction. Efforts were on to curb the sale of drugs.

The minister said the ongoing work on the mother, child super speciality hospital in the district would be stepped up. She directed the officials to complete it by this year. — OC


DC visits ward
Tribune News Service

Ropar, April 19
Deputy Commissioner Alok Shekher paid a surprise visit to the emergency ward of the local civil hospital last evening. The DC checked various medicines for expiry date and inspected the blood preservation and other testing facilities like ECG, etc.

He directed the SMO S.K. Gupta there should be no shortage of life-saving drugs in the ward.

The DC interacted with patients about the services in the ward.

Meanwhile, he called the executive officer of the local Municipal Council and inspected the safai arrangements in the city.


Air Marshal awarded PVSM

Patiala, April 19
Air Marshal Padamjit Singh Ahluwalia was awarded Param Vishist Seva Medal by the President of India A.P.J. Abdul Kalam recently.

The Air Force authorities stated here today that Air Marshal Ahluwalia was a highly decorated and respected officer. He had about 4,000 hours’ flying experience on all types of fighter aircraft. — TNS


Claim Case
Attachment of PRTC pump ordered
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 19
In a case of non-payment of an amount of Rs 3.03 lakh by Pepsu Road Transport Corporation (PRTC) to Paramjit Kaur and her minor children in a motor accident claim case, the court of D.S. Malwai, Motor Accident Claims Tribunal here, has ordered the attachment of a PRTC’s diesel pump and diesel tank (situated inside the PRTC’s workshop here) as per the list of property, filed by claimants to the tribunal.

The court has also ordered bailiff of the court of the civil judge (Senior Division), Sangrur, to submit report about the attachment of the diesel pump and diesel tank of the PRTC before the next date of hearing.

The counsel for Paramjit Kaur and her minor children told this reporter here yesterday that his clients had filed a claim before the tribunal on January 8, 2005, under Section 166 of the Motor Vehicle Act against Randhir Singh, driver of the PRTC bus, the managing director of the PRTC, and the PRTC for compensation of Rs 15 lakh as claim under the Act.

The claim was filed on account of the death of Baghel Singh, husband of Paramjit Kaur, in an accident with a PRTC bus on October 2, 2004, when he was going on a bicycle from Bhawanigarh to his Phaguwala village.

The tribunal, in acceptance of claim case, passed an award of Rs 2,79,500 with interest at the rate of 6 per cent per annum from the date of filing claim petition till the realisation of awarded amount in favour of the claimants, to be paid by the respondents jointly.


Lakhowal for Rs 1,140 as MSP for wheat
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, April 19
Farmers of Punjab are facing a financial crisis and 89 per cent of them are under heavy debt, of which 13 per cent are facing starvation. This was stated by Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, chairman, Punjab Mandi Board, while talking to mediapersons at the office of the Market Committee here this afternoon.

Lakhowal said the state farmers were not getting justifiable minimum support price (MSP) and urged the Union Government to provide at least Rs 1,140 MSP per quintal of wheat to the farmers.

Referring to the diversification of crop pattern in the state, he suggested the farmers to switch over to vegetable crops and fruit plant cultivation.

He said all sheds at grain markets in the state were being used for about two months only and remained vacant for the remaining period. It had been proposed to utilise them as indoor stadiums to promote sports, he added.

It was also decided to set up schools near various mandis for providing education to the children of poor labourers who were residing there.

Lakhowal said subsidies being given to the farmers under various schemes were not reaching them. Steps would be made to check pilferage. He pointed out that some elements were trying to drive a wedge between farmers and commission agents, which would not be tolerated. These forces would not succeed in their mission.

Varinder Singh Bajwa, a member of the Rajya Sabha, Thekedar Surinder Singh Chinda, president of the district unit of SAD, Karnail Singh, SDM, Hoshiarpur, and other local SAD leaders also spoke on the occasion.


Assault case
Police post in charge suspended
Tribune News Service

Batala, April 19
Taking a serious note of the incident in which certain police personnel assaulted an elderly woman of Dahiya village, resulting in her death, the Punjab police has placed Udhanwal police post in charge Palwainder Singh under suspension. Six other cops, who were accompanying the in charge, have been sent to the police lines.

Superintendent of Police (HQ) Surinder Singh Sandhu said that action against Palwinder Singh and his team of six cops, who visited Dahiya village about 15 km from here and allegedly assaulted Surjit Kaur, a heart patient, resulting in her death, was taken after The Tribune highlighted the case.

The incident occurred on Tuesday when Palwinder Singh, Udhanwal police post in charge, along with over six cops, reached the house of Bir Singh on the complaint of a former village sarpanch belonging to the Akali Dal, Mohinder Singh, for settling a dispute with the former.


Kidnappers booked after 1 yr
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, April 19
Surjit Singh of Akbarpur village, falling under police station Bhikhiwind, was successful in booking the alleged kidnappers last night who are said to be responsible for kidnapping his nephews one year back.

The warrant officer appointed by the Punjab and Haryana high court released the kidnapped trio. Pavan Kumar Rai, SSP, told this correspondent today that the accused are Swarn Singh, a village Sarpanch, Sukhwant Singh, Dilbag Singh, Angrej Singh, Balwinder Singh and Balbir Singh of Akbarpur village. The SSP told further that a case was registered last night.

According to the details of the incident, the accused kidnapped Palwinder Singh, Gurjit Singh and Baldev Singh when they were harvesting wheat on April 13, 2006, at gunpoint. Surjit begged the release of his nephews through village elders but the kidnappers denied to release them. At last Surjit Singh approached the Punjab and Haryana High court to get them freed.

The high court appointed Ramanjit Singh, warrant officer, who got them released from village Sarpanch’s house. Surjit Singh went on awaiting the action to be taken against the accused but the police as usual did nothing. He finally approached the High court.

The High Court issued instructions to the police twice to take action against the culprits but no action was taken even then. Surjit Singh went on doing his efforts to book the culprits. He succeeded to get the case be registered last night.


Ex-sarpanch, son booked for raping minor
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, April 19
In a shocking incident a 16-year-old girl of Balgan village was allegedly kidnapped and raped by a former sarpanch of the area and his two sons on March 13.

However, the case came to light on Tuesday when the girl lodged a complaint against Rajwinder Singh, his brother Buta Singh, and their father Trilok Singh, a former sarpanch of the village. They had kidnapped and taken her to a place near the Majithia road, where she was raped for two days. However, accused has been absconding after the registration of a case against them.

SHO Rajasansi police station Nirmal Singh ruled out that there was any enmity between the two families.


Call girl racket busted
Tribune News Service

Phillaur, April 19
The Phillaur police today busted a call girl racket operating in and around the city. The operation was carried out late last night and nine call girls and nine youths were arrested from a local hotel here but were let off later after a warning.

Sarabjit Singh, SHO, Phillaur, told the Tribune team that the police after forming two groups, first gheraoed Hotel Trimohan and then during search operation of the hotel rooms, took the girls and youths into custody. All girls and youths were college-going students, said the SHO.


Man found murdered
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, April 19
Pappu, a resident of the Gwal Mandi area, was found murdered in the main bazaar here yesterday. Investigations have been initiated after registering a case.

According to sources, several persons killed him by hitting his head with bricks. The police authorities added that the deceased was a habitual drinker and had consumed liquor before he was murdered.

Suba Singh from the Civil Lines police station said the accused was murdered at midnight. He said as Pappu was a habitual drinker, a brawl with some known persons during drinking could have led to the murder. “However”, he added, “nothing concrete can be said at this moment.”


Man held for duping people

Patiala, April 19
A man has been arrested here on the charges of cheating and fraud.

Kanwar Singh, who runs a “jutti” shop, has been booked under Section 420 of the IPC for allegedly selling people ornaments made of copper and metal in the name of gold.

The accused has been remanded in police custody. — TNS


Bus operators allowed to tax passengers
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, April 19
The state government today allowed Punjab Roadways, Pepsu Road Transport Corporation and private bus operators to charge Rs 1 each for 19 km from passengers as a toll fee along with the fare.

Director, State Transport Department, Punjab, vide its endorsement No. 10356-73 / C. A. 2 of April 18, 2007, to all general managers of the Punjab Roadways, has allowed the bus operators to add Rs 1 each after every 19 km of journey up to 95 km. After 95 km of journey the bus operators would charge Rs 6 for unlimited distance covered. However, nothing would be charged up to 9 Km.

Sources said these rates would become applicable with immediate effect and would remain in force till the toll tax was imposed.


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