P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Nothing short of dera chief’s arrest acceptable: Taksal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, May 24
Asserting that any apology by Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is not acceptable to Sikhs and that it will close down all deras of the sect in Punjab, Damdami Taksal has urged Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to get a resolution passed in the Vidhan Sabha for immediate arrest of the dera head.

The Taksal has said the ongoing fight against the dera chief is not that of Sikhs alone, but also of Hindus, Christians, and Muslims as “the dera is a threat to all religions”.

Bhai Mohkam Singh, spokesperson for the Taksal and his followers said here today, “We are going to wait for the Akal Takht’s directive after May 27 (the deadline for closure of all Sacha Sauda deras in Punjab). We will abide by the Takht’s decision. But, any apology by the dera chief is not acceptable to the Sikhs”.

“Had Badal acted in time, the Sikhs would not have been suffering like this,” said Bhai Mohkam Singh. The Sikh MLAs, belonging to any party, who didn’t support the resolution in the Vidhan Sabha should be summoned by the Akal Takht. The dera chief has not only imitated Guru Gobind Singh, but he has also been attacking “Maryada” of the Sikhism by using words such as ‘Sacha Sauda’, which suggests a religious act of Guru Nanak Dev, he added.


125 snap ties with Sacha Sauda sect
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, May 24
About 125 followers today also left the Sacha Sauda sect at a programme in gurdwara Hambalwas at Jakhepal village (Sunam). These dera followers were from Jakhepal, Charewas and Ghasiwala villages.

Former member of the SGPC Giani Raghbir Singh Jakhepal said all these 125 dera followers had been presented with siropas at the gurdwara Sahib as they took a pledge to left the dera forever and follow the teachings of the Sikh Gurus.

The Giani said these dera followers had left the Sacha Sauda sect because they felt that dera head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh had insulted Sri Guru Gobind Singh by imitating him (Guru). He said as there was a great resentment even among dera followers against the dera head, more “premis” would join the Sikh Panth soon.


Fruit treat for men in khaki
Tribune News Service

Salabatpura (Bathinda), May 24
The civil and police authorities in the district have been trying to keep the morale of the policemen deployed for security duty in and around the village up. The main dera of the Sacha Sauda sect in Punjab is located here.

A large number of policemen were deployed at the dera and in the village on the evening of May 17 when members of various Sikh organisations from Talwandi Sabo marched towards the village with an intention to cause harm to the dera.

Both deputy commissioner Rahul Bhandari and SSP Nau Nihal Singh today distributed fruits and other eatables among the policemen belonging to the Punjab Police and Punjab Armed Police (PAP). They have been put on round-the-clock duty since May 17.


Records of dera land sought

Patiala, May 24
The department of revenue today sought the revenue records of Dera Baba Amolakhdass. Sources said the records had been sought on the orders of deputy commissioner D.S. Grewal.

The Tribune highlighted the leasing out of the deras’ properties by mahants, allegedly in league with developers, taking advantage of lacunae in law. According to the law, the land belonging to religious deras or temples cannot be sold through registry. — TNS


9 held for burning dera chief’s effigy

Sangrur, May 24
Activists of various Sikh organisations today burnt an effigy of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh at Badrukhan village, near here. The police immediately arrested nine protesters under Sections 107 and 151 of the Cr. PC. — TNS


Former militant rallies for peace in state
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 24
A demonstration was held here on Wednesday evening. It was led by Ranjit Singh Gill alias Kuki, a former militant convicted for the murder of Lalit Makan and his wife and sentenced to life.

He is on interim bail and his appeal against the sentence is pending in the Delhi High Court. Intellectuals also participated in the demonstration for peace.

Talking to The Tribune Kuki said, since he had seen the dark period of militancy in Punjab from the closest possible quarters he knew where the passions could lead the state. He observed, there was no alternative to peace and it should be maintained at all costs. About the ongoing row between Akal Takht and the Dera Sacha Sauda, Kuki warned almost similar situation had led Punjab to a catastrophe that cost lives of thousands of people and most of them in the prime of their youth. He himself happens to be the victims of that phase. "Let us not create a similar situation", he warned, adding, "even a spark, if neglected, can burn the entire house".

Kuki said, he had realised it the hard way. "Religious passions drive you mad and even the best of education is no defence against it", he said, maintaining the best solution to any problem is through dialogue only. "Nobody can feel it better than I as I have myself felt such passions at certain period of time only to realise later that these are always dangerous and disastrous", he remarked.

Son of Khem Singh Gill, a former vice- chancellor of Punjab Agricultural University, Kuki holds a masters degree in plant sciences.

As a student he was brilliant. He makes his point well. It was in the aftermath of Operation Blue Star and the anti- Sikh violence in Delhi following the assassination of Indira Gandhi that drew him towards militancy.

He spent 15 years in the United States of America and 13 of these in US prison. The government of India had lost the extradition case and he could conveniently stay back in the USA.

However, he preferred to come to India and face the law of the land. He has been convicted of murder and sentenced to life. Since he has already spent so much time in jail he has been pleading for relief. He was granted interim bail three and a half years ago.

His appeal against the life sentence is pending in the Delhi High Court. Even Avantika Makhan, daughter of Makhan couple, has supported his plea for pardon. In fact she came here to attend his marriage a couple of years ago.


SGPC acting as tool in hands of SAD: Cong
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 24
Demanding a judicial probe into incidents in Punjab in the past few days, the state Congress attacked the SGPC for levelling allegations against Sonia Gandhi and blamed the SGPC and the ruling SAD for the present crisis in the state.

President of the Punjab pradesh Congress committee Shamsher Singh Dullo and leader of the opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal in a joint statement today condemned the SGPC, saying it was acting “as a tool in the hands of the Badal-led Shiromani Akali Dal”. They reminded the SGPC that it was Sonia Gandhi who ensured that Manmohan Singh became the first Sikh to become the Prime Minister and Gen J.J. Singh the first Sikh to be made chief of the Indian army.

The Congress leaders alleged that the SAD and the SGPC were responsible for the present crisis. The SGPC had been lax in the propagation of religious teachings and the common man was leaning towards deras for his spiritual needs. Often gurdwara managements took more interest in the “golak” (donation box) than the propagation of the tenets of the Sikh religion. This was one of the major reasons for the shift towards deras.

The SGPC, politicking in the garb of religion, could endanger peace and communal harmony in the state. The Congress leaders said the people of Punjab knew well who was responsible for creating terror among peace-loving common people by wielding unsheathed swords in the Harmandar Sahib complex and in the streets of Amritsar and other cities despite the imposition of orders under Section 144, CrPC, in the state.

The “criminal silence” of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and the SGPC was a clear indicator of the “real culprit” for gaining political mileage.

The Congess leaders said no one from the Badal family or Badal himself could equal the Nehru-Gandhi family in terms of sacrifices . Badal should remember that he could become the Chief Minister only because of the sacrifices of Congress workers for the restoration of peace in the state. When Punjab was going through the phase of terrorism, the SAD fled from the election field for fear of terrorists.


Addl SHO booked
IG's brother flees from police custody
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 24
Rakesh Sharma, brother of inspector-general of police, today fled from police custody in alleged connivance with his younger brother Sandip Sharma, a PPS officer, posted as assistant commandant, 5 Battalion, Bahadurgarh, and an additional SHO, Civil Lines, Vivinder Kumar.

The accused was arrested last evening in connection with the much talked about Rs 100 crore land scam case. As per the FIR lodged at the Civil Lines police station, Sandip reached the police station and asked the police officials that he wanted to discuss something with his brother. The additional SHO, who had also been booked, allowed the accused to go out. “The accused fled along with the SP,” the FIR reads. Interestingly, the incident occurred when the DGP was in Amritsar.

However, Sandip while refuting the charges claimed that Rakesh had not been arrested. He further claimed that his brother had been summoned to the Civil Lines in connection with the investigation only and had not been formally arrested. He described the FIR lodged against him as “official vendetta”. He, however, admitted that he was on official duty to Beas and Amritsar when he got a call from his brother who complained that the investigation against him was being unnecessarily delayed.

The assistant commandant claimed that the police officials had allowed his brother to leave for home and join the investigation tomorrow. “There was no question of my hampering the police investigation,” he claimed. He also denied that he picked up his brother from the police station.


Job-for-Cash Scam
Fresh probe into missing Rs 2 crore likely
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 24
More than five years after the multi-crore job-for-cash scandal, involving former PPSC chairman Ravi Sidhu, the state vigilance bureau is likely to initiate an investigation into the alleged disappearance of Rs 2 crore from one of the lockers of Sidhu.

The disappearance of the cash had led to the transfer of IG (intelligence) Sumedh Saini (now chief of the state vigilance bureau) and ADGP (intelligence) A. P. Bhatnagar from the intelligence wing of the government.

Sources told The Tribune that the SAD-BJP government wanted a thorough investigation into the matter. Both Saini and Bhatnagar had raised the issue.

A locker opened by a team of investigators was found empty. The bank staff claimed that the money was withdrawn from it a few days ago only.

The news reports suggested certain person, associated with the investigation, could have taken the amount.

Then Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had denied the existence of Rs 2 crore in the locker and had claimed the officials were reshuffled in routine.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, as leader of opposition, had raised the matter several times.

The sources said the SAD-BJP alleged that a close associate of Capt Amarinder Singh was linked with the missing money.


Bathinda girl tops in class VIII examination
Our Correspondent

Mohali, May 24
Amanjot Kaur of Government Senior Secondary School, Rajgarh Kube (Bathinda ) has topped in the middle standard examination conducted by the Punjab School Education Board even as the pass percentage in the examination has come down by nearly 10 per cent compared to last year. The result was declared here today.

Kanika Goel of Holy Heart Senior Secondary Convent School , Mangwal ( Sangrur) has been placed second on the merit list while Manjeet Singh of Rabindra Day Boarding Senior Secondary Public School, Jalandhar, has bagged the third position.

According to a press release issued by the board , a total of 513977 students had appeared in the examination conducted in March this year out of which 102324 students had appeared privately. The pass percentage of students this year stood at 54.81 compared to about 63 of last year.

The result gazette will be available for the public in the board’s text book sales depots located at district and tehsil headquaters on May 26 at 4 p.m. Book sellers could collect their gazette from text book sales depots located at district headquarters only. Principals or their authorised representatives could collect the result of their respective institutions on May 27 at 10 a.m. from text book depots concerned. Result cutting for the SAS Nagar district could be collected from the Middle Cell in the board’s office here.

Detailed result will be available from midnight between May 26 and May 27 on websites.

The names of students placed in the first 10 positions on the merit list are : Taranjeet Singh , Rabindra Day Boarding Senior Secondary Public School, Jalandhar , (4); Supriya Sethi , S.M.Jain Model Senior Secondary School, Phagwara, (5) ; Bhawna Regmi, Nawanshahr (6) ; Vishali Aggarwal, Shivalik High School , Bhucho Mandi (Bathinda) (7); Kulwinder Singh Chana , S.M.Jain Model Senior Secondary School, Phagwara, (8) ; Upasana Sharma , Toddlers Home Study Hall, Hoshiarpur, (9) ; Amritpal Singh , Holy Heart Senior Secondary Convent School, Mangwal ( Sangrur), ( 10 ).


150th year of Kuka movement
Major celebrations on the cards
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News service

Main proposals

  • Enquiry into circumstances of death of Satguru Ram Singh of Kuka Movement
  • Memorial at Sri Bhaini Sahib, Raiyan, Ludhiana, Raikot and Amritsar
  • Reinstallation of portraits of Kuka martyrs in Punjab civil and mini secretariats
  • Release of postal stamp and coins to commemorate the event
  • Rail link to Bhaini Sahib

Chandigarh, May 24
The Punjab government will celebrate 150th year of the Kuka movement in a big way. In a high level meeting chaired by chief secretary recently, it was decided to set up state and district level committees to commemorate the first call of Independence given by Satguru Ram Singh of the Kuka movement and build a memorial at Bhaini Sahib, from where the call was given.

The memorial is proposed to come up at a cost of Rs 60 crore. The government will also ask the Centre to set up an enquiry commission and establish the facts of wrong declaration of the death of Ram Singh, it was decided. Ram Singh was declared dead by the British in 1885.

Meanwhile, Kuka Martyrs Memorial Trust has met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to press for countrywide celebrations of the historic event. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal will also approach the Prime Minister’s office to set up a national committee under the Prime Minister for the purpose.

Sources said there was also a plan to develop a memorial at Raiyan village, the birthplace of Ram Singh. Deputy Commissioner of Ludhiana has been told to submit a detailed project report in this regard. The plan will be prepared in consultation with the four-member committee constituted for the purpose by Sri Bhaini Sahib Raiyan Development Board. Similar memorials will come up at Ludhiana, Raikot and Amritsar. Vice-President, Namdhari Darbar Surinder Singh Namdhari has already submitted a proposal of Rs 310 crore for the construction of memorials. Meanwhile, chief minister will put up a detailed proposal to the Centre to release funds for the occasion.

Another decision taken at the meeting concerned construction of memorials in the name of Kuka martyrs in villages. During the 90 year-long war against the British rule in India, several Kuka Sikhs sacrificed their lives. Ten were hanged, 65 blown off with cannons, several drowned in the sea. Punjab chief secretary will instruct all deputy commissioners to collect the details about Kuka martyrs and display a history board where ever necessary. The board will carry a picture of martyrs. Sources said portraits of Kuka martyrs will be reinstalled at Punjab civil and mini secretariats, as assured by the chief secretary.

Some proposals will be taken up with the Centre. These include the release of postal stamps and coins to mark 150 years of the Kuka movement. Chief secretary has admitted the proposal and asked secretary, public relations to take up the matter with the Centre. Moreover, Sri Bhaini Sahib is proposed to have a railway connection from Ludhiana to Chandigarh. The proposal to name a train after Kuka martyrs will also be discussed with the Union railway minister, secretary, archaeology, architecture and museums Jagjit Puri said. Another proposal is to press for reservation of seats for the Namdhari sect in Parliament. During the time of Jawahar Lal Nehru, Nihal Singh was the first Namdhari MP.


Two brothers drown
Tribune News Service

Bir Talab (Bathinda), May 24
Tragedy struck on the family of Tarsem Singh when his two sons drowned in a canal on Wednesday evening.

A pall of gloom descended on the village after the news of death of the two teenagers spread like wild fire.

According to information, 11-year-old Deepu was taking a bath sitting on the stairs of the canal. Suddenly his feet slipped and he fell into the canal. His elder brother Prince (15) who was standing nearby, on seeing his younger brother in the canal, jumped into save him. In the attempt to save his younger brother, he, too, drowned.

On hearing the news, villagers rushed to the spot. After a search of more than two hours, the bodies of both the brothers were fished out. When the bodies were taken out, both the brothers were hugging each other tightly.

Both were rushed to the civil hospital, where they were declared brought dead.

The bodies were handed to the family after the post-mortem. The police has registered a case under Section 174 of the Cr.P.C.


Demolition drive
More structures razed
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, May 24
The local administration today intensified the drive against encroachments and removed these on the Sailli road here.

Nine illegal structures, including a shop which had encroached upon government land, were demolished with the help of JCB machines.

Surinder Mohan Sharma, SDM-cum-administrator of the Pathankot Improvement Trust here, said the drive had been conducted on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. He said a detailed report in this regard would be submitted in the high court on May 28, after which another round of demolition drive would be taken up.

In accordance with the directions of the court till date more than 50 illegal structures have been demolished to widen the APK road for the smooth flow of traffic.

The shopkeepers, however, alleged that the administration was adopting the policy of pick and choose with regard to demolitions.


BOT roads
Company allowed to collect toll
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, May 24
Instead of providing relief to the inhabitants of Hoshiarpur, the state government through the executive engineer, construction division No.2, PWD (B&R) branch, Hoshiarpur, has allowed the toll-plaza company, P.D. Agarwal Infrastructure Limited, to collect the toll on build, operate and transfer (BOT) on the Hoshiarpur-Tanda road.

This pertains to those vehicles crossing the additional toll-collection points but not passing the main toll-plaza at Lachowal.

Only those local vehicles which are mentioned in Clause 21 are exempted under Clause 12 of the agreement made between them and the Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB).

According to official sources, vehicle owners residing within a radius of 5 km of the toll-plazas and who have obtained a monthly pass from the company by paying Rs 145, will be covered under the above said clause.

The articulated lorries, trucks and tractor-trailers carrying cement from the dumps, located near Hardo Khanpur and those trucks and tractor-trailers which carry sand etc. from the seasonal rivulets on the Hoshiarpur-Tanda BOT road, are liable to pay toll as per certified rates for crossing the additional toll-plaza.

The actual users of Hariana-Kathar road will have to shell out money for passing only about 40 feet wide stretch of the BOT road.

Vikram Kumra, chairman of the District Sangarsh Committee, has condemned the state government for its decision.


Police to replace CISF at secretariat
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 24
The Punjab government has conveyed to the state police that the security arrangements at the Punjab civil secretariat here will be handed over to it.

The government plans to remove the central industrial security force as it is charging Rs 40 crore per annum for security duties at the secretariat.

The finance department that is headed by Manpreet Singh Badal has sounded director-general of the Punjab police N.P.S. Aulakh that the state police will be given the security duties in the next few months. Already, the inner circle of security for Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal comprises personnel from the Punjab police. The CISF was posted at the secretariat after August, 1995.

The SAD-BJP ruling combine has realised that Rs 40 crore is a huge sum to be paid for guarding the building located in Chandigarh. The money saved by removing the CISF can be used for the welfare of the Punjab police or police modernisation.


Farmers cry foul over relief distribution

Chandigarh, May 24
Farmers of certain villages near Nabha have cried foul over the “lopsided” distribution of compensation for damage caused to their crops because of hailstorms during February-March.

Certain farmers, whose crops had suffered 100 per cent damage, have been given compensation for 50 per cent or less damage. The compensation was given earlier this week.

The matter was brought to the notice of revenue minister Ajit Singh Kohar by a group of farmers from the affected area here today. Teja Singh from Lout village and Amrik Singh from Saholi village told the minister that justice had not been done to a substantial number of farmers while giving compensation to them. They told him that the officers concerned should be asked to give full compensation to those farmers who suffered 100 per cent crop damage.

Talking to The Tribune on the phone from Lout village, Nirmal Singh, said the DC of Patiala, MLA from Nabha Randeep Singh and a former Akali minister, Raja Narinder Singh, had visited affected areas immediately after a hailstorm. They were all convinced that the damage to crops in a vast area was in the range of 40 to 100 per cent. — TNS


In death they unite
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, May 24
A young couple ended their lives by jumping in front of a train near the Purna Bhangala railway station on the Jalandhar-Pathankot rail section, 70 km from here, today.

According to police sources, the girl and the boy, residents of Giala police station (Sadar), Pathankot, and Sangho Katrala (Mukerian), respectively, took the extreme step in frustration.

Lakhbir Singh (24) and Mala (19) were having an affair for a long time. Both boy and girl today made a suicide pact and jumped in front of Shalimar Express (train No. 2445) in the wee hours today. They decided to commit suicide due to the apparent social unacceptability of their inter-caste relationship.

The railway police (GRP) after getting the post mortem of the bodies conducted at the Mukerian Civil Hospital, handed these to their relatives.


JE arrested for asking girls to compromise
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 24
Azad Singh, junior engineer in the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), posted at Ablowal was arrested today for asking students of government polytechnic for girls to compromise in lieu of favour in exams here.

The principal of the college while talking to The Tribune said the accused officer used to call on the mobile phone of a student of the college. He tried to entice the students on the pretext of getting them through the supplementary examinations.

The girls informed the principal of the college. He asked them to continue communicating with the accused. Meanwhile, the principal informed the police.

The accused had fixed the program with girls for today that he would come posing as their guardian and take them to the technical education board, Chandigarh, for getting them cleared through the supplementary examinations.

When he came to the college the police arrested him. A case has been registered in this regard.


Gang of snatchers busted

Amritsar, May 24
The police claims to have busted a gang of snatchers with the arrest of five of its members. It was involved in around 12 cases of snatching.

Superintendent of police Kewal Krishan said here today that at a naka put up near Phatak No. 22, the police signalled two youths, riding a black “Pulsar”, to stop. Their frisking led to the recovery of 15 gm of smack.

The youths were identified as Surmit Singh and Harjit Singh, both residents of Guru Nanak Pura falling under the Islamabad police station. A case has been registered. — TNS


Factory fire: Six booked

Rajpura, May 24
The police has booked six employees of Siel Chemicals in connection with the fire at the company plant at Damanheri village, which led to the death a worker.

The police booked S Sriram, managing director, N.S. Virdi, general manager, Rajinder Singh, Roshan Lal Dhiman, Rakesh Sharma and Satnam Singh, all employees of the firm. — TNS


Scientists discuss impact of climate change
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 24
Biodiversity is greatly threatened by climate change. But biodiversity resources could reduce the impact of this change. This was the unanimous view expressed by environmental and botanical scientists during World Biodiversity Day celebrations organised at Guru Nanak Dev University here today.

Distinguished environmental scientists A.K. Thukral, Renu Bharadwaj, A.S. Soodan, Adarsh Pal Vig, besides others, spoke on various aspects of biodiversity.

Suggesting safety measures, they said the conservation of habitats could reduce the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere. They were of the view that currently deforestation was responsible for 20 per cent of human-induced CO2 emissions.

They opined that conserving certain species such as mangroves and drought-resistant crops could reduce the disastrous impacts of climate change effects such as flooding and famine.


Collage Group to invest Rs 400 cr in Punjab
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 24
Aditya Birla Retail will make a foray in Punjab with a hypermarket in the Viva Collage Mall, coming up in Jalandhar. The group is planning to come up with a 100,000 square feet of hypermarket in the mall, being developed by the Collage Group on the National Highway 1, 7 km from the Jalandhar City Centre.

This was announced by Amit Khaneja, vice-chairman, Collage Group, during a media interaction here today. He said the Collage Group was planning to invest over Rs 400 crore for its operations in Punjab, which included two semi-premium retail destinations in Jalandhar and Amritsar.

Announcing the group’s plans in Punjab, he said they had received environmental clearance for their Jalandhar venture, while work was on to get clearance for the venture in Amritsar. “The Jalandhar venture is already on ground and we hope to begin operations by April 2009. Construction is on for the 700,000 sq. feet integrated multiplex, retail and entertainment complex. We are working on a lease model and more than 70 per cent of the retail space in this project has been leased out to international lifestyler chains like Dubai-based Landmark group, consumer durables group Ezone and to Cinemax for a five screen multiplex,” he said.

Khaneja said the Viva Collage Mall at Amritsar would be a 600,000 square feet of retail, leisure ad entertainment centre on the Ajnala Road and is expected to be ready by October 2009.


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