P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Dera Cases
CBI wants more time
Vishal Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 28
Taking the plea that it had to evaluate the evidence and material collected during the course of investigation into Dera Sacha Sauda-related cases, the CBI today sought more time from the Punjab and Haryana High Court to file the final report on the matter.

At this, the Division Bench, comprising Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice M.M.S. Bedi, expressed its displeasure over the tardy pace of probe and directed the agency to submit the final report, including the names of the persons to be charge-sheeted, by July 31.

Counsel for the CBI said the agency had completed field investigations and was in the final stages of the probe. As the matter was highly sensitive, the agency needed some more time to exactly pinpoint the main accused and properly evaluate the evidence.

He also took the alibi that the ongoing row between the dera and the Sikhs had hampered the agency’s investigations. Importantly, the CBI today submitted a status report, dubbed by its counsel as the ‘final field investigation report’, in a sealed cover, before the court.

Earlier, on April 16, 2007, the High Court had asked the CBI to complete the probe into the cases related to the Dera by May 25. The court had then castigated the agency for its laxity and observed that the bureau director should assign the job to competent and sincere officers. It had stressed that the matter had lingered on for five years and any more delay was not acceptable.

The probe relates to alleged sexual harassment case, journalist Ram Chander Chattarpati’s murder case and the Ranjit Singh murder case which were transferred to the CBI by the High Court.

Meanwhile, top CBI sources revealed that material collected from field investigations was being sifted through and final drafting was being done to nail the accused. They said in all likelihood, the final investigation report would be ready by the HC deadline. But they refused to comment if they would seek yet another extension if they failed to meet the deadline.


Sukhbir meets Baba Daler Singh
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, May 28
In the wake of ongoing Dera Sacha Sauda crisis, SAD working president Sukhbir Singh Badal today reportedly held a “closed-door” meeting with a representative of Sant Samaj Sant Baba Daler Singh Kherri Sahib Wale in a gurdwara at Kherri Sahib village, 7 kms from here. However, it could not be known what was discussed in the meeting.

According to sources, Sukhbir Badal along with a SAD leader from Dirba suddenly turned up at Kherri Sahib Gurdwara without any prior programme.


Pope didn’t say sorry to Prophet: Sarna
R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 28
The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) today rejected the apology tendered by Dera Sacha Sauda chief to Shri Guru Gobind Singh, saying Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh owed an apology to the Sikh community for his blasphemous act of dressing up like the Sikh Guru.

A day ahead of the Akal Takht meeting over the apology, DSGMC chief Paramjit Singh Sarna, talking to newspersons accused Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal of not acting against the dera head because of RSS pressure.

“When the Pope made a controversial statement about Muslims last year, he did not apologise to the Prophet, but tendered an apology to the Muslim community. Similarly, the dera head is required to apologise to the Sikh Panth. We reject his apology to Shri Guru Gobind Singh. It is a gimmick,” he said

Sarna demanded the SAD-BJP government in Punjab to send a team to arrest him from Sirsa. The Akal Takht could take a decision during a meeting scheduled for tomorrow over the sect's apology.

“We are conveying the sentiments of the Sikhs as the second largest representative body of the community,” Sarna claimed when asked whether he was not overstepping his position before the Takht could take a stand.


More weapons taken into possession
Tribune News Service

Salabatpura (Bathinda), May 28
Even as the police authorities successfully disarmed the followers of Sacha Sauda sect putting up at the local dera branch, residents of this area heaved a sigh of relief following the apology.

Nau Nihal Singh, SSP, said about 17 weapons, including 16 double-barrel .12-bore guns and one .315-bore gun which were being carried by the followers of the sect, had been taken into possession. Information revealed that followers had also set up morchas inside the dera complex.


Keep Sikh sentiments in mind: SAD (A)
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, May 28
Sikh clergy should keep in mind sentiments of the community while deciding on apology tendered by Dera Sacha Sauda chief Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in its proposed meeting tomorrow. This was stated by SAD (A) senior vice-president Daljeet Singh Bittu while talking to journalists here today.

Stating that the “method” of seeking an apology was not “good”, he suggested that the Sikh clergy should stuck to its earlier demand of closing the deras in the state. If the Sikh clergy failed to take decision according to the Sikh sentiments, the Panth would take decision on its own, he added.


‘Clergy has no power to consider apology’
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, May 28
In a caution to the Sikh clergy, the Sikh Nation Organisation (SNO) has observed that the Sikh clergy has no power to consider the apology addressed by Dera Sacha Sauda to the tenth Guru.

The organisation went to the extent of saying that the Sikh clergy would be violating the Sikh maryada if it overstepped and considered the apology in its May 29 meeting.

“The Sikh clergy has no option but to wait for a divine verdict in this case. Discussion on the apology tendered by the dera will not only be contemptuous but also illogical, besides being a clear violation of the Sikh tenets,” said Manjit Singh Randhawa, its president.

He said the dera communication was directly addressed to the higher authority (Guru Gobind Singh) whose delegated powers are being used by the clergy. 


DPRO leaves sect
Our Correspondent

Barnala, May 28
Gopal Singh Dardi, district public relation officer (DPRO), Barnala, today snapped ties with the Sacha Sauda sect. He was presented a siropa by former minister Gobind Singh Longowal at a local gurudwara. He denied any kind of government pressure on government employees, who are premi (followers) of the sect, to join the mainstream or face the heat. Meanwhile, about 150 followers of the dera also snapped ties with the dera at Sanghera.


Disposal of Solid Waste
Show-cause notices to 100 civic authorities
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, May 28
As per the information provided by the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) out of 137 municipal authorities in the state only 27 have been authorised to dispose of the solid waste in their respective areas. The PPCB has issued show-cause notices to 100 municipal authorities, which don’t have adequate land for disposing of the solid waste.

This information was recently provided to Association of People for Transparency’s general secretary Kamal Anand by the PPCB under the Right to Information Act (RTI) in a reply to his application, seeking information regarding the implementation of the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules 2000.

Anand further said as per PPCB’s information the ban on the burning of waste (garbage and dry leaves) had not been imposed by the municipal authorities as yet. Besides this, the movement of stray animals around the sites where waste was being disposed of or any other place in the city or town had not been made properly. Apart from this, the practise of proper segregation of the solid waste was not adopted in most cities or towns of the state, leading to problem in disposing of the solid waste, he added.

He stated that the PPCB had also informed him that the practise of transportation of municipal solid waste in covered vehicles was not prevalent in the cities/towns due to which scattering of wastes took place, which caused public nuisance.

The municipal solid waste was a valuable resource (which is turning into garbage due to mishandling and mismanagement by municipal authorities), so the association felt that there was no other way except for filing a PIL before the Punjab and Haryana High Court for getting the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules 2000 implemented.


Power Projects
Badal seeks Rs 9,842-cr Central aid
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 28
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today sought Centre’s approval and assistance for the state government’s plan to generate an additional 8,200 MW over the next three and a half years.

Speaking at the All-India Chief Ministers Conference on power sector reforms here, Badal urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to release Rs 9,842 crore, which the state government was due to receive under the rural electrification scheme and the Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme (APRDP). The Prime Minister gave an assurance that all proposed power projects for the state would be taken on a priority basis.

The Chief Minister declared that the state government plans to add 3,500 MW to the existing generation capacity to make the state self-sufficient and capable of ensuring round-the-clock power supply. He pointed out that the present generation capacity was only 6,200 MW whereas the peak demand was 9,000 MW.

In order to meet the shortfall the state government has drawn a comprehensive programme comprising Lehra Mohabbat Phase -II (500 MW), Goindwal Sahib Thermal Power Project (600 MW), Talwandi Sabo Thermal Power Project (1,200 MW) and Nabha Thermal Power Project (1,200 MW). These arrangements were, however, not sufficient to meet the increased power demand of the state, which was estimated to be over 11,000 MW by 2012. Badal asked the Centre to set up at least two Central sector power plants of 1,000 MW each in the state to help it overcome power shortage.

He said Punjab should be allocated 30 per cent power from unallocated power of Central sector plants in the northern region. The Centre should encourage inter-state cooperation in hydro-power generation. Punjab should also be allocated power from the nuclear power project to be set up at Banswara in Rajasthan and the Gas Authority of India should be told to expedite gas connectivity to Punjab through Dadri-Nangal pipeline.

Emphasising the need for co-generation and captive generation, Badal said the state was actively encouraging both and use of generator sets.

The state government had already notified a non-renewable sources of energy (NRSE) policy to provide a number of incentives for the NRSE project developers and had requested the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) to implement the NRSE policy in its next tariff order to encourage co-generation and captive generation.

The Chief Minister also asked the Centre to immediately release Rs165 crore under the Rajiv Gandhi Gramin Vidyutikaran Yojana. Unfortunately, the Rural Electrification Corporation has sanctioned only one scheme of Rs. 22.97 crore for Ferozepore district but the funds for the same have not been released.


Punjab to ask for royalty on foodgrains
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 28
While Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal will ask the union government to give royalty on foodgrains contributed by Punjab to the national pool, the threat to food security, stagnation in productivity, rising indebtedness and suicides in the farm sector and the overall crisis in Indian agriculture are issues which will dominate a meeting of the national development council in Delhi tomorrow.

Badal has a lengthy agenda for the meeting. He wants that Punjab, which has made a huge investment to provide food security to the country for 35 years, should be duly compensated by the union government by providing royalty on wheat and rice which are contributed by it to the national pool. If the union government cannot pay royalty, it should compensate the state in some other manner.

Punjab will argue that it has exploited its resources, including sub-soil water, soil, etc, to the hilt to produce wheat and rice for the country. It is providing free power worth Rs 1,500 crore to the farm sector to produce rice whereas Punjab is a non-rice eating state. Overexploitation of the soil and subsoil water and huge investments made by farmers in agriculture have created a serious crisis in the agrarian sector in the state. If the coal- producing states can by given royalty, Punjab , too, should be treated on the same lines.

The state government will ask the union government to compensate Punjab in lieu of the price freeze in the case of wheat and paddy that continued from 2001 to 2005. The union government had made only a negligible increase in the minimum support price of wheat and paddy from 2001 to 2005. Badal will seek exemption from various union government taxes and duties on the processing industry to be set up in allied sectors such as dairy, poultry, vegetables, fruit, etc, in the state on the pattern of hill states.

The state government will lay stress on remunerative prices for foodgrains ensuring at least 50 per cent profit to farmers who have made huge investments in farm machinery and other inputs to increase the productivity of wheat and rice during the past two decades. The issue of suicides by farmers, freeing farmers from the burden of debt, adequate supply of fertilisers and the rationalisation of the import policy will be other issues to be raised by Badal.

Led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chief Ministers, bureaucrats and others will hold discussions to tackle various aspects of the crisis. Because of the threat to food security owing to a decline in the production of main foodgrains, enhancing the productivity of wheat, rice and other cereals has become a major concern of the union government.

For instance, there is a target to raise wheat productivity from an average of 4 tonnes per hectare to 6 tonnes per hectare in Punjab, Haryana and adjacent areas. For the second year in a row, the union government has placed an order to import wheat to tackle the wheat deficit and check its rising price in the country. The coverage of more area under food crops to meet the foodgrain shortage is also on the agenda.

The emphasis at the meeting will be on urging the state governments concerned to bring about legal reforms in the marketing of agricultural products by effecting the necessary changes in the agricultural produce marketing act. Some of the states have already made amendments to allow direct marketing by farmers to retail chains being run by corporate houses. In Punjab, direct marketing is not allowed to farmers. In Punjab, its mandi board has near-monopoly on the marketing of foodgrains, vegetables, etc .

For raising finances, financial institutions will be asked to provide loans to farmers on their produce stored in cold stores and warehouses. Facilities will be provided for forward trading in foodgrains to ensure better prices to farmers. Marketing extension services will also be set up.


Plan to declare Ranjit Sagar Dam wildlife sanctuary
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, May 28
The Punjab Forest Department’s wildlife wing has mooted a plan for declaring Ranjit Sagar Dam as a wildlife sanctuary. The catchment areas of the dam fall in three states, Punjab (30 per cent), Himachal Pradesh (10 per cent) and Jammu and Kashmir (60 per cent).

After discussing the issue with authorities of Ranjit Sagar Dam the wildlife wing has now taken it up with the Punjab State Council for Science and Technology at Chandigarh. Besides this, the wing has also collected a few important documents and proposals submitted by various development agencies in this context.

Sources in the department disclosed that the dam authorities in the preliminary stage had objected but agreed with the proposal later. The authorities had acquired 531 mts for maintaining the area as the green belt as per the condition laid down by the ministry of environment and forests, Government of India, under the Forest Conservation Act.

Divisional Forest Officer (wildlife), Pathankot, D Rajasekar, has sent the proposal to the state government for declaring the dam as a conservation reserve or wildlife sanctuary.

He said the wildlife wing of the Jammu and Kashmir government had already moved a proposal for the area to be declared as conservation reserve.

Rajasekar further said the area was wetland with perennial source of water from the Ravi. Plant species like white siris (Albizzia procera), amla (Emblica officinalis) and shrubs, herbs and other weeds give shelter to various fauna and birds.

He claimed that a comprehensive five-year action plan worth Rs 8.5 crore had already been submitted to the state government for preserving the wildlife and wetland. 


‘Need to shift farmers to industry or service sector’
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 28
Dr GS Kalkat, chairman of the Punjab State Farmers Commission, has in a briefing to the Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal recommended that at least 40 per cent of the farmers in the state be shifted to industry or other occupations within the next 10 years.

Dr Kalkat held a series of meeting with the Chief Minister, who was preparing participation in the meeting of the National Development Council tomorrow.

Dr Kalkat, who is also on the steering committee of the Prime Minister on agriculture, said Punjab will witness organised social rest in the coming years in case the ills afflicting agriculture sector in the state were not sorted out.

Heavy investment in training rural youth to enable them to get jobs in the industries or service sector should be the state’s priority. The training, however, should be for trades and services, which are required by the industry.

Dr Kalkat said farmers are facing shortage of infrastructure, rising costs, squeezing margins and unfair competition. “An urgent comprehensive strategy is required to address the five major concerns of sustainability, growth, small farmers, indebtedness and trade,” he said.

“The current system of cropping is not sustainable. Everyone is aware of this but it seems that the farmers and the government have decided to commit ideological suicide,” he said adding that almost a million hectares of area under rice cultivation needs to be reduced.

“There are significant savings in use of electricity by growing crops other than rice. The crop alternatives to rice, which are economically feasible and needed in the country are kharif pulses, kharif oil seeds and hybrid maize for which the farmers must be supported by MSP by appointing a nodal agency to procure and setting up a price stabilisation fund,” he said.

Dr Kalkat has suggested to the government that small farmers should be assisted to grow high value crops and adopt dairy farming and poultry. He pointed out that a dairy farmer there earns rather well. “Dairy farming is highly technology intensive and the cow are induced to yield milk all through the year. They have introduced a technology to manage the heat distress in cows and buffaloes so that they can produce milk through the year,” he said.

“Also, if the farmers here are trained in cultivation of crops in net houses as is practised in Israel, a farmer who owns two units of one eighth of an acre each can fetch him a decent income. The farmers can be given loans to take up net farming,” he added.


Atta-dal Scheme
Govt orders resurvey
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, May 28
About 70 per cent well-off people living in a few districts have got their names entered in the survey conducted by government agencies for providing atta-dal at cheap rates to poor people of the state. This has forced the government to get the resurvey conducted so that atta-dal could be provided at cheap rates to the poor people of the state.

In reply to a question MP SAD secretary-general Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa said today that Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had asked the district administrations to conduct inquiries into the already conducted surveys for atta-dal scheme, so that every poor could benefit from the scheme. He also said the scheme would soon be implemented at any cost.

Dhindsa also said budgetary provisions would be made available for the new old age pensions in the state’s budget in June. After that all eligible persons would be given old age and social security pensions as per the SAD’s promise.

He also toured several parts of the Sherpur Assembly constituency today. He laid the foundation stones for upgrading Shergarh Cheema-Manal 8.4 km-long road, to be completed at a cost of Rs 2.23 crore by November 30, at Kuthala village and that of the Mullowal-Dhuri 10.41-km long road, to be completed at a cost of Rs 2.38 crore, at Mullowal village near Dhuri.

He also addressed a gathering at a gurdwara on Sherpur besides announcing a grant of Rs 10 lakh for constructing Darbar Singh at Sherpur gurdwara.


Rise in heroin seizure worries DRI officials
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 28
Alarming rise in the seizure of heroin this year in the state and its surrounding areas has set alarm bells ringing among various security agencies. During the past four months Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) officials alone have seized 2 quintals of heroin from North India. Against this, only 1 quintal was seized last year.

Sources in the DRI disclosed that not only heroin but weapons and fake currencies had also been sized so far. The security agencies were not able to make out how such a huge quantity of heroin was being smuggled into the country when all borders along Pakistan were fenced. The LoC in Jammu and Kashmir was also manned round-the-clock.

Recently, besides heroin, a loaded revolver, fake Indian currency worth Rs 18 lakh and four Pakistani sim cards were seized from a smuggler. He happened to be a former terrorist and was wanted in several cases in Punjab and Delhi. This raised fears that the terrorists might be trying to regroup once again. Although this possibility is being ruled out as of now.

The officials have been attributing the increase in the seizure to the intelligence inputs and the alertness on the part of security agencies. 


High Court
Notice to Punjab on Mann’s plea
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 28
The Punjab and Haryana High Court today issued notice to the Punjab government over a petition by SAD(A) chief Simranjit Singh Mann seeking quashing of an FIR against him.

The petitioner submitted that the FIR registered against him under Sections 124-A and 153-A IPC, for allegedly disfiguring the statue of late Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh by pasting photographs of his assassin Dilawar Singh on it, be quashed forthwith.

Mann, along with his supporters, had allegedly pasted the photographs of militant Dilawar Singh on Beant’s statue situated on BMC Chowk, Jalandhar. Following that, an FIR was registered against him at the Police Station Division No 4, Jalandhar, for treason.

After hearing his submissions, Justice S.S. Saron issued notice to Punjab government for August 21. At present, Mann is lodged in the Ludhiana Central Jail.


Withdrawal of new IT forms urged
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 28
The District Tax Bar Association has urged chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) to withdraw the new Income Tax forms introduced on May 14 and retain the old ones as there are lot of ambiguities in it.

In a letter written to CBDT chairman, a copy of which was circulated to journalists today, the association had pointed out that numerous problems would crop up at the time of filing IT returns, processing and scrutinising the same.

Association’s secretary V. K. Mittal said there was no provision in the new form to check whether assesses had made investment, which he or she had deducted under Section of 80-c of the IT Act.

Besides this, there was no provision to capital account or balance sheet in the new form. Unnecessary expenditure heads had been made in the new form, which would not suit the small traders, he added.

A separate acknowledgement was required to be deposited along with the returns by assesses without signing the same. This provision would become a tool in the hands of unscrupulous elements, as they would fill different figures in the return and acknowledgement to avail higher amount of loans from banks by showing their income higher than the actual one.


Computerisation of land record begins
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, May 28
The process of computerisation of land records in the district was started formally after deputy commissioner Vikas Garg inaugurated it. The process was started from Lambi, the Assembly segment represented by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

Talking to mediapersons, Garg said a private company had been engaged to complete the computerisation of land record by January 2008. The company had pressed 16 computer operators into service, who had been working round the clock to meet the deadline.

He pointed out that 10 patwaris had been trained in the computerisation of the land record and the remaining patwaris and other officials of the Revenue Department would be trained into it in a phased manner.

Any body could see the status of record connected with his land holding on the Internet.


SGPC-aided hospital spruced up for inspection
Vibhor Mohan
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 28
The SGPC-aided attached hospital Sri Guru Ram Das Institute of Medical Sciences and Research is being spruced up ahead of an inspection by the Medical Council of India (MCI) in a couple of days. The inspection is being conducted following a request from the institute management seeking permission for doubling the MBBS seats from 50 to 100.

Earlier, an MCI team had inspected the institute on March 21 and 22 and reportedly pointed out certain deficiencies, including shortfall of teaching staff, inadequate clinical material for the existing intake, manual indoor registration and non-availability of mortuary, CT scan and veterinary officer.

Talking to The Tribune, Dr U.S.Dhaliwal, director-principal of the institute, said the deficiencies had been removed and a compliance verification inspection could be carried out anytime this week.

The infrastructure found missing by the MCI team has been added and today itself about 900 patients came to the outpatient department and about 380 patients are admitted in the indoor care.

The Professor of Preventive Social Medicine, who had gone abroad on leave, has resumed duty, the mortuary and lecture hall have been constructed and CT scan equipment has been installed. As many as 70 ultrasounds were done today itself at the hospital, he said.

Interestingly, the inspection comes at a time when the institute is facing an acute financial crisis and the staff has not been paid salary for the last three months.

Dr Dhaliwal admitted that salary had not been paid to the staff and required an amount of Rs 3 crore, which had been sought from the SGPC. “About Rs 50 lakh has been released yesterday and this would enable the institute to disburse salary to some of the staff,” he said.

The institute authorities have been working overtime to set up the required infrastructure to remove the deficiencies pointed out by the MCI team. Round-the-clock construction of the mortuary, and lecture theatre was carried out to make sure that the new buildings are handed over by May 25. The CT scan has been shifted from the old hospital to the new blocks.

During its last inspection, the MCI team had said that clinical material was “grossly inadequate” but the institute authorities, in their request for a compliance verification inspection have claimed that “the popularity of the new hospital is going up by leaps and bounds. Resultantly, the clinical material is now more than adequate.”


Bathinda boy clears UPSC exam
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 28
Ram Gopal, an engineer, has brought laurels to the district after clearing the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) civil services examination, the result of which was declared recently.

A graduate from the Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology (TIET), Ram Gopal got 152nd rank in the overall merit list of successful candidates declared by the UPSC. He made this achievement in his third attempt.

Talking to TNS, Ram Gopal, who belongs to a middle-class family, pointed out that hard work and consistent efforts had enabled him to achieve his goal.

He said after working in a software company for two years, he left the job with one point programme to prepare for the UPSC exam.

He said he took specialised coaching for this exam and it paid rich dividends.


Punjabi varsity girl in delegation to China
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 28
Mohineet Kaur Boparai of Punjabi University, here, has been chosen in an Indian delegation, which will take part in a Sino-India cultural exchange program to be held in China from June 7 to 16. Mohineet is one of 12 participants who have been chosen by the Association of Indian Universities (AIU), New Delhi.

According to the university’s spokesperson, Mohineet was recommended in the light of her achievements in academics as well as co-curricular activities. She has won several debates, elocutions and quiz events in inter-university competitions, besides scoring 80 per cent marks in her graduation. She has also won the Duke of Edinburgh Silver Medal and the All-round Roll of Honour during her graduation from GCG, Patiala. Mohineet has also represented Punjabi University in the All-India inter-university chess competition.


B.Com-I result today

Amritsar, May 28
The result of the B.Com-I examination of Guru Nanak Dev University held in April this year will be declared tomorrow. Prof R.K. Batra, professor in-charge (examinations), said the result could also be assessed on the university website www.gnduonline.org <http://www.gnduonline.org> in the evening. — OC


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