P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


World Environment Day
From green to no-green zone
Tribune Reporters

Patiala, June 5
The government is spending huge sums of money to spread awareness on ecology on the eve of World Environment Day. However, the declining forest cover in the state gives away the truth. As per the last Forest Survey of India report, Punjab has 3.11 per cent of its area under forest cover - the least in the country.

  80,000 sq hectare forest areas lost from 2001 to 2003.
  2 lakh trees felled in the state.
  Just 3.11 per cent area under forest cover

It also mentions that the state has seen maximum depletion of forest cover - it lost 80,000 sq hectare forest areas from 2001 to 2003.

And this is despite the fact that hundreds of crores have been spent on aforestation under the JBIC project.

In the last two years, as per an affidavit filed by the Department of Forest in Punjab and Haryana High Court, about 2 lakh trees have been felled in Punjab.

The Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court Justice, in a PIL filed by honorary wildlife warden Sukhdeep Bajwa, pulled up the state over the issue. The state should plant third and fourth row of trees before felling the tree for widening of roads, the Chief Justice stated. He also directed the state to file an affidavit within one month regarding its long-term policy on maintaining the tree cover.

AMRITSAR: The use of eco-friendly machinery, regulated use of refrigeration and vehicles could help reduce emission of Carbon Dioxide in the air, which is a major cause of pollution in present times. Justice Hemant Gupta, a senior judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, stated this at a state-level function organised by the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) to mark the World Environment Day today.

Justice Gupta said there was a need to control industrial and domestic pollution and if the state government was sincere in this regard, there was no reason why it could not be checked.

Minister for information and public relations and science, technology and environment Bikram Singh Majitha said the environment could only be saved through active and aware public participation.

Earlier, welcoming the guests, PPCB chairman Yogesh Goel emphasized on the need of conserving the environment and assured that the board was committed towards this endeavour.

The board also honoured Jaspal Singh, head of Baba Kanhayia Charitable Trust (Ludhiana), for his services to clean the Buddha Nullah.

Meanwhile, NGO Mission Agaaz organised a cycle, rickshaw and tanga rally in collaboration with Lok Kalyan Samiti, Nehru Yuva Kendar, Punjab Pollution Control Committee and other NGOs to mark the World Environment Day. The Clean and Green Club of Shri Ram Ashram Public School, led by its principal Preeti Sharad, also observed the day by planting saplings in the school campus.

NABHA: The Kheti Virasat, Punjab, organised a one-day camp at Lobana Teku wetland in Nabha Block to mark the World Environment Day today. The volunteers of Kheti Virasat, Nabha Foundation and villagers of Lobana Teku carried out a cleanliness drive and removed polythene and harmful weed from the wetland. 


Bailing out PSEB
Rs 100-cr subsidy per month demanded 
Tribune News Service

Patiala, June 5
The PSEB is spending Rs 8.7 crore per day on providing free power to agriculture sector in the state. It increases to Rs 15 crore per day and Rs 450 crore per day in paddy season, from June to September.

Former superintending engineer, PSEB, Gurnek Singh Brar, in a supplementary petition filed before the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) has sought directions to the government to pay ad hoc subsidy of Rs 100 crore per month in view of its acute financial crisis being faced by the board.

He has stated in the petition, a copy of which is available with The Tribune, that the commission should exercise powers under Section 65 of the Electricity Act, 2003, and direct the state government to pay ad hoc subsidy to the PSEB.

He contended that the PSERC had no legal ground for proceeding on suo motu basis against the PSEB regarding increasing power tariff. It should rather direct the PSEB to file the tariff revision petition.

Under Section 64 (1) of the Act an application for determination of tariff shall be made by a generating company or licensee by November 30 each year. The commission is also bound to issue the order with 120 days, i.e. March 31 each year.

He stated that the PSEB did not file the application within the specified time. It sought time from the commission for filing aggregate revenue requirement (ARR) following which the commission gave it time till April 16. The PSEB did not file the tariff revision petition once again and sought further time till May 31. However, the commission rejected the plea. It stated in the order that under the national tariff policy it would suo motu take up the matter on tariff for the current financial year. It also directed the PSEB to submit all relevant information in this regard.

He further stated that the law being invoked by the PSERC for taking up the matter suo motu did not give any exemption for a licensee for not filing the tariff revision petition. The delay on the part of PSEB was in violation of the Act, the petitioner said.

He added that the PSEB should be allowed to increase the tariff in case the government failed to pay the subsidy.


Bhindranwale never wanted Khalistan, claims Indian envoy
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 5
Amritsar-born Indian Ambassador to Madagascar Daljit Singh Pannun, who had made efforts to avert Operation Bluestar by mediating between Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and the union government, has said certain forces had played mischief and misguided Indira Gandhi that led to the Army operation in June 1984. This was despite the fact that the firebrand sant had agreed to initiate dialogue to resolve the deadlock.

The exclusive interview with Pannun assumes significance since he had put his life in danger in resolving the vexed Punjab problem. The Indian envoy has also given first-hand information about the talks between Central government and Bhindranwale in “Cannon unto Canon”, brought out by Singh Brothers, which is yet to be released. “I was pushed to talk to Sant Bhindranwale at Akal Takht. It wasn't my personal effort, rather I was pushed into it by a large number of friends, including the then senior-most officer of the government of Punjab, S.S.Sidhu, who was the de facto ruler of the state.”

The Indian envoy said he was kept in the dark about the impending Army operation by the vested interests, otherwise many innocent lives could have been saved. He said he worked out some details with Sant Bhindranwale and it looked so simple and straight. “We had an informal and frank exchange of views. The book by Pannun reads that “the dialogue with Sant Bhindranwale was conducted in such warm and cordial atmosphere that he called for Rooh Afza which was arranged by Baba Thara Singh and we took it”.

“I remember I mooted the proposal that Indira Gandhi shall speak to the nation and appeal for peace and normalcy in the country, particularly in Punjab, and elaborate that all problems afflicting the state shall be resolved through mutual discussions,” Pannun said and added that he wanted the sant to respond to this appeal by announcing that he would wait for a month and shall persuade his followers and others to keep their guns without bullets during this period.

The envoy said he had proposed a period of four weeks for the same (while he wanted just one week), which they hammered out to 10 days. Pannun asked Sant Bhindranwale that if some mishap took place, Indira Gandhi would not name that it was done by your men. The sant, however, sought commitment from Pannu that the Central government would stop torturing Sikh youths during captivity. Pannu claimed that Sant Bhindranwale was keen that this plan should not be sabotaged.

The documentation of the reports sent to the Central government before Operation BlueStar reads, “We ended this meeting in utmost cordiality, understanding and were happy at the outcome. In fact I found there was nothing that would frighten the Government of India and anyone else.

Pannu claimed that Bhindranwale had repeatedly told him that he did not want Khalistan. He said Sant Bhindranwale told him that “I don’t want Khalistan but they would give it on a platter to me”. He said the sant was “grossly misunderstood” and had he been tackled with honestly and consideration, Operation Bluestar would have never taken place. 


Verma’s press meeting that wasn’t 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 5
Senior BJP leader Sahib Singh Verma's stint as in-charge of Punjab affairs got off to an unfavorable start with journalists leaving the venue of his maiden press conference here after he failed to turn up on time today.

After waiting for about 50 minutes at the Chandigarh Press Club, the venue of the press meet, reporters decided to leave. Several leaders and close associates of BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu asked them to wait. However, with no clear indication on his arrival, everybody walked off. The conference was scheduled for 2 pm.

The incident also gave away signs of discontent within the party's state unit as some loyalists of Punjab BJP chief Rajinder Bhandari acted as mere bystanders and were also heard saying that the function was Navjot Sidhu’s, and not party’s.

Meanwhile, there was also some confusion as a team of Forest Department officials, led by principal secretary forests, Robin Gupta, was also on the spot. They were supposedly there to observe the World Environment Day. As BJP leader Tikshan Sud is the minister for forests, the presence of these officials raised eyebrows. The officials stood there in a queue with bouquets in hands to receive the dignitaries.

When Verma arrived, 50 minutes behind schedule, most of the reporters had already left the venue. Sidhu, Bhandari and Punjab minister Manoranjan Kalia accompanied him.

After apologizing for his late arrival, Verma told scribes that a meeting of the ruling SAD and BJP at the residence of the Chief Minister had run overtime.

Later in the evening, the BJP’s DPR tried some damage control as director public relations Punjab sent an email to reporters saying “Sahib Singh Verma will ‘Meet the Press’ in Chandigarh Press Club on June 6 at 10 a.m.” The email quoted Balwant Takshak, president of the club. The press club, in its own press release signed by Takshak, stated that Verma, Sidhu, Bhandari and Manoranjan Kalia would “interact with the media” on June 6.

The difference between the two is that the club management hosts a ‘Meet the Press’ programme while it can be a venue for an interaction between media and political parties, but not the host for such events. 


Kohar to visit Nabha villages today
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 5
Punjab revenue minister Ajit Singh Kohar will visit various villages of Nabha subdivision tomorrow to hear grievances of people with regard to the distribution of compensation for crops damaged by a hailstorm in February.

Many farmers of Laut and Saholi villages had complained that though their crops had suffered 100 per cent damage, they had been given compensation for 50 per cent or less damage. They had alleged that certain officials had played a fraud on them while assessing the damage.


March by CPM activists against govt policies
Our Correspondent

Pathankot,June 5
Condemning the policies of the state government as anti-people and anti-labour the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM),Punjab, has said the Akali-BJP government led by Parkash Singh Badal has failed on all fronts.

Addressing a rally here today, Mangat Ram Pasla,state secretary of the party, said the government should fullfil the promise of atta-dal scheme made by Badal during the Assembly elections.He deplored the government not mooting any employment policy to reduce unemployment and unrest among the youth of the state.He said health services and primary education had been running on old tracks and there was hardly any improvement.

More than 400 activists of the party march in procession which culminated with the submission of a charter of demands to SDM Surinder Mohan Sharma here.


Central schemes
CM for full fund utilisation
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 5
The Punjab government today set in motion the process of complete utilisation of funds meant for centrally sponsored schemes included in the central budget for 2007-08.

There will be an additional flow of Rs 1,710 crore to Punjab as part of the centrally sponsored schemes to carry out development activities during the current financial year.

Punjab had utilised only Rs 723 crore provided under these schemes during 2006-07. The state government today geared up to utilise Rs 2,433 crore earmarked for the current fiscal year as compared to Rs 1,359 crore sanctioned for these schemes during 2006-07.

Presiding over a meeting to review the centrally sponsored schemes here, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal expressed concern over the underutilisation of funds meant for these schemes during the last financial year .

The Chief Minister directed the state chief secretary to regularly monitor the utilisation of funds under these schemes. He also asked the chief secretary to hold separate meetings with the health and education secretaries for 100 per cent utilisation of funds for these schemes.


PSEB employees’ forum gives strike call

Chandigarh, June 5
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) employees joint forum has given a call to the employees to observe a strike that will begin at midnight tonight and end at midnight tomorrow.

Ranjit Singh, general secretary of the technical services union of the PSEB, in a statement today said the call for the strike had been given as the management of the board was dilly-dallying on the implementation of accepted demands of the forum.

A board spokesman said there was nothing to worry as far as the strike was concerned. “All arrangements have been made at the field level for the smooth functioning of the power generation and distribution system”, said the spokesman.

The demands include jobs for dependents of employees who died in harness, filling of 15,000 vacant posts, dropping of the proposal for the unbundling of the PSEB and stopping of the outsourcing of board jobs. — TNS


Repair village roads on priority, says Dhindsa
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 5
Punjab public works minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa has directed department officials to repair rural roads, which are in bad shape, on priority.

He met senior officers of the department today to review the status of various ongoing road projects. Dhindsa said there would be no compromise on the quality of work. The World Bank had shown confidence in the SAD-BJP government and cleared the largest-ever road project to upgrade 1300 km of roads at an estimated cost of Rs 1,500 crore with loan assistance of Rs 1,100 crore.


Bluestar anniversary 
SGPC on high alert
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 5
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee has put its task force on high alert in the wake of the 23rd anniversary of Operation Bluestar, which would be observed at Akal Takht here tomorrow.

The Punjab Police has also made elaborate security arrangements outside the SGPC precincts as a precautionary measure.

Jathedar, Akal Takht, Joginder Singh Vedanti will address the Sikh masses from the rostrum of the Takht.


High Court
Visit to UK from June 10
Notice to Punjab over Amarinder’s plea
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 5
The Punjab and Haryana High Court today issued notice to Punjab over a petition submitted by former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh in which he sought the permission of the court to visit the UK.

The petitioner sought the permission of the court to visit the UK from June 10 to July 25 for medical treatment relating to liver and renal ailments.

He further prayed that appropriate directions should be issued to the respondent not to retain him on his departure to London and on his arrival from London to New Delhi at Indira Gandhi International Airport by virtue of the lookout notices issued by the Punjab government.

The former Chief Minister submitted that his liver and renal functioning needed detailed investigation and that he had been on medication for high creatinine and urea.

He also mentioned in his application that Dr Sisir Roy, who looks after his medication and arranges for his consultancy in London, had written a letter to him that he should be in London for four to six weeks from June 11.

During this period, the petitioner would be admitted to Cromwell Hospital for his renal treatment.

Incidentally, the high court on April 5 issued a notice of motion for July 30 to Punjab and others while granting anticipatory bail to Amarinder Singh.

The court had then ordered that in the event of arrest of the petitioners, the petitioner should be released on anticipatory bail to the satisfaction of the arresting officer. The issue will be taken up tomorrow.

Notice on Sibbia’s plea

The high court has issued a notice to Punjab for June 7 over a plea for anticipatory bail filed by Inderjit Singh Sibbia, the main accused in the Ludhiana City Centre case.

The petitioner has moved the court seeking directions to respondents to issue appropriate orders to the arresting authority to release him in the event of his arrest in cases registered against him by the Vigilance Bureau.

The petitioner submitted that he would cooperate with the investigating authorities and join investigations as and when directed.


Bail to ex-minister’s kin invites ire
Tribune New Service

Batala, June 5
Eyebrows were raised as bail was granted to Fateh Jan Bajwa, the brother of former Punjab Public Works Department minister Pratap Singh, here today.

Bajwa, who was arrested in an attempt to murder case from his residence in Quadian on Sunday morning, was produced before the court of SDJM Dimple Walia. He was granted bail even though the police had sought his custody, a senior police officer claimed.

However, SSP RN Dhoke said the case was being investigated on the basis of merit. He also clarified that Avtar Singh Bohja, a sarpanch of Bohja village, was wanted in a case of abduction and that no shots were fired between the police and Bajwa’s security guards.

It may be recalled that Bajwa was arrested on the complaint of SHO of the Mehta Chowk Police Station, Satwant Singh. A case under Sections 307, 224, 225, 186, 353, 506, 148 and 149 of the IPC and Sections 25, 27, 54 and 59 of the Arms Act was registered against him. He was accused of helping Bohja, accused in an abduction case, hide from the police.

The SHO had alleged that Bajwa, along with his gunmen, had assaulted the police party and took away Bohja from the SHO’s custody in an Innova (CH-01T-5108).


MC told to pay Rs 71,000
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, June 5
The local MC has decided to file an appeal in the Punjab and Haryana High Court against the judgement of a local additional district judge. As per the judgement, the MC has been ordered to pay Rs 71,000 as damages to a plaintiff for injuries suffered by him due to negligence on the part of the MC.

A decision to file an appeal in the high court against the judgement had been taken at a meeting of the MC held some days ago here. This was also confirmed by executive officer (EO) Ranbir Singh of the local MC.

As per the case, the plaintiff on May 30, 1997, at 7.30 pm was going to his house. When he reached the gate of Ranbir Club, Sangrur, he fell into a ditch and fractured his ankle at two places. The ditch was about 2-foot wide. There was no streetlight and no signboard was put up to warn passersby. He remained confined to bed for three months and was unable to take up his professional assignments. He had claimed Rs 8,41,000 as compensation. 


Land for Trident  
BKUE (U) men on road-blocking spree

Our Correspondent

June 5
Vehicular traffic on NH 10 between the Abohar-Fazilka stretch remained suspended for two hours today as hundreds of farmers and farm workers sat on a dharna near the Dangarkhera canal bridge. They were responding to a state-wide call given by the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan).

BKU district secretary Gurmail Singh Burja led the protesters in raising anti-government slogans, besides ensuring that no vehicular traffic passed from there. Police personnel were also deployed on the stretch and some constables were positioned on the outskirts of the town to divert the traffic to link roads.

BKU activists Mehal Singh, Jarnail Singh, Mohar Singh, Gurdit Singh and Baldev Singh addressed the protesters.

Gurmail Singh said the Congress and the SAD were chips of the same block so far as policies for the farming community were concerned. He added that the SAD-BJP alliance government had not succeeded in ensuring remunerative price for crops in the ensuing season.

He warned that the farmers would march to Sanghera to take back the possession of 376 acres of land that had been forcibly acquired by the previous Congress regime for the Trident group.

Tribune News Service

June 5
Activists of the Bharatiya Kisan Union Ekta (Ugrahan) today blocked traffic on three roads in this district to lodge their protest against the non-fulfilment of the promise made to them by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

The roads which were blocked for two hours were the Bathinda-Talwandi Sabo, Nathana-Bhagta Bhai Ka and Bathinda-Barnala roads.

The activists said the CM had promised that 376 acres located near Barnala, which had been forcibly given to a private industrial group by the previous government, would be returned to the respective owners, but failed to do so.

Tribune News Service

June 5
A large number of farmers today blocked roads for two hours at Sunam town and Salemgarh village in Sangrur district and Dhaula village in Barnala district in protest against the Badal government’s delaying tactics in scrapping the notification with regard to the acquiring of 376 acres at Sangherra, Dhaula and Fatehgarh Chhanna villages (near Barnala) by the Trident group.

State president of the BKUE(Ugrahan) Joginder Singh Ugrahan said the farmers had been compelled to block the roads as the government had failed in fulfilling its poll promise. 



Two held with 10.2 kg of opium
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, June 5
The district police has arrested two smugglers Pargat Singh and Jaswinder Singh and seized 10.2 kg of opium and Rs 8 lakh from them.

Harwinder Singh, their accomplice, escaped when their car was stopped by a police party in Jaito area. During the search of the car, the seizure was made. The accused were using a blue light atop the car. Sources said Pargat (30) had been operating in Punjab, Rajasthan and Madhya Pardesh.

L.K. Yadav, SSP, while addressing a press conference here today, said a four-wheeler, a motorcycle and five cartridges were seized from the cattle shed of Harwinder. He said the accused used to bring the consignments of narcotics from Rajasthan and Madhya Pardesh and had been selling the same in Bathinda, Moga and Faridkot districts.

The SSP said a special investigation team had been set up to investigate the activities of these smugglers and to find out their contacts and customers.

A case in this connection had been registered under the NDPS, Motor Vehicle and Arms Acts.


Murder accused held after 15 yrs

Abohar, June 5
A man wanted in a murder case has been arrested after 15 years from the Patti area in Tarn Taran police district, sources said yesterday.

According to Rahul Yadav, SHO, Chunavadh, in the neighbouring Sriganganagar area, Gurdeep Singh (20) and his farm worker Zail Singh had allegedly killed Bagicha Singh, step maternal uncle of Gurdeep and seriously injured his father Kundan Singh in 1992. Both had fled from the place after committing the crime.

According to the police, Kundan Singh had married a second time after his first wife failed to bear a child. His second wife gave birth to Gurdeep Singh. Bagicha Singh, brother of Kundan Singh’s first wife, had been assisting him in farming. As some dispute over the agricultural land developed in 1992, Gurdeep Singh, with the help of Zail Singh, allegedly attacked Bagicha Singh and Kundan Singh and fled assuming that the two had been killed.

Kundan Singh, however, survived the attack.

Zail Singh had since been evading arrest, but the police nabbed him from Patti, sources said. — OC


Man set on fire
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, June 5
Manjeet Singht of Kothe Thande Wale village of this district was allegedly set on fire while he lying on cot in the courtyard of his house today evening .

Sardara Singh, Bhucho Mandi police post in charge said Gurjeet Singh, who had leanings towards a political party, engineered the crime after he came to know Manjeet Singh had allegedly burnt a holy book in his house recently.

He added Gurjeet Singh sent four to five persons in Manjeet Singh’s house. The unidentified accused set him on fire and fled the scene after the crime.

A case in this connection had been registered under Sections 307, 452 and 120-B of the IPC at Nathana police station.


Computer teachers resist government orders
Tribune News Service

Patiala, June 5
The state’s computer teachers decided against doing clerical work in government schools today, thereby resisting the government’s orders in this regard.

They alleged that the government was exploiting them as they had been hired on a contract.

While all other teachers of government and aided schools are enjoying the summer holidays, computer teachers have been directed to be present in schools. They have been called despite the fact that they do not have any teaching work. When they protested, the government reportedly ordered them to do clerical work 
in schools.

The president of the Punjab Computer Teachers’ Association said they were employed exclusively to teach.

He said the computer teachers were paid even less than the regular peons of the government schools despite the fact that they had B.Tech and MCA degrees.

The government, which should be a model employer, was acting as an exploiter, the president said.

The association members also alleged that the SAD-BJP government had gone back on its promise to regularise their jobs.

The association also condemned the use of force during a peaceful protest of computer teachers in Kapurthala district.


Baba Farid university
Chief secy assures funds
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, June 5
Hopes of the cash-strapped Baba Farid University of Health Sciences to get regular funds have revived with chief secretary R. I. Singh, who visited the town yesterday, giving assurance to the university authorities in this regard.

Chief secretary, along with senior civil and jail officials, visited the local jail and the site reserved for constructing a building of the university.

He suggested that a piece of land, out of total 150 acres belonging to the university, located on the Mudki road, could be used for constructing a new jail while the 30 acres, on which the jail existed, could be given to the university and Guru Gobind Singh Medical College.

However,the vice-chancellor of the university said the university authorities would not exchange land unless the Punjab government gave some special grant to the university.

He said ever since the university became functional in 1998, the government had given no special funds or monetary grants to it.

The government was yet to pay Rs 11 crore to the medical college, which was due last year, he claimed.

Meanwhile, the chief secretary refused comments on the promise of the previous Congress regime to grant Rs 100 crore to the university. However, he said it would be given adequate funds in future.

On the issue of restarting PMT counselling at Faridkot, he said the matter would be considered.


GND varsity keeps courses in abeyance
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 5
Guru Nanak Dev University has decided to keep some of its courses in abeyance for one year. These include the five-year integrated courses of M.Tech, MCA and MBA at the university campus, Amritsar; MBA (5 years), MCA (5 years) being run at the GND varsity college, Jalandhar; and MCA (5 years) at Regional Campus, Gurdaspur.

Stating this, dean, Academic Affairs, Dr T.D. Narang said in order to utilise the available infrastructure of the five-year integrated courses, which have now been kept in abeyance for one year, the university has sanctioned one section each for B.Tech (computer science), MCA (3 years) and MBA (2 years) with additional specialisation on the main campus.

Dr Narang said in lieu of the five-year integrated courses, the university has also introduced a new course of MCA (3 years) to meet the needs of Gurdaspur district. 


St Xavier’s students top in district

Bathinda, June 5
Three students of the local St Xavier’s Senior Secondary School bagged the top three positions in the district in the Class X examination conducted by the CBSE.

In a press note issued today, the school authorities stated that by scoring 98 per cent, Sabia Handa was first in the district, while Navjot Kaur and Parasjot Singh Saini bagged the second and third positions by scoring 97 per cent and 95.2 per cent, respectively. — TNS


Anti-ragging panels soon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh , June 5
The Punjab government has directed various education departments, including technical and medical, to immediately tackle the problem of ragging in state educational institutions.

Stating this here today, R.I. Singh, chief secretary, said the secretaries of these departments had been told to ensure prompt implementation of the Supreme Court order in this regard. He also asked the officers concerned to constitute anti-ragging committees and squads and closely monitor the functioning of these committees.

The chief secretary suggested incorporating the relevant portions of the court directions regarding ragging in the prospectuses to be issued by the institutions.


First in North India
Certified hallmarking centre for jewellery opens in Ludhiana
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 5
The first certified hallmarking and assaying centre for gold and silver jewellery in North India has finally come up in Ludhiana. Though this laboratory, LD Gold Lab, is the only centre certified by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) for hallmarking in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Chandigarh, it is proposed to establish six other centres in the region.

Officials in the BIS informed TNS that with the setting up of this centre, the number of jewellers seeking licence for selling hallmarked jewellery is bound to increase. Since the nearest hallmark and assaying centre was located at Delhi, most of the jewellers were hesitant to carry jewellery all the way to Delhi for hallmarking. The centre at Ludhiana has come up with the Central assistance under one-time financial incentive of 15 per cent of the expenditure on machinery and equipment.

Of the thousands of jewellers in North India, only 316 have so far obtained licences for selling hallmarked jewellery. According to a survey conducted by the BIS, there are over three lakh jewellers across the country, but only 4,092 jewellers have the licence to sell hallmarked jewellery. With the new centre, the total number of hallmarking centres in the country will go up to 51.

It may be mentioned that it is mandatory to sell only hallmarked jewellery from January 1, 2008. Though jewellers are misleading consumers by saying that hallmarking would make jewellery prices go up drastically, the certification would only help in consumers knowing about the purity of the gold/silver they buy. The BIS had recently conducted a survey across 16 cities to check the impurity levels in gold and found that the average impurity across the country was 13.4 per cent, though impurity levels in north Indian states was higher.

With hallmarking being made mandatory, each jewellery item sold by the jewellers having a hallmark licence will be tested at a hallmarking and assaying centre. Each hallmarked piece will have five markings - of BIS, purity level, of hallmarking centre, a code and the jewelers mark. Officials said that hallmarking will not just secure the consumer interest, but also help in boosting jewellery export.

Officials in the BIS said that there is a proposal to set up at least six other centres in North India at Gurgaon, Panipat, Chandigarh, Solan, Amritsar and Jammu. The applications for establishing these centres are under process with the BIS.


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