P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Budget: Govt to woo mega firms
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 20
The SAD-BJP government will facilitate the entry of mega-corporate entities to modernise the marketing of the agriculture produce.

In his budget speech in the state Assembly today, finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal said the state would enact a legislation to promote agri-processing and marketing and carry further the MoUs signed by the Reliance and Bharti companies in 2006-07 to promote contract farming and organised retail of vegetables, food grains and dairying.

However, there is no mention in the budget proposals as to what concrete step the state government will take to give a new direction to the state’s agriculture economy. There is a repeated mention of effecting diversification in the agriculture sector but there is no specific commitment with regards to the area to be taken out from under the paddy crop.

Manpreet has proposed to set up four modern terminal markets for fruits and vegetables at Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Muktsar. He has also talked about launching a pilot project for diversification through a agriculture production pattern adjustment programme. Under the national horticulture mission, there is a proposal to spend Rs 100 crore for the promotion of horticulture besides setting up five centres for citrus cultivation and a new project on mulberry sericulture.

There is a proposal in the budget to set up 20 farmer training centres to update their knowledge about the introduction of new techniques in agriculture. For the rejuvenation of state agriculture, Rs 25 crore has been kept. There is no proposal to give additional grant to the PAU.

Manpreet has said a Rs 100-crore grant sanctioned by the union government to the PAU in 2006-07 would go a long way in revitalising research and development activities to give a “ second push” to the state’s agriculture.

For promoting the dairy sector, a proposal has been mooted to revive loss-making milk units at a cost of Rs 50 crore to which the state government would contribution Rs 25 crore. There is another proposal to give an assistance of Rs 10 crore for the first time to the Punjab dairy development board.

The Bhai Ghanaiya Sehat Seva Scheme for providing medical insurance cover up to Rs 2 lakh to members of all cooperative societies would be relaunched with an enlarge scope on September 1. Procurement price of milk has been increased by Rs 3 per litre and revolving cash credit limit for farmers has been enhanced from Rs 4 lakh to Rs 6 lakh in the cooperative sector.

A sum of Rs 10 crore has been kept for the cleaning of village ponds and an equal amount for the construction of toilets in the rural areas. The national rural employment guarantee scheme has been extended to Amritsar, Jalandhar and Nawanshahr districts. Earlier, only Hoshiarpur was covered under it. There is an over-all allocation of 350.88 crore for rural development.


Cong MLAs stage walkout
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 20
Congress MLAs today staged a walkout from the Punjab Vidhan Sabha when their demand for a discussion on the law and order situation was rejected just before the budget was to be 

Minutes after leading the walkout, leader of the opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal alleged that Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had failed in his constitutional duty to ensure that every citizen got the fundamental right to practise any religion

She said the way premis (followers of the Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda) were being hounded out of the social fabric was wrong. As many as 74 deras of the sect had closed down as Badal had failed to protect them while he was allowing all pro-SAD deras like the one headed by a former SGPC chief, Bibi Jagir Kaur, to continue. Those who had issued public threats to dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and also other sects were not booked, she said.

When asked if the police case against the dera chief should be withdrawn, she said “the law should take its own course”. The granthis at gurdwaras were not permitting the presence of Guru Granth Sahib at bhogs and birth ceremonies in the families of premis.

Bhattal said Badal had once torn up copies of the Constitution and now was disrespecting it in another manner.

Though the dera chief had apologised, the government had taken no concrete steps to ensure the protection of life and property of dera followers, she alleged.

Justifying the walkout, she said that peace in the state was more important than development and the budget.

Charging the government with politicising the Sikh- Dera Sacha Sauda conflict, Bhattal claimed that those who did not vote for the Shiromani Akali Dal in the February assembly poll were being targeted by the government and were booked in fabricated cases. This “Akalisation” of Punjab would not be tolerated, she added. Bhattal said Speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon had disallowed the raising of certain issues, including law and order, before the presentation of the budget in the house.

A plea by Chief Minister Badal that the opposition party should sit down during the budget presentation was rejected by the opposition. Bhattal, who visibly had the solid backing of the younger outspoken lot of MLAs, preferred a walkout and addressed the media, saying the Chief Minister should have given an assurance that a judicial commission would be set up.

Earlier, the Congressmen arrived in the house wearing plastic aprons over their clothes with slogans written on these criticising the ruling SAD-BJP combine. The aprons had anti-government slogans and demands for halting police repression against Congress workers and dalits written on them. A slogan castigated the government for failing to implement the cheap atta-dal scheme. Another one called the first 100 days of the government as “100 black days” and another one demanded a judicial inquiry into the Noormahal incident. 


Outlay for power sector up
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 20
Punjab finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal, who presented the state budget today, has enhanced the outlay for the power sector to Rs 1,062 crore from Rs 924 crore last year.

He said that efforts were afoot for bidding in the case of the thermal power projects at Talwandi Sabo and Nabha with a capacity of 3,000 MW. For the strengthening of the transmission and distribution system, Rs 778 crore had been kept.

There is an allocation of Rs 126 crore for the renovation and modernisation of the thermal plant at Bathinda and an outlay of Rs 13.80 crore for the renovation of certain units of the thermal plant at Ropar. For completing the Mukerian hydel phase II project, Rs 16.50 crore has been kept. However, there is no proposal to save the Punjab state electricity board, facing huge losses, from collapsing.

For irrigation, an outlay of Rs 650 crore has been kept.There is a proposal to extend phase II of the Kandi canal at a cost of Rs 80 crore and for the construction of the Shahpur Kandi Dam, a provision has been made of Rs 98 crore for the current year.

A rehabilitation plan (Rs 90 crore) has been announced for the Patiala feeder and the Kotla branch and Bist Doab canal system.

There is also a proposal for the rehabilitation of the Bathinda, Sidwan and Abohar branches of canals with an outlay of Rs 35.50 crore.

There is a plan to convert the Banur canal from a non-perennial to a perennial system at a cost of Rs 20 crore.

Besides, there are proposals for the remodelling of various distributaries and for flood control measures on the Ghaggar, the Satluj, the Beas and the Ravi.

For industry, Rs 10 crore has been kept for improving the existing industrial focal points, Rs 14 crore for creating new industrial focal points and Rs 3 crore for the completion of the northern India institute of fashion technology at SAS Nagar.

Manpreet Singh said the union government had given permission for setting up nine SEZ projects besides the SEZ to be developed by Ranbaxy Laboratories and Quark Media House at SAS Nagar.

Keeping in view the higher rate of employment in BPOs, the government had decided to set up BPO training centres in colleges in the state, he added.


Dera Row
Khalsa panel adamant on June 24 march
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 20
Various Sikh bodies, including the SGPC, the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) and a section of the Sant Samaj, have been making all-out efforts to resolve the Sikh-Dera Sacha Sauda row and the meeting of the Sikh clergy may be delayed because Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, jathedar, Akal Takht, has gone abroad. He is unlikely to return before June 24, the date fixed by the Khalsa Action Committee to march in procession against blasphemous activities of dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

Fresh mediation efforts have led to a debate in Sikh circles, especially over the meeting of DSGMC chief Parmjit Singh Sarna and the SGPCchief at Mohali today .However, Harvinder Singh Sarna , a former DSGMC chief, said it should not be construed that they (Sarna brothers) had reached any understanding with Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister, and SGPC chief Avtar Singh . He said : “We have brought the fresh draft on behalf of the apology of the dera in the larger interest of the Sikh community.”

The DSGMC chief claimed the draft of fresh apology was faxed from Sirsa, a copy of which was sent to Baba Harnam Singh Khalsa, chief of the Damdami Taksal.. Some senior functionaries of the dera were also involved in the mediation. Sarna claimed it was the dera which approached him a week ago to defuse the situation.

Congress MLA Harminder Singh Jassi, a relative of the dera chief, played a pivotal role in drafting the fresh apology.

This development reportedly has caused division in the Sant Samaj because some senior leaders of the Khalsa panel have rejected the fresh apology.

Talking to The Tribune, Bhai Daljit Singh Bittu, senior vice-president, SAD (Amritsar), Kanwarpal Singh, a spokesman for the Dal Khalsa, and Bhai Mohkam Singh, a spokesman for the Dal Khalsa, said the proposed march of June 24 would be taken out as per schedule since the fresh draft of the apology was unacceptable to them.

The Dal Khalsa spokesman said the directive of Jathedar Vedanti that they should take consent of the Sikh clergy before taking out any procession had no validity since they had already sought his “permission” on June 6 and Jathedar Vedanti himself had given his “consent” to the Khalsa committee to “go ahead” with the protest march.


‘Powerless’ Chahal may face theft charges
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Patiala June 20
Bharat Inder Singh Chahal, former media adviser to Capt Amarinder Singh is in for more trouble. He is likely to be booked for power theft. The PSEB authorities had recently confiscated three power meters installed at the palatial residence of Chahal at the Tawakli Morr area of Patiala. All three meters were in the name of Chahal.

Sources said here that one of the meters, which was tested today in the PSEB laboratory, was found to be malfunctioning. The seals of the other two power meter have also been found to be broken.

This report of laboratory would enable the PSEB authorities to file a power theft complaint against Chahal. As per law they are likely to first issue a notice to Chahal to explain reasons for malfunctioning of his power meters.

The police had recently collected data regarding the luxuries available at the residence of Chahal. These luxuries included 20 air conditioners, 70 fans and three water coolers besides the other power points.

However, the power bills being paid by the former media adviser were not in consonance with electric luxuries available at his residence. The sources in the PSEB told that that the average power bill of each three power meters was about 700 units per month. It comes to just about Rs 8,000 per month for all three power meters keeping in consideration 20 air conditioners and 70 fans functioning at his residence.

As a rule in case of power theft the PSEB issues notice to customer. The customer is directed to deposit 75 per cent amount of theft and penalty amount calculated by the board immediately to avoid power disconnection. Thereafter he can contest his case before the dispute settlement authority.

However, in the case of Chahal the power theft could amount to lakhs. The PSEB can go in for registration of criminal case of power theft against him.

Meanwhile, the sources available here said the Chahal was being kept in ‘C’ class facility at Patiala central jail. He has a small room and concrete plank to sleep on. He hardly has any visitors now.

But today his three brother-in-laws visited him. The jail authorities also confiscated Rs 5000 cash from Chahal, however, no case was registered against him as he pleaded that he did not have any knowledge that cash could not be kept in jail. He was issued coupons for the same amount by the jail authorities.

Chahal has also moved a bail application in the two criminal cases registered against him by the Patiala police. The CJM has issued notice to the government on the application. The bail application is to come up for hearing on June 22.


Now, it is ministers’ turn to become charitable
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 20
Punjab finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal today announced that all ministers would have contribute Rs 1,000 per month from their salary for the health insurance scheme to be launched for 4.45 lakh below poverty families living in the state.

He said though he had made this announcement without seeking the Chief Minister’s permission but “I am sure that all ministers will accede to my request in this regard. He said the money would be deducted from their salary every month. “Likewise, I have asked the IAS officers and president of their association B.R. Bajaj to make similar contributions”, he added. “I have talked to Bajaj and he had assured me that IAS officers will certainly make some contribution”, he added.

“I have asked IAS officers to contribute Rs 1,000 once in a year for the scheme”, he said. “Similarly, Class II and Class III officers will also be requested to contribute from their salary”, he added. “It will be just a gesture from privileged people towards under-privileged ones”, he said. There was a proposal to collect Rs 13.50 crore from employees and others in this regard.

He said premium of health insurance cover for the BPL families would be paid by the state government while families covered under the Anotodya Yojna would be asked pay Rs 100 per family as premium while the remaining amount would be contributed by the state government.

For the welfare of Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes, Manpreet has announced Rs 10 crore for providing houses to rural poor, Rs 7 crore for vocational training in it is for SC students.

Besides it, Rs 1 crore has been kept for SC students for helping them in getting commercial pilots’ training for them. To encourage SC girl students to pursue higher studies, Rs 1 crore has been kept to give them awards and Rs 2 crore has been kept to give pay a part of fee of SC students admitted in private nursing institutions for getting training of nurses. There will attendance scholarship for SC girls at primary level and provision of Rs 20 crore has been made for this purpose.

Awards have also been kept for panchayats for promoting the socio economic development of SCs. Under one time settlement scheme Rs 8.58 crore has been kept aside to settle the dues of loans advanced to SCs by the Punjab Scheduled Caste Finance Corporation. 


Guru Granth Sahib removed from dera
Tribune News Service

Moga, June 20
Activists of the Ek Noor Khalsa Fauj today removed Guru Granth Sahib from dera Satoana, near here, without any resistance from the opposite side.

Nearly 12 activists reached the dera and removed Guru Granth Sahib on the premise that it was against the Sikh principles to keep the holiest scripture in a dera.

The Satoana dera headed by Sant Balbir Singh has been running in the village for the past several decades.


PSEB to set up complaint centres
Tribune News Service

Patiala, June 20
Chairman of Punjab State Electricity Board Y.S. Ratra today observed that complaints with regard to breakdown, replacement of damaged distribution transformers and interruption in power supply are not attended to in a time-bound manner by some unscrupulous employees.

He informed that the PSEB had already set up control rooms to monitor supply during the paddy season. The names of the concerned officers, along with their telephone numbers, have already been informed to consumers through display advertisements in all prominent newspapers on June 9 and 10. Besides, setting up of complaint centres at each distribution sub-division, was also being worked out, he said.

Ratra appealed to the people to lodge their complaints at their respective complaint centres, and in case the complaint was not attended to properly, the consumer should inform senior officers at the zonal level.

He further stated that consumers should inform the zonal control rooms in case the officers concerned or field staff is not available at their respective headquarters or complaint centres.

Following are the names and telephone numbers of the officers: Patiala, Sangrur, Ropar and Mohali - S.D. Katal, SE/H.Q (South), Patiala (0175-2301543); City East, City West, Suburban Ludhiana and Khanna - H.S. Randhawa, SE/City East Circle, Ludhiana (0161-2450369); Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Nawanshahr and Hoshiarpur - K.K. Vohra, Dy CE/H.Q (North), Jalandhar, (0181 - 2225752); Amritsar City, Suburban Amritsar, Tarn Tarn and Gurdaspur - Rajiv Kumar, Dy CE/HQ (Border), Amritsar (0183 -2212425); Bathinda, Muktsar, Ferozepur and Faridkot - Davinder Pal Singh SE/H.Q (West), Bathinda, (0164-2270667) and Central Control Room, PSEB, Patiala - M.L. Garg, SE/Tech, Patiala, (0175-2207961).


40 attend personality workshop
Tribune News Service

Patiala, June 20
Forty students hailing from Punjabi University and its affiliated colleges participated in the inaugural session of a seven-day personality and youth leadership camp, which was inaugurated by vice-chancellor Swarn Singh Boparai. The camp was organised by the directorate of youth welfare, Punjabi University, at its regional centre at Andretta, near Palampur, today.

Commitment, courage and confidence, distanced from falsehood and hypocrisy, can help a person achieve excellence, said Boparai. He stressed upon the role of physical fitness in overcoming stress and depression.

The VC opined that the role of parents during the formative years of a child was of great significance. The younger generation, he said, which at the moment was faced with a cocktail of complex situations, had to be careful in making the right choices as one wrong step could spell disaster.

Boparai further said religion, reduced to rigid ritualistic practices, had undermined its positive role personality building. These crosscurrents needed to be seriously and scientifically evaluated.

Dr Sunita Dhir, director, youth welfare, Punjabi University, enumerated the role of such camps in cultivating the values of self-discipline and truthfulness in the youth. These camps also help the participants in self-introspection.

Noted theatre artist Dr Gurcharan said these camps helped students develop leadership qualities. Besides cultural interactions, the camp includes the staging of two plays. One is “Kesro” authored by Balwant Gargi and directed by Dr Sunita Dhir. The other is Ajmer Aulkah’s “Neon Jarr”, which is directed by Dr Gurcharan Singh.


Ayurvedic doc held for selling allopathic medicines
Tribune News Service

Rajpura, June 20
The district police and the health department nabbed an ayurvedic doctor, Doctor J.S. Cheema, and his assistants Gurpreet Singh and Satwinder Singh, for selling allopathic medicines, here today.

Acting on a tip off, a team of the police and health officials conducted a raid at a clinic adjoining the bus stand. During the raid, it was found that the doctor, who had an ayurvedic degree from Jammu and Kashmir, was treating patients with allopathic medicines. The team also found a huge cache of expired drugs from the clinic.The police registered a case.


Baljit Kaur tops in B.Sc (IT)
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 20
Baljit Kaur of G.G.S. Khalsa College, Sarhali, has topped in the B.Sc. (IT) Part-I examination of Guru Nanak Dev University, the result of which was declared here today. Harneet Kaur of Kanya Mahavidyala, Jalandhar, and Navjoti of B.B.K. DAV College for Women, Amritsar, stood second and third, respectively, in this examination.

Similarly, Sonia Ruhel of Jagan Nath Institute of Management Sciences, New Delhi, stood first in B.CAM Part-I of Guru Nanak Dev University held in April. She got 516 marks while Deepika Dalal of the same institute stood second securing 514 marks in this examination.

The pass percentage of B.Sc. (IT) Part-I was 49.57 as compared to last year’s 58.65 per cent. This year, a total number of 938 students appeared out of which 465 passed the examination.

Similarly in B.CAM (Part-I) the pass percentage was 85.45 as compared to the last year’s 86.36.


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