P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Chahal’s judicial remand extended
Says jail authorities serving stale food
Rajneesh Lakhanpal

Ludhiana, June 27
Former media adviser to former Chief Minister B.I.S. Chahal today alleged that the authorities at the central jail, Patiala, were serving him stale food.

Talking to The Tribune in the district courts complex, he alleged that the jail authorities were not allowing his relatives to meet him. When asked that whether the Congress was supporting him, he said he had been assured of cooperation by Capt Amarinder Singh.

He was produced before duty magistrate K. K. Bansal in connection with the attempt to murder and land-grab cases registered against him and his relatives at the sadar police station, Ludhiana, on June 10. His judicial remand in those cases expired today.

The duty magistrate extended his remand till July 10. The judge also extended the judicial remand of Jagdish Pal Singh, father-in-law of Chahal’s son, Jaswinder Pal and Harbhajan Singh. However, the judge exempted Kartar Singh Grewal from personal presence following an application by his counsel mentioning that he was admitted to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi, due to a cardiac problem.

Meanwhile, the complainants in the case alleged that a relative of Chahal, namely Iqbal Singh, had obtained the bail in the case on the ground that he was juvenile, but actually he was major. They had brought copies of voter lists giving the age of Iqbal Singh to be 20 years.


Chahal Case
It’s two-decade-long enmity
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 27
The registration of a land-grab and attempt-to-murder case against B. I. S. Chahal and his Daad village-based relatives has been termed as political vendetta by some and poetic justice by others.

But, for the complainant and the Chahal’s co-accused, all belonging to the same village, the FIR is just another chapter in over two-decade long enmity between the two families. Apart from scores of legal cases, shootouts, attacks and land-grab incidents, the enmity has led to two killings.

The perusal of the case suggests that either of the two parties did not lose any opportunity to teach the other a lesson whenever they had favourable politicians or police officials in power.

Over 80-years-old Harchand Singh, the complainant in the FIR registered against Chahal, his son’s grandfather-in-law Kartar Singh Grewal and others had been fighting the alleged might of the accused all these years. The accused were close to an Akali MP before gaining proximity to Chahal.

Two sons of Harchand Singh, Sukhwant and Gurmail Singh, are undergoing life imprisonment for the murder of Talwinder Singh, alias Jagga, one of the six sons of Kartar Singh Grewal, in 1998. Sukhwant alleges that next day, relatives of Grewal killed his nephew, Kamaljit Singh.

Apart from that, both families have been fighting each other politically as well as physically on many occasions. Sukhwant claims that they always opposed the land grab by the Grewals. The controversy mainly started when his brother Gurmail Singh become the village sarpanch in the 1980s, he added.

Sources in the Kartar Singh Grewal’s family accused Harchand Singh and others of instigating other villagers against them, grabbing their land, killing a family member and attacking several others.

Grewal, Chahal and others had lodged an FIR against relatives of Harchand Singh last year for a shootout in the district court. On the other hand, Harchand and others lodged a complaint claiming that Kartar Singh Grewal had merely 5 acres a decade ago, but now possessed over 50 acres. They also accused Grewal of making a false claim of being a freedom fighter.


Shun appeasement, give quality services: MLAs
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 27
Cutting across party lines, members of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha today wanted the government to shun the policy of appeasement and instead ensure quality services in healthcare, education, drinking water and power supply.

Participating in the discussion on the budgetary demands, they wanted all-party unanimity for a fresh look at subsidies on freebies holding that the Rs 2,500 crore subsidy in the power sector could be utilised better in improving the delivery of basic civic services.

Though the demands were approved unanimously, finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal endorsed some of the points raised by members on the low collection of taxes and inadequate allocations for certain key areas of infrastructure development in the state.

Among the speakers on the budgetary demands were Gurbachan Singh Babehali, Sohan Singh Thandal (Shiromani Akali Dal), Kuldip Singh Bhattal and Makhan Singh (Congress).

Expressing his concern over the poor fiscal health of panchayats, Thandal felt that several villages would be deprived of the new schemes on potable water supply by their inability to contribute their share.

Earlier, Babehali argued in favour of reviving milk unions in the cooperative sector. It was the under-utilisation of milk plants that was turning unions sick. Appreciating the new scheme with matching grants of Rs 25 crore each from the centre and the state, he was hopeful that dairy farming would soon put Punjab on the forefront.

Manpreet Badal endorsed the observations made by Babehali, stating that in 15 to 20 years, dairy farming would match agriculture in turnover. The finance minister hoped that the per capita consumption of milk, which was the highest in the country, would soon touch 1 litre from 750 ml now.

Coming to sugar mills, he announced that the government would make yet another attempt to revive some mills by augmenting their capacity. A sugar mill was now a multiple unit, which was required to go in for byproducts like ethanol, alcohol and other things. No sick sugar mill would be sold, he added.

Manpreet Badal also described as untrue all apprehensions, which Makhan Singh had, about taxes which the SAD-BJP government might levy after the municipal corporation elections in the state.

He wanted the new government to focus on improving school education by filling all vacant posts, more allocation for the proposed adarsh schools in each of the 141 blocks and a special package to revive industry.

Makhan Singh also opposed the handing over of the Jalandhar Institute of Health Sciences to one of the major healthcare chains, including Apollo, Fortis and Hinduja. The computerisation of land records, more allocation for youth welfare and sports, setting up of a media welfare fund and Rs 5 lakh insurance for the media and a check on criminal elements among migrant labour were other suggestions made by him.

Kuldip Singh Dhanaula expressed his concern over the growing problem of drug addiction in the state and cultural “invasion” by the western world through media channels.

Kuldip Singh also lamented poor tax collection in Punjab besides emphasising better delivery of the healthcare services, both in the rural and urban areas.


Panel report exposes functioning of vigilance
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 27
Although the Punjab state vigilance commission ceased to exist in March, its report, which was tabled in the ongoing session of the Punjab assembly, highlights some disturbing patterns with regard to the functioning of the vigilance bureau.

After coming to power, the SAD-BJP government repealed the Punjab Vigilance Commission Act, 2006, on March 21. The report for the calendar year 2006, when Amarinder Singh was in power, was prepared by the then chairman of the commission, Justice Amar Dutt.

The report says that from the data supplied by the vigilance bureau, it is evident that scant respect is shown by the investigating agency to the completion of investigations within the stipulated period of 90 days. The result is that after the expiry of the 90- day period, the accused, if he is not already on bail, is granted relief by the court and thereafter he loses all interest in the expeditious disposal of his case and instead concentrates his energy on delaying the investigative process.

The report gives a list of 494 cases in which investigations were pending. And there are 286 cases in which investigations had been pending for more than two years. The data collected regarding pending cases shows that 817 trials initiated between 1984 and 2003 are still pending before special courts in the state. Besides, there are 900 cases trials in which began after 2003. The oldest trial pending is of the year 1984.

The report says that cases are pending because courts have not been able to revert to the practice of day-to-day hearing envisaged under section 309 of the code of criminal procedure. “ The time is ripe when the government should request the high court to reconsider the feasibility of enforcing the provisions of section 309 of the CrPC and issuing directions to the prosecuting agencies to ensure the presence of all witnesses on the dates for trial.”

The most interesting comment in the report is regarding the failure of administrative departments to follow the trials. The report says in some cases, which resulted in the conviction of the accused officials, it has been found that either on account of the failure of the administrative department to notice the result of the trial or on account of the convicted official’s capacity to ensure that the result of the trial does not reach the administrative head, many persons, who have been convicted, were found to be continuing in service.

It further says that since in cases under the prevention of corruption act normally a sentence below three years is imposed, the convict is granted bail as per the law in order to enable him to file an appeal. The delinquent official succeeds in hiding the fact regarding his conviction as he is not sent to jail.

The report further says that shockingly even the vigilance bureau has not been maintaining any record of information in this regard.


Suicides By Farmers In Punjab
Figures fudged to fool Centre, says NGO
Vishal Sharma
Tribune News Service

  • NGO, Movement Against State Repression, writes to Kalam
  • Govt figure of 2,116 rural suicides in the entire state for the period 1988 to 2004 grossly accurate
  • NGO puts the estimate at 40,000 deaths over a period of 18 yrs

Chandigarh, June 27
Inconvenient numbers are any government’s achilles’ heel. It is more so when the numbers reflect on as grave a matter as rural suicides in a state widely acclaimed for its agricultural prowess. The unfortunate souls, who perished under the weight of their unbearable miseries, have not been adequately represented in government figures. And the onus lies chiefly on callous officials adept in the art of statistical jugglery.

An NGO, Movement Against State Repression, has come out with a startling revelation that the figure of 2,116 rural suicides in the entire state for the period 1988 to 2004, which the Punjab government is still clinging to, is grossly inaccurate and amounts to utter misrepresentation of facts. The NGO, in a letter written to President A.P.J Kalam, has disclosed that according to a survey carried out by it in the 93 villages of the Moonak subdivision of Sangrur district, there have been 1,445 rural suicides between 1988 and 2006.

Inderjit Singh Jaijee, convener of the NGO, says the said figures make it amply clear that on an average there have been 15.5 suicides in every village of the Moonak subdivision. If the said average is multiplied by the total number of villages in the Sangrur district (693 villages), the number points to 10,741 rural suicide cases.

The real picture for the entire state, even by conservative estimates, thus is too horrific at 40,000 rural suicides over a period of 18 years.

Importantly, the survey includes data about not only the names of the deceased but also the means of committing suicide (with death due to consumption of poison emerging as the most preferred method), age (majority being less than 40), size of the landholding and quantum of debt (from Rs 50,000 to 10 lakh).

Also, a majority of the data collected by the NGO is supported by Panchayat affidavits for each case, a methodology now accepted by the National Farmers Commission and recommended to the states. Ironically, the Financial Commissioner (Revenue), Punjab, has gone on record acknowledging that “there are wide variations in the overall figures for rural suicides received from the deputy commissioners, the state police and some NGOs”.

Despite this open acceptance of ambiguity coupled with its eagerness to seek the Centre’s help on the issue, no sincere effort has been initiated by the government so far to collect data scientifically and arrive at dependable figures.

More astonishingly, not a single subdivision let alone a district has been surveyed comprehensively even for a single year by any government agency, Jaijee claims in his letter to the President. “We believe that to make an effective presentation to the Centre, the state government should not under-represent the data but rather equip itself with figures whose credibility is beyond doubt.”

Appreciating the comprehensive study by the NGO, the President’s office has taken up the matter with the Punjab Chief Secretary for “necessary action”.


Every year, monsoon cuts off 14 villages
Bipin Bhardwaj
Tribune News Service

Bamial (Gurdaspur), June 27
Even after 60 years of Independence, monsoon still spells misery to over 14 villages located on the Indo-Pak border across the Ujj river which will be cut off from the rest of the state for the next three months. With the onset of monsoon, the administration has already dismantled the pontoon bridge which is virtually a lifeline for thousands of villagers.

In the absence of the bridge, the residents of villages - Donwal, Dostpur, Sarota, Kotpattian, Khoj-ki-Chakk, Simbal Sokol, Jawahar Kotli, Bhawalpur, Plahan, Tinda, Gola, Talotar, Balotar and Simbal Kulian - have to travel an additional 100 km to Jammu in case of any emergency. They have to rely on boats and rafts to cross the river.

Though villagers have already completed stocking foodgrains and other essential commodities to tide over the rainy season yet they have to remain devoid of essential services like medicare, communication and postal service in absence of a permanent road link.

The villages lose their direct link with Gurdaspur, Dinanagar and Pathankot due to the flooding of the Ujj river on one side and the fencing on the international border on the other side.

Talking to this correspondent, Kuldeep Singh, sarpanch of Balotar, claimed that the mortality rate goes up during monsoon in the villages as the boats ferry passengers only in daytime.

“The worst-affected are snake-bite patients and pregnant women who fail to get boats in time and die for want of medical assistance. On an average, about half-a-dozen snake bite patients and a same number of pregnant women lose their lives every year,” claimed Hazir Singh, block samiti chairman.

Officegoers and students are forced to arrange for accommodation on the other side of the river during this period.

Vivek Pratap Singh, DC, Gurdaspur, said the administration dismantles the pontoon bridge in June and re-installs it in September annually. He said that administration has arranged a boat at the bank of the river in Bamial to ferry villagers across the river. The BSF unit in Bamial has been asked to be ready with additional boats in case of any emergency.

A plan has been chalked out for constructing a bridge in Bamial. The proposal has been sent to the state government, he added.


Let’s talk it out, CM to Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 27
Even as former president of the Punjab BJP Avinash Rai Khanna today led a protest to demand the opening of a road near the Bhakra Dam, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal made a strong political comment on the floor of the Vidhan Sabha asking a BJP MLA, “ Tell Khannaji to come and meet me, we will sort out the problem instead of sitting in dharna.”

Badal told Fazilka MLA Surjit Jyani to convey the message to Khanna. Jyani had raised the issue during zero hour in the assembly, stating that Khanna was sitting in dharna demanding that the gates of a barrier on a level crossing be opened to connect 15 villages.

Meanwhile, Khanna protested outside the office of the BBMB chief engineer at the dam saying the level crossing at Kharota village had been permanently closed.


3 Congress councillors join SAD
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 27
Three councillors of the Notified Area Committee, Sahnewal, Krishan Pal Singh, Randhir Singh, along with another councillor Kusum Rani’s husband, announced to sever ties with the Congress and offer their services to the SAD here today.

They said they were joining the SAD as Sahnewal could develop only if the NAC was run by the ruling party. Bikram Majithia and Hira Singh Gabria, both ministers, welcomed the three councillors into the SAD fold.



Barely 3, she can recognise 52 flags
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, June 27
She is yet to start going to school, but appears proficient in geography. Just a little over two-and-a-half years, Anuroop Sharma can recognise the national flags of as many as 52 countries.

“It began when she was shown pictures of a few flags at a play-way she goes to,” her father Devinder Kumar, a local businessman, said. “Thereafter her interest in flags increased and she was easily able to remember the names of the countries the flags associated with,” he added.

Saying that no one pressurised Anuroop to learn the names of the countries associated with flags, Devinder added that she is also able to associate all English alphabets with at least five items rather than one or two, which children of her age usually do.

Her mother Mukta Sharma, a mathematics lecturer, has a large role to play in Anuroop’s development and ability to learn things easily. She spends quite a lot of time with her.

Her father has also written to the Guinness Book of Records authorities for recognition of her abilities. A reply was received from them yesterday. It contains details about how to apply for a possible entry into the book.

Devinder said he had high aspirations for his daughter and hoped that she would do the country proud by achieving great height like astronaut Sunita Williams.


Review power Act 2003: Engineers

Patiala, June 27
The Northern India Power Engineers Federation (NIPEF) has demanded the review of the Electricity Act-2003 and the unbundling of state electricity boards.

The executive committee of NIPEF held a meeting recently to study the power scenario of the northern region.

The meeting was attended by representatives of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pardesh, Himachal Pardesh and Rajasthan.

Suneel Grover, chairman, NIPEF, told The Tribune that an immediate review of the Act was required to be undertaken by constituting the expert committee of economists and legal experts and should not depend upon the industrial-bureaucratic nexus.

Grover added that the Act mandated dismantling of state electricity boards set up for the coordinated development of generation, transmission and distribution of electricity to all in the respective states. — TNS


Water connection charges halved
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 27
Applying for a water connection in Punjab will cost less. Minister for water supply Bikram Majithia today told the Vidhan Sabha that the connection charges had been halved for all categories while the security deposit had been waived.

Majithia said the connection fee for general category and SC consumers had been halved. These users would now pay Rs 500 instead of Rs 1,000. For yellow card holders, the connection fee would be Rs 250 instead of Rs 500.

The security deposit of Rs 60 had been waived for all categories.

ETT schools

ETT schools will remain under the control of zila parishads and not be transferred to the state government, assured minister for rural development Ranjit Singh Brahampura.

Meanwhile, the ruling SAD-BJP combine is considering the establishment of Guru Gobind Singh rural university at Talwandi Sabo, minister for education Upinderjit Kaur said while replying to a separate question from Congress legislator Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu.

Moga farmers

A sum of Rs 28 lakh has been released as relief to be disbursed among farmers in Moga whose potato crop had been damaged, minister for revenue Ajit Singh Kohar said.

Unsafe vehicles

Accepting that a serious problem existed in Punjab as several unsafe vehicles were being used to ferry children to school, transport minister Mohan Lal said people were poor and preferred a cheap mode of transport.

Not satisfied with the answer, SAD MLA Balbir Singh Baath wanted to know what could be done to correct this.

The minister said all unregistered vehicles would be phased out.


Posts Referred to UPSC
Khangura writes to Badal

Ludhiana, June 27
Kila Raipur MLA Jassi Khangura has questioned the logic of the government in referring various posts for selection to the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), bypassing the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC). The Congress MLA said that went against the basic principles of federalism.

In a letter addressed to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Khangura regretted that the state was setting a bad precedent. He pointed out the state public service commissions were important constitutional institutions and hold important place vis-a-vis the federal autonomy of the states.

“By undermining the authority of the commission, we are undermining the autonomy of the state, for which the SAD claims to be fighting all along”, he observed.

He said the current statute clearly defined the functioning of the UPSC and its state-level related bodies, like the PPSC. The UPSC had been constituted to select persons to the various central civil services and posts and the services common to the union and state government. — TNS


MC chief attacks hospital authorities

Barnala, June 27
Alleging anomalies in the working at the local civil hospital, municipal committee president Makhan Sharma has sought intervention of health minister Laxmi Kanta Chawala to set the things right there.

Sharma alleged here today that a senior doctor of the hospital had links with a private ultrasound centre situated just opposite the main gate of the hospital. Patients were forced to get ultrasound test done from the centre.

The MC chief went on alleging that the two air-conditioners and furniture, belonging to the hospital, had been shifted to the residence of the civil surgeon.

In charge of the hospital Shamsher Singh, SMO, denied the charges. He expressed ignorance about the air-conditioners and furniture being used by the civil surgeon illegally. Regarding the ultrasound centre, he said he had received no complaints. — OC


Doctors found absent from duty
Tribune News Service

Patiala, June 27
Director research and medical education (DRME) Dr J.S. Dalal conducted a surprise raid today at the local government medical, dental and ayurvedic colleges.

Sources said the DRME visited the medical colleges at about 9.15 am. Two doctors of the government medical college, who were found to be absent from duty, have been issued show cause notices by the DRME.

The acting principal of the government medical college, when contacted, said that the doctors who were found absent from duty later submitted their leave forms.


Society dares Pratibha Patil

Ludhiana, June 27
The divine premonition, claimed by Presidential candidate Pratibha Patil, has raised the heckles of the Tarksheel Society of Punjab.

The organisation has dared her to prove the existence of spirits and such divine premonition and win the Rs 5 lakh award the society had announced several years ago. — TNS


Dimpa’s remand extended
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, June 27
The court today extended the judicial remand of former Congress MLA Jasbir Singh Dimpa till July 9.

He along with his younger brother Harpinder Singh Rajan and 10 others were produced in a local court in connection with the murder of an Akali worker during the Beas Assembly elections.

The former MLA had surrendered before the Baba Bakala court where he was sent to police remand and then to judicial remand till today.


NRI booked for wife’s murder
Neeraj Bagga
Tribune News Service

Moga, June 27
The Dharmkot police today registered a case of murder against Jagtar Singh, an NRI, for killing his wife Kiran Pal Kaur through a contract killer.

Jagtar’s brothers Jagdish Singh, who resides in Canada, and Malkit Singh, nephew Davinder Singh and brother-in-law Sukha Singh were accused of participating in hatching the murder plot.

Jagtar Singh and his wife Kiran Pal Kaur arrived in India nearly a month ago from Canada.

According to police sources, a person with a criminal past from the area carried out the murder for Rs 2 lakh. To dodge the investigation, an attempt was made to show the murder as an accident. However, the investigation brought out the fact that the body of the deceased bore injury marks on the head. They were of the view that these wounds were the result of a sharp-edged weapon and not of an accident.


Financier, wife commit suicide
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, June 27
Facing harassment, a leading financier and industrialist of Jalandhar and his wife allegedly committed suicide after consuming some poisonous substance in their car at Chohal village, 10 km from here, on the Hoshiarpur-Dharamshala road last night.

They were identified as Kusam Sayal (50) and her husband Vinod Sayal (55), son of Kulwant Sayal of Urban Estate, Jalandhar.

The police said the suicide came to the police’s notice at around 11.30 pm last night during a police patrol. On seeing an expensive car parked on the road side, the police, sensing it to be suspicious, looked inside only to find the unconscious couple.

A suicide note was found inside the pocket of Vinod which stated that on account of harassment by his nephew Vikas Nayar, brother Parmod Sayal, cousin Shashi Sayal and her son Sumit Sayal, the couple had ended their lives.

According to the police, the couple had left their house at around 4 pm to pay obeisance at the shrine of Goddess Chintpurni yesterday. On their way, they telephoned their son Karan Sayal that they had done what they wanted.


Khalra Case
Key witness fears for life
Our correspondent

Tarn Taran, June 27
A former SPO Kuldeep Singh Bachre, main witness in the famous Jaswant Singh Khalra case of a Human Rights activist who had disappeared without trace, yesterday alleged that he was facing a threat to his life from his associates in the Khalra Mission Committee (KMC).

Kuldeep Singh has submitted an application in a local court in this regard and sought security cover for himself. Kuldeep already has a CRPF security cover as per Supreme Court directions.

Kuldeep is the key witness in the case whose testimony to the CBI has resulted in the prosecution of one DSP and five other policemen for the elimination of Khalra.


Suspected militant held

Amritsar, June 27
The General Railway police reportedly nabbed one person, who claimed to have crossed over to Pakistan to get training in carrying out subversive activities.

Identified as Bashir Ahmad Vani, a resident of village Adora, falling under Pulwama police station in Jammu and Kashmir, he was today arrested from Attari railway station. Sources in the police say he was arrested for trying to enter India by using a fake passport. He was arrested on the charges of forgery. — TNS


Management school signs MoU with US university
Tribune News Service

Patiala, June 27
Keeping in view the changing global business scenario, Punjabi University’s Punjab School of Management Studies (PSMS) has signed MOUs with foreign universities for student and faculty exchange programs. The university authorities claimed that another pact had been signed with Wilkes University, Pennsylvania, for a ‘One-Plus-One’ program. This is a joint degree program.

The Wilkes University was established in 1933. The MBA program of this university is accredited by the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), USA.

Under the said program, which is likely to start from this session, students will do the first year of the management course at PSMS and will complete the second year at Wilkes University.

Vice-chancellor of Punjabi University S.S. Boparai, PSMS head Dr S.K. Bansal and dean resource mobilisation Dr A.S. Chawla had visited Wilkes University last year. Dr Tim Gilmour, president and Dr Paul Browne, dean, Wilkes University, had also visited PSMS in October 2005 to sign a memorandum of understanding between the two universities. The VC said a joint degree will be awarded for this program.


Students seek probe into irregularities
Our Correspondent

Barnala, June 27
Students are up in arms against the management of SD College here. They have levelled allegations against the management and have demanded a probe into the irregularities.

The students have accused the management of selling B.Ed and pharmacy seats at exorbitant rates at the cost of meritorious students.

Today, the students held a protest march and raised slogans against college secretary Jatinder Nath Sharma.


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