P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


‘Entire selection process deserves to be set aside’
PPSC selections fraudulent: Panel
Vishal Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 31
A three-judge committee, comprising Justice J.S. Kheher, Justice Viney Mittal and Justice Surya Kant, have inferred that 40 tainted candidates were selected during Ravinder Pal Singh Sidhu’s chairmanship of the PPSC.

The committee has further concluded (in a recent 75-page report) that the entire selection process can be described as fraudulent and tainted, which deserves to be set aside.

“It is possible to infer that in the process of selection to which the present investigation is limited, there were 40 tainted candidates. This inference will, however, be subject to an opportunity to be offered to them during the course of re-hearing of the matter on the judicial side, in terms of the directions of the apex court in Inderpreet Singh Kahlon’s case,” the ‘ultimate analysis’ section of the report (in possession of The Tribune) said.

It was also said in the analysis that the process of selections, under reference within the ambit of investigation of the Vigilance Bureau, could be described as fraudulent, tainted and arbitrary.

Drawing damning conclusions about the selection process, the committee said the process of selection was clearly rife and abound with manipulations, carried out by a well-planned scheme of deception, forgery and fraud.

The committee extensively probed the details of money paid to Ravinderpal Singh Sidhu, details of how Jagman Singh and Randhir Singh Gill were used as conduits by Sidhu, how Sidhu required higher marks to be awarded to candidates he favoured and details of specially favoured candidates.

The aforesaid selections had also came up for consideration before the apex court in the Inderpreet Singh Kahlon case. The apex court on May 3, 2006, had set aside the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s orders which had upheld the state government’s order of quashing the selections in question.

Following the apex court order and directions therein, the said three-judge committee was constituted by then acting Chief Justice H.S. Bedi.

The committee was entrusted with the task of submitting a report on the basis of investigations carried out by state government so as to separate non-tainted candidates from the tainted ones.

The committee took the assistance of officers, including Mohammad Izhar Alam, B.S Rajput, C.S.R. Reddy, and G.P.S. Bhullar, who drew special praise from the committee.

What the report says

  • The committee has expressed the view that the entire selection process was vitiated and deserves to be set aside
  • Ravinderpal Singh Sidhu had received consideration for favours shown and as such it was presumptuous to expect him to make any voluntary disclosure against himself
  • The selected candidates are beneficiaries as they were selected through manipulation, and having manipulated the process of selection, they cannot be expected to harm themselves by revealing the truth
  • The entire investigation is based on the disclosures by two conduits, R.S. Gill and Jagman Singh, used by Sidhu to manipulate the process of selection
  • The role of Amarjeet Singh Sidhu , a member of the PPSC, demonstrates an arrangement wherein one helped the other (Ravinderpal Singh Sidhu). The manner in which Ravinderpal required Amarjeet Singh to award marks for the interview shows a symbiotic relationship
  • Concrete evidence that Ravinderpal Singh Sidhu had with him an amount of nearly Rs 20 crore in excess of his known sources of income cannot be ignored
  • Ravinderpal Singh Sidhu also amended the rules and procedure of the PPSC to assume unlimited powers. This is clear from the amendment to Rule 17 (b)


Health Dept yet to wake up
Gastroenteritis claims two lives
Gurbax Puri

Tarn Taran, July 31
Two lives have been lost to gastroenteritis at Kairon village in this border district in the past couple of days. However, the Health Department is ignorant of this and have not taken any step to check it.

Kulwant Singh, a former member panchayat, and Beant Singh, a registered medical practitioner, told the reporter that Karnail Singh (55) and a 20-year-old Dalit youth had died of the disease last week. They further said about 400 families of the Sahu ki Patti locality of the village had been affected by the disease in the past one month.

They stated that about 70 persons were still under treatment at different hospitals and nursing homes of the district. Parkash Kaur, Kashmir Kaur and Balwinder Kaur are among those who were suffering from gastroenteritis. They said that contaminated groundwater was the main reason for its spread.

The village is the native place of food and civil supplies minister Adesh Pratap Singh Kairon.

Civil surgeon Amrit Kaur expressed ignorance about the epidemic and said she would soon collect information regarding this. When this correspondent visited the village primary health centre at about 2 pm no doctor was present on emergency duty, though class IV employee Pawan Kumar and Balwinder Kaur were there.

However, Surat Singh Mahia, SMO of Kairon health centre, said he had come to know of the epidemic only today and was yet to inform the higher authorities. He further said that he had sent a team to the village for taking preventive measures.

Expressing anguish over the indifferent attitude of the department officials, Dalwinder Singh Pannu, district office-bearer of Democratic Youth Federation of India, said they would be forced to protest against the district administration in case the authorities failed to check the epidemic. He also demanded a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each for the family of those killed.


New fertiliser policy for farmers
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh , July 31
The Punjab co-operation minister, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, here today announced a new fertiliser policy aimed at benefiting the farmers and co-operative societies.

Reviewing the fertiliser distribution policy by Markfed aimed at ensuring adequate supply to the farmers for the coming rabi season and to reduce the cost being paid by them, Capt Kanwaljit Singh directed the Markfed authorities concerned to ensure quick and adequate supply of DAP to Primary Agriculture Cooperative Societies from the rail heads as it will reduce intermediary cost, including cost of transportation, to the warehouses, etc.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh said the new policy had been framed in such a manner that the societies concerned would get a benefit of Rs 150 per tonne and Rs 50 would go to Markfed. The society will pass on the financial benefit further to farmers.

The Punjab Cooperative Department has signed an agreement to lift the DAP stock from India Potash Limited. The department has already deposited money with the company. There were reports that because of the ongoing tussle between IFFCO and the union finance ministry, which has not released fertiliser subsidy to IFFCO, there would be problems in availability of fertilisers. Because of this reason, Punjab has tied up in advance with the IPL.

Savings because of reduction in the intermediary cost, including cut in transportation cost by improving efficiency of the operation, would be shared by the societies and farmers concerned.

He also directed Registrar, Co-operative Societies, and MD, Markfed, to ensure a close liaison between district managers of Markfed with the deputy registrars, cooperative societies in the field so that the DAP should be immediately lifted by the Primary Agriculture Co-operative Societies from the rail heads without any wastage of time.

Markfed has been declared as nodal agency for importing 3.5 lakh MTs of DAP with a view to ensure adequate supply of DAP to the members of the primary agriculture co-operative societies in the state.


Wakf board’s powers curtailed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 31
A controversy is brewing in the Punjab Wakf Board. The Punjab Home Department, in an unprecedented move, on July 24, asked the board to route all important decisions of finance, property and personnel through the Home Department. The Wakf board that is headed at present by Congress MLA Razia Sultana held a special meeting on July 28 and passed a resolution to file a writ petition against the order of the Home Department. The resolution was passed with majority vote with the lone exception being Mansur Ali, well-placed sources confirmed.

The Home Department had passed the order under Section 97 of the Wakf Act. About three months ago, the same section was invoked to stall recruitments proposed by the board. Within political circles, it is seen as a move to upstage the Congress MLA from the chairpersonship of the board. The chairperson has a tenure of five years and about half of that tenure has elapsed.


Udham Singh remembered
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sunam (Sangrur), July 31
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today made a significant announcement by saying that the government had decided to reserve 20 beds in 100-bed hospitals and 10 beds in 50-bed hospitals for de-addiction purposes throughout the state.

Paying tributes to Shaheed Udham Singh on his 68th martyrdom day at a state-level function at the New Grain Market here today, the Chief Minister said a bronze statue of Shaheed Udham Singh would be installed at Sunam soon and he had already instructed the chief secretary regarding it.

Earlier, Badal, along with PWD (B&R) minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa, public relations minister Bikram Singh Majithia, and general secretary of the SAD Prem Singh Chandumajra paid tributes at the memorial to Shaheed Udham Singh.

Among others who addressed the gathering and paid tributes to Shaheed Udham Singh included Dhuri MLA Iqbal Singh Jhundan, former Punjab ministers Gobind Singh Longowal, Gurcharan Singh Dirba and Chaudhari Abdul Gaffar, and executive committee member of the SGPC Baba Tek Singh Dhanaula.

The Chief Minister also honoured Khushi Nand and Inder Singh, both distant nephews of the martyr, Inder Kaur, a distant niece of the martyr, and Dayal Kaur, wife of the late Bachan Singh and distant nephew of the martyr.

The Chief Minister also honoured retired PSEB SDO T.R. Bansal, Sangrur vigilance bureau DSP Roop Singh Maur and Vaid Mohinder Singh Badrukhan for their contributions.

The Chief Minister also announced a grant of Rs 25 lakh for the development of Sunam town.


Kotli residents miss their ‘hero’
Mahesh Sharma

Mandi Ahmedgarh, July 31
The special court’s verdict to award capital punishment to Jagtar Singh Hawara and Balwant Singh and life imprisonment for the other convicts has been greeted with stoic indifference by residents of Kotli, the native village of the late chief minister Beant Singh, who was killed in 1995 in a bomb blast. The residents feel that no verdict could bring their hero back.

Contrary to the expectations of mediapersons, the village wore a deserted look with security personnel and domestic servants at the house of the leader confined to their quarters. None of the kin of the late CM was at home and despondency reigned in front of the personal room of late Beant Singh where a silver-coloured nameplate still proclaims him as the CM.

Surjit Singh, a neighbour of the family, said he came to know about the sentence from the mediapersons visiting the village. “We cannot comment on whether the sentence is justified or not. What we only know is that the villagers had lost a leader who was a friend as well 12 years ago,” he said. He, like other residents, felt that no verdict could bring their hero back.

Recollecting old days, Surjit said Beant Singh used to redress grievances of residents of the area while sitting in a hut. “He used to come out at six in the morning and continue listening to residents of the area till the last person. He did not let his status become a barrier between him and his friends.”

Lakhvir Singh and Nirmal Singh rued that the successive governments had been ignoring the sacrifice made by their leader. Terming the long wait for the verdict as “agonising” they said, “It has been disturbing for all of us that people played politics with the sacrifice of the son of the Kotli village. He is remembered only on his birth and death anniversaries and that, too, more by the media than the government or the party.” 


‘Adverse public opinion cost Beant his life’
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 31
In view of a court in Chandigarh pronouncing death sentence on Jagtar Singh Hawara and Balwant Singh in the Beant Singh assassination case, Baba Harnam Singh Khalsa, chief of Damdami Taksal, said the two carried out the attack considering the public opinion against the Chief Minister, who was accused of killing innocent Sikh youth.

In a separate statement, Giani Ram Singh, chief of the other faction of Damdami Taksal, said the judgment reflected double standards as the accused of 1984 riots were given ministerial births.


No extra fuel for CM, ministers: Bains
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 31
The Punjab government today said the provisions and norms for fuel for the cars of the Chief Minister had been in existence for the past 20 years. “Not a single extra litre of petrol or diesel was being allowed to any minister, including the Chief Minister, or the chief parliamentary secretary.”

The statement was issued by Harcharan Bains, media adviser to the Chief Minister, reacting to media reports that the government rules had been bent to allow free petrol facility to the Chief Minister and his kin.

Bains denied that there had been an increase in the number of cars attached with Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal or that a new provision had been made in the rules to provide them with the facility of unlimited use of petrol.

The Chief Minister continues to have the same number of cars as his predecessors had and “there is no truth whatsoever in the report that the strength of the fleet had been raised. 


SAD (A) leader dares Takht edict
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 31
The Sikh community should maintain peace and brotherhood and ignore the “politically-motivated” edict recently issued by Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti which called for social boycott of followers of Sant Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh of Dera Sacha Sauda.

Stating this to the media here today, Baldev Singh Sirsa, a leader of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), challenged the edict issued by Jathedar Vedanti and Balwant Singh Nandgarh Sirsa and said he was ready to appear before Akal Takht to bring out the truth and expose those who were behind the dera issue if the meeting was held in the open. 


Nandgarh’s appeal to ‘premis’
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, July 31
Balwant Singh Nandgarh, Jathedar, Takht Damdama Sahib, has asked Sikhs and Hindus to adhere to the principles of their religions and not be swayed by deras.

Nandgarh shared these views with the mediapersons at the nagar kirtan organised by the SGPC to wean away Sikhs from Dera Sacha Sauda near here today. It began from Gurdwara Dasam Pitah, 25 km from here, for Gurdwara Khalsa Divan. Panj Piaras were leading it which passed through various villages before reaching the city. Nandgarh urged the dera followers to return to the Sikh fold.


MC Poll
Preneet fears power misuse
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 31
Smitten by fear of use of power or some illegal means by the government in the corporation elections, Patiala MP Preneet Kaur has demanded that the presiding officers in polling booths should be from the central government departments.

While talking to The Tribune at her Moti Bagh residence today, Preneet said Amarinder Singh would also write to the election commission in this regard.

Patiala is our home town and the corporation elections here are a question of prestige for our family.

“We will hit the streets in case the ruling party tries to use force or any other illegal means to win the elections,” she said. Preneet added that Amarinder would start campaigning from August 4.

The wards have been demarcated in such a way that areas of three to four former municipal councillors of the Congress have been merged. Due to this about 18 sitting Congress councillors have been denied ticket. The ward of former Mayor Vishnu Sharma has been totally eliminated and merged with other wards.


Papers of seven Independents rejected

Patiala, July 31
Nomination papers of seven Independents were rejected after scrutiny here today. These candidates include Arup Inder Singh (Ward No. 17), Rakesh Kumar (Ward No. 23), Davinder Singh (Ward No. 27), Sashi Kumar Mano (Ward No. 29), Suman Sharma, and Ajay Kumar (Ward No. 20).

Congress rebel candidates came to returning officers with their advocates and supporters. Former mayor Vishnu Sharma had some anxious moments. The Congress rebel from Ward No. 36 gave an affidavit to the returning officer, alleging that the no-dues certificate submitted by the former mayor, along with the nomination papers, was not genuine.

The returning officer confirmed the facts from the MC office after which his papers were accepted. Meanwhile, the campaigning gained momentum today. The candidates of SAD/BJP and the Congress opened election offices in their respective wards. — TNS


Boys untraced

Lalru, July 31
There is still no trace of the two boys from Lalru who drowned in the Ganga at Rishikesh on Sunday.

Gurveen (24) and Gaurav (25) were swept away by the gushing river near Laxmanjhoola when the two went in to take a dip in the holy river.

The relatives of the two have left for Rishikesh to launch a search operation in the villages on the banks of the river in the area. They are hopeful that the two boys might have been swept ashore. — TNS


PIL against processions
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, July 31
Irked over the boisterous display of power and strength in the form of ‘shobha yatras’ by two rival groups of the city on religious occasions, Swami Hari Har Das Tyagi has filed a public interest litigation (PIL) petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

In his petition, the petitioner, president of the Jagadguru Sri Ramanandachrya Sarva Jan Hitkari Charitable Trust, has requested the prohibition and ban on the misuse of freedom of religion, which becomes troublesome and inconvenient to the general public.


Now, mealy bug strikes trees
Raj Sadosh

Abohar, July 31
The mealy bug menace that initially affected BT cotton crop in the region now poses threat to the green cover here as the insect has spread to trees, especially peepal, and is moving fast to flower beds, say environmentalists.

Most of the roadside trees, including old and big ones, are under threat. The menace is visible on flower plants on the DAV campus and privately-owned lawns.

Shopkeepers in the old grain market said people passing under such infected trees complained of skin problems.

Suresh Satija, president of the Insecticide and Fertiliser Dealers Association, said today that responding to a call given by SDM N.S. Brar, the association had voluntarily started spraying insecticides to protect infected trees in the Mandi area on Sunday. However, the second phase might be delayed as the prescribed insecticide was not available now.

An expert, S.S. Minhas, said BT crop definitely gave more yield and profit to farmers but its future would depend on how the crop survived the mealy bug menace.

Another expert K.S. Sidhu said the mealy bug had attacked cotton crop within 90 days of growth. Infestation was limited to Abohar, Malout and Muktsar areas. Only 15 per cent of the total area had been affected but its movement to trees and flower plants was alarming.

Umender Dutt, executive director, Kheti Virasat Mission, told this correspondent that spraying insecticides to kill the mealy bug had harmed humans in some villages of the Fazilka area. 


Assault on Gurdaspur DDPO
Govt suspends officer
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 31
The July 21 assault on district development and panchayat officer (DDPO), Gurdaspur, Ranbir Singh Mudhal has led the Punjab government to suspend the officer named as prime accused in the case.

The government, on July 27, suspended Harjinder Singh, block development and panchayat officer (BDPO), Dera Baba Nanak, alleged to have been behind the act.

Mudhal had, in his statement to the police on July 23, named Harjinder Singh as prime accused. Harjinder Singh has been absconding since Mudhal was attacked on July 21. The accused group's inability to get contract for the said land reportedly led to the assault.

Soon as the suspension orders reached Punjab rural development department headquarter in Sector 17 today, the striking members of Punjab Panchayati Raj Officers and Employees Association welcomed it. They, however, voiced their dissatisfaction over the role of Punjab police, which, they say, have not yet registered a proper FIR.

J.S. Ahluwalia, law officer and association member, said the agitation of the department employees would continue till the police add Section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) to the FIR. In a meeting held earlier today, the association unanimously rejected the transfer of investigation from SSP Batala to SSP Amritsar (rural).

The members, as reiterated earlier, demanded that the FIR be registered on the statement Mudhal gave to the police on July 23, and the case investigation be handed over to SSP Amritsar (urban).


PSEB officer caught taking bribe

Morinda, July 31
A team of the vigilance bureau arrested an SDO posted at the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), Morinda sub-station, here today. Satpal Singh was arrested red-handed while accepting a bribe of Rs 7000.

In his complaint to the VB, Harnek Singh, a resident of Jawanda village of Fatehgarh Sahib stated that he had applied for the installation of new electric transformer for his tubewell. For this, Satpal first demanded Rs 3000 and later asked for Rs 7000 for completing the work.

A vigilance team led by DSP (vigilance) Ashok Kumar arrested Satpal while he was accepting Rs 7,000 as bribe in his office in the presence of two official witnesses.

A case under various sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act has been registered against him at the vigilance bureau police station, SAS Nagar. — TNS


State to open door to pvt sector market yards
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 31
Punjab is all set to make drastic changes in the Punjab State Agricultural Produce Marketing Act, 1961, to open the door to the private sector to set up market yards for farm produce such as vegetables, fruits and other fresh produce.

At present the Punjab Mandi Board has monopoly over the marketing of all kinds of farm produce. Vegetables and other agri produce such as wheat, rice, maize and cotton are marketed through the system managed by the board.

Sources said a high-level committee headed by financial commissioner (development) Gurinderjit Singh Sandhu was working on various chapters of the new Act. In future, the mandi board would only have control over the marketing of foodgrains procured for the central pool. It would also get some share in the income from the markets set up by involving private stakeholders.

What has prompted the state government to amend the Act is the Badal government’s desire to be a partner in the World Bank-funded multi-state agricultural competitiveness project. Under this project, the World Bank will provide Rs 300 crore for setting up such markets in collaboration with the private sector and it will also provide Rs 150 crore to the state Agriculture Department for extension services to enhance the production of vegetables and other such crops for diversification in the agricultural sector and increasing the income of farmers.

In fact, the union government had not included Punjab in this project. Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Orissa were made part of the project. However, a few days ago Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal met union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar in Delhi to request him to include Punjab in the project.

“Pawar immediately instructed the authorities to include the state in the project”, said Ramesh Inder Singh, chief secretary, who was present at the meeting.

The amendment to the Act to allow private sector involvement in providing the basic services to farmers for the marketing of fresh produce is one of the conditions to be part of the project.

However, making farmers dependent only on a private marketing system will be a policy fraught with dangerous consequences.

Under the project, well-designed strategically placed market yards will be set up in the public-private partnership mode to facilitate trade and reduce transaction costs for the marketing of farm produce.


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