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Crucial meeting on Gurdwara Bill today
DSGMC constitutes parallel panel
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 27
Even as the crucial meeting to discuss the draft of the All-India Gurdwara Bill, 1999, has been convened at the residence of Chief Minister Parkash Singh in Chandigarh tomorrow, the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) has constituted a parallel committee, comprising representatives from Takht Patna Sahib, Hazoor Sahib, Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir.

The proposed discussion on the Bill, the brainchild of late justice Harbans Singh, had drawn flak from various Panthic circles due to a number of anomalies in it.

Sikh scholar G.S. Lamba, who was on the old panel to look into the Bill, expressing surprise over the proposed meeting, said the Bill, which was supposed to be a dead issue, was being revived with the constitution of a new committee.

Justice Harbans Singh, in his capacity as chief commissioner, Gurdwara Election Commission, had prepared the draft and ministry of home affairs had forwarded it to the SGPC for comments within seven days.

The general secretary of the SGPC, who is likely to attend tomorrow’s meeting, confirmed that the panel members had been asked to give their suggestions on the Bill.

Earlier, the Bill had drawn flak from the community and was outrightly rejected by the then SGPC chief who had constituted an expert panel headed by justice K. S. Tiwana to review the Bill and prepare a fresh draft.

The Tiwana panel had held a number of meetings to prepare a new draft of the Bill.

All members on the old panel, Mohinder Singh Romana, Jaswinder Singh, M. S. Rahi, Gurcharanjit Singh Lamba, were advocates whereas the present panel comprises professors and academicians of repute. Only Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, general secretary of the SGPC, has a legal background.

The Tiwana panel draft was accepted by the executive as well as general house of the SGPC. It had widely been believed that the Government of India would circulate for consideration the draft approved by the SGPC. But, the authorities concerned forwarded to the government the old draft prepared by justice Harbans Singh.

Sikh scholar G. S. Lamba alleged that the Bill had many anomalies. It proposed Jathedar of Akal Takht to take oath by appearing before the president of the board or its nominee. It also proposed no gurdwara would be established without permission of the registration authority. Violation of the rule would attract imprisonment. He further said the concept of Gurmata, Sangat, Panj Piaras, Guru Panth, Sikh Rahit Maryada did not find a place anywhere in the Act.

 

Gurdwara Manji Sahib Election
Haryana team opposed to fresh poll
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 27
A piquant situation was created today when the elections to elect a new managing committee of Gurdwara Manji Sahib, Kaithal, Haryana, held recently under the directions of the SGPC were declared null and void by the committee. A delegation from Haryana has alleged that the SGPC was discriminating against the gurdwaras of the state.

The newly elected representative body of Haryana today lodged a protest with SGPC authorities here and sought the direction not to negate the legally held elections on July 25 under Section 85 of the Gurdwara Act. They alleged that the inspector, who had supervised the elections, had forged signatures of Gurdial Singh, who belonged to their group, to show his support for their group, which was in minority.

The leader of the delegation and SGPC member Avtar Singh Chakuladhana alleged that the SGPC wanted the fresh elections to accommodate their “henchmen”.

The delegates threatened to move the Punjab and Haryana High Court against the decision of the SGPC to hold fresh elections on August 30.

Earlier, the delegation held prolonged discussions with SGPC secretary Harbeant Singh and presented its views on the SGPC’s alleged attempt to derail the democratic process.

However, Beant Singh said two of the elected members had alleged that no proper elections were held on July 25. On the basis of their complaint, the SGPC had decided to hold fresh election.

Talking to newspersons, the Haryana delegates said by adopting double standard, the SGPC was losing its hold over the Haryana Sikhs who had been vociferously demanding a separate committee to manage gurdwaras in the state.

 

Bail to dera chief will jeopardise trial: CBI
Vishal Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 27
Asserting that grant of pre-arrest bail to Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh will seriously jeopardise the trial, the CBI today filed a reply before the Punjab and Haryana High Court seeking the dismissal of his bail plea in the case of sexual exploitation of “sadhvis”.

The nine-page reply (in Tribune’s possession) by deputy superintendent of CBI, Chandigarh, Satish Dagar says the investigation by the agency has established beyond doubt that the petitioner-accused has been carrying out forcible sexual exploitation of “sadhvis” in the dera, which is very heinous offence.

Significantly, the reply says the dera chief is an influential person and is in a position to threaten and intimidate the witnesses in case he is granted the concession of bail.

Various witnesses have already expressed apprehensions about threat to their life if they come out to depose against the petitioner in a court of law.

In what may sound like an alibi for a prolonged and distinctly slow investigation, the fact that has been repeatedly highlighted by the High Court, the reply says the agency completed an “arduous” task of investigation in spite of the fact that witnesses have been terrorised and pressured to resile from their statements during investigation.

The CBI emphasises that the anonymous letter, circulated during May, 2002, contained specific allegations relating to sexual exploitation of “sadhvis” by the petitioner-accused (dera chief).

The reply further refers to a statement by “sadhvi” under Section 164, CrPC, that she had been raped by the dera chief. Also, another “sadhvi” has made a statement regarding her alleged rape by Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in the dera.

Taking into consideration the aforesaid statements and also the statements made by father and husband of one “sadhvi” alleging rape, the CBI says there is no doubt that the petitioner-accused had been sexually exploiting the “sadhvis” in the dera.

Khatta Singh, former driver of the dera chief, also made a statement that the petitioner-accused had been carrying out sexual exploitation of “sadhvis” in the dera, says the reply.

The reply says the petitioner-accused was involved in gruesome offence of rape though being the head of the dera.

The CBI further says as the witnesses are being pressured to resile from their statements, the police protection is being provided to the witnesses.

The petitioner-accused will further pressure the witnesses if he is granted bail.

The CBI also says the dera head’s bail plea is misconceived as the law is well-settled that after the presentation of charge-sheet, the accused should seek regular bail under Section 439, CrPC, and not a pre-arrest bail under Section 438, CrPC. The reply will be taken up tomorrow by the court where the case is listed for hearing.

Justice L.N. Mittal, who is hearing the dera chief’s bail plea, had rejected the regular bail plea of Jasbir Singh, an accused in the Ranjit Singh murder case, when he was District and Sessions Judge in Kurukshetra. The order was issued on November 25, 2003.

 

Gurjeet got calls to snap ties with dera: Kin
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bangi Nihal Singh Wala (Bathinda), August 27
The body of Gurjeet Singh, follower of Dera Sacha Sauda, who immolated himself late last evening, was cremated in the local cremation ground amid tight security arrangements.

While DC Rahul Tiwari and SSP Nau Nihal Singh camped in this village till late afternoon to see that all things should pass peacefully, Jatinder Jain, DIG, Faridkot range, supervised the security arrangements.

Though members of the family of the deceased first insisted on the fact that they would not cremate the body as long as the police would not register a criminal case against Balwant Singh Nandgarh, jathedar, Takht Damdama Sahib, Baljeet Singh Daduwal, a religious figure, and two others, whom they held responsible for the suicide of Gurjeet Singh, the civil and police authorities managed to pacify them for performing the last rites of the deceased.

Gurjeet Singh, who got married recently and was the only son of the family, committed suicide yesterday in front of the religious place after he failed to tolerate the “treatment” meted out to the followers of the dera from certain quarters. The security arrangements were so tight that only relatives of the deceased were allowed to enter the village to join his funeral, along with its residents.

Major Singh, father, and Sukhdeep Kaur, wife of the deceased, alleged that they had been receiving threatening calls for the past few weeks on their telephone and were always asked to shun relations with the dera failing which they would be taught a lesson.

Major Singh alleged that the caller also told him that as present leadership was with him (caller) he was in a capacity to finish his family. He alleged that the police pressured them to record their statements.

Meanwhile, a senior leader of the ruling Akali Dal alleged that after setting himself on fire, Gurjeet Singh tried to enter the religious place to cause harm to the sacred book lying inside its premises. But he was stopped from doing so.

 

U-turn by farmer leader Lakhowal
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, August 27
Kisan leader Ajmer Singh Lakhowal seems to have undergone a thorough metamorphosis after assuming the charge as chairman of the Punjab Mandi Board although he continues to be the president of the state unit of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU). The farmer leader, who would be uncompromising on issues related to farming community, appears to be reconciling to new market realities that his job entrusts him.

Lakhowal is no longer opposed to corporate fruit and vegetable outlets. Contrary to his earlier stand, he is now also opposed to the direct sale purchase of wheat, paddy and cotton, etc. Earlier, he would advocate that the farmers should sell their produce directly to the buyers to exclude the middlemen, who corner the most of the profits.

During an interaction with mediapersons here today, Lakhowal said nothing could stop big corporate houses from setting up their retail shops as the government was committed towards it under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) regime.

“We have made it clear to them (the corporates) that they can buy everything directly from the farmers but not the wheat, the paddy and the cotton". Otherwise, he pointed out, the mandis would starve out for funds and there would be no rural development as most of the funds were generated through sale of cotton and foodgrain in mandis.

About the direct payment of their produce to farmers and not through the arhtiyas (commission agents), he said, the board had already passed a resolution in that regard and the previous Congress government had also issued a notification for the same. The matter was, however, pending in the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Whatever the decision be they would abide by that, he added.

 

Worst phase is over: Monica
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 27
“My worst phase is over and the people will soon watch me in films”, said Monica Bedi, film actress and close accomplice of Abu Salem, to the media on her visit to the city today.

Monica said she had faith in God and it was due to Him that she had been able to face the bad days with courage. She said many offers were coming to her and she would choose films after going through scripts. She said, if given a chance, she would also like to serve the people of Punjab.

When questioned about her past, she said she did not want to recall those moments as these were painful and want to start the life afresh. She said she had come here to pay obeisance at Harmandir Sahib for starting a new phase of life.

Accompanied by her father Prem Bedi, uncle Purshotam Bedi and other relatives, she also participated in langar service by cleaning floors and utensils at the community kitchen before offering prayers at the sanctum sanctorum.

 

Parsi woman dies at 101
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 27
Tehmi Bhandari, a Parsi woman, died at her residence here yesterday at the age of 101.

Born in a rich, conservative Parsi family in 1906, Tehmi continued to live in the city, though her children are abroad. She was the second child in a family of five sisters and a brother. Her father, Adeshwar Bogga, was the owner of ice factories in Amritsar and Ludhiana.

In a letter written on January 19, 1948, a few months after Partition, Lady Edwina Mountbatten, wife of the first Viceroy, Sir Edward Mountbatten, praised Tehmi Bhandari for her relief work for the refugees. Later, she was invited by the Lady to Shimla.

She stitched clothes for the refugees who arrived in Amritsar. The cloth was provided by the government and the All-India Women’s Conference (AIWC).

While studying for her masters in English at Khalsa College here, she fell in love with a Hindu gentleman Padam Chand Bhandari and married him. He was an executive officer in the Improvement Trust. The famous Bhandari Bridge was named after her husband in 1954.

There were a few Parsi families that came to Punjab and even fewer who made this holy city as their permanent home.

Sam Maneckshaw was a childhood friend of Tehmi. The Field Marshal and hero of the 1971 Indo-Pak war, and Tehmi are among the last Amritsar-born Parsis.

 
POLITICS
 

Cong MLAs on warpath against SAD
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 27
A section of Congress MLAs said today that they would launch an agitation in different assembly segments of this district shortly to oppose the atrocities being committed on the people of this region by leaders of the ruling Akali Dal.

Gurpreet Singh Kangar, Makhan Singh and Ajaib Singh Bhatti, MLAs of Rampura Phul, Pakka Kalan and Nathana assembly segments, while addressing a joint press conference here, said they would not allow the Akali leaders to grab the managements of truck unions and private schools by imposing their favourites on the same.

They alleged that former Akali minister Sikander Singh Malooka had imposed his own man, who once faced a number of criminal cases, as president of Arya Senior Secondary School, Rampura Phul.

They said they would take to streets and hold rallies by inviting senior party leaders to lodge protest against their atrocities. All misdeeds of the Akali leaders would be made public.

They said the manner in which Malooka had succeeded in imposing his own man on the management of Arya School was the biggest example of the fact that government officials had been working as puppets in the hands of the Akali leaders.

Surinder Pal Kohli, who was president of the Arya School Society and was removed by the Akali leaders, while talking to mediapersons, said after the new management had been imposed to conduct the functioning of the school, a number of students had started leaving it.

Malooka, while dubbing all allegations as baseless, claimed that he had never indulged in such things. He said the new president of the Arya School management was neither his favourite nor a member of the SAD.

 

6 quit KAC over Bittu’s removal
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, August 27
Terming the expulsion of Daljit Singh Bittu from SAD (Amritsar) as unfortunate, the Khalsa Action Committee (KAC) came down heavily on Simranjit Singh Mann for going overboard to criticise and question the working of the KAC.

In a press note issued here today, the KAC also announced that its members, under the leadership of Bhai Daljit Singh Bittu, would reach Ambala to witness court proceedings on August 31, the day Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was slated to appear in the CBI court.

Senior members of the KAC, Bhai Mohkam Singh, Karnail Singh Panjoli, Kanwar Pal Singh, Harinder Singh Khalsa and D S Gill, criticised Mann for toeing the line of jathedar Akal Takht Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti and SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar.

Meanwhile, six members of SAD (A), having allegiance to Daljit Singh Bittu, today resigned from the party. Senior vice-president Balwinder Singh Chhabbal, Rajwinder Singh Raju, general secretary, Youth Wingh SAD (A), Jarnek Singh Neka, Manmohan Singh Jammu, Ajit Singh Dhillon and Piyara Singh Bhullar were among those who resigned from the party.

They said if Mann wanted to remove Bittu from the post, he should have called the meeting of the political affairs committee of the party in this regard.

 
COMMUNITY


Resource Mobilisation
Consensus eludes SAD-BJP panel
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 27
Leaders of the SAD-BJP combine in Punjab continue to be in a quandary over resource mobilisation to fund the development plan and meet other financial requirements.

About Rs 1,000 crore is required to meet the resource gap for the implementation of the Rs 5,111 crore annual plan. And the SAD-BJP government is left with only seven months to achieve 100 per cent implementation of the annual plan.

Senior leaders, nearly 25, of both parties, who held a marathon meeting of their coordination committee here at the residence of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, failed to reach a consensus on levying fresh taxes and withdrawing the facility of free power to the farm sector. At the next meeting, Badal has been urged to call only a few leaders of both parties to reach some agreement.

For some months, finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal has been saying that a decision should be taken immediately to mobilise resources. However, efforts made in this regard by the top leadership of both parties so far have ended in naught. Today’s meeting was the second to be held in this regard in the past 10 days.

A discussion was held to reimpose octroi and end free power to the farm sector, but no final decision was taken in this regard in the absence of an agreement among the participants.

What is actually coming in the way of evolving a consensus is the stubborn attitude adopted by both coalition partners in order to protect their respective constituencies and vote banks. Whereas the SAD, which has a strong support base in the rural areas, is not keen on withdrawing the facility of free power to the farm sector, on the other hand, the BJP, which has its support base in urban areas, is against putting any further burden on traders, businessmen and shopkeepers by levying fresh taxes on them. The BJP leadership has been openly saying that freebies and the burden of tax should be shared on an equal basis by ruralites and urbanites.

Secondly, the possibility of the Lok Sabha elections early next year is also weighing on the mind of both parties. Leaders of both parties at today’s meeting said the possibility of these elections should be kept in mind while taking decisions with regard to resource mobilisation.

There was talk to widen the VAT payers’ base in the state as the number of such persons is just 1.60 lakh.

 

Round-up
Creation of knowledge hub
Regunathan meets Badal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 27
A three-member team of the national knowledge commission (NKC) led by its advisor S. Regunathan today called on Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to apprise him of the recommendations made by the commission and their implementation to create a knowledge hub in the state. Headed by Sam Pitroda, the objective of the commission is to transform India into a knowledge society. Interacting with the commission, Badal said his government would implement the recommendations for strengthening the educational system, promoting research and its applications in sectors like health, agriculture and industry.

Education programme

Water supply and sanitation minister Bikram Singh Majithia today underlined the need for launching a statewide 'information education and communication' programme to motivate the rural population to join the prestigious Rs 1,280 crore World Bank water supply and sanitation project in the state.

He was speaking after inaugurating the international conference on rural sanitation here today

DAP fertiliser

MD of Indian Potash Ltd. (IPL) P.S. Gehlot today assured Parkash Singh Badal that 3.5 lakh tonnes of the DAP required during the forthcoming rabi season would be supplied by October 4. Badal asked farmers not to get panicky as DAP would be made available to them for timely sowing of the wheat crop.

Smoother rides

Those commuting in Punjab will be able to enjoy a smoother ride with the government today deciding to implement the ‘long-term maintenance contract’ system for keeping the entire road network in the state in proper order. PWD minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa said all major and other district roads passing through district highways and those linking various districts would be covered under new maintenance system in a phased manner.

SEZ Act

In order to expedite the implementation of special economic zone (SEZ) projects in the state, the government has decided to enact the Punjab SEZ Act. Minister for industries and commerce Manoranjan Kalia said the Central government had already notified IT SEZ at Mohali with an investment worth Rs 500 crore.

No sangat darshan

A government spokesman said today that sangat darshan won’t be organised tomorrow on as the Chief Minister would be presiding over a political conference on the occasion of Rakhar Puniya in Amritsar.

 

MC employees to continue strike
Tribune News Service

Banur, August 27
An urgent meeting of the Banur Municipal Council members was held this morning to resolve the crises arisen due to the strike of the council employees.

The council employees have stopped work for the past two days protesting against police inaction following the attack on the MC employees by a group of over twenty persons when they tried to demolish an unauthorised structure on the police station road here last week.

According to S.S. Sandhu, the executive officer, the employees have been assured by the members that action would be taken in accordance with their demands. “The councillors have asked the employees to go back to work and in case no action is taken in the next two days they can resort to protest,” he said.

The employees on the other hand have rejected the offer. “We are not ending the strike till police arrests those responsible for the attack,” said Shiela Devi the leader of the employees.

“We have given the council a deadline till August 29. If no action will be taken then the union will go on strike across all councils in the state,” said Roshan Singh vice-president of the Nagar Palika Karamchari Mahasangh.

 

Statement baseless, says Ahluwalia
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 27
Reacting to a statement by Simranjit Singh Mann, president of the Guru Gobind Singh Foundation Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia today clarified that he was not facing any trial in any CBI court, nor had the CBI ever booked him in any case.

Ahluwalia was reacting to the statement of Mann published in The Tribune today.

 

Fluorescent lamps soon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 27
The Punjab government has set a deadline of three months for switch over to the use of compact fluorescent lamps ( CFL) in place of incandescent lamps and conventional tubes in all government buildings, including offices, guest houses, offices of boards and corporations, etc.

Municipal Committees have been told to use CFL for streetlighting. The Department of Power has sent a circular to all departments and other government offices in this regard.

 

30 saplings planted
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 27
The Helping Hands Society planted thirty saplings yesterday at Bachittar Nagar.

M. S. Chahal, AIG (GRP), Punjab, launched the tree plantation drive. Renowned social workers Bhagwan Dass Juneja and Bela Singh Chahal and students from different local schools participated in the programme.

Juneja, who has bagged the ‘Green man of the city’ award thrice, said he donated 200 tree guards every year to different social organisations to make the city green and clean. He assured to give this society 50 tree guards every year.

Secretary of the society Parveen Sharma thanked the people for helping the society in this noble cause.

 
COURTS

High Court
DGP told to file affidavit
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 27
A Division Bench, comprising Justice Uma Nath Singh and Justice Rajive Bhalla, today directed the Punjab DGP to file an affidavit and to ensure that no untoward incident happens during a religious congregation scheduled to be held in Ludhiana district from September 2-6.

The Bench in fact observed that if anything untoward happened at the religious congregation, the DGP would be held liable personally and be proceeded under the law.

Earlier, during the hearing, the counsel for the petitioner averred that the petitioner had submitted representations to the Chief Minister and the SSP, Ludhiana, seeking police protection during the said religious congregation.

The counsel averred that despite the submissions made to the authorities concerned, they took no action. The next date of hearing is September 17.

Army deserter seeks pension

Maghar Singh, former Naik, Indian Army, today filed a petition in the high court seeking directions to the centre, Chief of Army Staff and others to grant him the service pension after condoning the alleged deficiency in service of the petitioner.

The petitioner has averred that the director-in charge, Records, Mechanised Regiment, had committed a mistake in calculating his qualifying service and sending him on discharge.

The petitioner has submitted that he was enrolled in the Army on September 9,1970 and received seven medals. In the wake of Operation Bluestar, rumours spread in the cantonments that the Indian Army had invaded the Golden Temple, which shocked Punjab troops and particularly the jawans of Sikh and Punjab regiments, most of whom left the barracks. The petitioner, too, was alleged to have left the barracks for four hours.

The deserting soldiers were kept in confinement till a decision was reached by the centre to try the jawans and give them mild punishment. Also, it was decided to further post them to new units to complete the terms of their service to enable them to earn service pension.

The petitioner remained in confinement before SCM for 371 days and later tried by the SCM, which sentenced him to undergo eight months rigourous imprisonment at a military jail.

After serving the sentence, he was posted to Mechanised Infantry Regiment and thereafter was sent to Pension Establishment because the petitioner as per the office of records had completed qualifying service of 15 years as required under the regulation 132 of the Army.

Affidavit on old-age pension sought

A Division Bench, comprising Justice Uma Nath Singh and Justice Rajive Bhalla, today directed the Punjab counsel to file an affidavit of the state government regarding the pension to old people and the handicapped.

The Bench directed the state counsel that the affidavit should contain details as to the number of cases of old and handicapped persons pending with the government for the grant of financial assistance.

Plea by Balwant’s kin

Justice M.S. Gill today adjourned the petition of Avtar Singh and Karam Singh, uncles of Balwant Singh who is facing death penalty in the Beant Singh assassination case to September 3.

The petitioners averred that they were not being allowed to meet Balwant Singh, currently lodged in the Burail jail by the jail administration post jailbreak episode. They sought directions to the jail authorities that they be given permission to meet Balwant Singh on compassionate grounds.

 

Custodial Torture
PSHRC seeks report from SSP
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 27
The Punjab Human Rights Commission has sought a report from the state government and the SSP, Hoshiarpur, on or before October 8 over alleged custodial torture of a salesman by the CIA wing.

The commission took cognisance of a news item published on August 24, which alleged that a 31-year-old salesman had been accused of stealing Rs 58,000 from a showroom in Hoshiarpur and was handed over to the CIA wing by the police.

There, the report alleged that, the salesman was given “third-degree” treatment. The salesman alleged that he was first thrashed by investigating staff and then given electric shocks on his private parts and ears. Later, he was dropped near the showroom in the night. The commission found that prima facie it was a fit case that required scrutiny and examination.

 

Court reserves order on Sandhu’s bail plea
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 27
The court of additional sessions judge and special judge Bhupinder Singh today adjourned the case of former registrar of Punjabi University Baldev Singh Sandhu for August 29 for orders on granting bail to him.

The Punjab Vigilance Bureau had allegedly nabbed Sandhu red-handed from his local residence on August 6 while he was taking a bribe of Rs 1 lakh from the representative of a college facing disaffiliation.

General secretary of the Baba Dhall Education Society Ram Singh Dhall had filed a complaint against Sandhu.

In today’s proceedings in the court, the counsel of both the bureau and Sandhu completed their arguments.

Sandhu’s counsel N.P.S Waraich, J.P.S Sarao and S.S Waraich contended that their client had already relinquished the charge as dean (colleges), Punjabi University, on July 17.

 
AGRICULTURE

Need to stop disastrous cropping pattern: Report
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 27
Forty years after the Green Revolution provided food security to millions in the country and changed the Punjab’s economy, its ecology needs immediate attention due to ill-affects of Green Revolution, especially the rotation of wheat-paddy, as per the latest scientific findings on the prevailing environmental conditions.

The rivers are contaminated. Underground water in large parts of the state is laced with pesticides. The underground water resources are depleting fast. Farm incomes are declining. The rising number of vehicles, industries, unplanned urbanization besides burning of crop stubble has resulted in severe air pollution and the soil has lost it fertility — all ill affects of the disastrous cropping pattern of wheat and paddy followed in Punjab.

The PSCST today released two well-documented books — “State of Environment in Punjab-2007” and “Environmental and Indicators for Punjab”. While releasing the books, minister for environment Bikram Singh Majithia said, “Time has come to formulate a policy that ensures food security along with sustainable development”.

Tragically, to correct all this, the cash-strapped state needs huge amounts of money and a strong political will to turn it around. Majithia says, “It becomes imperative for the Central government to repay the state for the loss of environment, soil and water resources”.

The reports states, “The exploitative agricultural practices in the past two to three decades have put tremendous pressure on the soil thus resulting in the lack of fertility”. The levels of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, Zinc, iron and manganese - all key nutrients — have fallen. Punjab leads the country in using fertilizers -- 192.5 kg per hectare and pesticides at 923 grams per hectare. Quoting studies the reports states that the residue of chemical pesticides has been found in humans, milk, water, vegetables and other food products. The subsidy on fertilizers encourages the framers to use fertilizers in excess thus leading to adverse impact on soil quality.

The report goes on to state that 103 out of the total of 137 blocks in the state are “over exploited” by tube wells drawing underground water. This means people are drawing more water than what is replenished naturally. The policy of free power to farmers has aided overuse of water for crops like water-guzzling paddy.

Only 25 blocks fall in the safe category and that too in the southwestern part of Punjab that has brackish and saline water that is unfit for agriculture hence it is not fit for irrigation purpose.

Burning of crop residue in open field or straw is causing air pollution besides causing respiratory, skin and eye diseases. The Green Revolution has meant that Punjab has 14 per cent of all tractors of the country. The per capita agricultural debt is Rs 41,576 in Punjab as against the national average of Rs 12,585. Most of the loans were taken for tractors, tube wells, farm chemical and seeds. Hence it was like banks virtually financing the over extraction of water and excess use of fertilizers.

The village ponds, a traditional source of groundwater recharge, have been destroyed. Not more than 5,000 such ponds exist in the entire state whereas just a decade or so at least 15,000 ponds existed.

In the absence of sewage and effluent-treatment plants, the rivers are badly hit. Notably the study points out that all 137 municipal towns that have been identified for solid waste disposal only 37 have land that will take the load beyond 20 years.

 
CRIME
 

Another case against Moga MLA
Tribune News Service

Moga, August 27
Congress MLA from this Assembly constituency Joginder Pal Jain, along with four members of his family, was today booked for evasion of stamp duty by flouting PUDA norms. Following a complaint of chief administrator, PUDA, the police registered a case against Jain, his wife Swarn Lata, Rohini, and sons Puneet and Akshit for violating the Punjab Apartment and Property Regulation Act, 1995.

The fresh case has added to the problems of the MLA who is in the Faridkot prison for his alleged involvement in a hawala racket. He was reportedly held with a huge sum at Indira Gandhi International Airport in 1988.

The Jains procured a piece of land near the Buggipura chowk on the Moga-Ludhiana road and developed a colony illegally, the FIR stated. District police chief Davinder Singh Garcha said following directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, they had booked nearly 60 persons in such cases so far.

The evasion of stamp duty amounted to crores of rupees. The police has registered a similar case against three brothers of Buggipura village Pritam Singh, Hari Singh and Santokh Singh for developing a colony illegally.

 

17-year-old girl killed in accident
Tribune News Service

The mangled remains of a bus that rammed into a tractor-trolly near Ali Majra village near Rajpura on Monday.
The mangled remains of a bus that rammed into a tractor-trolly near Ali Majra village near Rajpura on Monday.
— Tribune photo by J.S. Virdi

Rajpura, August 27
A 17-year-old girl was killed while four others sustained injuries as a speeding bus rammed into a tractor-trolley near Ali Majra village near here, this afternoon.

According to eyewitnesses, the driver of the bus that was on its way from Patiala to Delhi lost control of the vehicle and it rammed into a tractor-trolley, which was turning towards a link road along the national highway.

Sukhwinder Kaur, who was on the tractor-trolley, died immediately on the spot, while Labh Kaur, Hari Singh and driver of the tractor-trolley Shamsher Singh sustained injures. Labh Kaur was rushed to the local Civil Hospital while both Hari Singh and Shamsher Singh were referred to the Sector 32 hospital in Chandigarh.

The conductor of the bus, who could not be identified, was taken to the Civil Hospital, Ambala. Thirty-five passengers on board the bus escaped with minor injuries.

The police has registered a case under Section 304 of the IPC against the driver of the bus.

 

Former mayor’s kin killed
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 27
Four persons, including a father-son duo, were killed in two different accidents that occurred in the city today.

Three people were killed when an Accent car rammed into a Scorpio car near Phagan Majra village on the Patiala-Sirhind road. The deceased - all of them relatives of former Patiala mayor Vishnu Sharma - have been identified as Rajinder Sharda, his son Nitin Sharda. The other deceased has been identified as Harmail Singh.

The postmortem of the deceased was conducted at the government Rajindra hospital today.

In another accident, an unidentified rickshawpuller, aged about 35 years, was crushed to death by a speeding truck near the B.N Khalsa High School on the Mall Road.

 

Accident victim dies
Tribune News Service

Kharar, August 27
Jagmohan Singh, a resident of Ranjeet Nagar, who met with an accident on August 25, died at the PGI, Chandigarh, today.

Jagmohan, who was on his motorcycle, was hit by a speeding Scorpio (PB12H0082) near the Kharar bus stand.

The Kharar police has booked Parminder Singh, the driver of the Scorpio.

 
EDUCATION
 

Medical Colleges
Mann supports poor students
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, August 27
A major hike in the fees of medical educations by the Parkash Singh Badal-led SAD-BJP government has shattered the dreams of students from poor and medium-class sections.

Stating this in a press note issued here today, SAD (Amritsar) president Simranjeet Singh Mann said directions had been issued to private medical colleges to collect Rs 3,54,000 from each student per annum as fees.

Demanding revocation of fee hike, Mann alleged that SGPC president Avtar Singh had provided admissions to the children of his near ones in the SGPC-run Guru Ramdass Medical College in the name of management quota, depriving poor and deserving students a chance to become doctors.

The Badal government was making plans to privatise sugar mills and other public sector institutions.

A function would be organised at Dhapali village, near Rampura Phul in Bathinda on August 31 to mark the death anniversary of Bhai Dilawar Singh, the assassin of late Chief Minister Beant Singh.

 

Science workshop concludes
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 27
The Punjab State Council of Science and Technology, in collaboration with the department of zoology, Punjabi University, Patiala, organised a seven-day motivational programme from August 20 to 26.

Dr Jagbir Singh, who was the coordinator of the programme, said the students interacted with eminent scientists of Punjabi University during the programme.

He further said workshops, debates, declamation and quiz competitions were also arranged. The programme concluded here today with a valedictory function presided over by Dr Neelam Gulati Sharma, joint director, PSCST. Dr Jagbir Singh, while giving away the prizes, said the programme was a tremendous success. He added that 11 such programmes would be organised in different universities of the state.

 


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