P U N J A B    S T O R I E S

Mafia-official nexus looting shamlat
Chitleen K.Sethi
Tribune News Service

Mohali, September 6
Government officials’ role in the division and subsequent sale of shamlat land (village common land) in Punjab has come under scanner. Shamlat land worth crores has been grabbed by the land mafia at various places in a years and the connivance of government officials in these land deals has been revealed.

A serving bureaucrat, who was posted revenue commissioner only for five months, ordered the division of shamlat land in 29 cases he heard as appellant authority

In one such case brought to the notice of the Department of Rural Development and Panchayats, a serving bureaucrat of the state, who was posted revenue commissioner only for five months, ordered the division of shamlat land in 29 cases he heard as appellant authority. In many other cases also misuse of authority and misinterpretation of rules by officials have been discovered.

“Control of the shamlat land vests in the gram panchayat and except in certain cases, this land cannot be divided and sold. Instances of grabbing of shamlat land have multiplied in areas where land prices have gone up. At many places the gram panchayats and those claiming ownership of the land are pitched in legal battles,” said Satish Chandra, secretary of the department.

The department has now undertaken identification of the shamlat estate in Punjab to arrest its division and loot, added the secretary. Also part of the exercise is the detection of all those cases where this land was divided and sold following orders of government officials.

The problem seems to be acute in SAS Nagar district where the increase in land prices has been the sharpest. In a series of letters written to the secretary, former additional deputy commissioner of the district Ajoy Sharma made some shocking revelations.

In a case of Nagla village in Dera Bassi where 233 bighas of shamlat land was divided in January this year on orders of a collector-cum-divisional deputy director of the department, Ajoy Sharma wrote, “Though the collector does not have any right to determine the share of the proprietors in the land, yet the collector declared the petitioners as owners as per their share in the petition. And based on this order immediately after the lapse of limitation period mutation of the tabdil malkiat was entered in the name of the proprietors and within a few days all land was sold to two-three big people. This corroborated that this was a big and well planned fraud in which, under extraneous circumstances, order was procured from the collector and land mutated illegally and sold to big players.”

In a similar case, over 400 bighas of land in Shahtabgarh village in the district was divided but the DC stayed alienation of land. At Zirakpur, the Municipal Council has appealed against an order that led to the division of shamlat land in Peer Mashala village that falls within the council’s jurisdiction.

In Majri block, shamlat land in Hoshiarpur and Parol villages was ordered to be divided. A former block development and panchayat officer of the area, D.K. Saldi, also submitted a report to the department giving details of how shamlat land worth crores in nine villages in Chandigarh's periphery had been systematically grabbed.

“Division of shamlaat land is not possible without the active connivance of a government official at some level. Once we have the complete picture before us, we would pin-point the erring officers and take disciplinary action,” said Satish Chandra.


Now, fraud in issuance of MC octroi receipts
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, September 6
With the writing of a letter by the local municipal council authorities to the Sangrur SSP today to get a case registered against some former octroi contractors of the council, a case of fraud has come to light. During the financial years 1998-99 and 1999-2000 some contractors had allegedly committed a fraud and caused huge financial loss to the council in connection with a case related to issuance of octroi receipts to a local firm. The receipts reportedly did not match with the carbon copies.

Sources told The Tribune here that in a letter to the municipal council in April 2006 on the orders of director-cum-secretary of the Local Government, Punjab, the chief vigilance officer (CVO) of the Directorate of Local Government, had written to the council authorities to get an FIR registered against the contractors concerned but no FIR had been registered in the past about one year and four months.

The sources further stated that in the letter sent to the SSP the EO had mentioned the names of contractors for 1998-99 and 1999-2000. He had also stated in the letter that octroi receipts issued to M/s Gupta Electronics, Sangrur, by the contractors during both financial years did not match with the original receipt books of the council. The EO had requested the SSP to get an FIR registered against these contractors for causing financial losses to the council.

The names of the contractors (partners) for 1998-99 are Surinder Pal Singh, Varinder Kumar Gupta, Tarsem Kumar and Darshan Singh while the names of contractors (partners) for 1999-2000 are Varinder Kumar Gupta, Tarsem Kumar, Darshan Singh and Subhash Kumar.

Sources also said the EO had also sent a copy of the letter to the local SHO.


In penury, still not eligible for kanak-dal
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Phoos Mandi (Bathinda), September 6
For a poor family of four members, who suffer from ailments and are living in hellish conditions here, there is no end to their miseries as the government has denied them the benefits of much-publicised kanak-dal scheme launched by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

Sixtyfive-year-old Kartar Singh, the head of the family, has been suffering from tuberculosis, his wife Raj Kaur has gone blind, his son Sach Nand Singh is physically challenged and daughter-in-law Charanjit Kaur has been suffering from a psychological disorder.

Having no source of income and surviving on the help rendered by a distant relative and villagers, medical treatment seems to have become a distant dream for them.

“Every month I get about Rs 250 as old-age pension. With that amount I arrange a little foodgrain to fill the empty bellies of the members of my family,” said Kartar Singh, who worked as a tailor, but was forced to leave the occupation after he was diagnosed with tuberculosis.

He added that for the past about five months, the Punjab government had stopped the payment of old-age pension to him.

Though they had approached a number of government functionaries to get their names included in the list of beneficiaries of the scheme, every time they met with disappointment. He had sent an application to Chief Minister in this regard.

Secretary, panchayat, Ranjit Singh, who carried out a survey to identify the beneficiaries of the scheme in the village, said he had included the Kartar Singh’s family in the list of beneficiaries but for reasons unknown to him the family had not been extended the benefits of the scheme so far.


Beware housewives, cookware can add toxins to food

Ludhiana, September 6
Cooking in aluminium, iron, copper or teflon-coated vessels may be injurious to health as metals and inert plastic tend to leach on to the food, according to researchers in Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) here.

A study conducted by Rupa Bakshi, Mohinder Sindhu and Pushpinder Sandhu has found that aluminium utensils, a popular choice among housewives, being cheap, light-weight and good conductors of heat, may prove hazardous if they are worn out or food is stored in them for a long time.

The metal leaches on to food, especially of acidic nature, such as tomatoes and other citric products, they said in the report.

To avoid toxic effects, aluminium cookware should be kept in good condition, cooking time should be minimised and acidic food should not be cooked and stored in aluminium containers. They said the research has shown that aluminium content increases three times when vegetables are cooked in aluminium skillet (kadhai) as also other elements like chromium, lead, cadmium and nickel.

Researchers recommend anodised aluminium utensils, which are good conductors of heat, with a hard, durable, scratch-resistant and easy to clean surface.

These utensils prevent leaching of aluminium in the food.

As for iron utensils, the researchers observed that these are popular in the kitchen for being strong and allowing spread of heat evenly.

These were beneficial to some extent by increasing iron content in the cooked food but excess of iron could be poisonous.

Therefore, iron pans should be kept well coated with unsalted cooking oil to prevent rust and should neither be washed with strong detergent nor scoured, they said.

Stainless steel utensils are very popular for their strength and durability and safety in cooking.

But iron and nickel in such utensils may lead  to adverse health  effects and hence such utensils should not be heated to very high temperatures. — UNI


BJP councillor elected mayor
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, September 6
Third time BJP councillor and engineer Shawet Malik was elected mayor of Amritsar Municipal Corporation here today amidst sloganeering and protests by Congress councillors. He won mayorship, leaving behind Bakshi Ram Arora and Rakesh Gill, both senior leaders of his party.

Ajaybir Singh Randhawa was elected senior deputy mayor and Kashmir Singh was chosen deputy mayor.

The Congress councillors boycotted the proceedings of the election after staking claim to the mayor’s post as the single largest party. Raising slogans against the government, they demanded that the Congress should be asked to propose the names of its councillors for the posts of mayor, senior deputy mayor and deputy mayor.

The newly-elected house of 65 councillors, including the Congress councilors, was, however, delivered the oath of office by Commissioner of Jalandhar division S.R.Naggar in groups of five. The only absentee was Arun Puppal.

But before the proceedings for appointing the mayor could begin, the Congress councilors got up from their seats and complained that as per the constitution of the Municipal Act, the largest single party, Congress, should have been invited for appointing the mayor.

Congress councilor, Raman Bakshi, said even though the new councilors had received the letter regarding oath-taking ceremony in time, the intimation regarding election of mayor, senior deputy mayor and deputy mayor was received yesterday, even though the rule says it should be received 72 hours before the event.

Those present on the occasion included Health and Family Welfare Minister Luxmi Kanta Chawla, Information and Public Relations minister Bikram Majithia, state BJP president Rajinder Bhandari, Local Bodies minister Manoranjan Kalia and BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu. 


Cong seeks apology from Sukhbir
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 6
Congress MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira today said in a statement that beating of unemployed teachers at Kapurthala yesterday was a highly condemnable act particularly when teachers had been beaten up on the day reserved to honour the teaching fraternity.

“The Congress party condemns the inhuman and avoidable beating up of teachers, who were merely trying to protest in a peaceful manner”, he said. “The Congress party demands an unconditional apology by Sukhbir Singh Badal and a magisterial inquiry to fix responsibility on those responsible for maltreating these teachers”, he added.

The way teachers were cane-charged, physically manhandled and where even the handicapped were not spared, speaks volumes of the disregard that the Badal Government had for human rights and peaceful demonstrations.

He reminded Sukhbir Singh Badal that he had raised a hue and cry over a similar incident in Ludhiana during Amarinder Singh’s regime. These were the same unemployed teachers protesting for whom the junior Badal would often shed crocodile tears and had promised them jobs once the Akalis were voted to power.

Khaira said that it was pertinent to mention here that Sukhbir Singh Badal and his family members had no official authority to preside over the annual awards function on Teacher’s Day at Kapurthala. Sukhbir Singh Badal was displaying extra-constitutional authority by presiding over such functions, which amounted to defying the laid down principles of government functioning.

“The Congress Party also criticizes the massive increase in the fees structure of MBBS and BDS seats in the state.



New transport policy soon
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 6
The state transport department is examining ways to compensate next of kin of persons killed in accidents involving government-operated buses in Punjab. A meeting in this regard was held here today under the chairmanship of transport minister Mohan Lal.

Talking to The Tribune, Master Mohan Lal said two options were being studied. The first was to provide insurance cover to all those travelling in these buses and the second to set up a corpus fund in this regard.

After studying the data of previous years, it had been found that on an average 32 persons were killed every year in accidents involving these buses. If next of kin of each accident victim was given financial aid of Rs 2 lakh, the department needed Rs 64 lakh every year, he said.

He said that by just charging Re 1 from each passenger, such a corpus fund could be created. The other option was to insure passengers travelling a long distance, say beyond 100 km.

The minister said soon a meeting would be held with the chief secretary to finalise the new transport policy. “ I believe the new policy will in place in 15 days”, he said.

Truckers would be allowed to clear their tax dues and meet the technical requirements of their vehicles once a year. Stickers would be put on vehicles which had all documents in order.

He said of the 300 new buses, 50 would be air-conditioned.

Sources said the special road tax on AC buses would be brought down to Rs 2.5 from Rs 5 per seat per km.

At present, about Rs 153 crore is collected as special road tax. In all, the transport department’s contribution to revenue is above Rs 500 crore. 


‘PMO clears Mohali airport’ 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 6
SAD working president Sukhbir Singh Badal claimed today that the Prime Minister’s office at a special meeting gave clearance to the international airport at Mohali yesterday. He claimed the Central government had agreed share 51 per cent of the cost while the state would bear 49 per cent of the cost. The existing infrastructure of the civil-cum-defence-airport at Chandigarh would be integrated into the Mohali international airport.

Badal said this was one of the major components of the commitment made by the SAD-BJP alliance in their election manifesto.


Badal seeks royalty on foodgrains

Chandigarh, September 6
While Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has sought royalty on food grains procured by the Food Corporation of India( FCI) for the national pool, he has favoured the passing of the Punjab Relief From Agriculture Indebtedness Bill to tackle various issues related to indebtedness in the farm sector.

There is a provision in the bill to regulate the rate of interest on the money advanced to farmers by private money lenders and to resolve disputes related to money lending. — TNS


Sidhu for Canadian cell in Amritsar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, September 6
Amritsar MP Navjot Sidhu has made a case for more legalised immigration to Canada from the region. He took up the matter with a delegation of MPs from Canada at a function organised by the Overseas East India Peace Alliance here today.

Sidhu said of the 33,000 Indian immigrants to Canada last year, 45 per cent were of Punjabi origin. To curb illegal immigration and to tap the resource of skilled labour keen on crossing over, the Canadian government should set up an immigration cell in the city for the benefit of the unemployed youth.

He emphasised on the need for import of technology from Canada to make Amritsar a cleaner and more hygienic place. “The technology used for solid waste management plants and the way cleanliness drives are carried out in Canada could be replicated here. This would help restore the lost glory of Amritsar,” he said.

Answering a question, Patrick Brown said Canada was considering relaxing immigration norms, especially with shortage of skilled labour in fields of medicine and engineering. “India having invested a lot in education of its youth can prove to be a resource of skilled labour,” he said.

The other delegates from Canada were John Raynold, Godon Brown, Rahim Jaffar and Bobby Hyndes. The president of the alliance, Snober Dhillon, also spoke.


Lineman electrocuted 
Tribune News Service

Rajpura, September 6
Balwinder Singh, a lineman working with the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), was today electrocuted at the Sarai Banjra feeder where he along with his assistant lineman was undertaking repair work of the high tension electric wires.
Employees of the PSEB after hearing about the death of lineman Balwindwer Singh (inset) gather at the civil hospital, Rajpura
Employees of the PSEB after hearing about the death of lineman Balwindwer Singh (inset) gather at the civil hospital, Rajpura, on Thursday. A Tribune photograph

According to sources, Balwinder Singh had asked the feeder authorities to snap power supply to the high tension wires that needed to be repaired. Around 3 pm, he climbed up the electric pole and about 10 minutes later someone reportedly resumed the power supply to the pole.

Balwinder Singh died on the spot. The matter was reported to the senior PSEB authorities, which ordered an inquiry immediately.

It is the second instance in the last one week. Earlier a lineman of the PSEB lost life while undertaking repair work. On last Saturday lineman Prem Singh died of electrocution. The board had suspended one junior engineer for the incident.


Shiva temple vandalised

Hoshiarpur, September 6
A 140-year-old Panch Mukhi Mahadev (Lord Shiva) temple, located in Misra Mohalla, was vandalised by some miscreants here this afternoon. The miscreants damaged the marble idol of Panch Mukhi Mahadev and decamped the silver 'Jlaheri' on which it was installed.

Priest of the temple Hari Om noticed the damage and removal of the silver 'Jlaheri' when he visited the temple at about 2.30 pm.

The inhabitants of the area said there was no managing committee of the temple and it always remained opened.

SSP Anita Punj said she had deputed DSP (H), and SHO City, to investigatigate the matter. — OC


Hodson’s Horse raising day
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, September 6
To commemorate the 150th year of the raising Hodson's Horse regiment of the Indian Army a cycle expedition was held in the Mamun cantonment area, near here today.

The expedition comprising two officers, four junior commissioned officers and 14 other ranks of the regiment lead by captain V. S. Ghuman would cover a distance of 700 km across Punjab and Himachal.

Brigadier J.P. Singh of the 16 Independent Brigades flagged off the expedition. He said the expedition was organised to promote interaction with the ex- servicemen and their families of the regiment living in remote areas of Punjab and Himachal .

The expedition will also stop at Ludhiana to pay homage at the memorial of late Major Bhupinder Singh who was awarded with Maha Vir Chakra (posthumously) for gallantry in the 1965 Indo-Pak War.


Musical plays captivate

Patiala, September 6
The National Theatre Arts Society, Patiala, presented two Punjabi musical plays “Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh”, directed by Pran Sabharwal, and “Kalakh Hanere”, directed by Rajesh Sharma, at Baradari Gardens, here on Tuesday. The actors - Shubham Arora and Nainder Singh in Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh and Rajesh Sharma and Kavita Sharma in “Kulakh Hanere” - mesmerised all.

Jagdish and Savleen presented folk dances and Lachhman enthralled the audience with his songs. 


Cops have a bad day at court
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 6
If a police officer fails to appear in the courtroom despite being summoned, or infringes the provisions of law by apparently indulging in illegal confiscation of property, he is in for trouble regardless of his rank.

Directions issued against the cops by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in at least three cases today provide testimony to this effect.

Coming down heavily on police officers failing to turn up in court, Justice Ranjit Singh of the High Court directed the issuance of a contempt notice to a senior superintendent of police in one matter.

In the other, Justice Ranjit Singh directed the forwarding of information about a cop's absence to the Punjab's director-general of police, along with the advocate-general.

In the third matter filed by Amritsar resident Bhupinder Kaur, Justice Ranjit Singh asked a police officer to remain present in court after returning property he had seized in a case registered under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.

After going through Bhupinder Kaur’s petition alleging the implication of her husband, the Judge directed: The SHO, police station A-Division, Amritsar City, would remain present in the court to explain and give justification to the order made by him.

The household articles seized by the SHO will be taken and put into the petitioner's house, within 48 hours of receiving the order's copy by the SHO. He would personally be responsible and ensure the order's compliance.

Issuing notice of motion for October 30, the judge also stayed the operation of the impugned order.

Going into the background of the matter, he said, "Through the petition, the petitioner seeks the quashing of the order seizing her property, including refrigerator, air-conditioners, a house, bank account and other household matters."

The judge added that apparently the order has been made under the provisions of Section 68-F of the NDPS Act.

The main contention is that such an order can be made only when the allegation is for the commission of an offence punishable under the Act with an imprisonment of 10 years or more.

There seems to be justification in the submission made by the petitioner's counsel. The quantity recovered in the case is non-commercial. Hence, it would not be punishable with 10-year rigorous imprisonment.

In his detailed judgement issued in a habeas corpus matter, the judge observed: On August 3, Moga SSP was directed to remain present in the court. But, he has not come and instead has sent deputy superintendent of police Jasbir Singh. This is a clear-cut case of violation of the court order.

The judge added, "Let a notice be issued to Moga SSP as to why proceedings for contempt should not be initiated against him".

Asking the DSP to communicate the order to the SSP, the judge also fixed October 10 as the next date of hearing in the case.

In his petition against the State of Punjab and six others, Muzzaffarnagar resident Rajpal Singh had sought directions for producing detainees, along with their belongings.

He had claimed that the detainees, working in a brick-kiln, were not being allowed to move out and musclemen were keeping tabs on them.

Taking up the third petition, seeking the grant of anticipatory bail in an injury case, filed by Tarn Taran resident Vinod Kumar alias Gattu, Justice Ranjit Singh ruled, "Let the non-presence of the investigating officer be brought to the notice of Punjab DGP as well as the state advocate-general".

Kumar was seeking the grant of bail in a case registered on June 7 at Patti police station under Sections 323, 326 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code.

The case will now come up for hearing on October 16.


ASI arrested for raping Manali girl
Tribune News Service

Kharar, September 6
A Manali-based girl has accused a wireless operator with the Kharar police of raping her on August 31 late evening. Following the complaint, the Mohali police has arrested ASI Balwinder Singh and registered a case against him. Also, SHO Palwinder Singh has been sent to the Police Lines for dereliction of duty.

The young girl was rounded up with three male companions and a 45-year-old woman on a tipoff on August 31. They were all taken to the Kharar city police station.

The old woman, a pimp from Mohali, allegedly paid Rs 35,000 to the police and all five were released. ASI Balwinder was asked to drop the young woman at the Mohali bus-stand.

The ASI allegedly raped her in his Zen car before dropping her at the bus-stand.

When contacted SSP Ranbir Singh Khattra said the policeman had been arrested and a case registered against him. The police was also investigating the role of the SHO and other officials.

The girl appeared before police with her relative Amandeep Singh late this evening and gave her statement to the police. 


No to proposal for buying 44 vehicles for Education Department
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 6
The Punjab finance department today rejected the proposal to buy 44 new vehicles for the School Education Department. However, the finance department has allowed the hiring of vehicles by the education department for official purposes.

Sources said the school education department had put up the proposal to buy 44 new vehicles for district education officers and other officers at a high-level meeting. In the absence of vehicles, the DEOs are unable to inspect the schools properly, it was argued at the meeting.

Among those present at the meeting were Dr Upinderjit Kaur, Education Minister, and Manpreet Singh Badal, Finance Minister. Both ministers were accompanied by senior officers of their respective departments.

Finance department officers told the education department that their officers posted in the field could hire vehicles from the market. The finance department would pay hiring charges for the vehicles at Rs 6 per km. The finance department argued that buying of new vehicles, employing of drivers and maintenance of vehicles proves far costly than that of hiring vehicles from the market.

The finance department approved the proposal to revive hundreds of frozen posts of college lecturers in government aided colleges. However, no final decision has been taken on giving pension to employees of aided colleges.

The finance department made it clear to the education department authorities that it was releasing the grant-in-aid for government aided schools and colleges in time and had not imposed any cut on grant. 


Counselling for BAMS, BHMS begins
Tribune News service

Patiala, September 6
The first phase of counselling for BAMS and BHMS commenced at Government Ayurvedic College here today.

According to Ashwani Kumar, director of AYUSH and principal of Government Ayurvedic College, there are a total of 560 BAMS seats for one government college and 11 private colleges in the state.

Today, 320 seats were filled while counselling for the remaining 240 seats would be taken up after a communication was received from the Baba Farid University of Medical Sciences, Faridkot.

For the BHMS course there were a total of 270 seats for private colleges in the state and after today’s schedule 70 had been filled while counselling for the remaining 200 seats would be taken up later. Dr Ashwani Kumar added that a communication relating to the seats taken up today had been sent to all colleges.


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