P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Blast not revival of terror: CM
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 15
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said today that the blast should not be viewed as an indication of revival of terrorism in the state.

Speaking to mediapersons after visiting the blast site and inquiring about the condition of the injured, the Chief Minister said the police would probe deep into the incident.

In response to a question on whether some former police cats linked to an ex-DGP or militants released during the Congress regime could be involved in the incident, he said it was too early to identify the culprits.

He said the blast was an act of terror but there was no local support for boosting such acts. “Terrorism flourishes only with the support of local people. There is no such scope in Punjab now. People have long ago rejected terrorism and chosen peace,” he added.

Badal said it was impossible to man each inch of the city and added that “the SSP and DC had reached the spot within 15 minutes after the blast and started rescue operations.”

Vijay Inder Singla, president, Punjab Pardesh Youth Congress, who along with 25 activists donated blood for the injured, said time was not proper for deriving political gains from the incident.

Manoranjan Kalia, local bodies and industry minister, and Laxmi Kanta Chawla, health minister, also visited the hospitals. Rajinder Bhandari, state president of the BJP, condemned the incident. Other political leaders who visited the injured were jail minister Hira Singh Gabria, MLAs Harish Bedi and Harish Rai Dhanda, Congress leader Mahinder Singh Kaypee and Parminder Mehta.


Police conclusion on blast half-baked, says Amarinder 
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 15
The police is adopting a soft approach towards the blast in Ludhiana last night. While the blast killed six persons in the night, in the morning the police claimed it to be the handiwork of militants. How did the police complete investigation in a few hours after the blast and reached the said conclusion?

Former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh stated to The Tribune on phone today. He was reacting to the blast in Ludhiana theatre yesterday.

He added that the police should probe the matter thoroughly. The blast targeted a particular community across the country. The blast also seemed to be part of a series of incidents targeting a particular community, especially, on the eve of Id. By just blaming militants for the gory act the police was repeating the old rhetoric generally adopted in such situations.

The incident is also a threat to communal harmony in the state, he added.

The former Chief Minister also chose the occasion to lambast his political rivals, the SAD/BJP government. He said eversince the present government has taken over communal harmony in the state had suffered.

Rift was created on the Dera Sacha Sauda issue. The government allowed the situation to escalate on the dera issue that led to communal disharmony in the state.

In the past five years development was the main agenda of the government and no communal incident took place. Any miscreant trying to vitiate the communal milieu was curbed with an iron hand by the previous government.

However, the present blast in the state had once again raised fears of dark days of terrorism in the state. This will have adverse impact on investment and development in the state.

The present government should call an all-party meet on the issue. The incident should condemned by al and efforts made to maintain peace in the state, he added.


Ban on Bir Publication
Order not binding on DSGMC: Sarna 
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, October 15
Even as the oldest publishing house here has been compelled to stop 127-year-old practice of publication of birs (copies of Guru Granth Sahib) following an ordinance issued by the state government, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) chief Parmjit Singh Sarna has said any decision taken by the state (Punjab) government is not binding on the Delhi’s gurdwara committee.

Talking to The Tribune on the phone today, Sarna said like the SGPC, the Delhi gurdwara committee also came into existence through an Act, passed by Parliament. “I hope, Akal Takht won’t issue any edict or directive to stop the publication of birs by the DSGMC, which has been supplying Holy Guru Granth Sahib to the devotees all over the world,” he said.

“We are not a private publishing house. The DSGMC is equivalent to the SGPC and had imported latest machinery from Germany. The central government had exempted the import duty on it,” he added. Sarna said the DSGMC was “more responsible” than any other gurdwara committee.

He expressed apprehensions that the SGPC might refuse to supply the birs to the DSGMC or other religious bodies due to their “monopoly” over the publication rights. “The present printing capacity of the SGPC was inadequate to meet the rising demand of birs among Sikh devotees,” he quipped.

On the other hand, UK-based Dal Khalsa leader Manmohan Singh Khalsa appreciated the decision of state government and the SGPC banning publication of birs by private publishers. However, he hastened to add that the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee would definitely publish birs, if the SGPC failed to ensure an adequate supply of these to Sikh institutions in Pakistan or in other countries.

Meanwhile, a press release by the M/S Bhai Jeewan Singh, Chattar Singh, publishing house, established in 1880, here today said it had decided to discontinue the publication of the holy scripture “under protest” following the ban orders. It was the second biggest publisher of birs after the SGPC.

The publishing house has sought clarification from the state government whether the law will be binding only in Punjab or will it be enforced in other parts of the country? 


Destination Kapurthala
Revamp on cards
Rs 3.61-cr aid to boost tourism in district
Anuradha Shukla
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, October 15
In sync with the aim of organising heritage festivals, the state government has been successful in getting a grant of Rs 3.61 crore from the central government to promote tourism in Kapurthala district. With the 6th Baba Jassa Singh Kapurthala Heritage festival set to begin on October 18, the grant for “Destination Kapurthala” project is good news for the state. The government is in the process of appointing consultants to assess the feasibility of the various works to be undertaken under the project so as to allocate grants accordingly. The project will get under way in December, says deputy commissioner J. M. Balamurugan.

The union ministry of tourism has sanctioned the grant for the first phase of the project and is meant for five different renovation and installation programmes under the project. The nodal agency to implement the project is the Department of Tourism, Punjab.

Detailed project reports are being prepared and the government is in the process of appointing consultants to assess the feasibility of the project, says the DC.

“The five renovation projects under the parent project include landscaping, restoration of Shahi Samadhs and furniture (Rs 155.15 lakh), revamp of landscaping, horticultural works, tourist infrastructure at the Kanjli wetlands (Rs 116.89 lakh), landscaping of Moorish mosque (Rs 26.62 lakh), Panj Mandir and Ghanta Ghar (Rs 27.70 lakh) and the Kamera Bagh at a cost of Rs 39.73 lakh,” the DC added.

In addition to the newly initiated project, work is already under way for the preservation and restoration of Jagatjit Palace by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, INTACH, in collaboration with the government of India, ministry of defence and the state government at a cost of Rs 1.96 crore. Nearly half of the work on the project has been completed and the rest will be completed by the end of next year.

Ecological restoration of the Pavittar Bein is also under way for which an additional grant of Rs 5 crore has been sanctioned for 2007-08.

Kapurthala is one of the 40 towns of the state selected under a scheme of the ministry of urban development. A development plan will be formulated by the end of December after discussions with all stakeholders to upgrade urban infrastructure like sewerage, drinking water, tourist infrastructure, roads, streets and parks. Virsa Vihar is being developed as venue to promote cultural heritage of the town. Its surroundings will be beautified and activity centres for art will be started there, Balamurugan said.

Science City, Jagatjit Palace, Shalimar Bagh, Kamera Bagh, Darbar Hall, Panj Mandir dating back to 18th century, Moorish mosque, Kanjli wetlands, Railway Coach Factory, and Sultanpur Lodhi are being developed as a tourist circuit to attract national as well as international tourists, he added. 


Dilemma over last rites of victims
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 15
Having lost their kin in the blast at Shingar cinema, relatives of victims are now facing a peculiar problem - whether to perform their last rites in the city or to take them back home for their parents to see the mortal remains.

Relatives and friends of four youths who had been identified were finding it difficult to take a decision as they felt nobody would help them in sending the bodies to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and they would not be able to afford the expenditure.

Relatives of Sonu Sharma, a victim, and Bandhan Kumar, today took up the matter with different leaders of the city. Dharmendra Pratap Singh, a leader of migrants, said they met deputy speaker Satpal Gosain when he visited the Civil Hospital today. They were, however, not happy with the outcome. ''The leaders told us that they would take up the matter but we are sure nobody is going to do anything.” said Dharmendra.

Durgesh, a cousin of Sonu, said his parents wanted to perform the last rites themselves. But he was not sure whether he would be able to fulfil their wish or not.

Besides cash crunch, another problem that is being faced by these people is that the bodies were in a very bad shape.

“We cannot wait for their parents or even send their bodies. They are like a mass of flesh. There is no point in waiting for the body to go from bad to worse,” said M.S. Khan, an office-bearer of a Muslim organisation which has made arrangements to bury Imtiaz Alam, who was identified by his uncle.

He added that if they waited for his parents from Rajia, Bihar, it would take them at least three days to reach here.

Uncle of Imtiaz said he wanted to send the body to Bihar. “I want that my sister can look at him for the last time. But if they are insisting I will talk to them,” he said adding that a religious organisation had already made arrangements for his burial at the Rahon road burial ground.


SAD leaders pledge support to Sukhbir 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 15
In what could be first indications of changing equations in the Shiromani Akali Dal, the general council and the working committee of the party held meetings today and passed a resolution “pledging to provide every possible support to Sukhbir Singh Badal.” The meeting which was attended by senior leaders expressed “total faith” in the abilities of Sukhbir Badal as working president of the party.

Sukhbir Badal had chaired the meeting, his first since becoming the working president of the party.

It may be mentioned that these references were being made with the possibility that there could be change of guard at the top and Sukhbir Badal may be appointed the Chief Minister. This even as he had made it clear that his father Parkash Singh Badal will continue.

At the meeting a leader tried to raise the issue of coordination with the BJP, but he was cut short and told that the matters of only the SAD should be discussed. Another leader expressed displeasure that the “officers were not listening”. However, it was generally felt that the officialdom was receptive and such stray complaints should be dealt at the party level.

The SAD party office in Sector 28 here would be opened on December 14.

The party also passed a resolution condemning the bomb blast at Ludhiana. This included BJP leader Sahib Singh Verma, Kirpal Singh Libra, Balraj Bhunder, Principal Bhapur Singh and journalists Dalbir Singh and Narinder Bhullar among others.



‘State to protect lives of migrants’
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 15
Tikshan Sud, Punjab labour minister, has asked Director- General of Police, Punjab, N.P.S. Aulakh, to take all possible steps to provide protection to all citizens of Punjab, including the migrant labour working in the state.

The minister had a detailed discussion with the state DGP after yesterday's blast at a Ludhiana cinema, purposely targeted at migrant labourers in the state. District labour officers have also been issued instructions to identify the places where migrant labourers are working and they have been asked to provide details to district police chiefs to provide security cover to them.

Paddy purchase

Government agencies and private millers procured more than 5.58 million tonnes of paddy till last evening

Ayurveda varsity

A high-level committee headed by Dr S.K. Mishra, a former adviser, Government of India, AYUSH, today presented the interim report and draft bill of the Punjab Ayurveda University Act, 2007 for setting up the Punjab Ayurveda University at Kharkan (Hoshiarpur).

The draft bill has suggested that the proposed university should have the powers to grant recognition to all educational institutes providing education in non-allopathic systems, including Ayurveda, Homeopathic and other non-allopathic systems.

The bill also suggested the standardisation of education system of non-allopathic system of education with a focus on research and development activities in these fields. 


Jagjit to miss date with heritage fest
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, October 15
It may be heartbreaking for Jagjit Singh’s fans that the ghazal maestro will not participate in the 6th Kapurthala Heritage festival due to health reasons, but with big names like Shubha Mudgal and Majari Chaturvedi, the festival promises a great treat for classical as well as folk music fans.

True to the tradition of the festival, Bhai Manohar Singh will render classical devotional music in memory of Baba Jassa Singh, to begin the festival on October 18. The first day of the festival will also see Shafaqat Ali Khan from Pakistan sing thumri and Sufiana Kalam in tradition of Sham Chaurasi Gharana. On the second day noted vocalist Shubha Mudgal will perform while Manjari Chaturvedi will perform kathak to the tune of Rajasthani musicians, who sing Punjabi Sufiana Kalam.

The final day will have Mustafa Raza performing on vichitra veena and folk singer Hans Raj Hans entertaining the audiences to draw the curtains on the festival. Hans Raj Hans will perform in place of Jagjit Singh.

The festival will be inaugurated by education and civil aviation minister Upinderjit Kaur, while Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal will be the chief guest on the second day. Minister for department of tourism and cultural affairs, printing and stationery, Hira Singh Gabria will be the chief guest for the concluding day.

A heritage walk, with participants from all walks of life, will commence from the Shalimar Bagh and pass through Panj Mandir, Ghanta Ghar, Darbar Hall, state Gurdwara, Kamera Bagh, Mall Road before culminating at Jagatjit Palace.


Artisans find Punjabi ‘jutti’ making unremunerative
Prabhjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, October 15
Octogenarian Dalip Singh gradually developed a hunchback due to the bending of his back while making famous Punjabi 'jutti' of Muktsar.

It's not only this hunchback which has been troubling the 'jutti' artisans, but they also receive thread injuries on fingers and pain in ankles and knees and ulcers on hips in some cases. This all is due to their posture as they sit in for 10 to 12 hours to earn a living.

With wages as low as Rs 18 for a pair, these workers can mould and stitch leather in the form of traditional footwear at the rate of two pairs a day if they sit in that troubling posture from morning till dusk.

At an average earning of Rs 30 a day, they are the least bothered about treatment for chronic ailments. The worry they carry home every night, after a day's hard work, is whether they will get work the next morning?

With over 50 per cent of these artisans having already shifted to unskilled labour at brickkilns or pulling a rickshaw, the rest remain a worried lot as this unorganised sector of the traditional cottage industry has been dying despite claims of the Centre and the state government regarding the welfare of the weaker sections.

Lachhman Singh now has discouraged his son from carrying on with the legacy of 'jutti' making. His 18-year-old son now works at a cloth merchant’s shop at monthly wage of Rs 3,000, which no 'jutti' maker in Muktsar has ever got after spending precious years of his life in ‘jutti’ making.

It is not only the men but also the women of this community of 'jutti' artisans who have developed a weak eye-sight and knee problems as they do embroidery on leather before their men give it the shape of footwear.

Last week, the parliamentary standing committee on commerce for the leather workers visited this district headquarter town and suggested to the local administration to help these artisans in forming a cooperative society so that the community could avail the benefits.

"Who will form a cooperative?" This prompt question came from 80-year-old Dalip Singh, as he pointed out the young generation of their community was fast on abandoning the occupation.


Police conducts check at cinemas
Tribune Reporters

Bathinda, October 15
In the wake of a high alert sounded in Punjab after the Ludhiana blast, two teams of the police, led by ASP (city) Harsh Bansal and DSP (traffic) Parminder Singh, conducted a check at five cinemas namely Harchand, Ajaib, Sukhraj, Udaan and Pukhraj here today. The teams included bomb disposal squad officials.

Faridkot division DIG Jatindra Jain said security had been beefed up at the railway station, bus stand, all main markets, religious places, banks, cinemas and other public places.

The DSP (traffic) said all cinema owners had been asked to conduct a thorough check on cinema-goers.

That life in Bathinda remained unaffected by the blast was proved by the fact that all five cinemas of the city were almost full to capacity, with a majority of the audience being migrant labourers.

AMRITSAR: Security has been beefed up at major religious and tourist spots, including Golden Temple and Durgiana Temple, here on Monday. Security at international airport, railway station and bus stand was also tightened.

Senior police officials held a meeting with cinema owners told them to take precautionary measures regarding security at the cinemas. Policemen in muftis were deployed at various cinemas.


‘Stuff same as that of Minerva blast’
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 15
Forensic experts have said the explosive material seemed to be the same used in the 1994 Minerva cinema blast triggered by the Babbar Khalsa.

A special forensic team of the National Security Guards and experts from the CFSL, Chandigarh, had reached here last night. Deputy director, CFSL, L.S. Rana told mediapersons that though the nature of explosives and the trigger would be known later, the explosive used seem to be the same like those in the Minerva blast.

Sources said help of Army experts was also being taken. The experts declined to comment on whether the explosion was a time bomb or a remote controlled one.


Virk gets support from parent cadre
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 15
Arrested DGP S.S. Virk has found support from his parent cadre of Maharashtra. The Deputy Chief Minister, R.R. Patil, who also handles the home portfolio, has shot off a letter to the Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil “seeking his intervention in the matter.”

The Deputy CM has expressed shock as to how the Punjab Police firstly arrested Virk from the Maharashtra Sadan on September 9 and then did not even “bother” to officially inform the Maharashtra Government about it. He claimed that Virk had joined service in his parent cadre in April, hence he should not have been arrested by the Punjab Police. He also expressed surprise as to how the Punjab Government had been demanding extensions in the deputation period of Virk for 23 years and how it had now turned against him. 


CCTV cameras to be installed at venue 
Tribune news Service

Jalandhar, October 15
The police is leaving no stone unturned to ensure foolproof security at the 6th Baba Jassa Singh Kapurthala Heritage Festival beginning October 18. Special security arrangements have been made at the venue in the wake of high alert sounded in the state after yesterday’s bomb blast in Ludhiana. Besides deployment of police personnel in uniform as well as in plain clothes, the police has also made arrangements to keep a watch at the festival proceedings through modern security arrangements like CCTV cameras.

Entry and exit points of the main venue at the Jagatjit Palace, parking lots, and main entry points will be closely monitored by the police. Frisking of every person entering the venue will be done, according to sources.

“There is no need to panic as more than 250 policemen will be deployed and all important points will be closely monitored with the help of CCTV cameras,” SSP Rakesh Aggarwal said. 


Panel formed for adoption of abandoned babies
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, October 15
Taking a serious note of the instances in which four newly-born babies were found abandoned in the district during the past fortnight, deputy commissioner Rahul Tiwari has constituted a committee for their adoption, here today.

The DC has ordered the SSP to keep strict vigil to curb such cases and intensify patrolling, especially at night.

The PNDT cell in the district has been asked to extend its scope to at least one year after the delivery.

DC Rahul Tiwari said, “Many people are approaching the administration for the adoption of these abandoned children. As no government rules could be traced in this regard, so a committee comprising the SDM, DSP, SMO and secretary, Red Cross, has been constituted to hand over the child to the interested party after examining their applications.”


Soft drinks godown raided

Bathinda, October 15
Taking serious note of the supply of expired soft drinks to be served to Chief Minister and other dignitaries at a function here yesterday, the Health Department seized around 50 cartons of soft drinks and juice during a raid conducted at the godown of a supplier here today.

Food inspector, Civil Surgeon’s Office, Sanjay Katyal said, “We raided the godown of the Rajesh Cold Drinks company, from where the caterer allegedly bought soft drinks for the function. We have seized around 50 cartons of the expired soft drinks in two-litre and 100-ml packs.’’

Owner of the firm Rajesh said, “The cartons were lying in a corner and the ‘not-for-sale’ instruction was displayed near these. The officials took samples from these and seized all cartons.” Area sales manager of Coca Cola Tarun Pal said: The stock was yet to be verified. It was to be returned to the company.” — TNS


Power engineers oppose Act
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 1
The All-India Power Engineers Federation has decided to hold protest meetings at the State Electricity Boards Headquarters on November 21 to demand a review of the Electricity Act 2003.

Its spokesperson told The Tribune that the federation criticised the alleged new back-door method of privatisation. In the new franchisee system, profitable industrial and urban areas were being offered to private companies.

The process has already been started in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. The bidding for franchise is made on the basis of average revenue realisation. Vice-chairman of the federation Jambu Khot said in Maharashtra 50 per cent of the selected power board employees were being retained by the franchisee and the rest were repatriated to parent company.


Patiala deer park to have mini-zoo status
Attar Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 15
The district is all set to get another tourist attraction in the form of a mini zoo and the decks have been cleared for the purpose following a visit of a three-member expert team to deer park on the Patiala-Dakala road. Sources in the Punjab Wildlife Department said the team found the park fit for turning it into a mini zoo and a formal announcement in that regard would be made soon.

The team, comprising member secretary of the Central Zoo Authority of India, conservative of forests, Punjab (wildlife protected area), and the director of the Chhat Bir Zoo, found out that the deer park fulfilled almost all conditions laid down by the Central Zoo Authority.

According to the authorities, the mini-zoo status to the park will mean there are huge Central grants coming in.

There has been a proposal to have a post-mortem room in the park, the basic necessity for setting up a zoo.

The park has around 200 animals of different species and around 160 birds. The huge number of animals and birds in the park prompted the authorities concerned to seek the mini-zoo status.


Anganwari workers protest
Tribune News Service

Anganwari workers raise slogans in support of their demands at Rajpura
Anganwari workers raise slogans in support of their demands at Rajpura on Monday. — Tribune photo byJ.S. Virdi

Rajpura, October 15
The local unit of the Anganwari Workers' Union Punjab staged a protest in support of their demands. The leaders said the anganwari works were getting only Rs 1400 as monthly stipend and demanded that the workers should be brought at par with the government employees. 

They said despite repeated requests made to the central government and the state government, no measures had so far been initiated to fulfil the demands of the workers, following which there was widespread resentment among the anganwari workers. The leaders said despite having provided best services in areas where the modern medical science cannot reach, the anganwari workers had been subjected to step-motherly treatment. 


All-India Sikh Educational Conference

Amritsar, October 15
The educational committee of the Chief Khalsa Dewan will hold the 62nd All-India Sikh Educational Conference from November 2 to 4 at Sri Guru Harkrishan International School, Amritsar.

Stating this in a press statement here today, Pritpal Singh Sethi, chairman, welcome committee, said the conference would be inaugurated by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. — TNS



Reacting to a news-item, “Job Scheme Fund Fraud: Sarpanch comes under cloud”, published in these columns on September 25, the counsel for the sarpanch of Shahpur village in Hoshiarpur district, has refuted the allegations in the news report.

In a communication to The Tribune, Dhanoa Gurum Singh and Associates have claimed that the news is “palpably wrong” and has defamed his client. His respect and reputation have been lowered in the eyes of the public, it said and added that his client’s version should also have been published.

The Tribune Correspondent adds that the news report was filed on the basis of a meeting between Shahpur village residents and deputy commissioner. The delegation also submitted documents in support of the allegations to the deputy commissioner, photocopies of which are in The Tribune’s possession.

The complainants have also approached the director, panchayat, Punjab, in this regard. The latter has deputed an executive engineer to look into the allegations.


Notice to Punjab on Virk’s bail plea
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 15
Justice H.S. Bhalla of the Punjab and Haryana High Court today issued a notice for October 30 to the Punjab government on the bail plea of the former state police chief Sarbdeep Singh Virk, who is presently in judicial custody.

Virk is in the custody following the registration of a case against him by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau on September 8 under the Prevention of Corruption Act, among others, for allegedly possessing assets disproportionate to known sources of his income. Incidentally, Virk is undergoing treatment at the PGI here since the day of arrest.

In the wake of the preliminary submissions made by Virk’s counsel, Karanbir Singh Nalwa, who had also prayed for summoning the status report from the PGI about the petitioner’s health, Justice Bhalla also issued notice to the director, PGI, Chandigarh, for providing the latest medical report about Virk’s ailments and the treatment etc., by October 30.

In his petition, under Section 439, CrPC, the former Punjab Police chief had alleged political vendetta by Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal, who had been blamed for the registration of the case in question by a flying squad of the Vigilance.

As regards the allegation of disproportionate assets against him, the petitioner maintained that every rupee that he had received either by way of salary, gifts etc., was duly accounted for and was in the knowledge of the authorities concerned. The petitioner also stressed that the Vigilance had not considered the fact that all four members of his family were earning while arriving at its alleged assessment of the assets.

Amarinder’s son, kin get relief

Former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s son Raninder Singh today got a major relief when the high court allowed his plea for a blanket bail. Also, former Chief Minister’s kin Raminder Singh too was granted relief.

The division Bench comprising Justice S.K. Mittal and Justice K.C. Puri pronounced in the open court that the petitioners be given three days’ notice before arrest in any case, except in the Ludhiana City Centre case, to be registered by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau or the state police or any other instrumentality or agency of the state.

However, the Bench directed the duo to appear before the Vigilance officials on October 22, 29 and November 5. It was made clear that when they appear, they were not to be arrested by the state police, the Vigilance or any other instrumentality or agency of the state. The duo are on interim anticipatory bail already in connection with the Ludhiana City Centre case.

Land transfer challenged

The Punjab government’s decision to transfer all plots under the new Mandi township law, available with the state colonisation department to the Punjab State Agricultural Marketing Board, was today challenged in the high court by advocate Harmeet Singh Grewal.

Grewal sought directions to quash the notification issued under the new Mandi Township Act, 1960, to implement the decision regarding such transfer. Grewal also sought directions to set aside the decision arrived at a meeting of senior officers held on August 18, 2007, at the residence of the Chief Minister whereby entire assets of the department of colonisation at 28 locations in the state were to be transferred to the Punjab Mandi Board.

Aftre the preliminary hearing, the division Bench of the Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Mahesh Grover issued notices for November 15 to Punjab financial commissioner (development), principal secretary (local government), director colonisation and chairman state agricultural marketing board (Mandi Board).

Financial health questioned

A division Bench comprising Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Mahesh Grover today asked the the Punjab government to apprise it by December 11 of the financial health of the state in the context of some critical references to the same in some media reports.

Orders to this effect were issued in the wake of a plea filed by Bathinda-based Mathura Dass Setia in this regard in the ongoing hearing on the plea against the abolition of octroi in the state as this has landed local bodies into a difficult financial position.

Setia based his plea on observations of Dr S.S. Johal, former vice-chancellor of Punjabi University, Patiala, appearing in an article wherein he quoted facts and figures to convey how troubled the state government was due to depleting financial resources and rising debt.

Dr Johal’s article, annexed with the application, had also pointed out that the state debt had doubled since 2002 when the SAD-led regime went out of office. The petitioner had also referred to media reports wherein it was stated that 50,000 teachers of state-run schools had not been paid salaries for a year. Another instance mentioned was that of the non-payment of salaries for almost an year or so to the law officers who had joined the office of the state advocate general in the capacity of additional, senior deputy, deputy and assistant advocates general.

The applicant wanted directions to the Punjab government to admit or deny the facts contained in these reports in view of the understandable concern of the petitioner who prayed against the abolition of the octroi. 


Land Acquisition
Border farmers cry foul

Attari (Indo-Pak border), October 15
Hundreds of acres of fertile land, which belongs to India but falls outside its fenced border with Pakistan, are now being acquired by the Punjab government, but farmers are fuming that they are getting only half the market price.

The land in question, nearly 130 acres of it, is being bought for setting up a special cargo and business gate and terminal on the Indian side of the Radcliffe line international border to boost trade between the two countries.

“We have started the process for acquisition of land for the new gate and cargo terminal,” Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has already said.

The government has offered to pay Rs 2 million per acre as compensation for the land on the “other side” whereas land along the highway at this border check-post here is fetching Rs 4.5 million per acre.

As a result, farmers who own this land are angry. They are asking why they should accept a lower price for their land when everyone stands to benefit from the increased trade.

“We first suffered when our fertile land was put on the other side of the fence. Farming suffered due to border restrictions. Now, the government is itself offering less than half the price for our land across the fence compared to the Rs 4.5 million per acre being offered for land on this side of the fence. This is a discriminatory policy,” farmer Shahbeg Singh of Roranwala Khurd village said.

The agricultural land concerned belongs to India but falls across the barbed wire fence that India erected along the international border over 15 years ago. India had fenced the Punjab frontier in the early 1990s to keep Sikh terrorists and smugglers at bay.

The fence was put up over 500 metres inside Indian territory as Pakistan was averse to such a fence, inflicting losses on farmers whose land fell on the “other side”.

“We have not been freely allowed to grow crops on our own land across the fence since 1990. Farming is allowed only for a few hours by the BSF when farmers are allowed beyond the fence gates,” farmer Balbir Singh pointed out.

“We have suffered losses in agriculture and now the government wants to give a double blow by offering half the price for our land.” A new gate is being readied at the border as the Rs 6-billion trade between the two sides is expected to grow by nearly five times. Trucks from both countries are being allowed in a limited way to cross the international border to unload cargo in the other country.

The truck trade commenced Oct 1 and the central and state governments expect the new gate and cargo terminal to be ready within one year. — IANS


BKU to hold mahapanchayat
Our Correspondent

Abohar, October 15
Concerned over “exploitation” of cotton growers, the Bharatiya Kisan Union, led by Punjab State Marketing Board chairman Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, at an emergency meeting here today resolved to boycott the subdivisional grain market on October 30. A kisan mahapanchayat will be held on that day, a BKU spokesman said in the evening.

The meeting was presided over by BKU block president Gurjant Singh Rampura. Sukhpal Singh Buttar and Harpal Singh Bhullar also addressed the meeting, which was attended by office-bearers of village-level committees.

The meeting observed that farmers in the richest cotton belt here were denied remunerative price linked with the national price index. Cotton buyers were using brick-made weights in place of approved metallic measurements to weigh the cotton. Recently, Lakhowal asked district marketing officer to visit Abohar to check such irregularities, but to no avail.


BKU wants central laws to facilitate farm loans
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 15
The Bharti Kisan Union, claiming itself to be the foremost body of farmers of major agricultural states, wants the central government to come out with laws to facilitate farm loans at lower rates of interest.

Led by Mohinder Singh Tikait (UP) and supported by Ajmer Singh Lakhowal (Punjab), Gurnam Singh (Haryana), and Yudhvir Singh (Delhi) besides others, the BKU wants the Union government to act fast failing which it threatened to gherao Parliament after holding farmer panchayats in all states.

The BKU leaders after their two-day meeting in Delhi, which ended today, reiterated its earlier demand that support prices of agricultural produce be linked to the whole sale price index.

Talking to The Tribune this afternoon, Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, chairman, Punjab Mandi Board, accused the central government of double standards, saying while legislations were being made to waive huge loans of industrial houses, nothing was done to mitigate the suffering of the debt-rider farmers.

The farmers have to raise loans from private agencies and pay higher rate of interest as the government has not framed any farmer-friendly policy for making bank loans available to them at lower rate of interest. He lamented that though 65 pc of the population had agriculture as its avocation, only 18 pc of them are covered under the loan schemes of banks.

The economic condition of people will not improve until farming becomes attractive to youth for employment. The government should frame policies for making the loans available for agriculture sector at 4 pc simple rate of interest.

The BKU leaders welcomed the Cabinet decision regarding new land acquisition policy and demanded its implementation in Chandigarh also. A five-member committee of the BKU met the Prime Minister last month to demand the price of wheat linked to the wholesale price index. Though the new MSP of wheat at Rs 1000 per quintal has been announced, it is still short of the BKU demand by Rs 250 a quintal.


Clash victims get union support

Barnala, October 15
The BKU (Ekta Ugrahan) has come forward to seek justice for the victims of the Bhadaur gurdwara clash. A number of person suffered serious injuries, some even became handicap, in the police action during the clash about a year earlier. This was stated by general secretary of the union Sukhdev Singh Kokri today.

A clash had taken place among villagers and the police on October 11, 2006, over of a piece of land at Bhadaur. — OC


Bid to help 3 prisoners flee; jail official booked
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 15
Assistant superintendent of Patiala Central jail Sucha Singh has been accused of taking bribe to help three prisoners flee. The incident took place yesterday night.

Three prisoners- Karnail Singh of Pinjore in jail in an NDPS Act case, Dinesh and Vajinder both of Rajpura in jail for robbery, were lodged in one cell. They cut the iron bars of the cell and came out on the jail premises.

While they were trying to flee they were spotted by jail guard Raj Kumar. The guard tried to raise a the alarm but was overpowered by the accused.They rendered the guard unconscious.

The tussle attracted attention of the spot man on the jail walls who raised the alarm.

The jail authorities arrested the accused prisoners after more than one hour’s search in the walled premises.

Today morning in a confession before the police the prisoners alleged they had bribed assistant jail superintendent Sucha Singh who helped them in their plan to flee . They have alleged they paid Rs 1.65 lakh to the accused official ,who provided them withh tools to escape.

A case under the Prevention of Corruption Act has been registered against the jail official. The prisoners have also been booked for attempt to murder on a jail guard and trying to flee from jail.

Earlier too a Bihar native lodged in jail on charges of robbery had allegedly pole-vaulted the walls of the jail and fled. He has not been nabbed as yet.

The jail authorities were not available for comments. 


Preparing mentally challenged for outside world

Patiala, October 15
A very special school near the city, Navjivani, literally a new life, strives at propping mentally challenged on their own feet, literally as well in the symbolic sense.

Hundred-odd mentally challenged children between 5 and 15 years of age on the rolls of the Navjivani School of Special Education are held out a hand at every stage, even while being treated like the students of any other school.

Their enthusiasm, their brimming confidence, together with their discipline say that goals are on the way to being achieved.

Dr N.S. Sodhi, director of Navjivini, said, “Today, after 20 years of the launch of the school, we have a boarding house for children of the age group of 6 to 7 years. Preparing these kids for the outside world involves at its base, reading, arithmetic and physically coordinated activity, for which the school has the most modern physical facilities and teaching aids.”

Here, students of various mental levels, classified into educable, trainable and custodial groups, are given close individual attention.

Though relying primarily on voluntary donations, the school also receives financial assistance from the ministry of social justice and empowerment.

Looking beyond, the institution urges steps to enlarge the scope of education for the disabled.

“As per the world statistics, the incidence of mental handicap is 2.5 per cent. Now, if we simply go arithmetically, we cannot have so many schools and it’s not physically possible. We do not have the resources in a developing country like India,” said Sodhi.

He suggests that we should have a small cell in normal schools which handles the special children.

“Some kind of basic training should be given to one or the two teachers in a normal school and some services can be provided over there,” he added.

Cultural activities and functions within the school, and interaction with outside world serve an all too important objective, recognition of the human capabilities of the children.

It gives them ability and confidence to take on life in the outside world.

Besides teaching students, Navjivini has been a pioneer in Punjab as the only centre to organise training programmes for teachers of these children with special needs.

According to a national survey, the approximately 24 million mentally challenged persons clinically diagnosed in the country, takes the national average to around 19 per thousand that is almost 2 per cent.

Punjab has the highest state average in the country, a disturbing 29 mentally challenged persons per thousand population. — ANI


Students awarded degrees at Thapar
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 15
As many as 667 graduating students were awarded degrees during the convocation at Thapar University, here today.

Analjit Singh, chairman of Max India and Gautam Thapar, president, Thapar University, conferred the degrees on the students of 2006-07 batch.

Gautam Thapar said “Today when corporate India is facing a crunch of skilled professionals, it is heartening to see an institution like Thapar dedicated to the cause of creating a pool of qualified professionals. I would like to take this opportunity to wish the university and its students”.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Abhijit Mukherjee stressed that Thapar University was committed to developing high quality, professionally groomed technical and engineering manpower. “We have dedicated ourselves to creation and dissemination of knowledge. Our aim is to prepare and qualified individuals who respect the professional and social ethics of today’s business environment,” he added.

Elaborating on the new facilities to the students, he said a new library and hostel facilities for boys and girls to enhance the university’s stature are in the pipeline.

Nearly 12000 engineers have already distinguished themselves as proud Thaprians in diverse fields within the country and internationally, he added. Thapar University was one of the first three institutions that were granted full autonomy and the status of a deemed University in 1985 by the University Grants Commission of India, he said.


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