P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Youths gone missing after blast 
Despite claims, cops not convinced
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 16
Even as the police was grappling with the investigation into the Shingaar cinema blast, 11 youths, who had gone missing from the cinema, have become another major mystery for it to unravel.

Though the police claims that it has not received any missing report from any organisation or any individual, several migrant organisations are claiming that they have submitted a list of the youths, who had gone missing after the blast, to the police.

Relatives and friends of these youths, who have been making rounds of various hospitals since yesterday, said that they did not know where to go to find them.

SP (detective) Gurpreet Singh said no person had approached the police to lodge a missing person report. “The list of the dead and injured in the blast has already been released. It is surprising that despite such transparency, people are claiming that some youths were still to be traced.”

President of the Moulder and Steel Workers Union has claimed the missing youths included Alamgeer (17), Kallu (15), Aljar (15), Mithu (14) and Durge (20) from Shivaji Nagar and Dhoka Colony.

He said relatives and friends of the missing youths had approached the union. Safdar Alam, an injured in the cinema blast, had corroborated the union claim.

Surjapuri Naujvan Committee president Afroz Seth claimed Azam (24) from Ganesh Nagar and Basheer (31) from Basti Jodhewal were still missing.

Mohammad Zamil-ul-Akhtar and Gulab-ud-din, two migrants said they were also looking for their friends Ram Prakash, Rakesh, Kallu, Manzar (all aged between 20 and 25). They had gone to see the Bhojpuri movie in the cinema.

Interestingly, some of the youths reported missing yesterday were traced to New Delhi. They had gone there soon after the blast in sheer panic. Seth told The Tribune today that three youths Babar, Sajjad and Asgar called him up over the phone from New Delhi to tell him that they were scared after the blasts and just fled from the city.


Cinema staff grilled
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 16
Police officials today grilled 15 members of the Shingaar cinema support staff for hours together inside the hall to get some clue about the persons who planted the bomb.

The state police has summoned former terrorists, arms dealers and the persons who had given them shelter to enquire about their activities of late.

In a related development, the police department sent SSPs and SPs from other police districts to the blast site to help the investigators.

The cinema support staff include sweepers, ticket sellers, checkers, canteen boys, contractor and auxiliary staff. They were questioned together as well as individually.

Sources said the focus of the questioning was to find out who were the persons sitting in the front rows, especially in the third and fourth rows.

Though the police talked to a number of persons, no one has been detained.


What activated the bomb?
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 16
A thorough search of the Shingaar cinema has been carried out, the bodies have been examined in the post-mortem room, the injured have been x-rayed. However, still there has been no clue to the vital “firing device” that activated the bomb in the cinema.

Forensic experts from the National Security Guards (NSG) and Chandigarh Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) have been trying hard to find a clue to the firing device or “initiator” that set off the improvised explosive device (IED) in the cinema, killing six persons and injuring 36 others.

The firing device, a small electronic component, is used to set off a bomb. A timer or remote control activates it. It is the most important lead to find out that what kind of bomb was used in the blast and is the first step in identifying the terrorist organisation involved in the act. The investigation is thus stuck at the first step only.

The police is not sure that whether the IED was a time bomb, triggered by a remote or was one activated by one of the victims of the blast.

Experts believe it to be a remote possibility that the bomb was fixed in the spring of a seat because it could possibly not be done in a few minutes available between two shows of a film.

Meanwhile, the experts collected bags full of samples from the blast site. They have got reports about the nature of wounds, the metal pieces found in the wounds. But, still they are unable to say about the “initiator” device.

The experts were hopeful of finding the device or parts of it when they found a piece of flesh stuck on the 70-foot-high ceiling of the hall.


Sub-panel for reversing orders by Boparai
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 16
A sub-committee formed by the Punjabi University Syndicate has recommended the reversal of most of the controversial decisions taken by vice-chancellor Swarn Singh Boparai during the past five years of his stint.

In a report submitted to the university by chairman of the sub-committee Prem Singh Chandumajra, the members have recommended the re-induction of the students, teachers and employees who have been ousted or suspended by Boparai.

The sub-committee has recommended the reinstatement of former APRO of the university Harminder Singh Kokhar and an employee of Correspondence Courses Department Rajesh Kumar. The post of APRO was allegedly abolished by the VC to oust Kokhar from job. However, after his ouster, others were appointed on the post of APRO.

Recommendations have also been made for revoking the expulsion of three students, Gurpal Singh Dhaliwal, Gurnam Singh and Rajinder Singh. The VC ousted these students from the university in the year 2003 and they had to leave their academic courses in the middle. They have been agitating for being allowed to complete their courses since then.

The sub-committee has also recommended that action taken against research scholars, Jaspal Singh and Barjinder Singh, should be taken back. The embargoes implemented against these students should be lifted and they should be allowed to complete the courses, the sub-committee has recommended.

The committee has recommended that the inquiries and action undertaken against the employees including superintendent Malkiat Singh, junior assistant Harish Tiwari and junior technical assistant Darshan Kumar should be rescinded and the adverse remarks on their annual confidential reports should be reviewed.

The sub-committee has also recommended that charge sheets issued to professor Manjit Singh, reader in the department of history Kulbir Singh, professor and head of Guru Tegh Bahadur chair Baltej Singh Mann and Balwinder Singh should be withdrawn.

It has also recommended that inquiry against Dr Bhupinder Singh Khaira and show-cause notice to Dr Jamshed Ali Khan be withdrawn.

The report is likely to lead to confrontation between the VC and the government-supporting members of the syndicate. The VC is not likely to accept the recommendations of the sub-committee of the syndicate as it seeks to reverse almost every major decision taken by him in the past five years.

The next Syndicate is on October 18. The sub-committee report will be presented in the meeting and is likely to generate heat among the members. 


Delhi panel takes back Bir consignment

Amritsar, October 16
The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) had to take back a consignment of 100 Birs of the holy Guru Granth Sahib from Mumbai port, which was being sent to Canada in alleged violation of Sikh maryada.

Brother of Ripudaman Singh Malik, who has been accused in the 1985 Kanishka bombing case, had sought the Birs. Former president of DSGMC Harwinder Singh Sarna said former jathedar, Akal Takht, Prof Darshan Singh suggested that shipping of Birs to Canada was a violation of the Sikh maryada. — TNS


CPI seeks all-party meeting
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, October 16
The Communist Party of India (CPI) today asked the Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to convene an all-party meeting to discuss the Shingaar bombing at length for maintaining communal harmony, peace, unity and integration in the country as well as in the state.

Talking to The Tribune here today, member of the national executive of the CPI Joginder Dayal said the tragedy could not be taken as a stray incident.

The bombing showed that the extremist forces and religious fundamentalists had started rearing their heads, he added.

Dr Dayal asked the government to announce a financial help of Rs 10 lakh each for the families of those persons who had lost their lives in the blast besides Rs 15,000 to Rs 1 lakh for the injured.

He visited around 30 injured of the blast in the CMC hospital and at the Civil Hospital, Ludhiana. Many of them needed financial help immediately.


MLA Sidhu hobnobbing with BJP: Gharuan
Our Correspondent

Harnek Singh Gharuan
Harnek Singh Gharuan

Mohali, October 16
Launching an attack on the Congress MLA from the Kharar constituency, Balbir Singh Sidhu, a former Congress minister, Harnek Singh Gharuan said Sidhu was allegedly getting every kind of support from an Akali party and had even fought the earlier assembly elections as a rebel.

Gharuan alleged at a press conference here today that Sidhu had met Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Singh Badal to get the Akali party ticket for fighting the last assembly elections. He was also ready to contest the elections independently if he was denied the tickets by the Congress or the Akalis.

The infighting among local Congress leaders has now surfaced one again with allegations being levelled against each other.

The former minister, who denied the allegation levelled by Sidhu, said he had received Rs 20 lakh from Capt Kanwljit Singh for extending him support and added that he would be meeting Sonia Gandhi.


Dalits allege attempt to grab land
Our Correspondent

Abohar, October 16
Dalit residents of Killianwali village, which is situated at a distance of 5 km from here, met DSP Parampal Singh here and faxed complaints to the deputy commissioner, Ferozepur, today. They alleged in the complaints that some political activists were not allowing them to construct houses on the land allotted to them during the tenure of the Congress government.

They said the previous government had on June 23, 2006, allotted residential plots to homeless Dalits under the Indira Awas Yojna at the village.

The certificates of allotment, given ceremonially, carried photographs of the then Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and parliamentary secretary Sunil Jakhar. They said some of the allottees had raised boundary walls and others had completed construction of one-room sets. The village panchayat had earmarked 211 plots under the scheme.

But, the complainants said, some persons had tried to demolish their constructions to settle political scores as the allottees had refused to oppose Congress candidate Sunil Jakhar during the Assembly elections held this February. The Punjab State Human Rights Commission too had taken cognisance of the complaints in this connection.

Later, a Congress rally to protest these actions resulted in the department compensating the residents and agreeing to proceed against the culprits.

Today, the Dalit families told the DSP that miscreants had now damaged a bridge linking their colony to the rest of the village and started armed patrolling to harass the residents. They said the miscreants intended to block the passage in the first phase and then demolish the houses and boundary walls of incomplete accommodations to grab the panchayat land. Some of the walls had been razed using tractor-trailers, the deputation alleged.

The DSP asked the SHO, Khuyiansarwar, to rush to Killianwali village and take prompt action against the culprits. 


MLAs in for bonanza
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 16
Legislators in Punjab may be allowed more “facilities, better salaries and perks.” Yes, in these times of financial crisis, when every rupee counts, demands put forward on behalf of the MLAs in the state includes a hike in salaries and telephone allowance, doubling of travelling allowance, fresh allowance for electricity bills, provision for laptops and an increase in the quantum of fuel for vehicles, among other things.

Well-placed sources told The Tribune that the matter was at present with the Speaker of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Nirmal Singh Kahlon, who is expected to take it up on behalf of the MLAs with the government in the next few days. This will cost the state between Rs 6 crore to Rs 8 crore annually besides the one-time cost of buying laptops for the 117 MLAs would be about Rs 70 lakh at current prices. It remains to be seen if the finance department and the chief minister’s office agree to the plan or not.

If it is agreed then MLAs will get a salary hike as per the pattern followed for MLAs in neighbouring Haryana. It is another matter that the revenue earning in the neighbouring Haryana is far ahead of Punjab. At present MLAs get paid at Rs 6 per km for travelling on official work. The proposed hike is to double it and make it Rs 12 per km.

At present actual telephone bills are re-imbursed with a ceiling of Rs 1.20 lakh a year. The proposal is to hike the ceiling to Rs 1.50 lakh per annum. Also it says that the re-imbursement should not only be for actual bills but the entire sum of Rs 1.50 lakh be paid to the MLAs. This means if an MLA has a telephone bill of Rs 80,000, he will continue to get Rs 1.50 lakh whereas under the existing formula the government pays the actual.

Another demand is to have an allowance of Rs 1,000 for water and power bills on a monthly basis. At present nothing is paid on this account. The MLAs also want a sum of Rs 5,000 be given to hire a personal assistant. At present they get Rs 2,500 per month. A few of the demands are genuine, admitted a functionary This includes allowance for electricity bill and for hiring a PA. At present an MLA costs about Rs 60,000 per month to the exchequer and most of the money is spent on travelling. The cost is much less than the cost of having an IAS or PCS officer, who has a permanent job, said an MLA.

The existing limit of diesel of 500 liters in their official cars may be hiked, if the government agrees. Already in the past MLAs had made a demand that there should be some sitting space for them in the secretariat. 


Drug Abuse in Malwa
Drive to plug smuggling routes
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, October 16
Alarmed by a sharp increase in the incidence of drug abuse by youngsters in the Malwa region, the authorities have launched a drive to plug smuggling routes along the state’s borders with Haryana and Rajasthan.

A coordination committee consisting of district police chiefs of Sriganganagar and Hamumangarh in Rajasthan, Sirsa in Haryana and Bathinda, Faridkot, Ferozepur, Moga, Mansa and Muktsar in Punjab has been constituted to take steps to check smuggling of opium and poppy husk.

Deputy inspector-general, Faridkot Range, Jitendra Jain has launched a signature campaign against drug abuse and fixed a target of collecting three lakh signatures.

He said the incidence of smuggling of drugs into the Malwa region was increasing day by day. More than 62 kg of opium and 97 quintals of poppy husk was seized in the three districts of Bathinda, Faridkot and Mansa so far in the current year. Besides, seven lakh intoxication pills were also seized- 27 kg of opium in Faridkot, 21 kg in Bathinda and 14 kg in Mansa.

Jain said he was apprehensive about the response that the campaign against drug abuse would evoke, but the results had been encouraging. College girls had vowed not to marry addicts, he said.

What was encouraging was that many of the 140 addicts in the worst drug abuse area of Behman Deewana, which has been adopted by the authorities for the anti-drug abuse campaign, had responded positively. Two addicts in the habit of consuming large quantity of poppy husk had stopped taking the drug now.

But what was worrying, Jain said, was that the fair sex was also showing interest in drugs which was a very disturbing trend. He said poppy husk and opium reached Punjab from Haryana and Rajasthan via Bathinda, Ferozepur, Mansa and Sangrur. Smack came from Meerut and heroin from Pakistan. Synthetic drugs were available over the counters of nearly 1100 chemist shops in the district.

Jain said inmates of the Central Jail here would shortly be administered oath against drug abuse. 


Day of dharnas, blockades
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 16
It was a day of dharnas and traffic blockades in the city here today. The field and workshop workers’ unions of the departments of water supply, irrigation, drainage and sewerage blocked traffic.

They demanded regularisation of service of daily wage workers who have been with various departments for long.

They also demanded that promotions be given to field workers.

Workers of the PSEB also blocked traffic to seek the reinstatement of technical workers who were dismissed in the recent past for allegedly assaulting a deputy chief engineer.

The action of the employees had evoked objection from the engineers’ association.

Union leaders alleged that the workers were protesting against the privatisation policies of the government. They said the management had ordered their dismissal without a proper inquiry.

The traffic remained blocked for about two hours.


PRTC staff seek uniforms
Puneet Pal Singh Gill
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, October 16
Nearly 200 employees of the PRTC protested outside the local bus stand demanding supply of uniforms to bus drivers and conductors today.

Some time back, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had issued orders that, when on duty, all government bus drivers and conductors would wear uniforms.

According to Pritam Singh, president, PRTC Workers’ Union, every PRTC bus driver, conductor and workshop employee is getting a washing allowance of Rs 30 per month for the past four years. “But for the past four years, we have not got any uniform. Before that, drivers and conductors used to get two sets of summer clothes”.

Manvesh Singh Sidhu, managing director, PRTC, said he was not aware that PRTC employees have not been getting uniforms for the past four years.


Cell to probe cases of vendetta
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 16
After having faced allegations of registering police cases to target leaders of opposition parties, the Punjab Police has now appointed a DIG-level official to look into all such complaints. A formal order has been issued and the functions of the cell will be known in day or two, confirmed sources in the police.

It may be mentioned here that a delegation of Congress leaders had met the Punjab Governor Gen S.F. Rodrigues (retd) and demanded that cases of political vendetta be looked into. The Governor had suggested to the government to have a special monitoring cell to look into cases of vendetta. Another crucial factor is that Congress MLA from Bholath Sukhpal Khaira has filed a PIL on the issue of “political vendetta”. The move to create a cell to deal with such cases would ward off any questioning in the High Court on this account, said sources.

Separately, district-level committees headed by Deputy Commissioners had been formed by the ruling SAD-BJP combine and about 178 cases have been sent for review. Most of these cases are those registered by the previous Congress regime. The progress has been slow in this matter.


Cops strive to identify unclaimed body
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 16
Teams of the city police today visited every nook and corner of the city to find clue to the identity of one of the victims of the Shingaar cinema blast. Cops carried his picture all around the city, especially in the pockets where migrant labourers live in large numbers.

With no one having come to claim the body so far, the cops are pinning hopes on the identity of the person to crack the case. The police has released the picture of the deceased.


Mobile court faces lawyers’ protest

Hoshiarpur, October 16
Lawyers of district courts of Hoshiarpur, Dasuya and Garhshankar continued their strike for the second consecutive day today. The strike is intended to push the demand of Bar Association, Dasuya, for discontinuing the mobile court started at Talwara in Dasuya sub-division on October 2.

The mobile court was launched to provide speedy justice to the people of the Kandi area.

According to the president of the Bar Association, Dasuya, Balbir Singh Gill, the main causes for the opposition to the mobile court were non-availability of oath commissioners, photostat machines, typists and judicial papers, etc. — OC


Border farmers stage dharna
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, October 16
Farmers under the banner of the Border Sangarsh Committee, Punjab, today held a dharna in front of the Border Security Force headquarters and raised slogans against the BSF authorities to highlght problems faced by them.

Rattan Singh Randhawa and Dr Satnam Singh Ajnala, leaders of the farmer organisations, said senior BSF officers at Jalandhar had assured them to solve their problems, but nothing had been done.They said farmers having land across the border fence were facing hardships due to stringent rules and time imposed by the BSF for opening and closing of gates.

They demanded the opening of gates on Sundays and give farmers 10 hours a day for cultivation of land across the fence. They also sought more than 2750 acres of fertile land in the Rania and Kakkar areas as the BSF was not permitting farming activity.

Border area farmers reminded the government of the written agreement between the BSF authorities and the then DC Raminder Singh wherein they had agreed to allow the opening of gates for 10 hours and also allow work on Sundays, but he regretted the authorities were not fulfilling the commitment and had turned farmers in the state to penury.

The farmer leaders threatened an indefinite dharna in front of the BSF headquarters at Jalandhar in the second week of November if their demands were not met. 


Moga SSP shifted
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 16
The Punjab Government today transferred Davinder Singh, SSP, Moga on “administrative grounds” with immediate effect.

A spokesperson for the home affairs department said the SSP, Faridkot, would look after the work of the SSP, Moga, in addition to his own duties. The posting orders of Davinder Singh, IPS, would be issued later on, the spokesman added.


Pak national shot; bid to smuggle heroin
Varinder Walia 
Tribune News Service

Naushehra Dhalla (Indo-Pak border), October 16
India lodged a strong protest with Pakistan at an emergency flag meeting of the BSF and Pakistan Rangers here today. The meeting was necessitated following an attempt of an unidentified Pakistani smuggler to throw 14 packets of heroin worth Rs 14 crore to the Indian side from across the border fencing. Alert BSF jawans killed the smuggler while his accomplice, who suffered injuries in the firing, escaped.

Rangers refused to identify the smuggler. Senior BSF officials, headed by DIG R.K. Vishavkarma, showed blood trails of the injured smuggler and the flattened paddy crop.

The DIG said the Pakistani national was killed when the BSF jawans opened fire in self-defence. It was a comprehensive anti-smuggling system, comprising thermal imaging cameras that helped in thwarting the attempt to smuggle narcotics into the Indian side.

The Pakistani national was killed in the fields belonging to Gajjan Singh of Naushehra-Dhalla village. The area was infamous for smuggling of drugs, gold and weapons before Partition. After fencing of the 533-km border in the state, the incidence of smuggling has come down. However, the BSF authorities said at least 91 kg of heroin had been seized in the area this year.

The DIG said Inspector-General of the BSF Arvind Ranjan had decided to give commendation letters and cash prices to all officers and jawans who thwarted the smuggling attempt.

Unofficial trade between both countries is estimated to be more than $1 billion while official trade is a mere $800 million. Most of the unofficial trade occurs via smuggling. The fact that South Asia lies between two opium-producing regions, Golden Crescent in the west and Golden Triangle in the east, makes it difficult for any government in the region to tackle drug trafficking on its own. Despite regional and bilateral cooperation, illegal trafficking in drugs continues.


PPCC vice-chief held with opium
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, October 16
The police held vice-president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) Veena Sharma and five others, including her husband and son, with 2 kg opium and Rs 45,000 in cash here today.

District police chief L.K. Yadav, while confirming the smashing of the gang, said three of them were couriers from Uttar Pradesh while three locals were receivers.

He said following a tip-off, the police party conducted raid at Balbir Basti and apprehended Veena Sharma, her husband Suba Ram and their son Simranjit Sharma. Three suppliers of the contraband from Bareilly were Narain Das, Bindi and Rajpal.

Veena had contested elections for the Assembly seat from Faridkot in 1985 and was said to be close to PPCC president Rajinder Kaur Bhattal. She was elevated to the present position in the party during the tenure of Shamsher Singh Dullo. 


Rape Charge
Dept probe says ASI not guilty
Tribune News Service

Kharar, October 16
ASI Balwinder Singh at the police station here, accused of rape by a Manali girl, has been found not guilty by a departmental inquiry.

The inquiry conducted by SP (headquarter) Harinderjit Singh said the girl had submitted in an affidavit to the police that she was raped by a clean-shaven man, whereas Balwinder Singh wore a turban.

"We have decided to acquit Balwinder of the rape charge. We have written to the higher authorities on the matter," he added.

The girl from Manali was allegedly raped on August 31.

The police had sent the Kharar SHOPalwinder Singh to the Police Lines for dereliction of duty.

The 25-year-old girl was detained along with three male companions on a tipoff. A 45-year-old woman was also with them.

It was alleged that ASI Balwinder Singh raped the girl while taking her to the bus stop in his Zen car.


Chief Khalsa Dewan varsity soon
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, October 16
The Chief Khalsa Dewan Educational Committee will soon establish a university of Chief Khalsa Dewan to mark the 300th year of Gurgaddi Diwas of Guru Granth Sahib.

Charanjit Singh Chadda, president of the Chief Khalsa Dewan, announced this during a press conference here today.

Talking to the media, he said the foundation stone would be laid by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on the concluding day of the 62nd All-India Sikh Educational Conference starting on November 2 at Sri Guru Harikrishan International School here. The conference, dedicated to 300th year of Gurgaddi Diwas of Guru Granth Sahib, would conclude on November 4.

Chadda said although the place of setting up of the university was yet to be decided, it could be established anywhere in Punjab or Haryana.

Meanwhile, he said the three-day function would commence with a nagar kirtan from Gurdwara Baba Deep Singh Shaheed and be led by Cabinet minister Bikram Singh Majithia which would culminate at Harikrishan International School after passing through various bazaars of the holy city.

Former education minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Rangeel Singh would inaugurate the second day of the conference while MP Tarlochan Singh would deliver the keynote address.

On the final day of the conference, the dewan would honour prominent personalities.


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