P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Disinvestment not on govt agenda
Tribune News Service

Jalvera (Fatehgarh Sahib), October 29
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal here today categorically denied reports that the state government was planning to disinvest some of the public sector undertakings, given the fact that this was causing a huge loss to the state exchequer.

Speaking to mediapersons after presiding over a function to award scholarships to meritorious students of the Canadian Institute of International Studies (CIIS), the Chief Minister reiterated that the recent terrorist activities in the state were isolated incidents and it should not be concluded that it was revival of terrorism. Denying vendetta politics in the state, he said the leader of the Opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal had no other issues to attack the state government and was thus levelling false allegations against it.

Earlier, speaking on the occasion, the Chief Minister said educational societies should come forward and set up educational institutions in the backward areas of the state. He assured all logistic help to them. He said there was a lot of talent in rural areas that needed to be tapped by providing the children an opportunity to receive quality education.

Showing concerns over a recent report of the World Bank that a large number of graduates and postgraduates of the country were not skilled enough to compete at the international level, Badal said it was a time to concentrate on imparting education in technologies such as nano, bio, information technologies and business management.

He said Sri Guru Granth Sahib World University would be set up in the district that would impart hi-tech quality education. He said the state Cabinet had already approved it.

He was accompanied by MP from Hoshiarpur Avinash Rai Khanna.


Badal govt directionless, says Bhattal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, October 29
Terming the SAD-BJP government in Punjab as directionless, president of the Punjab Pardesh Congress Committee (PPCC) Rajinder Kaur Bhattal said today that the SAD-BJP government was functioning without any planning and coordination. Besides this, there was also no coordination among the ministers, due to which contradictory statements were being made by them on different issues.

Bhattal stated that the fight between the SAD and the BJP was not over the issue of hike in power tariff but over the posts of the chief minister and deputy chief minister. She said she had asked BJP leaders if they wanted a roll back in the tariff hike then they should withdraw the support to the Badal government, but nothing had been done in this regard as the BJP was not sincere on this issue.

Bhattal said she had set up a committee comprising retired advocate-generals, retired IGPs, Congress men, which would visit many areas in the state to know about the excesses committed on Congress men by the police and the administration during the present rule. She said on the basis of the report of this committee the next course of action would be chalked out.

Bhattal was here today in connection with a public rally organised by district president of the Congress Surinder Pal Singh Sibia. It was addressed among others by Razia Sultana (Malerkotla), Harchand Kaur Ghanauri (Sherpur), Surjit Singh Dhiman (Dirba), Surinder Pal Singh Sibia (Sangrur), all Congress MLAs from Sangrur district; Jasbir Singh Advocate, former Punjab Minister; and Aman Arora, general secretary of the Punjab Youth Congress.

Bhattal said she had invited Sonia Gandhi to the state and the latter had accepted this invitation. She said Sonia would visit the state in the last week of November or first week of December.


Information on Doorstep
SAD moots e-clusters  in villages 
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 29
Taking its cue from successfully run information-technology-backed “e-governance” models in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, the SAD has suggested to the Punjab government to introduce similar models for providing information to people on the doorstep.

The SAD said rural empowerment could come only when procedures were simplified for making e-governance effective. Service-provider hubs be set up in a cluster of villages. The quality of public service delivery is poor and prohibitively costly, says a letter sent by SAD working president Sukhbir Singh Badal to the government.

Sources in the government said work was on to get things moving to achieve the goal. About 60 per cent of land records had been computerised while other departments like urban development, health, police, education and transport could easily share the data for dissemination at the village level.

The overall long-term plan for such “e-clusters” is to help the health department in providing birth, death, or “handicapped” certificates. Issuing and renewing licences for private hospitals and nursing homes besides other medicare institutions, chemists, blood banks could be done at these clusters.

At the same, the education department will be asked to provide information on scholarships, provisions for books and other material under various national and state-level programmes through these clusters. The revenue department will be asked to provide land records besides issuing various certificates.

The government aims at providing copies of FIRs, information about proclaimed offenders, absconders and missing persons through these clusters. This, however, will require a major overhaul of the police department as the police stations are still to be equipped with computers. The SAD also wants that renewal of permits and registration of owners of motor vehicles should also be done at these “e-clusters”.

For the urban population, the “e-clusters” would provide for plan approvals, property mutation, regulation and collection of electricity charges, water charges, property and other taxes and regulation of public grievances, to be included in this reform process.

Information technology experts see not much of problem in operating these “e-clusters” as optic fibre cable has been laid in almost all areas of Punjab and major telecom service providers have enough capacity to run these services. Around 2,500 such e-clusters will be required.

The Central government already has a scheme to provide computers in rural areas.


Despite board steps, Sutlej  gets more polluted
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 29
Data collected by the Central Pollution Control Board under the Sutlej Monitoring Project has put a question mark on the working of the Punjab Pollution Control Board.

Despite stringent restrictions being implemented for checking pollution in water bodies over the past 10 years, pollution in the Sutlej has increased tremendously. According to Dr Akepati S. Reddy of the Department of Biotechnology and Environmental Sciences at Thapar deemed university, who has been collecting data on the river for the past 10 years on behalf of the Central board, the river water can’t be termed as “water” beyond the point where Budha Nullah falls in it. There is no oxygen in the river water beyond that point.

The biological oxygen demand (BOD) and chemical oxygen demand (COD) that are other vital parameters for calculating the pollution levels in a water body are at places thousands time more than the minimum prescribed standards.

The Tribune has data collected by scientists from 10 points along the river in Punjab since the past 10 years. The scientists have collected the data from Nangal, Anandpur Sahib, Bunga Sahib, Ropar, Phillaur (at two points), Sangowal, Yousufpur, the Chaheru bridge, Kangiwal, Peru Shah Ki Dargah and the Malsian bridge.

In 1997, average dissolved oxygen at Yosufpur was 4.82 mg/litre. However, in 2006, it reduced to just 1.49/mg/litre. Beyond this point, the dissolved oxygen in the river water is nil. The level of ozygen in the water has been nil since 1996 and there was no improvement in the situation even in 2006 or till August, 2007.

At Yosufpur, the BOD was 11.7 mg/litre in 1997. After about 10 years, it has increased to 57.6 mg/litre. Further downstream at the Chaheru bridge, it has increased from 215.4 mg/litre to 1,124 mg/litre. The ideal BOD for normal drinking water is 3 mg/litre.

The COD at Yosufpur was 49 mg/litre in 1996. It had increased to 164 mg/litre in 2006. Downstream from that point, it has grown to levels of 8281 mg/litre, 1200, 663 and 475 mg/litre.

The fecal coliform numbers (another parameter indicating pollution levels) have increased along the entire stretch of the river. The numbers now range from 47 per 100 ml to 25,02,461 per 100 ml. The total dissolved solvents (TDS), total suspended solvents (TSS), presence of nutrients as NH3, NO2 and NO3 and chlorides have also increased in the river.

The scientists have blamed the increasing pollution in the river to the failure of the authorities concerned (read Punjab Pollution Control Board) to regulate the discharge of pollution loads in the form of industrial effluents in the river. Under the Sutlej action plan, six sewerage treatment plants (three at Ludhiana, two at Phagwara and one at Jalandhar) were to be commissioned. However, none of these have been commissioned yet.


Instructions for babus from CM
Respect SAD workers
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, October 29
Addressing a rally at Dhuga Kalan village, 35 km from here, today Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has instructed all officers of the state government to listen to the grievances of the persons visiting their offices patiently and try to solve them at the earliest.

The Chief Minister said complaints were being received on a regular basis that due respect to the public and SAD workers was not being given by some of the officers of the state government, which had tarnished the image of his government. Every officer of the state government should take his above said instructions seriously and give due respect to all visitors, Badal said.

On account of wrong policies of the Union government around 70 per cent of the people of rural areas were still being deprived of the facilities being given by it. During preparing of the schemes by the Union government for rural areas, problems being confronted by the inhabitants were not considered seriously. On account of this reason the benefits of these schemes did not reach the poor, he said.

After an economic survey in the country, the facts showed that the daily income of 60 per cent families was still Rs 20 per day. To improve the condition of people of the state, the state government would soon prepare a comprehensive plan.

Referring to the shortage of drinking water in Kandi area, the Chief Minister said his government with the help of the World Bank had prepared a scheme in which 5 per cent share of the total cost of the project in Kandi and Bet areas and 10 per cent in other areas had to be provided by the panchayat concerned and the remaining by the government.

He said to clear the arrears of the farmers against their sugarcane crop, Rs 18 crore had been released, which would be disbursed to the them before Divali.

The Chief Minister announced the upgrading of the Garhdiwala civil dispensary into a 50-bed hospital. He also announced a juice factory at Hariana town.

Avinash Rai Khanna, MP, district president of the SAD Surinder Singh Bhulewal Rathan and many others also addressed on this occasion. Local leaders of the SAD, BJP and residents of the area participated in the rally.


Sena for CBI probe into kidney case

Amritsar, October 29
The All-India Hindu Shiv Sena here today demanded a CBI inquiry into the kidney case, leading to death of a three-year-old girl last month. Her kidney was allegedly removed during treatment in the local Government Medical College.

President of the party Surinder Kumar Billa has accused the principal of the college, Dr J.P.K. Shergill, of removing the kidney of the child, Sonia, without taking consent of his kin.

The husband of Dr Shergill said the matter was before the court and he would not like to comment on it. — TNS


Karva Chauth spirit pervades state jails 
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, October 29
It was a rare feast to the eyes for undertrials and convicts from Pakistan and Bangladesh to see Hindu and Sikh women undertrials or convicts celebrating Karva 
Chauth in the Central Jail here today.

The state government gave a special permission to celebrate the festival in jails. While women were allowed to meet their husbands, lodged in the jail, from the other side of the big jail gates made of iron bars, the jail authorities arranged for meetings of jailed couples. Women, wearing bridal makeup, made a beeline for jails.

Jaswinder Singh and his wife Rekha, who are lodged in the Central Jail over a kidnapping case, were so delighted over the gesture of the government that they could not express their gratitude in words. With tears of joy rolling down her eyes, Rekha performed “aarti” of her husband on the jail premises.

Rajni, a resident of Gawal Mandi, Amritsar, visited the jail to meet her husband, Tarsem Singh, who has been in the jail for the past more than four years. Talking to The Tribune, she said she had observed customary fast for the long life of her husband. Similarly, Lakhwinder Kaur, who had come to meet her husband Devinder Singh, said she was happy that the state government and the jail authorities had provided them an opportunity to meet each other on this auspicious festival.

Jail Superintendent S.P. Singh said women were allowed to meet their husbands in the jail between 9 am and 5 pm. Routine meetings, however, had to be cancelled today, he added.

He said the couples, who were otherwise lodged in separate barracks, would be allowed to meet till the rising of the moon only.


Another term for Avtar Singh may suit Badal
K. S. Chawla

Ludhiana, October 29
The last meeting of the executive committee of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) for 2007 is being held on November 1 and the meeting for the election of office-bearers, including the president, has been fixed for November 28. The election of the office-bearers is to be held before November 30. Rumours and conjectures regarding who will be elected to head the parliament of the Sikhs are afloat.

Avtar Singh has had two terms as the SGPC chief, courtesy Parkash Singh Badal. His tenure has witnessed several controversies. He was made in charge of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) elections last year where the Badal group was defeated by Sarna brothers - Paramjit Singh Sarna and Harvinder Singh Sarna. It was a tough task for Avtar Singh because he did not find many people he could influence in Delhi. Also persons enjoying the confidence of Badal did not have a good reputation. But Avtar Singh worked hard to push them through. For Avtar Singh, the DSGMC left a bad taste. He earned acrimony against the Sarna brothers. The Sarna brothers still remain unassailable despite allegations against them.

In the SGPC hierarchy, Avtar Singh has been holding the fort for Badal and his son Sukhbir Singh. For this he has been criticised as the decisions taken by him were frowned upon. Affairs in the Guru Ram Das Institutes of Medical and Dental Sciences have remained far from satisfactory. But still the SGPC was able to get the number of seats enhanced to 100 in the institute from the MCI.

Despite these efforts, the financial position of the two institutes remains precarious. A loan Rs 20 crore was raised by the SGPC for these institutes.

The much-talked-about Guru Granth Sahib university, it is claimed is taking shape. A trust has been included. The Academic Committee has not been formed to define the objectives of the university. The area of knowledge the proposed university will explore, besides the study of Guru Granth Sahib, has not yet been decided. However, the money has been voted and it is said it will be a private university. But such a university cannot be expected to be a profit-earning university. It has to be a symbol of Sikh excellence as it is being floated by the SGPC, feel Sikh scholars. It must ensure its character and further Sikh aspirations of the coming generation, they point out.

Avtar Singh has been trying to salvage the situation in the SGPC administration. The task is taxing. As an Akali leader of Ludhiana, he has gained ground as president of the SGPC. His son has been elected councillor of the Municipal Corporation, Ludhiana, and he has tried to see that his influence is discernible in the administration of the local institutes run by the SGPC. But there are hurdles in the way for him for a third term.

His opponents are active and they think their claim is better than his. The names doing the rounds are Kirpal Singh Badungar, Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, Bibi Kiranjot Kaur, a woman considered to be a highly educated member of the SGPC and granddaughter of veteran Akali leader Master Tara Singh.

For Badal it is another exercise of balancing act. Avtar Singh has been loyal and pliable to Badal and not attracted serious allegations and Badal may find Avtar Singh suitable for another term. 


Baba Sheikh Farid Award for VC
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, October 29
The Sufi Samvad Sanstha and Cultural Club will honour Dr Harjinder Singh Dhillon, a noted scholar of Sufism and former dean (student welfare) with the Baba Sheikh Farid Award-2007 during its second annual congregation “Ek Sham Sufian De Naam” at Punjab Naatshala here on October 31.

While Dr G.S. Sidhu Damdami, editor of Punjabi Tribune, will be honoured with the Baba Bulle Shah for Media - 2007 award for his achievements in the field of Punjabi print and electronic media, senior Hindi journalist Shammi Sareen of the Dainik Bhaskar Group will be conferred with the Peer Budhu Shah award for his analytical reporting of Punjab politics.

According to a press note of the body issued here today, Sufi singer Saida Begum, belonging to Patiala Gharana, will be honoured with the Sai Mian Mir Award- 2007.

The annual congregation will be presided over by chief of Nirmal Panchayat Akhara (Kankhal) Sant Gian Dev Singh while public relations minister Bikram Singh Majithia and Cabinet minister Gulzar Singh Ranike will be the chief guests.


VC lays stress on e-journals
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, October 29
e-journals have achieved a greater importance at the global level. This was stated by Dr Jai Rup Singh, vice-chancellor of Guru Nanak Dev University, after inaugurating “One-day User Awareness Programme on e-resources” organised by the Bhai Gurdas Library of the University in collaboration with the Information and Library Network of the University Grants Commission, Ahmedabad.

The VC laid stress on the importance of e-journals in modern era. Dr H.S. Chopra, head of Bhai Gurdas Library, also spoke. 


Security gets media wary
Tribune News Service

Jalvera (Fatehgarh Sahib), October 29
The security agencies deputed for the Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today remained wary of mediapersons following intelligence reports that terrorists could attack posing as media men.

During Badal’s visit to this village in the district, where he had come to award scholarships to students of the CIIS, the district police along with his personal security staff kept the mediapersons under a scanner. They did not let any of the cameramen, electronic or print, to come near the stage where Badal sat. Media personnel and their equipment were checked thrice before they were let into the venue of the function.

Badal was scheduled to address a press conference after the function, but it was called off at the last minute. However, he told his security staff not to stop the media from having an informal interaction with him. 


2 killed, 3 injured in accident 
Tribune News Service

Fatehgarh Sahib, October 29
Two persons were killed and three injured when the vehicle they were traveling in, collided with an unidentified vehicle near Pohlamajra village.

Khushwant Singh and Amandeep Singh, residents of Kohara village of Ludhiana district were killed on the spot while Jaswinder Singh and Harjit Singh, residents of Machiwara town, along with Manjinder Singh, sustained serious injuries in the accident.

They were on their way from Chandigarh to Ludhiana when their car met with the accident. They were immediately rushed admitted to the Civil Hospital, Khamano.

Meanwhile, in Lalru a cyclist was run over by a bus on the Chandigarh-Delhi national highway here today.

The victim, 42-year-old Jeevan Mandal, was hit by a Haryana Roadways bus. The bus driver fled with the vehicle after the accident. However, it was later intercepted and impounded at a naka.

The victim was living at Devi Nagar at Dera Bassi and had hailed from 


Scribe dead
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 29
Rakesh Rishi (29), reporter with Dainik Bhaskar, died here today after suffering an epileptic attack.

Rishi was working at the newspaper’s Leela Bhavan office in the afternoon when suddenly he collapsed. He was immediately rushed to a nearby hospital where the doctors declared him brought dead.

Rishi is survived by his wife and a two-year-old son.

A pall of gloom descended on Rishi’s residence as people gathered at his residence.

Condolence messages poured in from public relations minister Bikramjit Singh 
Mathitia, media advisor to Chief Minister H.S Bains, secretary of public relations D.S Jaspal, director, public relations, Tejvir Singh, commissioner, Patiala division S.K Ahluwalia and deputy commissioner D.S Grewal.


Lawyers opposed to shifting of courts
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Kapurthala, October 29
The District Bar Association is opposed to the proposal of shifting judicial courts from the local courts complex, which also houses executive courts, to Nurpur Dona village on the Jalandhar road. Both places are situated at a distance of 7 km from each other.

The association passed a resolution, requesting the state government and the Punjab and Haryana High Court not to initiate the process for shifting the judicial courts.

Former president of the association Rakesh Sharma told The Tribune that the advocates were against the proposal mainly for two reasons. Firstly, hundreds of litigants would have to spend extra money on conveyance to reach Nurpur Dona to attend hearings. Secondly, there was a proposal to shift only judicial courts to the proposed place and the executive courts were to either remain at the present courts complex or to be shifted to a place located on the Sultanpur Lodhi road, Sharma added. 


Lawyers urged to fight Amitoz’s case for free
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 29
Lok Bhalai Party president Balwant Singh Ramoowalia called upon the Patiala District Bar Association here today to fight the case of Dr Amitoz Kaur free of cost.

Dr Amitoz Kaur had refused to marry an NRI doctor who had reportedly demanded dowry of Rs 50 lakh at the time of the wedding a couple of days back.

Interacting with mediapersons after honouring Amitoz for her courage and conviction, Ramoowalia said the state government should come forth with concrete steps to fight the menace of dowry and human-trafficking.

Ramoowalia lamented that the state and Central governments had remained mute spectators to the menace of dowry and human-trafficking. He said political parties had also remained silent on these two burning issues which needed immediate attention. The parties were more interested in vote politics instead of addressing themselves to these pressing problems.

Ramoowalia further announced on the occasion that his party would fight the case of Amitoz in the High Court and the Supreme Court and bear the expenses of the case.

He expressed solidarity with the family of the girl and demanded that the NRI culprit should not be allowed to go back till the case was decided.

The LBP chief also demanded that the state government should come forth in honouring Amitoz who had refused to marry a dowry seeker.

He said there were at least 15,000 pending cases of marital disputes involving NRIs pending as of today. His party had already helped settle about 2,000 such cases, he added.


Man booked for possessing explosives
Tribune News Service

Beas, October 29
A day after the recovery of huge quantity of explosives from Jodh village, near Beas, the police here today confirmed that the entire lot had Army marking and been smuggled out of the Army destruction ground in the area.

Talking to The Tribune, Iqbal Singh SSP (Rural) said a team of Army officials yesterday investigated the nature of the explosives recovered and pointed out that all of it was residual of an Army consignment. Interestingly, two rooms-full of explosives have been found from the house of Tarsem Singh, who is not a registered junk dealer. A case has been registered against Tarsem under the Explosives Act for illegal possession of explosive material.


Woman loses jewellery worth Rs 2 lakh
Tribune News Service

Kharar, October 29
Carrying valuables on her, lest they should be stolen if she left them at home, proved costly for a woman today after she lost her gold jewellery worth Rs 2 lakh and Rs 15,800 in cash from her bag.

Kulwant Kaur, a resident of Phase X, Mohali, had come to visit her mother today. She boarded a CTU bus from Mohali and reached here around 1 pm.

Around 4 pm, when her younger sister asked for some money, Kulwant found that the small purse holding the money and gold jewellery weighing 180 gram was missing.

She traced the bus through tickets to Chandigarh’s inter-state bus terminal and asked the conductor and driver about the purse, but to no avail.

She then reported the matter to the Kharar police. In her statement, she said she had given a Rs 5 note to the conductor for ticket near Daun village. The conductor had refused to accept it, saying it was soiled.

She then opened her purse containing valuables and pulled out another Rs 5 note.

“That was the last time I saw the valuables in the purse,” she said.

She told police that a few days ago a house in her neighborhood was burgled and cash and gold jewellery were stolen.

Taking precaution, Kulwant thought it best to carry the valuables with her to Kharar, instead of leaving these behind.

The Kharar police has lodged a DDR and is investigating the case.


Trade licence: Four firms get notice 
Commission agents protest

Tribune News Service

Kharar, October 29
The Kharar Market Committee today conducted surprise raids on four firms for trading in paddy, wheat and cottonseed without requisite licences and slapped notices on them.

Market committee secretary Gurmohan Singh and supervisor Ramzan Khan served notices to the aforesaid firms under Section 6 (3) of the Punjab State Agricultural Produce Market Act 1961 for not having licence to trade in paddy, wheat and cottonseed.

During the raid, Anil Trading Company was found to have stored 500 quintals of paddy worth Rs 5 lakh in his godown in the grain market and was trading without licence. “When we served a notice on him, he refused to accept and hence, we have pasted the notice on his shop,” said Gurmohan Singh.

Similarly, Shiv Trading Company has been trading wheat and cottonseed but has not taken licence for the same since May 2007. The firm had traded 1,800 quintals of wheat worth Rs 16 lakh and cottonseed worth Rs 44 lakh without any licence or market fees.

BG Trading Company has been penalised for Rs 37,900 as demurrage charges for storing wheat for more than 59 days at its godown. The fourth firm, Bhagwati Enterprises, had been trading in large-scale cottonseed without any licence.

Later, irate traders met local SAD leader Rajbir Patiala and complained against the market committee for forcing them to apply for licences. They claimed that all over Punjab, market fees had been exempted and still the committee was forcing them to pay the same. They also added that no licence was needed for cottonseed as the traders had already paid for cotton.

“Cottonseed is a byproduct of cotton and we don’t need to pay fees for it as we have already paid for cotton,” added a trader.

They also alleged that their signatures were being forcibly taken on some documents.


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