P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Canal Row
State set to take on water commission
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 2
The Punjab Government is gearing up to take on the central water commission (CWC) which it feels is “clearly biased” against the state and is “blatantly favouring” Haryana on the issue of Hansi-Butana branch, a multi-purpose link channel. In fact, the channel issue is expected to hot up in days to come as the Punjab Government has already opened up the front against the commission with a hard-hitting statement made against it by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

The government has decided to send a team of senior level officers of the Punjab Irrigation Department to Delhi soon to confront the commission on various issues related to the channel. A senior functionary of the state government said Punjab had raised objections in writing before the commission long back and a copy of objections was also sent to the Haryana Government.

Haryana replied to those objections to the commission and did not send the copy to Punjab. However, for a long period of time, the commission also did not send the copy of Haryana reply to Punjab.

The state government functionary said Haryana was being provided all information by the commission filed before it by the Punjab Government. “At what level the information in the commission is leaked to Haryana, it is not known yet but we strongly object to it,” said the functionary.

The commission, which did not allow the Punjab Government to construct Dashmesh canal, that was proposed to give water to the vast barren area of Ropar and Mohali districts and the Banur area of Patiala from the SYL canal, how can it allow the construction of a channel to draw water from the Bhakra Mainline canal for Haryana.

Meanwhile, a preliminary report submitted by Dr Rakesh Khosa, senior professor in the IIT, Delhi, regarding the adverse effect of the channel on various areas of Punjab, will also be submitted to the commission soon. Dr Khosa, an expert on hydrology, was engaged by the Punjab Government to seek expert opinion on “effects” of the channel on various parts of Punjab.

Dr Khosa has stated in his report that the alignment of the channel, that is almost complete, is in direct conflict with general features of the topography of this region. The channel runs across the prevailing slopes and in the process is expected to intercept the existing natural drainage.

People residing to the north of the channel in Punjab territory have strongly protested against the proposed embankment of the channel on their side as it will impede the region’s innate hydrological capacity to facilitate disposal of the flood runoff into the Ghaggar and Patiala nadi. Haryana claims that provision for siphons has been made wherever required and no flooding is anticipated. However, Dr Khosa says “that is largely an unverified claim that needs validation by detailed simulation studies”.

Dr Khosa says increased frequency of flooding on the Punjab side of the channel is anticipated because even minor flows that would have normally drained freely into Ghaggar and Patiala nadi will now be impeded and the resulting impounding of water by embankment would inundate vast tracts of land within territory of Punjab.


Witnesses turn hostile in assault case
Sukhbir urges exemption from personal appearance
Neeraj Bagga
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, November 2
The witnesses in cases pertaining to attack on mediapersons allegedly by Sukhbir Singh Badal, acting president, Shiromani Akali Dal, turned hostile in the local court by backtracking from their earlier statement, here today.

It may be mentioned that Ajay Verma, lensman of Desh Sewak, and Naresh Sehgal, journalist of another Punjabi daily Jagbani, had registered separate cases against Sukhbir Singh Badal for assaulting them when they were covering the incident in which a vehicle had been damaged on September 5, 1999 at Kotkapura, during the elections.

Following directions from the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the police station concerned registered a case.

Witnesses Narinder Singh, ASI, Lachman Das, head constable and Beant Singh, constable, who had been escorting Sukhbir Badal on that day, said that Sukhbir was not at all present on the spot. About their earlier statement to the police in which they had mentioned that the leader was present during the assault on mediapersons, they said that they did not know about it.

Meanwhile, Sukhbir Badal, in an application moved before the court through his counsel, requested for exemption from personal appearance in the court on the ground that being a Member of Parliament (MP), acting president SAD and former Union minister, he had to maintain a busy schedule.

The court had taken a serious notice of his absence during the last proceeding held on October 24. It was the fourth time that Sukhbir Badal had failed to appear before the court.


Sukhbir against sting operation

Faridkot, November 2
Sukhbir Singh Badal, acting president, Shiromani Akali Dal, today said that sting operations were not in a good spirit as far as the individuality of a person was concerned.

Talking to mediapersons after appearing in the court here today, the leader said that sting operations did not reflect well on civilised society. He said that besides being an attack on one’s personality, it had been used for ulterior motives as well. 

When asked about taking over as the chief minister from his father, he dismissed it all as rumour. He also said that the party and he himself were committed only to the development of the state. — TNS


Secy deposes in case against Badals
Tribune News Service

Ropar, November 2
Chief parliamentary secretary for cooperation Jagdeep Singh Nakai today deposed before special judge, Ropar, in a corruption case against the Badals.

Nakai said he had good relations with Sukhbir Badal. He said in 1997-98 he had booked two flats on the Barakhamba road through Munjal Leasing Ltd, Delhi, for Rs 21.8 lakh. Both sites being commercial, he said he thought of investing the money elsewhere and asked Sukhbir to buy the flats, who bought these for the same amount. The amount was paid through bank drafts. The vigilance in the charge sheet filed had included the flats in the alleged disproportionate assets created by the Badals.

The other two witnesses who deposed before the court today included assistant general manager Sudesh and assistant manager Pardeep Kumar Tiwari of the Haryana State Industrial Development Corporation (HSIDC).

In her statement AGM Sudesh maintained that she handed over the record regarding the Orbit resort owned by the Badals to the Punjab vigilance. On October 15, 1988, we had received a request letter from Sukhbir for the construction of a holiday resort. The HSIDC received an amount of Rs 60,52,751 as 25 per cent of the tentative cost of the land allotted to them. The total cost of the land came to Rs 2,42,11,000. The plot allotted to Orbit Resort was, however, resumed due to non-compliance of certain terms. However, Orbit Resorts moved the Punjab and Haryana High court and the court later upheld the allotment of plot to the company.

Orbit Resorts was the main property in question in this case.


Public support must for dream projects: CM
Our Correspondent

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in conversation with Dalbir Singh Dhillon, chairman, Punjab School Education Board, at Khatkar Kalan on Friday.
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in conversation with Dalbir Singh Dhillon, chairman, Punjab School Education Board, at Khatkar Kalan on Friday. — A Tribune photograph

Nawanshahr, November 2
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said the SAD-BJP government had started taking revolutionary steps to revamp the education system in the state.

He was addressing a gathering after laying the foundation stone of the extension block of Adarsh Senior Secondary School dedicated to Shaheed Bhagat Singh at his native village Khatkar Kalan, about 10 km from here, today. Facilities like modern labs, computer education, sports complexes would be provided and no fee would be charged from meritorious but poor students, the Chief Minister said.

Skill centres would also be set up for imparting training in various skills to school drop-outs as per the requirements of the job market, Badal further said and added that such dream projects cannot be successfully implemented at the grassroots level without public cooperation, he said.

Deputy Speaker, Lok Sabha, Charanjit Singh Atwal said in the present era of globalisation quality education was a requirement for seeking government jobs.

Dalbir Singh Dhillon, chairman, Punjab School Education Board, said Rs.1.75 crore would be spent on the construction of a new block of Adarsh Senior Secondary School, Khatkar Kalan.

Local MLA Jatinder Singh Kariha, district SAD president Mohinder Singh Hussainpur, state vice-president of the BJP Varinder Kaur Thandi also addressed the gathering.


Hints at relief for medical students

Patiala, November 2
The state government was planning to upgrade at least three government schools in each Assembly segment to Adarsh Schools. Industry and village panchayats would be involved in setting new Adarsh Schools. This was stated by the CM at a press conference here today.

In another announcement he said the state government was going to effect a rollback in the hiked fee of these students from the next session. Badal said his government would also consider releasing DA instalment soon.

He was accompanied by his media adviser Harcharan Bains and senior SAD leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa. They condoled the death of Rakesh Rishi, a sub-editor-cum reporter of Dainik Bhaskar. The Chief Minister promised a job for the wife of the deceased in private sector. — TNS


Youth Cong leaders protest against Daler Mehndi
Tribune News Service

Patiala, November 2
Hundreds of workers and leaders of the Punjab Youth Congress (PYC), led by its state president Vijay Inder Singla, held a protest against pop singer Daler Mehndi for the latter’s outburst against the Congress and the former Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh.

Daler had reportedly held the Congress and its leaders responsible for his “torture” by the police during the previous regime.

The Congress leaders and workers, who organised a sit-in at the local Phuhara Chowk, were carrying placards with slogans like ‘Daler Mehndi Hai Hai’ and ‘Daler Mehndi Go Back’.

“We welcome Daler for the reason that people of Patiala want to listen to his songs and music. But he should not have used abusive and derogatory language against Capt Amarinder Singh. Our Legal Cell chairman has already slapped a legal notice against Daler for his recent outburst against the Congress and the party leaders,” said Singla.

The PYC leaders, it is learnt, had planned to gherao Daler on his arrival in the city, but had shelved their plan due to enhanced security arrangements by police officers. “Not only has Daler been speaking against Congress leaders, he has also used derogatory language against women during one of his recent interviews,” said Singla.

Senior PYC leaders, including Sharanjit Singh Jogipur, Kuldip Benipal and Sanjiv Sharma, were present.


Food poisoning: 34 more cases reported
It was deliberate, says DC
Megha Mann
Tribune News Service

Kharar, November 2
Thirty-four more cases of food poisoning from Guru Gobind Singh Modern Technology and Polytechnic College, Khanpur, were reported today.

Ten of the patients were admitted to civil hospital, Kharar, and 14 were screened at the OPD services. Also, 10 patients went to civil hospital, Phase VI, SAS Nagar, out of which, four were discharged today evening.

Also, a team from the department of community medicine of the PGI visited the college hostel.

The team paid a visit in view of a high number of gastro cases reported after partaking langar in the college and to avert any possibility of an epidemic. Team members visited the college mess and took stock of the situation. Medical officer from Kharar Dr Aurobindo Mitro accompanied the team to the college.

Meanwhile, the civil surgeon submitted reports of district health officer Dr S.P. Surila and additional SMO Kharar Dr Jai Singh to the deputy commissioner, SAS Nagar.

When contacted, deputy commissioner H.I.S. Grewal said he had received reports. When prodded about administration taking action against the erring people, he said “Bring me complaints. There is no complainant in the case. Neither teachers, students nor their parents have complained so far,” he said.

When asked why does the administration not take suo motu notice of so many people falling ill after partaking langar, he replied, “If I start taking suo motu notices, I will not have any other work to do. Moreover, on prima facie, it seems that someone has made a deliberate attempt to harm people taking langar.”

Meanwhile, commissioner, Patiala division, S.K. Ahluwalia, could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.

It is pertinent to mention here that more than 362 cases were reported in last two days when people, mainly students, fell ill after partaking langar at the college. Since then, the district health department has been on it heels providing relief to the victims of food poisoning, whereas the district administration has not taken any step in this context so far.


Majithia ‘leads’ nagar kirtan
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 2
A nagar kirtan was taken out by the Chief Khalsa Diwan Education Committee as part of the 62nd All-India Sikh Educational Conference, dedicated to the 3rd centenary of Gurgaddi Diwas of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, here today.

The procession started from Baba Deep Singh Gurdwara and Akal Takht Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti addressed those present. Baba Darshan Singh honoured minister for information and public relations Bikran Majithia, Raminder Singh Bularia and president of the Chief Khalsa Diwan Charanjit Singh Chadha.

Two elephants, 31 horses, 500 motor cycles, 51 cars and 150 vans were part of the mammoth procession. Meanwhile, public relations minister Bikram Singh Majithia courted yet another controversy by “leading” the nagar kirtan.

The invitation cards prepared by the Chief Khalsa Diwan and official programme cards sent to the media by the Public Relations Department mention that the minister would lead the kirtan. According to Sikh Maryada, Panj Piaras or Guru Granth Sahib can lead a nagar kirtan.

When pointed out by Sikh scholars, the organisers of the kirtan realised their mistake. Later, a press note of the department stated that Panj Piaras led the procession with Guru Granth Sahib in a palanquin.

A large number of devotees, including leaders of political parties and members of the SGPC, participated in the procession. Earlier, Majithia, talking to mediapersons, said his ancestors founded the diwan with the main motive of disseminating tenets of Sikh philosophy for the creation of a just, liberal, cosmopolitan and altruistic social order.


Satkar panel workers ready to appear before Takht
Varinder Walia /TNS

Amritsar, November 2
Activists of the Guru Granth Sahib Satkar Committee and third faction of the Damdami Taksal have offered to appear before Akal Takht, as per a directive of Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti. However, they have a pre-condition that the proceedings should be held in front of the “Sikh Sangat” instead of in closed door.

The activists who had blackened the faces of two sons of the private publisher of Guru Granth Sahib claimed that they would continue to “punish” all those who would dare violation of the edict, which banned publication of the Birs by private publishers.

Jathedar Vedanti came to the rescue of beleaguered oldest publishers of Guru Granth Sahib, M/s Jeewan Singh-Chattar Singh, yesterday by announcing that the committee had no right to resort to direct action or taking law into their hands for getting the “Hukmnama” (edict) implemented.


Dera Controversy
Pvt bus operators await dues
Rajay Deep/Tribune News Service

Bathinda, November 2
The dera controversy has left private bus operators here in a fix. Sources said the district administration had hired private buses and canters when the controversy was simmering in the region to provide transportation to paramilitary forces. When the operators went to seek the dues, they were reportedly told to approach the Chief Minister during a sangat darshan programme.

The district administration had hired the buses from June 10 to July 19. Seven canters were also hired, which were returned in July. The operators had given the vehicles after accepting Rs 3,000 as fare for a bus and Rs 2,500 for a mini-bus. The cost of fuel was met by the administration.

Harpreet Singh, owner of one such bus, said he had made several rounds of the offices concerned, but the dues had not been paid. Deputy commissioner, Bathinda, Rahul Tewari had reportedly written letters to remind the government about it. He said, “I have sent written requests to the Home Department for the payment of dues. There may be some financial crunch, but I hope these will be made soon.”

Meanwhile, the bus operators said they were planning to meet the chief minister in this regard.


Punjab modifies policy on medical reimbursements
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 2
The Punjab government has modified its policy regarding reimbursement of medical expenses incurred by the state employees or pensioners while receiving treatment for complicated chronic diseases. The modification, made in the policy, came into force on September 10.

The modification in the policy is for patients who receive indoor treatment for a chronic disease at any private specialised hospital located outside Punjab or Chandigarh. Such patients will now also be able to get reimbursements for the follow-up outdoor treatment that they receive at a hospital in Punjab or Chandigarh.

In the earlier policy, which had come into force on March 1, 2005, such expenses were not reimbursed. Under that policy it was essential that the patient receive the outdoor treatment from the same hospital where he received indoor treatment. The reimbursement will be provided on the basis of the Complicated Chronic Disease Certificate issued by competent authority at AIIMS. During a case pending in the Punjab and Haryana HC advocate-general H.S. Mattewal said once the issue came up, immediate steps were taken to get the policy modified.


Master plan to avert floods soon
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, November 2
The state government is going to make a master plan to prevent floods in areas falling near the river banks in the state.

This was disclosed by Janmeja Singh Sekhon, irrigation minister, Punjab, at Jalalabad village, 35 km from here, today. The minister had come to visit Gondwal Sahib, Bodal Kiri, Munda Pind and Johal Dhai Wala villages on the bank of the Beas and the Sutlej .

The minister said in the proposed plan the whole canal system would be overhauled by concretising the canals. The capacity of the canals too would be raised. This way more canal water would be provided to farmers and it would decrease pressure on power.


Secretariat staff threaten stir

Chandigarh, November 2
The Punjab Civil Secretariat Staff Association has urged Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to either accept its long-pending demands or face agitation.

President of the association Ram Sarup Verma and press secretary Paramdeep Singh yesterday said neither the government had given 6 per cent DA instalment to its employees nor had it given bonus that was promised in the Assembly election manifesto.

Association leaders said there were 180 vacant posts of senior assistant in the secretariat at present. — TNS


HC acts upon plea of blast accused
Had claimed cops killed co-accused kin
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 2
Acting on an application filed by Davinder Singh Bhullar, an accused in the Saini blast case, claiming that his father and uncle along with other accused in the matter were eliminated by the police, a Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court today issued notice of motion to the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Union Territory of Chandigarh.

The Bench, comprising Justice M.S. Gill and Justice Nawab Singh, also fixed November 6 as the next date of hearing in the matter after senior advocate R.S. Rai accepted the notice on UT’s behalf and Rajan Gupta took it on the CBI’s behalf.

Sentenced to death in another case, Bhullar is currently lodged in Tihar Jail and his mercy petition is lying before the President.

In his application, filed soon after the CBI was asked by the High Court to look into the whereabouts of the proclaimed offenders, Bhullar sought permission to hand over evidence to the court in affidavit form in a sealed cover.

The evidence will help the CBI reach the conclusion about whether the accused, Balwant Singh Multani, Navneet Singh and Manjit Singh were eliminated by the police.

Seeking directions for referring the matter of the probable elimination of his two relatives to the CBI in light of probe orders, he asserted that his father Balwant Singh Bhullar and maternal uncle Manjit Singh had also been abducted by the Chandigarh Police when Multani was picked up.

Going into the background of the matter, Bhullar stated that his hand was suspected in the August 1991 blast in which the then UT senior superintendent of police Sumedh Singh Saini was injured, while three other policemen lost their lives.

As he was not available, Chandigarh Police took his uncle and subsequently his father in custody. Bhullar added that he now wanted to bring to the court’s knowledge that along with his two relatives, others, including Multani were in illegal custody


Brahmpura gets reprieve
Allowed to visit Pakistan, Singapore
Tribune News Service

Ropar, November 2
Minister for rural development and panchayat Ranjit Singh Brahmpura was today allowed by a Ropar court to visit Pakistan and Singapore.

The minister, who is also facing a vigilance case registered against him by the previous government, had sought permission to visit Pakistan for attending Gurpurb celebrations at the gurdwaras there and meet relations in Singapore. He would be staying in Pakistan from November 10 to 20 and in Singapore from November 20 to December 15 as per application submitted before the court.

While talking to newsmen, he said 150 sarpanches had been found guilty of embezzling funds provided by the previous government under the Punjab Nirman Fund. About Rs 1,400 crore were provided by the previous government in the last year of their stint under the scheme.

When asked if the officials of the department were also being targeted for failing to supervise the utilisation of funds, he said the role of junior officials, including panchayat secretaries and junior engineers, was being probed.

When asked if he would accept Sukhbir Badal as Chief Minister, he said, “I will respect the decision taken by the party.”


Harassed by money lender, BBMB employee commits suicide
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Nangal, November 2
Roop Lal, a ward boy in the BBMB canal hospital here, committed suicide today by consuming poison after allegedly being harassed by an illegal money lender.

Sources here said Roop Lal had received his monthly salary yesterday. A local illegal money lender caught hold of him in the hospital and snatched his entire salary. A disturbed Roop Lal today consumed poison. He was taken to the hospital where he was declared brought dead.

His wife talking to The Tribune alleged that they had taken a loan of just Rs 10,000 from a local money lender. This was the start of their agony. Till date the money lender had taken Rs 70,000 from them, but the loan was still not ending. The money lender snatched a major portion of Roop Lal’s salary every month. It was difficult for them to make both ends meet. Yesterday, Roop Lal came home depressed and today morning he consumed poison.

She demanded strict action against the money lender who had forced her husband to commit suicide. Roop Lal is survived by two minor children and wife.

The sources said many illegal money lenders were operating in the area without any authorisation. As per the law no one could enter finance business without getting his firm or company registered with the RBI. However, many finance companies were operating in the area openly under the alleged protonage of local administration.

The economically lower classes caught in extreme needs are the general target of these money lenders. They take signed blank cheques as collateral against the money given as loan. The interest rates charged by these money lenders range up to 10 per cent per month. A victim trapped in their dragnet finds it difficult to get out as he has to more than double the amount in a year.

With a person now losing life to extortion methods of private money lenders, it remains to be seen if it would enough to wake the authorities from slumber.


Shingaar Blast
Man held for harbouring suspects
Mahesh Sharma

Mandi Ahmedgarh, November 2
The CIA, Jagraon, today arrested a close associate of the suspects of the Shingaar cinema blast at Ghuman Chowk, near Sudhar village, yesterday. A .36-bore pistol and cartridges, buried by him near a wall of Gurdwara Tuggal, were recovered.

Bhupinder Singh of Mehadpur village, under the Balachaur police station, was arrested by a police party led by Amarjit Singh Khaira, in charge of the CIA, Jagraon. He had given shelter to Gurpreet Singh of Jangpur road, Mullanpur, Sandeep Singh Harry of Kutiwal (Bathinda), now resident of Ghuman village in Ludhiana district, Varinder Singh of Phagwara and Bhawan Deep Singh of Sidhwan village, who have been booked for seditious activities.

According to SSP, Ludhiana (Rural), Gurpreet Singh Bhullar, preliminary investigations revealed that Bhupinder had been harbouring the suspects of the Shingaar blast case. They frequently visited his house. The weapon seized by the police had been given to him by Sandeep.

Bhupinder had turned a sympathiser of the Khalistan movement after one of his brothers, Davinder Singh, was killed in a police encounter in 1988. His father, Tarsem Singh, was a school teacher and another brother, Harvinder, had shifted to Ayali village in Ludhiana district later.

A case under the Arms Act has been registered.


Suicide pact: Girl dead, boy serious
Tribune News Service

Kharar, November 2
A young couple tried to commit suicide by consuming celphos tablets in Kurali area today.

Inderjeet Kaur, a student of Class XI of Khalsa School, Kurali, and Gurpreet Singh, student of Government Senior Secondary School, Kurali, had been seeing each other for past sometime. While Inderjeet was from Nanheri village, Gurpreet was belonged to Jhingran Kalan village.

Tarlochan Singh, SHO, Kurali, said the police got a call at around 8:45 am today stating that two bodies were lying between Mullapur Chotiyan and Nyolkan villages. “When we reached the spot, the girl had already died, while boy was still alive,” he said.

Gurpreet was rushed to Indus Hospital, Mohali, where he was kept under observation for 72 hours.

Sources in the police said the couple's parents were not aware of their relationship. It was only 15 days back that their parents had started getting an inkling about the relation. The police has initiated an inquiry.


Man, son die in mishap

Sangrur, November 2
Gurmail Singh and his son Mandeep Singh of Chhajli village (near Sunam) were killed today near the ITI chowk at Sunam when a four-wheeler hit their motorcycle, which they had bought just 15 minutes back.

The Sunam police said as per information the motorcycle had been purchased by Gurmail Singh to give it in her daughter’s marriage to be held on November 17. The police said it could not be ascertained whether the four-wheeler was a truck or a trailer as the driver was able to flee. A case had been registered. — TNS


Ludhiana tops in excise collection
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 2
The Ludhiana commissionerate continues to lead in the central excise collections in the Chandigarh zone. However, the Chandigarh commissionerate has fared badly during the six-month period ending September.

In fact, data collected by The Tribune shows that Ludhiana with collections of Rs 189 crore has shown a growth rate of 20 per cent over Rs 157 crore collections in the corresponding period last year.

Though the Chandigarh commissionerate netted the highest revenue of Rs 283 crore, this collection fell short by Rs 15 crore, leading to a fall in the revenue by 5 per cent. The Jalandhar commissionerate has recorded only a marginal increase from Rs 45 crore to Rs 59 crore.


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