P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Another Case of ‘Police Harassment’
Family threatens suicide
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 15
‘We will commit suicide as the police, under political pressure, has been harassing me and my family and the police, district administration and speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon shall be responsible for our action’.

Stating this before mediapersons here yesterday, Joginder Singh of Fatehgarh Churian, Gurdaspur district, alleged the police had been harassing his family for couple of years by registering false cases against him. The police was harassing his family to make him withdraw case No. 84 dated August 14, 2002, in which his neighbour, Ajit Singh Randhawa, a confidant of Kahlon, was involved.

Joginder alleged on November 11, two policemen came to his house at 4 pm and asked them to accompany them to the police station. They told him SHO, Fatehgarh Churian, Inderjeet Singh had asked them to do so. When they reached the police station, the policemen started abusing him and misbehaving with his wife Kiranjot Kaur. He alleged he was kept in illegal confinement for four hours and released when his wife, along with three children, sat on a dharna outside the police station.

Whenever he is out of the house the policemen come to his house and threaten his wife and children with dire consequences, Joginder alleged.

Meanwhile, Kahlon said allegations levelled against him were baseless. Moreover, he did not know who Joginder Singh was and had never met him.

The SHO of the Fatehgarh Churian police station said two cases were already registered against Joginder and his wife for defrauding certain people. They got anticipatory bail recently. He said the accused had good knowledge of law and were trying to blackmail the police and political leaders.

Meanwhile, Joginder alleged the police had also filed a false case against him on a complaint of Ashwani Kumar. But, when he complained to then SSP of Batala Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh, an inquiry was ordered in the case. The inquiry report had given him clean chit. However, after the return of the Akali-BJP government in the state, the police did not cancel the FIR registered against him.


Farmers fail to return loans, banks rendered non-functional
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 15
Crisis in the farm sector in the Malwa region, from where the maximum number of cases of suicide by farmers have been reported in the past decade, has become more acute. The situation has turned so bad that certain branches of cooperative banks have been virtually rendered non-functional in the absence of return of installments of long-term loan by farmers, especially in Mansa and Bathinda districts and certain parts of Patran, Ferozepur and Muktsar areas.

Certain other branches have also become selective in advancing loans as their capacity in this regard has been hit owing to non-return of loan by a substantial number of farmers.

Many branches in the Malwa region are unable to advance further loans because of non-recovery of the loans advanced by them to farmers earlier. The cycle to advance loans has been broken. A large number of farmers, who had got loans on a long-term basis for procuring implements and farm machinery, had become defaulters. Their capacity to return loans has been perhaps shattered because of the high cost they had to bear this year to save their cotton crop from the attack of mealy bug and other pests.

The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development has also adopted an indifferent attitude towards Punjab’s cooperative banks. Though the state government had approached NABARD to seek help, there is no response yet. And the Union Government, that has extended financial help to farmers of certain western and southern states, did not extend the same to Punjab farmers.

Senior BKU leaders told The Tribune that the farm sector, especially in the Malwa region, needs the immediate attention of the government. The state government could gauge the prevailing situation from various branches of cooperative banks engaged in advancing loans on a long-term basis.

Sources said keeping in view the existing circumstances, the cooperative banks had been divided in a number of categories to advance loans to farmers. Those bank branches that recovered 70 per cent or more loan money from farmers had been given a free hand to advance further loans to farmers. However, the branches that recovered 60 to 70 per cent loan money had been asked to advance only 80 per cent as loan of the money recovered from farmers. But there are branches where the loan recovery is even below 50 per cent. Such banks had been told to advance loans sparingly and to stick to certain guidelines laid down in this regard.

Cooperative banks have been cycling the funds for advancing further loans on the basis of recovery made with regard to the loans advanced earlier.

There is loan worth Rs 30,000 crore against farmers in Punjab. Besides taking loans from cooperative and other banks, farmers have also borrowed money on high interest rates from money lenders and commission agents.

A few years ago, the government had liberalised the advancing of the loan by cooperative banks to save farmers from the clutches of money lenders who were charging high rates. However, no effort was made to improve the economic condition of farmers at the government level to bail them out from vicious cycle of debt.

And farmers, facing financial crisis, have been diverting loans availed from cooperative and other banks for non-agricultural purposes such as marrying their daughters and to meet other social obligations. Use of loans for consumptive purpose instead of productive purpose further proved a back-breaking phenomenon for them.


SGPC blue-eyed boy in spot
Transferred to Golden Temple Press
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 15
Assistant secretary of the SGPC and in charge (publicity) Daljit Singh Bedi, “blue-eyed boy” of committee president Avtar Singh, has been transferred to Golden Temple Press, which is considered a “punishment post” with immediate effect. He has been transferred to the press at the behest of working president of the SAD Sukhbir Singh Badal.

Sources in the SGPC said a Sikh high priest personally took up the matter with Sukhbir during their recent visit to Takht Hazoor Sahib, Nanded. He showed some objectionable pictures to him.

Bedi has been in good books of some predecessors of Avtar Singh.

However, it is believed that the SGPC chief himself was not in favour of “punishing” Bedi, especially at the fag end of his second term as the committee chief. The General House of the committee has been convened for November 23 to elect new president and other office-bearers of the committee. Bedi had been preparing a list of “achievements” of the SGPC chief.

The Sikh high priest, who had lodged the complaint against Bedi, had personal grouse against him since certain press notes were issued at the behest of the SGPC chief. He had also inserted an advertisement in some leading newspapers on behalf of a Sikh high priest, without seeking his consent.

Meanwhile, Bedi refused to comment. He, however, pleaded that the pictures, in which he had been shown in objectionable moments, were superimposed by using modern techniques.


Today’s meeting crucial: Bardhan
Tribune News Service

Moga, November 15
Though the Left parties have allowed the UPA government to hold negotiations with the IAEA, the implementation of the deal eventually depended upon the recommendations of the UPA-Left committee meeting to be held tomorrow.

A.B. Bardhan, general secretary, CPI, stated this on the sidelines of the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Sabha’s rally held to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Bharti Khet Mazdoor Union at Town Hall here today.

He said completing of its full term entirely depended upon the Manmohan Singh government as it was allowed to hold discussions with the IAEA on the ground that findings of the UPA-Left committee would be taken into account before the operationalisation of the nuclear deal with the USA. He added that the committee was not time bound.

When asked why the Left softened its stand and allowed the UPA government to hold talks with the IAEA, he said they (Congress leaders) had been persistently asking to at least allow holding of negotiations with the IAEA. Commenting upon the flaring up of Nandigram imbroglio, he blamed Trinamool led anti-left parties for fomenting discontentment for their political ends.


CPM protest
Tribune News Service

Tapiala (Amritsar), November 15
The Communist Party of India (Marxist), Punjab, (CPM) in association with farmers’, trade and agriculture unions would organise a protest rally against the anti-people policies of the Centre and the state governments in Chandigarh on December 6. Mangat Ram Pasla, state secretary, CPM, stated this to the media here today.

Earlier, while paying tributes to Dalip Singh Tapiala on his death anniversary Pasla honoured N.S. Neki, professor, medicine, Government Medical College.


Bunking on reforms, state loses crores
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 15
A cash-strapped Punjab government faces the ignominy of losing out on crores of rupees of central grants for the cities of Ludhiana and Amritsar as it has not been able to implement crucial reforms that include imposing users charges and levying of property tax in these two cities.

As a result, the promised Rs 2,053-crore city development project for Ludhiana and Rs 3,150-crore project in the case of Amritsar have been held back. Though the ruling SAD-BJP combine has pledged to release its share of the money, the central funds hinge upon reforms. As of now Punjab is at the last place in the countrywide list.

The two cities were among 63 from across the country which had been selected under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). The central government is to pay 50 per cent of the cost of the project. The state and the local MCs are to share 20 and 30 per cent, respectively. Without the implementation of reforms, the central government has now conveyed that it will not release even a rupee for any of the two projects. This even as other states across the country have started implementing their projects.

It will be mandatory for Punjab government to implement the following reforms if it wants the money: completing e-governance, starting a system of municipal accounting, imposing property tax, levying user charges on water supply and sewerage, providing for earmarked funds for the urban poor.

The problem, however, is more political in nature as levying of property tax and user charges on water and sewerage have been held back on account of a political decision. The local bodies department has worked out a formula that is likely to be implemented in the next financial year. But by then it will be too late, said sources while adding that imposing new taxes would not be easy.

A sum of Rs 50,000 crore of central funds has been earmarked for 63 cities which will be released in the next seven years and Ludhiana and Amritsar were taken in as early as 2005. Other states have raced ahead with their projects and already cornered a major chunk of the Rs 2,550 crore central funding till now and are now targeting the additional Rs 7,000 crore commitment of central funds for the current year.

Ludhiana has a Rs 2,053-crore project that includes the main six-lane ring road bypass, Rs 826 crore; water supply and sewerage, Rs 803 crore; facilities for the urban poor and slum dwellers, Rs 166 crore; and solid waste management, Rs 140 crore.

Amritsar has a Rs 3,150-crore project. No sanctions have been obtained by Punjab for the Rs 2,567-crore mass rapid transport system and elevated road project, Rs 105-crore tourism projects and Rs 120-crore housing project. Only a sum of Rs 22 crore has been given as this year’s allocation for the Rs 239-crore water supply and sewerage project that is one of the four other components.


Relief for staff of pvt schools, colleges
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 15
Thousands of teachers and other staff employed in private schools and colleges in Punjab will soon get a legal mechanism to get their complaints and grievances redressed.

The state government has decided to increase the scope of the existing tribunal for government-aided schools and aided colleges to also bring under its purview unaided private schools and colleges. The tribunal will be presided over by a senior retired judge of High Court or Supreme Court at the state headquarters. Besides it two mobile tribunals will also be set up which will be presided by senior judicial officers.

As of now, teachers of government-aided schools and colleges, which are given 95 per cent grant, have the legal mechanism in place to get their complaints heard. They can first approach the DPI schools and later file an appeal before the tribunal. However, there has been no mechanism in place for thousands of teachers and other staff employed in several hundred private schools across the state.

Staff members of such schools are the most exploited lot as they are neither given full salary nor other facilities. They are also not adequately protected under the labour laws, it is learnt. Though a few years ago, the state government had issued a notification for fixing minimum salary in their case, managements of these schools and colleges have been violating that notification with impunity.

Adviser of the Government Aided teachers and other employees Union, Manohar Lal Chopra, said the government should immediately issue an ordinance in this regard. He said most of the managements of private schools have been treating the teaching staff virtually like bonded labour due to the absence of any law to govern them and protect the rights of their employees.

Meanwhile, two or three sites in each Vidhan Sabha constituency have been identified to set up Adarsh Schools with the help of big industrialists. The Chief Secretary, Ramesh Inder Singh said a good number of industrialists, including managements of Hero Honda, Airtel, Oswal and Trident groups, had informed the state government that they were keen to open such schools. “We have already framed the rules and regulations in this regard and an ordinance is expected soon to give those rules legal sanctity”, he said.


Anganwadi workers seek better deal
Ramanjit Singh Sidhu
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 15
Anganwadi workers and helpers from across Punjab staged a mass rally in front of the office of director, Social Security, Women and Child Development, Punjab, in Sector 34, here today demanding agreed hike in remuneration.

The anganwadi workers and helpers began assembling in Sector 34 in large numbers in the morning and the day-long rally ended only when Chaudhary Swarna Ram, social welfare minister, Punjab, arrived there and assured the protesters that their demands would be given a “sympathetic consideration” in the Cabinet meeting. He also added that discussions were under progress regarding their demands. Meanwhile, representatives of the disgruntled anganwadi workers and helpers handed over a memorandum to the minister.

Worried over the strength of the protesters, the local police remained on its toes throughout the day. With the protesters threatening to come on the roads in case the minister failed to take the memorandum from them, the police officials were at their wit’s end. The cops, however, heaved a sigh of relief when the minister finally agreed to some to the rally.

Demanding immediate agreed increase of Rs 1,000 for workers and Rs 500 for helpers, the representatives insisted on grant of Class III and IV grade to workers and helpers, respectively. Besides, the implementation of pension benefits and provident fund scheme they were also demanding withdrawal of anganwadi centres from social advisory board and child welfare council.

Earlier during the rally, Neelma Maitra, president and Hem Lata, general-secretary of the All-India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers criticised the central and the state governments for ignoring the genuine demands of the anganwadi workers and helpers, who play a major role in forming the future of India by educating small children. She demanded that that the workers and helpers should be regularised.

Highlighting the plight of anganwadi workers and their exploitation due to the government’s policies, Usha Rani, state president of Anganwadi Mulazam Union, Punjab, stated that the anganwadi workers were getting wages lesser than unskilled worker. An anganwadi worker gets Rs 1,400 a month while a helper gets Rs 700 per month, which is far less than minimum wages, set by the government for labourers.

She further rued that from time to time the state government made the anganwadi workers carry out surveys, for which they were rarely paid the requisite allowances. There are 30,000 anganwadi workers in the state, but the successive governments use them as a vote bank by making false promises.

Among others, Raghu Nath Singh, state general-secretary and Vijay Mishra, the state president of CITU, Punjab, also addressed the gathering.


122 HIV cases in Hoshiarpur district
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, November 15
Since Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre was set up at the local civil hospital last year, 122 HIV positive cases have been detected in the district.

Talking to this correspondent today, counsellor of the centre Sarabjit Singh said the centre had been established in October last year to provide counselling to HIV positive patients. It had carried out laboratory tests of 2,038 blood samples. As many as 120 persons whose blood samples were tested were found positive for HIV, of whom 52 were women.

The majority of the HIV positive cases are drivers, army personnel and members of their families. All cases had been referred to the anti-retroviral therapy centre, Jalandhar, he said, adding that around 250 persons visit the centre for getting themselves tested for HIV every month.


2 hurt in factory blast
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, November 15
Two labourers were allegedly injured in a blast that ripped through the tin shed of an auto-parts manufacturing unit at Abdullahpur basti, near Preet Palace, at about 8:15 pm today.

However, owner of the factory D.B. Kapoor said no one was injured in the blast. Model Town SHO Warryam Singh said so far it seemed to be a transformer blast.

Kedar, a labourer working in an adjoining factory, said when he heard a loud explosion he rushed out. He saw two injured labourers were being taken to some hospital.


Punjabis’ obsession with dogs

Chandigarh, November 15
Keeping a dog as a pet is becoming an obsession in Punjab’s major cities like Patiala, Chandigarh and Ludhiana. Going on an evening stroll with a dog is picture perfect in a city like Chandigarh. One can see people holding the leash of one of the world’s top breeds like the Great Danes, Cocker Spaniels, Dalmatian and German Mastiff.

Harchand Singh is one such lover. He has six German Shepherds, a Great Dane and the ever-so-docile Labrador in his backyard. One of his German Shepherds, Feedor, will take your breath away. At $ 4,000 it draws large crowds wherever it goes. “It was a hobby I had from childhood. My parents kept pet dogs and I, too, fell for it. At first it was hybrid dogs. But after going to dog shows I switched over to quality dogs,” Harchand said.

In Punjab, there are many like him who have taken to keeping top breed dogs. Pups of these super breeds start from $ 500 and go up to a staggering $ 1,000. Enterprising Punjabi socialites do not confine themselves in investing time and money on dogs. They breed other pets on their vast premises as well.

Way back in 1929, Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala set up India’s first kennel club and today the club has revived that old tradition of Patiala.

“ Kings and emperors had it and today’s rich and well-known Sikh families have picked up this trend,” said G.P. Singh Brar, secretary-general of the Patiala Kennel Club.

The annual dog show recently held at the royal polo ground in Patiala had 350 participants from all over the country. Over 40 breeds of dogs were on display.

“Well, I have judged in India a number of times in different cities. I have to say that the ground here and the conditions are one of the best I have come across in India. In addition, there were some very good dogs. I have seen noticeable improvement in quality in the number of breeds here,” said Larry Yeun, international judge from Malaysia. — ANI


Mann for opening Hussainiwala border
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 15
Simranjit Singh Mann, SAD(A) president here today advocated free trade with Pakistan across the Hussainiwala border in Ferozepur on the lines of Attari-Wagah joint checkpost.

Addressing a press conference, Mann said for this his party would hold a rally at the border. Mann also made light of the frequent visits of former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh abroad for heart treatment. He said there were equally competent cardiologists in India.

He also opposed the subsidy given to power consumers to appease urban consumers. “Article 14 of the Constitution promises right to equality to the citizens and the government is ignoring the rural population of the state by taking such steps. We will challenge this decision in the Punjab and Haryana High Court,” he said.


First ‘Gursikh’ film actor dead
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 15
Noted artiste, Harbhajan Jabbal—the first “Gursikh actor,” who entered film industry in sixties with the role of a policeman in “Mahi Munda” with unshorn hair, died today following heart attack. He was 65.

He was the first to break the myth only clean-shaven artistes were acceptable in the Bollywood. He acted in 24 Punjabi films . He was among the first actors who was given major roles by Doordarshan Jalandhar since its inception.


Rly staff block track
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 15
Railway employees blocked the track for over one hour in protest against the thrashing of their colleague Sukhminder Singh by an ASI of the Punjab police here today. According to sources, Sukhminder entered into a verbal duel with Kuldeep over the latter’s attempt to cross a truck from a railway crossing.


High Court
Notice to state on Dimpa’s arrest
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 15
Acting on a petition filed by former Congress MLA Jasbir Singh Dimpa for the grant of regular bail, the Punjab and Haryana High Court today issued notice of motion to the state of Punjab.

Dimpa was arrested in connection with the death of an Akali worker during a clash prior to the elections in Punjab.

Taking up the petition this morning, Justice Saron of the High Court also fixed December 5 as the next date of hearing in the matter.

The case was registered against Dimpa and others on January 29 after the worker died in a clash in the Beas area. Challenging the lower court’s order declining his plea for bail, Dimpa in his petition claimed that he had been implicated in the matter. As such, he should be granted bail.

Notice of motion issued to Punjab

In a petition filed before the Punjab and Haryana High Court, a Mansa district resident has sought directions to the State of Punjab, the Deputy Commissioner and another respondent for the restoration of “Shah Satnam Ji Chowk” that had been demolished by miscreants allegedly after differences cropped up between Dera Sacha Sauda followers and Akalis.

Taking up the petition filed in public interest, a Division Bench of the High Court headed by Chief Justice Vijender Jain today issued notice of motion to the state.

Going into the background of the matter, he claimed that the joining of the dera by Sikh masses had caused heart burning among Akali workers and leaders.


2 motorcyclists killed in accident
Tribune News Service

Rajpura, November 15
A 25-year-old youth and his friend were killed when their motor cycle was hit by a truck on the national highway No. 1, near here, this afternoon.

Parminder Singh and his friend Satbir Singh, both residents of Bhani village, had come to the town this morning to make some purchases. Parminder, who was married to a girl from Bhanhre village yesterday, died on the spot, while Satbir was taken to the AP Jain civil hospital where he succumbed to his injures. Satbir was to get married on November 28.


Boy stabbed to death
Tribune News Service

Mukerian, November 15
Three car-borne youths stabbed a teenaged boy to death after robbing him of cash and mobile phone. The assailants threw the body on the bank of Mukerian canal in Lambin Pandori village near here this morning.

The car-borne youths stopped at Nawan Bhanghuala village bus stop at 5.15 am and offered lift to Dasuya to two youths-Balwinder Singh, a resident of Thakardwara village and Pradeep Kumar of Nawan Bhanguala- who were on their way to Jalandhar and Chandigarh respectively.

The youths asked them to surrender their mobile phones if any. Pradeep said he handed over his mobile phone to one of the assailants while Balwindwer denied having any mobile phone. The assailants got furious after Balwinder's mobile phone rang up. They attacked him on his chest with sharp- edged weapons.


Agitating students suspend strike
Tribune News Service

Kharar, November 15
The agitating students of Guru Gobind Singh Modern Technology and Polytechnic College suspended their strike for two days today.

The strike is subject to college management’s decision on their demands. Students are demanding the transfer of director principal Baljeet Kapoor for being over-strict with students on the campus.

Meanwhile, neither the college management nor the police has been able to identify students who created ruckus on the highway on Wednesday.

Training and placement officer of college Gurcharan Singh said: “We will identify the erring students by tomorrow morning and take action against them for disturbing harmony of the campus.”


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