P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


’84 Riots
AISSF to protest outside Parliament 
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 23
The All-India Sikh Students Federation (AISSF) has decided to hold a demonstration and observe a hunger strike outside Parliament on November 27 and 28 to protest government’s failure to punish the guilty responsible for 1984 anti-Sikh riots. They would also march to the Delhi district court on November 29 to protest CBI’s proposed clean chit given to MP Jagdish Tytler in riots in which many Sikhs lost their lives despite many eye-witnesses still being available to testify against him.

Releasing a list of nearly 200 people involved in the mayhem that followed the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi from October 31 to November 7, 1984 in which thousands of Sikhs lost their lives in Delhi alone, the AISSF president said the protest outside Parliament aimed at pressing upon the government to suspend MPs Jagdish Tytler, Kamal Nath and Sajjan Kumar for their role in "1984 state-sponsored Sikh massacre" as the AISSF puts the anti-Sikh riots.

According to Karnail Singh Peer Mohammad, president of the AISSF, there are 177 people apart from 17 senior Congress leaders and 13 police officials against whom clear evidence of involvement in riots was still available in the form of eyewitnesses. “None of the Congress leaders and policemen who led the mobs in November, 1984 in broad day light that killed thousands and displaced more than 60,000 Sikhs are charged with or given any punishment under Indian legal system,” he said.

He said there were many eyewitnesses who had given affidavits to different commissions constituted by different Union Governments at the Centre and were still available to testify that Kamal Nath led mobs that attacked historic Gurdwara Rakabganj Sahib that killed many Sikhs. The AISSF proposes to give memorandums to presidents of major political partys and to the members of Parliament asking them to force Congress MPs Jagdish Tytler, Kamal Nath and Sajjan Kumar to resign

The AISSF has also demanded that the role of former Haryana chief minister Bhajan Lal, film star Amitabh Bachchan and Congress minister Arjun Singh be investigated by an independent agency.

Peer Mohammad said while these people were never investigated, there were many instances where police cases were registered against the Sikhs, who were being killed, and not against those who were killing them.

He further disclosed that the US-based Human Rights Advocacy Group, supported by many Sikh organisations have jointly decided to file a writ petition before the Supreme Court demanding suo motto action on the matter of genocide of Sikhs in November, 1984.

Amitabh’s role under scanner

The AISSF on Friday demanded a probe into the role of film star Amitabh Bachchan for inciting violence against Sikhs following the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In a documentary released here today, Babu Singh Dukhia, a resident of Tirlok Puri in Delhi, claimed there were eyewitnesses that saw Amitabh Bachchan inciting mobs to avenge the death of Indira Gandhi. The documentary says Amitabh Bachchan was clearly involved in inciting mobs and was heard saying "khoon ka badla khoon” at the funeral of late Indira Gandhi.


Emergency puts a damper on Gurpurb celebrations in Pakistan 
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 23
Emergency in Pakistan has virtually dampened the spirit of Gurpurb there, even as the Sikh sangat from all over the world won’t be able to celebrate the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev with traditional religious fervour.

In the wake of uncertainty prevailing in Pakistan, Bishan Singh, president, the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) talked to Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar, Akal Takht, on the telephone, seeking his intervention to make the celebrations a “low key affair” in Pakistan by not holding “nagar kirtan” from Gurdwara Janamasthan Nankana Sahib, due to security reasons.

In response to the PSGPC president’s request , Jathedar Vedanti has given his consent for not taking out “ nagar kirtan”. In his demi official letter, addressed to the PSGPC Chief , Jathedar Vedanti wrote that due to volatile political situation in Pakistan, there was apprehension of disturbances there.

“In the wake of the protests against the imposition of emergency, disturbances cannot be ruled out while taking out religious processions”. He said it was true that Akhand Path and religious functions mark the Gurpurb every year, yet it is advisable not to take out nagar kirtan or hold other religious programmes from Nankana Sahib.

Jathedar Vedanti urged the Sikh sangat from India, Pakistan and other countries to cooperate the gurdwara management committee in this regard.


Mishap averted at Ropar thermal plant
Conveyor belt catches fire
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Ropar, November 23
A major tragedy was averted today in Guru Gobind Singh Super Thermal Plant (GGSSTP), Ropar, which could have led to power crises in the state. Two conveyor belts, carrying coal to unit No. I and II, of the thermal plant caught fire under mysterious circumstances at about 3 am today.

The sources said about 100m-conveyor belt got destroyed before the fire could be controlled. The cost of lost equipment was said to be in lakhs.

The conveyor belts are used for taking coal from dumps to bunkers, from where it is fed into turbines. The sources said there were generally two conveyor belts and with one now damaged, the plant authorities would be using the other belt. However, the risk had increased, as damage to other belt would stop the supply to generating units totally.

The plant authorities also denied that the units were shut down due to the accident. They said generally coal for 10-hour power generation was always in store in bunkers. So, the damage to conveyor belt did not stop the generation.

They also attributed the fire in conveyor belts to friction between coal and surface. It was a common accident in such plants, they said. However, the chief engineer was not available for comments.


GM inspects Bathinda rail link with Dhuri
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, November 23
General Manager, Northern Railway, Shri Prakash said yesterday that the 119-km-long railway line between Qazigund and Baramulla in Jammu and Kashmir would be completed by May.

Prakash, who was here in connection with the inspection of the Bathinda-Dhuri section, told mediapersons that the rail line between Jalandhar and Jammu would be completed during the current financial year. He said several steps were being taken for upgrading infrastructure on the Bathinda-Dhuri section.

The general manager said a computerised reservation counter would be opened in the cantonment area here.

He said work on the construction of the rail line between Abohar and Fazlika was in progress. The land acquisition process had been completed.

He also said doubling of line between Jhankal and Rohtak would be completed in three months.

Local MP Paramjit Kaur Gulshan made the general manager aware about passengers’ problems. She demanded a Delhi-bound fast train from Bathinda. 


Bathinda MC
Elections before April 30, Punjab tells HC
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 23
Elections to constitute the Municipal Corporation at Bathinda will be held along with the elections of the municipal councils before April 30 next year, the Punjab government has decided.

This was stated before the Punjab and Haryana High Court in an affidavit filed by the government through its principal secretary, department of local government, D.S. Bains.

The affidavit follows a petition by resident Mathura Das Setia seeking directions to the Punjab State Election Commissioner to initiate the process of holding elections of the Municipal Corporation, Bathinda. The petitioner had contended that the elections were not being held in accordance with the provisions of the Punjab State Election Commission Act, 1994, and the Punjab Municipal Corporation Act, 1976. 


SAD (A) poser to CM, Bhattal on capital punishment
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, November 23
The SAD (A) yesterday asked Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and president of the Punjab Pardesh Congress Committee Rajinder Kaur Bhattal to clarify their stand on capital punishment.

General secretary of the SAD (A) Bhai Ram Singh said today that Badal and Bhattal should respond to this question as capital punishment was violation of human rights. He added that the SAD (A) wanted to get it abolished.

He was here on Thursday in connection with a meeting of the district unit of the party for preparations for the party’s state-level conference on November 28 in Chandigarh to oppose death sentence awarded to Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar, Jagtar Singh Hawara.

The meeting was attended by district president of the party Jeet Singh Alloarkh, district president of the kisan wing Avtar Singh Kular Khurd and district president of the Muslim wing Wazir Khan.


Badal, Bhattal greet people
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 23
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and leader of opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal in separate statements today extended their warm greetings to Punjabis living in the country and abroad on the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev and exhorted them to follow the noble teachings of the great Guru.

In a message on the eve of Gurpurb of Guru Nanak Dev, Badal said the founder of the faith was a great spiritual ambassador who showed us the path of salvation by spreading the cult of devotion to God and compassion for the mankind.

Sewerage connections

The Punjab Government has decided to regularise all unauthorised sewerage and water supply connections in urban areas.

Manoranjan Kalia, local government minister, said it had been found that a large number of unauthorised sewerage and water supply connections were operational in various cities which was a clear violation of sections of the Punjab Municipal Act and the Punjab Corporation Act, which also caused great financial loss to urban local bodies. 


MP for taxation powers to panchayats
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Ropar, November 23
The previous state government abolished octroi - the tax collection handle - for the urban local governments.

However, BJP MP from Hoshiarpur Avinash Rai Khanna is in favour of giving such handle to the panchayats. He also raised the issue in the Parliament recently. While talking to The Tribune, Khanna said he asked the union minister for panchayati raj Mani Shankar Aiyar about the steps taken to strengthen panchayats financially to fulfill the constitutional obligations.

The minister informed that under Article 243 G of the constitution, the legislature of a state can endow powers upon the panchayats to collect taxes for revenue.

A study by the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy shows that there are 66 types of fees and taxes that can be levied by panchayats in different states. However, most exist on paper. None of the 66 taxes except the property tax can generate revenue for panchayats. The panchayats have also failed to collect water charge non-tax revenue.

At the current level, the own revenue of panchayats in the entire country is estimated at Rs 3000 crore. With reform in the taxation structure of the panchayats, it can improve to Rs 10,000 crore, the study by the national institute indicates. In some states, the annual revenue collected by the panchayats is as low as Rs 1 crore.

Khanna said there was a need to mobilise panchayats to link their expenditure with revenue generation. This would improve the efficiency and accountability of the services being provided by them. For this, the state should give more tax handles to the panchayats to widen their revenue base. In addition, the existing taxation powers of the panchayats also need to be reoriented to make them result oriented.

The union government is also pursuing with the states, the need to introduce a panchayat sector window in their budget for each department concerned. This will clearly illustrate funds assigned to each panchayat.

Khanna further said he would take up the matter with the Punjab Chief Minister. He would urge the government to enact a legislation to empower panchayats to levy taxes and generate their own revenue. 


Badal again misses date with fish farmers
Tribune News Service

Ropar, November 23
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has again missed a date with fish farmers of the state, much to their annoyance. The Chief Minister was scheduled to meet them initially on November 5 and then today. However, both times the program was cancelled by the authorities at the last moment.

The fish farmers have being longing to meet Badal to discuss their problems. The farmers said fish farming was very viable alternative to traditional crops in the state. In urban areas like Amritsar and Ludhiana about 3,500 kg to 4,000 kg of fish was imported daily. A major portion of the said quantity was coming from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh. Sea fish was coming from Maharashtra and cheap boneless fresh water fish from Andhara Pradesh.

The fact that there is very low local production of fish in the state speaks about the ability of the Department of Fisheries in motivating the farmers to diversify to fish farming.

Sukhdeep Bajwa, a fish farmer, told The Tribune that there was enough scope for motivating farmers to fish farming. It, besides, increasing the income of the farmers would also help in sustaining the declining water table.

The farmers, however, blame the department and the government for not motivating farmers trying to diversify to fish farming. The farmers following the traditional cropping pattern of wheat and paddy are being given free power. However, those who try to diversify to fish farming are forced to pay commercial charges for tube well connection.

Moreover, there was no tax on the income generated from traditional crops. However, fish farmers have to pay tax on a par with the industry. The hassles of paying taxes and power charges for tube wells desists the farmers from taking up fish farming.


Rehabilitation centre a boon for disabled
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, November 23
The local District Disability Rehabilitation Centre (DDRC) has proved to be a boon for the orthopaedically handicapped persons since July 2003 as it has benefited more than 1,200 disabled persons by way of providing them artificial limbs and calipers free of cost till the end of October this year. However, the DDRC has distributed total number of 387 artificial limbs and 859 calipers among disabled persons so far.

The DDRC is being run by the ministry of social justice and empowerment, government of India and the district administration in a building of the district Red Cross Society here.

At a workshop of the local DDRC, artificial limbs like above knee, below knee, plastic and aluminum calipers, above elbow, below elbow, fracture braces for limbs, hand brace, spinal brace, surgical shoes and arch support for foot are prepared by a prosthetic engineer and two technicians.

The artificial limbs are prepared at the workshop by using material, like high-quality plastic (co-polymer), resin, fiber glass, eva sheet, ethaplex, alimco components, rubber sheet and orthopaedical leather. Modification in the leather shoes for all purposes is also done at the workshop.

Not only from Sangrur but many disabled persons from Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Ropar and Mansa districts are among those who have been benefited by the Sangrur DDRC.

According to information, from the total number of beneficiaries (disabled persons), about 97 per cent are those who were provided artificial limbs or calipers by the local DDRC as any disabled person whose monthly income is below than Rs 6,500 is entitled to get an artificial limb or caliper free of cost.

The local DDRC also serves those disabled persons whose monthly income is above Rs 6,500 and below Rs 10,000, but they have to pay 50 per cent of the cost of the artificial limbs. Likewise, the disabled persons whose income is above Rs 10,000 per month have to pay 100 per cent cost of the artificial limbs or calipers to buy the same.


Land deed writing at suvidha centre
Tribune News Service

Ropar, November 23
The Ropar district administration has taken yet another step towards streamlining the task of land deed writing and  registration.

In a press release issued here, deputy commissioner Gurpal Singh Bhatti said from today onwards, in Ropar sub-division, deed writers would be omitted from the task of registering the land deeds. The land deeds would now be written at suvidha centre in the district headquarters at nominal and fixed rates. The tehsildar would also be present at the centre to  register the deeds  written there.

The deed writers were earlier charging varied rates for writing the deeds. In many cases they were charging hefty amounts from the illiterate. They also used to prepare the deeds with hand which in many cases were not readable and created legal problems.

However, proper deed writing at the suvida centre will eliminate all the said problems. The first deed was formally registered at Ropar.

The deputy commissioner also said about 89 per cent revenue records in the district had been  computerised which will enable the residents to get their records at tehsils rather than running after patwaris.


Youth drowned while trying to save cousin
Tribune News Service

Fatehgarh Sahib,  November 23
A 22-year-old youth today drowned in the Sirhind canal while trying to save his cousin who had incidentally slipped into the canal while she was standing on the brink. Though some passersby managed to save the girl, the man who had jumped into the canal to save his sister could not be saved.

It is learnt that Virender Singh, son of Surjit Singh and a resident of Jalandhar, had come to visit his maternal relatives at Tarkhanmajra village in the district. Today, he was asked to escort his cousin Amarjit Kaur, 28, back home from the school in Alipur Sodhian village, where she teaches computers in a government school.

While on their way to home, the two halted along the canal to have a look at the water stream. While standing on the brink, the girl suddenly lost her balance and fell into the canal. Virender immediately jumped into the canal to save his sister.

In the meantime, some of the passersby spotted the two struggling against the water currents and reached there to help them. Two men removed their turbans and used these as ropes to pull out the two. Even as the girl grabbed the turban and was pulled out to safety, the rescuers failed to reach the boy who, in the meantime, was swept away.

Though divers were called in to locate the man, he could not be found till the filing of this report. 


Councillors in sync on allowance hike 
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, November 23
The Patiala municipal councillors are seemingly going to follow the footsteps of their seniors - members of parliament - meticulously atleast when it comes to enhancement of their allowances.

The house of the civic body unanimously passed a resolution and okayed a proposal for enhancement of the monthly honorarium of member councillors from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000. The telephone allowance will, however, be the same - Rs 700.

Every councillor will soon be taking home Rs 10,700 in case the proposal was finally cleared by the department of local bodies. Interestingly, none of the municipal councillors, including one of the four opposition members, opposed the ‘lucrative’ but ‘out of agenda’ proposal.

In another important decision, the MC house cleared one more ‘out of agenda’ proposal pertaining to the change of land use (CLU) of the city area from YPS to Patiala Cantonment.

Apart from this, the general house of the MC, which met at Ambedkar Bhawan here recently, decided that all the Mohalla Welfare Committees of the city would be reorganised for smooth implementation of development works.

The meeting was attended by 42 members, including two Congress councillors, and was presided over by mayor Ajit Pal Singh Kohli.

Formally adopting the partly central government sponsored Infrastructure Development of Small and Medium Towns (UIDSSMT) and Integral Housing and Slum Development Programme (IHSDP) schemes, the civic body decided to contribute its share of Rs 20 crore towards these. Each of the two Rs 100 crore schemes will see central contribution of Rs 80 crore.

The state government and civic bodies will be contributing Rs 10 crore in each of the two schemes aimed at integrated development of all four corporation cities of Punjab.

The schemes come with a special emphasis on widening of roads in interiors of these cities, water treatment, better sewerage and solid waste management, setting up of water drains and storm drains, repair of dilapidated houses, setting up of community toilets and bathrooms, maintenance of streetlights and setting up of community centres with entertainment and adult education facilities.

The civic body also decided to take the maintenance of streetlights on the Rajindra Hospital road to Bhakra Canal in its hands. Earlier streetlights on the same patch were being looked after by the PWD authorities.

Other major decisions taken by the house envisaged setting up of electronic monitors for automatic regulation of 95 tubewells in the city and shifting of the 70-year-old library.


Amend Gurdwara Act, SGPC to Centre
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 23
The general house meeting of the SGPC urged the Union government here today to make an amendment in the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925, for incorporating the provision of co-opting 10 Sikh members from all over the globe to give NRI Sikh population due representation in it.

The general house also asked the Centre to return the invaluable books of the Sikh Reference Library, which were taken away by the Army during Operation Bluestar. It also approved the recommendations of the interim committee of the SGPC for providing Rs 51,000 each to the Army men who had deserted the Army during Operation Bluestar.

The house urged the Uttar Pradesh government to change the name of Hastinapur village, the birth place of Dharam Singh, one of the Panj Piaras, as Dharam Singh Nagar. It further demanded that Punjabi be included in the CBSE as a compulsory subject at the Plus I and II.

The house also demanded from the Centre that the name of the Rajasansi airport should be changed to Sri Guru Ram Dass International Airport.


CM has usurped powers of SGPC members: Calcutta
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 23
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has usurped powers of SGPC members as no Chief Minister has the right to address the general house meeting of the committee.

Stating this to mediapersons here today, Manjit Singh Calcutta, an SGPC member, said Badal could not address the general house as he is not president of any panthic party. He said the ‘bonanza’ announced by Badal was a step to influence the SGPC members.

The opposition in the SGPC has formed a group called the Panthic Party in SGPC and elected Calcutta as its chairman, while Haracharan Singh Burj Hari and Karnail Singh Panjoli as its leader and deputy leader, respectively.

Calcutta said the committee would review the working of the SGPC and would act as a watchdog.


Manhandling of Prisoners
HC raps Nabha jail officials
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 23
The officials of the Maximum Security Jail, Nabha, are in the dock for alleged lawlessness.

Taking up two petitions alleging the trashing up of inmates and their family after they brought to the fore deep-rooted corruption in the jail, Justice Ranjit Singh of the Punjab and Haryana High Court has ruled that the sorry state of affairs cannot be tolerated and has asked the authorities concerned to consider the feasibility of placing the staff under suspension.

Summoning inspector-general (Prisons) and the superintendent of the jail for November 26, Justice Ranjit Singh has also directed that “they will have instructions in regard to the shifting of deputy superintendent Jangir Singh and other jail staff responsible for this lawlessness”.

The matter was initially brought to the Court’s notice by an inmate’s wife, Anokh Singh. She had alleged the beating up of her husband. Taking cognisance of the matter, Justice Ranjit Singh had asked a Judicial Magistrate to look into the matter.

The inquiry had revealed that Anokh Singh had indeed been beaten up by Jangir Singh and was found to be admitted in a hospital. The jail staff had, on the other hand, claimed that Anokh Singh had made an attempt to inflict self-injuries with the help of a pixel.

In the meantime, another petition was filed before the high court by Shivdev Singh of Hulka village in Rajpura. The petitioner had claimed that his son Jasbir Singh, and his son’s friend Bhupinder Singh, were confined in the Maximum Security Jail and had “good relations” with co-prisoner Anokh Singh. They too were raising their voice against corruption in the jail. While the two, along with the petitioner, were outside the Rajpura Court in connection with the hearing of a case on November 20, they were abused, pushed and punched by ASI Altar Singh and head constable Parminder Singh. Subsequently, ASI Rakesh Kumar appeared and manhandled them.

Seeking inquiry by a Chief Judicial Magistrate into the matter, the petitioner added that he came to know later that an FIR was registered the same day against Jasbir Singh, Bhupinder Singh and his younger son Balwinder Singh.

Taking a serious view of the matter, Justice Ranjit Singh observed, “This petition reflects a sorry state of affairs”. Asserting that the same could not be tolerated, the Judge directed the issuance of notice of motion to Punjab advocate-general, which was accepted by deputy advocate-general Shailesh Gupta.

The Judge concluded, “Having regard to the allegations against the jail staff, the consideration of placing them under suspension may also be viewed on the adjourned date”.


HC stays PPSC member’s pension case
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 23
Taking up a petition filed by Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) member Dr Satwant Singh Mohi challenging the orders of Vidhan Sabha secretary stopping his pension with effect from May last year, a Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court today granted stay.

In his petition before the Bench, comprising Justice K.S Garewal and Justice R.S Madan, Dr Mohi had contended that being Punjab Vidhan Sabha’s former member, he was entitled to pension. Directions to the Punjab Vidhan Sabha for the payment of arrears were also sought.

Arguing on the petitioner’s behalf, his counsel Himmat Singh Shergill had contended that the pension was stopped under Section 3 (2) (iii) of the Punjab Raj Vidhan Mandal (Pension and Medical Facilities Regulation) Act, 1977.

The section was not applicable to the petitioner as his appointment as PPSC member was not employment under the central government, or the state government.

He added that a financial autonomy has been accorded to the HC judges so that they can perform their constitutional functions in an independent manner As such, a provision has been made in the Constitution that their salaries and allowances are to be charged from the consolidated fund. Similarly, all expenses of PPSC are charged from the consolidated fund.


Mattewal to be awarded
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 23
Punjab advocate-general Hardev Singh Mattewal has been selected by a distinguished jury, headed by former Chief Justice of India Justice P.N. Bhagwati, for the prestigious “National Law Day Award - 2007” for his contribution to the field of constitutional law.

The award will be presented by the President during a two-day International Conference of Jurists and Rule of Law scheduled to be inaugurated at the Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi, on November 24. It is being hosted by the International Council of Jurists, the All India Bar Association and the Indian Council of Jurists.

Scheduled to be inaugurated by the President, it will be chaired by Chief Justice of India Justice K.G. Balakrishanan. Special guests include Chief Justice of England and Wales Lord Chief Justice Philips and union minister for law and justice Dr Hansraj Bhardwaj. The International Jurists Award 2007 would also be presented during the conference.

Mattewal has the distinction of being the state's Advocate-General for the fourth time. With a rural background and no family member in the legal profession, he also has to his credit the distinction of being Advocate-General under three different governors during the critical period between 1990 and 1992

Mattewal was primarily instrumental in getting the Lawyers Welfare Fund Act, 2002, enacted in Punjab. 


Five quintals of drug seized; NRI arrested
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, November 23
In what could turn out to be a biggest haul of narcotics in the region, the city police has nabbed three persons, including a Canadian NRI, with five quintals of a suspected drug in form of small white crystals from near Kailsah Cinema Chowk here today.

The police had got information that some Canada-based international drug smugglers had made telephone calls to some of their contacts here, telling them that the booty was arriving in a courier from Hyderabad.

The drug has been sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory, Chandigarh, for ascertaining its chemical nature. Local drug inspectors said it did not seem to be heroin or ephedrine.

The police said the drug racket had been busted, but the value of the seizure could be known only after the chemical report. “If it is confirmed that it is a narcotic, the price could be more than Rs 100 crore.”

Punjab has been termed as a transit point of international drug trade in a World Drug Report by United Nations. The drugs reaching here from Afghanistan are refined using ephedrine. A popular by product is ecstasy, which is in high demand in Canada and the US. Canadian NRIs have been often caught on drug peddling charge.

SSP R. K. Jaiswal and SP detective told The Tribune that three persons, identified as NRI Harbhajan Singh Sidhu, Laddi and Badlev Singh, were caught with the booty. A Scorpio car in which they were travelling has also been impounded.

The police officials said a DDR regarding the information of narcotic smuggling has been lodged. It would be updated to an FIR following the report of the chemical examination.


3 of family killed as car, bus collide
Tribune News Service

Patiala, November 23
Baljit Singh (50), his wife Ranbir Kaur (48) and their son Sarabjit Singh (5) were killed when the Maruti Alto, in which they were traveling, collided head-on with a Pepsu Roadways bus at Dadhera village, 10 km from here.

According to police sources, Baljit Singh, who was driving the car, could not control the vehicle which rammed into the bus coming from Nabha. Baljit died on the spot.

The deceased were the residents of Majri Akalian village, Sirhind road in Patiala district.

A case was registered at Sadar police station.

On November 19, a Maruti Alto had collided with a Punjab Police school bus at Dadhera village. A 70-year-old woman from Dhuri and her driver were killed in the incident.


Global warming casts shadow on agri sector
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 23
Global warming is already here. It has started casting its shadow on Punjab’s agriculture sector. If you do not believe, ask finance minister Manpreet Badal, who is one of the leading kinnow growers of the state.

In fact, state’s tight fiscal situation is not the only thing which worries the finance minister. His bigger worry- even more serious in nature than that of the bad fiscal condition- is with regard to the rise in temperature that has started adversely affecting crops like wheat, kinnow and vegetables in the state.

“Sweetening of kinnow has been delayed this year because of the prevailing high temperature at this point of time. Obviously, its marketing has also been affected because of delay in its sweetening,” says Manpreet Badal. Day and night temperature has relatively remained high this year and that is a cause of worry for all of us who grow kinnows as a major crop, he adds. Punjab’s kinnow has. relegated the high-rate Nagpur’s orange to the second place in the country.

Delay in the onset of winter has also prolonged the attack of white fly on vegetables, says Sukhpal Singh Ghuman, a decorated progressive farmer from Ghuman village near Mansa. “I have the same concerns which have been highlighted by Manpreet Badal,” says Sukhpal Singh. Obviously, rise in temperature in this region for the past few years has started adversely affecting the wheat, vegetables and fruit crops, adds Sukhpal Singh.

Asked in this connection, director, agriculture, Balwinder Singh Sidhu, said he agreed with what was being stated by Sukhpal Singh and Manpreet Badal with regard to the rise in temperature and its adverse effect on wheat, fruits and vegetables.

“My biggest worry is prolonging of the summer season in this region. Summer this year started in Feburary and continues till today. Most of the people have started wearing light warm clothes,” said Sidhu. “Practically wintry conditions in Punjab will only be for two months-December and January,” he adds.

Wheat varieties grown in Punjab have been brought from cold regions of Mexico and these are suited to cold conditions. However, rise in temperature during its ripening period in February has been affecting its yield for the past five years, said Sidhu. There has been constant rise in maximum as well as minimal temperature in Punjab for the past five years,” he adds. This was the major reason for fall in the average wheat production from 47 quintals to 42 quintals per hectare in Punjab during this period, he said.

In 1999-2000, wheat production in the state was 159.10 lakh tonnes and after that it had remained around 145 lakh tonnes.

However, rising temperature appears to be proving good for paddy as its yield continues to be on the rise.


Major relief for Kandi area farmers
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Mohali, November 23
In what comes as a major relief to residents of thousands of villages under the regulatory control of the Punjab Land Preservation Act, 1900, the Government of India (GOI) today approved the tree felling management plans proposed by the Punjab government.

Forest Minister Tikshan Sud told The Tribune that these management plans had been designed for private forest areas closed under the Act at Dasuya, Hoshiarpur, Garhshankar and Roopnagar forest divisions. “Residents of these areas cannot cut the trees they had grown for long periods. Now following the GOI approval, felling of trees will be allowed in these areas every five years,” said the minister.

This was also the major complaint of the residents of the Kandi area for which they had been approaching various political quarters demanding the repeal of the Act. “The entire exercise was undertaken as a sequel to a plan scheme proposed by our department for rationalisation of regulatory provisions under the Act,” he pointed out.

While the approval of the management plans will go a long way in mitigating the problems being faced by farmers in these areas, however, it does not give relief to those who have used or intend to use areas locked under the Act for commercial and real estate gains. Those who have residential property in these areas will also have to wait for relief from the Government of India.

Under the approved felling policy the farmers will now be allowed to fell trees from private forests every five years instead of 10 years earlier. Tree markings will be done by the Forest Department under a selection system, which will ensure that trees selected for harvest are silviculturally available and no permanent gap is created in the tree canopy. Farmers will be allowed to harvest their produce in accordance with the approved felling programme laid down for each village.

“The overall procedure has been decentralised so that the public is not put to inconvenience. Local communities have been empowered through joint forest management committees to protect the forest during harvesting operations in lieu of which these committees will be getting certain cash compensation,” Sud said.

The Forest Department will also encourage farmers here to generate more income generation through value addition to their forest produce by planting useful indigenous plants like lemon grass, fodder grasses, herbs and useful shrubs.

The minister added that the problem of wildlife being faced by the farmers of the Kandi areas was also under active consideration of the Government of India. 


World Bank okays agriculture project
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 23
After interacting with farmers, agriculture experts and other stake holders for four days, the World Bank team here today approved a project submitted to it by the Punjab Government for improving agriculture and allied sectors in the state. The team will visit Punjab again in April to oversee the implementation of the project.

For the project, the World Bank will give Rs 500 crore in five years. The state government had put up the project worth Rs 850 crore.

Punjab was included in the project on the intervention of union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar.

Obviously, the state government will have to accept the conditions laid down by the World Bank. One of the most significant conditions is to effect amendments in the Punjab Agriculture Produce Markets Act to allow the farmers to set up their own markets to sell their produce. There is a provision to set up 20 mart centres under the project for the sale of fruits and vegetables. These would be run by farmers.

Likewise, there is proposal to set up 20 other markets to be operated by the farmers. Sources said a draft of the new markets act was almost ready. 


BKU leader to address trainee IAS officers
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 23
New breed of bureaucrats in India is now being sensitised with regard to the deepening crisis in agriculture sector in the country. Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie, has invited BKU leader Balbir Singh Rajewal to address trainee IAS officers there.

Rajewal has been asked to speak on globalisation and agrarian crisis and farmer suicides. The academy has told Rajewal that trainee IAS officers required to be sensitised about the issues faced by rural India.

As agriculture has become the most important area of concern for all state governments as well as the Union Government because of threat to food security of the country, the academy wants to impart first-hand information to trainee IAS officers from the farmer leader. 


Recovery panel in litigant’s backyard
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 23
Debts Recovery Tribunal (DRT), Punjab, constituted for recovery of money for banks, is surprisingly functioning on the premises of Punjab National Bank (PNB), which is its major litigant.

Making India and others respondents, the DRT bar association has questioned the working of a tribunal within the premises of the litigant. An affidavit was filed today by Vinod Rai, secretary finance, before the Division Bench wherein he assured that the premises of the tribunal would not be in the bank premises. It was stated that all DRTs’ would be shifted within three months of the finalisation of the premises.

In the last hearing held on October 5, the Bench expressed their disappointment on the document produced by them, and stated: “The affidavit, filed by the respondents, does not inspire any confidence and is a totally vague affidavit. In the affidavit, the respondents were required to state was the time frame wherein the DRT would shift out of the building of the Punjab National Bank, Chandigarh.”

The division further held that if by the next date of hearing, a decision is not taken by the respondents for shifting the tribunal, the union finance secretary shall come to explain its position on the said date. The bar association further averred that all the tribunals should be brought under the control of ministry of law and justice.

The petitioners highlighted that due to increase in the workload of the DRT at Chandigarh, another was set-up for which notification was issued on July 4, 2006. The Punjab National Bank made certain temporary arrangements on ad-hoc basis for the functioning of DRT-II, Chandigarh, since no other building was available. 


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