P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Punjab in trouble over power tariff rollback
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 25
Whereas the Punjab Government is seriously thinking to freeze power tariff at the existing level for the next two years, it is facing another problem regarding a subsidy of Rs 292 crore it promised to pay to the PSEB to roll back the recently hiked power tariff.

Sources said in the existing political circumstances, it would be advisable to freeze the tariff to avoid further increase in various subsidies given by it to the PSEB in lieu of providing free power to certain sections of power consumers, including farmers. With the increase in tariff hike annually, the subsidy bill also continues to go up because subsidy is calculated on the basis of revised tariff rates which are fixed by the commission. To avoid increase in the subsidy bill, the best alternative is to freeze it. The subsidy bill of the government went up in September this year because of the increase in tariff for the farm sector.

During the current fiscal year the state government is to pay Rs 2,100 crore to the PSEB as subsidy to provide free power to farm sector and poor sections of society. It is besides the arrears of Rs 400 crore of the past two years. A sum of Rs 292 crore was recently added to Rs 2,100 crore because on the bidding of the BJP, the Punjab Government had to roll back the hike in power tariff and promised to pay subsidy to the PSEB.

Sources said what was troubling the state government at the moment was whether the hike had been rolled back up to coming March 31 only or for all times to come. The government has promised to give Rs 292 crore as subsidy up to March 31. What about the next fiscal year? Will the government pay or not the same amount of subsidy to keep the hike in abeyance during the next financial year also? That is a question to be decided by the Badal government.

Sources said this issue would come up at the next meeting of the Cabinet on November 28.

Another problem likely to be faced by the government is a possible direction of the commission to the Punjab Government to pay subsidy of Rs 292 crore to the PSEB in advance if it wanted to get the hike rolled back. Without the permission of the commission, the hike cannot be rolled back. The commission has powers to give directions to the state government with regard to the mode of payment of subsidy to the board.

As the state government is facing a tight fiscal situation, it would be hard for it to spare Rs 292 crore to pay to the PSEB in one go. And in case the government does not abide by the direction given to it on subsidy, the commission has also powers to direct the PSEB to charge the hiked tariff from customers, it is learnt.


Industry pressure puts Badal in a spot
Naveen S Garewal

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 25
There is mounting pressure on the SAD-BJP alliance from various industrial houses and associations to take some concrete steps to boost atmosphere for business and trade in the state.

Industrialists have shown a lot of scepticism over Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s vision of turning Punjab into a “natural investment destination” in the absence of any concrete steps to boost investor confidence or provide a hassle-free investment platform.

Having waited for something substantial to happen since the new government took over, the industry is now getting impatient. Unfortunately for the government, the pressure has started mounting at a time when the SAD-BJP alliance finds itself in a precarious financial position. Its revenue collection is at an all-time low and the government is contemplating sale of its properties under the “optimum utilisation of vacant government land (OUVGL) scheme” to mop up some Rs 2,000 crore.

The imposition of 4 per cent entry tax on some goods has not gone down well with the business community. The issue has been further complicated with the Congress joining hands with the industry, seeking its immediate withdrawal. The promise of world-class road infrastructure and air-connectivity is not what the industry is looking for, being a border state Punjab wants the Centre to extend tax benefits like those in neighbouring Himachal Pradesh and Uttrakhand to be extended here.

The mood of the industry can be gauged from the fact that Ludhiana businessmen virtually pressured Punjab’s industry, local bodies and commerce minister Manoranjan Kalia to talk to Badal and arrange a meeting of the industrialists with the Prime Minister to sort out the problems being faced by Punjab industry owing to a friendlier business environment in the neighbouring states.

In the absence of any clear signals to the industry, resulting in an atmosphere of instability, many units have already shifted base to other states. The Trident Group has shifted its Rs 1150 crore investment to Madhya Pradesh from Barnala. At a meeting hosted by the Madhya Pradesh Government earlier this month, 18 big industrialists from Punjab participated to assess the investment opportunities there.

The industry is not much enamoured by the central government’s approval of projects like an international airport at Mohali or metro rail projects for other cities like Ludhiana. What the industry seeks is government’s immediate attention for a better business environment and relief in terms of tax rebates, to make manufacturing and trading more remunerative.

Kalia accepts the argument put forward by the industries wherein it has pleaded that concessions and subsidies given in the form of an industrial package by the central government to the selective states were adversely affecting the industry in the adjoining states. As a result, industrialists have also started shifting to the benefited states, leading a particular industry to run into loss in the home state.


Eco woes: Reducing tree felling period to spell doom
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Ropar, November 25
The Punjab government decision to reduce the felling plan period for private forests from 10 years to five years could spell doom for the green cover in the state.

Most of the green cover comprises private forests. Government forest in the state is limited to 44 sq km. It is just 2 per cent of the total recognised forest area of the state. The remaining about 98 per cent is private forest.

The state of the green cover is already dismal. The state, according to the last forest survey of India report, has the lowest forest cover in the country. In Punjab it is less than even the desert state of Rajasthan or Haryana. Punjab has just 6 per cent of its total area under green cover. Of this, dense forest comprises just 3.11 per cent.

Earlier, forests were opened for felling every 10 years alternatively as per the management plans approved by union ministry of forests and environment so as to maintain the green cover. However, despite these plans, the forest cover has gone down in Punjab by about 80,000 hectares during 2001-2003.

Earlier, trees that had gained a girth of at least 61 cm were allowed to be felled. Even their felling was governed by conditions as there should no permanent gap in the canopy and no tree should be felled from steep slopes and 30 feet from the natural rivulets.

The acacia variety tree, khair, is the main commercial tree found in Punjab forests that interests the traders or could be of any commercial value to land owners. However, it is very slow growing. It attains the girth of 61 cm at least in more than 10 years. So, how reducing the period of felling from 10 years to five years would help the people owning the land is perplexing. The farmers can only gain if the conditions for felling the trees are relaxed and that would mean green cover of the state would fall further.

If the existing conditions for felling the trees in the state are followed strictly, no tree can be felled according to a senior forest official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Honorary wildlife warden from Hoshiarpur Sukhdeep Singh Bajwa has filed a public interest litigation in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, seeking a total ban on felling in the forests of the state.

In the last hearing in the case, Chief Justice Varinder Jain had pulled by counsel appearing for the Punjab government. He had stated that a minimum forest cover of 17 per cent was required for the sustainable development of any state. The government should concentrate on improving the green cover as felling trees might benefit a few land owners only.


Carrying HIV in their veins
Survey reveals alarming facts in Punjab
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 25
At 20, village boy Gurpreet can’t sleep unless he has had three rounds of drug intake.

Starting on dope as a seven-year-old, he soon graduated to lethal levels. Now, smoking or chewing does not yield him any pleasure. He gets his kick only out of injecting morphine and sedatives, available easily. And he does so many times in the day, so much so that he has exhausted most veins of his body and has only one option left - injecting between thighs.

Gurpreet and those like him are posing to Punjab health authorities a mighty challenge. Though related to the state’s old problem of drug abuse, this one is clearly much more serious. Reason: It comes with the risk of HIV, known to be transmitted through infected needles. In Punjab, as elsewhere in India, the most recent shift in drug use patterns has been the shift from smoking or chasing to “injecting drug use” (IDU); the shift brings with it a potential risk of HIV.

Major findings

  • HIV along highways: IDUs close to GT road have higher HIV positivity than those away from it
  • Most users 20 to 29-year-old
  • HIV positivity highest among those above 44
  • Urban IDUs outnumber rural in numbers and HIV prevalence rates
  • Most drug users non-migrants

The problem, earlier known to affect northeastern states, is now also engulfing Punjab and Haryana, where a recent UNAIDS and the Society for Promotion of Youth and Masses (SPYM) survey found 60 per cent of 3,300 injecting drug users in 10 cities sharing needles. A crackdown on narcotics has prompted drug users into injecting painkillers, says Rajesh Kumar of the SPYM. Other commonly injected drugs in India are heroin, buprenorphine and dextropropoxyphene.

And if you thought that was the end of matter, here’s how IDU is threatening Punjab. The first community-based survey of IDUs in the state reveals an overall HIV positivity of 13.80 per cent among Punjab’s IDUs, way above India’s per cent positivity of 10.16.

Among injecting drug users in Punjab are not only old addicts like unskilled agricultural labourers and truck drivers but new entrants like hotel and service sector employees, even women. The highest HIV positivity of 33.33 per cent in Punjab has been found among IDUs from hotel industry, followed by 25 per cent among those from service sectors.

The problem cuts across age groups, being most pronounced among the unemployed, uneducated and unskilled sections. It is in fact inversely proportional to the level of education; needle sharing, non-cleaning of syringes and lack of awareness about HIV transmission through infected needles being common among the less-educated, as per the Punjab State AIDS Control Society (PSACS) survey.

Ninety-five per cent of HIV positive IDUs sampled by the PSACS have been found to have educational status equal to or below class XII, highlighting the need to reach out to the uneducated. Of the 500 injecting drug users tested, only 11 were graduates; 106 illiterates, 161 class V pass outs and 222 plus two pass outs.

“HIV transmission through IDU needs to be prevented by opening more testing and drug counseling centres and stressing substitution therapy,” say N.M. Sharma of the PSACS, which has also showed how HIV infection is moving along national highways in Punjab.

For wider surveillance, the PSACS collected blood samples of IDUs from two areas - one along the GT Road and the other from Malwa belt away from GT Road. The findings were shocking. IDU site, SWACH, Ludhiana, representing samples from Fatehgarh Sahib, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Kapurthala and Amritsar along GT road showed HIV prevalence of 21.20 per cent in the 250 IDUs tested, placing this site at No. 5 in India in terms of IDU-HIV prevalence.

Bathinda site representing samples of IDUs from non-GT road areas of Malwa showed surprisingly lower HIV prevalence of 6.4 per cent. Though Malwa is considered the hotbed of drug abuse, the survey shows that all areas are vulnerable to HIV due to IDU. India-wide, the highest HIV prevalence of 31.6 per cent among IDU sites has been reported from Chennai, followed by Khozikode (25); Chandigarh is eight with 17.6 per cent HIV prevalence among IDUs.

The latest findings about Punjab are alarming considering in high-prevalence IDU-HIV areas like Manipur, HIV transmission from injecting (also called intravenous) drug users to their spouses has been established. One study found 45 per cent of the wives of HIV-infected IDUs to be HIV positive.

In Punjab, the problem is severe among those above 44 (mostly married), who have reported the highest HIV positivity of 22.22 per cent among IDUs classified by age, followed by 30 to 44-year-old with 17.04 per cent HIV positivity. Highest numbers of IDUs are from the 20 to 29 year group.

As per National AIDS Control Organization (NACO), IDU accounts for 2.2 per cent of HIV transmissions in India. But UNAIDS India chief Denis Broun, recently in Chandigarh, said, “Our survey shows IDU transmission figure may be higher. If their numbers are higher, which is possible, IDU would be a major HIV transmission route in future. Punjab and Haryana need to devise interventions to tackle the issue.”


Brother, sister meet after Partition
Manish Sirhindi
Tribune News Service

Mohi Khurd (Patiala), November 25
Eightyfive-year-old Mohammad Ramzan’s happiness knew no bounds as he arrived here from Faisalabad (Pakistan) to meet his sister 75-year-old sister Gafurana, 60 years after he last saw her. The occasion was the marriage of Gafurana's niece Raziya who tied the nuptial knot with Anwar Khan of Chaura village.

The brother and sister, who had survived the 1947 holocaust together, had travelled from their native Manak Majra village, near Mandi Gobindgarh, to Faisalabad in Pakistan.

Narrating their tale of horror, Mohammad Ramzan said Gafurana was married to Ibraham of Mohi Khurd village and had gone to her maternal home at the time the country was being divided into two. A mother of four children, Gafurana had to travel along with her brother to Pakistan. There her brother asked her to remarry, but she refused stating that she would not deceive her husband at any cost. Following this Ramzan travelled to India and met Ibraham and took him along to Pakistan from where Ibraham came back along with his wife Gafurana, 10 years after the two were separated by Partition.

"Had it not been for my brother's love for me and the respect for my feelings, I would not have been able to spend my life with the family I loved so much," Gafurana said. Her brother, who was accompanied by 68-year-old younger brother Pir Bakash, said it took 60 years for him to meet his sister, whom he always loved like a daughter.

Pir Bakash, who was very young at the time of Partition, said they had been trying for the past several years to get a visa to visit their sister at Mohi Khurd village. Their younger sister Bashiran (60) and her 33-year-old son Zahid, who also came here, were fascinated to meet their relatives for the first time in their lives.

Majid Khan, Gafurana's youngest son, said they had mixed feelings of sorrow and happiness to meet their relatives from across the border. "Though we had been writing letters to one another over the years, meeting in person is a feeling that is hard to define," said an emotional Majid. He, however, expressed dismay that his relatives had been granted restricted visa because of which they would not be able to stay here for long.

Ramzan, Pir Bakash, Bashiran and Zahid were also disappointed that due to the visa restriction. They said they were not able to visit the Ajmer Shariff shrine and other important shrines of religious importance.


Extinguishing Heritage
Last portion of Punjabi poet Chatrik’s house disposed of
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 25
The last portion of the palatial house of Dhani Ram Chatrik, also known as “Punjab’s greatest lyricist and poet,” has been disposed of by the family. With this, the great legacy has been lost, giving the impression that the Punjabi world has forgotten him just after 53 years of his death.

Chatrik was the first to standardise the Gurmukhi type. He had the honour of publishing the first volume of Guru Granth Sahib and Bhai Kahan Singh’s “Mahan Kosh” (the first authentic dictionary of Punjabi), by using modern technique at his Sudarshan Printing Press.

He was unmistakably the maker of modern Punjabi poetry. Many celebrity singers have earned crores by singing his songs. He was one of the seminal figures of the literary renaissance in the country at the turn of the last millennium. And today he’s a forgotten hero !

A marriage palace had come up on a major portion of the poet’s house while in the remaining portion the issueless youngest son of the poet, Prem Kumar Monga (73), and his bed-ridden wife Lalita lived in one of the “unsold portions” of the palatial building, perhaps unmindful of its heritage value.

Chatrik became the founder-president of the Punjabi Sabha, which worked to get Punjabi language a place of honour at a time when Urdu enjoyed official patronage. A versatile and prolific writer, he used his pen experimenting with different genres of Punjabi language. His vocabulary was fresh, and metaphor, tone and style employed by him were refreshingly new. Unmistakably, Chatrik was a towering personality who lived for Punjabiat.

Many literary personalities rued that Punjab had failed to tap potential of “literary tourism” like other countries that preserved birthplaces of their literary greats like birthplaces of William Shakespeare and Lord Byron in the United Kingdom which attracted tourists from all over the world.


Shingaar Blast
Cops fail to nab accused
Jupinderjit Singh

Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, November 25
Over 40 days after the bomb blast in Shingaar cinema rocked the region, killing six persons and injuring over 30 others, investigating cops are virtually on square one regarding tracing the accused.

Even as the force of two police districts, Ludhiana and Jagraon, apart from the intelligence agencies are on the blast trail, all of them have failed to even establish how many persons had planted the bomb. They are yet to ascertain how exactly the bomb went off.

Diverting from routine practice, the DGP Punjab had handed over the investigation to two police districts keeping in mind the quantum of work as well as the common links between some cases of RDX recovery in the two police districts.

Though initial police suspicion and media reprts led one to believe that a resident of Mullanpur, Gurpreet Singh, and his three accomplaice were prime suspects, there is no evidence to firmly suggest their involvement. But as the investigation stands now, cops have only those youths as suspects.

The police had recovered 3.5 kg RDX from a car allegedly driven by Gurpreet Singh near Mullanpur on September 2. He had, however, escaped. Later, he and three others, Sandeep Singh, alias Harry, son of Harinder Singh of Kutiwal (Bathinda) and now resident of Ghuman village in Ludhiana district, Varinder Singh, son of Dalwinder Singh of Phagwara, and Bhawan Deep Singh, son of Surinder Singh of Sidhwan village, were booked by Ludhiana police.

The Jagraon police also booked the same persons in Sudhar police station on charges of attempts to cause disturbance in the region. Both police districts seem to be having a tug of war over the issue.

Cops have splashed their pictures all over the country and quizzed their relatives and raided the possible hideouts, all in vain.

Even the terrorist organisation behind the incident or the motive of the blast as well as the target victims was not clear. Cops suspect the involvement of HUJI, an Islamic terrorist organisation, or the Babbar Khalsa mainly. But they do not rule out the involvement of Khalistan Zindabad Force or any other outfit.

Ludhiana SSP R. K. Jaiswal said he was personally observing and guiding the 35 police officials specially handed over the investigation of the blast. “This group is concentrating on tracing the accused,” he said.

SSP Ludhiana-rural (Jagraon) G. S. Bhullar said he was personally monitoring the investigation. “There have been some clues which cannot be shared. I do not believe in kite-flying over links and suspects. We would brief the media when something worthwhile comes up,” he said.


‘33,000 acres of panchayat land grabbed by political leaders’
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 25
The Punjab government’s half-hearted approach in implementing the 73rd amendment to the Constitution, giving more powers to panchayats all over the country, was hampering the all-round development of rural areas of the state.

Sukhdev Singh Bareke, president, Panchayats Association, Punjab, here today rued that even after 60 years of Independence no steps were being taken by political leaders of the state for implementing various programmes for the uplift of people living in villages. He said though 14 states all over the country had or were going to implement the amendment which made over six subjects to the panchayats which include work for the unemployed youth, recruiting staff for various development works, marking attendance of teachers and doctors, besides giving pensions to old and handicapped persons in villages.

Bareke said the SAD-BJP government headed by Parkash Singh Badal was not interested in sanctioning grants for the development of the villages. He said the government had not even approved funds for five months to pay pension to the old and handicapped persons due to which these persons were unable to open accounts in the banks. He said even the previous government headed by Amarinder Singh did not allocate sufficient funds for the development of the rural areas.

Bareke added that the governments were working under political vendetta and the panchayat members who were not toeing the line of the ruling party were being framed in false cases under various Sections of the IPC. He alleged that the panchayat members were being forced to join the ruling party.

He alleged that 33,000 acres of panchayati land had been encroached upon by political leaders and their relatives in various villages of the state and if these encroachments were removed then no grants would be required for almost 6,000 panchayats in the state.


Road opposite Rajindra Kothi closed to traffic
Attar Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, November 25
Minister for tourism, cultural affairs and jails Hira Singh Gabria here today announced that the road from Sheranwala Gate to the railway crossing No.22, passing through the Baradari Gardens opposite the Rajindra Kothi was being closed to traffic and only pedestrians would be allowed on a pathway to be built along the road.

The minister said this was being done as a heritage hotel was being opened in Rajindra Kothi. As per the lease deed signed with the hotel chain during the previous Congress regime, the road was part of the hotel complex.

He said an alternate route had been given for the traffic on the rear of the kothi, which passed outside the Vigilance Bureau office.

Gabria said the state government had sent notices to the Police Department to vacate the two buildings, where the offices of the CIA and the traffic police were housed.

The minister said the state government had sent a proposal to the Centre for making available a grant of Rs 100 crore for maintenance of the heritage buildings in the state.

Referring to the water shortage at Rajindra Tank on the Mall, the minister asked the deputy commissioner to ensure that the water channel that passed from near railway crossing No. 21 was reopened and water carried to the tank. The water channel had been temporarily closed on account of construction of an overbridge at the railway crossing.

The minister said the state government was examining the matter regarding release of prisoners who had completed their terms.

Later, the minister presided over a bal mela function organised at the Baradari Gardens.


City development in limbo 
Rs 250-cr govt grant still awaited
Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, November 25
Tall promises made by the SAD-BJP alliance regarding a major makeover of the holy city have been grounded as the state government has failed to release the Rs 250-crore grant to kickstart the development projects initiated by MP Navjot Singh Sidhu.

According to sources in the Local Self-Government, the initial grant of Rs 100 crore had been tied up in knots in spite of commitment made by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal during his visit to the city last month, wherein he had offered to release the amount within a week.

Badal had agreed to release the amount along with a rider that some kind of loan could be raised through PUDA, which would mortgage certain properties listed by the corporation and the Improvement Trust.

The delay in the release of the promised amount has already led to a situation where Sidhu was engaged in a spat with minister for local bodies Manoranjan Kalia last week in Chandigarh. The local BJP is dismayed over the inordinate delay in the release of funds, leading to stalling of various development projects, including essential repairs of roads.

However, mayor Shawet Malik sounding optimistic said the grant had been held back due to certain procedural mechanism and hoped that the government would soon release it. He said the deputy commissioner had been directed by the government to identify properties against which PUDA could provide loan.

Meanwhile, the ambitious Central government-sponsored NURAM project estimated to be over Rs 3,000 crore is also facing a similar situation as the state and the municipal corporation has to provide 50 per cent finance. The elevated road project to connect the G. T. Road with the Golden Temple was also facing the same fate.


Brick-kilns hit residents’ health, crops
Set up in residential areas against PPCB norms
Bipin Bhardwaj
Tribune News Service

Ghatora (Gurdaspur), November 25
Scores of brick-kilns have not only been proving to be a major health hazard to residents of over a dozen of villages around here, but also playing havoc with their crops and cattle for the past many years.

A majority of these brick-kilns have been set up within thickly populated residential areas in violation of the norms of the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB). The authorities have been turning a blind eye to this problem and issuing licences allegedly without visiting the sites of the units.

Effluents emitted from the units are slowly piercing the lungs of scores of students of the area as certain brick-kilns have come up adjacent to school buildings.

The most affected are the villages of Nala, Bhawani, Chauhan, Madi, Chhani, Tola and Jhangi, where the brick-kilns have brought misery to the farmers besides affecting their movable and immovable properties adversely.

A survey by The Tribune revealed that a majority of the brick-kilns that have come up in residential areas, are not following the guidelines of the PPCB. The effluent treatment plans and other mandatory equipment are missing. Dense clouds of smoke and layers of dust and fly ash are playing havoc with the lives of residents of the area, their cattle and vegetation.

Ferrying of soil in uncovered tractor-trailers and horse-carts have added to the hardship of residents. Thick layers of dust and fly ash are endangering the vegetation in the area.

Queries reveal that respiratory problems have witnessed a sharp increase among the residents while trees have stopped bearing flowers and fruits.

Chhaju Ram, a farmer of Nala village, was forced to chop off his kinnow and mango orchard on over 55 acres as the trees stopped bearing flowers and fruits because of the pollution caused by the brick-kilns in the village.

Harinder Singh, another farmer owning a litchi orchard of 35 acres, laments that his yield has declined to a great extent due to the air pollution for the past decade.

Facing disappointment from the authorities concerned, members of the Shaheed Vikram Youth Club, Chhatwal, and Darshan Singh, a resident of Nala, approached the Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC), Chandigarh, and sought its intervention in the issue. They have complained to the PSHRC that repeated representations to the district authorities and the PPCB had failed to yield favourable results. The member-secretary of the PPCB, Patiala, Barinderjit Singh, expressed his ignorance about the issue. He, however, said he came to about this problem from The Tribune.


Post DIGs as district chiefs, says Mann
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 25
Reacting to the shortage of SSP-level officers in the Punjab Police, Simranjit Singh Mann, head of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) has suggested that the Punjab Police should posts DIG’s as district chiefs.

The Tribune had highlighted how the Punjab Police was facing a serious crisis in posting officers against cadre posts that have to be manned by IPS officers.

Mann, who is himself a former IPS officer from the 1967 batch of the Punjab cadre, said instead of looking around at the junior level where enough officers are not present, the director general of police should simply posts the DIG’s as district chiefs and there should be no ambiguity on this. “They can easily be called DIG of the district and be posted in bigger districts like Ludhiana and Jalandhar, among others,” said Mann.

To make matters easy Mann suggested that officers with a junior grade among DIG’s be posted in a district while the seniors should be handle a range. At present a range is managed by DIG while a district is managed by a SSP.

It may be mentioned here that there are 24 DIG-level officer’s serving with the Punjab Police at present. It was highlighted yesterday in the Tribune that only 25 SSP-level officers are available for posting in districts.

Mann said the chief secretaries in the past have allowed promotions to police officers without properly assessing the state’s requirements. The cadre management has been absurd and has caused lopsided equations where the top is “very heavy” while there is a scarcity at the cutting edge SSP-level. He suggested that in future promotions should be made only after a proper assessment of the cadre.


1,500 delegates attend bank conference
Tribune News Service

Patiala, November 25
The 20th conference of the All-India State Bank of Patiala Employees Federation and the 6th conference of the State Bank of Patiala Employees Union (Punjab state) entered the second day which was attended by more than 1,500 delegates from all over the country.

Addressing the delegate session P.S. Sunderesan, former vice-president of the All-India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA), expressed deep concern over the increasing non performing assets (NPA) of banks. In last three years Rs 52,000 crore of fresh NPA has been added to the banking system. The total NPA of the banking system has touched a level of Rs 3 lakh crore, if interest is added to it.

He said the mounting NPA was the real problem of the Indian banking industry.

N. K. Gaur, general secretary of the State Bank of Patiala Employees Federation, speaking against the merger of the associate banks with SBI said, “in spite of the corporate slavery the performance of the associate banks has surpassed the performance of SBI in many functional areas. Associate banks with over 4,873 branches across the country, business turnover of Rs 3,43,764 crore and profitability of Rs 2,031 crore are major contributors to the Indian economy. The business volume of associate banks constituted over 48 per cent of the business turnover of SBI, which they have earned with service to the customer in their respective area of operation. Thus no way the merger of associate banks with SBI was justified.”

C.H. Venkatachalam, general secretary, AIBEA, declared that AIBEA and AIBOA will go for one-day strike on January 3 next year against the merger of associate banks with SBI for which efforts were going on to invite other banking unions also to participate in the strike.

In the delegate session problems and demands of the bank employees were discussed at length and the employees reflected total commitment towards their association. Resolution concerning banking and economy were adopted in the conference which includes Nuclear weapon free world, lifting of US Embargo on Cuba, good relationship with neighbouring countries like China, Myanmar, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Restoration of democracy in Pakistan was also demanded in the conference.

The delegate session was also addressed by leaders of bank employees, P. R. Mehta, N. P. Munjal, Yog Raj Gupta, Krishan Lal, R. K. Gulati, J. P. Jhavar, K. Narhari, Gopi Nath Nair, Sudesh Kumar, Amrit Lal and general secretary of All-India State Bank of Patiala Officers Association, I. G. Gupta.

The delegates elected Devinder Singh as president, N.K. Gaur as general secretary and Sushil Gautam as secretary of the All-India State Bank of Patiala Employees Federation and Ashok Sharma, president, Sushil Gautam, general secretary and Naresh Gaur as secretary of State Bank of Patiala Employees Union (Punjab state).


Badal congratulates Ishmeet
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh , November 25
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today felicitated Ishmeet Singh, a talented student from Ludhiana, for wining the prestigious title of "Amul Star Voice of India" in the grand finale held at Mumbai last night.

In a message, Badal said it was a matter of great pride and honour for all Punjabis as Ishmeet through his superb and scintillating performance became an icon and a heartthrob of millions of his admirers not only in the country but also across the globe.

The chief minister wished him a bright future and success in his life. He also congratulated the parents and family members of Ishmeet Singh.


40 pc TB cases undetected in Sangrur dist
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, November 25
According to a national-level Annual Risk of Tuberculosis Infection (ARTI) survey, 40 per cent of TB cases are still undetected in this district. Such cases are a hurdle in controlling the spread of tuberculosis as one untreated patient can infect up to 15 healthy persons with the disease in a year.

According to sources, in the first 10 months of this year 1,700 patients suffering from various types of TB have been put on the anti-TB treatment in the district under the Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP).

However, in the light of the ARTI survey, 4,000 TB patients should be detected in the district in a year in the light of the district’s population of 16 lakh. Thus, 2,300 cases are yet to be detected in remaining two months, which appears unlikely as on an average less than 200 patients were detected every month in the past 10 months (January 2007 to October 2007) in the district.

District TB officer Dr Surinder Singla said Sangrur civil surgeon Dr Satwant Bhalla had directed all senior medical officers (SMOs) of the district to detect and treat maximum number of TB cases.


Zahida Parveen’s Divorce Case
Police to send report soon to NCW
Our Correspondent

Malerkotla, November 25
The Sangrur district police will send its report to the National Commission for Women (NCW) as early as possible in the Zahida Parveen case, according to Sangrur SP(D) Bhupinderjit Singh Virk today.

The NCW had issued a notice to the district police seeking details of the case and issued directions to it to submit its report to it.

Zahida was divorced by her husband Mohammed Yasin by writing the word 'talaaq' thrice on the wall of a local mosque with a piece of chalk. Her husband divorced her allegedly to marry another woman.

Zahida had got married to Yasin in 2001. However, one year after her marriage, her in-laws allegedly started harassing her for more dowry. Zahida had lodged complaints regarding this with the police. Zahida then approached the NCW for justice. Now she sees a ray of hope as the NCW has issued directions to the Sangrur police regarding her case.

Muslim clerics too have called the second marriage of Yasin illegal. Mufti Fuzailur Rehman Hilal Usmani, member of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, said a Muslim couple could get divorce only after following a proper procedure laid down by Islam.


Entry points to civil hospital closed
Our Correspondent

Nabha, November 25
Acting swiftly on hearing about stray animals wandering freely in the civil hospital premises, civil surgeon Patiala Dr Usha Dhingra ordered the closure of two entry points of the hospital. Main gate and backside gate on jattan wala bus side will remain closed until some suitable arrangement is made to control the entry of cattle and unauthorised vehicles. Patients would have to enter from a gate on the emergency side. Dr Dhingra also assured proper sitting arrangement for the patients. She announced formation of committees in all the hospitals of the district to maintain cleanliness, sanitation and drinking water arrangements.

In her marathon meeting with the health officials, she examined the working of doctors and paramedics of the hospital and gave them necessary instructions. Talking to mediapersons she said with the support of staff and people of the area, Patiala remained champion in all spheres of health activities, whether national health programmes, food sampling and seizure of habit-forming drugs, adulterated eatables and synthetic khoya. It is for the first time that no case of dengue, jaundice and malaria has been reported in the season she said and added that this could be made possible only by spreading awareness about these diseases in the best possible manner.

When asked about to comment upon the vacant posts of assistant civil surgeon, district health officer, district family planning officer, epidemiologist, deputy medical commissioner and number of senior medical officer, she said these posts along with others were likely to be filled soon as these were in the notice of her seniors. She said she was proud of other staff members who were working very hard to deliver the assigned targets despite shortage of key officers.


Hospital lauded for serving poor
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 25
Providing quality medical care free of cost to the economically weak is a work of true service to mankind, said Ramesh Inder Singh, chief secretary, Punjab.

He was speaking at the “Samarpan Divas” function organised by Mata Kaulan Mission Hospital to mark 20 years of this hospital.

Ramesh Inder Singh said seeing the hospital provide health services to the economically weaker strata of society gave him great satisfaction.

He honoured Dr Prithpal Singh Mokha, nephrologist, Manjit Kaur and Paljit Kaur with gold medals for their services to the hospital. Earlier, Ramesh Inder Singh inaugurated the echocardiography and audiometery units at the hospital and released the souvenir.


Enact Anand Marriage Act, Dal Khalsa to Centre
Tribune News Service

Baba Bakala, November 25
Lauding the decision of the Pakistan government to enact the Anand Marriage Act for registration of Sikh marriages, the Dal Khalsa here today asked the Government of India to follow suit.

At a convention organised to commemorate the martyrdom day of Guru Teg Bahadur, party leader H.S. Dhami urged the Centre to correct all errors and objectionable references about Sikh Gurus from the textbooks published by the NCERT. He demanded implementation of the Anand Marriage Act enacted in 1909. Resolutions demanding a corridor for Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, opening of the Attari-Wagah border on the Indo-Nepal pattern were adopted.


£ 20,000 donated for Golden Temple
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, November 25
UK-based Amrit Vela Radio’s Lakhwinder Kaur Dhillon, popularly known as Lucky Dhillon, presented the second installment of £ 20,000 to Avtar Singh Makkar, president of the SGPC, on behalf of the Sikh sangat there for installing an ultra-modern sound system in the Golden Temple. The system would be installed at a cost of Rs 1 crore.

Earlier, Dhillon had presented a draft of Rs 25.50 lakh to the authorities for installing the equipment. She expressed gratitude to the Sikh sangat in England, which generously donated the amount for setting up the system.

Avtar Singh honoured Dhillon with a siropa in the presence of other members of the SGPC.


Youth dies in Golden Temple
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, November 25
Bhupinder Singh Bhinda (22), a resident of Chowk Chira, died in the Golden Temple premises here late last evening by falling in the sarovar. The incident happened when he slipped from pipes and fell in the sarovar when he tried to remove flowers from Darshani Deori.

An authority of the Golden Temple said the boy was immediately brought out of the sarovar and rushed to a private hospital.

However, as the doctor was not available in the hospital, he was then taken to Mata Kaula Charitable Hospital where he was declared brought dead.


Police solves blind murder case
Tribune News Service

Fatehgarh Sahib, November 25
The district police today solved a blind murder case of a 27-year-old driver of a three-wheeler who was shot dead by an unidentified person on Dussehra evening.

The body of the deceased, who was identified as Karanveer, was recovered from his three-wheeler, after he was shot dead. During the preliminary investigations carried out, it was found that the man had been shot twice from the back seat of the three-wheeler.

During investigations certain clues suggested that a drug addict Narinder Singh alias Kala, aged 30 could be behind the murder. Police informers had reportedly told the police that Kala was in possession of a pistol that could have been used to kill the man. Following this the police rounded up the accused and during investigation it established that he had killed Karanveer. However, the motive behind the murder was yet to be ascertained, the police said.


7-year-old done to death by cousin
All for 2 acres of land

Tribune News Service

Patiala, November 25
In order to grab 2 acres belonging to his maternal uncle, a 24-year-old man throttled his seven-year-old cousin to death and dumped his body in a septic tank in the backyard of his house.

Mohinder Singh of Bodmore village had two days back filed a “ missing person” report with the police, saying his minor son Dhiani Singh had been missing since the intervening night of November 22 and 23.

The police started investigations and questioned family members, including the son of Mohinder Singh’s sister, Gurdeep Singh Deepa, who stayed in his uncle’s house.

During questioning, the police felt that Deepa, a native of Panjola village in the district, was not forthcoming with his replies.

On sustained interrogation, Deepa broke down and confessed to have strangulated the boy and dumped the body in the septic tank.

A team of senior police officials today reached the house of Mohinder Singh and found the body there.

SP (Detective) G.S. Chauhan told The Tribune that Deepa had recently been rejected by a girl on the grounds that he did not have enough property. Following this, Deepa hatched a conspiracy to kill his uncle’s son in the hope that his property would be transferred to him after his uncle's death.

The SP said Mohinder Singh's elder son was mentally challenged and Dhiani Singh was his only heir.

The police has registered a case under Sections 302 and 201 of the IPC against Deepa. The body of the victim was shifted to the mortuary of Rajindra Hospital for a postmortem examination.


Youth seriously injured in accident
Tribune News Service

Kharar, November 25
An 18-year-old youth, Parwinder Singh form Sante Majra village, got seriously injured in a road accident today. The incident took place at around 7:15 am, when a Rajdeep travels bus (PB 10 AB 9733), plying from Mohali to Khanna collided with Parwinder's car (PB 27 C 2688). The forceful collision resulted in front wheels of the bus leaving its axle and getting rammed into the back wheels. The two vehicles collided with each other from opposite direction.

Parwinder was coming out of the Guru Gobind Singh Modern Technology and Polytechnic College and was busy in a friend's marriage. He was rushed to the Kharar civil hospital from where he was referred to the PGIMER, Chandigarh. The police officials at Kharar said Parwinder's situation was unstable and he was in coma. A lady passenger of the bus too got injured in the accident. Meanwhile, the bus travel agency owners have been summoned and a police party dispatched to Khanna. The police is yet to register a case as Parwinder is medically unfit to give a statement.


Cop booked
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, November 25
Balbir Singh, head constable posted at Goindwal police station, has been booked under the Prevention of Corruption Act for taking a bribe of Rs 15,000 from a resident of Kapurthala district.

Complainant Amandeep Singh, proprietor Bhajan Motor Cycle, Phattu Dhinga (Kapurthala), alleged that the head constable detained him at police post, Fatehbad, on November 19 when he was returning home. He said the head constable freed him after taking Rs 15,000.


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