P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


World AIDS Day
Sangrur District

115 HIV cases detected in 10 months 
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, December 1
Detection of more than 100 HIV positive persons in Sangrur district during the past 10 months is a matter of concern as it predicts an alarming situation in the district because one HIV-infected person can transmit the disease to one or more persons in one way or the other.

According to sources in the Health Department, around 2,500 persons, including about 1,500 women, visited the Voluntary Counselling and Testing Centre (VCTC), now known as Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre (ICTC), at the Civil Hospital here from January 2007 to October 2007. The VCTC is a specialised centre for the counselling of suspected HIV-infected persons and testing of their blood.

The sources further said of the suspected HIV-infected persons, whose blood samples were tested at the local VCTC centre during the past 10 months, more than 115 persons were found HIV positive. These 115 HIV-infected persons included around 70 men.

Terming the detection as an alarming situation, a doctor said this might be a “tip of the iceberg” as 115 was the official figure. He said the possibility of other HIV-infected persons in the district could not be ruled out as these 115 persons and many undetected HIV-infected persons might have infected more persons in the district during the past year.

Sangrur civil surgeon Satwant Bhalla said here yesterday that an awareness drive to make the public aware about AIDS/HIV was in progress by way of holding competitions in schools and through magic shows.

She also said in view the ensuing World AIDS Day posters and banners were being prepared to educate people about the dangers of HIV/AIDS. 


24 counselling centres to be set up
Tribune Reporters

Ferozepur, December 1
The Health Department will set up 24 Integrated Counselling and Testing Centres at subdivisional hospitals in the state, said health and family welfare minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla. She was presiding over a state-level function to mark World AIDS Day at Mamdot village on the Indo-Pak border, near here, today.

Chief parliamentary secretary Sukhpal Singh, secretary (health) K.B.S. Sidhu, deputy commissioner Bhagwant Singh, SSP Dinesh Pratap and additional project director (PSACS) N.M. Sharma besides senior officials from the department were present.

Chawla said 33 centres were already functioning in district hospitals, medical colleges and some selected subdivisional hospitals. An Anti-Retroviral Treatment centre would soon be functional at the Government Medical College, Patiala, with link centres at Ferozepur and Ludhiana. It would provide a comprehensive package of services for AIDS patients, including ARV drugs, diagnosis and treatment of opportunistic infections and preventive education free of cost, the minister added.

Commissioner Ayush and the secretary (health) also addressed the gathering. They highlighted the recent measures implemented by the department to spread awareness about AIDS. Dr Swaran Singh, chief medical officer, gave a presentation about the efforts of the local health department to prevent the spread of disease.

Earlier, Chawla inspected an exhibition on HIV/AIDS organised by the Punjab State AIDS Control Society at the venue of the function. A rally was taken out in which students from various schools and colleges participated. They presented skits and songs on the theme.

Meanwhile, on the directions of Justice Mehtab Singh Gill, executive chairman, Punjab Legal Service Authority, World AIDS Day was observed on the sessions courts complex.

PATHANKOT: A lecture, panel discussion, health exhibition and a painting competition marked World AIDS Day at 167 Military Hospital. A function on this occasion was presided over by Col A.K. Mitra, senior adviser (psychiatry).


Dark winter ahead for residents
Urban areas to have 2-5 hr power cuts, rural areas 7-8 hrs 
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Ropar, December 1
There will be long power cuts in winters. According to highly placed sources in the PSEB, power cuts can extend from two to five hours in urban areas and seven to eight hours in rural areas.

The power scenario in the state is such that one day compulsory cut on the industry will continue in the winter this year. In the past few years compulsory cut had not been imposed on the industry in winter due to better management of power availability by the PSEB.

The reason for the present shortage is the 150 lakh units difference between the demand and supply. To add to it, the government has increased power supply for tube wells in winter by two hours. Such a large gap between demand and supply has been created due to failure of the PSEB to purchase power from other states in advance this year. Last year, the PSEB was getting about 50 to 60 lakh units per day from other states. However, this time due to its failure to enter into purchase agreements in advance, it is getting just 15 to 20 lakh units per day from other states.

The PSEB reportedly failed to purchase power in advance due to the strong stand taken on the issue by the bureaucrats concerned. Member, finance, had written to the government against purchasing power from other states. He had alleged that the PSEB was purchasing power up to Rs 6 per unit. This was driving the organisation into a debt trap.

Engineers of the PSEB had, however, opposed the proposal tooth and nail. They had maintained that the organisation was purchasing power at an average cost of about Rs 2.90 per unit from other states. At times when the power availability in the gird was low, power from other states could cost up to Rs 7 per unit. However, when the demand was low it could be purchased for 50 paise per unit also.

Purchasing power from other states is necessary for Punjab that has not added even a single unit to its generating capacity since the completion of the Ranjit Sagar Dam project. The generating capacity of that project is not being utilised as the Shahpur Kandi project has not been completed.

The sources in the PSEB also allege that the organisation has got trapped in debt due to the failure of the government to pay subsidy for free power being supplied to tube wells. Moreover, the organisation has also not been allowed to hike power tariff.


Rs 14 Lakh Bills Unpaid
Petrol stns hesitate to supply fuel to cops 
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, December 1
The petrol and diesel station at the police ground here has been dry since October 22, inconveniencing the police to run its vehicles due to non-clearance of the bill of oil company by the district treasury office. Since October 22 the police has been getting petrol and diesel for its vehicles from private filling stations on credit. But the police has also failed in making payment to the private filling stations due to which the latter hesitate to continue the supply of fuel to police vehicles.

According to official police sources, the police has 88 vehicles, including 25 PCR motor cycles. The sources said though the allotment of required funds was there, even then the district treasury officer had not been clearing bills of oil companies and private filling stations. Bills of Rs 14 Lakh are pending with the treasury office. The oil company has already suspended the supply to the departmental filling station and if the payment is not released to the private filling stations, these would also stop supply of fuel which would hit police functioning.

The situation in the other districts of state was similar.

R. P. Sharma, district treasury officer, said here yesterday that only bills for salary of employees, retirement welfare benefits, court cases, electricity, water supply and telephones of government departments were being cleared as per verbal orders of his seniors. However, he had cleared bills for petrol and diesel up to Rs 10,000 of various government departments this week. He said though cheques for almost all pending bills had been prepared, these would be released to respective departments only on the instructions of his seniors. He said even grants for various development projects were pending.


SAD plans big rally in Malwa
S.P. Sharma
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 1
The ceremony to lay the foundation stone for the cricket stadium here on December 8 is bound to get converted into a political rally of the ruling SAD-BJP combine with the top leadership trying to make it a show of strength in this heartland of the Malwa belt where Dera Sacha Sauda enjoys considerable influence.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal will lay the foundation stone and the SAD is trying to derive political mileage out of the event in view of the nearing Lok Sabha elections.

His son, Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is acting president of the SAD, is learnt to have taken in his own hands the arrangements to make the occasion a memorable show. District chiefs of the SAD, party activists of the Malwa region and members of the SGPC are being invited to the function, sources said. President of the SGPC Avtar Singh will also be present.

The Chief Minister will also lay the foundation stone for the district headquarters building of the SAD.

To add colour to the show, the occasion is also being utilised to celebrate the birthday of Parkash Singh Badal that coincides with the day. Some top BJP leaders are expected at the function.

Sukhbir has convened a meeting of sitting and former MLAs of the SAD of the Malwa region and also senior party activists here at Gurdwara Haji Ratan on December 3 regarding the arrangements for the ceremony.

Local SAD leaders said 25,000 or 30,000 people were expected to participate in the ceremony.


Integrated checkpost at Attari on the cards
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Attari, December 1
The government of India has mooted an ambitious plan to develop an Integrated Check-Post (ICP) with six-lane exclusive trade corridor, for both incoming and outgoing cargo, by acquiring 120 acres of land, near the international border, in a bid to strengthen bilateral economic ties with Pakistan .

The central government has entrusted the job to prepare a project report to RITES, a railway subsidiary. The total outlay for the proposed ICP is likely to be more than Rs 300 crore with creation of the state-of-art infrastructure for faster movement of big trucks, including 10-wheelers.

Talking to The Tribune here today, Sanjay Sarn, additional commissioner, Customs, said big truck scanners and high-quality X-ray machines would be installed for faster clearance of trucks . The refrigerators complex would be installed on both sides of the Radcliff Line for fresh fruit and meat etc. Sarn said there was great scope for importing cement from Pakistan which would be much cheaper via land route.

With the truck movement since October 1, trade between India and Pakistan has already got a major fillip.However, the acquiring of 120 acres from farmers can be a stumbling block for the central government. The farmers may oppose the acquiring of land if they are not offered attractive price.

According to official figures available from the land customs route, during the past two-and-a-half months, fresh vegetables exports from India has seen a quantum increase, almost thrice. During the last year’s three-month figure from September 1 to November 15 , 13.62 crore worth of fresh vegetables were exported, while during the current corresponding period Rs 32.57 crore was exported. This has been greatly facilitated by the movement of trucks across the international border.

However, meat has also witnessed a shortfall in exports as it has declined by 50 per cent as per the statistics released by the Customs Department. Meat worth Rs 11.64 crore was exported this year as compared to Rs 32.57 crore exported during the three-month period last year. Similarly, the import of dry fruits has also witnessed a quantum jump.


‘Make DIETs autonomous’ 
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, December 1
Keeping in view the fact that the work and duties of the staff of the District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs) is different from the staff of the Education Department, there is a strong feeling in some quarters that there should be an autonomous body to run DIETs and these should be independent of the control of the abovesaid department.

A section of the DIETs teachers and employees reportedly wants that DIETs should have their own staff cadre to improve quality education and work culture in these institutes and to remove the fear of transfers from the minds of the teachers and principals as this affects their commitment towards their respective institutes and society.

Secretary of the district unit of the Government School Lecturer Union Ram Murti Goyal, who is working as a lecturer at the Sangrur DIET, said today such institutes should be made autonomous on the pattern of universities. He said to attract well-qualified and academically strong people for DIETs, salaries and special allowances should be fixed on the pattern of professional colleges.

He said every teacher in the rank of principal wanted to become DEO as compared to being a principal of a DIET because by doing so he could enjoy more powers while as a principal he had to work under the DEO, though both were on a par. 


Pak minister transliterates Sukhmani Sahib
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 1
Law minister of Pakistan Syed Afzal Haider, a descendant of Baba Farid, has transliterated Sukhmani Sahib in five scripts, including those in Persian, Roman, Shahmukhi and Gurmukhi.

Sukhmani Sahib is the name given to the set of hymns divided into 24 sections appearing in Guru Granth Sahib.

President of the American Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (AGPC) Pritpal Singh told The Tribune about the scriptures after a meeting with caretaker Prime Minister of Pakistan Mohammedmian Soomro at his office in Islamabad. He said it was the sole efforts of Haider to complete this gigantic task, which had been praised by the Sikhs currently on a pilgrimage in Pakistan in connection with the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.

Meanwhile, the AGPC chief said Soomro assured the Sikh delegation, comprising Manmohan Singh, Avtar Singh Sanghera, Amrik Singh Vochhoa, Kuldip Singh Chaheru and Harbhajan Singh Matharoo, that his government would make efforts to open a visa centre in Lahore. However, Soomro asked the Sikh delegates to take up with the Indian government the issue of opening a visa centre in Amritsar.


10 pc mobile connections in ‘suspicious’ category
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 1
In a matter of serious security concern, it has now been found that several thousand mobile phone connections all across Punjab are either working on SIM cards that have been procured on fake names or particulars of users have not been verified.

This piece of information has come after random sampling of mobile phone numbers of all cellular operators in Punjab was carried out through a special cell of the union communication ministry in the past few weeks.

The sampling was carried out after the Punjab police had lodged a compliant with the union communications ministry on how SIM cards procured illegally were being sold to users at a premium all along the sensitive Indo-Pakistan border. The Tribune had highlighted this issue in these columns on October 4 also.

Sources said the latest sampling had revealed that 10 per cent connections fall in the “suspicious” category i.e. either fake documents were used to procure the SIM cards or particulars of the users had not been verified at the time of activating the cards.

To bolster its case, the Punjab police before complaining to the Centre had procured pre-paid SIM cards at a premium and sent them as evidence of the flourishing racket. Some of these SIMs seized in border areas were of operators who have their operations in New Delhi, Haryana and Mumbai.

What was disturbing the authorities was the identity of the actual users. They could be spies, anti-social elements or smugglers.

The police has now received a communiqué, sent through the vigilance cell of the communication ministry, asking that cases of cheating and forgery be registered against those dealers or retailers who sold such SIM cards. However, this is not a blanket permission to book any retailer or an agent of the cellular companies. Police officials said it was the duty of the cellular operators to lodge complaints when they found that the agents or dealers were selling pre-activated SIM cards or were not verifying the antecedents of the users.

The racket of pre-paid mobile phone SIM cards allows the user to get a ready-to-use SIM card while his identity is concealed. In the records of the mobile telephone company, the name and address of another person is entered, who does not even know that a SIM card is issued in his name and it could be misused.


British Columbia Premier arrives today 
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 1
British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell will arrive here tomorrow for an exchange of expertise as well as opportunities in education and investment in Punjab and Chandigarh.

“This mission is a chance to spread the word to potential investors about British Columbia ’s competitive advantage as Canada’s Pacific Gateway and the opportunities here for partnerships in life sciences, trade, investment and education,” Campbell said before leaving for India last week.

“We have an incredible opportunity to make connections that will benefit British Columbia and the world, both economically and environmentally”.British Columbia launched the Asia Pacific Initiative in April this year, setting out a long-term strategy to increase and diversify the province’s economic and cultural ties with Asia Pacific.

India is the 10th largest export market for B.C. products. It was the second highest source of immigrants settling in British Columbia in 2006, with under 6,000 immigrants from India to Canada entering through the province last year. In the 2001 census, more than 121,000 British Columbians identified Punjabi as their first language, compared to 110,000 in Ontario.

Besides the Asia Pacific Initiative, there is a Wolver Hampton -India programme that primarily focuses on the growing socio-economic and political influence of the overseas Punjabi community.

Accompanying the British Columbia Premier would be eminent Canadians of Punjabi origin. British Columbia became the first province of Canada to have a Punjabi Premier in Ujjal Dosanjh in late 90s.


Doctors protest Venu’s removal
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 1
The Punjab medical fraternity demanding that politicians, too, should be removed from their posts once they attain the age of 65. In a demonstration held at the local Rajindra Hospital, doctors said if a renowned doctor like Venugopal could be removed just to satisfy the ego of one minister, Parliament should also pass an Act to terminate the services of Cabinet ministers who had attained the age of 65.

Meanwhile, PCMS Association, Punjab, patron Manjit Singh Randhawa has urged Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to offer Venugopal the post of the head of either the Punjab Institute of Sciences or the Centre of Excellence of Cardiology. 


Convicts can’t approach HC for terms to run concurrently
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 1
In a vital judgement affecting all convicts sentenced to imprisonment in multiple cases, a three-judge Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that the discretion to order the sentences to run concurrently can be exercised by the trial, the appellate or the revisional court, but cannot be exercised in isolation when an application in this regard is moved under Section 482 or 427 of the CrPC.

The three-judge Bench ruled such a direction to make the sentences run concurrently, as per various decisions, can be exercised by the trial court or by the appellate court or a revisional court at the time of exercising appellate or revisional jurisdiction as well

While Section 482 pertains to “inherent powers” of the high court, Section 427 deals with “sentence to offenders already sentenced for another offence”.

The ruling comes on criminal miscellaneous number 48,079 of 2006 in criminal appeal number 601 DB of 2005 filed by Jang Singh against the state of Punjab.

He was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment in two different FIRs registered in July 1997 and was seeking directions for making the sentences awarded in the two cases to run concurrently.

Taking up the matter, the Bench, comprising Justice Mehtab Singh Gill, Justice Ranjit Singh and Justice Arvind Kumar, ruled: “The consensus of the judicial opinion, as may emerge from different judgments passed by various high courts and the Supreme Court, seems to be that normal rule, as per Section 427 of the CrPC, is that a person who is undergoing a sentence of imprisonment and is sentenced on a subsequent conviction to an imprisonment or an imprisonment for life, then such imprisonment or imprisonment of life shall commence after the expiration of the imprisonment to which he has been previously sentenced.”

The Bench also ruled: “This, however, would not be so if the court directs that the subsequent sentence shall run concurrently with the previous sentence. Such a direction to make the sentences run concurrently, as per various decisions, can be exercised by the trial court or by the appellate court or a revisional court at the time of exercising appellate or revisional jurisdiction as well.

However, if a trial court does not pass any such direction for making the sentences run concurrently and the appeal or revision against the said decision is also decided, then it may not be open for a person to seek such direction for making the sentences run concurrently by moving an application under Section 482/427 of the CrPC.

“The view taken by one set of the high courts that such an application can be entertained while exercising inherent powers under Section 482 of the CrPC would no longer appear to be a good law in view of the decision of the Supreme Court in M.R. Kudva’s case.

“We are, thus, bound to take this view that this discretion though available with the trial court, the appellate court or the revisional court while holding trial or entertaining appeal or revision, would not be so available to be exercised in isolation when an application in this regard is moved either under Section 482 or 427 of the CrPC,” the Bench observed.

In their detailed 26-page judgement, the judges added: “What principle and consideration will govern the exercise of this discretion cannot be exhaustively enumerated….There are no set guidelines, principles available which would govern the exercise of discretion under Section 427 (1) of the CrPC. The section leaves a judicial discretion with the courts to exercise such discretion depending on the facts and circumstances of each case.”

The Judges concluded by remanding Jang Singh’s case to the Division Bench for passing appropriate directions on his application. 


VC’s resignation accepted
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 1
The Governor of Punjab, Gen S.F. Rodrigues, who is also Chancellor of Punjabi University, today accepted the resignation of Vice-Chancellor S.S. Boparai.

Meanwhile, the Punjab Government has sent a file to the Governor to post Anjali Bhawara, secretary, higher education, as officiating Vice- Chancellor. Sources said the file will be cleared by the Governor either tomorrow or day after.

The sources said the state government would appoint a regular Vice- Chancellor next week. Jaspal Singh, a delhi-based educationist and former diplomat appears to be a frontrunner for the post. Former Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral’s son, Naresh Gujral, who is close to Sukhbir Singh Badal, is said to be lobbying in support of Jaspal Singh, who has served as Principal in a Delhi college.

On the other hand, the sources said the BJP was also keen to claim the post. 


PCMS regrets Boparai’s resignation
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 1
The Punjab Government has earned a bad name by forcing Punjabi University Vice- Chancellor S.S. Boparai to resign, said Dr Manjit Singh Randhawa, patron of the Punjab Civil Medical Services Association (PCMS). Randhawa said “Boparai, while serving as a civil servant was known for his exemplary courage of conviction.”

The association was greatly impressed with his intellect,understanding and ability to understand even highly technical problems of medicare and to remain uninfluenced while dealing with corruption. 


Sumit Garg tops PCS (judicial) 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 1
Sumit Garg has topped the Punjab Civil Service (judicial) 2007 examination by securing 63.62 per cent marks.

The result in the order of merit is: Sumit Garg, Harsimranjit Singh, Jaapinder Singh, Prashant Verma, Vijayant Sehgal, Ravi Inder Singh, Kapil Dev Singla, Monica Sharma, Ashish Kumar Bansal, Vineet Kumar, Narang, Baljinder Singh Sra, Ravi Gulati, Mahesh Grover, Monika Chohan, Geeta Bhatti, Shushma Devi, Sanjeev Kundi, Parinder Singh, Amandeep Kaur Chauhan, Gurmeet Tiwana, Amit Malhan, Raman Sharma, Karan Garg, Prabhjot Singh Kaleka, Aashish Saldi, Baljinder Singh and Tejpartap Singh Randhawa.

The SC candidates are : Sucheta Chauhan, Jatinder Pal Singh, Hargurjit Singh, Rajwant Kaur, Parminder Kaur, Aman Preet Singh, Kamaldeep Singh, Amandeep Singh, Rupinder Singh and Rajpal. The merit list of the BC category is: Atul Kamboj, Bagicha Singh, Chander Jit Singh, Ajit Pal Singh and Ashok Kumar Chouhan. 


Agro-service centres to be set up
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 1
To make small and marginal farmers the central component of the state’s " second push to agricultural economy",Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today announced the launch of a statewide network of agro-service centres.

The Punjab State Farmers Commission and the government would jointly promote the scheme which is the brainchild of renowned agricultural scientist and chairman of the commission, Dr G.S. Kalkat. It is among various measures to reduce costs and increase profits for the small and marginal farmers.

All 143 blocks will be covered. Each block will have five such centres which would function as collective reservoirs of the latest agricultural technology and would help reduce heavy capital investment and high fixed costs on the adoption of the state-of-the-art farm tools.

Initially, the government would subsidise the purchase of machinery by each centre which would be run by an operator.


Eco-friendly vehicles for major cities
Tribune News Service

Ropar, December 1
The state government has been planning to introduce vehicles driven on battery and hydrogen there.

This was disclosed by minister for information and public relations, science technology, environment and non-conventional energy, water supply and sanitation Bikram Singh Majithia while talking to mediapersons at Jhallian Kalan village on Thursday. He was in the village to preside over the concluding function of the 20th H.S. Gill Memorial Rural Tournament.

Majithia said was planning to bring major cities under the scheme. He announced a grant of Rs 1 lakh to the H.S. Gill Memorial Club. Sports and youth affairs minister Guljar Singh Ranike also announced a grant of Rs 1 lakh to the club.


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