P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


SGPC to recruit staff on merit only
CCTV cameras for Golden Temple
Vibhor Mohan
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 7
The SGPC has decided to install close-circuit cameras in the Golden Temple complex and at the Fatehgarh Sahib gurdwara with a view to beefing up security.

The decision to this effect was taken at an executive body meeting of the SGPC held here today under the chairmanship of SGPC chief Avtar Singh.

The proposal was mooted sometime back when Bibi Jagir Kaur was SGPC president.

According to SGPC sources, the decision was taken in view of a rise in the number of incidents of attack on religious places in South Asia. Cases of pick pocketing, garment thefts in the complex and reports of children going missing there prompted the SGPC to act on the proposal.

Talking to The Tribune, the SGPC president said it was also decided to set up an information office at the gurdwara in Fatehgarh Sahib.

The history of important gurdwaras, totalling 62, which are managed by the SGPC, would soon be printed in the form of a booklet, which would be readily available to devotees. Boards carrying the history would be put up outside each of these gurdwaras.

The executive also decided that henceforth staff for the SGPC departments would be appointed only on the basis of merit and blood relation with an existing employee would not be the only criterion. “No jobs to blood relations, and all new recruitments would be done on merit,” he said.

The executive also constituted an 11-member high-powered committee for printing and distribution of Birs. The printing press, run by the SGPC, would be expanded to install state-of-the-art machines there.

More sophisticated machines for preparing langar at both religious places would be purchased.

Other items on the agenda like providing ambulance service to devotees coming to the Golden Temple, a round-the-clock dispensary at Guru Ram Das Sarai and upgrade of the SGPC-run school in the Taral area of Jammu and Kashmir to a college at a cost of Rs 10 lakh were also passed. It was also decided to share half the payment of the medical insurance of the SGPC employees.

However, the executive did not take up the issue of committee’s former media in charge Daljit Singh Bedi who faced charges of alleged moral turpitude.

Member of the SGPC Karnail Singh Panjoli told The Tribune that he held a closed-door meeting with the SGPC chief before the meeting and told him that he would make public Bedi’s “objectionable” pictures.

The controversial issue of appointment of secretaries and additional secretaries of the SGPC was also not included in the agenda.


No Lessons Learnt
Govt allows nursing course in unapproved colleges
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Mohali, December 7
The Akali-BJP government in the state apparently believes that two wrongs make a right. After having allowed seven unapproved nursing colleges in the state to run the BSc (Nursing) course, the government has now allowed several unapproved nursing colleges to offer the post-basic BSc (Nursing) course.

None of these institutes are either affiliated to the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences or have the approval of the Indian Nursing Council (INC) to run these courses.

To add to this “generosity”, the state government has also done away with the entrance test, normally held for admissions to the post-basic BSc course and allowed individual colleges to admit students on their own. This is a diversion from the procedure for centralised admissions.

The government’s move to give up centralised admissions, say sources, is in complete disregard of a plethora of High Court and Supreme Court judgments that uphold the procedure as mandatory for merit-based admissions.

A notification issued by the department of medical education and research on November 30 states that the colleges can admit students for the course of post-basic BSc (Nursing) on the basis of merit from among those who have completed the General Nursing and Midwifery (GNM) course. The selection of the students would be done by a selection committee headed by the principal of the college. It would include representatives each from the university, the director, medical education and research and welfare departments.

Though the notification states that the admission would be done purely on merit, sources question that in the absence of an entrance test or a centralised merit list prepared on the basis of the marks of the qualifying examination, the merit list of each college would leave a lot of scope for manipulation.

The sources also point out that since every college would be holding its counselling according to its own schedule, students trying luck for admissions in more than one institutes would have to apply separately. And in case the counselling dates clash, they would be left high and dry.

The notification further states that the colleges that are approved by the INC and affiliated to the university would finalise their counselling first, followed by the colleges which are not approved by the council or affiliated to the university.

The INC website lists only 10 institutes in Punjab that have been approved by the council to offer the post-basic BSc (Nursing) course. Added to these now are the eight unapproved colleges allowed by the government to admit students to the course. The government has, like it did for the BSc course earlier, bypassed the INC and the university and unilaterally determined the number of seats these colleges can offer.

These eight colleges are the Mata Sahib Kaur College of Nursing, Mohali, Babe Ke Educational Trust, Moga, Baba Farid Educational and Medical Research Society, Kotkapura, Gian Sagar College of Nursing, Banur, National Institute of Nursing, Sangrur, Bharat Institute of Nursing, Jalandhar, Sunrise Educational Society, Tarn Taran, and Kular Medical Education and Research Society, Ludhiana. All these colleges have been granted 60 seats each for the post-basic BSc (Nursing) course. Three of them are already the beneficiaries of the government’s largesse in permission for the BSc (Nursing) course.


Unbundling: Govt gets time till Feb 29
Ratra gets extension
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 7
While the Punjab Government has granted one-year extension to Y.S. Ratra as chairman of the PSEB, the Union Government has granted extension only till February 29 to the state government to unbundle the PSEB.

It is a seventh extension given by the Union Government to the state government to unbundle the PSEB. The government had sent the order regarding extension to unbundle the PSEB to the state government this evening. The state government had sought extension for six months but the Union Government has granted it only for two months and 22 days. The present extension to unbundle the PSEB was to expire on December 9.

Meanwhile, sources said the file granting extension to Ratra was cleared by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today. Ratra would continue to be chairman of the board till January 11,2009. His present term as chairman was to expire on January 12.

Sources said an amendment in the board rules would have to be effected to allow Ratra to continue serving the board till January 11. 2009. At present, retirement age of the board chairman is 65 years. Ratra will turn 65 on January 12.

The retirement age will have to be extended to 66 years to allow him to continue as chairman for one more year. “It is only a technical formality and there will be no problem in amending the rules,” said a government functionary.

Sources said Ratra, who retired as chief secretary of Punjab in 2003 and is known for his honesty and integrity, had been retained for one year to complete the process of unbundling the board. As Ratra is involved in the exercise of unbundling, his retirement at this stage will have hampered the process.

For the past several months, the state government is holding discussions with various organisations, including different factions of the BKU, employees and other organisations. A meeting of MLAs, MPs and other important leaders of the SAD-BJP has been convened on Sunday to brief them with regard to the pros and cons of the unbundling of the PSEB, it is learnt. On Tuesday, a meeting of the board engineers has been called to discuss the issue with them.

For upgrading the power distribution system, meter system and transmission network, the state government has decided to spend Rs 3,537 crore to upgrade various grid stations and set up 646 new grid stations. Funds for this purpose will be provided as loan by the Rural Electricity Corporation and 15 per cent contribution will have to be made by the state government. All 35 lakh electro-mechanical meters, which are proned to tampering will be replaced and new electronic meters installed by the PSEB. Insulated cables will replace existing wires to rule out the possibility of stealing power through “kundi” connections.


Fazilka best in Asia in fighting global warming
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 7
Not many will be able to point out Fazilka on the map of Punjab. But this small town has done most Punjabis proud by being selected first amongst all Asian cities for adopting best energy-saving practices to fight against global warming in transportation.

Located barely 11 km from the Indo-Pak border, the Graduate Welfare Association of Fazilka (GWAF), comprising well-placed people from this town, now serving in India and abroad, have launched a campaign which has been recognised by the World Carfree Network Community for setting up best examples to reduce the effect of global warming using religion.

Disclosing this to The Tribune, Navdeep Asija, a senior scientist at IIT, Delhi, and one of the forces behind GWAF, said, “Efforts of Fazilka residents in curbing global warming has been recognised as the best in Asia by the World Carfree Network, an NGO based in Czech Republic.”

Besides Asija, Bhupinder Singh, a retired professor from IIT, Roorkee, IAS and IPS officers, businessmen with the help of local residents started spreading awareness about global warning and environment.

As part of the campaign, residents of Fazilka organised the Fazilka Heritage Festival-2007 with the theme “global warming”. Here the residents took a pledge to stop using plastic bags and use bicycles for short-distance travel. The town, says Asija, is consciously trying to maintain and use the 160-year-old narrow residential street design by the East India Company.

This has made Fazilka the safest town in India and perhaps the world with no pedestrian and cyclist road crash death having been reported within the city zone.

According to Asija, some other initiatives of Fazilka residents in the recent past include a cycle rally in association with the Army, to promote the message of “global warming”. The Army also planted more than 9,000 tree saplings in and around Fazilka to improve the green belt in association with Prem Bubber, leading agriculturist from the region.

Interestingly, during the past 10 years, despite Fazilka and its neighbourhood giving Punjab two forest ministers, the green belt of Fazilka has beem reduced to less than 1 per cent, says Asija. He says people now realise that they cannot depend on the government for any help to improve their environment, so community participation has picked up. 


Punjab denies bias against Virk
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 7
Replying to a notice by the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) on the issue of the suspension of former Punjab DGP S.S. Virk, the Punjab government today denied any bias against Virk.

While the defence counsel said, “The affidavit given by the state government has not replied to the averments of the application filed by them.” The case has been adjourned to January 10.

In his application, Virk had also challenged a memorandum “whereby the articles of charges were served upon him”. He had also challenged the failure of Union of India to decide statutory administrative appeals filed by him on April 18 and May 25. He had also sought directions for declaring that the order of suspension no longer subsists.

He was placed under suspension during the period when the Central government was considering his case for the termination of his state-to-state deputation so as to save him from the Punjab government’s wrath. 


BJP wants Jalandhar seat
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 7
State BJP chief Rajinder Bhandari today said the party would demand the Jalandhar Parliamentary seat from the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in the next Lok Sabha elections. He said the SAD candidate never won from the Jalandhar seat while the BJP had a strong base in that region and was able to win the seat.

He was talking to mediapersons during the BJP Vistar Rally (expansion rally) in which senior SAD workers led by district president of the All-India Kamboj Sabha, Maninder Pal Singh Palasaur, joined the BJP while breaking his way from the SAD here.

He said the party was strengthening its base in rural belts. Meanwhile, about 21 workers of the SAD joined the BJP.

Kamal Sharma, general secretary, Punjab, Anil Joshi, MLA, Shawet Malik, mayor, were among the dignitaries present on the occasion.


Kalia not aware of Badal’s announcement
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, December 7
Minister for department of local government Manoranjan Kalia has expressed ignorance of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s announcement to form municipal corporations at Pathankot and Moga. The sudden announcement to form the two corporations by the Chief Minister has created ripples in the state BJP.

Meanwhile, Badal’s announcement has brought cheer to residents. They feel under a corporation, the city would develop fast and get the facilities long awaited.

Former chairman of the local Market Commitee Rakesh Kumar said with the announcement of corporation status to the city, prospects of declaring Pathankot a district had got a boost.

However, farmers of adjoining villages apprehend that they will be burdened with various types of taxes.


Cong MLAs meet Governor
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 7
Led by the president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, certain Congress MLAs met the Punjab Governor today to urge him to restrain the state government from transferring 29 acres of prime land at Bathinda belonging to the regional research station of Punjab Agricultural University to the Bathinda development authority to build a cricket stadium.

Bhattal was accompanied by Congress MLAs, including Sukhpal Singh Khaira, Harmander Singh Jassi, Mangat Ram Bansal, Jeet Mohinder Singh, Makhan Singh and Ajaib Singh Bhatti.

The Congress MLAs urged the Governor that Punjab was passing through a grave agrarian crisis and there was a huge burden of debt of Rs 24,000 crore against farmers in the sate. Land belonging to the research station should be utilised for research purposes and not for building the stadium which would be utilised only for a week or two in a year.


Doctor pays for punishing influential pharmacist
Bipin Bhardwaj
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, December 7
Health services have been hit in remote areas of the state, thanks to intervention of leaders and insubordination among employees of the health department.

A woman doctor at the subsidiary health centre, Gho, terminated the services of a pharmacist for misbehaviour and not performing duties according to the laid-down rules.

In a complaint to the chief executive officer of the Zila Parishad and additional deputy commissioner, Gurdaspur, M.P. Singh, Aashu has alleged that Amrik, whose services had been terminated, came the centre along with certain outsiders and did not let her enter into the dispensary. He even threatened that he would commit self-immolation if he was not reinstated as pharmacist.

She has claimed that a BDO, who is a close relative of Amrik, made threatening calls to her from his mobile phone.

Seeking security, the woman doctor has written to the deputy commissioner, Gurdaspur, and the SP, Pathankot.

Interestingly, the pharmacist had earlier been appointed by the same doctor allegedly on the intervention of a local Congress leader.

Meanwhile, Sujanpur SMO Vijay Arora today visited the centre and locked the room of the doctor. He even allowed the pharmacist to resume his duties and mark his attendance on a new register.

When contacted, Arora said he visited the centre after Sujanpur MLA Dinesh Singh directed him to look into the matter. “She (Aashu) did not inform me before leaving the station and I am issuing her a show-cause notice,” said Arora.

The CEO of the Zila Parishad said after going through Aashu’s complaint, he had asked her to issue a show-cause notice to the pharmacist and terminate his services if he failed to reply satisfactorily. 


Building excavated
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, December 7
A huge building was unearthed during the widening and strengthening of Jalandhar-Pathankot national highway, 0.5 km ahead from Mukerian town towards Pathankot, last evening.

According to sub-divisional magistrate, Mukerian, Ajmer Singh, during the widening and strengthening of this highway, a JCB machine hit a wall buried underneath that struck a hole in it.

The machine operators and some labourers working at the site when looked through the hole found a big hall there. Upon entering the hall they found a huge building buried under the road. The building has two entrances and beautiful enamel paintings and engravings on its walls and ceilings. It seemed this building had been constructed by some royal family.

Ajmer Singh said he had deputed tehsildar, Mukerian to look into the matter and deployed police force there to protect the building.


PAU lost 4 cr in Punwire
Sanjeev Singh Bariana
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 7
Already crippled pension fund of Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) here has further been weakened for Rs 4 crore invested from it in Punwire (Punjab Wireless Systems) during 1998 has not yielded it a single penny of interest, what to talk about the principal amount. The company closed down in 1999.

The university had been promised by the company a rate of interest at “15 per cent monthly” on the investment. At that rate, the amount would have yielded a monthly interest of Rs 60 lakh, which was far more than sufficient to meet the pension costs of employees at that time. The total of pension costs was a maximum of Rs 49 lakh at then.

A senior faculty member pointed out “the rate of interest at 15 per cent monthly quoted in the papers shows that the case had been very irrationally prepared by Delhi-based consultants and even the university had not bothered to verify the facts in their investment venture”.

The amount was deducted from salaries of the employees and teachers as their contributions to their GPF/CPF accounts over a period of few months.

“How could the university go on giving the instalments for months together despite the company not paying interest on the earlier instalments?” said a senior professor.

Prof M.S. Kang, vice-chancellor, met the finance secretary of the state recently. He told the secretary that the fund crisis had been caused mainly because of a decrease in the rate of interest from 16.5 per cent in 1991-92, when the pension fund was created, to the rate of 7.5 per cent in 2006.

The university has 2,555 pensioner families out of which 423 are getting pension. The number will rise to at least 4,000 in the next 10 years. The state has been asked to give a grant of at least Rs 133 crore annually to the university.


Teachers defer dharna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 7
A delegation of the Punjab Government Teachers’ Association led by Prof Jaspal Singh, president, and Prof Hardeep Singh, secretary, met Dr Upinderjit Kaur, Minister of Higher Education, Punjab, here today.

The association urged the minister to accept its demands.

Keeping in view the positive attitude of the minister towards the demands of the association, the proposed dharna on December 11 in front of the DPI (college) office has been postponed.


Amritsar trust to file affidavit

Chandigarh, December 7
Taking up a petition filed against the State of Punjab and the Municipal Council by a resident of Amritsar for quashing the change of land use (CLU) in certain areas of the city, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has asked the Amritsar Improvement Trust and other respondents to file an affidavit.

A Division Bench of the High Court, comprising Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Mahesh Grover, ruled on a petition filed by Bikramjit Singh: “We do not understand as to how after the filing of this petition, the state has woken up and revoked the sanction of the CLU, which was granted in 2005 when the Supreme Court disposed of an SLP on August 24, 1982”.

The Judges added: “We have been told by counsel of a respondent that no notice has been given before revoking the sanction of the CLU. We would like to have the reply of the Amritsar Improvement Trust. Let affidavits be filed by the State of Punjab, Municipal Council, Amritsar, and the Amritsar Improvement Trust”.

The case will now come up on January 29, 2008.—TNS


Veterans recall battle of Laungewala
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 7
Veterans of the 23rd Battalion of the Punjab Regiment gathered here to remember and pay homage to the men who had fought in the epic battle of Laungewala in 1971 and had made the supreme sacrifice. The border outpost in Rajasthan, under the command of Maj Kuldip Singh Chandpuri, with a meagre strength of about 90 troops, had held on resolutely against an attack by a Pakistani brigade of 3,000 men supported by tanks.

Pakistani forces had attacked the post repeatedly on the night of December 4 and 5. Troops of 23 Punjab held ground till IAF Hunters were able to take-off at day break. The fighters knocked out 36 Pakistani tanks while another 12 were destroyed by the troops. One tank, along with marked maps, was captured in working condition.

Pakistan’s gamble to capture territory in Rajasthan could not succeed in this sector. Major Chandpuri was decorated with the Maha Vir Chakra, the second highest award for gallantry. Three Vir Chakra and three Sena Medals besides other awards were also conferred among officers and men of the battalion. The IAF pilots who took part in the operations were also decorated with the Vir Chakra.


Judicial officers get course certificates
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 7
The first batch of judicial officers from Punjab were awarded course certificates by the Punjab and Haryana High Court Chief Justice Vijender Jain on the completion of a year-long training programme.

Addressing the first batch of 32 judicial officers ready to join their place of posting by December 15, the Chief Justice urged them to uphold the integrity and independence of judiciary. He asked the young officers to endow themselves with honesty, integrity and knowledge of law. He advised them to act with utmost objectivity and fairness.

In his welcome address, director-general of the Chandigarh Judicial Academy Justice J.S.Narang said the states of Punjab and Haryana have agreed to contribute 50 per cent each to the funds towards the expenses incurred for the ongoing training in the Chandigarh Judicial Academy. A sum of Rs 1.50 crore has already been received by both states in the first instance.

Serving and the retired judges, judicial officers, members of legal fraternity and senior officers of the Punjab government along with Punjab chief secretary Ramesh Inder Singh attended the function.


Mann’s bail plea hearing today
SAD (A) toning down stance?
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 7
Is the SAD (A), headed by Simranjit Singh Mann, trying to tone down its stance on the Shaheed Bhagat Singh issue?

The answer seems to be in affirmative if the statement of party senior vice-president Dhian Singh Mand is to be considered. In the aftermath of the party’s political affairs committee meeting here today, Mand, who was accompanied by Mann’s son Iman Singh Mann and other senior leaders of his party, said Bhagat Singh could be a martyr for the country but not for the Sikhs. His statement comes a day after when Iman had said that Bhagat Singh was not a martyr.

At the same time the SAD (A) has decided to hold a “ros march” from Gurdwara Dukh Niwaran Sahib to the DC office here on Saturday to lodge its protest against the arrest of Mann.

“Actually, by arresting Mann, the SAD government is trying to scuttle our December 14 fateh march,” both said. Mand and Iman also lashed out at Amarinder by saying that he had no right to speak on the arrest of Mann. “He should mind his own business,” they added.

Meanwhile, the hearing on the bail application of Mann’s has been postponed by civil judge (junior divison) Anil Kumar Aggrawal. It was deferred as the prosecution could not present adequate records in the case, sources said. It was scheduled to come up for hearing tomorrow in the court of chief judicial magistrate S.S. Panesar.

In Chahal’s cell

Simranjit Singh Mann has been put in solitary confinement at “jaura chakkian” (small cells) at the local Central jail, sources revealed. It was said to be the same cell where B.I.S. Chahal was kept. Mann was reportedly put in the cell on security grounds, the sources said. 


Breather for Punjab Kesri editor
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, December 7
In a relief to Punjab Kesri editor Vijay Chopra, the Supreme Court today stayed the trial proceedings against him in a defamation case, filed by a state government officer for publication of some report against him.

The stay was granted by a Bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice R.V. Raveendran on Chopra’s appeal against the Punjab and Haryana High Court order, rejecting his plea for quashing of the complaint.


3 cops booked on rape charge
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, December 7
Three policemen have been booked under Section 376, IPC, for allegedly raping a woman from Dirba village, about 26 km from here.

Confirming this over the phone this evening, SP (Headquarter) Gurdeep Singh Pannu said the woman had alleged in her complaint that she had been raped by assistant sub inspector (ASI) Jaswant Singh and head constables Harbans Singh and Satnam Singh.

The SP (H) further said no arrest had been made so far as an inquiry had been ordered into the case. He said the inquiry would be conducted by the Sunam DSP. 


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