P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Ashirwaad/Shagun Scheme
More cases of fraud come to light
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 17
More details of fraud in the Ashirwaad/Shagun scheme that was launched some years ago to help Dalits at the time of the marriage of their daughters and in the grants given to help poor sections of society to build houses have come to light.

Sources said certain districts submitted misleading funds utilisation certificates (UCs) to the state government authorities concerned with regard to the Ashirwaad scheme. When checking was done, money was lying unutilised with the district office concerned. For instance, in Ludhiana district, Rs 3.24 lakh was pending with the office concerned, but its UC was submitted to the government. At certain places, money was drawn from the actual head of the scheme and deposited in what is technically known as a “call deposit” in certain banks. There always remains a scope of siphoning off such money from the call deposit.

In fact, at Ludhiana, the scheme was virtually hijacked by agents of politicians. Sources said one agent of a politician took away 48 cheques for distribution among beneficiaries. Whether the cheques were distributed among genuine beneficiaries has not been ascertained yet. Another agent of a politician took away 11 cheques and yet another 13 cheques. Several more instances in this regard can be given. Under the scheme, cheque is to be given to the parents of the beneficiary.

At Ferozpur, sources said, it appeared the scandal regarding ashirwaad scheme is of a huge dimension. “If 10 cases are checked, of those six or seven appear to be either questionable or bogus. Even girls of eight to 10 years of age got money under the ashirwaad scheme,” said a senior official. And in some cases, females who have children up to the age of eight have got money under the scheme.

Interestingly, the Punjab government has again waived the condition of income certificate from the designated official authority to get benefit under the scheme. Instead, self-certification of income has been re-introduced. That will lead to further frauds in the scheme. Earlier, when such a condition was waived, the number of beneficiaries had gone up from the average 1,000 per month to 5,000 per month.

As far as providing the grant of Rs 20,000 per head to construct houses to poor people is concerned, checking of beneficiaries was made in Amritsar and Ferozpur districts. Under the scheme, four persons were given Rs 20,000 in a village of Ajnala tehsil. However, no trace of constructed house with the grant money was found. And in Ferozpur district, six persons of village had got the grant to construct houses, but they did not build houses.

Under the scheme, the government was also to provide 5-marla plots to the targeted beneficiaries. For this purpose, land was bought in a village in Moga district. However, the land was bought at a higher price than the prevailing market price, it followed inquiry against the officer concerned. There are also reports of irregularities in giving scholarship to Dalit students at certain places. 


Bogus CSD sale by auto-dealers
25-cr tax evasion detected
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 17
Automobile/car dealers in Punjab have been depriving the Excise and Taxation Department of crores by evading payment of value added tax (VAT) and other taxes for three/ four years.

Tax evasion of Rs 25-30 crore was detected by the Excise and Taxation Department. At present, the Punjab government has been collecting Rs 600 crore from automobile or car dealers by way of tax.

Eight-10 automobile or car dealers in Punjab were allegedly evading VAT on sold-out vehicles and some of them have been making fraudulent booking of vehicles in the name of Army personnel or have been showing the general sales of vehicles as Canteen Stores Department (CSD) sales. Since just 4 per cent VAT was charged on CSD sales against normal 12.5 per cent, some of these dealers have been pocketing 8.5 per cent of margin.

Another modus operandi of some of the eight to 10 “unscrupulous” auto-dealers, who have been shortlisted by the department, has been to get their vehicles unloaded in neighbouring Haryana and then ferrying these by road to Punjab without filing any information about these at the department-manned Information Collection Centres (ICCs). This way, such dealers have been able to circumvent payment of VAT to Punjab.

The detection tax evasion by the Excise and Taxation Department came to the fore recently when department officials scrutinised returns filed by auto dealers. “ After perusal of returns, a special investigation team (SIT) was formed which obtained details from various automobile companies like Tata, Maruti, Honda etc. The details of supplied vehicles revealed the scam. This evasion of Rs 25-30 crore could just prove to be the the proverbial tip of the iceberg. We are making thorough checking in the state,” said Punjab excise and taxation commissioner A.Venu Parsad.

The department, it was learnt, had assessed one Moga-based auto dealer who had evaded tax of Rs 10 crore in 2005-2006 and 2006-2007. A penality of Rs 7 crore had been imposed on this firm under Section 50 (6) of the PVAT Act, department sources said. According to the sources, the department was taking the issue of bogus CSD sales seriously. “We held a meeting of dealers of Punjab and they have been asked to conduct business in a fair manner. They have been warned if any complaint of tax leakage or detection of evasion comes forth, the erring parties would be subjected to registration of criminal cases apart from recovery of penality. The department is also going to recommend to respective automobile companies for the cancellation of erring dealers’ dealership in Punjab,” said Parsad.


Second Sikh shrine to come up in Dubai
Two battery-operated floor scrubbing machines donated to Golden Temple
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 17
The Arab-Islamic country, Dubai, has come forward to allow the Sikh community to establish a splendid gurdwara building on the 2,600 square yard prime land with a view to send the message across that other faiths are also given freedom in the country. This is despite the fact that official religion of the United Arab Emirates is Islam.

The government of Dubai has already passed the map for the gurdwara, the construction of which will be started from the New Year. The Sikh sangat from Dubai has invited Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti and Avtar Singh, Jathedar, Akal Takht, and SGPC, respectively, to lay the foundation stone of the gurdwara. The construction of the new gurdwara will help more than 2.5 lakh Sikhs living in the Islamic country to practise their religion without fear.

This was disclosed by Surinder Singh Kandhari, an affluent Sikh from Dubai, who donated two imported battery-operated floor scrubbing machines worth Rs 20 lakh to the Golden Temple here today.

These floor scrubbing machines cover a phenomenal area coverage of 4,500 sq /m per hour. These scrubber driers shall scrub and dry simultaneously and leaves the Parkarma floors sparkling clean. After installation of two chappati-making machines in the Guru Ram Dass Langar Hall, this is the second attempt to use hi-tech machines for the Golden Temple. Earlier, the SGPC executive had decided to install security cameras in the Darbar Sahib complex .

It may be mentioned here that the first Sikh shrine, Gurdwara Singh Sabha, was founded in 1975 in Dubai when the population of the Sikh community was only 10,000. However, the second gurdwara will be palatial and the Sikh sangat of Dubai has come forward to give liberal donations for the purpose. Kandhari said the building of the gurdwara would be completed within a record time of 18 months .

Jathedar Vedanti lauded the contribution and devotion of the Kandhari family towards Sikhism . He said in the present era of globalization, the introduction of high-technology could not be ignored.Members of the Kandhari family were honoured with “siropas” on the occasion .

It may be mentioned here that Dubai had allowed the construction of two Hindu temples, including a Shiva and Krishna temples, both located in Burdubai. 


SGPC panel on O’ Dwyer
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 17
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) which has received a lot of flak from various sections for removing the portrait of Sir Michael O' Dwyer from the Sikh Museum in Golden Temple has decided to rethink its decision. But before a final decision is taken on the matter, the SGPC has sought the opinion of a committee of Sikh intellectuals and historians, who have been asked to give a serious thought to the issue.

SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar has said that the decision to remove the portrait of Dwyer when the SGPC installed the portrait of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale may have been one in haste, though those who took the decision at that time considered that it was a right move. “I have received several representations from the Sikh panth appreciating as well as criticising the move. So, the entire controversy has been put before a committee that will look into the historical aspects of conditions and circumstances under which the portrait was installed and the implications of the portraits presence or absent from the museum.”

Akal Takht jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti, who has been a strong critic of the move, has asked the SGPC to get the portrait re-installed at the earliest. He has forwarded the argument that in the absence of the portrait of Dwyer that carries a plaque with the inscription “Murderer of the Sikhs”, the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, so integral to the history of the Sikhs and the nation, will lose its importance for the future generations, who will remain ignorant of the atrocities committed on the Indians by the British to suppress the freedom struggle.

The portrait of Dwyer that had been hanging in the Sikh museum since the days of the British rule was removed on December 11 following a dictate by Shaheed-e-Azam Sardar Bhagat Singh Youth Front, an NGO, that vehemently opposed the presence of portrait of British ruler in the Sikh museum and issued an ultimatum to remove it within seven days.


Cancer deaths alarmingly high in state, Chandigarh
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 17
The result of a random sample of 20 acquaintances, who died during the past few weeks in Punjab and Chandigarh, 16 fell to cancer, two had cardiac arrest and remaining two were victims of road rage - makes an alarming revelation.

Is cancer threatening to become number one killer in the region?

“No, there is nothing to panic about,” says Dr Devinder Singh Sandhu, a US qualified oncologist, though admitting, “incidence of cancer is on the rise. Timely detection and treatment can save lives”.

And those who died of cancer came from affluent families and were mostly professionals. They included doctors, teachers, technocrats and a diplomat. Frequency of deaths among men and women has been more or less the same. The age group to which the cancer casualties belonged to was mainly the 50-75 bracket.

In all these cases, end came after a prolonged and painful treatment, as diagnoses were made only when the disease had reached the terminal stage.

In the US, says Dr Sandhu, every second male and third female suffers from cancer at one stage or other in his or her life. Though scientists continue to work to find the exact cause of cancer, only education and awareness about risk factors have been the tools used by doctors worldwide to check the prevention of this killer, otherwise curable, disease.

Oncologists do not blame the use of pesticides and insecticides alone for the spread of the disease. “There is a strong feeling that because of the heavy use of chemicals as farm inputs by farmers has been the major reason for high incidence of cancer in the Malwa belt. It may be a major but not the only factor,” reveals another oncologist.

The growing size of the waistline, lifestyle and aging are among the risk factors about which cancer specialists keep on warning the patients.

Dr Sandhu suggests that regular medical check-ups can help in early detection of cancer. There is every chance of getting cured in case of early detection. Chances of survival in case of detection of cancer at the secondary stage are up to 70 per cent. At the third stage, chances of cure are reduced to 30 per cent, but in the terminal or final stage, the patient is left with no choice but for painful chemotherapies that can only partially delay the end.

Dr Sandhu holds that incidence of cancer in Punjab and Chandigarh may be slightly higher than the neighbouring states or rest of the country. Yet, it is on the rise. With development and advancement of medical and healthcare sciences, the age expectancy has been rising in Punjab, which are now 62 compared to 40 years at the time of Partition.

It may take a while for cancer to become number one killer in a country like India. The situation is already alarming. Intriguingly, there are not many qualified oncologists in the region.


Another travel agent duping story
4 landed up in Kuwait jail; bribed police to come back
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Ropar, December 17
Despite awareness campaign launched in the media regarding travel agents duping youths, the practice is continuing due to persistent efforts of those who still want to go abroad for greener pastures and failure of the government to legalise the trade.

A case of four residents of Chamkaur Sahib being duped by a travel agent has come to the fore. The travel agent sent them on one-month travel visa to Kuwait with the promise of a lucrative job there. However, the journey landed them in a Kuwait jail and they had to bribe the officials to come back home.

Ranjit Singh, a truck driver, said the travel agent took Rs 1.30 lakh from him on the promise of a lucrative job in Kuwait. He mortgaged his house and took some money from a local financier to pay the agent. In April the agent gave him a visa for Kuwait written in Arabic which he could not decipher. He boarded a plane from Delhi and landed in Kuwait where the contact man of the agent picked him up. He said he was kept with about 50 other Indians in a room. We were just like prisoners there and were not allowed to go out.

“I came to know from fellow room mates that my visa was just a one-month travel one. If I overstayed, the Kuwait authorities could impose a fine of 10 dinars or Rs 1,500 per day on me. The person who was looking after us there said we would be sent to Iraq illegally. I declined to go to Iraq, following which I was left on my own in a foreign country and with a lapsed visa. A fellow Indians helped me get out of the country. He bribed the Kuwait police authorities, which allowed me to come back to India after 15-day jail.”

Ranjit said he was lucky to escape from Kuwait but many other Indians were still lurching in jails there after being deputed by travel agents.

Ranjit, along with Sukhwinder Singh, Mandeep Singh and Gurjeet Singh, all from Chamkaur Sahib, has lodged a complaint with the Ropar police against the travel agent. The SP, Ashish Chaudhary, said the complaint had been referred to a DSP.

Most of the travel agents working in rural areas or small towns are sub agents of agents based in metros. The government should regularise the activities of such agents and allow immigration trade only to those who were authorised by the Ministry of Overseas. 


SAD (A) to file suit against govt
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 17
The SAD (A) will organise a rally at Fatehgarh Sahib on December 25 to create awareness among the public about the “barbaric” actions of the state government against the Sikhs and other minority communities.

Stating this to the media here today, Simranjit Singh Mann, president, SAD (A) said the party would display photographs of the present day “Aurangzebs” for committing excesses on SAD (A) workers and other minority communities here.

He said he had also met IG, border range, Meena in this regard, but his response was also not positive.

He said the party was consulting its legal adviser for filing a suit against the state government for its biased approach.


PCS nominations: Revenue officers up in arms
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, December 17
Revenue officers are agitated over the government decision to club nominations to the state’s provincial services for 2002 - 2007.This should have been a yearly practice.

The Revenue Department, vide a circular of December 3, has asked for applications from naib-tehsildars, tehsildars and district revenue officers (DROs) who fulfilled the conditions for nomination to the PCS. The department maintains a roster, Register A-1, for this purpose.

G. S. Wadala, patron of the Naib-Tehsildars Union, said 12 posts were to be filled, but the posts were not from this year but had been accumulated since 2002.

Due to official apathy, no nominations were made from 2002, whereas as per Rule 9.1 of the PCS (EB) Rules, 1976, these posts have to be filled on a yearly basis. The previous government did not do so, he added.

Bhupinder Singh and Darshan Singh, representatives of the Tehsildar Union, and Paramjit Singh of the DROs Association, said the officers who were to be promoted in the previous five years had been put to great disadvantage vis- a-vis their juniors since they had been rendered ineligible to apply as per rules.

The rules state the applicant has to be 45 years on November 1of the year of nomination. Since no nominations were done, officers of the 2002 - 2006 batch are now overage. If the government does not give relaxation of five years to these officers, they will be made to suffer for no fault, he added.

It is also against principles of natural justice the department has clubbed all these posts and set the cut-off date as 45 years on November 1, 2007, ignoring the claim of officers of the intervening batches, he pointed out.

As rules allow the state to give relaxations, such relaxations were given in 1984 and 2000 also. In case this was not done, out of the 400 officers of the rank of naib- tehsildar, tehsildar and DRO, this decision would affect 25 /30 per cent of them, he said.

Wadala said the government would send a list of 24 names to the Punjab Public Service Commission for selection, double the available vacancies.

Owing to political pressure, many DCs have been forced to recommend one or more officers. The names will be sent to the divisional commissioners who in turn can add one name to the list. The lists will then go to the financial commissioner, revenue (FCR), who will forward them to the revenue minister (RM). After final vetting by the CM, the file will go to the commission for selection, he added.


Death on Marriage Anniversary
She died resisting snatching: Husband
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 17
An NRI, Kalpana Paramjit, from Toronto would not have thought that she will die on her 25th marriage anniversary while saving her bag from two motorcycle-borne persons at the Novelty Chowk area here last night.

Kalpana, along with her husband Paramjit Singh, had arrived here to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple on their 25th marriage anniversary and were staying at Hotel Royal Inn. The incident occurred at 8.15 pm near the Novelty chowk when her husband hired a rickshaw to take his wife for dinner at Hotel Crystal. However, the rickshaw missed the hotel site and had to travel up to the Novelty chowk to take a U-turn to reach the hotel.

Narating the incident to mediapersons, Paramjit said as the rickshaw took the U-turn two motorcycle-borne youths tried to snatch the bag from his wife. He said his wife fell down from the rickshaw and was seriously injured while resisting it. He claimed that he raised an alarm but the duo managed to escape. He alleged that none of the policemen present just 100 m away came to their rescue. He said he took his wife to Nayyar Hospital where the doctors declared her brought dead.

However, the in charge of the Lawrence Road police chowki, Ashok Kumar said though they had registered a case against unidentified persons but no such incident had occurred last night. He said he was also present at the site at that time.

Paramjit reported the matter to the police only this morning. The body had been sent for a post-mortem examination. He, along with his relatives, who had been pressurising the police to register the case, said they were not happy with the attitude of the police. He said as he was new to the city, he did not know where to report the matter. He said he contacted his relatives this morning, who accompanied him to lodge a complaint at the Lawrence Road police chowki. Paramjit said the police registered the case only after they complained to the Canadian Embassy in this regard.


Panic over reports of wild animal at village
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Mansoorwal (Kapurthala), December 17
The presence of a carnivorous wild animal in and around Mansoorwal village on the Jalandhar road in Kapurthala district has created panic among villagers.

Residents of the surrounding localities, including Punjab Bagh, PUDA Colony, Moti Bagh Colony and Peer Chaudhury Colony are also panic stricken over the reported presence of the animal.

The villagers reported the matter to Kapurthala forest ranger Mohan Singh on Saturday night after one of the villager noticed the animal on a street when he was looking out of a window of his house. The animal also attacked a dog.

The villagers suspect it to be a panther which had disappeared from Pholriwal village of Jalandhar in the last week of November. One of the villagers, Mohinder Singh, who claimed to have seen the animal in the wee hours today, said it was a four-foot black colour animal.

However, the forest ranger said it did not seem from the pugmarks that the animal was a panther. He had sent the pugmarks to experts for further information. Hoshiarpur wildlife inspector Darshan Singh, who was specially called to the village to see the pugmarks, said the animal seemed to be a wild cat.

The Forest Department had fixed a cage at the village last night and a tranquiliser gun was also arranged, said the forests ranger. SDM Gurpreet Singh Khaira and DSP Sukhdev Singh Chhina also visited the village.


Bhagat Singh’s Statue
MP for Punjabis’ say in it
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 17
Rajya Sabha member from Punjab Manohar Singh Gill, who made the Parliamentary Committee on Statues agree on installing the 18-foot bronze statue of Shaheed Bhagat Singh in the Parliament complex, has urged the Lok Sabha speaker to involve people of Punjab and their elected representatives in the statue installation.

Gill told The Tribune on phone from Delhi that he had told the speaker that people of Punjab must have a role and contribution in the installation of the statue. There was no progress on the installation of the statue. Last meeting on the issue was held on December 4 where Gill was a special invitee. “No elected representative from Punjab is on the committee set up to decide on the statue of the Shaheed,” he said.

Earlier, there was a proposal to put up the statue of the Shaheed wearing British “tope”.

“However, I opposed such a statue and told them that Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s statue should be turbaned”, said Gill. Now a turbaned statue had been approved.

“ Shaheed Bhagat Singh is a national hero and people in the country are prepared to contribute for his statue. But Punjabis have special claim over him because they are sentimentally attached to the Shaheed. So, they and their representatives should be given due role in the installation of the statue in the Parliament complex”, said Gill.


Homoeopathic council charge against dy speaker
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 17
Taking on the deputy speaker of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, Satpal Gosain, certain members of the Punjab Homoeopathic Council today alleged that Gosain was trying to build pressure on the government to shield his former officer on special duty (OSD), Dr Tejinder Pal Singh, who was an owner of a private channel in Ludhiana.

Addressing a press conference here today, Dr Paramjit Singh Rannu and certain other members of the council here said that Dr Tejinder Pal Singh was removed from the membership of the council in March 2006. He had also lost the election of the member of the Central Council of the Homoeopathy to Dr Ranu, former chairman of the State Council.

Ranu and other members alleged that the state government was outrightly supporting Dr Tejinder Pal Singh. Gosain was being used as a medium by his former OSD, they alleged. Dr Ranu said plans were being made to dissolve the council, which was a democratically elected autonomous body. The government was doing all this in the interest of a single man, who does not have any mandate, he added.

Members said Gosain was in the habit of complaining. He had written a letter to the Chief Minister on March 19 and got removed the chairman Dr Ranu from the post. Allegations of fake and duplicate registrations were levelled against Dr Ranu to remove him. However, after the inquiry, nothing was proved against Dr Ranu, but the investigating officer had categorically mentioned that the matter pertained to the period when Dr TejinderPal Singh was chairman. Also on December 15 last year, Gosain wrote a letter to the then DGP urging him to withdraw police security given to Dr Ranu, they alleged.

Members have urged the Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal that no one should be allowed to dissolve the democratically elected body. They said that as Dr Ranu had been absolved in all inquiries held against him, he should be reinstated as chairman of the council. They said the government had to recently remove the chairman-cum-additional secretary from the post of the chairman of the council by transferring him when a petition was filed against such an appointment in the court.

Members said now the government wanted to implicate Dr Ranu in some other case. Instead of audit by government officials concerned, the council’s accounts had been subjected to private audit. On the basis of the audit, a chargesheet was served to Dr Ranu. However, in his reply to the chargesheet, Dr Ranu denied all allegations. He has told the authorities concerned that he did not make any regular appointment in the council.

All appointments were made on a daily wage basis to run affairs of council. He has also stated in the reply that all his tours were approved by the council and he did not claim any false TA and DA. 


Tributes paid to Pathak, train victims
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 17
The week-long session of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, which started here today, paid rich tributes to former Tribune Trust chairperson Justice R.S. Pathak who died last month.

The Vidhan Sabha also mourned the death of 16 persons in a collision between a mini-bus and the Satluj Express in Moga district earlier this month, besides making obituary references to several other eminent people from within and outside Punjab.

In the session that was dedicated to obituary references, the leader of the House Parkash Singh Badal mentioned the names of 19 people, besides the train accident victims. The politicians mourned included former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar, Delhi ex-Chief Minister Sahib Singh Verma, Ludhiana MP Lala Lajpat Rai, former MLA Satpal Kapur, former deputy minister Gian Chand and former MLA Ranjit Singh.

The Vidhan Sabha also mourned the demise of Justice S.S.Sandhawalia and Justice R.S.Sarkaria. The freedom fighters that were paid rich tributes included Gurbachan Singh, Dr Balwant Singh, Giani Karnail Singh and others.


Promoting women empowerment through ‘Pride’ 
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Mohali, December 17
Punjab cooperative movement’s flagship brand ‘Verka’ will soon have a companion competing for shelf space in various stores across the state.

Punjab government is all set to launch “Pride”-the brand name given to the products made by groups of rural women across the state as part of the Mai Bhago Istri Shakti Scheme launched by the Cooperatives Department a fortnight ago.

The brand called ‘Pride’ in English and ‘Gaurav’ in Punjabi would include a wide range of household products like embroidered textiles, knitted clothes, mushrooms, vermin compost, processed fruits and vegetables, soft toys, notebooks, soaps, school uniforms, candles, honey, bakery, confectionary etc.

‘Pride’ products would be sold both through informal markets and marketed by state and apex organisations like Weavco, Milkfed and Markfed.

“The whole idea is to empower women through the cooperative movement,” said the Punjab cooperation minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh during a visit to the township here today.

“The aim is not just to empower women by making them economically independent but to also involve these women through these groups in social causes. And in the long run encourage women from these groups to evolve into leaders,” said the minister.

Explaining the scheme Capt Kanwaljit Singh said primary agriculture cooperative societies (PACS) would be the hub of womwn empowerment.

There are already more than 4,000 PACs in Punjab and each society has about four villages in the area under their operation. This society would identify and activate a group of women.

Different income generation activities would be identified at the village level depending on the area and the activities already being done in that particular village would be strengthened.

“In one society different women members can opt for different activities depending upon their attitude and skills,” said the minister, adding that an individual or group of women would be provided loans at the rate of 8 to10 per cent per annum by these societies to start production.

The cooperative department would not only be the only source of loans to these groups.

Officials of the department have been asked to explore the various central schemes to rope in assistance for women members in the form of subsidies from the Department of Women and Child Development, Social Security and the Mahila Kosh of Government of India.

Capt Kanwaljit said he believed that this network of women societies would also be encouraged to engage in community matters of social significance.

“Through these women groups awareness about the social ills of drug addiction and female foeticide, the two biggest stigmas on Punjab can be generated. And long lasting solutions to these ills would also come from within these groups,” he said.


Italian pasta from Punjabi wheat!
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 17
Italian pasta may soon be made out of Punjabi wheat. You may find it hard to digest the fact, but the palatable reality is that the Italian ambassador Antonio Armellini is here for coming out with a perfect recipe for enhanced business cooperation between Punjab and his country, particularly in the agriculture sector.

Among other things, the Italian ambassador is looking into the possibility of adding into pasta the ingredient of “Durum” wheat widely produced in Punjab.

“We have the technology and Punjab has the wheat required for preparing good quality pasta. So, we are looking into the feasibility of outsourcing the pasta production by joining hands with the state,” says Armellini just before addressing a seminar on “Doing business with Italy”.

As Armellini speaks, one thing becomes apparent: The Akali-BJP combine in the state is not averse to all that’s Italian. But will they be importing Durum wheat from Punjab for the purpose?

“No,” says Armellini. “We are interested in transfer of technology to produce pasta here in India for local consumption, and also for export. As such, we are open to the idea of entering into joint ventures”.

Durum, popularly known as Macaroni wheat, is the hardest of all varieties. Its high protein content and gluten strength makes Durum good for pasta and bread. The dough sticks together and holds its shape. Durum wheat sells at a premium to other varieties and accounts for roughly 5 per cent of the global wheat production.

Armellini says both the nations will reap benefit from the business ties in the agriculture field.

“The problem here is of safe-guarding the agriculture produce. The hard reality here is that 75 per cent of the produce never reaches the market. Once the ties improve further, we can help the farmers here with better cold-chain, transportation, packaging and marketing facilities”.

The ambassador says even now the trade ties with India are well established. Quoting 2006 figures, Armellini says trade with the country has touched $7.5 billion mark after registering a whooping a growth of as much as 40 per cent.

As for Indians settled illegally in Italy, Armellini says both the Italian and the Punjab governments are interested in brining an end to the problem of illegal settlement.

“For the purpose of facilitating the entry of Indians into Italy, we are also opening visa resource centres,” he asserts.

At the seminar organised by the Embassy of Italy and the CII, in association with Malhotra & Malhotra Associates, city-based Ranjit Malhotra was also appointed honorary consular correspondent at Chandigarh. 


Board nod to re-evaluation of class X, XII answer-sheets
Tribune News Service

Mohali, December 17
The Punjab School Education Board will offer the facility of revaluation of answer-sheets to matriculation and senior secondary examination candidates from this academic session.

This was decided at a meeting of district secondary education officers (DEOs) held here today.

In another significant decision, the Board decided to hold spot evaluation of answer-sheets of these examinations on the pattern of universities to avoid delay in the declaration of results.

Chairman of the Punjab School Education Board Dr Dalbir Singh Dhillon said DEOs from all across the state agreed with the Board’s decision to start revaluation of the answer-sheets of matric and class XII exams from this year. Dr Dhillon said lakhs of students would benefit from this offer.

This was one of the long-standing demands of candidates, but till date no serious effort was made to reform the school examination system. Dr Dhillon added that revaluation would be on the pattern of universities. If a student of matric or senior secondary is not satisfied with his result, he can apply for a revaluation of his answer-sheet.

Dr Dhillon further said that it had been also decided that from this academic session, the board would introduce the system of spot evaluation also on the pattern of universities. On-the-spot zone- wise evaluation centres would be formed for the purpose. “The Board would collect answer-sheets from the examination centres from across the state and then redistribute these to the district secondary education officers after coding the answer-sheets. Teachers would evaluate these sheets on the spot under the direct supervision of senior education officials. He added that in order to encourage teachers for evaluation work, an honorarium would be paid to them on the spot on the same day after the work is over.

The Board has raised this honorarium from Rs 2 to Rs 4 per answer sheet. Teachers would also be given an option to join evaluation work near their working place. “This system is expected to facilitate declaration of the results of these examinations on time,” said the chairman.

It was also decided that a special flying squad be constituted to check the copying during examinations. Dr Dhillon said district education officers would provide a list of honest examination staff to be posted in examination halls.

The Board would appoint superintendents and supervisors from among this list. A special superintendent would be appointed at sensitive examination centres. Senior officials, including the chairman of the Board, would personally supervise the entire examination process.


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