P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Financial Position
Cong walkout over rejection of adjournment motion
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 20
Reacting strongly to the decision of Punjab Vidhan Sabha Speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon disallowing the adjournment motion demanding a discussion on the financial position of the state, the Congress staged a walkout from the Punjab Assembly, staying away during the last one hour of today’s session.

The Congress requested the Speaker to facilitate a debate on the fiscal health of the state by bringing about an adjournment motion early in the day. But the Speaker kept his decision pending despite the Congress wanting to know about its fate during question hour and late during zero hour.

Soon after zero hour, the Speaker allowed Congress legislator Sunil Jakhar to initiate a discussion about the condition of farmers in Punjab. As soon as Jakhar completed his debate, the Speaker announced his decision on the adjournment motion saying that the Congress can debate the issue on Monday when The Punjab Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (Amendment) Bill, 2007 is presented in the House. Reacting strongly, the Congress MLAs, led by leader of the opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, staged a walkout.

In the absence of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, cooperation minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh proved to be the saviour for the SAD-BJP alliance more than once. He took on Bhattal and her comrades more than once, putting them on the defensive. At one point when Bhattal threatened to bring a no-confidence motion in the House “if the government continued to run away from important issue connected with the fiscal health of the state”, Kanwaljit Singh got up and in a commanding voice said: “I challenge you to bring a no-confidence motion. If you have the guts accept my challenge, else sit down”.

Earlier, the Speaker conceded to the Congress demand for discussing the condition of farmers in Punjab. Jakhar started by pointing out that 72 farmers had committed suicide in Punjab between January 1 and November 30, 2008, due to financial hardship. Coming down heavily on the ruling SAD-BJP alliance, Jakhar said though the government claimed itself to be farmer friendly, it was during the current government that instead on providing subsidy on citrus, the government was charging farmers Rs 56 per plant. While cars were being financed by banks at 6 per cent interest, Land Mortgage Bank and Cooperative Banks in Punjab were financing tractors to the farmers at 12 per cent interest.

Though, the treasury benches kept on interrupting Jakhar in the first debate on the state of farmers in the House in a long time, Jakhar warned that the proposed agriculture growth pegged at 4.5 per cent from the current 3.6 per cent was unlikely to be achieved unless the House took a collective responsibility and helped the farmers come out of their financial crisis. He pointed out the degradation in water quality leading to marked increase in cancer cases and highlighted that the government had failed to check the sale of spurious fertiliser and seeds in the market.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh rose to give a reply to all allegations levelled by the Congress against the SAD-BJP government. He demolished the charges made by the Congress point by point and said, “the Congress walk out is only to make newspaper reports and tell the party high command that they walked out, they don’t want to hear the truth”.

In his reply, Captain Kanwaljit Singh said if the Congress is so concerned about the farmers, the relief package given to the farmers of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh should have been extended by the Central government to Punjab as farmers here too had committed suicides due to indebtness.


Channi booed off SGPC dais
Jor mela sans top SAD leadership

Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chamkaur Sahib (Ropar), December 20
The second day of the annual Jor Mela, organised to commemorate martyrdom of sons of Guru Gobind Singh, Ajit Singh and Jhujhar Singh, along with 40 other Sikhs, saw unruly scenes at the stage of the SGPC here today.

Local independent MLA Charanjit Singh Channi, who has extended support to the SAD and was invited to the programme by the manager of local gurdwara, was not allowed to speak from the SGPC dais. As soon as SGPC member Gurinder Singh Gogi announced that the MLA would address the gathering, the supporters of former SAD minister Bibi Satwant Kaur Sandhu started raising slogans. They booed Channi off the dais.

The supporters of the former minister alleged that the MLA could not be allowed to speak from the SGPC dais as he had distributed alcohol during elections and violated the Sikh maryada. The MLA left the venue without addressing the gathering. Ropar MP Sukhdev Singh Libra also left the venue to express solidarity with the MLA.

Channi said the supporters of Satwant Kaur Sandhu were just displaying frustration at being defeated by him in the Assembly elections.

Satwant Kaur Sandhu, however, said she had not asked anyone to protest the MLA’s speech.

Meanwhile, despite its religious significance, none of the senior leaders of the SAD took part in the religious ceremony to observe the martyrdom of the Sahibzadas. It is for the first time that none of the office-bearers of the SAD attended the mela. Neither Chief Minister nor SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal reached the venue.

Only SGPC president Avtar Singh was present at the mela. He avoided comments on supporters’ treatment to Channi. However, he termed the development as unfortunate.

Chamkaur Sahib became a significant place during the tercentenary celebrations of the birth of Khalsa in 1999. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had announced to set up a theme park and an educational institution in the area. However, none of the projects has materialised yet.

With leaders evading a visit to the town even on significant religious occasions, the promises for the development of town seem a distant task.

A large numbers of devotees, especially from rural areas, thronged the mela.


Criteria for BPL Benefits
Brahampura ‘cornered’
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 20
The Congress-led debate on the issue of criteria for determining below Poverty line (BPL) families in Punjab being defective led to sharp division among legislators with a majority, including speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon, making categorical statements that the criteria to determine BPL needed to be reviewed.

Hesitant to react to a specific question on the number of beneficiary BPL families in Malerkotla and Dhuri blocks by Iqbal Singh Jhundan (SAD), rural development and panchayat minister Ranjit Singh Brahampura was time and again cornered by legislators, including Lal Singh of the Congress who wanted to know if the government would suggest changes to be made in the BPL list to the Centre, till he conceded although half-heartedly.

At this point during the question hour, leader of the opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal asked if the government would also on its own get another survey done as was done in the case of “atta-daal” scheme to assess exact number of BPL families in Punjab. She said this issue concerned people of the state and demanded on the pattern of Haryana the state government must take it up with the Planning Commission to remove controversies concerning the BPL lists.

While the Congress dubbed the BPL as a “genuine problem” facing the state and required a Haryana-type resolution, the speaker too coaxed the minister to concede to the demand as “the BLP list in Punjab was really faulty”. He too suggested the government should write about shortcomings in draft lists of BPL families to the Centre.

The issue continued to rock the Assembly for several minutes with the treasury benches and the opposition blaming each other for the situation that allegedly resulted in anomalies in preparing the draft lists.

Though Brahampura admitted there appeared to be some problem with the list, he put the blame on the previous Congress regime led by Amarinder Singh for the lapse saying it was the doing of the previous Congress regime. The blame game at one point led to heated arguments between cooperation minister Captain Kanwaljit Singh and Bhattal.

When Kanwaljit pointed out it was not an issue to be debated upon, Bhattal shot back at the minister saying "you have no right to ask me anything...I am addressing the speaker" At this point the speaker intervened to cool down tempers.

During the course of the arguments there came a point when Brahampura started evading answers. As he tried to reply to a question while sitting in his chair, the speaker lambasted him saying, “this is no way to reply, get up and answer the question”


Grain-based whiskies gain popularity
Consumption up by 10 pc a year

Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 20
Since grain-based whiskies are made from extra neutral alcohol (ENA) and characterised by smooth, well-rounded texture and distinct aroma, these have been gaining popularity and registered 10 per cent annual growth in consumption.

In Punjab, for example, all new distilleries coming up are grain-based. The biggest of them, coming up in Gurdaspur, is all set to start producing 120 kilolitre of ENA a day from next month.

All premium whiskies are now grain-based as malt whiskies are losing out. Soon grain-based whiskies will be introduced in all categories to meet the demand of consumers of all levels.

This distillery of ours, says Hardeep Singh Chadha, managing director of AB Grain Spirits, has given employment to 1,200 qualified youths of the area, and will also give a fillip to economy of the region.

“We will be consuming 400 to 450 tonnes of broken grain and 250 tonnes of husk of wheat, rice and maize a day to run one of the most modern state-of-art plant which besides producing quality ENA will also produce fodder cakes for milch cattle,” reveals Chadha.

“Unlike distilleries using molasses as basic stock, the grain-based distilleries are environment friendly. They help reduce greenhouse effect emissions on an industrial scale by capping total annual emissions and letting the market assign a monetary value to any shortfall through trading. The carbon credits, as deciphered by the Kyoto agreement on greenhouse effects, will create yet another revenue stream for the company,” adds Chadha.

Farmers in the region will be direct beneficiaries as now grain-based distillers will compete with other market forces to buy broken grain which after extraction of starch will be re-circulated as cattle feed cakes to increase milk yield of cattle. Besides, the grain-based distilleries will also use husk as fuel for running their boilers.

Chadha Group, the umbrella organisation to which AB Grain Spirits belongs, is now a Rs 2,200-crore group having interests in real estate, construction, sugar, paper, distillery and liquor businesses. The group has lined up fresh investment of Rs 300 crore in Punjab in addition to Rs 125 crore grain-based distillery in Gurdaspur.

On social obligation and responsibility of the group, Chadha said the company would soon be starting a school for spastic children in Gurdaspur.


Trans Arrow passengers a harried lot
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Harpreet Kaur with her kid
Harpreet Kaur with her kid

Amritsar, December 20
“Officials of Trans Arrow, a private airlines, have failed to provide any medical aid to my two kids down with fever for the past two days and we were not being allowed to move out of the hotel,” said Harpreet Kaur of Toronto, who had come here on December 18 to board Flight 544 for Toronto from the Rajasansi airport at 5.25 am on December 19. She said the airlines kept them in the dark about the cancellation of the flight in view of dense fog. She said an aircraft had arrived last evening and they were asked to board the flight at 6.30 pm. But after waiting for one and a half hours they were told that the flight won’t take off due to the fog. She said though flights of Air India and Singapore Airlines had arrived at the airport after the Trans Arrow flight but they managed to take off.

Arjun Singh Grewal (80) and Kartar Kaur (78), who were also to board the flight for Toronto, along with their grand children, to see their son Avtar Singh as he was on life support system. Their son said his parents and nephews did not know that their son was critically ill. He said they had been here at the hotel for the past 24 hours but the officials of the airlines were not telling them anything as to when they would be able to take the flight to Toronto.

The station manager of Trans Arrow, Arvind Trehan, said they were helpless as they were operating once-a-week flight from Amritsar. However, he added that he had made arrangements with Air India and they would be able to board the flight for Toronto tomorrow at 3pm. He said arrangements had been made for the comfortable stay of the passengers and were providing them meals free of cost. He said he had arranged for a doctor.

Another passenger Harjinder Singh of Nawanshahr, now settled in Toronto, said the officials had asked them to pay Rs 1,000 for excess baggage as Air India were only allowing 23 kg of baggage per passenger. He said they were left with no money.


End of Dowry
Tirai Sikhs show the way
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 20
The Tirai Sikh community has set a unique example by ushering in “dowryless” marriages in India and Pakistan. And this has been achieved without any government or NGO initiative. Under the new code drafted by Tirai Sikhs, one cannot give and accept dowry.

Tirai Sikhs had migrated to Patiala then moved to New Delhi after Partition. However, they still pursue their rich traditions of dowryless marriages, both in India and Pakistan. They originally belong to Tirai village in hilly areas of Pakistan which is considered "No Man's Land" (Ilaka Ghair).

Talking to The Tribune here today, Harbans Singh Alagh, president, All-India Tirai Community, said more than 2,000 families of Tirai Sikhs lived in New Delhi, Patiala, Shimla and Dehra Dun . Alagh, who is also president of the Gurdwara Sangat Sabha, and chairman of Guru Amar Das Public School, said the Tirai Sikhs followed the maryada (Sikh traditions) as approved by Akal Takht and the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee.

Alagh was also honoured by SGPC president Avtar Singh for keeping the age-old high traditions of dowryless weddings of their community.

To a question, Alagh said their relatives who preferred to stay back in Pakistan were also leading a comfortable life there.“The residents of Ilaka Ghair don’t follow the constitution of Pakistan,” he claimed.

Most of the Tirai Sikhs deal in motor parts. However, Alagh said most of their relatives in Pakistan are either truckers or dealers of motor parts.


SAD councillors protest over statue
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 20
Differences in the ruling SAD-BJP alliance came to the fore at the first general house meeting of the Amritsar Municipal Corporation when seven SAD councillors staged a walkout against the move to install a statue in memory of the BJP leader, Dr Baldev Prakash, at a cost of over Rs 14 lakh.

The protesting councillors alleged that funds were being squandered on such projects even though they could be better utilised for development.

“It was their personal decision and not that of the SAD. Nevertheless, I will bring the matter to the notice of the party high command,” said senior deputy mayor Ajaybir Pal Singh Randhawa after the meeting.

Trouble started when SAD councillor Surinder Singh Sultanwind stood up to oppose the agenda item, which proposed installation of the statue at a prominent place in the city. He had heated exchanges with BJP’s district president and councillor Bakshi Ram Arora, who advocated in favour of the move.

Even as the BJP councillors shouted “passed, passed”, the seven agitated SAD councillors, walked out of the House.

He said there were reports that the Mayor had even paid the first instalment of Rs 5 lakh for the installation of the statue. Others who walked out of the House included Avtar Singh Truckanwala, Jatinder Pal Singh, Harbhajan Kaur, Sukhwinder Kaur, Prabhjot Kaur and Sukhbir Singh.


Respect decorum of House, speaker to MLAs
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 20
As disorder prevailed in the Punjab Assembly today, speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon, had to tell legislators not to turn the House into a fish market and respect discipline. He told them not to become the masters of the House and address the chair in case they wanted to make a point on any issue. He did not like direct talk and raising of fingers between the treasury and opposition benches. To restore in order in the House Kahlon had to express displeasure to members. As Congress MLA Sunil Jakhar began to speak on issues related to farmers, treasury benches repeatedly raised the point of order to dismantle claims made by him on the steps taken by the Amarinder Singh government to improve the agriculture sector in the state.

In fact, treasury benches raised their voice against Jakhar especially when he tried subtly to drive a wedge between the SAD-BJP coalition partners in the government.

Sunil tried his best to build the thesis in the House that the BJP, a partner of the SAD, had no interest as far as welfare of the farmers was concerned.

However, Bikramjit Singh Majithia, an Akali MLA, countered Sunil on this issue. In fact, Majithia also took pot shots on previous Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. Sunil knows farm issues but his mixing of politics in the speech led to counter attack from treasury benches on him and his party. As interruptions and counter interruptions continued between the treasury and opposition benches, opposition leader in the House, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, also intervened to tell members they were elected representatives of people of the state and should maintain the decorum of the House while discussing issues. On farmers’ issues, BJP minister Manoranjan Kalia defended his party.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh repeatedly got up to request the chair under what rules the opposition wanted the discussion on various issues. While opposition MLAs, including Rana Gurmeet Sodhi and others asked for more time to speak, treasury benches said they had nothing to say worthwhile on any issue. Opposition benches were told they would get enough time to speak on Monday when certain Bills will be taken up by the House. In fact, on Monday the New Punjab Police Act will be tabled in the House. The opposition has reservations over certain clauses of the Bill and wanted to take on the SAD-BJP government in this regard on Monday.


Change in schedule
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 20
Changes were made in the schedule of the winter session of the 13th Vidhan Sabha after December 21 was declared to be a holiday on account of Id-ul-Zuha.

Earlier, the session was to be adjourned sine die tomorrow after the legislative business, but now the sitting has been postponed for Monday, speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon told the Assembly.

Among those who were not present in the House today included Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal and former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.


Punjab MCs asked to hold monthly review sessions
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 20
Punjab minister for local self government Manoranjan Kalia today issued directions that municipal corporations (MCs) in the state should hold comprehensive monthly review sessions to chalk out strategies to tackle local problems and issues.

Speaking at an orientation-training programme for newly elected councillors and officers of municipal corporations at the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID), the minister said most of the local problems could be sorted out at the level of the municipal corporation itself, if addressed properly.

He said one such review meeting be held by MCs every month in which representatives of the department of local self government would also be present. The first two meetings should be devoted to identification and assessment of problems, while the third meeting should be devoted to work out a viable action plan and a budget for the same.

Stressing that such sessions should have the active participation of al concerned, he added that proper records and minutes of the meetings be maintained so that review of progress can be made. He also pointed out that councillors, being elected representatives, were the public face of the government at the grass-root level and hence have important responsibilities.

Principal secretary, local self government, D.S. Bains, gave a presentation on the 74th amendment and delved upon various rules, regulations and duties of the elected representatives at the MC level.

Senior fellow at the Human Settlement Management Institute, New Delhi, Dr K.K. Pandey, spoke on innovative municipal management, while Dr Himal Chand from CRRID discussed methods of strengthening the fiscal domain of urban local bodies.

Augmentation of urban infrastructure, preparation of agendas and estimates, maintenance works, budgeting and accounting and resources rationalization were other topics discussed by experts on the programme’s concluding day.


Dolphins WWF team reaches Harike
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, December 20
Two teams of experts today reached Harike Wildlife Sanctuary in Ferozepur where a pair of endangered fresh water dolphins was spotted recently.

A two-member team from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and another from the ministry of environment and forest (MOEF), New Delhi, started their operations to locate the pair.

The pair of dolphins was spotted near the confluence of the Beas and the Sutjet two weeks ago.

Punjab forest minister Tiksan Sud, however, said a meeting of top officials of the Forest Department had been called. Teams of wildlife experts had been sent to the sanctuary to confirm the presence of the dolphins.

Divisional forest officer and in charge of the sanctuary Basanta Rajkumar claimed that the members of the two teams had been trying to spot the mammals from an island in the lake.


Panel to study pollution by distilleries
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 20
The Vidhan Sabha today decided to constitute a joint committee of the House to study the extent of pollution caused by sugar mills and distilleries in the state. The committee will have representations from the treasury and opposition benches. The decision was taken amid opposition by the Congress legislators, who felt that it was aimed at targeting a sugar mill that belongs to a Congress MP.

During question hour, Harmeet Singh Sandhu drew the attention of the House towards emission of poisonous gases from a liquor factory in Lohka village in Tarn Taran district. Rana Sugar Mill and the nearby distillery had made it impossible for people to breath in a radius of about 5 km, Sandhu told the House and asked minister of science and technology Bikram Singh Majitha to respond by telling the House what was being done about the polluting unit.

He said Rana Sugars (that belong to Congress MP from Jalandhar Rana Gurjeet Singh) had a licence to manufacture 60 kilo litres of alcohol per day.


MLAs favour stricter rules for road upkeep
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 20
The Assembly today discussed an important matter with regard to the upkeep of roads and framing of certain rules to prevent people from the encroachment on roads and turning these into wastewater drains.

Akali MLA Balbir Singh Bath has moved the resolution in the House. Others who spoke on this issue were Anil Joshi, Dalbir Singh, Jagdish Sahni. Though resolution was talked out but all members who spoke on the issue strongly supported the framing of strict laws to keep the roads in a good shape.

Bath and Joshi made mention of roads in Amritsar and certain other cities. They said roads were in bad shape especially in Amritsar where lakhs of people come from all corners of the world to pay obeisance at Gold Temple.

Bath said people should be discouraged from draining out their wastewater on roads as it leads to damage to the roads.


Bhattal extends Id greetings
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 20
President Punjab Congress and Leader of the Opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal has extended felicitations and good wishes on the eve of Id-ul-Zuha to people of Punjab, especially Muslims.

In a message Bhattal has said Id brought message of universal brotherhood to people across the world. This festival reflects the faith of the people to express humility, submission and sincerity to God.

The message of Prophet Mohammed of caring for the needy and suffering people by sacrificing selfishness is still relevant after more than 1,000 years.


CM, Governor greet people on Id
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 20
Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal and Governor S.F. Rodrigues, besides others have extended felicitations and good wishes on the eve of Id-ul-Zuha to people of Punjab.


Award for work in co-op movement
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 20
The Citizens Urban Cooperative Bank, Jalandhar, has chosen Sukhdeep Singh Bhinder for ‘Vijay Sethi’ award. The award will be presented to Bhinder on December 29.

Additional advocate general, Punjab, Bhinder has been active in the cooperative movement in the state for several years.


Bhattal summoned in embezzlement case
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 20
Additional and sessions judge Raj Rahul Garg today issued a notice to former Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal to appear in court on the next hearing on January 9 in the Rs 20 lakh embezzlement case.

The withdrawal of the SLP by Bhattal vacated the stay on the proceedings of the case. Thus the trial court also directed the complainant in the case, the senior vice-president of the Lawyers for Human Rights International and president of the District Amateur Boxing Association, Bathinda, Balwant Singh Dhillon, to file a reply to the application moved by the public prosecutor seeking the withdrawal of the case.

The trial court has received the order of the apex court in respect of the withdrawal of the special leave petition (SLP) filed by Bhattal. She had moved an SLP in the Supreme Court claiming that the sanction of the government was not sought before filing the case against her.

The investigating agency in the case had found receipts that showed the use of Rs 20 lakh taken from the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. The agency stated that the receipts were genuine. Therefore, no case was made out and the court should allow the withdrawal of the case. Following this, the vigilance department in December 2006 had moved an application under Section 321 of CrPC before the trial court pleading to accept the cancellation report filed by it. The complainant in the case, Balwant Singh Dhillon, had alleged that Bhattal was involved in the embezzlement of Rs 20 lakh from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund in 1996 during her tenure as Chief Minister.


High Court
Be careful before filing affidavit
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 20
Punjab and Haryana High Court today suggested to IPS officer V. Neerja to be careful while filing or stating anything before a court.

The suggestion came on a contempt petition filed by Hari Singh Bawa of Barnala. He had sought initiation of proceedings against V. Neerja for filing false affidavit in the Bhadaur clash case.

Accepting her apology, a Division Bench of the high court comprising Justice Mehtab Singh Gill and Justice Harbans Lal also ordered withdrawal of contempt notice earlier issued to her and also “discharged the rule”.

In his petition, Bawa had earlier contended that the action of the respondent showed disrespect to the Court as she had filed a false affidavit concealing that reinvestigating ordered by the high court had already been completed on August 16.

He had added that the officer was not happy with the report as a fellow officer was involved and she wanted to help him. She filed a false affidavit and obtained extension with ulterior motive, he had further alleged.


Bar Association
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, December 20
Harkewal Singh Sajuma was elected president of the Sangrur District Bar Association for the second time on Thursday. Gurbinder Singh Cheema was elected vice-president of the association and Jatinder Pal Singh Khurmi secretary.


Students Collecting Funds
DC, varsity order probes
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, December 20
Taking note of a news item 'college uses students to collect funds for charity' published in The Tribune on December 11, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, and the deputy commissioner, Gurdaspur, have ordered inquiries against the authorities of Utkristh College, Pathankot.

The dean college development council of the university has constituted a committee to investigate the matter while the Gurdaspur DC has asked the Pathankot SDM to submit him comprehensive report.

Talking to The Tribune, Dr M.S. Dhillon, dean college development council, Guru Nanak university, claimed he had constituted a committee to look into the matter. He, however, clarified the college, affiliated with the university, ha not powers to collect money on its own. Collection of money by the Utkristh college was violation of the university norms.

Gurdaspur deputy commissioner Gurkirat Kripal Singh, said he had asked Pathankot SDM Manasvi Kumar to investigate the matter and report so that action be taken against the college management.

The college authorities, reportedly started collecting the fund collection receipt books from the students.


Town sans local govt for 2 years
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Nangal, December 20
The government has been stressing on empowering the local governments as per the 85th Amendment of the Constitution. However, bureaucrats and politicians are finding it hard to let their grip loose over power.

The case of the Nangal municipal council, one of the richest local governments of the state, is a clear illustration of the fact.

The council is being governed by bureaucrats for more than two years now. The elections to the council were due in September 2005. However, the government seems to be no mood to conduct the poll as yet.

The elections have not been conducted in the council on the plea that a local BJP leader had challenged the ward demarcation carried out during the Congress regime in court. However, even with the BJP in power now, no elections to the council have been conducted.

The lack of local elected members has hit the development in the area. Sources here said that most of the development works in the council had been stalled by director, local governments. The council does not have its own area in Nangal, as most of the town is either owned by the BBMB or National Fertilizer Limited (NFL). Due to it, the council authorities, as a routine, have taken permission from the government for carrying out development works in the BBMB or NFL areas.

However, director, local governments, recently took serious objection of the permission sought by the council authorities for carrying the said works. He has also sought explanation from the local executive officer as how he proposed to conduct works outside the municipal-owned areas. This has stalled most of the development works, much to chagrin of local residents.

Senior BJP leader Madan Mohan Mittal, who represents the area, said he was in favour of early elections to the council. He said under the changed circumstances, local bodies should be demarcated as per the latest census report of 2001. All other elections, including zila parishad, are conducted as per the voter lists prepared by the Election Commission for assembly elections. In the municipal elections, however, different lists are prepared as per the census report of 2001 that creates scope for manipulation.

Local Congress MLA KPS Rana demanded that elections to the Nangal council should be conducted at the earliest. He said the BJP leader had moved court against ward demarcation that led to delay in elections. Now with their government, they should get the elections conducted, he added.


Travel agent’s office raided, 616 passports, Rs 28 lakh seized
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, December 20
The economic offences wing (EOW) of the police today raided the office of a travel agency and seized 616 passports and nearly Rs 28 in lakh cash from its premises.

The raid ws made on Shivam Travel agency office in Dilkusha market of the city after a tip-off, said SP (detective) Paramvir Singh Parmar.

Owner of the agency Rajiv Soni was detained for some hours but allowed to go without registering a case against him, he added.

Parmar said Soni had provided the police a photo copy of the licence reportedly issued to him by the Union Ministry of Overseas and Immigration authorising him to send people abroad.

The SP said Soni was asked to provide the original licence which he assured to do next day. So he was allowed to go.

To a query, Parmar said the police was also trying to verify about the copy of the licence from the Chandigarh- based protector of immigrants and the ministry concerned.

After receiving advice from the ministry, it would be decided if any action was to be taken against Soni.

The police sealed the passports and the cash, he said, adding it had also informed the Income Tax Department about the recovery of cash from the travel agent.

Soni told reporters he was an authorised agent and running the travel agency cum manpower consultancy for over a decade.


‘Coop banks to be interlinked’
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 20
Cooperative banks in the state will be interlinked through networking and all branches will be computerised soon. This was stated by Punjab State Cooperative Bank chairman Bunny Jasjit Singh after taking charge here today.

He said after completing the process to computerise all branches within a year, interlinking process would begin and it, too, would be completed soon.

Farmers who have adopted modern technology and produced good results would be made brand ambassadors of cooperative banks. The banks would not only decrease lending rate for farmers but would also encourage setting up of food processing and other agro-based industries in the state, the chairman added.


Industrialists threaten stir
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, December 20
Expressing concern over unscheduled cuts in power supply to the industry, the Sangrur District Industrial Chamber (SDIC) today warned the PSEB that if it failed to streamline power supply to the industrial sector by December 31 then the chamber would hold a protest in front of the PSEB head office in Patiala.

President of the chamber Jagdish Bansal said unscheduled power cuts had almost ruined the industry across the state, especially in this district.

Bansal said despite a decision taken on September 28, 2006, at a meeting of senior officers of the PSEB and members of the chamber to provide independent industrial feeder to the industry, no steps had been taken so far.


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