P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Mohali Airport
Centre agrees to speed up clearances
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 21
The Centre today agreed to speed up clearances for the Mohali airport and will consider positively the state’s plea for allowing civil terminals at Adampur and Bhisiana (Bathinda) airports.

While Bathinda air link assumes significance in the light of the work on Guru Gobind Singh Refinery gaining momentum and the setting up of a cricket stadium there, the state is also renewing efforts to get a civilian terminal at Adampur in Doaba for NRIs.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today called on union defence minister A.K. Antony in this connection in New Delhi and urged him to ensure an early issuance of a no-objection certificate (NOC) with regard to the international airport.

The Chief Minister also sought the Defence Ministry's go ahead for the extension of the runway to 10,500 feet, building of a parallel taxi-way and shifting of the missile site. He is learnt to have pointed out that international flights could start operating from the present airstrip if the Centre agreed to extend watch hours at the Air Force station, Chandigarh, from 6pm to 10 pm.

He also asked Antony to grant the NOC expeditiously for upgrading and extension of the Sahnewal airport runway to approximately 8000 feet. Badal impressed upon Antony to give permission for civil terminals at IAF station, Bhisiana, in Bathinda district and Adampur in Jalandhar district.

He asked Antony to give necessary clearances to the state government's proposal for providing flying facilities at Talwandi Sabo and demanded an expeditious action for establishing a national defence university.


Now, HIV test at blood banks
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 21
In keeping with the latest policy of National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) that requires HIV testing even at blood the bank level, the Punjab health ministry has strengthened all its major blood banks.

In a move that will go a long way in enhancing HIV testing capacity of the state, blood banks at Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Bathinda and Patiala have been provided with counsellors to screen and confirm HIV positive cases. Past practice was to refer HIV positive blood donors to integrated counselling and testing centres. Naturally, precious time was lost, which is why NACO recently changed the HIV testing policy under the ongoing National AIDS Control Programme III.

Further implementing the third phase of the programme, which particularly stresses the control of HIV infections in rural areas very vulnerable to the disease, the Punjab Health Department has now set up ICTCs at sub-divisional level as well. Earlier, AIDS control programmes mainly focussed on urban areas. Reports have indicated that 50 per cent of the infections are occurring in rural belts.

In the first major recruitment drive to strengthen HIV/AIDS control programmes across the state, health minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla yesterday appointed 96 lab technicians, counsellors and outreach workers under various programmes of the Punjab State AIDS Control Society. What’s significant is that the ministry appointed 13 persons living with HIV/AIDS for its ICTC projects.

Health secretary T.R. Sarangal said today that the health authorities were looking into the cases where right to work of HIV-infected persons had been denied.


For better ties
Sidhu names scheme after Badal
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 21
Navjot Singh Sidhu, BJP MP, here today launched a major job initiative for the unemployed youth in the border belt of the state.

Coining the project as Parkash Scheme dedicated to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Sidhu while addressing newspersons said the district administration had already shortlisted and engaged four institutions for imparting training in various segments of trade, industry and service. He said the process to identify the jobless youth would be taken on a massive scale all over the district.

The BJP MP said the Central government in association with the state government had worked out the financial module to train the youth in various skills ranging from three to six months. He said the first instalment of Rs 50 lakh received from the state government had already been handed over to the district administration. He said the first batch of 500 students would undergo training from the first week of January in Chandigarh.

He said the Central government had already signed an agreement with Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, Hyderabad, to undertake a major survey in the rural areas to provide training to 2,000 youth under the self-employment mission for the BPL families started by Ministry of Rural Development Government of India.

He further said the district administration had identified four organisation Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, Construction Industrial Development Council, ITFT, Chandigarh, and Cipet, Amritsar, for providing training in different vocations.

Amar Singh, joint secretary, Ministry of Rural Development, who was also present at the press conference, said the Central government had earmarked Rs 2,000 crore for the scheme.


Tampering with Assembly Record
Recommendations to remain in cold storage: Kahlon
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 21
Recommendations of the Privilege Committee of the Vidhan Sabha in a case of tampering with the Assembly’s official record by its staff will stay in the cold storage, at least till the next session, if not longer. Speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon has said the report has to be discussed on the floor of the House before he can take the recommendation of the committee into consideration or proceed against the erring officials.

Talking to The Tribune, the Speaker said there were a lot of obstacles in the way of the implementation of the report. “The chair of the Speaker and his secretariat enjoy some immunity, so before acting on the report, many legal questions have to be clarified. I on my own cannot write for registration of a criminal case against the indicted employees”.

Kahlon said the report couldn’t be discussed on the floor of the House on Monday as the last day of the Assembly session would be limited to only a few hours in the afternoon. That day it has to discuss several important scheduled issues on the agenda, including the passing of certain Bills.

Besides other business, the House would take up The Punjab Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (Amendment) Bill, 2007 and The Punjab Police Bill, 2007.

“Once free from the current winter session of the House, I will send the Privilege Committee report to the advocate-general for opinion,” Kahlon said.

During the current winter session, the committee had tabled a report in the House, indicting former local government minister Chaudhary Jagjit Singh for a plot ot tamper with record of the proceedings. The report recommended that former secretary Nachhattar Singh Mavi and under secretary Tara Singh be booked under various provisions of the CrPC and their pension and other post-retirement benefits be stopped immediately.

Tara Singh has been re-employed in the Assembly.


Chuhar Chak Mishap
Gateman surrenders
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, December 21
The guard who was manning the Chuhar Chak railway crossing on that fateful day, Kulwinder Singh, surrendered before the Government Railway Police (GRP) here today. Seventeen lives were lost in the Satluj Express-mini bus collision on December 14.

The private mini-bus was on way to Lopoke in Moga from Jagraon near Ludhiana.

The GRP, Faridkot, had registered an FIR against the guard under Section 304 of the IPC and Section 175 of the Railway Act.

The GRP produced him in the court of chief judicial magistrate B.R. Garg, which remanded in police custody till tomorrow.


MC gift for Sangrur residents
Rs 1.29-cr project for covering nullah
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, December 21
Thousands of residents and shopkeepers of the local Sunami Gate area have a reason to be happy with the local municipal council deciding to cover the nullah in the area. A double-barrelled storm water channel would be constructed to drain out dirty storm water from the nullah, work on which will start in January.

The project will be complete by December next year.

About 3000-foot nullah will be covered in three phases.

Local municipal councillor and district president of the BJP Jatinder Kalra said here today that the Punjab government had cleared the project while the local municipal council had mobilised funds worth Rs 1.29 crore for it.

He termed the clearance for the project a New Year gift for the residents of the town. He said local government minister Manoranjan Kalia and MP from Sangrur Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa would lay the foundation stone for the project next month.

It was learnt that after laying the storm water channel, the remaining land would be sold to shopkeepers.


Guardians of law will now save heritage
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Pul Kanjari, December 21
Though the “Friends Of India New Zealand” (FOINZ) and state government agencies have failed to see their plans on preserving glory of Pul Kanjri ,once a bustling town ,associated with Maharaja Ranjit Singh materialise, the Punjab Police has adopted the border village for overall development with support of local people .

The police took up the challenge of preserving the heritage sites of the border belt .

The historical town on the Amritsar-Lahore road, which was a big trade centre at time of Partition , has been reduced to a tiny village now. Most of the residents of Pul Kanjri who had survived the bloodbath, a few days after Partition, migrated to safer places, especially Amritsar. Partition brought ruin to this place.

It is joint venture of police-public to clear wild grass and clean about t 300 -year- old "Talab" (historical pond).Dstrict police chief Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh and other IPS officers today visited the place to enourage villagers for cooperation with the police to accomplish the project .

The police has also prepared a project to identify drug addicts of Pul Kanjri and adjoining villages for de-addiction at various centres, run by the District Red Cross Society and other government institutiions.The district police chief has also set up a committee, headed by SHO , Attari to prepare a list of educated , semi-educated unemployed youths to send it to departments for their placements .

Earlier H.S Luthra , general secretary of the FOINZ, had announced a plan to revive glory of the town. In a letter to the Prime Minister which read the association intended to involve people of India and Pakistan for raising appropriate memorial to all those who fell in the tribal attack , a week after Independence ,could be raised. However, two years after the announcement ,nothing concrete has come so far.

Luthra is grandson of Shaheed Partap Singh of Panja Sahib (now in Pakistan). The FOINZ had also planned to build “Unity Park” with freedom memorial walls at Pul Kanjri. The park was proposed to raise four freedom memorial walls with flora and fauna from both India and Pakistan and walkways. He had also announced to install statues of freedom fighters and famous people, a museum and a theatre to promote art from India and Pakistan are also proposed to be constructed. The association also planned to invite private investors from overseas and local persons to set up shopping arcades, hotels and other attractions like children’s park and cultural centres.

However Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh said to promote tourism , other heritage buildings of the border belt would also be identified for preserving with people’s help.


From financial crunch to financial mess
Govt depts owe Rs 68 cr to PSEB
Attar Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 21
Despite the fact that the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) is facing financial crunch, its management has failed to convince various government departments to pay arrears. There are more than 20 government departments who collectively owe it a whopping Rs 68 crore with departments like the Punjab State Tubewell Corporation, Punjab Police and Public Health Departments topping the list. A top PSEB source disclosed that the management has written at least 38 letters to these departments, asking them to deposit the money they owe to the board on account of power bills. On the other hand the Finance Department has come down heavily on the board management, asking it to get their payments from the government departments without any delay. The board has also been advised by the department officials to arrange meetings of board officials and those of the erring departments in this regard.

The maximum arrears stand in the name Punjab State Tubewell Coproration, which is Rs 11.70 crore. Punjab Police, too, is defaulting on a payment of Rs 11.56 crore while the water works wing of various municipal corporations owe the board Rs 7.53 crore. The Public Health Department is also a big defaulter as it has to pay Rs 10.73 crore. The Irrigation Department owes Rs 8.40 crore.

The other departments owing payments to the power board are Civil Defence (Rs 1.89 lakh), DC office (Rs 20.76 lakh), MES (Rs 47.23 lakh), SDM office (Rs 28.85 lakh), Tehsil complex (Rs 22.52 lakh), PUDA complex (Rs 3.91 lakh), district sports office (Rs 5.90 lakh), various hospitals and dispensaries (Rs 7.70 crore), Forest Department (Rs 12.25 lakh), PWD (electricity wing) (Rs 26.53 lakh), PWD (B&R) (Rs 29.31 lakh), Punsup (Rs 42,000), schools and ITI (Rs 12.98 lakh), MC and Local Bodies (Rs 2.48 crore), Agriculture Department (Rs 2.87 lakh), Animal Husbandry (Rs 6.43 lakh), Social Security Department (Rs 1.38 lakh), Panchayat Department (Rs 12.14 lakh), Food and Supply Department (Rs 13,000), Revenue Department (Rs 85,000) and Sewerage Department (Rs 40.17 lakh).

Secretary, Power, Suresh Kumar said his department had written to the Finance Department and all other departments in this connection.


Sugar mill staff not paid salaries, hold protest
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, December 21
Employees of cooperative sugar mills, Sheron, held a protest carrying the body of one of their colleagues here today. The employees have reportedly not been paid wages for the past 14 months. The protest was supported by workers of the BSP and other organisations.

The family of the deceased alleged that even though Rattan Singh (45) died due to heart failure, it was his inability to sustain his family which pushed him in depression, which ultimately caused his death.

Rattan died on the way to the mill today.

The agitators sat in dharna at the local Chauk Bohri Wala, blocking traffic for hours together. Harpal Singh, Tarsem Singh and other leaders alleged that the state government had failed to release the salaries of the mill workers. Most of the employees were under depression, they claimed.

The leaders have demanded a grant of Rs 5 lakh for the family of the deceased and the early release of the salaries of the workers.


Book cops for false cases: Cong
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 21
Congressmen in Punjab today demanded registration of cases against guilty police officers and SAD leaders, who had got false cases registered in Bholath Assembly constituency in Kapurthala.

Tabling a report of DIG, crime, B.K. Uppal at a press conference, Congressmen C.D. Singh Kamboj and Sukhpal Khaira, said the report of the DIG clearly stated that false cases had been registered. Khaira said the cases were registered at the behest of his political rival Bibi Jagir Kaur. He went on to list the cases in which the SHO of a police station or the area DSP were the complainants.

The DIG’s report should be used to book the guilty policemen, said Khaira. Of the total 30 cases listed by him in his complaint, 23 cases had been found false by Uppal. Meanwhile Kamboj, who is the convener of the party’s grievances committee, said, “The grievances panel is getting more and more cases of political vendetta. The exact figure may be very high. To tackle this the Congress is setting up district level committees,” he said.

The Congress has forwarded a list of 57 cases to the Punjab Police in this connection, Kamboj added.


Land Pooling
Implementation on trial basis
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 21
Though the Cabinet sub-committee has given its report on the new land pooling policy, but it will be implemented first on a trial basis in certain cities.

“We have planned to first implement the policy as part of a pilot project in certain cities like Amritsar, Jalandhar and Ludhiana. And if it is successful, then the entire state will be covered under it,” said Manoranjan Kalia, a member of the sub-committee.

Farmers whose land would be used by the government to built projects or housing colonies will have stake in those projects under the policy.

Farmers have been opposing the acquisition of their land for various projects, especially in the areas close to big cities.

They have been urging the state government that they should be made stake holders in the projects to be set up on their land. 


Farmers want SEZ Act, 2005 scrapped
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 21
Protesting against forcible acquisition of fertile agricultural land for non-farming operations, the organising committee of the All-India Kisan Organisation has demanded immediate scrapping of the Special Economic Zone Act, 2005.

The committee, which met at Gujjar Bhawan here, took serious note of the deteriorating condition of farmers and anti-farmer policies of the government.

President of the Kirti Kisan Sabha, Punjab, Prem Singh Bhangu said the government policy of forcible acquisition of the fertile land of farmers under the Land Acquisition Act for establishing special economic zones would benefit only big industrial houses. Convener of the All-India Organising Committee M.V. Reddy demanded that the Special Economic Zone Act 2005 be scrapped and necessary amendment be made in the Land Acquisition Act 1984 to allow acquisition of land only for public purposes.

The committee said state procurement of food grains must continue and the MSP be announced as per the recommendation of Dr Swaminathan, chairman, National Farmers Commission.

Farmers leaders from Kerala, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab and West Bengal took part in the meeting.


Prayers mark Id-ul-Zuha
Our Correspondent

Malerkotla, December 21
Muslims today celebrated Id-ul-Zuha with traditional fervour.

Muslims gathered in large numbers for prayers in mosques and specially arranged Id gahs where religious scholars gave the Id message of devotion and sacrifice. At many places, women also turned up for Id prayers.

Former education minister and area in charge of the SAD Chaudhry Abdul Gaffar greeted Muslims on the occasion. He said the festival commemorates the spirit of supreme sacrifice of Prophet Hazrat Ibrahim.

The Senior Citizens Association, led by Prof Hayat Khan, distributed gifts among the poor. Muslims sacrificed goats and distribute meat among friends and the poor. Muslims believe sacrificing goat is a reflection of one’s own spiritual sacrifice and see it as essential for achieving communion with Allah.


Case against cops sought
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 21
Seeking suspension of police officials involved in what it described as brutal lathicharge on students of ITI at Bathinda yesterday, Dr Joginder Dayal, a member of national executive of the CPI and Comrade Jagroop Singh, secretary of the Punjab unit of the party, said here today that a case should be registered against policemen concerned.

Both leaders said the way police had treated students at Bathinda it had shocked every sensitive citizen in the state. And it was not the first time that the police had treated students in such a brutal manner.

Thet said police culture needed to be changed.


5 dolphins in Harike lake
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, December 21
Experts from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) today confirmed the presence of river-water dolphins in the Wildlife Sanctuary at Harike in Ferozepur. The team had reached the sanctuary on Thursday.

Teams of wildlife experts confirmed the presence of five or six dolphins in the Harike lake. Chief conservator of forest and wildlife Jatinder Sharma said the WWF team spotted the dolphins, five in number, in the sanctuary late this evening.


HC questions Punjab’s anxiety in Virk case
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 21
Punjab’s “anxiety” to get modified the court order favouring former DGP S.S. Virk today evoked a sharp response with Justice H.S. Bhalla of the Punjab and Haryana High Court verbally asking the state counsel the reason behind treating the matter as special.

As the matter came up for hearing this afternoon a day after the high court ordered stay on the proceedings in two cases registered against Virk, Justice Bhalla verbally observed similar orders were passed in other cases also. “Why don’t you move applications in all those cases?” Justice Bhalla questioned. “There can’t be any discrimination”.

The plea for modification or recalling the stay orders was moved by the state this morning with a request that the same should be fixed for hearing today itself. The petition was, subsequently, taken up by Justice Bhalla and dismissed as withdrawn with the state counsel “not pressing” it.

Before parting with the case, Justice Bhalla observed the state’s action went a long way to prove the petitioner’s case. He was alleging mala fide, and the state was showing anxiety. It seems that there is no other job with the department except this case, the Judge stated, adding that the court could understand the anxiety if there was some patent illegality. But, here the order granting stay on the proceedings was passed only till January 10.

The state could have waited till then. Or in alternative, the state could have come up with a reply the previous day itself; and the matter could have been disposed of by now. The Judge also observed that state’s deputy advocate-general was present in the courtroom and was even supplied with a copy of the petition.

The Judge further offered to advance the date of hearing to the first working day after the vacation if there was some urgency.

In any case, the courts were opening on January 7 and the case was fixed for January 10, the Judge added.

In response to the state counsel’s submission that SP Surinder Pal Singh was neither the sole investigating officer, nor the complainant in the case, Justice Bhalla asked her to inform the court whether the police officer had disclosed to his superiors about his wife being a member of the cooperative society (for which the land in question was allegedly purchased).

Earlier during the proceedings, the state counsel said the case against Virk was being looked into by a team of nine officers, and Surinder Pal Singh was not the only one.

She added that he was not the complainant in the matter as the case was registered on the basis of a source report, and it was verified by some other officer.

She further added that the investigations in the matter were near completion and they were soon to file a challan in the case. 


Cricket bat exporters allege harassment
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 21
Relief might come in the way of cricket bat exporters of the state soon as Punjab Excise and Taxation Commissioner A. Venu Parsad has assured them that he would look into their complaints regarding alleged harassment of truckers transporting finished bats at the Madhopur-based Information Collection Centre (ICC).

There had been a ban on the export of willow from Jammu and Kashmir since late ’60s. But, neither the arrival of willow in Punjab nor the supply of manufactured willow products like bats has been restricted. There are around 50 cricket bat dealers in Punjab and most of them operate from Jalandhar. They export willow-based bats to foreign countries and also sell these in other parts of the country. They have alleged that the truck drivers, transporting finished cricket bats from Jammu and Kashmir to Punjab, were being harassed by ICC officials on flimsy grounds.

“Though the ICC officials had no authority to stop trucks carrying finished products, there have been incidents when the drivers of the trucks carrying finished products were made to pay bribe. We have been noticing a spurt in such incidents and only yesterday one of our trucks was stopped and taken to Amritsar,” said chief of the Sports Forum, Jalandhar, Ravinder Dhir.



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