P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Babbars behind recent terror strikes: DGP
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Phillaur, December 22
Banned terrorist outfit Babbar Khalsa International has been identified as the main terrorist organisation behind the recent acts of terror and RDX smuggling in the state. This was stated by DGP N.P.S. Aulakh here today.

Talking to The Tribune after the 8th convocation of Punjab Police Academy here, he said a neighbouring country was supplying the explosives and weapons in its bid to revive terrorism in Punjab.

“The neighbouring country and the terrorist organisation is trying its best to regroup and disturb peace but the Punjab Police is alert. The police has made inroads into their activities and movement and the seizure of RDX in Mullanpur today is a proof of it,” he said.

Conclave on pending criminal cases

Chief Justice Vijender Jain said in order to remove huge pendency of criminal cases in Punjab, a special judicial conclave would be held in Chandigarh in January

Earlier, Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court Vijender Jain told reporters that in order to solve huge pendency of criminal cases of Punjab, a special judicial conclave would be held in Chandigarh in January.

“After December 31 next year, there would be no case pending for more than 10 years in a Haryana court,” he claimed.

“Similarly, there were nearly 2.5 lakh criminal cases pending in Punjab. Some of those were even 25 years’ old. The conclave would try to find a way so that by the end of 2008, no more than 10-year-old case is pending in a Punjab court.”

With 249 cops receiving the Masters in Police Administration degree from the Chief Justice, the Punjab Police would now be known for having highly educated officers.

The degree has been introduced by Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar.

Justice Jain delivered the convocation address while the DGP presided over the function. Former DGP Sarabjit Singh and vice-chancellor of the university Jairup Singh were the guests of honour.


Fresh water shark on verge of extinction
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Ropar December 22
The biggest carnivorous fish of the Indus basin is facing extinction. Belonging to the catfish family goonch, it is found in the Sutlej and the Beas rivers of the state. It is grayish in colour and can grow up to 200 kg in weight and 5 feet in length. Due to rings of teeth in its mouth, it is also called the fresh water shark.

It preys on smaller fish, shrimps and other aquatic life such as frogs. It breeds just before the rainy season. During this season it moves upstream to lay eggs that flow downstream in the water before hatching in calm waters.

However, due to indiscriminate fishing even during the breeding season and shrinking water in rivers due to the construction of dams, the population of the fresh water shark has gone down drastically.

The sources in the Department of Fisheries said it was now spotted very rarely in rivers. Its number was also limited in the wetlands of the state. Pollution in the rivers might also be affecting its population.

Generally it stays at the bottom of the river, but while hunting it also comes at the top of the water. At this time its fins can be seen above the level of water.

Migrant fishermen here use strong ropes and hooks to trap the goonch fish. It is also anglers’ delight in the upper areas of the Sutlej and the Beas. It is hunted for the large quantity of meat generated from a single piece. However, its meat decays very fast and has to be consumed quickly.

Conservationists are of the opinion that special efforts should be made to rejuvenate the population of the biggest carnivore fish of fresh waters. It’s hunting should be banned totally and its eggs should be introduced in rivers during the flood season. It is vital for the ecology of the Punjab rivers.

The golden mahaseer is another carnivorous fish found in the waters of the Punjab rivers that has been endangered due to indiscriminate poaching in the breeding season and the construction of dams.

In dams constructed in foreign countries fish ladders are constructed to help fish move upstream during the breeding season. However, in India no such provision is being made in the dams.

Fish like the golden mahasheer breeds in fast-flowing streams and its eggs have to remain floating in the water for quite some time to hatch.

However, since they now cannot move upstreams due to the construction of dams their population is endangered.


Harike Dolphins
Govt busy with protection plans

Harike (Tarn Taran), December 22
With the Harike wetland suddenly emerging on the international wildlife map, after recent reports on the presence of dolphins, various departments concerned have come into action to plan on how to ensure protection of the endangered species and take steps for developing the area.

Deputy commissioner Ajoy Sharma said contaminated water of Satluj , which mingles with cleaner Beas, needed to be treated and sewerage treatment plants were on the cards.

He said the Science and Technology Department was also working on a project for developing the 84-acre wetland. This will include de-silting and soil conservation of the area.

Most of the encroachments on the banks on the wetland have been removed The wetland is spread over three districts-Tarn Taran, Kapurthala and Ferozpur and the sighting of dolphins is being considered rare.

The Indus river dolphin, platanista minor, has been sighted by teams of the Punjab Wildlife and the Forest Department. Once the project for development of the wetland was ready, it would be sent to the Punjab government for making budgetary provision, said Sharma.

Dr Anish Dua, aquatic biologist with Guru Nanak University’s Department of zoology, said there was need for detailed survey to get details about the total population and preferred habitat of the dolphins. A research group from Guru Nanak Dev University, including Dr Dua and Chander Parkash, a Ph.D student, had been trying to explore the ecosystem of the Harike Wetland for 10 years.


Prominent NRIs to attend sammelan in UT, Jalandhar
Tribune News Service

Mohali, December 22
The who’s who of Punjabi non-resident Indians (NRIs) will be attending the Punjabi NRI sammelan to be held in Chandigarh and Jalandhar in the first week of the New Year.

Among those who have confirmed their participation in the two-day proceedings of the sammelan include US-based Sant Singh Chattwal, the Indian closest to the Clinton family, Lord Daljit Singh Rana from the UK, Belgium-based Neena Gill, who is a member of the European Union parliament, and a galaxy of members of Parliament from Canada.

Former premier of British Columbia and MP Ujjal Dosanjh, four-time MP Gurbax Singh Malhi and Punjabi couple Gurmant Grewal and Narinder Kaur Grewal, a former MP and a sitting MP in Canada, respectively, will be here.

The other sons of the soil settled in Canada namely Dr Harinder Ahluwalia, Meena Sanghera, Santokh Singh Mander, Satpal Singh Johal, Dr Ruby Dhalla and Ranbir Chauhan are coming.

Jasjit Singh Jaaj and Harjeet Singh Sachar from Dubai, Barjinder Singh Sodhi from Berlin, Surinder Singh Rana from Holland, Jiwan Singh Dhaliwal and Manpreet Singh and Daljit Singh from New Zealand will be here.

While Darshan Singh Grewal, Zorawar Singh Gakhal, Jaspal Singh Bhogal and Dr Jagjit Singh Tonque are some of those coming from the UK, Mickey Kalra, ambassador Harcharan Dhody, Kamaljit Bawa and Inderpal Singh Mumick will be here from the USA.

And these names are just among the first 50 of have confirmed their participation in the sammelan. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has extended invitation to 250 prominent Punjabi NRIs for the conference.

“We are expecting most of these NRIs to be here for the conference. Going by the response till date, the conference is slated to be a success,” said A.S. Chattwal, commissioner, NRI Affairs, Punjab.

Other than the 250 delegates invited for the conference in Chandigarh on January 5, more than 1,500 Punjabi NRIs are expected to attend the conference in Jalandhar on January 6.

Punjab ministers, bureaucrats and legal luminaries will be holding interactive sessions with the delegates on January 5.


Mann seeks explanation over Art 25
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 22
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), Amritsar, president Simranjit Singh Mann today asked Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) chief Avtar Singh Makkar to explain to the Khalsa panth “their betrayal” and action of selling the “interests of the Sikhs to the BJP and the RSS”.

Addressing a press conference at the Sector 10 residence of his counsel Ranjan Lakhanpal, Mann asked them to explain why they had not succeeded in getting Article 25 of the Constitution amended. He said the article stated Sikhs were Hindus and would continue to be governed by the Hindu Code Bill and the Hindu Marriage Act.

Expressing his views on the Punjab and Haryana High Court verdict on “minority institutions” in Punjab, he claimed the Sikhs were in minority as they constituted just 2 per cent of the country’s 100 crore population.

Even in Punjab, they were in minority in the urban areas where all the educational institutes were located. He added that the judgement would make it a legal necessity for the Sikhs to be deleted as a minority from the National Minority Commission.


Prof Gill against subsidies to the rich
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 22
Eminent economist Sucha Singh Gill has opposed the government subsidies to well-off people. Speaking here today, Professor Gill said there was no justification in giving subsidies to a class or a section of society across the board. The subsidy should be given to needy and deserving, irrespective of their class and section, on the basis of some criteria.

In the name of subsidy, the state government(s) should not extend monetary benefit to rich people as was being done in Punjab. He said small and marginal farmers should be given subsidy on power and not those having huge farms and engaged in commercial farming.

Though owners of certain owners of orchards of citrus fruit earn more than Rs 50,000 per acre, they get subsidy on power. Gill was here to give a talk on the issue of subsidies organised by “Kadam”, a non-governmental forum.

“The test of rationality does not justify the subsidy on several activities and to certain sectors”, said Professor Gill. The Punjab government has granted considerable sum of subsidy to various sections of population. These subsidies account for 33 per cent of the total tax collection. Another 33 per cent from tax collection is spent to pay interest on loans taken by the government. The remaining revenue is not enough to meet even salary and pension liabilities of government employees, what to talk of the development, he said.

In such a precarious fiscal situation, the part of general expenditure of the government and almost entire of the Plan expenditure is met through public borrowings. This results into a further debt burden on the state government and can lead to a severe financial crisis.

Professor Gill said there were two important sectors, health and education. The government should pay more attention to these sectors.


Cong seeks completion of park
Tribune News Service

Chamkaur Sahib (Ropar), December 22
Congress workers, led by former minister Jagmohan Singh Kang and district president of the party Ramesh Dutt Sharma, today staged a dharna in front of an incomplete theme park here today. They raised slogans against the state government for ignoring the development of this historic town.

Kang alleged that the theme park was conceived by the previous Congress government with the aim of promoting tourism in the town and educating people on the martyrdom of Sahibzadas Ajit Singh and Jhujhar Singh.

The previous regime, with the help of union government, had spent Rs 6 crore on the development of the first phase of the park. The work on the first phase was inaugurated by union minister for tourism Ambika Soni and former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.

However, the work on the project has come to a standstill since the present regime came into power, he alleged.

Sharma alleged that by ignoring the historically significant places as Chamkaur Sahib it had become clear that the SAD just used religion to get votes.

The park was conceived by previous regime on the eve of tercentenary of martyrdom of the Sahibzadas. The project besides parks was to have a museum depicting history of Chamkaur Sahib and a library. It was to come up on 10 acres acquired for the purpose in four phases.


Kiosks appear despite MC demolition drive
Sanjay Bumbroo

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 22
Though the Municipal Corporation here has launched an anti-encroachment drive to decongest city roads, yet some persons taking advantage of the holidays have set up khokhas (small shops) on the Amritsar international airport road here today.

Five to six khokhas were being set up outside the office of the Amritsar Bar Association and a few hundred metres from the office of the deputy commissioner. Corporation officials had demolished some khokas in the area a few months ago, but taking advantage of three holidays - December 21 being declared by the state government as holiday in view of Id , December 22 and 23 being closed on account of weekly offs - one could see khokhas coming up in the area.

Earlier too, residents of the city had opposed constructions in the green belt of the Ranjit Avenue area of the city which had become an eyesore and affected the natural surroundings. The road remains busy during the day as people use the road for taking flights for various destinations from the Rajasansi airport.

Commissioner, MC, Amritsar, D.P.S. Kharbanda said he recently ordered the removal of the khokhas near the entrance gate of the Amritsar Bar Association on the complaint of the District Sessions Judge and members of the Bar Association. He said he would depute officers to stop encroachments in the area.

Residents alleged that these khokhas would pose danger to scooterists and motorists on the busy road as these had been set up just near the gate of the Bar Association and the office of the district police chief which were had activity in the day.

They demanded that the corporation officials should demolish such shops.


Atta-dal scheme a failure: Bhattal
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, December 22
“We will not allow the government to victimise Congress workers and I will make any sacrifice to protect the party workers” said Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, president, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee while addressing a district- level political conference here today.

She said workers were the backbone of any political party and she would not tolerate atrocities against Congress workers by the SAD-BJP government. She criticised the state government for anti-people policies. She said although Parkash Singh Badal was the Chief Minister of the state, but it was being run by his son Sukhbir Badal which was against democratic norms.

The leader of the Opposition said the Badal government had only one agenda and the target was to victimise Congress workers.

Bhattal said the SAD-BJP government had backtracked on its promises made in its election manifesto and even withdrawn the facilities given by Congress government to the people. She pointed out much- hyped atta-dal scheme had been a failure and had not benefited genuine people while old persons, handicapped and widows were not getting any pensions.

She said the government did not have funds for paying salary. She appealed people to vote for the Congress in coming Lok Sabha elections.


Sawmills to get licences
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 22
Forest minister Tikshan Sud said here today that the government had decided to issue licences to sawmills and other wood-based industrial units. The government has approved the rates for licence fee and the process of issuing licences would begin immediately.

The minister said all non-licensed saw mills and other wood-based industrial units set up after October 30, 2002, had been closed in compliance with the orders of the apex court.

The minister said on public demand, the government had extended the last date for deposit of one-time payment by such units up to December 31, 2007. Those units could restart their work after getting licence from the Forest Department. There were more than 6,000 sawmills in the state, the minister said.

Meanwhile, the scheme for development of a tiger safari at Ludhiana had been granted approval. For this purpose Rs 15 lakh had been sanctioned.


BJP flays Centre for no holiday on Janmashtami
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, December 22
The district unit of the BJP has criticised the Central government for not declaring a gazetted holiday on the occasion of Janmashtami in 2008. In 2007 the Central government had declared holiday on Janam Ashtami.

District president of the BJP Jatinder Kalra said here today that the UPA government, led by Dr Manmohan Singh, was nowadays busy in pleasing the Communist parties and the cancellation of the holiday on Janam Ashtami in 2008 was a part of it. He has threatened an agitation against the decision.


Former Cong minister Puri dead
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, December 22
After dedicating almost 45 years of his life to the Punjab politics, an icon of the state Congress, Raghunath Sahai Puri, passed away after a prolonged illness at the PGI, Chandigarh, this morning.

The 69-year-old leader is survived by wife Kamini Puri, son Naresh Puri and three daughters. His cremation will take place at his native village Sujanpur at 11 am tomorrow.

The body reached at his residence in Mohalla
Purian, Sujanpur, late in the evening.

Members of his family said Puri had developed renal infection months after the Assembly elections and had since been undergoing treatment at the PGI. He had undergone kidney transplant about 10 years ago.

Puri joined the Indian National Congress in 1964. Besides handling major portfolios in the Congress governments, he headed key posts of vice-president and general secretary in the Punjab Congress Committee. After being a minister for local government, Punjab, in 1994-95, Puri had portfolios like minister for tourism and cultural affair (independent charge) and labour and employment minister in 1997. He was housing and urban development minister in the Capt Amarinder Singh government.

CHANDIGARH: Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, former minister Jagmohan Singh Kang, PPCC general Secretary Tarlochan Singh and Raj Pal Singh have expressed grief over the demise of Puri.

Public relations minister Bikram Singh Majithia and Chief Minister’s media adviser Harcharan Bains have mourned Puri’s death.

Leader of masses: Badal described Puri as a leader of the masses who tirelessly worked hard for the uplift of the poor in the border areas of Gurdaspur


High Court
Notice to Punjab on water quality
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 22
Taking suo motu cognizance of a news report carried in a newspaper on deteriorating quality of drinking water in Punjab, a Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court yesterday issued a notice of motion to Punjab for January 22.

The Bench, comprising Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Mahesh Grover, took note of the news report on findings of the PGIMER regarding deteriorating drinking water in the state.

The study said drinking water in these villages had become toxic due to high concentration of heavy metals such as mercury, copper, chromium and lead.

Meanwhile, issuing notice of motion for January 10, a Division Bench of the HC, comprising Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice Kanwaljit Singh Ahluwalia, yesterday directed the director-principal of the Amritsar-based Sri Guru Ram Dass Institute of Medical Education and Sciences, Amritsar, to suspend immediately the admission to MD (Medicine) of Dr Charan Preet Singh.

The Bench also gave liberty to provisionally, and subject to the outcome of the petition, fill up the seat falling vacant in accordance with rules, if permissible.

The Bench also referred to the High Court verdict in Sahil Mittal versus state of Punjab case pronounced on December 17 to say that Sikh minority quota was not available in Punjab.

Appointment of ex-MLA stayed

Issuing notice for April 25, a Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court yesterday stayed till the next date of hearing the Punjab government’s order appointing ex-MLA Harbeant Singh as correspondent for Khalsa Higher Secondary School, Mansa.

In the petition, taken up by the Bench, comprising Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice Kanwaljit Singh Ahluwalia, it was alleged by school managing committee that such political interference amounted to violation of fundamental rights.

The management claimed that the same was done with an ulterior motive to favour ruling party’s ex-MLA. The Bench observed in its order: “We find prima facie merit in the contention” and stayed the operation of impugned order.


Torture Case
GMCH record summoned
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 22
Taking up a petition against local officers of the Narcotic Control Bureau (NCB) alleging third degree torture of a man and his son, the Punjab and Haryana High Court yesterday summoned their medical record from the Government Medical College and Hospital, Sector 32, Chandigarh.

A Division Bench of the court, comprising Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Mahesh Grover, also issued notice of motion for January 18 to the respondents, including the NCB director and three officers posted here. The three officers are Hardesh Kumar, Balwinder Kumar and Saji Mohan.

In the petition, Amarjit Kaur of Samrala had earlier asked for directions to produce the medical record of her husband Baljinder Singh and son Sukhjiner Singh, admitted to the GMCH allegedly due to third degree torture at the hands of NCB officers.

She alleged that her husband and son had been implicated in a case registered under the NDPS Act.

She annexed pictures showing injuries allegedly received due to torture at the hands of th NCB officers.

Directions to the UT SSP for registering an FIR against the NCB officers were also sought.

She also submitted a CD showing torture marks on their bodies taken with the help of a cell phone of the counsel during a visit to jail.


Chuhar Chak
Court remand for gateman
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, December 22
Chief judicial magistrate B.R. Garg today sent Kulwinder Singh, the railway gateman who has been accused of negligence in duty leading to the accident at the Chuhar Chak level crossing, on judicial remand till January 1.

Escorted by personnel of Government Railway Police (GRP), Kulwinder was presented before the court in the noon. He told mediapersons that he was not present at the crossing at the time of the accident. He had gone to market to fetch medicines. He claimed that certain person opened the gate.

According to eyewitnesses, he was manning the crossing when the Satluj Express rammed into a mini-bus, on the foggy morning of December 14. Seventeen persons were killed in the accident.


Randhawa acquitted in rape case
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 22
The court of District and Sessions judge Inderjit Singh here today acquitted Kirpal Singh Randhawa in a rape case registered against him on July, 2003.

Randhawa, a known human rights activist, was named in the rape case just to divert attention of people from the Khalra case, his counsel Barjinder Singh Sodhi said.

A total of seven witnesses were examined by the court in the case.


Education system in villages has failed, says Atwal
Rajay Deep
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 22
Lok Sabha deputy speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal today said the Sikhs were a minority in the country. So, it would not be improper to say the decision by the high court on the minority status of the Sikhs lacked in facts and figures. “With the implementation of the order, Sikhs will lose all privileges available to a minority,” he added.

Atwal who was here today to attend function of a school, expressed concern over the state of education. He said education in rural Punjab had collapsed. It can be uplifted only with the co-operation of the other states and asked the union government to pay attention to improve the system. He blamed the previous government in Punjab for not paying attention in this regard.

On the education scenario in Punjab, he said, “Nowadays, the commercialisation of education is on. We are getting results below expectation.” When told the Sarv Sikhya Abhiyan has not been providing the expected results, he termed it a matter of shame and assured to discuss it with the Centre.

“The union government must bear expenses on education as the state government faces funds shortage. If the burden is to be shared by the state only, then the expectations will always be difficult to realise,” he added.

Atwal also regretted hooliganism in the Assembly or Parliament. “But people, political parties and the media also are responsible for it,” he added.

To a query, he said, “The media is responsible because MPs and MLAs who respect decorum do not get proper attention but those who create nuisance get too much coverage.”

Atwal also blamed criminalisation of politics for the weakening of institutions. 


Inside Babudom
Top cops want parity with babus
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 22
In what seems to be a fight for “prestige”, Indian Police Service officers of the Punjab cadre have asked the Punjab Chief Secretary, Ramesh Inder Singh, to permit senior IPS officials to use the “better quality” block A rooms for overnight stay at the Punjab Bhawan in New Delhi.

With the booking of rooms in the Punjab Bhawan being controlled by their brethren in the IAS, the IPS officers are crying foul and want a parity with the IAS officers, who are permitted to use the block “A” rooms.

The Punjab Bhawan is located in the heart of New Delhi on the Copernicus Marg near the India Gate and is a preferred place for overnight stay by officers attending meetings in the National Capital or in transit to other places across the country.

So far the block “A” rooms can be used by three officers in the IPS that too on the basis of the office they hold at present and not by their status in the hierarchy in the IPS.

The three are the DGP, the ADGP, Intelligence, and the Chief Director of Vigilance Bureau. That means all other officers, who are in the rank of ADGP or IG, have to use the block “B” of the Punjab Bhawan that is normally booked for junior-level IAS officers, PCS officers and other persons like accredited journalists, who are eligible for a room booked for overnight stay at the Punjab Bhawan.

Both blocks are located within the same complex. However, the difference is in the facilities in the rooms like furnishings, size of the room, promptness of room service, better air conditioning and heating, say IPS officers who are peeved at being “left out”.

There are small little things like the block “A” has a proper lobby in the reception with plush sofas are missing in the other block.

The IPS officers say among the IAS all financial commissioners, principal secretaries and administrative secretaries are allowed to stay in the Block “A’. There is no distinction on the basis of office one is holding.

For example a principal secretary of any department is allowed a room in the block “A”. In case of an IPS officer the same is allowed to all officers in the rank of IG and above. It is in this block that the chief secretary and the principal secretary to the Chief Minister have their designated rooms to stay in Delhi.

Sources said the matter had been brought to the notice of the IPS Officers Association. This is in fact a long-pending demand of the IPS officers that had led to heart burning.


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