P U N J A B    S T O R I E S

Govt owes PSEB Rs 462. 82 cr 
People want board to recover arrears
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Mohali, December 23
The Punjab government is the biggest single defaulter of the Punjab State Electricity Board. The various departments of the government, boards and public sector undertakings and courts owe whopping Rs 462.82 crore to the board.

Among these, the highest defaulters, included the courts across the state which owe Rs 116.79 crore to the board. In fact in two of the five zones of the board, the courts owe larger amounts to the board than government departments.

Members of the People's Welfare Association, Mohali who gathered details of top defaulters of the board using the Right to Information Act pointed out this amount included the bills pending in the Dispute Settlement Committees and the Permanent Disconnection Cases government departments and courts in the border areas were the most sluggish in paying electricity bills. The total amount of bills pending in the border areas was as high as Rs 157.80 crore. Out of this, the government departments owe Rs 16.64 crore and the courts owe Rs 12.54 crore.

The west zone defaulters were next on the list. Out of the Rs 109 crore worth of pending bills here, Rs 30.43 crore worth of permanent disconnection cases where chances of recovery of this amount was almost nil.

Pending government bills worth Rs 95 crore were detected in the central zone where the courts alone have to pay Rs 62 crore. Interestingly here the government departments owe only Rs 1.61 crore to the PSEB.

Another Rs 60.75 crore worth of dues were found in the south zone. Here the government departments owe about Rs 12 crore and the courts owe about Rs 22 crore.

The most active recovery system seemed to be in place in north zone where the pending bills were only worth Rs 39.72 crore. Here the amounts pending among the permanent disconnection cases were the lowest in the state at Rs 3.47 crore.

"We applied under the RTI to the board for this information in August this year. But there was no reply for a month. We had to appeal to the State

Information Commission for this information," said S.S. Jaspal general secretary of the Association.

When the information arrived less than a week ago, members of the association were shocked. "The board's financial condition is very poor. Till the government and the PSEB make bold changes in policies there should not be any free electricity for any section of the consumer. If subsidies have to be given these should be reimbursed to the board by the government," said J.S. Gujral president of the association.

Jaspal added the board should focus on reducing transmission losses and recovery of arrears rather than increasing tariff.

"Supplying electricity is a profit-making venture. The solution does not lie in power cuts. That causes losses to the board. The solution lies in making sure that everyone pays electricity bills," said Jaspal. 


Assembly Session
Last day likely to be stormy
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
The last day of the winter session of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha will witness the passing of five important Bills pertaining to fiscal health of the state, infrastructure development, motor vehicle taxation, education and the Punjab Police on Monday before it is adjourned sine die till the Budget session sometime in March next year.

 The Bill on fiscal health is likely to generate heat in the House with the Congress preparing to corner the ruling SAD-BJP alliance.

All young MLAs of the Congress have been given the responsibility of preparing themselves on information pertaining to the five Bills and enliven the debate making it uncomfortable for the ruling alliance. While the Congress camp is learnt to be preparing to debate these Bills, young SAD legislators have narrowed focus on the recommendation of the Privileges Committee on allegations of tampering with of official documents of the Assembly by two officials at the behest of former local bodies minister Chaudhary Jagjit Singh.

The Akalis are also likely to raise the issue of Aroosa Alam, a Pakistani journalist, asking the Congress to explain what relationship she had with former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. Aroosa is in India.

The Punjab Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (Amendment) Bill, 2007, will amend Section 4 of the Punjab Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, 2003, by the clause “reduce the fiscal deficit for the finical year 2005-06 so as to bring down 3 per cent of the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) by 2008-09.

The Bill will be introduced to comply with the recommendation of the 12th Finance recommendation to reduce the state’s fiscal deficit to 3 per cent of GSDP by the year 2008-09. The Bill aims at providing equity in fiscal management and long-term fiscal stability of the state by controlling fiscal deficit by enforcing fiscal discipline. The Congress has been demanding a debate on the fiscal health of Punjab and will not let the Bill be passed without debate on it.

The Punjab Police Bill, 2007, aims at implementing the directions of the Supreme Court in the writ petition Parkash Singh versus Union of India to enact a new state police law for governing the police in the state and to define the role, duties and responsibilities of the police to make it efficient, professional, effective, responsive, accountable and people-friendly to meet the emerging challenges of policing, good governance and human rights.

The Punjab Education Development (Amendment) Bill, 2007, aims at providing quality education in rural areas and to make the adarsh school, proposed by the Chief Minister a reality. Similarly, the Punjab Infrastructure (Development and Regulation) Act, 2002 Amendment Bill, 2007, will bring the provisions of this Act in harmony with the Punjab Value Added Tax Act, 2005, to ensure revenue committed for infrastructure Development flowed to the Punjab Infrastructure Development Board. The amendment Bill on Motor Vehicle Taxation aims at ensuring efficient and affordable public transport to reduce road congestion, air pollution and road accidents.  


Amarinder drives in with good friend Aroosa Raza
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 23
Putting all speculations to rest, former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh finally drove his Pakistani journalist friend Aroosa Raza to his Moti Bagh palace in his Ford Endeavour at around 8.30 pm. 

Former Chief Minister’s media adviser Major Amardeep Singh was also accompanying them.

In an apparent bid to avoid mediapersons, Amarinder drove the vehicle at high speed and zoomed passed the journalists. Two Ambassador cars and two Gypsies carrying security personnel followed their SUV.

She had landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi yesterday at about 4.45 pm.

Aroosa’s arrival in Punjab in 2006 and her subsequent reported tour of Rajasthan, along with Amarinder, had created ripples in the political waters of Punjab.

Earlier, her baggage had descended at the Moti Bagh Palace in the evening..Journalists had started swarming the palace and kept waiting for a glance of the royal guest till late in the evening. But what greeted them were her two bags brought into the palace in an imported black car (HR-16-E 5788) at 4.45 pm. The huge bags had stickers bearing her name and phone number. The vehicle, according to its reluctant driver, belonged to Barnala MLA Kewal Singh Dhillon.

The photo journalists had to satisfy themselves by clicking photographs of her baggage. Interestingly, the security personnel and palace staff did not prevent them from entering the palace or from clicking the photographs.

Amarinder, Aroosa and others, sources said, had changed their route and entered Chandigarh at around 4.45 pm where Aroosa reportedly called on the ailing mother of Amarinder.

While talking to news channels she reportedly said the purpose of her visit was to see the ailing mother of Amarinder and reaffirmed that she and Amarinder were good friends. Highly placed sources 
said MP Preneet Kaur had also arranged for a dinner for the Pakistani guest.


Aroosa denies charge on visiting defence installations
Tribune News Service

 Chandigarh, December 23
Aroosa Alam, a senior journalist from Pakistan, who is said to be Defence analyst, here today said all allegations that she visited defence installations in India with some “ other purpose” during the last visit, were baseless and false.

There was no need of spying by any individual in this electronic and satellite era. All is available on various sites ,including google earth. There is nothing secret from anyone in today’s world’s, she added. “ I believe Pakistan knows all about Indian nuclear installations and India knows about Pakistan’s”, she said. All was available on certain websites, she added. Where was the question of my visiting secret places, she said. Certain vested interests just resorted to propaganda in this regard against me, she added.


Cases against Badals
Influence used to turn witnesses hostile: Amarinder
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
Former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who has been charge sheeted in Ludhiana City Centre case, today said he had not received a copy of the charge sheet yet. 

He said it was a matter of concern though he had not got the copy of the charge sheet but its contents reported in the media.

“Clearly, it is contempt of court”, he asserted. “ We would raise the issue before the court”, he emphasised.

He said a few days ago, Sukhbir Singh Badal had also spoken about the contents of the charge sheet. How it reached to him ? Amarinder Singh asked. “ It appears the charge sheet was prepared by Sukhbir Singh Badal and not by the Vigilance Bureau”, said Amarinder Singh.

He said the charges against him were all concocted and there was no substance. “ I am told they have based the charge sheet on the pen-drive, which is an electronic instrument and could be fudged in any manner”.

“ I have also seen certain statements said to be recorded by certain officers with regard to the city Centre”, he said. Whether the officers volunteered to record their statements or they were asked to sign on the documents prepared by Vigilance Bureau? That was the main point. “ I am fully prepared to fight this at all levels,” he said.

He said his legal advisers had prepared to file a case in the appropriate court to get the case against Badal and his other family members to some other states. He said influence was being used by the authorities concerned to get the witnesses turn hostile in the case against Badals.

He said he was a fighter and would not run away neither from political arena nor from the legal arena in a fight against Badals. “ I am here to stay in politics”, he said.  


State leaders congratulate Modi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today described the results of the Gujarat Assembly elections as a rejection of the Congress brand of politics, which sought to divide people along communal lines.

Badal congratulated senior BJP leaders, including Rajnath Singh, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani. He has also congratulated Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for successfully thwarting the Congress propaganda aimed at dividing society by calling the ruling party as merchants of murder.

Sukhbir Badal, working president of the SAD, has also felicitated the BJP leadership. He said the top leadership of the Congress, including its president Sonia Gandhi could not match the charisma of Modi, who 
went to the people on the agenda of good governance and development.

Manoranjan Kalia, local government and industries minister, has also hailed the landslide victory of the BJP in Gujarat.

Member of Parliament Avinash Rai Khanna has termed the party's victory in Gujarat as yet another step forward ahead of the parliamentary poll due next year.

Referring to the majority achieved by the BJP, Khanna asserted that BJP’s started its march with a thumping victory in Punjab in February. It's just a matter of time before the BJP wins the Himachal Pradesh poll and gears up for the bigger contest at the Centre, he added. 


Fund Distribution
Congress alleges discrimination 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
The Congress has accused the SAD-BJP alliance of being partisan in the disbursement of development grants in the state by by-passing elected representatives. 

In a letter written to the Prime Minister, Congress MLA from Bholath Sukhpal Singh Khaira has demanded that all development grants be distributed through the MLAs. The letter has also been sent to Dr Raghuvansh Prasad, union minister for rural development.

In his letter Khaira has written: “I wish to apprise you that presently all development related grants doled out in the state of Punjab are being distributed in a partisan manner. Elected representatives of the principal Opposition Congress party are being by-passed. By doing so the Akali Dal-BJP government in Punjab is not only dishonouring the MLAs of the Congress party, but also showing complete disregard to the sentiments of the electors ”.

The letter further reads: “One of the reasons for this unhealthy democratic tradition is to teach a lesson to the people of Punjab for electing Opposition MLAs. I also wish to admit that this has been going on in our state since 1992 when late Beant Singh was elected Chief Minister of Punjab. Every government thereon adopted this unconstitutional system of by-passing elected representatives”.

Citing examples of this the letter reads: “For example, the Congress was defeated in 1997, Badal carried on with this partisan policy; he was defeated in 2002, Capt Amarinder Singh pursued the same system; and the Congress suffered defeat in the recently concluded elections of 2007, the present government seems to have learnt no lesson from these drubbings”.


Construction of kiosks on despite MC claims
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 23
The construction of about half a dozen kiosks continued on a war-footing despite the tall claims of Amritsar Municipal Corporation officials that no illegal construction or encroachment would be allowed in the city.

Though the matter was brought to the notice of the commissioner, Municipal Corporation, who had assured that he would soon send a team to inspect the site, no action had been taken against the encroachers till this evening. The encroachers had erected wooden poles yesterday and today they had constructed the kiosk using bricks and cement.

Mayor of the corporation Shwet Malik said the area was under the jurisdiction of the deputy commissioner and they were helpless on this issue. When contacted DC Kahan Singh Pannu said the area was under the jurisdiction of the corporation if the kiosks were coming up outside the District Court complex.

He added that action would be taken against the encroachers by demolishing the kiosks. He said earlier too, they had demolished illegal kiosks inside the court complex resisting strong protests by encroachers supported by some of the advocates.

It is pertinent to mention here that these kiosks were being set up about 100 meters from the offices of the deputy commissioner and the district police chief. The corporation officials had demolished some of the kiosks in the area a few months back after they had received a complaint in this regard from the District Sessions Judge and members of the Amritsar Bar Association. Earlier too, some persons had encroached upon one of the green belts in the posh Ranjit Avenue area of the city affecting the natural surrounding.

Some of the bar members on condition of anonymity said the district administration should not allow such kiosks in the area as it could cause security threat to VVIPs like the Chief Justice of India who visits the complex. They said moreover the road was being used by foreign tourists coming from across the globe through the Rajasansi International Airport and the small kiosks gave a shabby look to the city. 


With no checks, it’s cakewalk for travel agents 
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Ropar, December 23
Despite cases regarding frauds committed by travel agents being published, unauthorised sub-agents are still trying to lure people looking for greener pastures abroad and making a quick buck at the cost of ignorant unemployed youth.

Pamphlets have been released in this regard 
by sub-agents in newspapers in Anandpur Sahib area today. In these it has been stated that Hamad Bin Khalid Contracting Company needs building electricians, fabricators, pipe fitters, welders, shuttering carpenters, masons, steel fixer, painter, electricians, heavy duty driver, light duty driver, JCB operator and excavator operator for Doha, Qatar.

It has also been stated that the company, besides providing medical and lodging facilities, would also provide return ticket. Those 
interested have been asked to meet a Nangal-based travel agent along with their passport, 10 coloured photographs and experience certificates.

Sources here said only the companies authorised by the Union Ministry of Overseas can recruit persons from the country. These also have been bound by the ministry to just charge Rs 3,000 as consultation fee by interested candidates. Before sending a person to a foreign company they should provide the selected candidate with an appointment letter stating the terms and conditions. However, the unauthorised sub-agents operating in the area are charging hefty amounts from people who approach them. Their consultation fee ranges from Rs 20,000 to Rs 60,000. The amount is charged without issuing any receipt.

On contacting the phone number given in the advertisement, the agent said people interested for jobs would have to pay Rs 55,000 for jobs in Doha. When asked if they had been authorised by the Ministry of Overseas, he said how could they work without that. He, however, disconnected the phone and told The Tribune to contact at their office.

SP(D) Ashish Chaudhary, who is investigating the Chamkaur Sahib and Morinda cheating cases, said presently they did not have any authorisation to stop such agents till they received complaints in this connection. 


A mouthpiece for Kaurs

Amritsar, December 23
Concerned with the problems often faced by women around the world, particularly Sikh women, Roma Kaur, has chosen to become their voice through her literary works. 

A graduate from Punjab University and a postgraduate in French from Rajasthan University, Roma has taught French and English. She started writing poetry during her childhood.

After settling in Canada, she has worked with a mainstream multicultural TV station and produced regular TV shows. She worked very closely with the Punjabi community in different countries to understand their feelings and problems.

Roma feels women around the globe need a mouthpiece to express themselves and in this regard she started a magazine, Kaurs, in November 2004. This magazine was first of its kind with regard to the Punjabi diaspora and has provided to be quite beneficial.

“Since I have been working with the media, I was quite convinced that women around the world, especially Punjabi women, needed a platform to strengthen themselves and solve their day-to-day problems,” she said.

Kaurs’ aim is to acquaint its readers, especially the young generation, with role models of the community.

“Through our publication we encourage women to rediscover themselves,” Roma said.

After getting overwhelming response in Canada and USA, she is planning to publish it in Punjab. The magazine has already been published in English and Punjabi.

Expressing concern over the Punjabis’ craze of settling abroad, she said: “I will like to tell the young generation that they shouldn’t presume that the other side is greener. They must realise that opportunities are everywhere. The economic boom in India is convincing many to return. Hard works always pays, either here or anywhere. Then why not work in our own country,” she added.

Roma has also been actively involved with the Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle since 1994. — ANI 


Akal Purkh ki Fauj to float ‘SAHEB Security’
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 23
After organising “Mr Singh International Show” and opening of turban clinics in the city, the Akal Purkh ki Fauj (APKF), headed by SGPC member Jaswinder Singh Advocate, is set to float the “SAHEB Security” of unshorn Sikhs to provide security to the business establishments in various parts of the country.

This will be on the pattern of the Akal Security, established by late Harbhajan Singh Yogi in America. The Akal Security provides security for government and businesses all over the USA . The SAHEB is an abbreviation of (Sikh Activist for Humanitarian and Environmental Benevolence”.

The APKF chief will hold a meeting with Satnam Singh, owner of the Oriental Security and Detective Agency in Kolkata in the first week of January, who had already enrolled more than 4,000 persons as security personnel. The APKF will tie up for technical knowhow with the Oriental Security of Kolkata . “The Sikhs have been accepted as best securitymen all over the world and the APKF will sell this idea in the country,” said Jaswinder Singh.

The APKF chief said he would launch the “Sahib Security” with 101 Sikh youths on an experimental basis next year and their number would be in thousands in a year. He said apart from physical training, including hand-to-hand combat, the APKF would uplift them spiritually. The top religious personalities of the country would be engaged to inculcate the message of universal brotherhood and communal harmony as preached in Guru Granth Sahib.

Earlier, the APKF had set up computers at its “Turban Clinics” in the city to help Sikh youths in turban-tying. The computer-savvy APKF has developed software to facilitate the youth to select “stylish turbans” which suit their faces.

The Turban Tutor on computer screen reads, “Select a model of turban you like. You can also select suitable colours.”

Equipped with computer sets, the proposed “Turban Clinic” offers the young generation over a 100 different styles and models, free of cost. The picture of the Sikh boy asking for style guidance is superimposed on the computerised turbans. In case a Sikh boy selects a particular style of turban, the person to whom the turban belongs is called to help him in tie the turban.

Usually children follow elders in tying turban. But the “Turban Clinics” offers many choices to select a particular style of turban and the celebrity Sikh personalities with distinct turban styles are invited to motivate the younger generation. 


Firing over kite flying as groups clash
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 23
Two groups clashed over flying of kites.One group allegedly opened fire at other group. However, district police chief, Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh denied firing. One person was allegedly injured in the quarrel.

According to information, Hari Singh, a resident of Kot Baba Deep Singh had heated exchanges during kite flying. In a complaint to the police he alleged Aman along with his armed accomplices entered and ransacked his house.

Hari claimed his driver Kuldip Singh was injured in the dispute.However, Aman also levelled similar charges against Hari Singh.  


Physically challenged college ex-principal’s plea for pension
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
Bhim Sain taught in Nehru Memorial College, Mansa, for 33 years and retired as principal of the college. He is a disappointed man today as the authorities concerned have not granted him pension.

Bhim Sain is a physically challenged man. He has 60 per cent permanent disability. For walking even a short distance, he has to use surgical callipers weighing 4 kg. Because of the disability, he is unable to do other work to support himself.

“I had requested the state government to make provision of pension for me. The government is competent to relax rules in case of physically handicapped persons,” he said.

Nehru Memorial College earlier was a government-aided private institution. It was given 95 per cent grant by the government. However, it was taken over by the Punjab government on March 18, 1994. Bhim Sain, who had joined the college in 1965 as a lecturer in biology, served for four years in the same college as a government employee. He has urged the government to consider his previous service in the college to grant him pension.

Bhim Sain said in many states even lecturers and other employees, who had served in aided colleges,were being given pension. However, in Punjab, lecturers had not been given benefit of pension yet. “As a special case, I should be given special permission to live with dignity and honour ,” he said.

He has also urged the union government to make provision of pension in the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act passed in 1995.  


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