P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Pak cancels train after ‘arms seizure’
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Attari, December 25
Pakistan today cancelled its 68DN Goods Train at an eleventh hour following breaking of the news about seizure of sophisticated foreign-made weapons and ammunition and Pakistani mobile SIM cards by the Patti police yesterday. 

These weapons were allegedly smuggled through Samjhauta Express by international smugglers having links with Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence.

The inter-change of two goods trains, 68 DN from Wagah (Pakistan) to Attari (India) and 68-UP from Attari to Wagah, could not take place when stationmaster, Attari Railway Station, S.K. Madan suddenly received a call on the magnetic hotline phone from his Wagah (Pakistan) counterpart Chaudhry Asmat Ula Khan at 3 pm regarding the cancellation of the train.

However, when contacted on the phone, Rana told The Tribune that the goods train from Pakistan had to be cancelled since staff from Lahore could not reach Wagah. However, he refused to give further reasons for inability of the staff to reach Wagah.

The seizure of arms and ammunition has brought the working of intelligence agencies and customs under scanner. However, the officials of customs department and sister intelligence agencies are not ready to accept the claims of the Patti police that the arms and ammunitions were smuggled from Pakistan through Samjhauta Express.

Though assistant commissioner, customs, V.K. Mahajan and his staff were present at the railway station here despite Christmas holiday, they refused to comment on the seizure. The assistant commissioner said he could not provide any information because the investigations were still on.

However, certain senior customs officials said it was quiet possible that the arms and ammunitions were smuggled by “throwing” the contrabands from border fencing and the police might have “fabricated” the facts by linking the crime with Samjhauta Express. The kingpin of the smugglers, arrested by the Tarn Taran police, is a brother of SGPC employee, who visited Pakistan in April on Baisakhi with a Sikh jatha. It was possible that the kingpin had established links with the ISI or Pakistani smugglers who were instrumental in smuggling of contrabands to India during his “pilgrimage”. They said whenever a passenger tried to smuggle the contrabands on Indo-Pak trains, he was arrested.

However, the senior officials of the customs and sister intelligence agencies working at Attari were of the view that it was difficult task that a person could smuggle any contraband through Indo-Pak trains, including Samjhauta Express due to “100 percent checking”. They plead that approximately 200 senior officials of 12 intelligence agencies, including the Intelligence Bureau, RAW, Military Intelligence, CID, Counter-Intelligence, GRP and the RPF, were deployed at the railway station. The eight CCTV cameras record all movements of the trains and passengers right from the zero line while rummaging is done manually and through various modern devices. Four X-ray machines have also been installed at the station.

The Patti police had claimed to have busted a gang of international smugglers involved in trafficking of fake currency, drugs and arms from Bahmaniwala village, yesterday. Those arrested were identified as Kuldeep Singh, Satnam Singh (brothers), Manoj Kumar, all residents of Patti, and Shamsher Singh of Thatha. The SGPC had arranged for the visa of Kuldeep Singh, who is brother of Dilbagh Singh, an employee with the committee.  


White Paper
Bhattal’s demand not logical: Sukhbir
Tribune News Service

Ropar, December 25
Acting president of the SAD Sukhbir Singh Badal today took a potshot at PPCC president Rajinder Kaur Bhattal on the issue of White Paper on the financial health of state.

He said it seemed Bhattal did not have knowledge that White Paper was not issued on financial health of the state. She should first acquaint herself about facts on which such a paper could be issued by the state. “Has any state or country ever issued White Paper on its financial health?” he said.

The state Congress president was raking up a political issue by demanding White Paper on the financial health of the state, he added.

Sukhbir was here to collect his passport today. He has been granted permission by a Ropar court to visit Italy from January 6 to 12 against a surety bond of Rs 5 lakh.

He further blamed the Congress for current financial crisis of the state. He said the previous government kept on borrowing without creating enough resources to return the loans. The result is that now present government is burdened with loans taken at high interest rates.

The present government has started creating resources to improve financial health of the state. The collections from VAT have improved to Rs 1,000 crore in the third quarter of this financial year, he claimed.

He exercised caution on the issue of withdrawing free power to farmers and re-imposition of octroi in the state. When asked to comment on the issues, he said the decision on these would be taken by the government after thorough deliberations. It is a sensitive matter and all sections of society would be taken into confidence before any decision is taken, he said.

Sukhbir also refused to comment on Aroosa Alam, the Pakistani guest of former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. Sukhbir said that it was a personal matter of the former Chief Minister. 


Mystery shrouds arrest of Shingaar blast suspect
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 25
The arrest of Shingaar cinema blast suspect and RDX smuggling accused Gurpreet Singh and his accomplice Sandeep remained shrouded in mystery for the second day today.

According to a news agency report from New Delhi, they were nabbed on the Indo-Nepal border this morning. However, the Ludhiana SSP strongly denied the report.

A senior police official claimed Gurpreet had managed to give the police the slip but the scene of action was nowhere near the Indo-Nepal border.

The PTI report followed newsreports emanating from Ludhiana yesterday, which stated Gurpreet and others have been nabbed in Mumbai. Police sources had confirmed it to local journalists yesterday.

However, there was no official confirmation of the arrests even though the city was abuzz with the news about Gurpreet’s arrest. There was even speculation that the major police success would be announced by the DGP, Punjab, at a press conference today.

SSP Jaiswal said media reports were purely imaginative. Gurpreet, a resident of Rurka village, had been booked for smuggling RDX into the state on September 2. Over 3 kg of RDX was recovered from a car he was driving near Mullanpur. He managed to flee from the spot.

Later, the police booked six of his accomplices. Of those only Gurinder Singh, Bhavdeep Singh and Dr Bhagwan Singh have been arrested so far.

Though the police has not officially included Gurpreet and Sandeep in the Shingaar cinema blast case, there have been newsreports that they were prime suspect in the bombing. 


News Analysis
Winter session was too cold for Cong
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 25
The just-concluded winter session of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha has exposed chinks in the Congress, which failed to raise any significant issues on the floor of the House. 

The ruling SAD-BJP alliance reduced the duration of the winter session, apparently on account of apprehensions that the Opposition will embarrass the government on many counts. But at the end of the session, the Congress not only miserably failed to perform the job of a vigilant opposition, but also exposed how its legislators were a divided lot.

Many of the important issues that were expected to be raised on the floor of the House were not even asked. The half-hearted attempts made by the Congress to raise questions of much-touted “political vendetta” got such befitting reply from leader of the house, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal that it left the Congress with no supplementary questions. But at the same time, even from among the treasury benches, the legislators failed to raise any questions or issues pertaining to the welfare of the state. Most querries remained confined to petty problems confined to the constituency of the legislators that raised them.

It is ironic that while the House was in session, the Congress had to hold a press conference outside to highlight cases of “political vendetta” against their workers. There was hardly any serious reference to the issue on the floor of the House, except on the concluding day when the Chief Minister, who also holds the Home portfolio, gave a befitting reply to the allegations and even invited leader of the Opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal to come and look at the files that recorded reasons and evidence of Congress MLAs and their supporters in illegal activities. It was expected that the Congress would stage a walkout on the issues to express their resentment, but they did not.

On the issue of building a cricket stadium at Bathinda, the Congress has raised much hue and cry outside the Assembly since December 8, when the foundation stone of the stadium was laid. But inside the House, not a single reference was made about it. In fact Punjab cooperation minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh made a very emphatic allegation that the Congress raised issues only to make it to newspaper headlines.

The only boycott by the Congress was on the issue that their adjournment motion for a debate on the fiscal situation in Punjab was denied. Bhattal tried hard to counter the allegation made by t.he ruling alliance that the Congress had left the treasury empty.

On the contrary, finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal minced no words in highlighting the plight of the state’s finances and even sought the cooperation of the opposition to save Punjab from a financial mess. In an impressive rebuttal, he made it clear that the freebees in the state have to go.

In what reflected as a poor participation by legislators from both sides of the House, many Bills were passed unopposed. The Assembly had a positive side too. Cutting across party lines, the legislators from the Congress and the SAD-BJP alliance attended the speakers lunch, a tradition that has been revived after long. 


BJP Gujarat win to bolster state unit
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 25
Emphatic win of the BJP in Gujarat will have its impact on Punjab politics. It will certainly make the BJP, which is otherwise junior partner of the SAD in the Punjab government, more assertive and powerful to seek its political pound of flesh from Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

Obviously, after the Narendra Modi’s success in Gujarat, the BJP leadership at the national level and in states like Punjab is appearing more confident and excited. It has got the ammunition to attack the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government more forcefully and to count its failures at the national level. BJP leadership has sensed that it would be back into power at the national level. And such a feeling has provided it more room and strategic advantage to negotiate with its regional allies such as the SAD.

Badal will not be in a position now to annoy the BJP in any manner because he is aware of the fact that the BJP can be in the driving seat at the national level whenever the next Lok Sabha elections are held. As the SAD leadership is not in a position to run the government in Punjab without the support of the BJP, which has become more powerful after the Gujarat elections, it will have to yield to the demands raised by the BJP leadership in days to come in the state.

And BJP’s return to power at the national level can provide Badal with an opportunity to accommodate his one or two senior Akali colleagues in the union government. And if his son Sukhbir Singh Badal became Chief Minister in near future, Badal may himself opt for a role in the national politics. Keeping in view all these factors, the BJP will now be in a more sound position to play more decisive role in the Punjab government.

In fact, the BJP had started dictating terms to the SAD before the Gujarat elections. It has made Badal to order a roll back in the power tariff enhanced recently. It is other matter that the tariff has not been rolled back till date and it may take one month more to do so. Badal was not ready to roll back the tariff. However, he has to do it as the BJP had made it clear that he would have to do it if he wanted to run the SAD-BJP coalition government.

In the days to come, the BJP is set to raise the issue of setting up of advisory committees of traders, industrialists, etc. Earlier, five such committees headed by the chairpersons suggested by the BJP was to be constituted by December 15. However, the issue was deferred because of winter session of the Assembly. As now session is over, the BJP leadership is preparing to ask Badal to fix the meeting of the SAD-BJP coordination committee soon to clinch all pending issues.

And the BJP is also urging for the withdrawal of the freebies to certain sections of the society to put the state’s development on fast forward mode.


SAD (A) to block Badals’ buses
Tribune News Service

Fatehgarh Sahib, December 25
On the second day of the religious assembly in the town, the SAD (Amritsar) made it clear that the party was not against Hindus but the concept of Hindutva.

The SAD (A) passed a resolution to besiege the buses owned by the Badal family on January 7.

The party passed various resolutions under the presidentship of Simranjit Singh Mann. It maintained that the party’s struggle aimed at protecting the Sikh identity and it was against the social evils. Among the resolutions was demand for implementation of the Anand Marriage Act of 1909 and the MSP for crops linked to the price index.

Meanwhile, the parallel party floated by expelled senior vice-president of the SAD (A) Daljit Singh Bittu, named Shiromani Akali Dal (Presidium), also held a political conference. 


FCI staff stir hits movement of foodgrains
Attar Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 25
Working of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) in the Punjab region has come to a standstill with its employees’ union deciding to resort to work-to-rule. 

This has caused a piquant situation in Punjab with huge stocks of foodgrains piling up on Railway stations in the state. S. P.Sood president of the Bharatiya Khadya Nigam Karamchari Sangh (BKNK ), said the decision to resort to work-to-rule had been taken on the call of the national committee of the BKNK Sangh to protest against the policies of the FCI management which had led to resentment among employees of the corporation.

He alleged employees of the corporation were being victimiszed and the management had been following dictatorial policies. To fight back this attitude of the management, the employees had decided to resort to protest action. Sood said the trade unions which had extended support to this protest, included the FCI Executive Staff Union, the FCI Staff Union, the FCI Employees Congress, the FCI Class IV Union 2779, the FCI Class IV Karamchari Sangh, and the FCI SC/ST Union. Sood disclosed the work-to rule programme had been resorted to on all-India basis and the protest would continue till the management relented and followed the instructions issued by the union government, and all scientific studies provided by different universities across the country. He alleged the FCI management had issued instructions to register FIRs against employees on account of drying of moisture which was 1 per cent and the loss in weight was equal to 1 kg.

This had been agreed to by the union government and even the FCI management but now the management was penalising the employees on the moisture issue.

The management had forced recoveries on the employees and issuing charge sheets. He said to stop this high-handedness of the managmenet the loading of special trains of foodgrainshad been stopped from the northern zone.  


Bus operators charge extra ‘toll’ 
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Ropar, December 25
Private bus operators are collecting toll from passengers on the Ropar-Nangal route. They have increased bus fare on account of 36 km Kiratpur Sahib toll road and are taxing passengers in excess of prescribed rates by the government.

As per government order, public and private transports in the state cannot charge extra amount on account of toll from passengers for journey up to 9 km. From 9 km to 19 km they can charge Re 1, from 19 km to 38 km Rs 2, up to 57 km Rs 3, up to 76 km Rs 4, up to 95 km Rs 5 and above 95 km Rs 6 on account of toll paid per passenger.

Only the buses that have to pay toll at Kiratpur Sahib barrier can charge the extra prescribed amounts from the passengers.

However, the private buses that do not have to pay toll as these turn from Anandpur Sahib to Garhshankar or Nurpur Bedi roads are also charging extra fare from the passengers. They are charging Rs 12 per person from a journey between Nangal to Anandpur Sahib against the prescribed government rate of Rs 10.

DTO Ropar Sabarwal said the buses that do not have to pay toll cannot charge extra fare from passengers. He said the matter would be checked and action taken against erring bus officials.

Meanwhile, the local leaders of the Anandpur Sahib area are planning an agitation against the toll tax. They are alleging heavy tax has been levied on locals. The road from Anandpur Sahib to Kiratpur Sahib was already four-laned and in good condition. The private company has just improved road a bit and is taxing the locals using cars to the extent of about Rs 1000 per person.

Paramjit Singh Pamma, an advocate from the area, said the residents would move a pubic interest litigation (PIL) in court against the toll. The private company has taken over a public road. The toll roads in Delhi, Noida or foreign countries are meant for reducing distances or providing express highways.

In addition to the toll there is facility of alternative public road that people can use in case they do not want to pay the toll.

However, in case of Anandpur Sahib-Kiratpur Sahib road the private company has taken over the public road built with public money. Where is public road for which the people have paid the road tax and are paying Rs 2 per litre as cess on petrol.

By giving public roads to toll companies the government of Punjab has forced people to pay tax to private companies.

Besides the toll charged in Punjab is the highest in the country. In case of national highways a toll tax of 50 paise per km was being charged by companies. However, the companies constructing toll roads in Punjab are charging an exorbitant amount of Re 1 per km from commuters.

People allege toll company operators have blocked the alternative road along the canal in Kiratpur Sahib. 


Chuhar Chak 
Mini-bus driver held 

Moga, December 25
The driver of the mini-bus, which collided with the Ludhiana Ferozepur 4629 Satluj Express at Nu Chuhar Chak village at a manned railway crossing recently, was arrested by the Government Railway Police this afternoon.

Sixteen persons were killed and as many were injured when a private mini-bus collided with the passenger train after the driver of the bus got the railway crossing opened even as the Ferozepur-bound train from Ludhiana was approaching it.

Iqbal Singh, the driver of the ill-fated bus, was injured and admitted to the DMC Hospital at Ludhiana, but he managed to escape.

He was arrested by a GRP team near the railway crossing on the Ajitwal Dhudike road in the district this afternoon.

The gateman, Kulwant Singh who had opened the railway crossing, was arrested last week after he surrendered before the police. — PTI 


Doubly cursed, his second child goes missing
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 25
A migrant labourer from UP, Budhai Ram, has been making rounds of police stations in the hope of information about his son who had gone missing in 1995. As if the agony of losing one child was not enough, his second son, too, disappeared earlier this year.

All-India Hindu Shiv Sena president Surinder Billa said here today that the police had failed to make any headway in both cases. He had written a letter to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in this regard.

The wife of Budhai is an employee of the langar wing of the Durgiana Temple. The couple put in all efforts at their end to locate their sons in both Amritsar and their native village, but to no avail. “My elder son was seven years old when he went missing. The younger one went into depression and today my whole family has scattered,” she lamented.

Police officials, meanwhile, said they had leads in the cases.


Anganwari workers held to foil stir
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, December 25
To foil the agitation programme of anganwari workers and helpers at Fatehgarh Sahib today, hundreds of anganwari workers and helpers (all women) were arrested or taken in custody today as a preventive measure in various parts of the state by the police.

Talking to this reporter over the phone, state president of the Anganwari Mulazam Union, Punjab (CITU), Usha Rani said the Punjab Police raided houses of anganwari workers and helpers during the intervening night of December 24 and 25 and in the early morning today throughout the state and arrested them so that they could not show black flags to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal at Fatehgarh Sahib today.

She claimed tha the police had arrested more than 500 anganwari workers and helpers, including many state-level and district-level leaders of the union.

Usha Rani also claimed that that in Sangrur district alone, the police had arrested or taken in custody around 100 anganwari workers and helpers to prevent them from reaching Fatehgarh Sahib. She claimed that from the Dhuri area 35 anganwari workers and helpers, from the Sunam area about 24, from the Andana area about 35 and from the Lehragaga area about 10 had been arrested. She alleged that even district president of the union Gurmail Kaur Malerkotla had been held along with her small child.

On the other hand, Sangrur SP (D) Bhupinderjit Singh Virk said only 34 anganwari workers and helpers had been arrested as a preventive measure in the district under Sections 107 and 151 of the CrPC. He also said the arrested women had been discharged.

The state president of the union said they had been protesting for a long time to get their main demand, enhancement in the monthly honorarium of anganwari worker and helper, accepted, but to no avail. She said they wanted the monthly honorarium of Rs 3,000 for an anganwari worker and Rs 2,000 for a helper.  


Chief secy, SSP fail to comply with HC order
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 25
Punjab chief secretary and Amritsar district police chief have failed to comply with orders of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Jaswant Sarpal, a resident here said today the high court on July 25, 2001, had directed the chief secretary to produce records pertaining to the criminal case no 18165-M filed by him against the state of Punjab in 2001 in the court of chief judicial magistrate. He said the high court had also directed the Amritsar SSP to provide police protection so that there was no harm to him and in case of any physical and material loss to the petitioner the police would be responsible.

However, a senior police official said it was not possible for them to provide security to every individual as more than 10,000 persons had sought police protection in the state. He said the police was already hiring the services of the police of neighboring districts. 


Govt to appoint 265 teachers
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, December 25
Eucation minister Upinderjit Kaur, said here today the government had decided to appoint 12 principles and 265 teachers of to better the education system in Punjab.

Here to attend a function at Mamta Niketan school, she said these posts would be filled to ensure quality education in government schools.

She said financial position of the state did not permit grant of pension to the retired government employees.

She put to rest doubts the Education Department was contemplating de-reservation of the posts meant for teachers from reserved categories in favour of the general category, as was the demand in Chandigarh. The general category candidates have been protesting in Chandigarh for seven months.

Apart from setting up 150 model schools, in collaboration with private parties, in the state, the government is also planning to upgrade three schools in each Assembly constituency to secondary level, where arts, medical, non-medical and vocational subjects would be taught, 
she added.

Upinderjit Kaur added promotions in the secondary Education Department were also on the cards, up to the post of principal. 


No seminars during holidays from next academic session
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 25
The Punjab government will upgrade refresher courses for the teachers and seminars and refresher courses will not be organised during holidays and vacations from the next academic session. 

The duration of such seminars and refresher courses will also be shortened to 10 days from 20 days excluding the week-end holidays.

Krishan Kumar, director-general school education (DGSE) cum state project director (SPD) Punjab said today the government was committed to provide better educational facilities to the students by implementing fundamental improvements in the Education Department. At a special meeting with leaders of teachers unions here today he heared their problems and grievances and assured genuine grievances and demands would be implemented within a time frame. He affirmed the promotion cases and the GPF problems of the teachers would be resolved before March 31, 2008.

The DGSE clarified the teachers would not be deputed for non-teaching jobs in the state and orders of the state government in this regard would be implemented with immediate effect. He also conceded to their demands to grant earned leave in lieu of seminars/refresher courses to the teachers attending such courses. The resource persons in the Sarv Sikhsha Abhiyan (SSA) will also be recruited at the earliest as a case had already been put up before the government.

He also declared the deduction of 10 per cent gratuity at the time of the retirement of a teacher would not be made at any cost and the case would be discussed with the Vigilance Department in this regard for processing of the no-objection certificates (NOC) of the teachers. He also said a well-planned yearly timetable and calendar for academic and sports activities would also be implemented in the Education Department The Education Department assured the computer teachers to grant them one/ third leave and maternity leave benefits.

The leaders and representatives of the teacher unions present at the meeting were convinced by the assurances given by the officers of the department and they assured t they would cooperate and assist the department for imparting quality education and bringing good results in the department. Among others Jagtar Singh Khatra and Harcharnjit Kaur Brar both DPIs and Sadhu Singh Randhawa, director, SCERT, were also present at the meeting.  


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